Western Rifle Division
|Western Rifle Division (1918 - ca. 1923)
52nd Rifle Division (1935 - 1941)
52nd Rifle Division (1942 - 1946)
|Active||1941 - 1945|
|Engagements||Russian Civil War
Soviet Invasion of Poland
Operation Platinum Fox
East Prussian Offensive
Battle of Berlin
Col. A.Ia. Maksimov
The Western Rifle Division (Polish: Zachodnia Dywizja Strzelców) was a Red Army infantry division that served during the Russian Civil War. The division also served between the Civil War and WWII as the 52nd Rifle Division. After the first formation of the division was promoted to Guards status as the 10th Guards Rifle Division in late December, 1941, a second formation of the division fought on for the duration in several Fronts.
The Western Division was formed in the summer of 1918 at the initiative of Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) and the Polish Socialist Party-Left (PPS-Lewica). A Polish communist regiment, the Red Regiment of Revolutionary Warsaw (Czerwony Pułk Rewolucyjnej Warszawy) made up its cadre, and in the beginning it was mostly composed of Polish volunteers. According to its order of battle (below) each of its brigades consisted of two battalions of infantry and one battalion of cavalry.
It first fought in the Southern Front against the White Cossacks of Pyotr Krasnov; later against the forces of Anton Denikin and Pyotr Wrangel. During the Polish-Soviet War it was part of the Western Army, and it fought against the Lithuanian and Belarusian Self-Defence units and later the Polish Army of the newly created Second Polish Republic in the opening phase of the Polish-Soviet War. Spearheading the Russian westward offensive of 1918-1919 ('Target Vistula') it took Wilno in January 1919; it sustained heavy losses during the fights at Baranowicze against forces of Gen. Stanisław Szeptycki (part of Operation Wilno, a Polish counteroffensive).
Following these losses, in June 1919 the division was heavily reinforced with Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians and lost its Polish character; it was then (9 June) renamed as 52nd Rifle Division of the Red Army.
Order of Battle in 1919
- I Brygada Strzelców – Rewolucyjny Czerwony Pułk Warszawski, 3 Rewolucyjny Pułk Siedlecki, Warszawski Pułk Huzarów and I dywizjon artylerii lekkiej
- II Brygada Strzelców – 2 Rewolucyjny Pułk Lubelski, 4 Rewolucyjny Pułk Warszawski, Mazowiecki Pułk Ułanów, II dywizjon artylerii lekkiej
- III Brygada Strzelców - 5 Rewolucyjny Pułk Wileński, 6 Rewolucyjny Pułk Grodzieński, Warszawski Pułk Huzarów, III dywizjon artylerii.
- 1st Rifle Brigade – Red Regiment of Revolutionary Warsaw, 3rd Revolutionary Regiment Siedlecki, Warsaw Hussar Regiment and 1st Light Artillery Battalion
- 2nd Rifle Brigade – 2nd Revolutionary Regiment Lubelski, 4th Revolutionary Regiment Warsaw, Mazowiecki Lancer Regiment, and 2nd Light Artillery Battalion
- 3rd Rifle Brigade - 5th Revolutionary Regiment Wileński, 6th Revolutionary Regiment Grodzieński, Warsaw Hussar Regiment, and 3rd Light Artillery Battalion.)
The division also comprised various support units. Dziewanowski notes it had 5 regiments.
At the outbreak of the German invasion in 1941, the 52nd was in the far north, near Murmansk, and due to its skill in defending that vital port became one of the first and few formations raised to Guards status in the Arctic, as the 10th Guards Rifle Division on Dec. 26. The division remained in that region until late 1944, when it was transferred to 2nd Belorussian Front and took part in the invasion of Germany.
A new 52nd Rifle Division formed on Mar. 1, 1942 at Kolomna in the Moscow Military District. Its order of battle was as follows:
- 421st Rifle Regiment
- 431st Rifle Regiment
- 439th Rifle Regiment
- 1028th Artillery Regiment
The division was completed in about three months. It arrived at the front in late July, 1942, as part of 30th Army, in Kalinin Front, just in time to participate in the First Rzhev–Sychyovka Offensive Operation. The 52nd, along with the rest of 30th Army, was transferred to Western Front in August. The division was quickly worn down in these battles of attrition very near the town of Rzhev but, along with the 2nd and 16th Guards Rifle Divisions, was able to liberate the key village of Polunino and advance 6 km to the outskirts of the town during the following months.
