With Snow on their Boots: The Tragic Odyssey of the Russian Expeditionary Force in France During World War I 1st Edition

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312173562
ISBN-10: 0312173563
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In 1916, the Russian government sent two brigades of infantry to fight by the side of the French. After much difficulty, the two brigades fought effectively in the Nivelle offensive. However, they soon began to reflect the deteriorating conditions in Russia. Eventually, elements of both brigades mutinied (at roughly the same time as the French Army was doing so), and the entire force was quarantined. The two units battled each other at La Courtine and were eventually combined into the Russian Legion of Honor. The 1917 revolution nearly destroyed the force, but, like Russia itself, it survived and was eventually repatriated in 1920. Cockfield (Russian history, Mercer Univ.) is sometimes difficult to follow, and his many archival sources are often uncertain about names and dates, but the story that emerges will absorb students of the Great War and the two countries. Recommended for subject collections.?Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

As the trench warfare on the western front intensified, French manpower shortages became acute; meanwhile, in the East, the Russians had plenty of human fodder for the meat grinder, but their primitive economy could not keep a modern army supplied with food, firearms, or munitions. Thus, in 1916, a deal was struck; in return for supplies, Russia sent two brigades to fight in France. The fate of these men, many of them illiterate peasants, is the subject of this beautifully written examination of an obscure but tragic piece of the Great War. When the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917, the Russian brigades split along ideological lines and actually fought battles among themselves in southern France; in effect, they became a microcosm for the larger struggle unfolding in their homeland thousands of miles away. Cockfield, professor of Russian history at Mercer College in Georgia, describes the ultimate fate of these hapless pawns with eloquence, compassion, and analytical skill. Jay Freeman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st edition (December 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312173563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312173562
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,437,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "vehka" on July 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
During the years of World War I, the costly trench warfare in the Western Front was eating the manpower of France. On the other hand, their eastern ally Russia had a huge army but was inadequately provided with weapons and ammunition. So, someone got this splendid idea: Russia would send a couple of their seemingly endless armies to the west, and in exchange they would receive much needed ammunition from French factories.
In the end, the Russians could spare only two brigades, approximately 20 000 men, which were shipped to France in 1916. For what they were worth, they performed pretty well in the battle, but obviously the bargain of exchanging human lives for ammunition had failed, and pretty soon the French high command regarded this Russian Expeditionary Force only as trouble. For various reasons however, they either wouldn't or couldn't send them back to Russia, and the situation became a real mess after the Russian revolution. Two Russian units, one "czarist" and one "bolshevik", actually fought a battle against each other while in France.
This little-known story has been thoroughly told in Mr. Cockfield's excellent book. The author has an eye for tragi-comical nature of REF's odyssey and sad ultimate fate, but admirably this doesn't border to cynicism. On the contrary, despite the heavy research work, Mr. Cockfield approaches his subject with a very humane touch. The various people in this story - Czar and his advisors, French politicians and commanders, Russian officers and ordinary peasant-soldiers - come very much alive with all their faults and few virtues. The book isn't just about an obsucre military incident or war politics, it manages to tell a lot about certain era and the people living it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Susan R. Raybourne MD on April 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book gives an incredibly detailed picture of the Russian Expeditionary Force in France during WWI. The frustrations of the situation are so well delineated that the reader begins to share the feelings of the involved parties. The vast amount of detail is well documented and reflects exhaustive research. This truly scholarly work is the definitive English langauge account of the REF in WWI.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. A Forczyk VINE VOICE on May 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the untold story of the two Russian brigades sent to France in 1916. About 20,000 troops were sent in exchange for French ammunition sent to the eastern front. It was a trade that appeared to benefit both sides, since France was desperate for infantry replacements after Verdun and the Russians were desperate for artillery ammunition that their weak economy could not adequately provide. Although the Russian Expeditionary Force (REF) units performed well in the 1917 Nivelle offensive (suffering about 1,000 killed) they quickly fell into disarray once the Russian Revolution broke out. One brigade remained somewhat reliable and ended up fighting the other in order to suppress a mutiny. The Russian officer corps appears pretty pathetic in this account; they were unable to deal with their insubordinate troops and the French had to deal with this mess. By late 1917, the French no longer needed these troublesome troops due to American entry into the war and the French were eager to wash their hands of this awkward army. The survivors of the REF trickled back to Russia in 1918, while some remained in France to fight under French command. Pro-Bolshevik leaders were incarcerated by the French. This is a decent, well-documented history of an obscure army that tries to examine the disintegration of the Tsarist armies in microcosm. Unfortunately, Cockfield does not ask some important questions, like why did these two brigades revolt but the two Russian brigades sent to Salonika in Greece did not? This book does lack adequate maps and the actual description of the training and combat employment of the REF is rather brief. The bulk of the book focuses on the gradual disintegration of these two units after the March 1917 Revolution. The focus is also a bit narrow, as other Russian units sent to fight outside the Eastern Front are only barely mentioned.
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Format: Paperback
As a reader of The Great War, I always thought that the coming of millions of russian soldiers to fight side by side with France in the Western Front was just a legend. The many views of russian troops crossing England by night trains and ready to embark and fight was like a desperate dream. Then I pick up the book of Jamie H Cockfield and know all the History about this eventfull drama.
The book is really a masterpiece of the matter and is based in russian, french and english archives. All the details of ships, embarkment, landing, trains, etc. is brought to the reader in a pleasure way. You are transported to those terrible days. Cockfield told us how the events in Russia during the fall of the Romanovs and the Provisional Government, Kerensky and then the Bolshevist seizure of power have consequences in the men of the two Regiments that formed the Russian Expeditionary Force (REF). The men split themselves in two opposite groups and eventually one fight the other with french support. Many were put under arrest and others sent to Argelia as punishment. The REF still fought in the Western Front during 1916. 1917 brought indiscipline and internal disturbance. The french government then begun the negotiatons to send the men back Russia. While the Provisional Government didn't want more unrest troops inside Russia, the Bolshevist Government insist to bring the men and to use them as a propaganda tool. The book is very good and bring light to these historical events. Highly recommended.
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