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East Front Air War Slang and Notes

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  • East Front Air War Slang and Notes

    Good Evening and happy silly season to all.

    Tonight I would like to cover the terminology that arose out of the Eastern Front air war, and to provide a couple of choice bits of information associated with this long neglected aspect of the Ost-front from the perspective of both sides. Any additions you would like to add or correct in this glossary, please feel free to do so, as accuracy is always needed. These words will appear in no particular order, but I will provide notes first before moving on to the glossary of terminology itself. Any comments, good, bad or indifferent are, as usual most welcome, and I will reply to all comments.

    On with the show!


    As with most, if not all, of Soviet manufacturing facilities before and during World War Two, the final product and it's operational employment was greatly affected by the long arms of the twin Five Year Economic Plans and the political and military purges that shaped and hammered Soviet society.

    From January 1939 until the end of the conflict in the East, the 'Peoples Commisariat for the Aircraft Industry' (Narodnoi Kommissariat Aviiatsionny Promyshlennosti, NKAP or Narkpmaviaprom) was established under the direction of one Andrei Shakhurin, an engineering graduate of the Moscow Engineering-Economics Institute who had been serving in the Soviet aviation industry since 1934. From the time of his appointment and over the next two years to 1941, Shakhurin, with and under the watchful eyes of the NKVD, supervised the rapid expansion of Soviet aviation manufacture in the Kuibyshev region of Siberia.. Shakhurin also borrowed British methods by a wholesale takeover of civilian aircraft and aviation component factories, using Gulag labor to expand all the facilities.

    By the start of the German invasion of Poland in September of 1939, as many as 174,360 workers were engaged in these industrial facilities, and in March of 1941, a switch to 24 hour production was made, just in time for the German invasion in June of 1941, Unternehmen BARBAROSSA.

    Production and development in this industry was highly political, and Shakhurin;s department, therefore did not have total control. The Soviet Air Force Scientific Test Institute (Naucho-issledovatelskii Institut or NII-VVS) was responsible for the conduct of acceptance trials and the ironing out of technical problems. Despite all this overhanging supervision and red tape, politics still reared it's head in the form of aircraft designers, such as Alexsandr Yakovlev, who would utilize their extensive contacts and influence with Party officials to bypass decisions made by the Shakhurin's NKAP and the Air Force's NII-VVS.

    The result of all this political and professional paperwork , influence pedaling and expansion were serious problems that manifested themselves over the course of the Great Patriotic War.

    Unskilled and hastily drafted workers was the first and most serious of these difficulties. Poor to non-existent quality control resulted in fully half of completed components having to be rejected. Skilled workers were in very small numbers in factories that were attempting to modernize their output to produce stress-skinned designs, products that took far more man-hours to complete than the usual fabric-covered wooden products of a bygone era.
    Problems with management also reared their ugly heads, and these were a direct result of the Purges themselves.
    With constant requests from centralized authorities for increases in production targets, this inevitably clashed with the general fact that most of the best production and labor force managers had been eliminated by purging. Their less than competent and politically reliable replacements lived in a climate of permanent fear of the NKVD. Quality and stocks of spare parts as a production priority were tossed out the window in favor of glowing reports to Moscow of numbers of completed units. "Quality" itself was seen to be a "concept of the bourgeoisie" and therefore a concept that was alien to the state and to the industry itself.
    Due to this idea of planning and conception from a centralized authority with its decision makers far away and at the top, the aviation industrial complex of the Soviet Union found itself lagging behind, unwilling to take risks, and unable to iron out production problems in good time. This combined with an output of aluminium (only 60,000 tonnes in 1939) that fell behind even Nazi production, produced an industry that was dependent on it's allies for making up the shortfall of raw materials for the whole of the war period, and also very dependent on technological imports to close the gap between end product problems and field service requirements

    These problems spilled over into other branches of the aviation sector. It left the Air Force technologically hamstrung in the field of electronics, resulting in a chronic shortage of navigation aids all through the war. Radio telephone transmitter receivers were also in short supply unitl 1943. Only formation leaders had them, a situation mirrored in the Red Army with only formation leaders in tanks equiped with radio. As well, these receivers were only HF (High Frequency). The Germans, British and Americans all derived benefit from UHF and VHF sets, but the Soviets had to soldier on without this communications cornucopia. Furthermore, the poor quality of Russian radio sets resulted in poor reception, (or none at all in the frequent bad weather conditions), and the installation of this vital equipment was poor, contributing significantly to the problems faced by bad communications in modern aerial warfare.
    Radar sets were of poor quality and indifferently installed and manned, a situation directly attributable to the purge arrest of Russia's radar expert in the field, Pavel Oshchepkov. This vital technician and head of Radar development was arrested and not released until 1946. Russian Radar lagged behind in conception, development and usage for the war entire.

