Military Organization > Soviet Union > ​Soviet Rifle Company (1943-1944)

Soviet Rifle Company (1943-1944) 

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the Rifle Company (Стрелковая рота) of the Soviet Red Army from early 1943 to early 1944. This is the organization laid out in штат № 04/550 published December 1942, and was superseded by a change in early 1944 followed by штат № 05/40 in December 1944.

This is what would have been used during the Battle of Kursk and operations in late 1943 and part of early 1944 during the transition to an updated TO&E.

The next level up from this was the Rifle Battalion, which consisted of 1 Battalion HQ, 3 Rifle Companies (this), 1 Signals Platoon, 1 Machine Gun Company (Maxim/SG-43), 1 AT Rifle Platoon, 1 AT Gun (45mm) Platoon, 1 Mortar (82mm) Company, 1 Medical Platoon and the battalion trains.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Company HQ​

    • 1 Medical Section

    • 3 Rifle Platoons

    • 1 Machine Gun Section

    • 1 Mortar Platoon

  2. Discussion

  3. Ammo Loads

  4. Sources

rifle platoon graphic 1943-01.png
 

Organization

  • Type: Infantry Company

  • Origin: Soviet Army (Soviet Union)

  • Time Frame: Kursk, Smolensk, Dnieper

  • Personnel: 6 Officers (1 Political) and 137 Enlisted

Company Headquarters (3 Officers and 2 Enlisted)

  • 1× Company Commander, Captain (OF-2), armed with 1 TT Pistol/Nagant Revolver

  • 1× Deputy Company Commander, Sr. Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 TT Pistol/Nagant Revolver

  • 1× Deputy for Political Matters, Sr. Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 TT Pistol/Nagant Revolver

  • 1× Company Sergeant Major, Starshina (OR-8), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle

  • 1× Quartermaster-Clerk, Sr. Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle

1× Medical Section (5 Enlisted)

  • 1× Medical Instructor, Senior Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle

  • 4× MedicsPrivate (OR-1), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle

3× Rifle Platoons (1 Officer and 39 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Jr. Lieutenant or Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 TT Pistol/Nagant Revolver

  • 1× Deputy Platoon Commander, Sr. Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle

  • 2× Snipers, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant PU Sniper Rifle

​→ 2× Light Rifle Sections (9 Enlisted each)*

  • 1× Section Commander, Jr. Sergeant (OR-5) or Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 PPSh-41 or PPS-43 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Deputy Section Commander (Senior Rifleman), Yefreytor (OR-4), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant or SVT-40 Rifle**

  • 1× Light Machine Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 DP-27 Light Machine Gun

  • 1× Assistant Machine Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle***

  • 5× Riflemen, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle***

​→ 2× Heavy Rifle Sections (9 Enlisted each)*

  • 1× Section Commander, Jr. Sergeant (OR-5) or Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 PPSh-41 or PPS-43 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Deputy Section Commander (Senior Rifleman), Yefreytor (OR-4), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant or SVT-40 Rifle**

  • 2× Light Machine Gunners, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 DP-27 Light Machine Gun

  • 2× Assistant Machine Gunners, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle*** 

  • 3× Riflemen, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle***

* Two Light Squads (1 DP each) and 2 Heavy Squads (2 DP each) were authorized on paper. In reality, the 4th Section likely wouldn't be included in practice. By 1944, platoons would be decreased to 4 sections of 6 men to deal with combat losses and allow for a greater number of deployable units.

** If SVT-40 rifles were available, they would likely go to the Senior Rifleman as they had the experience to best take advantage of the increased capability

*** By mid- to late-1943, 1-2 of the Mosin-Nagant rifles manned by the Riflemen and Assistant Machine Gunner may have been replaced by a PPSh-41 or PPS-43 submachine gun depending on availability. These would then become specialists focused on assaulting

1× Machine Gun Section (6 Enlisted)

  • 1× Section Commander, Jr. Sergeant (OR-5) to Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle

  • 1× Machine Gunner, Private (OR-1) armed with 1 M1910/30 Maxim Medium Machine Gun (later SG-43) and 1 TT Pistol/Nagant Revolver

  • 3× Ammunition Bearers, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle each

  • 1× Horse Driver, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle
     

​→ Additional Equipment

  • 1× Draft Horse and Cart

1× Mortar Platoon (7 Enlisted)

