Volunteers conscripts and turncoats

Many earlv Russian White formations were created from the remnants of the disintegrating Russian Imperial Army. But it was an uphill struggle. Most soldiers were sick of the war; they refused to obey orders, and some even threatened their own officers with firing squads. The Whites' biggest hope was to be found in new units of committed volunteers.

I he heart of the volunteer White armies was at first represented bv a handful of generals, officers, cadets and students. Few of them had aristocratic backgrounds, and most of what they had achieved had been due

Uniforms Worn Civil War

The Cossack Congress of 1917, which was presided over by Colonel Alexander Dootov (4th from left in the front row). Nearly all the main Cossack uniforms worn in the Civil War are visible.

to their own al>ilit\ and personal courage. Not all had the same aims: some were monarchists, others social-democrats. About the only thing mam had in common was a hatred and fear of thi' Bolsheviks.

I ndoubtedlv the most successful of these volunteer organisations was the Dobrovolcheskava (Volunteer) Armv created in south Russia bv generals Alexevev and Kornilov (both ex-supreme commanders of the Imperial Armv). With just 000-"),000 men, this armv performed remarkable feats. One of the reasons for their success was undoubtedh the unusual composition of the units. The first detachments of the Volunteer Armv were made up exclusively of officers and cadets and were known as 'Officers' (Ofilsirski\e) units'. Such units also existed in other parts of Russia (eg the Kappelevskv Regiment, in kolchak's Siberian Armv).

Table 1: Ranks

' English t Equivalent Russian Army Ukraine Cossacks Central Asia

Table 1: Ranks

' English t Equivalent Russian Army Ukraine Cossacks Central Asia

infantry

Hetrnan's

Central Hada

'cavairy) (artillery]

troops

troops

Cadet

yunker

Private

ryaciovoy

strclok

strelets

cossack

nefer or alaman

Private 1st Class

yofreitor

gurtnoviy

-

prikazniy

-

Junior NCO

mladshiy unterofitser [ml. 'eyerverker]

royeviy

royoviy

mladshiy uriadnik

Senior NCO

starsfiiy unterofitser [St. ieyerverkerl

chotoviy

chotoviy

starshiy uriadriik

daubashi

Sorgeant-Tiaior

feldfebel (vakhntistr)

bunch uzhniy

bunchuzhniy

vakhrr.istr

chiragosi

Junior ensign

podpraporsnik

-

podhorunzhiy

-

Ensign

praporshik

horunzhiy

praporshik

-

Sub-lieutenant

podporuchik (kornet)

poruchik

pidsotenniy

horunzhiy

yuz-bashi

Lieutenant

poruchik

SOtlllK

sotnik

sotnik

Staff Captain

shtabs-kapitar, (shtab-rotmistr)

voiskovoy starshina

-

starshiy yesaool

dzhivagui

Captain

kapitan (rot'iiist')

yesaool

karaui-begui

I leutenant colonel

poopolkovnik

pidpolkovnik

kurennoy

voiskovoy starsnma

mirakhur

Colonel

polkovnik

polkovnik

polkovnik

polkovnik

toksaoa

Mapr general

General-Mayor

General-Horunzhiy

Ataman Brigad

General Mayor

Datkno

Lieutenant-general

General Leytenant

General Poruchik

Ataman Diviziyi

General Leytenant

Parvangui

(Full) General General-ot-lntantenyi/Kavateriyi/Artllieriyi

General Polkovnik

Ataman Korpusa

Voyskovoy Ataman

-

Ataman Armiyi Ataman F-ronia

Ataman Armiyi Ataman F-ronia

Russian Cavalry Shoulder Boards

advancing for a parley Bm -eds in northern Russia,

" outer figures are • .- ** cers - the one at right tm : >3ge of the King's Own lOapi on his fur hat, and a " of truce. The central - : . lian clothing is iden-a Russian officer by i of the Order of St o - his lapel. In the early - ■ :' the Civil War, many

: " cers were reluctant to •i display their rank.

advancing for a parley Bm -eds in northern Russia,

" outer figures are • .- ** cers - the one at right tm : >3ge of the King's Own lOapi on his fur hat, and a " of truce. The central - : . lian clothing is iden-a Russian officer by i of the Order of St o - his lapel. In the early - ■ :' the Civil War, many

: " cers were reluctant to •i display their rank.

Officers' units were organised along standard Russian Army lines, but men recruited earlier were usually considered senior to later recruits: in some cases junior officers could be found commanding units where colonels served in the ranks or as NCOs.