    The red tape and climate of fear also affected the aviation field through the petrochemical industry.

    When exposed to sunlight, the clear Plexiglass (or Perspex as it was called) tended to "degrade and become opaque", a problem that sources say was only really addressed and solved late in the war. The result of this for aircrews was that they tended to fly missions with open canopies, resulting in many, many cases of frostbite and blackening of the cheeks and facial features. Fortunately, by far the greater majority of air combat on the Eastern Front occurred below the oxygen height limit of 10,000 feet. One wonders what the Perspex problem would have caused in a knock-on effect if the Germans had concentrated their air assets at higher altitudes, or launched a concentrated high-level strategic bombing program that would have caused interceptions to be significantly compromised in the thin air. Fortunately for Soviet aviation, German high altitude raids on industrial and urban areas were few and far between, both sides coming to the conclusion that air-power was a tactical support arm of the conflict on the ground.

    Fortunate indeed.

    The lagging Soviet petrochemical products also manifested themselves in the fuel for the aircraft themselves.
    Moscow desk-jockeys had decided that fuel additives were "unnecessary" and categorically refused to supply them. This degraded engine performance, with a reduction in engine running time to 20-30 hours between overhauls. Oil refineries produced only 70-78 octane fuels (namely B-70, B-74 and B-78). Frontoviks at the sharp end of the conflict had to mix additives themselves to provide suitable "juice" for high performance motors. B-70 became standard for trainers and night-bombers with a mix called B-89 used for day bombers and transports. The main ingredient in the additives was TETRAETHYL LEAD, a petrochemical product that Soviet wartime industry produced very little to nothing of.
    Consequently, all Soviet fighters, (including Lend-Lease imports) were restricted to B-95, at a time when German fighters used 94-100 octane C-3 as a matter of course, and British and Americans used 100-130 octane fuel in spite of shortages.
    When Generalissimo Stalin became aware of this problem after it was brought to his attention just before the 1944 'Bagration' offensive in the Ukraine, he acted immediately, having to solve labeling problems at the same time, as differing octane levels within the same batch of fuel were not shown on the labels themselves until direct intervention.

    Soviet aviation industry and it's relatively semi-unskilled workers also created problems with the development and manufacture of high performance engines themselves. In the style of the day, the purging had created shortages of individuals with the necessary expertise to develop their own home designs, and also in the style of the day, the Soviets resorted to copying foreign motors, with the inevitable result that the end products "were often unreliable, leaked oil and were difficult to maintain", problems that a semi-skilled or illiterate mechanics could not easily solve.

    Operationally, this meant that new designs rolling off the factory floors were often mistrusted with good reason by Frontoviks that had to put these fine examples of the New Society to use. Because of the desire to produce completed units rather than provide spare parts, mechanics and maintenance personnel had to perfect their trade "on the job"..

    But Soviet Aviation could "get it right", and in the field of close support and ground attack, they most certainly did. Experience in Spain had shown the need for "pure", purpose built ground support aircraft, with most Spanish ground support provided by aircraft modified in the field or in factory with extra armor. The result of this need was the Ilyushin designed IL-2 "Sturmovik", a "flying tank" that entered production and service just in time in 1941. Not a very stable weapons platform in any case, the IL-2 became the scourge of the Eastern Front, spreading fear and terror among the Fascist invader similar to the terror inspired by early "Stuka" operations in Western Europe.

    All this new equipment, much of it deriving from experience in Spain, should have rendered the Soviet Air Force "Falcons" more than able to achieve even local air supremacy by the time of invasion. Unfortunately, re-equipment was not achieved by a wholesale withdrawal and retraining of the units concerned, as was the practice in other air forces.

