Episode 11

Published on:

19th May 2020

The Night Witches: the Soviet Women who helped win the war

“I sometimes stare into the blackness and close my eyes. I can still imagine myself as a young girl, up there in my little bomber. And I ask myself, ‘Nadia, how did you do it?’ ”

So reminisced Nadezhda Popova, one of the legendary "Nitght Witches" and pilot for the Soviet's 588th Night Bomber Aviation Regiment. The 588th was the only all-female bomber unit to be active throughout WWII and the Night Witches flew 30,000 missions over four years of warfare and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs. They destroyed 17 river crossings, 12 fuel depots, and 176 armored cars. Join Sarah and Ash as they explore the formation and success of this legendary air force unit that so terrorised the Germans that they took on the mantel of the supernatural.


Muller, R. (2009). Flying for Her Country: The American and Soviet Women Pilots of World War II. Journal of American Studies, 43(1), Journal of American Studies, 2009, Vol.43(1). Strebe, A., & Pickering, Mary. (2003). The American Women Airforce Service Pilots and Soviet Airwomen of World War II, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. 

Peniston-Bird, C., & Vickers, E. (2017). Gender and the Second World War : Lessons of war (Gender and history (Palgrave Macmillan (Firm))). London. 

Myles, Bruce. Night Witches : The Untold Story of Soviet Women in Combat (1981). Print.

Alfonso, Kristal L. M. The Soviet Female Fliers of World War II. Air University Press, 2009, pp. 21–38, Femme Fatale: An Examination of the Role of Women in Combat and the Policy Implications for Future American Military Operations, www.jstor.org/stable/resrep13932.8. Accessed 7 May 2020.

TIPPNER, ANJA. “Girls in Combat: Zoia Kosmodem'ianskaia and the Image of Young Soviet Wartime Heroines.” The Russian Review, vol. 73, no. 3, 2014, pp. 371–388., www.jstor.org/stable/43662079. Accessed 7 May 2020.

Campbell, D'Ann. “Women in Combat: The World War II Experience in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and the Soviet Union.” The Journal of Military History, vol. 57, no. 2, 1993, pp. 301–323. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2944060. Accessed 7 May 2020.

Documentary, Nattens Häxor (2008) A Swedish Television production. Produced by Roda Leppar. Directed, written by Gunilla Bresky.

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About the Podcast

Demons and Dames
Demons & Dames is a tongue-in-cheek feminist history podcast. Ashley Mauritzen and Sarah Worley-Hill dive deep into the stories of notorious women who shaped history - by design or simply by being in the right (or wrong) time or place. We examine how they were viewed by their contemporaries, and how and why their stories have been interpreted, shaped and passed down. We also laugh. A lot.

About your hosts

Ashley Mauritzen

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Writer, thinker and former wild child, Ashley has a BA in English Literature from Oxford (apparently - she doesn't remember any of it) and an MA in Fashion Journalism. She does an uncanny Kate Bush impression, wears wigs on nights in, and asked for 10 metres of black velvet ribbon for Christmas when she was seven. By day, she's a commercial semiotician. It's a thing. Former alter egos include Oxford gossip column denizen 'Masher', queer comedy performance artist 'the Dreary Mademoiselle', cerebral burlesque star 'Curious Peach', and everyone's favourite Halloween mashup - 'Adam Antoinette.'

Sarah Worley-Hill

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Bibliophile, historian, and all round goof ball. Sarah has an MA Oxon from Oxford University in Ancient and Modern History, but has also taught maths at a boys' boarding school so considers herself an all-rounder. She would invite Alexander the Great, Queen Teuta of Illyria, and Wu Zetian to her ideal time-machine sponsored dinner party but would definitely need a translator. She loves her Shih Tzu, Calypso, very much and wants to get a French bulldog named Odysseus. She's terribly dyslexic and really really can't spell (or pronounce things). She has a mild tea obsession.