Wednesday, 8 April 2020

NKVD Blocking Detachment

One of the cliches of the Great Patriotic War is the idea that Soviet units were herded into battle by yelling Commisars backed up by machinegun detachments waiting to mow down any waverers. The opening scenes of 'Enemy at the Gates' while hugely enjoyable and atmospheric, weren't really representative of what actually went on. While the Soviets undoubtedly treated deserters  etc very harshly, the dull reality was more that they were arrested by police detachments behind the lines, like military police activity everywhere.

That aside, our recent outing to Kursk prompted some calls from the Soviet players for a blocking detachment element to add to their force HQ and discourage traitors and defeatists. Ever keen to please the crowd, I duly obliged.

And here we go, an NKVD firing squad. Why do secret policemen go around in threes? One to ask questions, one to take notes and one to watch the two intellectuals. 

Avid readers now know why there were some WW1 Russian infantry knocking around with my Kleinepanzerbefehlswagen. 

These chaps were left over from my eBay WW1 Russians, and in their flat hats I thought they'd do the job nicely, especially in their identical poses. Just right for a firing squad. I painted their trousers dark blue and did their caps in red and cornflower blue. I made their tunics a bit less green as well  and lined them up.

For a more personal touch, I also made up an NKVD officer to offer further encouragement to any dissenters.

This chap is a cut up Peter Pig WW1 British Officer. Close enough. He got a similar paint job to the riflemen, but with added red stripes on his blue trousers.

Who watches the watchers? Well, he can encourage the firing squad to do their job.

And if he gets it wrong? well there is always another firing squad.

Not in the best possible taste, but you do have to keep to players happy. Regular readers will recall I've already made a megaphone guy (yes, I do know PP make these but I only needed one).  

So with this lot plus a couple of deployed Maxim teams. I don't think anyone is going to be running away any time soon.

For those genuinely interested in the subject Maslovs article: 'How were Soviet Blocking Detachments Employed' is worth a read: (from the US Army Foreign Military Studies Office).


  1. The party applauds you efforts Comrade! Being shot in the back is the only language these people understand!

    1. LOL, well that certainly seemed to be the consensus among the Russian commanders at the last game.

  2. I believe the 'blocking units' thing to have been greatly exaggerated. The incident mentioned in the linked passage is interesting, though. Clearly the Russian commander was unsympathetic to the men surrendering, but, absent any 'blocking troops' called down an artillery strike upon the surrendering troops and the German tanks mingling among them.

    I think that would have been a tough-minded decision, as that strike, whatever other damage it did, caused the German armour to draw back. That the officer was enraged no doubt made that decision easier. It sounds as though he was 'punishing' the deserters; but he could have argued that in mingling with the deserters, the enemy tanks presented a good target. Maybe.

    For the rest, I find the attitude of the author of the article a little odd. Totalitarian regimes have never cornered the market on bombastic 'to the death' type orders. Nor is their attitude to runaways materially all that much different from anyone else's.

    The period described was one of hand to mouth desperation for the nation. Untrained, semi-trained units might well in many places have been all that stood between hanging on for an extra half-hour or seeing the nation overrun. What would have been the position of the UK had the Germans completed the destruction of the BEF in June 1940 AND managed to force a crossing of La Manche? 'Dad's Army' would not exactly have been your front line grenadier guards, eh? Mind you, I rather think a British author would have been a little less judgmental.

    1. Yes, I agree. The FMSO has all sorts of interesting stuff, but not necessarily fair or nuanced.