Military Review

Sapper shovel for urban self-defense (part 1)

In the series of materials devoted to the issue of urban self-defense, we could not overlook the MPL (small infantry shovel), better known as the "shovel shovel." Along with the “vest”, the MPL has become a true symbol of the Soviet (and then Russian) soldier. How and why did this happen? Where did the infantry shovel first appear? When and how it began to be used in melee? How can it be used in self defense?
Answers to these and other questions were generously shared by an expert and amateur MPL Vadim Shutykov - a passionate collector of blades, the author of the self-instruction book on hand-to-hand fighting "Small Infantry Shovel," an instructor who conducts seminars and training on how to handle this seemingly harmless, but deadly dangerous object.

Part 1

When and how did the MPL appear?

A small infantry shovel was invented by Danish officer Mads Johan Buch Linnemann (1830-1889). He received his higher military education 26 in October 1849, and in 1864 he participated in the war on the Als (Danish-Prussian war) as a company commander.
At the front, he invented a multifunctional shovel. It could be used as a frying pan, knife, and, of course, as a entrenching tool. Linnemann was introduced to the captain in 1867, and his invention was patented in 1869, and the shovel, greatly simplified, was introduced into the weapons of the Danish army in 1870 year. But only 256 trenches were produced for the battalion, i.e. only every third person received a shovel.
In 1871, Linnemann traveled to Vienna, where he began to produce an Austrian version of the spade. For the Russian Imperial Army 60 000 units were ordered for 30 000 rubles.

Shovel with the stigma "patent captain Linnemann"

In which army did they first consciously use it for hand-to-hand combat?

Back in the Russian-Turkish wars, Russian soldiers used the entrenching tool for hand-to-hand combat. It became more widespread in the First World War.
One of the first references in the literature of the small infantry shovel as weapons, can be found in the famous novel by E.M. Remarque. “On the Western Front Without Change”:
“... Now a new fashion has begun to go on the attack: some take only hand grenades and a shovel with them. A sharpened shovel is a lighter and more versatile weapon, it can not only be poked from below, under the chin, it can be chopped off first and foremost with it. The blow is more weighty, especially if applied to the side, at an angle between the shoulder and neck; then you can easily dissect a person to the very chest ".

Stills from the film “On the Western Front Without Change”
All Quiet On The Western Front 1930 Year.

The experience of the front-line soldiers of the First World War was taken into account by the warlords of the Workers 'and Peasants' Red Army. Corresponding programs were developed, and the Red Army army instructors began to train new recruits in hand-to-hand combat not only with a rifle with a bayonet, but also with the use of a tailing tool. This was reflected in various instructions for the Red Army, and in publications in popular science literature.

The magazine "Technology - youth" № 5, 1941 year.

Did the shoulder have competitors?

During World War I, along with a small infantry shovel, all sorts of trench knives, clubs, brass knuckles, from home-made copies to weapons that were manufactured industrially were used for hand-to-hand combat.

Sapper shovel for urban self-defense (part 1)

Cudgel is easier to use in battle than a scapula. The blade needs to be clearly oriented with the edge of the tray to the point of attack, and if the enemy is wearing a protective shell and helmet, it requires dexterity and skill to hit the unprotected part of the body. The club takes its mass. This explains the huge range of all kinds of clubs in the First World War.

However, it is necessary to note a very important nuance. The shovel is a regular weapon of a soldier, it is always at hand and multifunctional. The range of its application from the digging of the earth and the griddle, to the paddle and the squat, as well as this is a very good help in the melee.

Cudgel is purely utilitarian. Of course, in a positional war, when the front stood in place for months, a heavy club could be stored in a dugout, using from time to time. But in World War II, when the troops were transferred over considerable distances, no one agreed to carry extra weight on them. Therefore, the shoulder blade on the soldier's belt won in “natural selection”.

Is there a Russian (Soviet) school of combat with a sapper shovel, or do all the armies of the world use the same principles? If so, what are its differences?

All schools of the battle with a shovel are about the same. They come from the natural logic of using a shovel in the melee on the battlefield. If we look at any instruction on hand-to-hand combat of the military period (USSR, Germany, England, etc.), we will see universal racks, and an approximately identical set of the simplest, but effective techniques and movements. These techniques were selected by life itself on the fronts of the two great world wars.

