My home is the Vorob'evsky Region, the village of Krasnopol'e, located just in the Voronezh region. I was born February 22, 1923. After graduating from the seventh grade, I worked on a collective farm. When all the adults were drafted in the beginning of the war I began worked as a tally keeper. I then had to look after the animals as well as performed various other jobs.
On December 14, 1941 they took me into the army. They were taking those born in '23 and '24 at the time. We went on foot from an assembly point to Balashovo. There, they put us on a train and shipped us to the Far East. We traveled to Petrushi, where there was a quarantine company, so that's where they put us. The 87th Reserve Rifle Regiment was located about 12 kilometers from there. First, we went through quarantine for about a month. Naturally, we were occupied with combat training. Then "buyers" came for us from different branches of service. Tank men, artillerymen, and so on. Those with four or more years of education were sent to school -- the Blagoveshchensk Military Infantry School. It was already February. There we went through combat training, and at the same time we guarded our border with Mongolia, more precisely, with the Kwantung Army of Japan. There were border infringements each day. If just one time per month you could wake up to the sunrise, there would be great happiness. Otherwise, you would only be raised by a call to arms. I was in a machinegun company. We were armed with Maxim machine guns. The structure of the training machine-gun platoon consisted of four machine guns, seven men, ten boxes of ammunition, and in each box there were ten belts of 300 cartridges each. We would go out to the border. The frontier guards would be nearby, we would deploy, and so on. The Japanese often violated our border both individually and in groups. There I stayed until August, when the school was disbanded. During this period, the border was crossed by a squad, platoon, company, battalion. We did not touch them, did not open fire. They fired at us, but we did not have permission to open fire.
There was this thing once: the chief of the secret section of the school was with this girl, I don't know how they lived, but when they came for them, they lived as though they were husband and wife. She slowly began to inquire from him various trifled. For example she would ask about how many pots there were in the camp and so forth. Then at some point he didn't notice how he gave some secrets away. She then began to demand from him the plan of the school's defense. He then went to the Commissar of the school and declared, "I am a traitor to the Motherland, judge me in all of the severity of the laws of wartime!" The commissar listened to him and said, "You don't say…You don't say. My dear fellow, is that all?" He replied, "Yes, that is all." The commissar then said, "Go, work, there is no treason here." However, the Commissar did report to the chief of the school, and he - to the Commander of the Second Red Banner Far East Army, to the Front headquarters. The appropriate bodies took up this matter, developed a plan that not only included the school, but the entire city and all of the rifle units. Each house was in fact surrounded. Our platoon was ordered to arrest this officer and his mistress. The liaison asked them to open the door. We went in and the commander of the platoon ordered him to please stand up. We escorted them as a pair to the school headquarters, where they were split up. She was then sent where she was supposed to go and he was released and told to go about his business. However, he was expecting to be tried and shot every passing day. But time passed, probably a month - then the entire school was formed up, and they gave him the Order of the Red Banner in front of the formation for this girl! She turned out to be the daughter of a White Guard, served in the Japanese army, and was the chief of the Japanese intelligence network in Russia. Together with her about 200 various other spies were arrested.
Our school was then disbanded. One third of us went to the airborne units and the rest, including myself, to a course for junior lieutenants. Then we were sent to Vladivostok to attend a machine gun school. After we finished this school, most of the junior lieutenants were generally sent to the west. I got into the 55th Regiment of the High Command Officer Reserve at Naro-Fominsk, and from there I went on to the Leningrad Front. During the final lifting of the blockade I was in the 16th Fortified Region, its 38th Independent Pushkino Machine Gun Artillery Battalion. It was named for its participation in the capture of the city of Pushkino. We fought our way to East Prussia. Then our entire fortified region was transferred to the Karelian Isthmus, where we replaced the 23rd Army, which was being directed to Berlin. So, during sometime in February '45, our participation in combat was finished. We were deployed only 4-5 kilometers from the border.
Lieutenant Fedor Bachurin with brother-officers
We all wore high boots - both the men and commissioned officers. During school, all of us were dressed in boots with puttees. Each of us were dressed in underpants (warm underpants in the winter) and diagonal trousers. Then there was a shirt, a warm shirt, cloth field tunic, and a greatcoat. This was when we were in the rear though. At the front, white sheep skin coats were issued. The soldiers got a short fur coat while the officers got a waist coat that was worn under the greatcoat, so it was difficult to distinguish between soldiers and officers. Our belts were all identical, there were no special officer belts. We always carried helmets. We put them on during battle, they were always with us at the forward positions. In school, or in the rear, there were cases where some unscrewed their gas masks, but in fights they always carried them. I sometimes checked the gas masks -- nobody threw them out, they were all in working order. Nobody could guarantee if the Germans would use the gas or not. And it was also hard to breathe during artillery bombardment.
