The battle for the Red October factory canteen
8th October 1942: Fierce and unrelenting battles continue in the Stalingrad wasteland
Hitler’s strategy for 1942 was unravelling. He lacked the resources to continue his main thrust into the Caucasus and seize the Soviet oilfields. The second prong of his assault had headed for Stalingrad. If he could push the Red Army over the Volga and hold a line there, then the Wehrmacht might be able to dig in for a long war. For weeks he had been told that the city would fall ‘in a matter of days’.
But in Stalingrad Soviet forces were obstinately refusing to budge from their defended positions - on the ever diminishing sliver of land they held on the west bank 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 Khozyainov1 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.
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