Saturday, 5 November 2016

Battalion

Over the past few years a growing number of war films originating in Eastern Europe (mainly Poland and Russia) have been released on DVD in the UK, and this is the latest one that I have bought.


BATTALION tells the story of the 1st Russian Women's Battalion of Death, a female-only Russian infantry unit that was raised in Petrograd in May 1917 and fought during the First World War. The driving force behind the creation of the unit was its first commander – Maria Bochkareva – and it was authorised by the then Minister of War of the Russian Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky.

Maria Aronova as Maria Bochkareva.
The film's main character is Maria Bochkareva (played by Maria Aronova), a peasant women who had managed to join the Russian Army in 1914 and risen to the rank of a junior NCO by 1917, and who became the unit's commanding officer. After training ...

The battalion on parade outside the Winter Palace in Petrograd (St Petersburg)..
The battalion on a training run past the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, Petrograd (St Peterburg). (This Church was built between 1883 and 1907 on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in March 1881 by an anarchist's bomb.)
... the unit was attached to the 525th Kiuruk-Darinski Regiment, which was located near Smorgon.

The battalion's trenches.
It took an active part in the Kerensky Offensive, and managed to break through the German trenches ... unlike its male counterparts.

The battalion reached the German front line trenches, but were then unable to hold them in the face of a counter-attack. The angled pipes in the background are gas shell projectors or mortars that were known as Gaswurfminen.
The unit became isolated, and were eventually forced to retreat back to their starting point. The 1st Russian Women's Battalion of Death was still in the front line when the October Revolution took place, but not long afterwards it was disbanded.

The story told by the film remains fairly true to actual events, although – as one would expect – it does change certain things for dramatic effect. The battle scenes are quite brutal and graphic, and are not for the squeamish. It also shows the effect 'Soldier's Committees' had on the discipline of the Russian Army (basically there was none!) and the inability of Officers to induce the rank-and-file of their units to do anything they did not want to do.

This film has been described as being a piece of modern propaganda – and it probably is – but the acting is good (if a little stylised in places), and the attention to detail is excellent. At one point during a trench raid one of the women picks up and fires a German light machine gun ... and it is a Madsen of the sort used by the Germans during the First World War!

14 comments:

  1. The Russians used Madsens, especially with their cavalry, but the Germans captured enough to equip MG battalions that fought on the Somme in 1916.

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    Replies
    1. Ian Drury,

      I knew that the Germans had Madsen LMGs ... but not that they had captured them from the Russians!

      Thanks for the information.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Meant to add - thanks for the review. One to add to the watch list. I blame the jet lag!

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    Replies
    1. Ian Drury,

      I'm sure that both of you will enjoy watching this film.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Replies
    1. Mark Nichipor,

      How long do you think it will be before wargame figures of the Women's Battalion appear on sale?

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Bob, I bought some about twelve years ago from Peter Pig, in 15mm. At first glance they look like victims of scale creep. They are very nice models.

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    3. Steven Page,

      I never knew that! Trust Peter Pig to include them in his range of World War I 15mm figures.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  4. Thanks for the review - have to look out for this. Interesting that since the demise of the USSR more attention is being paid in Russia to their WW I Army, which before 1991 would have been ideologically impossible.

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    Replies
    1. David Bradley,

      I agree; It is interesting to see the apparent change in official Russian attitudes to the country's more recent history. It seems to have come at a time when Putin's government wants to project a positive image of the country abroad and to reinforce a belief in a powerful centralised government at home.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. Good review Bob. Another to add to my list to look out for in the post xmas sales.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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    Replies
    1. Pete.,

      I think that I paid £5.00 for this DVD ... but it may have been £3.00.

      I found my copy in an ASDA outlet store in Dartford.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  6. Thanks Bob, I hadn't heard of this before. Sounds like an interesting movie covering rarely known history.

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    Replies
    1. Paul O'G,

      I hope that you manage to find a copy and are able to watch it.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete