Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Melberg Update

Cunningham’s “big push”
After more than a week with little more than sporadic fighting, general Cunningham prepared for his “big push”. Following his victory near Corunium the general, with Lenord’s consent, planned to use his strategic reserve in a narrow thrust towards the city, then fanning out to push the Tau away from the city. To help in this the Ultramarines chapter sent two companies, while the newly arrived “Emperor’s Justice” heavy tank division prepared to meet the Tau in battle for the first time.

The Imperial reserves were not brought in from another system. Instead Mellberg had begun to produce its own armour and equipment, under the close supervision of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Mellberg already had a large industry and produced Leman Russ for the sector, but the new Baneblades took longer to get right. Cunningham new that his new vehicles were not going to be mechanically reliable, at least for a few weeks.

Meanwhile Imperial intelligence scouted out the Tau defences. All along the front lines sentry towers and gun emplacements, all remotely controlled, kept vigil around the city. Any flanking move would be immediately detectable. For that reason Cunningham ordered a direct assault, a straight, unsubtle and overwhelming concentration of force directed at the city. He hoped to give the Tau a stark and impossible choice. Commit to a battle of attrition or flee Corunium.

The Tau meanwhile were not oblivious to the massive build up around the city. They waited patiently, and quietly removed most of their forces from the ruins. Commander Eclipse, recently posted to the Corunium sector, planned to allow the Imperial armoured columns into the city. Once they were enmeshed in the ruins and rubble he would attack, ambushing the Imperial force and cutting its supply lines. The one thing Eclipse couldn’t know was that the Space Marines would also be taking part.

By now the Ethereals were becoming concerned at the cost of Tau lives to take Mellberg. Over one hundred thousand Tau had died and projections estimated another 200,000 would be killed taking the planet. Even so Sunstrike pleaded that the cost was worth it, as a secure base on Mellberg would be the ideal launch pad for the next expansion into the Zadoc subsector. Without it, the going would be hard, even if the plans for the “C’Tau’pult” came to fruition.

On the eve of 1611.007M42, some four and a half months after the initial invasion, two armies prepared for the attack on Corunium, which had been in Tau hands since the second day of the invasion. Victory of the Imperium would put the Tau on the back foot, with the valleys of Genundis open to Imperial advances. Should they lose, the Tau would surely sweep down from the mountains behind the city and burst into the coastal plains, trapping the Imperial Army Group Centre (or rather its remnants following the defeat of Jeffries).

Corunium retaken
The attack began well with a massive bombardment of the city, followed by the rapid progress of the Librian 57th and 101st regiments, including the new Baneblade super-heavy tanks delivered so recently. The Tau defenders ignored the lumbering giants, prefering to attack the faster moving tanks of the Imperial guard. At the same time the Ultramarines, led by Marneus Calgar himself, swept into the northern and eastern sectors of Corunium, easily displacing the Tau.

Tau air superiority made life hard for the Imperium, particularly for the Basilisk batteries of the Librian and PDF regiments, whose accuracy was as woeful as their reputation demanded. Nearly all the Basilisks taking part were put out of action by marauding Baracudas, but by midday on the 17th the Imperium had almost retalen Corunium and were sweeping west towards the river Stridius.

The Tau then launched their counter attack, bringing elite Crisis suit units into the battle. However Commander Shas'Ite was rather hesitant to use the elite Tau warriors in risky drops behind the front line, and this in the end cost the Tau dearly. Though the reinforcements slowed the Imperial advance, and contributed to the demise of some of Marneus Calgar's finest Terminators, the Imperial advance maintained its momentum, with its rear intact. Had the Tau dropped their troops behind the Imperial lead elements they would have found the Imperial defences relatively light. General Cunningham had gambled and won.

By 2111.007M42 the Ultramarines had reached, and crossed the Stridius, driving an almighty wedge into the Tau front line. Racing behind were the Whettis and Coronia armoured divisions while the Librian regiments encircled the city of Corunium and push the Tau back. At midnight on the 22nd the two pincers met. Corunium was cut off.

The city officially fell two hours later when the remaining Tau who could not escape surrendered. Thousands were taken prisoner and Imperial propaganda made much of the fact that they had retaken a city the Tau had held for nearly six months. However, their celebrations were to be short lived.