    Oh no.

    New equipment was dispatched to front-line units in batches, often with little or no opportunity for re-training. Fine in peacetime, but not so fine with the pressure of operations mounting every day.

    Like their mechanic counterparts, and their submariners in the Workers and Peasants Naval service.....
    Soviet airmen, Stalin's "Falcons", the very pride of the propaganda that surrounded them......would have to learn their trade.....ON THE JOB.


    Soviet Yakovolev Fighters.........Jacob/Jake/Jim or "Yakis" ("Jakes")
    Soviet Pe-2 Divebomber.........."Peshka" ("Pike")
    Soviet IL-2 "Sturmovik"....."Gorbun'("Hunchback").....commonly called "Ilyusha", the units that flew them "Ilovs" ("Mudlarks ) from the Russian word for 'mud' = "il".
    Soviet LaGG-3 fighter...."Lakirovannyi Garantirovannyi Grob" (Guaranteed Lacquered Coffin) The LaGG had unreliable hydraulics and was wooden framed, and covered in lacquer. Source has dismissed this information, as it could be described as "defeatist" and therefore something not spoken openly and in general usage.
    I-153 fighter........................................... ............."Chaika" ("Seagull").......official designation.
    German Bf-109 'E' & 'G'......................................."Messers" translation provided.
    Hs 126 A..."Kostii" ('Crutches')......Nickname due to it's wing braces, similar to the Fiesler 'Storch'
    Hs 123 ground attack ...."Ein Zwei Drei" not sure whether this was a Russian or German nickname, so I've listed it Russian, even though the language is German.
    Bell P-39 Aircobra. fighter........................................... ........."Kobra" ('Cobra')
    Fw-189 tactical recon......"Rama" ('Windowframe')....nickname due to it's twin boom configuration.
    Ju-87 Stuka divebomber.."Bashmakov" ('Clog') or "Lapteshnik", a derivative of "lopati", wooden sandals made from lengths of lime bark commonly used by the peasantry.
    Fw-190 fighter........................................... ............................."Fokker"

    Last edited by Drusus Nero; 30 Dec 19, 21:16.
    My Articles, ALMOST LIVE, exclusive to The Armchair!

    Soviet Submarines in WW2....The Mythology of Shiloh....(Edited) Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto
    GULAG Glossary....Who Really Killed The Red Baron?....Pearl Harbor At 75
    Lincoln-Douglas Debates

  • #2


    The daily life routine of Luftwaffe servicemen was not altogether unpleasant. Hermann Goring went to great lengths and pulled many astring to ensure to make sure that his charges were looked after well and could function effectively under the very trying conditions of the Eastern Front.

    During the summer months when the weather was kind, personnel usually lived and slept in tents over holes in the ground. As the weather became more onerous and difficult to deal with, servicemen were often billeted in wooden huts with the local peasantry, cabins that provided much needed warmth and shelter from the freezing elements. If close to a town or city, billeting on local couches was supplemented with sleeping bags. Fear of 'vermin' was rife and not unsubstantiated, and persons returning to the Reich for home leave were thoroughly 'deloused' before being allowed to return home.
    Morning routine consisted of a wash and shave, before a visit to the 'mess' for breakfast, consisting of 'cold' rations that might be composed of bread, (third of a loaf), cured brattwurst (sausage), cheese, apples or a tomato or two, with butter and jam on the side. A meal ticket for a hot lunch was then issued, and flight crews often consumed a breakfast egg, all washed down with 'ersatz' coffee, the quality of which was referred to as "indescribable".
    Post breakfast, daily orders were then issued, with written target briefings and other target information conveyed from Flying Korps headquarters. Flight crews would then proceed to a dispersal area, (mostly a tent), or sit on 'standby' in their cockpits, a routine that Allied fighter crews would have recognized immediately. Deckchairs around the dispersal hut were then occupied, as much witty banter went back and forth, with the playing of cards and dominoes, reading, or simply dozing in the sunshine. Mornings were often the busiest operational times, with many requests for air support to forward units being met as quickly as possible.
    Lunchtime, and the best meal of the day was provided, with meals consisting of canned or fresh meat, veges, fruit and/or powdered potatoes, or poultry and game-bird supplied by the local peasantry. At all times it was attempted to supplement canned rations with local produce, especially for aircrew, as prolonged exposure to tinned meat and vegetables could cause intestinal bubbles, a painful affliction that was aggravated by spending time at altitude. Soups or casseroles from local produce were at a premium, but periods of intense movement or many-sorties flown for the day could mean that only sandwiches were available.

