Book Review: The Red Armys Do-it-Yourself, Nazi Bashing Guerrilla Warfare Manual
Paul Robinson reads into one of the longest-titled book about a guide issued to Soviet partisans during World War II.
Well other than competing for the years longest book title this is a little cracker from Casemate. Ignore the somewhat comic book main title, what you have here is the guide book issued to Soviet Partisans during the Second World War. As the subtitle suggests this is the third edition that takes on-board all the hard lessons learned by the early Partisans and passes them on to the next wave! The Editors Lester Grau and Michael Gress have translated from the original Russian text and even restored many of the original drawings that had become unreadable in the surviving Russian language versions.
This version starts with a modern Forward and Preface that give a brief history of the Soviet Partisan movement. We then go into the translated original which starts with the report of the Chairman of the State Defence Committee on the 25th Anniversary of the “Great October Revolution”. Basically this is a classic diatribe by Comrade Stalin whipping up the masses into making greater efforts in the fight against the “German Fascist occupiers”. This would certainly fire up a partisan drying out his boots in the Pripet Marshes (or perhaps not)! It is a classic piece of its time and seems somewhat amusing to a modern audience I suspect. After a brief section on Partisan Warfare by M I Kalinin we move straight into the meat of the handbook.
There is so much information and detail here. If you were thinking of going out and fighting the Fascist Hitlerite hordes this is certainly a great starting point. There are chapters on Fundamental Partisan Tactics (how to cross the frontline, what enemy targets to attack, assaulting an inhabited area and so on), Hand to Hand Combat (self explanatory), Camouflage, How to fight Enemy Aviation (including a fairly good guide on deflection shooting), Anti Chemical Protection (including dealing with Mustard Gas, Phosgene and various other nasties), March and Bivouac, How to Store Food, Rendering First Aid and Life in the Snow. My own personal favourites are Explosives and Demolition and the chapter on Combat Weapons.
In the former you basically get an illustrated step by step guide to explosives preparation, handling, placement and detonation. How to fix fuses, the use of igniters, the use of detonation cord, how much explosive to use to blow up certain objects, where to place explosives on different types of bridges for best effect, improvised landmines (very topical if that is no too glib a comment). The list goes on. Where the depth of the original work can be appreciated is that this chapter also goes into detail on German mines and how to handle and defuse them (do it yourself bomb disposal anyone?). If you were stuck in a forest surrounded by schu mines this book at least gave you some chance (as opposed to no chance)!
In the Combat Weapons chapter you get an illustrated (this book is chock full of drawings and diagrams) guide to the main type of Soviet infantry weapons including the1891 rifle, PPSh SMG, DP LMG and various grenades. This covers how to load the weapon, fill the magazines, prime the grenades and also how to field strip and fault find! Basically with this book and a bit of trial and error you can be familiar with the workings of a Simonov anti tank rifle from the comfort of your own armchair.
It then gets better – you also have this information for the main German infantry weapons in the Be Able to use Enemy Weapons chapter; this covers the Mauser Rifle and Carbine, MP28, MP40, MG34, Luger, MGO8/15 &18 and even such exotica as the MG13 and ZGB 30! All in as much detail as the Soviet weapons. Clearly given the publication date the classic MG42 is missing.
I have to say the standard of translation is excellent – only the opening report by Stalin seems odd but that is because of the strange language of the Communist Party at the time rather than the work of the Editors. I felt all the way through that I was reading a book first written in English rather than any kind of translation.
This book has to appeal to anyone interested in the Eastern Front – it was not all about Panthers rolling across the Steppes or Sturmvoiks strafing from the sky! Or anyone studying the history of Guerrilla warfare – the original had to be one of the first standardised texts on the subject. It would also seem to offer excellent material for any kind of wargaming activity involving an element of Role Play. All in all this book makes the Government Official in me want to see this sort of thing kept out of the wrong hands; it makes the Second World War aficionado in me warm all over at the sheer detail; and the 11 year old boy in me wants to head into the woods and “go play soldiers”. Highly recommended!
Available now in paperback from Casemate, priced £12.99 (ISBN 9781612000091).
Review written by: Paul Robinson, Staff Writer