Stalinâ€™s Winter Offensive Never having visited the Front himself, Stalin decides on a wholesale offensive from Finland to the Black Sea. By mid-December some of the effects of the gigantic Soviet mobilisation system were being seen. The Red Army now had more than four million men under arms, though there were not always weapons for them and a large proportion of the soldiers were totally untrained: no matter - they could be fed into battle, pick up arms where they found them and, to use one of Churchill's expressions, 'always take one with them'. And they had one advantage over the German enemy: they were warmly clad, for every Soviet citizen knows about the Russian winter, which was coming as such a shock to the invaders. Confident of victory before winter; the German army had pitifully little warm clothing. Boots stuffed with straw and newspaper, and suffering from snow blindness and frostbite, the German troops suffered badly. On 5 December, on Stalin's instructions, the Red Army went over to the offensive on both the Kalinin and West Fronts in order to push the German Army Group Centre back from Moscow. On the following day they were joined on their left flank by the armies of South-West Front 15 armiesâ€™ altogether, plus one cavalry corps, and if the Soviet army of those days barely exceeded a German corps in manpower, this first counter-offensive was nonetheless conceived on a grand scale. And because it was attacking forces at the end of lengthy communications and supply lines that were tired, ragged and freezing, the counter-attacks succeeded despite the lack of heavy weapons or armour to support them. Gradually German armies were levered away from the outskirts of Moscow, the pincers on each side bent back. And if the distances the Red Army advanced during those days were minuscule compared with those of the German army in the summer, this did not affect the fact that the Red Army was going forwards, the Wehrmacht backwards with inevitable effects upon their morale. On 17 December Stalin issued orders to armies of the Leningrad Front and to the Volkhov and North-West Fronts beside them. They were to drive south-west against German Army Group North, both to check the encirclement of Peter the Great's city and to prevent a link-up between German and Finnish forces. Stalin also planned to drive a wedge between Army Groups North and Centre with a drive by the 4th Shock Army, aimed at Smolensk. The Orel sector, March 1942: German soldiers help civilians out of a bunker during the last phase of Stalin's ill-conceived offensive. They did not know it but Stalin's rigid insistence on attacking was doing to the Red Army what Hitler's 'no retreat' orders had done to the German army. Far to the south Stalin's directives also launched 20,000 men in 14 transports and a Force Eight gale across nearly 160km (100 miles) of the Black Sea, from Novorossiisk to the Kerch Peninsula, where they landed to pose what General Erich von Manstein admitted was a serious threat to his 11th Army besieging Sevastapol. Then on 5 January, at a suddenly convened meeting of STAVKA (Soviet high command), Stalin announced an all-out offensive along the entire front from the Baltic to the Black Sea. It was certainly a grandiose plan. The main blow was to be delivered in front of Moscow by the armies of the Western, Kalinin and Bryansk Fronts with the left wing of North-Western Front, all against Army Group Centre. Army Group North was to be defeated by the Leningrad Front, the right wing of the North-Western Front and the Baltic Fleet; Army Group South was to be flung out of the Donbass by the South-Western and Southern Fronts, while the Crimea was to be liberated by the Caucasus Front and the Black Sea Fleet. The Soviets had husbanded the bulk of their T-34/76 tanks in readiness for the winter counter offensive. They had their greatest impact in the counter-attack launched from Moscow that drove the Germans back from the capital. Fast, well-armed and well-armoured, the T-34 had only one serious weakness, its lack of a radio. General Georgi Zhukov had a number of comments to make on these strategies. At both the northern and southern ends of the proposed offensive line, he claimed, German forces had had time to build and occupy strong defences; in the centre, however, the present pressure on Army Group Centre had not only pushed the Germans back, it had also thrown them into considerable organisational chaos. Here, undoubtedly, lay chances for great Red Army gains should it be possible to supply them with sufficient reinforcement and re-equipment but it was certainly not possible to reinforce and resupply the entire length of the front; therefore the proposed actions on the wings should be abandoned, and everything concentrated in the centre. His words fell on deaf ears; Stalin held to his plans.