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Sr. Sergeant (OR-7) to Starshina (OR-8), , armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle

​→ 2× Mortar Sections

  • 1× Mortarman, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 RM-38 50mm Mortar and 1 TT Pistol/Nagant Revolver*

  • 2× Ammunition Bearers, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Mosin-Nagant Rifle each

* Have have sometimes been substituted with a Submachine Gun in the field

Russian 1942-01.png
 

Discussion

The Rifle Company (Стрелковая рота) was the close combat element of the Rifle Battalion (Стрелковый батальон), themselves the primary maneuver element of the Rifle Regiment of the Rifle Division/Guards Rifle Division. Although the Rifle Division and Guards Rifle Divisions had different organizations at higher levels, their Rifle Companies were identical. At this point (December 1942 to Early 1944) the Rifle Company consisted of 1 Company HQ, 3 Rifle Platoons, 1 Medical Section, 1 Mortar Platoon and 1 Machine Gun Section.

 

This organization could be considered the standardization of the Red Army's Rifle Companies following the early losses of Operation Barbarossa following the success of Operation Uranus (encirclement of the German Army at Stalingrad). Although ordered just before the commencement of Operation Little Saturn, it likely wouldn't have been fully implemented until the operation was complete early in 1943.

 

The company saw very slight strength reductions from the July 1942 TO&E (that already a significant reduction from early 1941). The Company HQ was slightly reduced in strength by removing its 1 Messenger and 2 Snipers. Meanwhile, the Messenger in each Platoon HQ was also removed, but the 2 Snipers were retained. The Mortar Platoon also lost 1 of its 3 Mortar Sections, but a Machine Gun Section serving an M1910 Maxim machine gun (later SG-43) was added. This organization would remain in effect until early 1944, when amendments were made to the Dec. 1942 shtat.

Company Headquarters & Supporting Elements

The Company Headquarters was a fairly lean operation, especially when compared with its contemporaries that often stacked their Company HQs with support personnel. How decadent of the capitalist Americans to house 21 "basic duty riflemen" in their Company HQ for just mess duty and replacing casualties.

The Company was led by the Company Commander—a Captain—who was armed with a pistol (the M1895 Nagant revolver or TT semi-automatic pistol). He was assisted by the Deputy Company Commander—ideally a Senior Lieutenant—and the Deputy for Political Matters. The Deputy of Political Matters was a political officer, usually a grade of Lieutenant, who was subordinate to the Company Commander (early in the war they had been equal to the Company Commander, which presented its own difficulties). As in the Cold War-times, the Deputy was in charge of morale and party-related functions within the company, but wasn't a tactical commander.

The Company HQ was rounded out with the Company Sergeant Major (Старшина роты, or Company Starshina) and the Quartermaster of the rank of Senior Sergeant who handled supply and property.

In addition to the Company HQ, there was a Medical Section (5 men), Machine Gun Section (6 men), and Mortar Platoon (7 Men) in support. The Medical Section consisted of the Medical Instructor—an NCO and the Company's head medical personnel—and 4 orderlies equivalent to medics. Meanwhile, the Machine Gun Section was a new addition to the company, serving a Maxim Medium Machine Gun, later replaced by the SG-43, on a wheeled mount. The Machine Gun had a horse and cart which was transferred to it from the Mortar Platoon. The section had a Section Commander, Machine Gunner, 3 Ammunition Bearers and a driver for the horse.

The Mortar Platoon, reduced in strength from July 1942, consisted of 2 Mortar Sections. Each section served a 50mm Mortar and had a mortarman and 2 ammo bearers each. Evidently this doesn't seem to have been that important of a weapon, or at least not important enough to survive in Rifle Division TO&Es past late 1944. In Dec. 1944, following the time frame of this TO&E, the Mortar Platoon was disbanded and the Machine Gun Section was expanded to platoon-size with 2 Machine Gun Sections.

Rifle Platoons

The Rifle Platoon consisted of a Platoon Headquarters and 4 Rifle Sections. The platoon was led by a Lieutenant Platoon Commander who was assisted by the Deputy Platoon Commander—ideally a Senior Sergeant. There were 2 platoon-level snipers, equipped with the M1891/30 Mosin-Nagant with the PU scope. These snipers were intended to operate in pairs. The SVT-40 may have seen use in this role, but was generally regarded as an inferior weapon for sniping purposes. The main change to the Platoon HQ in December 1942 was the removal of a messenger.