Dark Angels push North
While Cunningham made good gains in the south the Dark Angels, now up to the strength of almost half their chapter, launched their offensive aimed at cutting off the besieging Tau army around Corunium. Their advance was swift at first until hit-and-run tactics by lead elements of Shadowstrike's and Elan Ro's Tau forces slowed the Space Marines.

The tactics used by the Tau prevented the Dark Angels from bringing their full weight against the Tau, allowing the aliens to build up forces and automated defences which further held up the advance. While less than a third of the way to the coast the Space Marine advance bogged down and the attack was called off. Several towns and villages had been recaptured but the strategic situation in the north remained the same, with Terracon slowly starving to death as its food and fuel ran out. The Dark Angels were furious at the Tau tactics, calling them dishonourable and cowardly. It made no difference. It had become clear the Tau would not come out and fight the Astartes unless absolutely necessary.

Shas’Ite recaptures Corunium
Despite having lost the city of Corunium and been pushed back into Gwendel, Commander Shas'Ite was already making plans to recapture all the lost territory. The Imperium meanwhile were celebrating a great victory, however nothing could actually have been further from the truth. Rather than accepting a slaughter in the city, the Tau commanders had withdrawn, citing battlefield conditions as "unfavourable". Then, while the Imperial General raced east and north across strategically unimportant territory, Shas'Ite husbanded his forces ready for a swift counterstrike.

The attack came so soon after the city had fallen the Ultramarines and Imperial Guard were caught completely by surprise. On the right flank the Ultramarines were kept in contact by a smaller Tau force, preventing the Space Marines from disengaging while the Tau pushed there main thrust across the river Stridius against the Librian armoured and mechanised units. Here the fighting was more furious than any seen on Mellberg to date. This time the Tau pressed home their attack apparently disregarding casualties, and before long the Imperial lines began to crack. Hundreds of armoured vehicles lay burning across the Coronia plains. Almost half were Tau but the Alien attak had smashed a fifty mile hole in the Imperial front line.

The Tau now found the going very easy as the Imperial armies had not expected the sudedn counter move. Corunium lay completely undefended and by 2211.007M42 the city once again lay in Tau hands as the Imperial and PDF forces south of the city raced back eat in an attempt to avoid the obvious cut off manouvre down to the south coast. Meanwhile a Dark angels company was rushed in to hold the line to the south to prevent yet another Imperial collapse.

Elan Ro Defeats Cunningham and retakes oilfieds
With the Dark Angels in place south of Corunium the Oilfields of the Coronia peninsular ought to have been safe, but before the Astartes had chance to organise their defences the cadres of Elan Ro followed up Shas'Ite as he consolidated his hold on Corunium. Longstridepoured more forces into the gap in the lines and turned his armies south, all the while conducting spoiling actions to keep the Imperial defenders pinned on their front lines. Another encirclement trap was about to be sprung.

The only hope for the Imperial defenders lay at Jacob's Creek, a small town to the south towards the Southern Sea. Here the battered remnants of the recently victorious Librian 57th joined forces with the Dark Angels to repel and slow the Tau advance. Elan Ro's mechanised army then appeared across the horizon.

A bloody and intense firefight then erupted with the Imperial tanks bearing the brunt of the desctruction. The Space Marines defended doggedly but they could not destroy the Tau vehicles quick enough. Once again poor artillery fire from the Librians cost the army dearly, and investigations into the apparent failure of Librian Basilisk began in ernest. The Space Marines faired little better as the Tau tanks simply shrugged of lascannon and plasma fire.

As the Tau closed their lethal close range firepower tore into the Marines and destroyed most of the remaining Imperial Tanks. Jacob's Creek began to become a funeral pyre as Elan Ro's skimmers glided, scorched, through the black oily smoke. The Tau commander didn't stay long, immediately continuing the advance while human "Gue'vesa" stayed to take prisoners. The Dark Angels immediately contacted GHQ to inform them that the Tau had broken through, but they were far too late. By the time the orders reached the remaining 50,000 troops in the Coronia pocket, the Tau were in sight of the Southern Sea.

On 2411.007M42 the remnants of Army group Centre surrendered. The oilfields of Coronia nad the city of Corunium had been in Imperial hands for less than a week. It was a devastating blow to Imperial morale. Infuriated the Dark Angels decided to take action and fully half their fleet set off for the Mellberg system...

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