to the Tables
The official number
of units of a higher grouping.
The normal number of units likely to be present in reality is shown in
Green indicates a wargames unit to be fielded.
The number of wargames units, which might deviate from the theoretical
either because less units were normally present or because the wargames
units represent two or more smaller actual units merged.
The tables are for mid-1919 through 1920 only. Prior to that units
tended to be assembled with whatever was at hand rather than in any
sort of recognised structure, and old Imperial practice is a reasonable
The ranks shown are indicative only, since the Red ranks do not
translate very well into English and the Whites often used men with
different ranks for the same level of command, having a surplus of
The theoretical structures are shown but only for the purposes of
knowing possible maximums, it is the "actual" values which are more
important. Likewise technical support units listed on paper were often
completely absent in practice.
The Red units are mostly based on typical strengths at Orel/Kromy and
at the battle of
Warsaw. Poles on the battle of Warsaw. AFSR units are
more speculative, since they varied so wildly according to the fortunes
of the army. The number of men indicated for units, while
an observation of real strengths, are nevertheless given solely as
indicative averages and units might vary above or below the ranges
shown by quite a lot (depending how the campaign was going). The
requirement for sensible unit sizes on the table means that sometimes
in order to "normalise" the size of units, I have merged two or more
small units (especially cavalry) when allocating "actual" rather than
It should be noted that the Reds counted differently from the
and AFSR, so mere comparison of strengths found in much literature can
be misleading. Pilsudski discusses this a bit in his book Year 1920
and Tom Hillman explains it further in some old posts on the Yahoo
Russian Civil War group. Basically the Whites tended to count only
actual bayonets or sabres, while the Reds used the number of men in the
unit. Often the supposed numerical superiority of
the Soviet forces is largely removed when one actually looks a bit
deeper at the figures.
Corps or Army level assets are generally not included, unless allotted
on a semi-permanent basis. Therefore there are no tanks, trains, boats,
balloons etc, which were scarce and usually only allocated for battles
around strong defensive positions (e.g. Tsaritsyn, Radzymin and
Perekop). Artillery provisions are lighter than recorded strengths to
take account of the difficulties of repair and transport which often
led to guns being unavailable for combat. If a set-piece battle is
intended then artillery strengths can be increased (and army-level
heavy guns added as well in many cases).
It can be assumed that all artillery units had a couple of integral
machine-guns per battery, mounted as tachankas for the horse artillery.
For all but the smallest scale games, I would normally expect this to
be included in the general factors for the guns – adding
to the close range shooting factors and increasing the melee levels
(especially against flank attacks).
on specific armies
Red Rifle Divisions
These varied enormously in size, but ones in the front line in
important sectors were less variable. When strengths fell they
sometimes pared down to two brigades, which tends to average out
battalion size a bit.
The two actual battalions fielded per regiment is to represent it
having about six companies (of 50 bayonets each). This may be
represented by two “battalions” of 4 to 6 bases,
equally be represented by three “battalions” of 3
bases. The men were moved around inside a division to even out numbers,
so units will tend to be equal sized.
The Reds raised whole brigades at a time, and preferred to withdraw
them in their entirety to refit or absorb reinforcements. Therefore
normally the type of all units in a normal rifle brigade was be the
same, though different brigades in the same division might differ
slightly in experience or origin.
An exception to this were the not uncommon brigades raised in an
emergency, which might include regiments (but not smaller units)
hastily thrown together, although it would be rare for good quality
units to be mixed with poor quality. Therefore one might
together regiments of sailors, kursanty (Red students),
“Internationalists” and/or dedicated communist
workers or another with pressed Cossacks, rounded up deserters and
units crossed over from the enemy (i.e. all conscripts). Such
brigades would normally be short on artillery and technical support and
might be independent of any divisional structure.
The cavalry of rifle regiments was most often of poor quality. It was
mainly for scouting and supplying messengers, not charging.
artillery lacked trained commanders and often had faulty ammunition,
which decreased its effectiveness considerably.
The elite divisions, such as the Latvians, tended to be larger and
better equipped. They might have the full complement of 3 brigades,
each of 9 battalions, with MG company, and increased support units to
match. Even then battalions might not have three companies each.
“Commissars” (technically member of the RevCom
revolutionary committee) were ordered during this period to keep their
noses out of purely military matters, though they were to keep a close
eye on unreliable former Tsarist officers. Depending on the commissar
in question, he might or might not obey the order.
Red Cavalry Divisions
There is no integral infantry in a Red cavalry unit, and foot and
mounted rarely worked together – the Konnarmiya had several
infantry divisions with it, but these were almost completely ignored by
Budënniy (instead they performed garrison and rear area
missions and they were very ordinary as infantry). Tachankas and
reasonably plentiful horse artillery supplied the required fire-power.