Rations were as follows - those who were in the rear received Ration No. 3. This ration was, let us say, slightly insufficient. We got 600 grams of bread, but I can not remember the other products we received. However, Ration No. 1 for those at the front was 900 grams of bread in the winter, 800 in the summer, with meat and fish, plus some fats. The ration in the rear contained the same foods, just less of them. I was still growing at the time, but even the Ration No.1 was not enough for me. And Ration No.3 - that wasn't much at all. The soldiers were young, it would've been easier for older men. The cadet ration, Ration No.9, was about the same as the front ration. They also gave butter at the front. Two hundred grams of meat, same amount of fish.
On the first night when I reached the battalion, I was shot with a bullet that went through my greatcoat and field tunic, but I received no wound, only a scratch. It was when we were approaching the forward positions with the sergeant carrying ammunition. Three soldiers went before us, but all three had been wounded by a mortar round from the "donkey" [Nebelwerfer].
When I arrived at the Leningrad Front I was a Junior Lieutenant, and I was appointed to be the commander of a machinegun platoon. First, we were deployed on the right bank of the Neva River, from Petrokrepost' and further along the bank closer to Leningrad. From there we were transferred to the Oranienbaum pocket. From there we went on to capture Narva, there was fierce fighting for the Narva Heights. There were swamps all around, only one highway. There weren't even any trenches, only embankments. Just try and break through that! A tank company went in, but we lost it. There was nowhere to turn, the first and last tank were knocked out, and then the rest. It was then necessary to forgo the offensive in this sector.
The most dangerous German weapon was the "donkey", where six shells would fly out one after the other. Kind of like our Katiusha. During the war we saw burned villages, and gallows. Both partisans and civilians were hanged there. So the hatred for the Germans was extremely strong.
The Machine-Gun Artillery Company consisted of 9-10 platoons. There were few men, four machine-gun platoons with Maxim machine guns, a 45mm gun platoon, a 76mm gun platoon, an ATR platoon, a platoon of 50mm mortars, and a platoon of 82mm mortars. Such was the company. It was strong in firepower, but it was very difficult in an advance - you couldn't carry the equipment yourself. The machine gun itself weighed 70-kilos, and it had ten boxes of cartridges too. In each box there were ten thousand three hundred cartridges. There were only twelve men in a platoon, not counting the commander who made it thirteen. And four machine guns. On top of that, each soldier had a rifle or submachine gun, a shovel, a gas mask, rifle cartridges, and grenades. Therefore, it was hard for the company to transport them. In the Machine-Gun Artillery Battalion there were four such companies. Besides that, there was an artillery battalion with 76mm and 100mm guns, plus a self-propelled artillery battalion. So that was the battalion. We were not subordinated to the infantry units. When the infantry advanced, we went in after them. When the offensive spirit was lost, we then took up the defense and the rifle units go into the rear to get replacements. We had the right to advance, but if we wanted to retreat - sorry. We would stand to the death. The Germans counterattacked frequently. After there was an unsuccessful attempt near Narva, they struck Libava. And when they retreated, they didn't spare ammo, burned everything. By that time only eight of the twelve soldiers in my platoon remained. It was then necessary for me to get behind a machinegun. The no man's land was only sixty meters on my right flank. On the left flank it was 600-700 meters. All of a sudden, a splinter fragment that was shot by a "donkey" mortar tore between my legs. So I lay there. It went through my wadded trousers, a couple of centimeters more and it would've been the end of me. And so I could feel something warm, I looked - and there was the "visitor" lying there. The wadded trousers, the greatcoat, and the underpants were all torn. It was the German preparation for the counterattack. On the left flank our artillery was firing, but on the right flank we only used submachine guns and grenades beating them off.
In the rear machine-guns were usually carried on our shoulders, but in combat they were rolled, while crawling on top of that. During marches we received transportation. If it was a long distance, we rode in trucks. Otherwise, we had carts and horses. We used 50mm mortars in '43, and in '44. The effect from those mortars was certainly little. But if I could throw a hand grenade twenty meters, not more, and some experts could manually throw a grenade 50-60 meters, this mortar fired to more than 100 meters. The mortar rounds had about the same amount of explosive as a hand grenade.
The belt for the machine guns was cloth, the Maxim machine gun had about twenty different types of jams. One of the reasons for a jam was that the belt would stretch. If it was an old stretched belt, the machine gun would not work. Non-leveled belt would also cause the machinegun to not shoot. Still, there were many more types of jams, but I do not remember them all. The machinegun was still good though, and it was also used in concrete bunkers. It was simpler there, all you would do was connect a hose to the guns, turn on the motor, and the cooling would work as the water would circulate. The Germans would try to remove the machineguns from the action first because they were seen as the most dangerous hindrance by them. An artillery piece fires a shell. Same with a bullet. But the shell falls, you have to load another, while I could comb through several meters with a machine gun at that time. It mows, aiming up to 250 meters while firing at a rate of 500-600 shots per minute. You could aim from the left flank, press the trigger, and run it to the right, not pushing fast - and it would go: knock-knock-knock. Bullets will lie down across each thirty-centimeter space. That's why we suffered heavy losses, because the Germans hunted for us.
|Translated by:||Shannon Dubberly|