Officers' units were considered elite, but unlike Napoleon's Old Guard were not spared from the hottest action. Losses were extremely heavy, not least because White officers were almost always executed if caught by the Reds; most chose to fight to the death. As the war took its toll, fewer officers were available to make up entire units. The introduction of conscription also led to the expansion of many Officers' regiments into divisions, so that by 1919 it was rare to find more than a single Officers' company in anv battalion. The remaining companies were known as Soldiers' (Soldalskiye) companies. They had their normal complement of officers.

It was onlv in 1918, when the Bolsheviks embarked on the oppressive policies that were to become their trademark, that the number of White troops started to grow rapidly throughout Russia. The increase in numbers was assisted by the widespread introduction of conscription. The Whiles were happy to draf t Red Army deserters and POWs. During the first years of the Civil War whole units and even divisions swapped sides; some changed several times. In March 1919, for example, the Red Army's Tula Division, which was stationed near the town of Gomel, suddenly turned against the Soviets and marched towards Poland. They joined the Whites for two months, but then decided to return in June. .All such turncoat units were given a probationary period to test their loyalty. (See commentary to Plate E4.)

I listorians have distinguished three main phases to the Civil War. The first was what the Soviets have called the 'partisan warfare' phase, marked by fighting on rapidly shifting fronts; this lasted until the armistice with Germany in November 1918. The second stage saw White armies advancing from the north-west, south and east, converging on Moscow, until their defeat in November 1919. The third and final stage, in 1920, saw the flight to the Crimea of Wi angel's armv, and its evacuation over the Black Sea. There were also a number of peasant revolts and national risings which are often treated as sideshows or epilogues to the main Civil War. In practice it is difficult to separate them from the terrible destruction that engulfed Russia in this period.

UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT

One of the main problems of the Russian Civil War was distinguishing between friend and foe. At first Red and While armies were dressed in much the same uniform and had the same weapons, namely those lelt over from the Russian Imperial Army.

The field uniform of the Imperial Armv had been established on 10 March 1909. and remained in use. almost unchanged, throughout the Civil War. It consisted of a single-breasted cloth tunic , greenish-grey in colour, with five leather or metal buttons 0.8in in diameter and a standing collar with I wo metal loops and two metal hooks. The upper button was located l.Sin from the lower collar hook. The lower button was stitched at waist level, and below it were two rectangular pockets with flaps. The sleeves had no cuffs. The length of the tunic from tin lower part of the collar to the lower edge was 26-30in for the infantry and 2in shorter for cavalry

Shoulder-boards (pogoiii) were two-sided: one side in the regimental colour, the other in khaki. Both sides had insignia in the following colours:

Confederate Shoulder Boards

Private, Kuperiyanov Partisan Battalion of the Estonian Army, 1919. The British cap has a white metal death's-head badge in place of the usual cockade; the same device appears on the black arm-shield (similar in form to those worn by regular army units). The battalion was later enlarged to become a regiment, and the death's-head emblem was retained until 1940.

yellow - infantry crimson - rifle regiments scarlet - foot artillery light blue - cavalry and forse ortidory orange - fortress troops brown engineers white - train units black - commissary units

Shoulder-boards were up to Tin long and about 3in wide. Am badges, numbers or letters were to be fixed 0.9in from the lower end of the shoulder-board and on both its sides. They were to be 1 .">¡11 high if in one line, and O.bin if in two lines, with a separation of 0.2in between the lines.

The summer shirt was the smock-like gymnasterka and was khaki in colour with similar buttons and without piping. Breec hes (sharovari) were of khaki cloth for infantry, foot artillery and engineers, and grey-blue cloth for cavalrv and horse artillery.

Basically all While Guard units, from Archangelsk to the Crimea and from Brest 10 Vladivostok, wore this uniform, at least until the intervention of foreign powers, when articles of British, German, Austrian, French, Japanese and American origin began to appear. Local adaptations and peculiarities are given in the description of each separate armv.

Private, Kuperiyanov Partisan Battalion of the Estonian Army, 1919. The British cap has a white metal death's-head badge in place of the usual cockade; the same device appears on the black arm-shield (similar in form to those worn by regular army units). The battalion was later enlarged to become a regiment, and the death's-head emblem was retained until 1940.

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  • sophie
    How to attach civil war officer should boards to tunic with loops and hooks?
    6 months ago

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