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Stalin Adopts the Profit Incentive

Finding that neither the lavish distribution of medals nor the systematic execution of “shirkers, defeatists, and cowards” were sufficient to properly motivate the men of the Red Army to fight harder, in 1943 Stalin introduced a system of cash rewards for outstanding performance in combat. A lengthy schedule of cash payments was instituted to recognize outstanding performance in the field:

  • Snipers, 500 rubles per kill, plus 200 for the sniper’s assistant
  • Anti-tank troops, 500 rubles per tank killed for the gunner, and 200 for each assistant
  • Tankers, 500 rubles per tank killed to the commander, the gunner, and the driver, plus 200 for any other personnel
  • Artillerymen, 500 rubles per tank killed to the commander and the gunner, plus 200 for each soldier serving the gun
  • Aviators, 500 rubles per airplane killed to the commander, and 200 for any other aircrew
  • AA troops, 500 rubles per airplane killed to the commander and the gunner, plus 200 for each soldier serving the gun.            

Troops could also earn rubles by salvaging equipment on the battlefield.  For tanks, for example, there was a sliding scale depending upon type: for each KV or other heavy tank, 500 rubles, for T-34s or other medium tanks, 2,000 rubles, for T-60s or other light tanks, 500 rubles, with the money shared among the men effecting the recovery.

To put this in perspective, in 1943 the base pay of a private in the Red Army was just 600 rubles a year, a little more than $20 at the prevailing exchange rate. 

BookNote:  The recent Why Stalin's Soldiers Fought: The Red Army's Military Effectiveness in World War II (Modern War Studies) , by Roger R. Reese, is highly recommended for its unusually insightful and ground-breaking look at the Soviet soldier during the “Great Patriotic War”. 

 

The Mary Rose and the Manning of the Royal Navy in the Tudor Age

HMS Mary Rose was one of the flagships of King Henry VIII’s Royal Navy.  A carrack, she had four masts and a bowsprit, with a high rounded stern and large after- and forecastles.  Designed as a warship (one of the first to be built with gun ports for her cannon), the 500 tons burthen Mary Rose was laid down at Portsmouth in 1510 and completed in 1512.  She was armed with mostly light anti-personnel guns plus a few larger pieces intended to inflict harm on enemy ships. 

Almost as soon as she was completed, Mary Rose went to war, fighting the French, the Scots, and the Bretons as a Spanish ally during the Italian Wars of 1512-1514 and 1521-1526 (also known as Henry VIII’s “First French War” and “Second French War”).  She then spent a long period laid up “in ordinary”, a sort-of reserve status.  In 1536 Mary Rose was substantially rebuilt, emerging with a full broadside and much heavier armament, cast bronze and wrought iron cannon firing 20-pound balls and larger.  By the time the reconstruction was done, she had grown to 700 or 800 tons burden. 

In her new guise, Mary Rose served for a number of years without incident.  Then, in 1544, King Henry undertook a Third French War, once more allying himself with Spain for the balance of the Italian War of 1542-1546. 

In the summer of 1545, the French sent a large fleet to invade England.  On July 19th, the English fleet, led by Mary Rose, engaged the French in an inconclusive action in the Solent, the straits separating the Isle of Isle of Wight from the mainland of England.  During the brief fight, Mary Rose, having fired all her guns on one side, began to turn so as to bring those on the other into action. At that moment a strong wind blew up and caught her at an awkward angle and causing her to heel to leeward. Water began pouring into her open gun ports and  she sank almost immediately.

The 1536 reconstruction and periodic modernization of her guns (new, heavier, and more numerous pieces being mounted in 1536, 1540, and again not long before her sinking) caused the ship’s draft to increase, bringing her gun ports closer to the water line. That, combined with the sudden increase in wind at a time when she was heeling, evidently did her in.

After the French withdrew, an attempt to salvage the Mary Rose was unsuccessful, and after some years the site of the wreck was forgotten.  Rediscovered in 1971, Mary Rose was found to be in surprisingly good condition, and was raised in 1982.  Since then the ship, conserved and preserved at Portsmouth, has revealed much about life, technology, and war in Tudor England.

One of the more interesting results of the raising of the Mary Rose has been some insights into the human condition in mid-sixteenth century England, for in the wreck were found the remains of 179 sailors.

Forensic analysis of the skeletons has determined that the crew comprised:

  • Children, under 12       1
  • Adolescents, 13-17      17       
  • Adults, 18-29               54
  • Middle Aged, 30-40     15
  • Older                           1

Close examination of the bones revealed that many of these men and boys were not very well nourished in childhood.  In addition, the bones showed indications of very heavy work from a young age.  There were also healed or partially healed injuries, including 14 fractured skulls, three broken noses and three broken ankles.  In addition, 84 percent of the crew were missing teeth. 

So much for the “good old days”.

 


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