Hosted by Juha Tompuri
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Ravanmäki as I experienced it
Journal ”Kansa Taisteli” 11, 1961
The battleground N of Säämäjärvi , In Russian “Sjamozero” After the map case incident I and my Platoon were idle for a couple of hours. Sounds of auto fire bursts and rifle shots from various directions told us that action was going on. Then Lt. Törni's Runner arrived. We had to start working. The Platoon stood up and was ready the same instant.
Lt. Törni indicated the bearing with his arm, and the distance thereabouts:
-Vanya is there about to break in our positions. You shall get one LMG with you.
We set out hastily. We advanced in the same direction as in the afternoon on the left wing, just about at the edge of the forest. We set up our line: First squad on the left, Second on the right. Open ground, then a willow thicket, open ground, thicket. This was repeated about ten times. The tension increased. Now? Not yet. Our hasty steps turned into sneaking, our bodies were bent into a crouch in readiness to duck any moment. Our eyes were trying to scan through the willow thicket ahead for anything. Nothing yet. Another meadow. Again, nothing. The bearing was correct for sure. Tension increased the length of the distance. How far are they actually? My Platoon shall definitely do their duty as long as I do mine. I have to take the Platoon in action in a very short range, whatever will happen. Still not yet.
Now, what's that? The terrain behind those bushes is rising. Carefully now. They must be there. Indeed they were. We heard foreign babbling. Did they spot us already? They didn't, else they would have fired. There we shall stop, in front of the bushes. I rose my arm to halt the line, then whispered my command to the right and to the left:
-Not until I order. Then all at once. Kneeling, not to hit the clouds.
I supported my left elbow on my knee and my hand was clutching the magazine. I aimed a bit over the ground through the willow bushes. My right forefinger started squeezing the trigger, slowly and evenly.
It was but a whisper but the effects were terrible. Twenty SMGs, one LMG and a few rifles were mowing down their targets. Opening the fire relaxed our tension and relieved our minds. I fired the first drum magazine almost in one go. Magazine swap. The lethal rattle went on. The surprise had been total and the effect corresponding to it. Behind the willow thicket we could hear loud babbling, grunting, wailing and shouting:
Clunking of metal almost next to me to the right: they are going to aim a MG at us. I turned my body to redirect the burst of my SMG. Clunking ceased. Yet weapons were aimed at us. Bullets were whistling about past our ears, tree branches were snapping and the bushes were cracking.
My finger was ever tighter on the trigger. Now it was all about which side would gain the upper hand. One side must give up. We could not give up. At the corner of my eye I glimpsed how Pvt. Vilkuna on my right dropped down from his knee position, sinking slowly to the ground. Did he die? No, he didn't! Vilkuna got up, even picking up his weapon, turned around and left, clutching his chest. But this sturdy youngster did not utter a sound, except the quiet grunt as he took the hit.
On the left my deputy Sgt. Öhman and a Squad Leader, Cpl. Lahdensuu reported that they had been wounded and withdrew unassisted. Despite these casualties we gained the upper hand. Firing at us ceased. The surviving enemies fled if they were able to. The ground on the far side of the willow thicket was covered with bodies. But it was not possible to go there. The open ground was controlled by enemy MG s farther off.
We, too, stopped and began preparing to pull back. I watched at the terrain to make sure that no one of the men would be left behind. I saw nobody but on the left, in the forest, someone was wailing. MG burst had shattered Jaeger Ahlberg's both legs, one at the knee and the other one at the ankle. He was lying helpless on the ground, in pain, ripping moss with his hands. I stopped two boys: Nokka-Halonen and Kilpiö.
-You two, take Ahlberg along. Anybody else in that forest ?
-None. Everyone is here.
I listened for a while. I heard nothing. To test I fired a couple of brief bursts in the direction of the enemy through the willow bushes. No retaliation. Slowly I left to follow the others, yet I stopped a few times to listen. When I had made it with the Platoon we once more counted our casualties. One man was missing – Saastamoinen. Where is he ? Saastamoinen had been the last man on the extreme left wing in the forest and he was left there. Someone knew that he had fallen in action but was that true? Should we have peeked deeper in the forest before leaving? All we could do was to make believe that Death had been merciful to Saastamoinen.
For the hours of the night my Platoon was posted as the close range reserve on the same sector. The infantrymen were honestly grateful for the help we had provided and made us, young men, engage in too loud chatting. The result was that enemy mortars began to harass us and annoy the infantry officers. Fortunately there were no casualties.
In the small hours the Platoon was returned to the old positions. Lt. Törni had personally led a recon patrol up to the enemy artillery positions and now he sent me with two of my boys to reconnoitre on the left. Silence was reigning supreme and nothing was seen, although the gut feeling was to pay attention to the open left flank. Securing was upgraded by posting on the bog our III Platoon half-platoon led by NCO Asser Tiira.
