Masters of Propaganda to the end….

Around 60 million people had perished by the end of the Soviet union in 1991, and although Glasnost and Perestroika were beginning by the end of the communist era to bring some things into the light and to allow the public a measure of “questionment” of the party line, there was still a shadow cast by the iron curtain.  When we think of the Soviet Union, we know that they, the party were great creators of propaganda, and distributed it freely to mask the poverty and wholesale slaughter during the war, and in the postwar years.  Propaganda was used heavily, in every walk of life, from stamps to magazines to buildings (yes buildings!) and of course the posters synonymous with Soviet Russia.  The heavy red and black tones on white/yellowish paper that were more through necessity than propgandistic power; the reasoning was more behind the need to supply ink and press equipment, to do these posters as rudimentary schemes were used (the heavy block colours also helped to fix the images firmly in peoples minds, such as using red for soviet soldiers etc… a greta thing for areas of low literacy).    I won’t pretend this article is making any great revelations, but I think this and reading this article in the Daily Mail: which shows heavily stocked shelves, happy laughing people, and young socialist-socialites in glorious techni-colour….. may prompt people to have a peruse over something they once before may have thought uninteresting. In this article they have cursorily glanced through the propaganda used in the Soviet Unions key magazine; one could almost liken it to a Communist Hello, or possibly Vogue it shows of polit-bureau members and other people, as well as glorifying the Soviet Unions achievements, it is difficult to pin down as we no longer really have such a broadly propagandistic magazine.   A good read and likely to wet your appetite to take things further.



Deutsche Soldaten: Part 2

Oberfeldwebel (Sergeant Major ) Josef Schwabenburger

2./GR 467 (2nd Battalion 467th Grenadier Regiment).


Josef was born March 6th 1920 in Linz, Austria.  He was awarded his Knights Cross of the Iron Cross for actions on the 10th of September 1943 whilst serving with the 2./GR 467. He was also awarded the “German Cross in Gold”; for actions on January the 13th 1943.  Both these actions presumably were against the Russian Army, as he is buried in what is now Belarus, as it was then: Krasniza/Vitebsk Oblast, Soviet Union. From what I can gather, in September 1943, the 267 infanterie division; 467 Grenadier Regiment, was involved in heavy fighting around Brjansk, the town was taken from the Red Army in a very bloody series of engagements, and was retaken by the Red army on the 17th September.  Other than this very little is known about Josef other than where he is buried at; Schatkowo (Belarus):

Honoured by three nations………

Private 1st Class James J. Beck

(Silver Star, Bronze Star, Croix de Guerre with Palm, and Order of Glory; 3rd Class);

Company ‘K’; 80th Division.


On a Saturday morning, the 19th of August 1944; Private James Beck was involved in an operation to attempt to close the Falaise-Argentan pocket.  The 80th Division was involved heavily in the fighting leading out of Normandy and their own accounts give us a flavour of what this bitter struggle with the German Panzer and Panzer Grenadier regiments was like.

From the 80th Division monthly report:

“From the 14th through the 17th of August, the 80th Division was out of contact with the enemy. During this period, the Germans were fighting a desperate rearguard action to save remnants of the 7th German Army from encirclement. German strong points were holding at Argentan-Falaise to prevent the closing of the trap and the 9th SS Panzer Division was trying to hold the eastward attack of the U.S. and British forces. The 80th Division was ordered to move on Argentan to eliminate that German strong point and to close the Argentan-Falaise Gap on 17 August.”

On the 18th of August 1944, the battle for Argentan began proper.  The 80th Div. Intelligence report for the 18th of August describes the enemy situation as:

“The city of Argentan and the high ground north of Argentan to Le Bourg St. Leonard was strongly held by the 728th Infantry Regiment of the 116th Panzer Division. Argentan itself was held by a G.A.F. Battalion and a detachment of about 100 SS troopers. 14-15 Panther tanks and numerous self-propelled 20 mm A.A. guns were also committed to the defense of the city and vicinity. The enemy defensive position was well protected by minefields and booby-traps and the enemy had had ample time to dig in. The Forrest of Gouffern, between Argentan and Chambois, provided cover for the enemy supply installations and communication lines.”

