Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Volkhov Front - Novgorod Sector (1941 - 1944)

The lower reaches of the Volkhov River marked the South Eastern flank of the German 'Army Group North' for the duration of the siege of Leningrad. Behind the German lines on the West bank crucial supply lines snaked down from the Gatchina area to Lake Ilmen and beyond. German strongpoints at Demyansk and Staraya Russa were reliant on the 16th Army - entrenched on the Volkhov with its' Southern flank anchored in the Novgorod area.

We visited Novgorod in May - upon arrival there was snow on the ground but just one week later the weather was uncomfortably hot. Such is the climate of Russia. The picture above shows the spectacular War Memorial in the centre of town.From October 1941 to August 1942 the city was held by the Spanish Blue Division (Division Azul). The Division held a 50 km front from the shores of Lake Ilmen running North through the city. We were surprised to find a War Memorial dedicated to the Blue Division in the Novgorod German cemetery a couple of kilometres South of the city centre. The picture below shows the Memorial which lists the names of about 2,000 Spaniards buried in the cemetery.

When the Blue Division moved North in the summer of 1942 the Spanish engineers took the cross from the top of Saint Sophia cathedral in the city. The cross resided at the Spanish Engineers Academy in Hoyo de Manzaneras, Madrid for 60 years. It has recently been returned and can be seen in the cathedral.