Although it is often cited that the Konnarmiya had lots of technical
support, these either could not keep up or are largely imaginary
(especially the air support) so the most that might be expected is an
occasional armoured car.
Independent cavalry brigades were not uncommon in the Red Army. They
were frequently Cossack or other minority groups such as Bashkirs or
Again, units will tend to be of equal skill level and size within
brigades, but brigades in a division might vary in quality.
Red cavalry divisions were proper cavalry, quite prepared to charge
mounted, but were equally happy to use firepower to achieve an
objective, and often dismounted en masse. Lancers were rare, but more
common towards the end.
ASFR Infantry Divisions
The central drive for uniformity was not as strong in the AFSR, and men
and captured equipment were not transferred between units so much,
leading to greater variety in strengths and organisation. The older
units of the VA were particularly prone to going their own way. Note:
when the Whites counted “bayonets” or
they usually meant exactly that, meaning even machine-gunners were not
counted, which tends to make their numbers look much smaller than they
Regiments often had an old officer core which stuck together in the
first battalion, but they also frequently added new recruits wholesale
as new battalions or companies to existing units, so regiments might
have battalions of very different types and quality. However, each
regiment in the division would tend to have the same sort of mixture of
troop types, whatever that might be. Normally the regiments had three
battalions, but in order to represent extra-large first battalions four
wargames units might be fielded. Alternatively, the extra unit might
represent the “officer” companies of the older
in which case it would be smaller than a normal battalion (although
still large for a company). Four battalions was also the old Imperial
practice, so perhaps some retained it into the RCW.
Sometimes a brigade had a fourth regiment, which was the depot or
reserve regiment. This was normally smaller (often just a battalion)
and of lower quality.
The regimental cavalry was true cavalry. The armoured cars were
technically attached, rather than permanent.
The elite “coloured” units tended to form the
any attack by the Volunteer Army. They varied tremendously in size over
time, but when they were at their peak they included their greatest
number of new recruits and the quality dropped considerably, especially
in the 3rd and 4th battalions. At their largest (i.e. Orel) the
battalions were large enough to justify splitting into a couple of
units for the table (the theoretical number of companies was four). At
all times these units were the most heavily endowed with support in
terms of heavy artillery, armoured trains, planes etc.
The AFSR tended to have complete dominance of the air, but planes
generally only attacked massed targets and the rear areas.
ASFR Cavalry Divisions
Part of the success of the White armies in south Russia, and
particularly the VA, is that it operated much more in conjunction with
its infantry. A weakness was that horses were often in short supply, so
the attached infantry might actually represent cavalry without horses
(they could well be the third brigade).
A division is either Cossack or Regular, not mixed, even though many of
the troopers forming the regular cavalry were, in fact, Cossacks.
Recruits into the cavalry tended to be trained horsemen, so there is no
equivalent of the conscript battalions found in the infantry. Most
units of cavalry were half lance armed except the Kuban and Terek
Cossacks, who did not use them. Men were much more reluctant than the
Reds to dismount or use mounted firepower (and anyway they more often
had decent infantry to call on).
Although very old-fashioned in many respects, the White cavalry were
not stupid and realised the value of tachankas to a mounted force, even
if they did not use as many as the Reds. They also knew the value of
armoured cars and trains, but these tended to hinder their ability to
move fast and freely so they were not normally attached to cavalry
Cossack divisions use normal AFSR structures but with a tendency to be
much smaller and frequently lacking parts of the structure. Mixed units
of half infantry and half cavalry were quite common, especially in the
Don units, and to a lesser extent Kuban ones, had some supporting arms
like planes, armoured trains and armoured cars, though not to as great
an extent as the AFSR. The Terek and Mountaineer units tended to be
very small and contain much more cavalry and little supporting arms.
On the whole the Cossack and regular AFSR units fought separately,
though sometimes a brigade or division of one sort might be attached to
the other for a while.
White armies in Siberia
and the North-west
Siberian armies used old Imperial organisations. According to Valery
order of Admiral Kolchak, dated 3 January 1919, the new Russian army
was to have the structure and composition of the old Russian army under
Nicholas II. That is the structure was based on a company (150 bayonets
each), battalions (of 4 companies), regiments (4,100 bayonets, in 4
battalions or 16 companies), divisions (16,500 bayonets in 4 regiments)
and corps (37,000 of two divisions each).
It was unlikely that official strengths were kept at the front line,
but it provides a base.