I had an express shake from my thoughts to the reality. A SMG started chattering in the direction of Tiira's fore-post. I bounced up and ran to the Command Post where Tiira's runner was already panting:
-Enemies are coming all over the bog.
Lt. Törni issued his order without having to pause to think:
-Get your platoon and Asser's half-platoon.
The fighting line was set up in a moment and we were advancing down the slope as I caught sight of Asser's bulky countenance on the left ahead of us. He had disengaged his half-platoon from the bog. I told him about the subordination command. He joined his half-platoon to my line to extend it to the left, then the word was passed:
-Ready ? -Ready. -Forward!
Our line was moving in sparsish coniferous forest to the direction of the bog. Undergrowth covered up prone men so that they could not be seen
We advanced stepping crouched meter by meter. The slope was descending. We had made one hundred meters, then some more. Suddenly something appeared to have moved ahead our us.
-Get down ! Fire !
In the same instant we took a torrent of fire at us. There was whistling in the bushes. There was snapping at the tree branches. The moss was boiling. Our fire was a torrent also: thirty buzzing SMGs. One drum mag in one burst. Magazine swap and again the gun was playing. I let go a few bursts and stopped to listen. -The firing on the enemy side had decreased. If I wanted to make the counterstrike proceed in an effective manner I had to make our fire and movement synchronized. Leaning on my elbows I carefully raised my head to be able to observe the situation and slowly moved my gaze front the right to the left and...
A sudden strike at the right upper arm bone was of such huge force that it threw me in the air and dropped me on my back on the rising slope. Before I had landed there was a searing pain on my right knee.
-Now the Lieut died, I heard Jaeger Lilja on my right side say to Jaeger Kuikka next to him.
-I am not yet died – I managed to think this much before a darkness landed on me and took me in the depths.
As I came to it was silence all over. Sun was shining right at my face and songbirds were twittering somewhere near. My first thought was that the enemy attack had rolled over us and I had been stuck in a territory they controlled. What to do? I found myself in quite a helpless state. My right arm was listless across my chest, bent at the point of fracture. A sharp end of a bone was sticking out of the wound an blood was flowing out. My right knee was bent, bleeding. At my legs I saw my SMG and my cap. I would not stay put. That was my decision and I started thinking how to reach the weapon and how to get in a sitting position against a tree to wait for the chance to make my last stand. Then a crack from the side reached my ears and my instinct told me that I had been dazed only for a moment and the situation was unchanged. Supporting my left elbow and heel to the ground I started dragging myself to the rear, up the slope.
Lilja and Kuikka saw what I was up to and crept to me. Holding me by my belt they dragged me in cover behind a dense fir tree. Asser Tiira also found his way there, assisted by Tuure Virta he placed me on his back in a “bag of salt“ manner, stood up and proceeded carrying me. Of course the enemy saw what was going on. The bushes started boiling. Tiira just asked me if I was hurting, and tried to step as evenly as he could. I told him to go on although my arm was hanging limp, swaying at every touch with a twig, the pain making my brow sweat cold drops. If one is lucky, he just is that way. The journey appeared long to me, over one hundred meters in cover on the top of the hill, we finally made it.
Our MG was being rushed past us to support our defence and our Runner NCO, Cpl. Antero Ruottinen had been ordered to take over the II Platoon. There was a stretcher waiting, and our experienced and calm paramedic NCO Cpl. Lahti was already mounting the needle on his morphine syringe. Our outfit was indeed well equipped in every respect. Alder branches were expertly fashioned into splints to support my arm as immobile as possible. Lt. Törni and I Platoon CO Lt. Holger Pitkänen came to my stretcher and I told them all I knew. Törni and Pitkänen appeared to be very worried: it was a bit questionable whether a horse could get through via the supply road, and they could not afford to assign men to escort us. Yet we had to try.
On the horse cart was hoisted another stretcher: Jaeger Johansson of my Platoon had taken three bullets through his lungs and was unconscious and wheezing. Another man with a light leg wound joined us. The horseman was the only able-bodied one, and what could he have accomplished with the rifle slung on his back. So the last horse from Ravanmäki set out. The distance to the C.C.S. Was long, about ten kilometre. The shaking of the cart overcome the effect of the morphine and even though half unconscious my ear tried to capture sounds from the sides of the road. When would the ambushing enemy open fire? Johansson, by my side, struggled to get some air in his lungs.
We reached our destination successfully and a lorry took us quite soon to Suojärvi. Although the local surgeon had a tremendous workload he took his time for me and did not amputate my arm which finally remained usable.
