The battle for the Red October factory canteen

The Luftwaffe view of the fighting in Stalingrad in October 1942 where Soviet forces retained a hold on a diminishing portion of industrial land on the banks of the Volga.

Another view of the northern part of Stalingrad with the Volga at the back of the picture. The Russians occupied the eastern bank, furthest away from the camera. They maintained a ferry service, bringing men and munitions across, throughout the battle. The ferries were under constant bombardment from the German guns but this enabled them to cling on to territory on the western bank.

A German picture dated 2nd October 1942 – in parts of the city there was very little left following the systematic bombing since August.

In Stalingrad Soviet forces were obstinately refusing to budge from their defended positions on the ever diminishing sliver of land they held on the banks of the Volga. The Germans sent wave after wave of men forward to attack. Yet the the industrial buildings that the Russians occupied provided natural defences, especially when they were occupied by men who just wanted to sell their lives as dearly as possible.

Andrei Khozyainov describes the conditions in the Red October factory where the battle line moved from machine room to machine room. They were holed up and virtually surrounded but they kept going for as long as they had ammunition:

We never took off our boots, and would take it in turns to get some sleep, which we did with our weapons in our hands. We would put our helmets on and rest our heads against a brick.

Bread was sent to us in sacks, so we got only crusts and crumbs. We could make do with the food we were given, but ammunition was another matter entirely. We needed grenades and cartridges. We all realized that without ammunition it might be the end for us.

The Germans opened up with heavy artillery fire again. It felt like they were going to turn the factory canteen to dust. In the basement, we were able to sit tight behind the thick brick walls. It looked as though the ceiling was going to come crashing down at any moment. The air in the basement was filled with dust from all the collapsed plaster.

As soon as the artillery bombardment stopped, the Germans attacked. We dispersed to the windows. Bochkaryov lay down with the light machinegun in the ruins of the boiler-house, Karpov manned the other heavy machinegun, and I went to my own.

This time the Germans’ main effort was directed at the right- hand side of the factory canteen. Ten or so Nazi tanks were moving along the hollow and towards School No. 35. We could hear the roar of their engines, even though they were not moving towards us. But we had to ward off some sub-machinegunners who were coming at us, shrieking as they came.

We could hear the yells ofthe officers and the shouting of the men. There were so many of them, they just kept coming and coming. But our fire forced them to the ground and they stayed there. I was firing until the water in the casing got so hot that it was boiling. I remember that we used up nearly all our cartridge belts. But the battle was over for now, and we had managed to hold on to our position.

On October 8th, some fascists burst out towards the Volga. They were drunk, walking completely upright, without stooping, shooting aimlessly as they went. But these were some sort of special fritzes. Even when they got wounded, they kept crawling forward, shouting something. This time, they nearly succeeded in driving us out of the factory canteen.

This is part of a much longer story of the battle for the canteen. Andrei Khozyainov’s account appears in Jonathan Bastable (ed): Voices From Stalingrad

A German Ju 87 ‘Stuka’ dive bomber over Stalingrad. In every campaign it had always provided close support for troops on the ground – here the positions between the two sides were always very close and it became very difficult to use it without the risk of hitting German positions.

A German gun crew make their way through the devastated city, October 1942.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Prange November 13, 2014 at 4:16 am

[Another view of the long building of the Cannery is at the “stalingrad-info” website. Scroll down to its “Wartime photos….” heading, and go to the photos from “Signal” magazine: it is the 2nd photo].

Mark Prange February 21, 2014 at 10:29 pm

[Mistake–In the 1st photo, the creek seen emptying into the Volga is not the Tsaritsa–it is the El’Shanka. It separates Stalingrad from Minin].

Editor February 11, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Mark

many thanks for the extra detail

Martin

Mark Prange February 11, 2014 at 3:19 pm

1st photo. In Stalingrad South–September 1942. The Tsaritsa Creek is about midway across the frame; it empties into the Volga. Smoke pours out of the cannery. Flares are fired by German troops. At lower right is the Volga-Don Railway. The grain elevator and silos are out of view to the lower right of the photo.

2nd photo. –View from the slopes of Mamayev Kurgan of part of Stalingrad Center. Some terrace-like countouring of the slopes can be seen. A (metalworking?) factory is near the base of the hill. –Oil storage tanks near the Volga and Dolgii Creek. Among the buildings at right is the smokestack of the Grudinin flour mill; Pavlov’s House is (the left) one of the pair of buildings near it at right.

3rd photo. The barracks and administration buildings of the Stalingrad flight school. –More than a kilometer west of Mamayev Kurgan. Three of the buildingsa are still standing in 2014: the building at lower right with the light-colored roof, the E-shaped building at middle left, and another with a light-colored roof near the top, a little left. The ruined central building looks like a theater or auditorium.

4th photo. –Some of the south slopes of Mamayev Kurgan. The two main tributaries of Dolgii Creek converge toward a bridge culvert near the smoke.

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