Red Army infantryman – Summer campaign, Eastern front
The Russian Red Army of the 1930’s was one of the largest armies in the world, but suffered fatal flaws. In the early 1930’s, massive purges by Stalin accounted for the decimation of seventy percent of its officer corps – killed or exiled to Siberia. With strong and experienced leadership gone, this left the Red Army in the command of men lacking in initiative or tactical skill. Few people realize just how close the German invasion of Russia came to succeeding; indeed, a change of plans or better weather could have knocked Russia out of the War. Despite the early reversals of 1941 and 1942, the Germans were eventually truimphed by the Red Army – but only at immense cost; for the gruelling bloody Eastern front eventually consumed 20 million Russians and nearly 9 million Germans.
During World War 2, the Red Army’s performance was one of contrasts. In their alliance with Nazi Germany, the army saw little action during their occupation of Poland but suffered humiliation at the hands of the tiny Finnish army when they tried invading Finland. Any remedies put in place as a result were far too little and far too late to avoid the catastrophe at the hands of the German invaders in 1941, when losses quickly ran into millions. Lessons were slowly learnt and in time losses were made good from the country’s vast resources, and just four years later the Red Army had the resources and experience to penetrate and destroy the Third Reich.
In large measure, thanks to the abortive invasions by Napoleon and Hitler, Russia is well known for cold winters but in many parts of the country, the summers can be very hot indeed, and naturally much of the campaigning of WW2 was done in the summer. This figure is suitably dressed for those summer days. The infantryman is wearing the popular pilotka cap afixed with the Red Star emblem. Despite the rather obvious advantages of wearing the helmet, many men preferred this cap and therefore it was often worn in combat. For summer, he wears the classic and comfortable gymnastiorka overhanging cotton shirt. The trousers (with distinguishing diamond-shaped knee reinforcements), puttees and boots are all normal army issue. It has been noted that uniformity was perhaps less common, and indeed in the early part of the war the uniform was frequently haphazard or even virtually non-existent. Yet often poorly led and equipped, the Russian infantryman still fought with determination; lack of tactical control on the attack lead to human wave assaults while in defence he was difficult to dig out.
The Krasnoarmeets or Red Army infantryman – hailed from as many as 180 nationalities in the U.S.S.R. – travelled light with a minimum of personal equipment. The soldiers were lightly kitted with ammunition pouches and a haversack or a meshok (rucksack type of pack). Many wore the characteristic rolled greatcoat or shelter-half ascross the chest. Entrenching tools and bayonet scabbards, were not common as few of these were ever issued. Riflemen were expected to permanently fix the bayonet, which were in short supply, onto the rifle. In the early days of the war, supply problems often left men with little kit.
Weapons are mostly the normal rifle but some were equipped with the classic PPSh-41 sub-machine gun. Heavily indoctrinated, the Red Army soldier, has been noted to be a hard, determined, courageous individual who was eager to defend Russia.