The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Fight for Petrograd

ORDER No.164

By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic and People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs to the troops of the Seventh Army, October 28, 1919, No.162, Petrograd

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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On October 28, having learnt from the army commander’s report of some minor military setbacks in the area of the villages Gostlitsy, Dyatlitsy and Volkovztsy, I went to that sector with a view to ascertaining on the spot the reasons for these reverses.

From the report of the commander of the sector, Comrade Kashtanov, and from other commanders it became clear that many junior commanders had, through negligence or ignorance, allowed a number of violations of the Field Service Regulations to be committed, and that these violations had been paid for with the blood of honourable fighters of the workers’ and peasants’ army.

(1) In Volkovitsy village, two platoons of the ‘N’ regiment, after posting sentries to their south, that is, in the direction of the enemy, failed to carry out reconnaissance to the east of their position, in Muldya village, where the enemy were lying, and failed to link up by means of patrols with their neighbours in Rautil. As a result, the enemy, after driving our outpost from Rautil, appeared unexpectedly in the rear of the two platoons that were in Volkovitsy, and took them prisoner. Such a disaster as this would not have occurred if all the requirements of the Field Service Regulations regarding protection of flanks and liaison with neighbouring units had been fulfilled.

(2) A detachment of sailors who were in Vitino village, having obtained food from the mobile kitchen, dispersed into houses in the settlement to eat their meal, forgetting to post sentries. The White Guards took advantage of the carelessness of the commander of this detachment of sailors, attacked them by surprise, and drove the sailors out of Vitino.

Failure to post sentries on a battlefield, as required by the Field Service Regulations, is one of the gravest of military crimes, and the guilty commander will be severely punished.

(3) Part of a battalion of the ‘N’ regiment, stationed in Pereyarovo village, on learning that the Red units had left the neighbouring villages, set off in an unknown direction without informing the sector commander.

The Field Service Regulations require that, when a unit leaves a position, it must inform the sector commander of the time of its departure, the reasons why it is leaving, and the place to which it is going: otherwise, a detachment which arbitrarily quits its position and omits to report this through the proper channels may put other units in an awkward situation, which is what happened in this case.

(4) A guerrilla detachment which was sent to Pereyarovo, and which knew that part of the ‘N’ battalion was stationed in that settlement, marched thither in a carefree way, merely throwing out a single patrol of five men, which moved at a distance of two or three hundred yards ahead of the column. The detachment commander forgot that, in war, situations change not only every hour but every minute. In fact, the units of ‘N’ battalion, fearing encirclement had left Pereyarovo and gone off in an unknown direction, without reporting their movements to the sector commander. The advanced patrol of five men were halted in the area of Pereyarovo by a shout of ‘Who goes there?’ Having learnt that a column of Red Army men was coming along behind, the Whites opened fire on the column with their machine-guns, and the detachment retreated, after suffering casualties. In this case, the advanced patrol helped the White Guards by letting them know that they were being followed by a guerrilla detachment of the Red Army.

The Field Service Regulations require that an advanced patrol shall move at a distance from the column such that the latter may be forewarned of any immediate danger of rifle or machine-gun fire. A column must enter a village only after receiving a report from the commander of the advanced patrol that the village is free of the enemy.

(5) The battalion of the ‘N’ regiment, having been sent from Krasnoye Syelo to reinforce Comrade Kashtanov’s sector, arrived at this sector without the battalion commander having reported to the sector commander that he was coming.

The Field Service Regulations require any unit approaching a battlefield to report itself to the sector commander. The Regulations stress the special importance of observing this rule when approaching a battlefield. In this case, the battalion commander violated an immutable requirement of the Field Service Regulations.

Failure to observe all the above-mentioned rules and requirements of the Field Service Regulations resulted in units of our forces, taken unawares by the enemy, not only having to give up a number of settlements – Vitino, Glukhovo, Pereyarovo and Volkovitsy – but also paying with blood for the carelessness and negligence of their commanders.

For the inefficiency, inattention to the requirements of the Field Service Regulations, negligence and carelessness of some commanders – and also, perhaps, for their ignorance of those Regulations – many brave warriors of the workers’ and peas ants’ army paid with their lives, or were wounded.

Such behaviour cannot be tolerated in the Red Army, and all the military commanders who permitted departures from the requirements of the Field Service Regulations and breaches of its rules will be severely punished.

Everyone must know that laziness, carelessness and con tempt for the Field Service Regulations of the Red Army will meet with most ruthless punishment, up to and including death by shooting.

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006