Boris Bogachev's highly readable account of life as a young platoon commander during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 makes for a fascinating read.The son of a Soviet military commissar, Bogachev volunteered to fight as soon as reached the age of seventeen. Life in the Red Army was harsh, with food shortages, inadequate equipment and fear - not only of the well-armed enemy ahead, but also of the trigger-happy political officers behind.Bogachev fought in many campaigns throughout the war, including the 15-month Rzhev salient 'meat-grinder' which resulted in huge Soviet losses. On three occasions he was threatened with execution. Three times he was wounded. Determined and resourceful, he managed to obtain papers authorizing him to have his wounds treated in hospital, but instead smuggled himself aboard a train to travel across Russia to visit his family in Kazakhstan before returning to the front. Boris Bogachev, who retired from the Soviet army in 1984 as a much-decorated colonel, tells his story of the hell that was the Eastern Front with freshness and candor. He vividly conveys the wide gap between ideology and reality in Stalin's Russia, the warm camaraderie among those who fought the Nazis and his horror at the inhumanity of war.