Friday, 15 April 2016

Military History Photo Friday: The Volkssturm

An often-reproduced photo of the Volkssturm on parade. In reality they weren't this well armed. They had been given the weapons for the parade and had to return them afterwards!

As I mentioned last Friday, I'm researching my next Trench Raiders book, which will focus on the tunnelers of World War One. I'm also in the beginning stages of researching a book set in the waning days of World War Two titled Volkssturm.

The Volkssturm was a German national militia started in October 1944, which called up all able-bodied Germans, both men and women, aged 16 to 60.

A female member of the Volkssturm learning how to use a Panzerfaust.

By this late in the war the Germans were getting pretty desperate. The Red Army was crushing them in the east; the Americans, British, and Canadians were rolling through France; and the Allies dominated the skies. The fall of Nazi Germany has always been an epic subject, and it will be interesting to write characters stuck in this backdrop. War stories tend to focus on soldiers or, less often, civilians. This novel will focus on civilians forced to be soldiers. The characters are still forming in my mind. So far they're both men and women from a range of ages, most with only lukewarm and waning support for the ideology that has led their nation to disaster. Being civilians, they are far more concerned with their homes, families, and future than the strategy and tactics of war. Now that the war has come to them they each have to make a choice of what to do about it.

As I said, I'm only just beginning to research this topic so I won't start writing for a while. I have a few other projects lined up first. Stay tuned!
At the front in East Prussia, January 1945.
 
Building an anti-tank barrier in Cologne in February 1945. Note the wagons. By this point the Germans had a critical shortage of gasoline. Advancing Allied armies would often find perfectly usable vehicles abandoned by the side of the road because the retreating Germans had run out of gas.
The Volkssturm had no uniform. Some members got castoff uniforms from various units, including a lot of uniforms from the mostly grounded Luftwaffe. Many of the civilians soldiers had no other identification than this armband.

Photos courtesy Bundesarchiv.

2 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That will be an interesting story. They were desperate if they were enlisting women and children.

Yolanda Renee said...

Very interesting, especially the old photos. Good luck with your research.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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