    Intestinal problems could mean multiple visits to something they called a "Thunder Bench" (Donnerbalken) where attempts to pass the time or pass other things were often greeted with cries of derision and much laughter from the supporting personnel.

    Sunset provided the mostly daylight operating crews with a welcome respite from the grind of operations, and to pass the evening hours they would listen to music or shoot the breeze with other squadron-mates, or simply listen to the radio for the latest updates on their progress or propaganda and music from the Reich itself. Weather forecasts would decide if they were to fly on operations for the following day, and if not, low alcohol beer was issued (Fliegerbier), which was only 1% alcohol, followed by lights out, then bed.

    This, then, was the life and working routine of the dreaded Eastern Front.


    'Hals und Beinbruchen' (Break an arm or a leg)........Wishes of good luck to aircrew.
    'Sore throat'.....Aircrew or pilot desire for decorations, particularly the 'Ritterkreuz' (Knights Cross)
    'Rottenhund'...........Wingman to afighter pilot, often referred to as a 'bodyguard' or 'bulletcatcher'.
    'Nahmaschinen' (Sewing Machines)....German name for their own version of the highly effective and feared single-engine Soviet night bombers that harassed German personnel after darkness had fallen. It is one of few examples of Russian methods being adopted by the Nazis, and a telling insight into the effectiveness of such sorties by the Soviets.
    'Young Hares'...Inexperienced aircrew that had arrived as replacements.
    'Experten'.........Experienced aircrew with 'kills' to their credit.
    'Kanone'...........German 'ace' pilots, those with 5 or more confirmed victories.
    'Schwarzermanner' (Black Men').....Generic German term for the ground support crews, attired in black overalls.
    "Devils Eggs".......Generic Luftwaffe term for an SD-2 anti-personnel bomb.
    Last edited by Drusus Nero; 31 Dec 19, 02:18.
    My Articles, ALMOST LIVE, exclusive to The Armchair!

    Soviet Submarines in WW2....The Mythology of Shiloh....(Edited) Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto
    GULAG Glossary....Who Really Killed The Red Baron?....Pearl Harbor At 75
    Lincoln-Douglas Debates


    • #3

      The New Society of the Soviet Union theoretically allocated equal rights to men and women. However, chauvinism amongst Soviet males was still rife, and bemusement at their wartime role universal. The dire emergency created by the German invasion forced the wholesale mobilization of women into combat and supporting roles, including clerical, domestic and medical as well as front-line service.
      Stalin was no exception to this bemusement, but he was persuaded reluctantly to form three all female regiments, (fighter, assault, and night-bomber). Their distinguished conduct in the Great National Emergency caused Marshal Voroshilov to refer to them as "The beautiful girls", but surprisingly, the girls themselves did not like female commanders, and these were usually replaced with men.

      Problems, however, persisted.......

      Lack of suitable clothing for the girls was endemic. Also, a chronic shortage of feminine hygiene products and suitable contraception devices caused problems in the ranks that were not foreseen.

      Apparently, some married couples served together. Many couples who married served in aviation regiments, but promiscuity causing pregnancy was officially frowned upon, causing the offending mistresses to be sent to the rear for 're-education'. Permanent relationships often started with innocent requests from males for female help to wash and sew the clothing that was always in short supply. Living arrangements, however, were often permitted in the form of 'soldier's wives', Chauvinism among their male fellow Frontoviks also caused problems, as some pilots became far too 'free' in their attitudes, with examples of beatings and unwanted pregnancies forcing the perpetrators to be sent to Penal Regiments for their troubles.

      So, Soviet women soldiered on, contributing more in the Great Patriotic War than the girls of any other nation, in virtually every role and job that the men did.