However, in modern schools of unarmed combat, we can see some differences.

For example, in 80, instructors of the Airborne Forces of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) used karate techniques to work with a spatula.

Page 269. Receptions with mpl, based on karate technique. by Frank Pelny GJOGSUL Militärischer Nahkampf in der NVA

If we talk about NATO countries, then at present a three-section small folding blade with a wide triangular handle is used there. In connection with the design feature when using a shoulder blade in hand-to-hand combat, a soldier must hold it with two hands. In consequence of this, the fighting stance becomes frontal. Accordingly, the coordination of the movement of the soldier worsens. So they are trained to keep the trowel of the US Marine Corps.

The Russian school of hand-to-hand combat is the heiress of the magnificent school of the USSR, and in my opinion, is the most optimal.
The basis of this school is a whole fusion of combat areas: fencing with bayonets, saber fencing, SAMBO, and boxing.

Are there documented melee fights using MPL?

I think that we will not find a photo of melee combat in any archive of any country. We can find a photo before the melee, or after it.

Imagine: there is a hand-to-hand fight for life and death. Screams, shouts, groans, people are pierced with bayonets, chopped with shoulder blades, and amid all this horror, a photographer runs with a "watering can" and takes pictures. Rate his chances of getting out of this landfill. I think they are zero. This explains the lack of real, not staged photos with melee fights.
But we still can get an idea of ​​hand-to-hand combat with a spatula. Here world cinema will help us. In my video "A brief historical review of a small infantry shovel" (see the beginning) from 06 and 20 with 6 and 42 with an excerpt from the film "On the Western Front, without Change." the crucible of the Great War. In my opinion, twenty-two seconds from this film perfectly illustrate what a hand-to-hand fight with a small shovel is. Of course, the actors beat their shoulder blades flat to not injure their colleagues, but this passage certainly conveys some impression.

What are the options for using MPL in combination with other weapons?

German soldier after street fighting in Sevastopol.

There are not many variants of such combinations, but they exist. The most common combination is a pistol and shovel, or a knife and shovel. Remarque described hand grenades and a shovel.
Such combinations are set by functional necessity. For example, assault units first threw sections of trenches in a certain sequence with hand grenades, and then broke into the trenches and finished off all life. If it was required to clear the dugout, then at first they threw a grenade, and then they fought with a pistol in one and with a knife or shovel in the second hand.

Here is an excerpt from the book of Paul Karel "The Eastern Front", the first book "Hitler goes to the East":

“The attackers cleared each meter of the path with their shovels. At the same time, an enemy could appear on the right, on the left, in front or behind. The situation forced Luttwitz to develop an original method of warfare. Here is how Schaub describes it: “The head company made its way through deep snow on both sides of the road to the nearest village and, acting as an assault unit, attacked the enemy with narrow, deep orders. - entrenching tool.

The paddle is combined with any object that can be used as a weapon. There is also a combat technique with two shovels at the same time. At the seminars, I show the work of a scapula with a canvas cover, or a spatula and a knife, as well as a stick, jacket, etc.

Why in Russia MPL has become a kind of symbol of a soldier?

Remember the ordinary poster of the USSR “Spade is a friend of a soldier”? So, she is really a friend.

Here, for example, the memory of the veteran A.D. Volkova:

“But the sapper blade deserves special attention! What is just not praised in poems, songs, movies of military themes: tobacco, glass, mail, etc. It is immediately evident that these singers did not even smell the front powder. The most praiseworthy is the shovel! A soldier can throw a pot, a spoon, even a rifle, the bayonet from which he threw away a long time ago, but with a spatula only death will separate him. The shovel saves the soldiers not only in the melee. After all, this is an ax, a knife, a frying pan and other innumerable applications ... We must pay tribute: most blades are made of good steel. Only those made in a hurry are not sharpened at the factory one of the edges of the shovel. But the soldier still sharpens himself. And then it sharpens it so that the scapula not only cuts, but cuts well, and some even shave with it! But it is necessary to fry on it carefully! Do not let her let go of hardening. Horse meat has to be cooked for a very long time, but you can fry on a shovel quickly. After all, rarely comes across telegraph wire to grill barbecue on it. It would be possible on the bayonet, but he was thrown out: an extra weight ... You can talk a lot about the shoulder blade. She would need to put a monument.