Though there was a some good cavalry the infantry tended to be far more
uneven. There were fewer officer units and veterans and lots more
conscripts (many extremely unreliable). Artillery and other technical
support was less plentiful. Again the Cossacks tended to fight
Yudenich’s army was supplied with good technical support, but
lacked large cavalry formations. The infantry was mediocre and lacked
the big elite units found in the south and, to a lesser extent, east.
In any case, his army is small enoughand altered size so wildly that
actual units would normally be better than using formal TOEs.
The size of Polish units varied very considerably and the average size
is not terribly useful, especially since the amount of support weapons
varied just as wildly but quite independently of the number of
bayonets. Therefore the base units might be the three companies of each
battalion, or the whole battalion might only number a couple of hundred
men. The MG support might or might not match.
The army absorbed an enormous number of new recruits just before (and
during) the 1920 campaign against the Soviets. The higher numbered
battalions might therefore be almost untrained, even in very old
regiments, although Pilsudski’s favoured Legion units would
had the best recruits and suffered the least in this regard.
An infantry division seems to have been supplied with anything from a
small squadron to a whole regiment of divisional cavalry, apparently at
random. The cavalry units in the infantry tended to be the lower
quality ones, though mostly still “real” cavalry.
Poles had air superiority. They particularly liked attacking the supply
system, Bolshevik cavalry on the march and trains.
The highest proper formation of the Polish cavalry was the brigade.
Sometimes two (rarely three) were grouped into divisions, but this was
really still a grouping of brigades – there were no
assets. The Polish cavalry brigades not only had no integral infantry,
they virtually always operated independently.
As with the Polish infantry, average sizes can be misleading.
Regiments were frequently reduced to tiny sizes during a campaign, but
because they recruited separately it was not unusual for one to have
less than 200 sabres but be fighting alongside one, from the same
brigade, with 400 effectives.
The fifth squadron of a regiment was a “technical”
squadron, which was meant to supply scouts, messengers, communications,
engineering assistance etc. In practice the fast moving campaigns and
shortage of manpower meant they usually fought alongside the other
The Poles were very fond of tachankas and sometimes had extraordinary
numbers of them.
Estonian and Latvian
The dispersed nature of the fighting meant that the divisions were
really just groupings of regiments, so artillery and cavalry would
normally be permanently attached to a regiment. The structure was very
flexible – companies were often chopped and changed
across to other regiments in a division to strengthen a particular
point, and regiments moved to reinforce other divisions.
Companies might vary quite a bit in size but the bulk of a regiment
would normally be of the same basic type. The exceptions would be for
new recruits forming a fourth company or, rarely, a fourth battalion.
For game purposes small companies might need to be merged.
Estonian regiments might also be strengthened by the addition of either
an elite company or battalion from the armoured train division, either
with or without their trains. An armoured car or two might also work
with a division.
Nationalist cavalry was generally neither numerous nor very good,
although the Estonians formed a couple of separate regiments.
main roles were to scout and provide messengers and orderlies and to
get into the enemy’s rear. They should probably be considered
mounted infantry, able only to charge with sabres against enemy already
retiring or baggage elements.
The scouts were divided into foot scout and horse scout companies.
There were often quite a few of them and the foot scouts, in
particular, frequently acted as another (small) infantry company.
The HMG ratio was fairly low but supplemented by LMGs (and the
companies also usually had a few).
The Freikorps structure was very loose, and it is hard to give any sort
of average. The basic unit structures followed the German ones for the
end of WWI, but shortages of manpower meant units were very short
A typical battalion would normally have three companies (not often the
standard four) but sometimes only two, each not often more than 100
men, and usually an MG company of up to 8 HMGs. A small mortar unit was
a common addition, although often just a couple of light mortars. There
were also several battalions of specialist MG
“sharpshooters” with three MG companies and perhaps
infantry company or two in support.
The Freikorps tended to fight in independent columns, based around a
“regiment” of two or three such infantry
battalions, one or
which might be a MG sharpshooter battalion. The column would most often
have a small squadron of cavalry (rarely more) and several batteries
(often including howitzers). It might also include an engineer company,
bicycle platoon or an armoured car. Flame-throwers, infantry support
guns and armoured trains existed, but were not so common. Aerial
support was normal, though generally limited to spotting and dropping
The Freikorps had a much higher proportion of HMGs, LMGs, cavalry and
artillery than their nationalist opponents. Thus, although they were
heavily outnumbered in the infantry, approximately equal numbers of
support weapons were fielded. They were very well equipped with radios,
telephones, field glasses etc.
Freikorps cavalry does not seem to have charged mounted during the
period, but I cannot firmly state that they would never have done it.
They were lance armed, it seems.