After rebuilding, on the last day of 1942 the 52nd began moving south to Southwestern Front. It took part in the Soviet offensive towards Kharkov in early 1943, serving at various times in the 1st Guards Army, the Popov Mobile Group, and the 3rd Tank Army. This effort did not go well for the division, as it was assaulted and partially overrun by German forces. By the end of the winter the 52nd was in 57th Army, the former 3rd Tank Army, where it remained with few exceptions until the end of 1944. From March to July the division was dug in along the line of the Donets River.
In August, 1943 the division moved with 57th Army to Steppe Front, coming under command of Col. A.Ia. Maksimov on Aug. 12. From the end of September to Oct. 26 it was in reserves, at Merefa near Kharkov, an indication of how much damage it had suffered in the pursuit of German forces after the Battle of Kursk, during which time it assisted in the liberation of Kharkov and Krasnograd. At the end of November it joined 64th Rifle Corps.
The 52nd entered and helped expand the Soviet Kremenchug-Dnepropetrovsk bridgehead across the Dnepr River before digging in along the Ingulets River for the winter. Along with its 57th Army, the division was moved to 3rd Ukrainian Front in February, 1944, and took part in the successful early stages of the spring offensive to the Dniestr River, before being halted in the First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive. In August a new offensive was launched, and the 52nd played a role in the destruction of the German and Romanian forces in this southern sector. After the capture of Belgrade on Oct. 20, due to losses the division again went into reserves in the town of Ruma, rebuilding to a strength of 6,000 men by the end of December.
In January, 1945 the 52nd was transferred to 4th Guards Army, and later that same month to 46th Army, which was shifted to 2nd Ukrainian Front in March. In April the division was given part of the credit for the capture of Vienna and got that city's name as an honorific. On 1 May 1945 the division was with 18th Guards Rifle Corps, 53rd Army (Soviet Union), in 2nd Ukrainian Front, alongside 109th Guards Rifle Division and 317th Rifle Division. It ended the war with Germany fighting near Prague.
Along with its Army, the division was railed across Siberia to take part in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. On 9 August 1945 the 52nd Rifle Division was with 57th Rifle Corps, 53rd Army, Transbaikal Front. It saw little combat with Japanese forces and ended the war in southern Manchuria. It carried the official title of 52nd Rifle, Shumlinskaya-Vienna, Twice Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov Division. (Russian: 52-я стрелковая Шумлинская-Венская дважды Краснознамённая ордена Суворова дивизия)
The 52nd Rifle Division may have been disbanded by 1956.
- M. K. Dziewanowski, The Foundation of the Communist Party of Poland, American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 11, No. 2. (Apr., 1952), pp. 106-122. p.115 JSTOR
- (Polish) Zachodnia Dywizja Strzelców. WIEM Encyklopedia. Last accessed on 9 April 2007
- Polskie formacje wojskowe podczas I wojny światowej. Last accessed on 9 April 2007.
- According to some sources the division became inactive following the Civil War, and was reactivated in 1935.
- Poirer and Connor, Red Army Order of Battle
- Charles C. Sharp, Red Guards: Soviet Guards Rifle and Airborne Units 1941 to 1945, Nafziger, 1995, p 46
- Charles C. Sharp, Red Swarm, Soviet Order of Battle World War II, Vol. X, Nafziger, 1996, p 19
- Petr Mikhin, Guns Against the Reich, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., Barnsley, UK, 2010, pp 47-48
- Mikhin, p 48
- Mikhin, p 66
- http://www.cgsc.edu/CARL/nafziger/943RGAB.PDF, p 44
- Mikhin, p 85
- Sharp, Red Swarm, p 19.
- Mikhin, p 100
- Mikhin, p 162
- Sharp, Red Swarm, p 20.
- BSSA via tashv.nm.ru
- Mikhin, p 208
- Mikhin, p 209
- Feskov et al 2004, 49.
- Feskov et al 2004, 77