      SLANG and official Soviet TERMINOLOGY

      'Attacks upon administrative, political and military sites in the hinterland".
      ...........Official terminology for strategic bombing of cities and towns. The Soviets struggled to rationalize these attacks upon civilian targets in the same way that the people of Great Britain also struggled to justify their own Bomber Offensive in the newspapers and propaganda sheets of the day.
      The Red Army and the official leadership did not buy into Douhetian theory of winning the war with bombing alone as espoused by the likes of Trenchard and Arthur Harris. They did, however, seek to confirm the popular behest for 'retaliation', but with the Red Army pulling the strings of the target lists, these Soviet raids became not more than nuisance value, and were dismissed as such by Nazi officials. Post analysisof bomb damage caused this attitude to be more than correct in the wider scheme of things, so the Soviet aviation raids remained a sideshow, and a drain on their scarce four-engine resources, suitable for propaganda value only.
      "The Chicken"............This was airman's slang for an officer's eagle insignia badge. Officers, and especially airman pilot officers, had a high status within the New Society. An August 1938 directive by Marshal Kliment Voroshilov decreed that newly qualified pilots were to be commissioned as Leitenant officers, befitting their training and status. But in early 1941, this decree was suddenly put into reverse, as newly appointed Marshal Timoshenko felt that freshly qualified officers had not the experience to be adorned with 'The Chicken'. These newbies found themselves starting off their careers as mere 'serzhanti' (sergeants) instead. Officers to be found themselves commanded by mere sergeants, and in another Timoshenko 'morale busting' decree, married men could NOT live off base with their wives and families. Protests over this sparkling directive were such that some outright refused to wear rank badges at all, many went 'absent without leave', and others took to drinking vast amounts of alcohol in a savage protest that adversely affected morale for a long time. Soviet patriotism proved to be the stronger element, as better pay and food rations kept spirits high. Again, this incident mirrored British practice when the Brits refused to commission Sergeant pilots coming out of the Volunteer Reserve Air Force and into the mainstream Royal Air Force Service.
      It seems that snobbery and class distinction was alive and well in both traditional and conservative Britain and in the so called 'equal' society that was being created to replace the Old Order Ancien Regime. People are the same wherever you go, and prejudice was very much still a part of the Russian character.
      "Of course we will have many accidents as long as you keep making flying coffins".......Accident rates in Soviet aviation began and continued to remain high through all of the GPW. A direct result of the ruinous expansion rate and the poor training and flying discipline of crews brought on by a chronic shortage of instructors, this statement was made by aviation chief Rychagov directly in answer to Josef Stalin questioning this accident rate and his demand that something be done 'immediately' to correct the problem. Stalin's firm and dark reply to this statement ("You should not have said that"), caused Rychagov's immediate removal and subsequent transfer to the General Staff Academy, a fortunate fate indeed considering Timoshenko and Zhukov had demanded his arrest and court martial. This continuing thorn in the side of Soviet aviation was solved only when training regimes were extended to provide more instructors, (rather than having the best of the volunteer for frontline service) rather than 'shirking' in the 'rear', and further solved as the new aircraft that rolled off the production lines in increasing numbers were adequately 'vetted' with proper quality control. New pilots still struggled to achieve a 'proper' number of hours in the air, with gaps in training closed by ferrying new aircraft to forward units.
      "Foals"................Russian slang for new pilots with inadequate numbers of hours in the air, half trained and transferred to operational units as the situation demanded.
      "Master".....................Airman's slang for the senior pilot in a pair of fighters.
      "Slave".......................More airman's slang for the "master's" wingman. These twin terms were curiously out of context for a country that was claiming to eliminate such distinctions from it's society altogether.
      "Bezloshadnyy" ("Horseless")....... A pilot without an aircraft to fly. There were many such men after the opening raids by the Luftwaffe for the commencement of "Barbarossa".
      "Taran".......................Russian word for a 'ramming' attack.
      "Kuptsii" ('Merchants') or "Torguvtsii" ('Traders')......Officers sent by front-line aviation regiments to training schools to select the best replacements for service in their units. These new 'foals' were often found to be undernourished and more than a burden to operational requirements. Barely trained to take off and land, they were generally ignorant of both navigation and gunnery, both subjects that had been neglected in their time at train school. They also had to be 'fattened up' before they could commence operational flying, as student pilots, despite the need for their services, were given a very low priority when it came to rations, sharing loaves of crusty 'bread' and surviving day to day on weak pea soup and leftovers scrounged from garbage bins, like cabbage leaves and potato peelings. Although the food situation in Central Asia was somewhat better, with camel meat and rock-hard barley served up at mealtimes, this situation is one that reflected the overall famine conditions in the rest of the Soviet Union during the GPW. These were vital trainees, so one does not need to wonder what it must have been like for the average factory worker, let alone the aged or children that did not work and received no rationing, surviving by ceaseless toiling at inadequate gardens on poor soils with no artificial fertilizers to speak of. Russian historians of the GPW are curiously silent about these harsh realities of Soviet life, as everything was earmarked for the Frontovik. It makes the donation contributions by starving collective farmers all the more real and tragic, and is, truly, the Great Untold Story of The Great Patriotic War. Is it any wonder that the true civilian mortality figures for this conflict in this tragic nation will probably never come to light. A dirty little secret matched by another untold famine story that failed to come out of China for this terrible conflict.
      "Porochnyi Krug" ('Viscious Circle').....Tactic developed by the Soviet air forces. A circling formation over it's target sends down individual aircraft for up to half an hour. Could only operate in conditions of air superiority, however, as the circling formation would have made a beautiful target for marauding Luftwaffe 'experten'.
      "Krokodil" ("Stream").......Soviet term for a continuing 'line' of bombers that arrive over the target to swamp the defences. Possibly a copy of the RAF 'Bomber Stream', and possibly a nod to the overwhelming of the radar sets that it caused.
      "Rykhliteh" ('Rippers')......During August of 1944, specially converted Il-2's from General-leitenant Oleg Tolostikov's 9th SAK began to fly 'ripper' missions, trailing hooks that would cut telephone cables. This tactic was unique to the Eastern front.


