Women Medical Orderlies on the Eastern Front

Discussion in 'The Women of WW2' started by Zoya, Apr 2, 2008.

  1. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

    It is not only the women soldiers/pilots of the Soviet Union who deserve a mntion, but also the nurses, operating in battle conditions, and risking their lives, often beyond the call of duty, in order to save the lives of the Red Army soldiers. This is the little I have discovered (you really have to search for some of it!)

    From an article in TIME magazine, Oct 5th 1942: written by Author Konstantin Simonov, published in Moscow's Krasnaya Zvezda and cabled to TIME by its Moscow Correspondent Walter Graebner.

    On the east bank of the Volga we see the supply system in operation. The sky above us is rose-colored. Our ferryboat is overloaded with five trucks full of munitions, a company of Red Army men and a number of nurses. Bombs are whistling all around. Next to me sits a doctor's assistant, a young Ukrainian woman named Victoria Tshepnya. This is her fifth crossing. Doctors' assistants and nurses gathered the wounded themselves. They took them all the way across the city and loaded them on ferryboats which crossed the river. It was impossible to operate hospitals in the city.

    Victoria and another Ukrainian reminisce about their native city of Dniepro-petrovsk. Both feel that the city is not really in German hands. To them it is still Russian.

    As the ferryboat approached the landing stage, Victoria confessed: "You know me, always a little frightened to get out. I've already been wounded twice, once very seriously. But I don't believe I'll die yet because I haven't begun to live."

    It must be frightful to have been wounded twice, to have fought for 15 months, and now to make a fifth trip to a flaming city. In 15 minutes she will pass through burning buildings, and somewhere under the rain of shrapnel and bombs will pick up a wounded man and bring him back to the ferryboat. Then she will make her sixth trip.

    From The Voice of Russia:

    Soviet medical personnel displayed courage and staunchness rescuing injured men and officers. Prior to the beginning of the Stalingrad Battle 75,000 women of the Stalingrad region were trained to act as nurses at the battlefields. When fierce battles for Stalingrad began 500 volunteer young women and professional nurses daily attended to the injured. Some 100 teams of young women helped to unload trains with the injured men and officers. All women of the fighting Stalingrad were ready to give their help to the injured.

    The women who volunteered as nurses were often very young, with no medical experience. What they learned, they did so in the midst of carnage, and very often showed no fear in rescuing the wounded from the battlefield, or the derelict terrain of Stalingrad:

    In the battles for Stalingrad medical personnel displayed heroism, and these were mostly young women. Among them were many students of medical institutes and courses who could give only first aid. Zinaida Gavrilova took the post of the commander of a medical service unit at the age of 18. Her subordinates were only a bit older as a rule. Overcoming fear they moved under the enemy's fire taking out the injured from the battlefields. Then they carried them to the location of their medical unit. What was required for this was not only physical strength but also strong will and courage. To the present day the former nurse cannot forget eyes of the injured - pleading, full of fear and pain.
    "We lost consciousness among those blood and moaning. Later on we got used to this. We took out shrapnel, stitched wounds and amputated. We did not leave a surgery room for days. There was, no doubt, a shortage of surgeons since the number of the injured was so great. We cried over the dead. We could never get used to death".

    Sometimes, the nurses joined the soldiers in fighting on the front line:

    Nurses and auxiliaries fought against the enemies alongside with soldiers. Gulya Korolyova, a 20-year-old beauty from the capital's well-known family with literary background left her child behind and volunteered for the front. She joined the 214th Rifle Division on the Stalingrad Front's northern flank. She rescued over a hundred injured men and officers and killed 15 Nazis in the battles. Natalia Kashnevskaya, a nurse of the Guards Rifle Regiment and a former student of the Moscow theatre school, rescued from the battlefield 20 injured soldiers within a day and later took part in a battle showing Nazis with grenades.

    Once rescused, there was no guarantee of survival, as conditions in field hospitals, although marginally better than the Wehrmacht field hospitals, was often dire, with limited food, medicines and resources. Medical procedures often took place in dugouts along the banks of the Volga, where "on some days water in the River Volga was red with blood". Field hopitals were often hit by mortar fire, but in one case, the surgeon continued operating under an up-turned boat.

    All in all, "Medical personnel made a great contribution to the victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany. Millions of injured men and officers recieved medical aid at battlefields, in field medical points, field and evacuation hospitals. 18 million cured men and officers, that is, over 150 divisions returned to the army and continued to fight against Nazis."

    Incidentally, the Wehrmacht wounded had it worse as the battle progressed; injuries were compounded by frost bite, inadequate winter clothing, lice, typhus and starvation to name a few. The memoirs of Dr. Hans Dibold, describe working in the underground Timoshenko Bunker as incomprehensible:

    Often working in complete darkness in narrow corridors crammed full of injured soldiers, Dibold again was in a position of being able to offer little in comfort. The lice were atrocious, Dibold talks of scooping them from injured abdomen, the stench unfathomable, and the black tarry walls dripping with stench from the condensation of steam coming from wounds. Tyhpus was rampant.

    Amazon.com: Doctor at Stalingrad: Hans Dibold: Books
    The Voice of Russia (The Stalingrad battle - 60 years)

    Some photos attached below.