The remaining memories of the front-line soldiers on the small infantry blade can be read here:

It must be said that the shoulder blade was one of the symbols of the First World War. I want to show a spatula from my collection, where a commemorative engraving was made in memory of the 1914 war of the year. "In memory of our heroes who died in the trenches"

Any infantryman of any army knows that this simple tool is really a friend who will save his life during the shelling. So the shovel is really a symbol of a soldier of the same importance as a machine gun or rifle.

Ending in the second part
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  1. sso-xnumx
    sso-xnumx 8 September 2015 07: 28 New
    YES! Small sapper shovel is THING !!!
    1. Hubun
      Hubun 8 September 2015 09: 33 New
      I completely agree with you, in rb even kata is with mpl. In the training, I remember how to sharpen a file. Then you don’t need an ax in the woods. Yes, and now he’s riding in the trunk. The psychological effect will be stronger than the bit, although it is necessary to use it for its intended purpose, and thank God
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 8 September 2015 07: 49 New
    Thanks to the author, an interesting topic .. and quite ..
  3. Sailor-a
    Sailor-a 8 September 2015 07: 59 New
    In addition to the article, an excerpt from the book:
    An American experienced soldier frankly told the author about the Russians and why they are so afraid of them in the USA .......... Then there were many different business trips, the next time I ran into Russians in Kosovo,
    It was a crowd of untrained nonsense, with machine guns from the time of the Vietnam War, armor, probably from the second world left, heavy, uncomfortable, no navigators, NVD, nothing more, only an assault rifle, helmet and armor. They went to their armored personnel carriers where they wanted and where they wanted, kissed in a hickey with the civilian population, baked bread for them (they brought a bakery with them and baked bread!). They fed everyone with their porridge with canned meat, which they themselves cooked in a special boiler. We were treated with disdain, constantly insulted. It was not an army, but x * r knows what. How can you interact with them? All our reports to the Russian leadership were ignored. Somehow we grappled seriously, did not divide the route, if it were not for the Russian officer who reassured these monkeys, he could even get to the trunks. These idiots had to be punished. Give n ... and put in place! Without weapons, we only lacked Russian corpses, but that they would understand. They wrote a note in Russian, but with errors, like the Serb wrote that nice guys were going to go at night to give a fuck ... to the impudent Russian dumbasses. We prepared carefully, light bulletproof vests, batons, night vision devices, shockers, no knives and a gunshot. We approached them, observing all the rules of disguise and sabotage art. These posts have not even been set up, so that means we’ll piz .. sleep, we deserve it! When we almost went to the tents, there was a shit, RYA-YAYA-AAA! And out of all the cracks, these nonsense climbed, for some reason dressed only in striped shirts. I accepted the first.
    I woke up already at the base. Light concussion. Then they told me that the guy felt sorry for me, hit flat, if he really hit, he would blow his head. Me, damn it! An experienced fighter of the elite US Marine Corps, cuts down in 10 seconds a Russian, a skinny scumbag and what ??? And you know what? Gardening tools! Shovel! Yes, it would not have occurred to me to fight with a sapper shovel, and they are taught this, but unofficially, among the Russians it was considered a sign of skill to know the techniques of fighting with a sapper shovel. I later realized that they were waiting for us, but why did they come out in shirts, only in shirts, because it’s natural for a person to protect himself, put on an armor, a helmet. Why only in shirts? And theirs is shit * RYA-YAYAA-AAA!
    I once waited for a flight at the Detroit airport, there was a Russian family, mom, dad, daughter, also waiting for their plane. Father somewhere bought and brought the girl, three years old, hefty ice cream. She jumped with delight, clapped her hands and do you know what she screamed? Their cf * th RYA-YAYAA-AAA! Three years, he speaks badly, and already yells RYA-YAYAA-AAA!
    1. Penzuck
      Penzuck 8 September 2015 08: 33 New
      [b] What book is a quote from? [/ b]
      Quote: Sailor-A
      In addition to the article, an excerpt from the book:

      [b] neighing to tears.
      1. Sailor-a
        Sailor-a 8 September 2015 09: 43 New
        If I understood correctly, then this is someone's paraphrased excerpt. And most likely from the book
        Sergey Alekseev- "Treasures of the Valkyrie"
      2. plaha
        plaha 8 September 2015 15: 25 New
        Yes, hanged.
    2. RiverVV
      RiverVV 8 September 2015 09: 39 New
      Yeah ... The American is so inspired that he began to swear in Russian? So big, but you believe in fairy tales. Our then did not look ragged. It was a normal supply. And their marines also learn to fight with anything. No need to consider their children.
      1. Penzuck
        Penzuck 8 September 2015 11: 00 New
        Quote: RiverVV
        Yeah ... The American is so inspired that he began to swear in Russian?