      Soviet routines were imposed by the conditions that they served in, the shortages that they delt with, and sometimes by superstitions that lingered on within their world.

      Billeting was often 5-10 kilometres from the airfield in the same huts and cabins as the local peasantry. Sleeping on straw mattresses or bunks, food was shared with their host family, who recieved better rations because of it.
      Arising well before dawn, a wash and a clean of the teeth with the finger was followed by the journey to their mess for breakfast. Aircrew did not shave in the morning, due to the superstitious belief that it guaranteed that they would not return from operations on that day.. A mess breakfast usually consisted of tea or coffee, rolls or black bread, and at times a portion of sausage.
      Forward airstrips usually had a command post bunker (with dispersal hut), and two bunkers for airmen/women and one for ground-crew. Aircraft checks followed, an important aspect of the daily routine, for relentless pressure and indifferent rationing may have caused ground-crews to be lax in their maintenance, or it might not have occurred at all; so these checks were an important and necessary part of the daily grind, in order that their 'birds' were to be flyable for the day, and for peace of mind whilst flying.
      Mission briefings followed before they began their first mission of the day. On their return, a light lunch was provided, "often buckwheat porridge but sometimes tea and sandwiches". They may then have flown another sortie for the day, and on their return they would attend the mess for dinner- this was their main meal of the day, unlike their German counterparts whose main meal was lunch.
      Aircrew were given what was referred to as Level Five (5) rations (3,450 calories/day), with a half kilo of meat and 100 grammes of butter and sugar., supplemented with two bowls of the ubiquitous buckwheat porridge or mashed potato if they were lucky. Some personnel would go hunting to increase their rations off the book, but rationing also provided them with a daily block of chocolate, which was mostly saved until the end of the week.
      Ground crew rationing was Level Six (6) (2,954 calories/day), with less meat and sugar, and millet substituted for buckwheat in the porridge. To keep morale high, aircrew often gave their groundcrew their leftovers, a practice that was officially frowned upon. But, like many others in the GPW, ground crews were half-starved, and it was good for relations between them and the aircrews to share their leftovers, for it may have guaranteed that their aircraft were properly tended to.
      Sources say that bread and soup were "generally plentiful", but the quality of such rations varied from front to front depending on the relative importance of the front itself. Tinned meat was referred to as "Tushonka", but it's varied and dubious quality also caused it to be called "Mystery Meat", as it could be anything from pork to chicken, to beef, camel east of the Urals, or it could be simply horse meat.
      Advancing regiments had to augment their rations with local produce and stocks from villagers. If you were fortunate, you may receive canned food supplied by American/British Lend-Lease, or sausage that had been 'cured' to travel. In addition, Lend-Lease supplied 'hard-to-get' items like flying boots and jackets, or shirts comprising material that was referred to as 'English Cloth".

