Army Group North digs in

Russian troops on the Leningrad Front where conditions had now settled down into trench warfare not much different from the First War. Image courtesy RIAN 58228

On the outskirts of Leningrad the strategy of the German army had now switched away from the fast moving blitzkrieg warfare. The front settled down into trench warfare, with conditions that were little different from the First World War. The difference was that now the German forces were not seeking to break out of the state of attrition. This was a siege.

The Germans had perfected techniques for living in such conditions during 1914-18 and they had not been forgotten. William Lubbeck describes the arrangements:

In building our rear bunkers the Pioniers followed a standard method of construction. After digging out waist-deep holes between 10 to 50 square feet in size, they erected log walls and heaped part of the just excavated soil against them.

Following the placement of heavy timber beams or tree trunks to serve as a roof, they then covered the top of the bunker with the remaining soil.

Despite offering little protection in the event of a direct hit by the Red Army’s heavy artillery, the bunkers offered us a measure of warmth from the freezing temperatures outside.

At Uritsk, my assignment as the [Forward Observer] required me to spend perhaps three-quarters of my time in one of the various bunkers located along the front or even out ahead of our infantry’s frontline. In contrast with the rear bunkers,the frontline bunker was little more than a covered ditch with a slot for observation.

As the snow grew deeper, we piled it into a wall that ran in front of our line of forward bunkers and trenches in order to conceal our movements from enemy observation.

If it was quiet at the front, I normally made the short trip back to my rear bunker a couple of times a day. Furnished with only a dirt floor and walls, bunks, a table, and a wood-burning stove, the rear bunkers were primitive but made a comfortable dwelling for four to six men.

See William Lubbeck: At Leningrad’s Gates – The Story of a Soldier with Army Group North.

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