        And what book is written in what language?
        Quote: RiverVV
        So big, but you believe in fairy tales.

        A fairy tale is a lie, but there is a hint in it, a lesson to good fellows.
        Quote: RiverVV
        Our then did not look ragged.

        To look and be ragged are two different things.
        Quote: RiverVV
        It was a normal supply.
        - which is not denied either by me or Sailor-A.
        Quote: RiverVV
        And fight their marines also taught whatever.

        Marines or special forces? (If you find fault) But is it not visible from the text of the article?
        Quote: RiverVV
        No need to consider their children.

        Where did you get the idea that I, or whoever considers Yusov’s soldiers as “children”? Read the article again.
      2. Aleksandr72
        Aleksandr72 8 September 2015 12: 34 New
        Yes, okay, a Salior-A colleague brought an old button accordion, already repeatedly sucked from all sides in online battles. And MPL-50 is really a great thing. The truth is only if it does not have to dig in the 30-degree heat (Celsius), in rocky ground, in mountainous terrain. No sauna and fitness equipment is needed! And finally, for the positive one more accordion: "The work of the New York airport was paralyzed for the whole day by the cry of a Russian tourist to his wife -" Alla! I'm at the bar! ”, Which raised a wild panic among passengers and airport staff and put the Big Apple on the ears of the Police Department and the FBI. laughing
      3. The comment was deleted.
  4. kobussubok
    kobussubok 8 September 2015 08: 20 New
    I do not part with her in ordinary life! Very comfortable and does not take up space. I take on long trips and so on vacation; you can chop firewood and dig a "refrigerator" in the forest))
    1. Jan Ivanov
      Jan Ivanov 8 September 2015 12: 56 New
      Undoubtedly, this shovel is bigger than a shovel. But chop wood with it ...
      It is better to have a small saw for firewood.
      1. bionik
        bionik 8 September 2015 13: 26 New
        Quote: kobussubok
        I take on long trips and so on vacation; you can chop wood and dig a refrigerator in the forest))

        Here is another application.
        1. Afinogen
          Afinogen 8 September 2015 17: 31 New
          Quote: bionik
          Here is another application.

          The Chinese sapper blade has many uses.

        2. Jan Ivanov
          Jan Ivanov 9 September 2015 16: 18 New
          Hot steel tool into the fire? This is how you want to show off?
  5. igordok
    igordok 8 September 2015 08: 29 New
    Sapper shovel for urban self-defense (part 1)

    Thanks. I read this article in full, which is rarely the case.
    As far as I understand, about the use of MPL, which every citizen carries with him, smile for urban self-defense, will be in the second part.
    1. RiverVV
      RiverVV 8 September 2015 09: 40 New
      You should also wear tarpaulin berets, camouflage and a helmet. But then the blade will not be needed. And so no one will pester. :)
  6. provincial
    provincial 8 September 2015 08: 48 New
    He served in a reconnaissance battalion, they showed something at practical exercises in hand-to-hand combat. I always drive with me in the car.
    1. Laksamana besar
      Laksamana besar 8 September 2015 09: 47 New
      I didn’t serve in reconnaissance battles, but in a car (on a hike, in a summer cottage), I’ve always been myself for many years.
  7. Stas57
    Stas57 8 September 2015 09: 15 New
    what a powerful photo
    1. igordok
      igordok 8 September 2015 10: 00 New
      Judging by the gun, it is unlikely that an ordinary, as signed in the article. If only some number, some calculation. I see no other personal weapons.
      For a long time, I believed that the Wehrmacht MPL were only folding. Explain who were folding, and who were ordinary.
    2. svp67
      svp67 8 September 2015 15: 33 New
      Quote: Stas57
      what a powerful photo