      The poor diet and rough conditions made it difficult to wear issue scarfs whilst flying, due to the presence of boils that made turning a head difficult and painful. For this reason, flying scarves and other clothing were fashioned from captured parachute silk or old Soviet parachutes, and this gave every reason for aircrew to seek out help from Soviet girl service-women to fashion or repair these important and scarce clothing items.

      Post-mission, aircrew were entitled to a 100 gram 'on the ration' tot of vodka, or 200 grams of wine, with 'foal' or novice pilots receiving only 50 grams. Some men tended to use kitchen scraps to distill their own 'moonshine', and consequently, alcoholism was rife within the Soviet Air-force. But this was, mostly, an 'after-mission' treat, as pilots that expected to survive operations were extremely wise not to fly when drunk.

      Socially, units tended to keep to themselves and their own ground-crew, following the British pattern. Cigarette issue was extremely generous for pilots by wartime standards (30 packs of cigarettes/month or approximately 1 pack per day), and this bonanza was shared with ground-crews, also to keep morale high and to guarantee a good job when maintaining their aircraft, for their lives depended on such generosity. Differing ranks received differing brands of cigarettes. Regimental commanders got 'Kazbek', pilots 'Beloe Morye' ('White Sea') and ground crews received 'Prostoi' ('Easy'). This may again surprise those that believe Soviet society stressed 'equality'. It didn't. Rank according to your type of job were just as prevalent as before the Revolution. Authorities paid lip service to the concept of 'universal equality', but in practice, wished to maintain the old practice of social rank and education that permeated the Old World before them.

      Superstition extended not just to the practice of not shaving in the morning. Being photographed before a mission was another superstition that was widespread, and one particularly superstitious Guard's regiment actually believed that the act of sex with a female ground crew was a guarantee of doom for the next mission. In addition, completion of a series of operational missions (3rd-4th....13th to 14th and 33rd to 34th) was the ticket to a much better chance of survival. So it's clear that in spite of Soviet official attempts to re-educate their people, much remained of their pre-revolutionary selves.

      When the weather closed in, card playing, dominoes, draughts and chess became the favored method of passing the time. Listening to music was also a big draw-card, as most regiments had at least one person that could play a piano-accordion or a balalaika, so a dance with the regimental girls was not out of the question, before lights out or a candlelit letter home, then back to billets for sleep.

      Money bought hard to get luxuries like sausage, tinned meat, chocolate or sweet cakes. Personal washing in the frigid weather often proved counter productive, so pilots restricted this practice to once a month or so, or whenever a good water source such as a river was encountered. The shortage of detergents made washing clothes also much of a waste of time and water, so clothes were dipped in petrol to delouse them and dried by evaporation. Toilet facilities were the same for men and women, mostly simply a hole to squat over, and it was here that equality could be seen for what it truly was, something that happened not as a matter of course, but something that was engineered and part of circumstance. Where possible, newspaper was the favored method to clean oneself. Nothing was wasted in this war, and everything was put to use for something practicle.

      This, then, was the life of the the air-regimental frontovik, one of shortage and no waste, where everything had a purpose and everyone had a role to play to defeat "The Fascist Beast" and guarantee "The New Society" would live to fight another day.....

      And that, my friends, concludes this chapter and thread, but I will conclude with the words of one particular Russian pilot, accused of cowardice by the Regimental Commissar for not taking off to oppose the "Messers" that had strafed his airfield.....His reply was classic understatement.....


      Claudius Germanicus Drusus Nero.......signing off and a Happy New Year.......
      Last edited by Drusus Nero; 31 Dec 19, 05:23.
      My Articles, ALMOST LIVE, exclusive to The Armchair!

      Soviet Submarines in WW2....The Mythology of Shiloh....(Edited) Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto
      GULAG Glossary....Who Really Killed The Red Baron?....Pearl Harbor At 75
      Lincoln-Douglas Debates


      • #4
        Very interesting stuff.
        Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?


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