It is noted that on the dates 18th – 19th of August 1944 the division took out 14 tanks, two of those tanks were taken out almost single handedly by one man: Private James Beck.

His citation reads as follows:

“The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Private First Class James J. Beck (ASN: 33335882), United States Army, for gallantry in action while serving with the 80th Infantry Division in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States on 19 August 1944 in France.”

However his recommendation gives slightly more detail:

“For gallantry in Action 19th August 1944; in France in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States.  At about 1330, in the vicinity of Argentan, France, PFC Beck encountered two enemy tanks at about 200 yards over level terrain.  In face of automatic fire from the two tanks, PFC Beck fired three shots from his Bazooka and scored two direct hits before being wounded.  The first tank was struck at the junction between the turret and the body completely disabling the tank.  PFC Beck fired his bazooka from a kneeling position and exposed himself directly to the automatic fire from the enemy tanks, in order to achieve his hits. His calmness and courage in the face of direct automatic fire resulted in the destruction of two enemy tanks and enabling his company to achieve their objective.”

So there you go, for his gallant actions he was honoured by the American’s; Silver Star, France; Croix de Guerre, and The Soviet Union; Order of Glory (Third Class).  These men whose gallantry is often forgotten, made the entirety of D-Day possible and without their willingness to risk their lives it could have so easily collapsed.

Taking tea with the enemy……

Sergeant Thomas James Sevier MM, MSM 2/3rd South Midland Field Ambulance R.A.M.C. (T.F.)


Seargent Sevier had an interesting war; he had served through the Battle of the Ancre winning a military medal for rescuing wounded men under heavy shell fire near Beaumont Hamel on the 16th of November 1917.   It is his post war service however that is most interesting, not much is noted about the Royal Army Medical Corps involvement in the North Russian campaigns in 1919, however the citation that Thomas receives show that the front was an interesting place to be….

“Meritorious Service Medal” awarded on the 30th September 1919 (Archangel Command, Russia), for:

“This N.C.O has performed meritorious service in the DVINA force. Practically the whole time he has been the senior N.C.O. in the forward hospital at TOULGAS. On one occasion when the hospital was captured by the enemy, by his presence of mind, in remaining with the patients, he protected them when threatened, and persuaded the enemy to sit down to tea, until the village was recaptured.”

It does make you think that this must have been an absurd sight to see Bolshevik forces drinking tea with a British Sergeant and wounded men….

The town of Toulgas, was fought over fiercely by British and American troops and was taken and recaptured several times during 1919, with rumours abounding of Leon Trotsky even being present with troops.   The hospital was situated at the North end of Toulgas was near the Dvina river, and only 200 miles from Archangel.

For information on the battles at Toulgas:

Video of Toulgas and troops:



Whilst digging through my record boxes, I found the original personal commendation for bravery presented to Thomas Sevier by the Major-General, officer commanding of the 61st (South Midland) Division.


It says:


This parchment has been awarded to no. 439298

Sergeant Thomas James Sevier 2/3rd South Midland Field Ambulance R.A.M.C. (T.F.)

In recognition of the act of gallantry that he performed on 8th December 1917 near Viliers Plough.

During the day the shellfire was so severe that the wounded in the dressing station (Charing Cross S.W. of Beaucamp) had to be moved on five occasions.  This was done under very heavy shell fire.  Owing to the personal courage of this N.C.O. the transference of these cases was effected without further casualties.

On another occasion this Sergeant was blown over by a shell whilst assisting Ptes. HISCOCK and WILSON to carry in some wounded lying outside the advanced dressing station at Charing Cross.

This certificate issued in appreciation of the act, but does not entitle or qualify the recipient to any reward, extra emolument or pension.


Signed Major – General,

Comdg 61st (South Midland) Division.