      Yes? But this? This is Breslau street, after melee ...
      1. loki-reyngard
        loki-reyngard 9 September 2015 23: 12 New
        It is curious, but only the Soviet media had the custom of photographing murdered enemies? It seems that the Islamists are fond of this ...
        1. Scraptor
          Scraptor 29 September 2015 02: 05 New
          Mostly the Americans, as well as the Americans themselves. All the way...
  8. Glot
    Glot 8 September 2015 10: 01 New
    We had shovels in our squad, which were released before the first mvm. With the stigmas of double-headed eagles, I kind of had 1914. Heavy, thick metal, dull ... What the hell are you digging for it, especially in rocky, frozen ground. )))
    Then, after training, our usual ones were given to everyone. But they still lay nafig unnecessary in the corner, along with bayonet-knives and helmets in a heap.
    1. cth; fyn
      cth; fyn 9 September 2015 22: 24 New
      It’s strange that I received what I immediately got in order from the state, set up a sub-helmet in a helmet, straightened the flask, had to fix the bowler too, repair the whole service, fix it, nobody complained, everyone understood the mustache.
  9. bionik
    bionik 8 September 2015 10: 34 New
    A hybrid of a small infantry shovel and a small-caliber mortar. It was developed in 1938 by M. G. Dyakonov.
    In the stowed position, the mortar is a shovel, the handle of which is the barrel. In this position, the mortar can be used for various types of earthworks as an ordinary small sapper shovel (self-digging, digging trenches, etc.).
    1. Aleksandr72
      Aleksandr72 8 September 2015 12: 44 New
      And about this "weapon" the Red Army men said: "shoots like a shovel, digs like a mortar", because firing accuracy in the absence of any adequate sighting devices was a concept more than relative, as well as range, i.e. by no means, the power of the 37 mm mine (significantly inferior to the usual hand-held fragmentation grenade) was such that its light fragments did not penetrate even heavy snow or winter clothes (from the sad experience of the Winter War) at break, and digging with this mortar was difficult because behind a thick and uncomfortable metal “handle”. As a result, these spade mortars soon disappeared from the troops in the most natural way and then officially withdrawn from service with the Red Army.
      By the way, in the 90s, very smart smart designers revived this idea by creating a "masterpiece" - a shovel firing 40 mm shots from the GP-25 grenade launcher. At this device, a stick was removed from the barrel before firing, and the shovel itself was folded in the manner of a base plate. Needless to say, the combat value of these "weapons" tends to zero!
      I have the honor.
      1. Vadim_007
        Vadim_007 8 September 2015 14: 41 New
        I totally agree. Already passed it in the Second World War. So was it worth it to once again create a similar hybrid and again step on the same rake.
        1. bionik
          bionik 8 September 2015 14: 59 New
          "Option" - The kit is designed for trenches, trenches, dugouts and other defensive structures, as well as for firing standard grenades VOG-25 and VOG-25P.
          In the embodiment of the grenade launcher, a wooden plug, playing the role of a handle, is removed from the shovel. With the emphasis of the shovel in the ground, this product works like a mortar, but there is an option of firing with emphasis on the shoulder or arm. The weight of such a grenade shovel is 2 kg. This design did not go into series.
  10. Skalpel
    Skalpel 8 September 2015 14: 06 New
    More Sapper Blades !! Simple, Reliable, Convenient !!
    The thing is actually absolutely universal, convenient and practical even in peacetime! I ride in the car and MPL, and a large sapper in the trunk has long been registered. Rescued more than once - and get out of the snow, and help in the forest, and many more where.
  11. Vadim_007
    Vadim_007 8 September 2015 14: 07 New
    Quote: bionik
    A hybrid of a small infantry shovel and a small-caliber mortar. It was developed in 1938 by M. G. Dyakonov.
    In the stowed position, the mortar is a shovel, the handle of which is the barrel. In this position, the mortar can be used for various types of earthworks as an ordinary small sapper shovel (self-digging, digging trenches, etc.).

