Saturday, 20 July 2013
Nadezhda Popova (1921-2013)
While scouting the weeks Obits in The Independent I was struck by Tuesdays column which lists Nadezhda Popova - Garth Ennis recent Battelfields series featured the exploits of the 588th Bomber Regiment albeit in a fictionalised form. Anna Kharkovas falling foul of the political bureaucracy of the then Soviet Union certainly dont seem to have been mirrored by the life of Nadezhda Popovas who retired with rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and having been awarded The hero of the Soviet Union, The Order of Lenin and 3 Orders of the Red Star. She eurvived multiple forced landings and survived 852 missions from mid 1942 to 1945. Initially her all female squadron was given antiquated Po-2 bombers - biplanes fit for the scrapheap. The pilots used to cut their engines and drift in silently to bomb the German forces who nick named them Die Nachthexen (The night witches). They were so successful that three further squadrons were formed. They were however looked down on by their male counterparts and were subject to sexual harrassment and their living conditions were primitive in the extreme - this on top of the dangers of combat. Interesting to note that the (in my experience) extremely chauvinistic Russians embraced females working not only in the military but also in combat - a sign of the kind of desperation that the Great Patriotic War inspired.