Army of Worn Soles by Scott Bury
1941: Their retreat across Ukraine wore their boots out—and they kept going.
Three months after drafting him, the Soviet Red Army throws Maurice Bury, along with millions of other under-trained men, against the juggernaut of the biggest invasion in the history of warfare: Nazi Germany’s Operation Barbarossa, the assault on the USSR.
Maurice sees that his job as Lieutenant is to keep his “boys”—the men of his anti-tank unit—alive as they retreat from the unstoppable Panzers and German infantry. When they’re captured, survival becomes impossible. Their captors starve them.
Then a miracle: Maurice gets a chance to escape. He cannot leave his boys to starve. But how can twelve Red Army soldiers cross German-occupied Ukraine without being shot?
From Scott Bury: Army of Worn Soles is the story of my father in law, a Canadian living in the USSR in 1941 who was drafted into the Red Army (“You live here, so you must defend the motherland.”) Of course, that was just in time for the biggest invasion in war history, Operation Barbarossa.
About Scott Bury:
Scott Bury is a journalist, editor and writer living in Ottawa, Canada. His articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia, including Macworld, the Ottawa Citizen, the Financial Post, Marketing, Canadian Printer, Applied Arts, PEM, Workplace, Advanced Manufacturing and others.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He holds a BA from Carleton University’s School of Journalism. He has two sons, an orange cat and a loving wife who puts up with a lot.
He is a recipient of Maclean Hunter’s Top 6 Award and a member of a team that won a Neal Award for business reporting.
The Bones of the Earth is his first novel.
Review by Brooks Frederick: “All Quiet on the Western Front” was required reading in high school, and I remember being moved to tears by that account of the life of a common soldier in the killing fields separating France and Germany. This gripping historical novel by author Scott Bury takes the action to the Ukraine in World War II, following the dreadful experiences of a few poorly equipped soldiers as they are hemmed in by the Germans and their relentless killing machine.
Seas of mud conspire with faulty, outdated weapons to make the Ukrainians’ situation more and more desperate. The only thing holding them together is their fierce personal bonds, forged in school days and reinforced by their common language and culture. Their Russian commanders seem oblivious to the hopelessness of the situation, or else resigned to it. The Ukrainian soldiers experience moments of blank terror as they stare down certain death. Ahead of them the German mechanized divisions keep rolling forward, crossing rivers, their turret guns blazing, seemingly invincible, while behind them their superiors keep a lookout for deserters, guns at the ready.
With the fighting in Ukraine today, as Russia exerts its power in the Eastern part of the country, “Army of Worn Soles” could not be more topical. The seeds of the defiance we see in today’s Ukrainian soldiers were surely sown by the grandfathers who gave their lives seventy years ago. History is doomed to repeat itself, a message that comes through loud and clear in this short, beautifully written novel.