Photographs of the Eastern Front in World War Two (3)

About a year ago I bought a collection, on DVD, of what were,  supposedly,  some 12,000+  images of World War  2 . I was very surprised, and pleased, to see that most of them were not British or American but were in fact either Russian or German. I would like to share some of them with you because a number of them have great photographic merits as well as capturing a split second in history.

It is quite difficult to find a coherent story which will link together 12,000+ images, but I will give it a go. I’m going to start with the Red Army. Here are 11 Soviet soldiers, all well equipped for winter conditions:

The next few photographs will show some of the methods they used. First of all, they knew the conditions and were used to fighting in snow, especially the fierce Siberian troops:

They obviously had a few armoured trains left over from the Civil War and made use of them, although I would struggle to say exactly where:

The Soviet way was to make things that were tough and would stand up to use. They  were also not ashamed to use simple means of transport as opposed to complex tracked vehicles that might freeze up. Horses are tough and, if need be, you can eat them:

Machine guns were easily transported on special little trolleys:

There were huge problems, of course, especially in the early days. Members of the KGB would be positioned at the back of any Red Army advance  and would shoot down the men who ran away. This seems quite extraordinary but many engagements in the Civil War had been lost because the Soviet forces just took to their heels and fled. On more than one occasion the British forces had the benefit of this sudden loss of nerve.

The White Russians had to try extremely hard to lose that war, but they managed it!

Here recruits are trained to shoot straight. Note the unusual fastening for the bayonet onto the rifle barrel:

The troops’ confidence would grow enormously when these newly invented rocket weapons were used. They were known as “Stalin’s Organ” and made use of fourteen Katyusha rockets with a range of up to four miles:

The biggest difference between the Soviets and the other combatants was probably the use of women, not only in non-combat roles but as, for example, fighter pilots and snipers. Women made excellent snipers, apparently. They found it much easier to kill in cold blood than men did, and felt little or no guilt when they did so.

Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko had a record 309 kills:

I think that this cheery young lady is also a sniper, judging by the telescopic sights on her rifle:

Some women, of course, worked at what were, by Western standards, more usual wartime occupations:

And, finally, waving the Red hordes on to Berlin. Notice the road sign on the right. It reads “Берлин” :






Filed under History, military, Russia

15 responses to “Photographs of the Eastern Front in World War Two (3)

  1. GP

    I have read up on the Russian women during that time, and they were extraordinary soldiers!!

    • You certainly would not want to fall into their clutches! I suppose. though, that the Soviets were years ahead of their time. The RAF and the USAF both have women combat pilots today, although I don’t know if they yet have women as combat soldiers.
      Incidentally. I couldn’t find your latest post today. I receive an email to inform me of new posts and none of the links worked, just “Page cannot be found”.

  2. You would not have wanted to be posted to the Eastern Front for sure.

    • You certainly wouldn’t. Lots of the soldiers in the West who made mistakes or who fouled up somehow were immediately transferred to the Eastern Front.
      From what I have read the most popular German posting was Paris, followed by the Atlantic Wall,along the coast of France. Norway and Denmark must have been reasonable, too, because the resistance there was not as strong as many other countries.

  3. The Russian front was a terrible front to fight on. Once the German advance halted, the Russians fought with great determination and ferocity. Many were sadly killed ‘retreating’, driven by lack of arms and support. I heard they had to ‘charge’ behind a man with a gun and when he was killed you picked it up and so on. It’s no wonder some ran the other way!

    • I think that in the early years the Russians must have been very grateful for what we sent them. Hurricanes, Airacobras, Mitchells, Bostons, and huge quantities of trucks and a good few tanks…..always those bean can ones from 1939.
      Once they got their backsides in gear though, they really produced huge quantities of matériel. Wikipedia says :
      “By the end of the war, the Soviet Union produced 30.3 million rifles; 1,476 million machine guns; 516,648 artillery guns; 347,900 mortars; 119,769 tanks and self-propelled guns; 265,600 army trucks; 213,742 military aircraft; 2 cruisers; 25 destroyers; 52 submarines.”
      It’s at
      and it also lists the machine guns etc from the British and the Americans.

      • It was an incredible effort to produce that quantity of equipment. Many, from what I understand, were simple to manufacture and more importantly maintain, unlike many German examples I could mention.

  4. How tragic to have to kill and eat one’s horse for survival! I cannot judge the character of a woman who takes up a weapon in defense of her homeland and family.

    • I’ve just read that the Russians lost 26.6 million people during the war, many of them defenceless women and children killed by the Germans as “reprisals” or as massacres on a racial basis. The saying was that every Russian in WW2 lost a father, mother, brother or sister.
      Had they won, the Germans intended to get rid of all Russian cities, and to keep as many of the population as they needed to work for them in huge camps where they would be fed the minimum to stay alive.
      Against that background, I agree with you. We cannot judge anybody in that position.
      Like you, I would have struggled to kill and eat my horse, though. As I have grown older, actually, I have begun to value quite a few animals higher than many human beings. And that should worry me, but it doesn’t.

  5. You continue to do well with these, John

    • Thank you very much, Derrick. The Eastern Front remains a mystery for many historians, myself included. I found out just, while checking in Wikipedia for something about the Lend-lease scheme with the USSR, that between 80-90% of German casualties were on the Eastern Front, so it must be quite important!

  6. Shocking to me how women killed. Sorry, but that chills me. And what does
    “Берлин” mean? I have no idea, John.

    • You’ll never make a spy, Amy!! The clue is in the caption, “waving the Red hordes on to Berlin” and “the road sign on the right reads “Берлин”. It’s a familiar word in heavy disguise!

      Б = B
      е = e
      р = r (a peculiarity of the Russian alphabet)
      л = l ( the Greek letter ‘lambda’)
      и = i
      н = This one’s yours, Amy!

      More seriously, in various wars in history, the women have been worse with any prisoners than the men were. This would certainly apply to various wars and military commitments the British had in the 1920s and 1930s in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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