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This is an innocent looking letter. One of many, right? Not quite!
First of all, not often one sees a man whose first name is Achilles (Ахилл) like the Greek hero, right?
OK, this alone makes my mental alarm beep. But there is more. Much more.
Apparently, STALIN made an example of this man and named the guy specifically in one of his decrees in October 1941.
But first, the letter, which was written on 01 April 1944 to the wife.
The author is Commissar BANKWITZER Achilles L'vovich (1892-1970).
It is all the same here. I am very worried due to lack of news from you, even though I know for a fact, that it takes 13 days for a letter to arrive from Moscow. So, it takes 26 days to get an answer on my letter. Write me every day at field post 83244 (not field post station - apparently these are not the same).
Are there any new about Igorek? It is unbearable to think, he is not alive anymore... I probably will get mad of these thoughts.
Allya! I beg you, don't spare my possessions, but sell them to improve your situation. Don't you understand, that your well being is more important to me, than my clothes, books and so on? Write me very detailed about the course of your illness. Any seizures? How often? But don't hide anything. Write how it is! Please, pay for the telephone bill for the next 3 months.
We still have snow, rain, and mud up to knees. On one hand, it's good, because the running Germans abandon their equipment. But walking on this damn swamp is terrible.
I sincerely, regret KOFTAKOV is free of this troubles. If you only knew, how much I despise all those bastards sitting comfortably in the rear area. All those SMIRNOVs and BALEZINs and others like them! And how they talk patronisingly to us (top-down), when we visit them in the rear area. And how much the old machine-gunner ZELINSKY is bigger, than all of those! He is a real Russian patriot! And those are the patriots of their own bellies.
Well, take care of your self, my dear! Write me!
Igorek, mentioned in the letter, is the veteran's son Igor - a partisan, who was KIA in December 1942 near Leningrad.
And now is the most interesting bit. On 04 October 1941, the defence commissar comrade STALIN, issued the decree №0391: "On the facts of replacing pedagogical work with repressions".
Here is Google translation it. You will find BANKWITZER's name in the decrees body.
"DECREE OF THE PEOPLE'S COMMISSAR OF DEFENCE OF THE USSR No. 0391.
04 October 1941
On the facts of replacing pedagogical work with repressions.
Recently, there have been frequent cases of unlawful repression and gross abuse of power by individual commanders and commissars in relation to their subordinates.
The lieutenant of the 288 joint venture Komissarov without any reason shot the Red Army soldier Kubica with a shot from a gun.
- Former chief of 21 SD Colonel Suschenko SUSCHENKO shot Jr. Sgt. PERSHIKOV because he slowly got off his car due to an illness in his hand.
- The platoon commander of the motorized rifle company of the 1026th Infantry Regiment, Lieutenant MIKRYUKOV, shot dead his assistant, the junior platoon commander Ba-Burin, allegedly for not following the order.
- The military commissar of the 28th Panzer Division, regimental commissar BANKWITZER, beat up one sergeant for lighting a cigarette at night; he beat up Major Zanoznogo for an incontinent conversation with him.
- The chief of staff of the 529th Infantry Regiment, Captain SAKUR, without any justification, hit twice with a pistol of Art. Lieutenant Sergeev.
Such intolerable facts in the Red Army about the distortion of disciplinary practice, the excess of the granted rights and authorities, lynching and hand-application are explained by the fact that:
a) the method of persuasion was incorrectly pushed into the background, and the method of repression against subordinates took first place;
b) in some cases, everyday educational work in units is replaced by abuse, repression, and assault;
c) the method of clarification and conversation of commanders, commissars, political workers with the Red Army is abandoned and the explanation of questions incomprehensible to the Red Army is often replaced by a cry, abuse and rudeness;
d) individual commanders and political workers are lost in difficult battle conditions, panic and cover their own confusion with the use of weapons without any reason;
e) the truth is forgotten that the use of repression is an extreme measure, admissible only in cases of direct disobedience and open resistance in a combat situation or in cases of malicious violation of discipline and order by persons who deliberately go to the detachment of orders of the command.
Commanders, commissars, and political workers are obliged to remember that without the right combination of persuasion and coercion, it is inconceivable to impose Soviet military discipline and strengthen the political and moral state of troops.
Severe punishment in relation to malicious violators of military discipline, accomplices of the enemy and obvious enemies should be combined with an attentive analysis of all cases of violation of discipline, requiring a detailed clarification of the circumstances of the case.
Unreasonable repression, illegal executions, arbitrariness and assault by commanders and commissars are a manifestation of lack of will and armlessness, often lead to the opposite results, contribute to the fall of military discipline and the political and moral state of troops and can push unstable fighters to dash to the side of the enemy.
I here by command:
1. Restore educational work in the rights, make wide use of the method of persuasion, and not replace the everyday explanatory work with administration and repression.
2. All commanders, political workers and commanders have daily conversations with the Red Army men, explaining to them the need for iron military discipline, honest performance of their military duty, military oath and orders of the commander and chief. In conversations, it should also be clarified that a serious threat loomed over our Homeland, that the greatest self-sacrifice, unwavering stamina in battle, contempt for death and merciless struggle with cowards, deserters, wreckers, provocateurs and traitors to the homeland are needed to defeat the enemy.
3. To explain widely to the commanding staff that lynching, assault and arenas, humiliating the rank of warrior of the Red Army, lead not to strengthening, but to undermining discipline and authority of the commander and political worker.
4. In the most decisive way, right up to bringing the guilty tribunal to trial, to combat all phenomena of unlawful repression, assault, and lynching.
An order to declare to the entire commanding staff of the field army up to and including the commander and commissar of the regiment.
People's Commissar of Defense I. Stalin
Chief of General Staff B. Shaposhnikov"
The book written by BANKWITZER about his war years: "The men of our division".
Thank you very much for the quick and thorough reply. Very much appreciated. I'm finding my self looking around for new fields to explore with the whole Mongolian field being basically dormant.
Mike, your tipstaff does look Georgian or very early Victorian. I think it's the shape of the top and the handle that looks Georgian, not necessarily the length. I don't think the title "officer" was commonly used for constables that early on, and so perhaps not constabulary. I checked some historical population websites like findmypast and George Horne being a fairly common name, there are almost 250 George Hornes born plus/minus 40 years of 1760 in London, so my guess is it might be nearly impossible to identify this George Horne with any certainty. The National Archives in Kew might offer some more information so you might want to contact them by email.
Just to update IV checked the rolls for the 1953 coronation medal(last ribbon) and Peter Harry May is listed there and it matches what awards he had then(OBE was after 53) and what has been listed in the above posts,his service number to find his entries on the London gazette is 56729 ,hope this helps a bit for you!(also IV attached his entry in the 53 rolls)