Winter is coming… No. Really. We’ve got about a month and a half and it’ll be here. Something that’s protected the Russians on more than one occasion during was has been their harsh winter conditions. It happened to Napoleon and it happened to Hitler. In this instance, we’re focusing on that second one, as Warlord Games is coming out with a whole range of winter Russian WWII kits for Bolt Action.
Like the soldiers they commanded, many Soviet officers were inexperienced and lacked training at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. Stalin’s ruthless purge of officers of the Red Army in 1937 had denuded the organisation of leadership and left deep scars in the survivors’ minds.
Throughout the war, showing initiative was seen as a dangerous trait, and most Soviet officers would follow their orders to the letter even if they meant marching their men to certain death. Soviet operational leadership improved immeasurably over time, but the heavy casualties endured by the Red Army indicates that overall battlefield control remained a blunt instrument.
The ZiS-3 was a truly multi-purpose weapon that was used as artillery and as an anti-tank gun by the Red Army. The Germans came to know it well and a dubbed it the ‘Ratsch-Baum’ (‘crash-boom’) for its distinctive sound.
The 57mm ZiS-2 was developed before the war to give anti-tank artillery regiments a weapon capable of destroying heavily armoured tanks. It was a rapid-firing semi-automatic gun that could shoot up to 25 rounds a minute.
The standard Russian medium mortar of the war was the 82-PM-41 or 82mm battalion mortar Model 1941. This served alongside the otherwise similar 82mm Model 1937. Both were very effective and accurate weapons with a range of about 3,000 yards.
82mm mortars were regarded as artillery rather than infantry weapons by the Russians and were usually massed together in batteries for battalion-level support.
The red army used the venerable Maxim Model 1910 as its medium machine gun throughout the war, the very same weapon that had served the Tsarist army in world war 1. It was a capable weapon that could be tripod-, sledge- or wheel-mounted and was often given a useful shield to help preserve the crew.