    Absolutely right. I have a photo where the militia shoots from this monster, and on their side they have normal mpl. A strange hybrid. "Not a candle to God, not a damn poker."
    1. bionik
      bionik 8 September 2015 14: 12 New
      [= Vadim_007]

      I have a photo where militias shoot this monster [/ quote]
      Duck lay out, we'll see.
  12. Vadim_007
    Vadim_007 8 September 2015 14: 39 New
    Here is this photo. It was worth fencing the garden to carry with it both the normal MPL and the mortar spade.
  13. botuala
    botuala 8 September 2015 17: 38 New
    Thank you, I read it with pleasure. Unfortunately, there are very few articles about edged weapons.
  14. The comment was deleted.
  15. volan
    volan 8 September 2015 18: 20 New
    Amazing thing is this MPL. I knew her price. After a month I got it ... and did not leave. They managed to entrench themselves with my MPLC during the day and overlap in the manner of dugouts. People come, you say: “Take it!”, They also twist)). Everything until the first shelling. And then the price goes up to heaven))). She just changed the cut, made from acacia. She must compose odes!
    1. Vadim_007
      Vadim_007 8 September 2015 18: 40 New
      Nothing changes. Many officers of both the first and second world wars wrote that the foot soldiers threw a trench tool. Laziness was to wear it in long transitions. The same story, before the first shelling.
  16. moskowit
    moskowit 8 September 2015 20: 24 New
    [quote = Glot] We had blades in the squad in our squad, released before the first mvm. With the stigmas of double-headed eagles, I had like 1914 of the year. Heavy, thick metal, dumb ... "

    I really believe it. I served at the beginning of 70's. In Khabarovsk, in the Volochaevsky town in the Chita training regiment, we had similar shoulder blades. Each part has its own traditions. Nobody painted them and the working part of the scapula from long use by more than one generation of soldiers was polished by time to a mirror shine. About the stigma is correct. There were 1913 and 15 and 14 years. True sharp. A small tree in the forearm was cut in several strokes. The steel was very high quality ...
    1. Vadim_007
      Vadim_007 8 September 2015 20: 28 New
      They are still in excellent condition :)
    2. The comment was deleted.
    3. Glot
      Glot 8 September 2015 22: 48 New
      In, here she is, for sure. I'm really not in the Khabarovsk Territory, I served in Tajikistan. Stalyuka there, yes, it was good, powerful. But nobody sharpened them here, so they didn’t cut anything at all. However, no one tried. Of course, we tried to dig in the same training course with them, it was unrealistic, everyone was "killed" in short. ))) After the UP, even if they were digging positions, if possible then with large shovels. And even with pickaxes. I remember about LNG for two or three days, with a pickaxe, they positioned, so nothing was normal. And when they did the toilet at the “point”, they completely undermined it, and not even that. What are there MPL. ))) Pamir is a delicate matter. )))
      1. Not local
        Not local 9 September 2015 00: 43 New
        Murghab, Ishkashim - offset mountains there.
        1. Glot
          Glot 9 September 2015 06: 42 New
          Moscow, left flank. )) Although it is clear that towards Khorog the mountains are getting steeper. )))
  17. igortyson
    igortyson 8 September 2015 23: 16 New
    Quote: Vadim_007
    They are still in excellent condition :)

    send mail to the tambov!
  18. Seriomilander
    Seriomilander 9 September 2015 23: 42 New
    And we cut the lawns with a spatula ...
    1. Vadim_007
      Vadim_007 10 September 2015 11: 07 New
      I thought I knew everything about her. But you are discovering new facets :)
  19. Range finder
    Range finder 11 September 2015 00: 23 New
    Thanks to the author. Good article. One question, how do you know that this German was photographed in Sevastopol? I’m not with a complaint, Mikhail, I’m just a Sevastopol, I'm interested.
    1. Vadim_007
      Vadim_007 11 September 2015 11: 37 New
      You are right, there is a small mistake. the caption should be: “German soldiers in street battles in Novorossiysk”
  20. zoriprit
    zoriprit 27 September 2015 18: 24 New
    small clarifications - there is an infantry (i.e. small) and combat engineer (usually mounted on a stalk technique length of approx. meter) shovels. Those. the article is about an infantry (just without any) shovel. Until 1904, the submarine was with a straight blade (like most of the old ones on the photos) from 1905 went with beveled (pointed) like in the photo from the RB. In the process, the consequences of the Russian-Japanese experience war.