The Battle on the Steppe

kalach kalach graves

Anatoly's Memorial

 Don River - West of Kalach

Battlefield Graves

Colonel Anapoly Kozlov took us to a piece of high ground just west of Kalach and the Don. It is here that he has built a memorial thus fulfilling a promise to his commanding officer. (It is also here that a drunken Russian tried to sell us a Panzer MK 1V but that's another story!). In Anatoly's words:

"On the 12th July 1942 the Stalingrad Front was formed. Three armies - No. 62  (west of the Don), No. 63 (east of the Don) and No. 64 (with 4 tank brigades, 4 marine brigades and 2 infantry divisions) on the southern front." Anapoly was with the 62nd. "We were told to regroup and build a defemse line - to buy time so that the defenses on the Don could be stabilised. The battle started on the 17th July 1942 when our forward units away on the River Chir were engaged and broken. Of Battalion 33 on the Chir, 20 out of 2,000 soldiers survived. By the 24th both the 62nd and the 64th had been surrounded - many were killed and taken prisoner. To prevent the Germans crossing the Don No.1 and No.4 tank armies attacked. I was in the 1st. We held our position, where the memorial is now (top left photograph). The two armies broke out and only 5,000 men got back across the Don. 6th Army had 740 tanks and we had the same. 700 tanks were destroyed. The brigade for which I was liaison officer attacked with 75 tanks of which 3 tanks survived. Those 3 tanks we ditched in the Don. We brought one month of time at a cost of 100,000 men. The Germans had total air superiority - one flew so low that we shot it down with a tank!".

Anapoly took us to the house that Paulus had used for his HQ, prior to the encirclement (far left below). It is in a settlement called Golubinska. The occupants were surprised to meet us and showed us around telling us tales from the past.

paulus gumrak station old memorial

6th Army HQ - West of the Don

 Gumrak Station

Memorial - North of Stalingrad

Gumrak is the modern airport, although the old station can be visited (above - middle). Nearby is an original water tower pitted with artillery impacts. Pitomnik airfield is no longer clearly discernable (The first two photographs below L-R). Our guides did take us to the site however and we were amazed by what we found. The ground is littered with battlefied debris.

pitomnik steps girl

Pitomnik - The Gully

 The Steps

The Soldiers Field near Gorodische

There is an account of what Pitomnik Airfield looked like immediately after the battle in Alexander Werth's book 'The Year of Stalingrad':

"You should go and have a look. When you drive up to it now it looks like a big town. Thousands and thousands of lorries are accumalated there, and over an area of six square kilometres, the Germans had piled up pontoon parts, and you think all this is so many houses when you look from a distance. It looks like loads of factory chimneys with all those ack-ack guns pointing upwards."

We visited a small school museum in Gorodische - the welcome we received was delightful. A tour of the museum, a play about the history of the settlement and tea and locally made cakes. Thank you children! (bottom right).

field future

The sacrifice


The point where Yeremenko's 4th Tank Corps met Vatutin's 26th Tank Army is marked by a massive memorial (below). This meeting completed the encirclement of 6th Army on November 23rd 1942.



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