Stormtrooper on the Eastern Front

Stormtrooper on the Eastern Front

Author
Mintauts Blosfelds
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
Edited by Lisa Blosfelds

Lisa has taken her father's written account of his youth and his time spent fighting with the German army, written in 1965 and edited it to remove a lengthy section about the first occupation of Latvia by the Russians, and other details such as his interest in astronomy, family history, etc to make the book more readable and appeal to those interested in military history.

The original transcripts can be seen at the Imperial War Museum and at the Second World War experience in Leeds.

Mintauts was born in Latvia in April 1924 on the family farm, his Father, Arturs, was a lecturer in Mathematics at the local secondary school, but sadly died while Mintauts was very young, leaving his mother to raise him along with his two sisters. She left the children in the care of of her parents on the farm while she moved to Riga to work; later the family joined her there to improve their education. Mintauts was headed for a career in the civil service but war intervened and changed the course of his life forever.

Following his military service he re located to England and first worked in a coal-mine where he met his wife, and then in a foundry moving later to the offices; taking early retirement he passed away in 1987 at the age of 63.

Like so many immigrants he became more British than the Brits almost losing his accent and became a keen reader of Emily Brontes novel Wuthering Heights, becoming a member of the Bronte Society and a keen hill walker and painter.

Lisa has done a fine job in editing his memoirs and the book is clear and readable and flows nicely, also much appreciated are the little footnotes, maps and spelling changes to allow us to pronounce the names of places.

If you have ever wonder why so many Latvians joined the German army, then reading Mintauts' words will illustrate why so many young men of that country knew they had no other choice.

Germany attacked Russia in June 1941, the Latvians had already experienced first hand the brutality of the occupying Russian army; the torture, the imprisonment, the spying; nearly every one in Latvia lost a family member to the Concentration camps.

Mintauts records his thoughts upon the first German troops arriving in Riga and the sight of so many dead Russians and Communists following the brutal fighting in the City. At the time he was still too young to join as he was studying at technical college, but he studiously recorded everything about the troops and their methods.

The Germany army arriving in Riga where Mintauts then lived offering a new hope; many Latvian men volunteered straight away in the hope of driving out the Russian invaders, but this was not to be an overnight success.

Adolf Hitler ordered the formation of a Latvian Legion in 1943 calling up all Latvian men born between the years 1919 to 1924.

Upon receiving his call up notice Mintauts underwent a medical, and was asked whether he wished to join the Latvian Legion or be enrolled into the Germany army as a labourer or engineer; having heard bad things about the German army, Mintauts volunteered for the Latvian Legion hoping to stay with his friends and countrymen.

The book takes you through his joining up and training, the confusion and disorganisation ever present, and the poor quality of accommodation and food provided.

After only 6 weeks basic training they started weapons training with ancient French rifles that were old and rusty.
Eventually they were issued with modern German weapons, and after more training the taller men such as Mintauts were selected for the Guards Regiment. His knowledge of the German language in many ways aided his promotion and most likely kept him alive.

Mintauts records his experiences honestly and without bias, of the men he served with and the men he served under, his experiences of battle against the Russian army and then the retreats, continual digging of trenches, then filling them in. Then the wholesale slaughter of the men around him by fighter aircraft of the Russian air force, the injuries he sustained and the time spent in hospitals. Following this he details the total destruction of the German army, and following Latvia's occupation by the Russians, escape by ship back to Germany and then surrendering to the American forces where he spent time in various camps until finally moving to the UK.

This is an excellent and very readable book that does not try to glamorise war or killing, but shows you the life of the average soldier, that was probably not so very different from the Allied soldiers experiences.

An excellent book, and with the many hand drawn maps provided, easy to follow, an accurate record that will give you a valuable insight into that period of the Second World War.
Author
Joshua Slocum
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