    Attached Files:

    Owen likes this.
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Good post.
    Brave women indeed.
    Pretty gruesome sights & conditions for them too .
  3. chipmunk wallah

    chipmunk wallah Senior Member

    "Shabby" would never forgive me if I dont drop this in....sorry...just for balance,the vast majority of medics in the RKKA were infact blokes.
    I only point this out because as Eastfront subjects are becoming more "popular" there has been a tendancy to rather over egg some aspects,from experiances in an RKKA living history group the most commenly asked question at times would be," why are you portraying a medic,your a bloke?" :) ,well,that and " your a medic,your not allowed to carry that machine gun(sic) (Ppsh) are you." . :)
  4. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

    Yeah, I can see your point, CW :) quite right too!
    Just choosing to focus on the women here! ;)
    chipmunk wallah likes this.
  5. chipmunk wallah

    chipmunk wallah Senior Member

    Quite right too Zoya! Keep up the good work,maybe surprise a few blokes eh?
    One more point though,Have you noticed the unusualy high proportion of "head wounds" being bandaged in the Soviet photos? mmmm,no posed ,after the action recreations going on there is there ....;)
  6. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

    Quite right too Zoya! Keep up the good work,maybe surprise a few blokes eh?
    One more point though,Have you noticed the unusualy high proportion of "head wounds" being bandaged in the Soviet photos? mmmm,no posed ,after the action recreations going on there is there ....;)
    Ha! :D

    I think photos no 1 & 4 are real, but the rest (apart form the memorial statue) are most certainly propoganda photos! But you try finding photos of medics in action! I've spent virtually a whole day this week doing ever more ridiculously-named Google image searches!

    I do come across Russian sites now and again, with lists of archive photos. but not being able to read the language is a bit of a hindrance! The only way to find them would be to individually click on every link, and then I'd be sat here for ever! (All this internet trawling don't half give me a numb bum!) :rolleyes:

    Any way, found some more interesting stuff about my namesake, Zoya, yesterday...but that's for another thread :)
  7. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I've always wondered about the life of Medics on the Eastern Front given that the terms of the Geneva convention werent adhered to and given the Germans attitude towards the Russians. I'm sure that it was a difficult assignment indeed.
  8. chipmunk wallah

    chipmunk wallah Senior Member

    Basicaly,from what I can gather medics were not officially armed,at least at first,but,as you say,it was the eastern front,no niceties so Ppsh's were liberaly distributed .
  9. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan


    By Olga Troshina

    Six decades have passed since the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War. That war, which lasted four long years – from June 1941 to May 1945 – was the bloodiest in the history of mankind.
    In those harsh times those who rose to defend their Motherland included many women, who demonstrated unprecedented courage fighting at the frontlines and stood out against the ordeals life had in store for them.
    “In the early days of the war everyone, and residents of Moscow too, were so patriotic,” says a war veteran Anna Kuzmina. “They couldn’t wait to get to the fronts to defend their Motherland.” A well-known Soviet wartime poetess Yulia Drunina wrote about herself: “I stepped from my childhood… to leave for a medical platoon.” Anna Kuzmina’s case was a similar one. She left for the front in July 1941, when she was just sixteen years old. She went straight into the hell of the war, having covered the path from Moscow to Koenigsberg as a medical instructor.

    A few years before the war broke out Anna Kuzmina did a training course to be a nurse – she knew that this profession would soon become a must for her. “That was in 1938, and the situation was a critical one,” Anna Kuzmina recalls. “Everyone felt that a war with Hitler was imminent. There were thirty-six of us, girls, all from the same school, who signed up for a nurse training course and finished it eighteen months later.”

    And the nursing skills did come in handy. The war against Nazi Germany began for the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. On that tragic day Anna came home from her friend’s place and found her mum in tears. “Anything wrong?” she asked. “Yes”, her mum replied. “The war has started.” Anna’s first reaction was as clear as day. She’ll fight the enemy at the frontlines. She could think of nothing else. In the local registration and enlistment office, where she came together with other girls, Anna was reassured that she would be sent to the front. She only had to wait a little, she was told. So, she waited impatiently, avidly listening to every single news bulletin from the fronts. And the news was disconcerting at first, to say the least. Her heart ached as she listened to it.......

    Read the rest of her amazing story here: ROAD TO VICTORY [THE VOICE OF RUSSIA]
  10. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Great post Zoya. I remember reading about the fighting around Vyazma. some of the fiercest of 1941.
  11. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

    The Vyazma offensive lasted until April 1942, and the Germans continued to threaten Moscow from there.
  12. Franek

    Franek WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Lets not forget our Army nurses . They seved right up near the front lines. Some were overan and captured on both fronts. Then there were the WACS , WAVES and others that did their share. We owe them a lot.

    BERESFORD Junior Member

    and while we are at it the QAs* and their colleagues including my late father
    in the RAMC.
    Queen Alexandras Royal Army Nursing Service as I believe it was called during WW2

    There is a book about the QAs called SISTERS IN ARMS I can thoroughly recommed it

    BERESFORD Junior Member

    and while we are at it the QAs* and their colleagues including my late father
    in the RAMC.
    Queen Alexandras Royal Army Nursing Service as I believe it was called during WW2

    There is a book about the QAs called SISTERS IN ARMS I can thoroughly recommed it

    Additional information and corrections

    the above should have included the medical staff attached to the Royal
    Navy and the Royal Air Force that QARNNS and PMRAFNS
    hopefully that covers everyone

    On the question of the correct title of what is now QARANC
    was Queen Alexandras Imperial Army Nursing Service during WW2
    i believe it adopted its new title when it became part of the Regular
    Army in 1949.


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