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” :