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With Snow on their Boots: The Tragic Odyssey of the Russian Expeditionary Force in France During World War I Paperback – 2 Jul 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st St. Martin's Griffin Ed edition (2 July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312220820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312220822
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,429,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Jamie H. Cockfield is Professor of Russian History at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 27 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
They say that it’s a good day if you learn something new; I think I must have had a few good days, because I certainly learned a lot of new things reading this book. I had no idea that there had been a Russian Expeditionary Force to France during World War I – I came across a reference to this book in the Bibliography of another book I read recently on the War, and was fascinated by what it could all be about.

This book is a hugely ambitious undertaking by the author to narrate in exquisite detail the story of the Russian Expeditionary Force (REF) to France from its inception in December 1915 to well after the end of the War – the narrative goes up to 1920, and concludes with an Epilogue. By late 1915, France was desperately short of manpower to pit against the German forces on the Western Front. Russia, on the other hand was desperately short of war materiel – guns (from fieldguns to rifles), ammunition, uniforms, even boots for their men – but the idea prevailed that the Russians had an endless supply of men. So it seemed, to the French at least, a remarkably good idea to offer Russia a swap – men for shells, as some of the writers of the day termed the agreement.

Nothing ever goes quite to plan of course – the French thought they had agreed on 400,000 men from Russia being sent to France to fight on the front – whatever the Russians thought, nothing like 400,000 men ever came to France (more like 45,000 men and support personnel in all). And the French were unable to keep up with the demand from the Russians for war materiel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A humane view to a little-known incident 20 July 2000
By "vehka" - Published on Amazon.com
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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Extensive, well documented detail 3 April 1999
By Susan R. Raybourne MD - Published on Amazon.com
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.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Narrow, but Interesting Account of an Obscure Army 10 May 2000
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
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.
A Legend that Comes to Life 1 July 2013
By Rogerio de O. Souza - Published on Amazon.com
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.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great book on a little know chapter of WW I 6 Feb. 2010
By George H. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a very interest, well researched work on a little known chapter on the First World War. I have on one occasion ran across a brief introduction to the Russian experience on the Western Front; little more than a passing comment. This book covers the entire experience of the Russian soldier from the opening negotiations between the French government and Imperial Russia through the training, combat experience, the revolution and ultimate repatriation of the troops well after the war ended. Very insightful and moving narative of the plight of the common Russian soldier sent away from the homeland to fight in a foreitn country. With the advent of the Russian Revolution, the soldiers did not know what this meant for them; how the early exit of Russia from the war would effect them; and how the final peace would relate to their returning to their homes and families.
Ultimately, the soldiers become pawns between Revolutionary Russia and France.

Anyone having an interest in the First World War will find this an interesting read.
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