What is a Penal Military Unit?

Introduction Penal military units, including penal battalions, penal companies, etc., are military formations consisting of convicts mobilised for military service. Such formations may contain soldiers convicted of offenses under military law, persons enrolled in the unit after being convicted in civilian courts or some combination of the two. Service in such units is typically considered… Read More


What were Barrier Troops?

Introduction Barrier troops, blocking units, or anti-retreat forces were military units that were located in the rear or on the front line (behind the main forces) to maintain military discipline, prevent the flight of servicemen from the battlefield, capture spies, saboteurs and deserters, and return troops who fled from the battlefield or lagged behind their… Read More

What was a Strafbataillon?

Introduction Strafbataillon (English: “penal battalion”) is the generic term for penal units that were created from prisoners during the Second World War in all branches of the Wehrmacht. Soldiers, criminals and civilians sentenced to those units were generally poorly armed and required to undertake dangerous high-casualty missions. The Strafbataillon were operated and administered by the… Read More

What was Order No. 227?

Introduction Order No. 227 (Russian: Приказ № 227}, romanised: Prikaz No. 227) was an order issued on 28 July 1942 by Joseph Stalin, who was acting as the People’s Commissar of Defence. Refer to World War II, Shtrabats, Barrier Troops, and Strafbataillon. It is known for its line “Not a step back!” (Ни шагу назад!,… Read More

What were Shtrafbats?

Introduction Shtrafbats (Russian: штрафбат, штрафной батальон) were Soviet penal battalions that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II (refer to Barrier Troops). The shtrafbats were greatly increased in number by Joseph Stalin in July 1942 via Order No. 227 (Директива Ставки ВГК №227). Order No. 227 was a desperate effort to re-instil discipline… Read More