Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

“Legion of Death”

This is coolbert:

Sounds like something from a video game. Teenage X-Box warriors fighting it out on a video monitor!


Russian Women's Legion of Death.

Actually did exist. AN ALL-WOMAN COMBAT ARMS RUSSIAN ARMY BATTALION. Originally organized under the regime of the Czar [?], deployed to the Eastern Front during World War One [WW1] and seeing COMBAT against good German troops!!

Some comments required:

* Was NOT a battalion as normally understood. WAS a company [plus] sized unit, 300 troops total, not counting the men who manned the machine guns!

* "issued cavalry carbine variants of the Mosin rifle". A cut-down version of the larger size rifle. A carbine smaller in weight than the rifle the men carried, but firing the same cartridge. Must have had a good wallop to it!

* Shaved heads for all the women and train 14 hours a day. Sounds like American Army basic training to me.

I can recall previously reading something about this matter before. Thought it was ONLY a bodyguard unit for the Czar. Did see action during the Winter Palace Uprising!! But not as a combat line unit vis-à-vis the Germans! I must have been wrong.

Kerensky asked for three platoons (about 140 soldiers) to remain as part of the Winter Palace's garrison. It was these women soldiers who defended the palace . . . during the October Revolution [Soviet Red rebellion] . . . the women largely [left] alone as the last protectors of the government.

Russian women bricklayers hoisting heavy packs and doing duty for GOD, the Czar, and the motherland??!!

Dig this stuff too:

"Some sources state that the colors of the unit were saved from capture by an attached male officer who wore them wrapped around his body under his uniform and promised to protect them."

[traditionally, the highest act of heroism on the battlefield was protecting and saving from capture the unit colors.]

And also:

"Sworn to never surrender (hence the term "Legion of Death) it was published in the press that each woman soldier carried a ration of potassium cyanide to be used to commit suicide in the event of capture."


Colonel "Yashka" Bochkareva, putative commander of the battalion, met a bad end after the October Revolution:

"at the end of 1919 Bochkareva was captured by the Reds and executed. She has often been referred to as the Russian Joan D’Arc and was declared to be “Martyr Maria the Soldier” by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1994."

[in the photograph of the two women "Yashka" is on the left, Emmeline Pankhurst, the foremost British suffragette, on the right!]

This Suite 101 Military History web site is pretty good. I recommend it highly.




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