 

Particular to this period, the squads were assymmetric, with 2 Heavy Rifle Sections and 2 Light Rifle Sections on paper. In reality, it seems the 4th squad was often excluded and all squads adhered to something that looked more like the Light Rifle Section. Both variations had 9 enlisted personnel and were ideally led by a Junior Sergeant or Sergeant. Each section also had a Deputy Section Commander, who was presumably a Yefreytor or the most senior of the men. This position could also be considered the Senior Rifleman. If a limited number of SVT-40 semi-automatic rifles were available, it is likely that this man would be the first one to receive it as they would be the most experienced to take advantage of the capability. This assumption is based on correspondence with a Russian whose grandfather was a senior rifleman and carried an SVT throughout his service. Many sources, especially western ones, state the Section Commander would get it, although this is probably less likely as they were specifically designated as submachine gunners.

The main difference between the Heavy and the Light Rifle Sections was that the Heavy Rifle Sections were to have 2 DP-27 light machine gun teams while the Light Sections were to have 1. As the Soviets at this time were mostly applying fire and maneuver at the platoon level and higher, the Heavy Section could be thought of as the fire support section of the platoon while the Light Sections would be the maneuver sections. It should be noted that in the first "reduced strength" TO&E introduced after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa only 2 of the Rifle Platoon's 4 sections were authorized 1 light machine gun each. This implies that the fire and maneuver was intended to be at the platoon-level as the sections without the machine guns would need support from the machine gun-laden sections to maneuver. However, as typically only 188 rounds were carried per gun (1 magazine in the gun and 3 magazines carried by the assistant) it seems there was much less emphasis on the section's own integral firepower (potentially mitigated by firepower higher up the chain and eventually submachine guns and company-level medium machine guns).

Ammo Loads

The following are the typical ammo loads by weapon:

 

For the M1891/30 Mosin-Nagant Rifle:

  • 40 rounds (ready)—8× Clips (5 rd) held in 4 leather pouches mounted on the front of belt

  • 30 rounds (reserve)—6× Clips (5 rd) held in 1 canvas reserve pouch on center back of belt

  • 70 rounds (extra/situational)—14× Clips (5 rd) held in cloth bandolier

For the SVT-40 Rifle:

  • 40 rounds (ready)—2× Magazines (10rd) held in leather pouch; 4× clips of 5 rounds held in 2 leather pouches on other side of belt

  • 30 rounds (reserve)—6× Clips (5 rd) held in 1 canvas reserve pouch on center back of belt

  • 70 rounds (extra/situational)—14× Clips (5 rd) held in cloth bandolier

For the DP-27 Light Machine Gun (Section Load):

  • 47 rounds (on Machine Gunner)—1× Pan Magazine (47 rd) in gun

  • 141 rounds (on Assistant Machine Gunner)—3× Pan Magazines (47 rd) carried in metal ammo can

For the PPSh-41 Submachine Gun (Prior to 1944):*

  • 71 rounds (in gun)—1× Drum Magazine (71 rd) in gun

  • 71 rounds (ready)—1× Drum Magazine (71 rd) in pouch

For the PPSh-41 Submachine Gun (Prior to 1944):*

  • 71 rounds (in gun)—1× Drum Magazine (71 rd) in gun

  • 176 rounds (ready)—1× Drum Magazine (71 rd) in pouch and 3× Magazines (35 rd) in 3-cell pouch

For the PPS-43 Submachine Gun (Prior to 1944):*

  • 105 rounds (ready)—3× Magazines (35 rd) in 3-cell pouch

For the Grenades:

  • 1× F1 Fragmentation Grenade in pouch or;

  • 3× RG-42 Fragmentation Grenade in pouch or;

  • 2× RGD-33 Fragmentation Grenade in pouch

*After introduction of PPS-43, the PPSh-41 was usually issued to the regimental Submachine Gun Companies while the infantry used both the PPSh-41 and PPS-43. Issue varied, however, depending on the unit and operation.

 
 

Sources

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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