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Mortar Gunner on the Eastern Front (Hardback)

The Memoir of Dr Hans Rehfeldt - Volume I: From the Moscow Winter Offensive to Operation Zitadelle

WWII Russia & the Eastern Front Greenhill Books Greenhill: WWII Memoirs

By Hans Heinz Rehfedlt
Greenhill Books
Pages: 341
Illustrations: 100
ISBN: 9781784383619
Published: 16th April 2019



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A visceral account from contemporaneous diaries of a soldier who frequently came close to death but somehow survived.

Following his Abitur (A-levels) in 1940, Rehfeldt volunteered for the Panzer Arm but was trained on the heavy mortar and heavy MG with Grossdeutschland Division.

He was on the Front from 1941 fighting for the city of Tula, south of Moscow. Battling in freezing conditions, at its lowest -52℃, the descriptions of the privations are vivid and terrifying. With no winter clothes they resorted to using those taken from Soviet corpses.

In 1942, fighting near Oriel, however, his batallion suffered heavy losses and was disbanded. Ill with frostbitten legs, Rehfeldt was treated in hospital and once recovered was dispatched to the Front.

Following various battles (Werch, Bolchov) his batallion again suffered heavy losses and it merged. In agony from severe frostbite to his legs, Rehfeldt defied the odds and astonished his surgeon when he walked again. He was promoted from Gunner to Trained Private Soldier in 1942, and to Corporal for bravery in the field in 1943.

He was awarded numerous honours including the Wound Badge and the Infantry Assault Badge.

On 3 May 1945 he was captured by US Forces and held as PoW for one month in a camp at Waschow before internment in Holstein from where he was released in July 1945 after agreeing to work on the land. In December 1945 he began studying veterinary medicine: his future career.

This astonishing account of a man who kept bouncing back from near death is a testament to the author’s determination and sheer strength of spirit.

It’s interesting to read how he explains and processes his time in the army.

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Traces of War

This is a fairly detailed and informative account of a soldier who found himself on the Eastern Front.

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Kunikovs Reviews

A second fascinating chronicle of life on the Eastern front for a mortar gunner diring WW2.

Books Monthly

The book includes many interesting photos, most by the author himself and different from most ‘ general’ pictures we are used to. In addition he had maps drawn up in his diary and those too are depicted, showing where the action took place, on a tactical level !
In addition to being very informative, the book is also exciting and one continues reading…. Hope to get Volume II as well one of these days !

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Flyin' and Ridin' Blog, Francois A. Dumas

I'm posting this review as I near the end of volume one. It's been brilliant, and continues to be exciting, informative and highly compelling. I'm really looking forward to the second instalment!

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A Question Of Scale, Seb Palmer

The diary is extremely clear and exciting. If one wants to understand the suffering of a Wehrmacht soldier in that winter of 1941/42 he must read the diaries like this, and not be satisfied with the great texts that frame the movements of armies on a map... The feeling at the end of the book is of impatience for the publication of the second volume by Greenhill Books. As far as I'm concerned I can't wait!

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Old Barbed Wire Blog

This book is written in one of my favourite styles, that of a diary and is as if someone gave you their diary to read warts and all. With that said there is none of the ‘sauerkraut for dinner again’ about this diary. The story if you wish starts with a nine day rail journey from the training camp to the front in Russia. Along with the text there is a nice mix of black and white period photographs which I believe were mostly or all taken by Dr Hans Heinz Rehfeldt. The entries then follow his life at the front and cover how he felt about the world going on around him during those dark days.

The text in this book written in this style takes away the nationality of the soldier to a good degree, you stop looking at it as a German soldier as part of a mortar unit and start to read it as one man’s war and his emotions in relation to that. The entries start as a fresh faced and trained soldier leaving for the front and as time progresses so the mood of his entries change. The eagerness to be at the foe changes to one of what is going to come along next and how will we deal with it.

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As featured 'On The Shelf'

Wargames Illustrated, April 2019

Having studied and evaluated the Great War diary accounts of Ernst Junger and considering them to be the benchmark for any wartime diary, I have to say that this book by Hans Rehfelt absolutely matches the quality of Junger. It is a marvellously crafted account of his time on the Eastern Front in WW2 and carefully avoids the banal and focuses on the detail of the action in which he is involved. He gives a host of photographs; not generalised but specific to him, his unit and the context of the places in which he fought. The real glory of this book is the numerous hand drawn sketch maps that really add so much to the narrative. Cannot wait for volume II.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy
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