What about them who stayed at Ravanmäki ?
The enemy attack that I set out to beat back was a part of the simultaneous offensive all over the area. The enemy had pushed an enveloping outfit in our rear to serve as an anvil against which the defender's troops were to be crushed. The enveloping outfit was in place, dug in at the roadside as the last horse from Ravanmäki passed them. Forest assisted Finns to break through or to dodge the enemy in separate formations. Asser Tiira returned with his half-platoon a couple of days later than others, having e.g. swum over a couple of lakes to confound the pursuers.
Our losses were heavy, almost one hundred men which means about one in four fighters at Ravanmäki became casualties. Of the officers of our Jaeger Company only two survived – Lt. Törni himself and Pitkänen. Lt. Pentti Tiitinen and 2nd LT. Viljo Turpeinen fell in action on the bog West of the village. The estimated enemy casualties were several hundred.
As Detachment Törni was again mustered and refitted with new bikes and other lost gear, it was again a formidable strike force to be deployed where needed. On the other hand the brave II/JR33 had lost strength even more, but they kept fighting as a Battalion because it could not be helped.
Lauri Allan Törni was later promoted to Captain and decorated with VR1 (MHR)
The diary of II/JR 33 :
Ravanmäki = Rapavaara (synonymous meaning)
7th Coy sent a Runner with information that in Rapavaara had arrived Jääk.K/1.D having cleared the Kivatsu roadsides. The Coy had returned to their positions and the Jaeger Coy participated in the defence.
Btn CO order: 3 platoons of 5th Coy to march back, Platoon Sarkko shall take the wounded and the fallen to Onkamus village.
5th Coy in their destination in Rapavaara. Liaised with Lt. Törni.
Btn CO order: The elements of Coy Törni that are in defence shall be detached for flank securing duty. 5th Coy shall set up defences on the left flank of 7th Coy. Both Coys are to set aside one platoon in reserve. Jääk.K./1.D shall patrol on the flanks.
Lt. Torniainen's Platoon of 48.Tyk.K. Reported
Btn Mortar Platoon reported.
The platoon strong recon patrol of Jääk.K/1.D returned, they had advanced from East of Rapavaara village to to the isthmuses of Rapajärvi lake. The Eastern side of Rapajärvi is free of enemies, on the Western side there is a vehicle road from SE and artillery positions.
Jääk.K/1.D patrol set out to evict the enemy from the bushes on the left flank and found an enemy outfit advancing there. The patrol took strong fire (MG etc.) and set up defences to secure their flank.
Lt Toiviainen reported: Kivatsu road has been blocked [by enemy] and a company strong enemy outfit is advancing on the right flank.
Jääk.K/1.D sent a patrol to the right flank.
5th Coy Reserve platoon relieved the Jääk.K/1.D outfit securing the left flank.
Jääk.K/1.D sent out a patrol to the direction of the Kivatsu road.
6th Coy CO reported with two rifle platoons and one MG platoon. The CO ordered them to move as reserve to the terrain of the triangular measurements pylon and set up short range securing.
Jaeger Coy sent out a patrol to the Kivatsu road and it was found that the enemy was at the Coy bicycles.
Report by the patrols on the right flank: A company size enemy outfit approaching from the left to the flank and the Btn C.P..
Btn CO order: Every available man (Runners, AT platoon, Sappers etc.) to set up securing on the right flank and 6th Coy shall strike at the flank of the advancing enemy.
Enemy launched a strong fire strike with all weapons at the direction of the road.
Enemy accomplished a breakthrough on the 7rh Coy sector on both sides of the road.
Btn CO order to disengage and withdraw delaying to the direction of Onkamus village. Disengagement happened immediately. Delaying positions were set up immediately behind the village, on the pylon hill and deeper in the rear at the road, the last ones at the perimeter of Onkamus village.
The following units participated in the battle of Rapavaara:
II/JR33: 5.K, 6.K, 7.K, I/8.K, mortar platoon
One Squad of Sappers
17 KIA, 38 WIA, 9 MIA.
The last outfits (of 6th Coy ) crossed the Kivatsujoki river. The Battalion was subordinated to JR33.
(end of day)
Due to the lockout of public libraries it has not been possible to check Pres. Koivisto's memoirs to see what he told about this battle in which he definitely participated.
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Two cases of divine protection
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 10, 1961
Lukkarinen's outfit was another Detached AT Platoon which were set up in a training center in Hämeenlinna during the latter phases of the Winter War as fast as imported or captured AT guns were available. Few war diaries have survived.
War was being fought at Viipuri in the first days of March 1940. We had been assigned to JR15 in the front line for more than a week now and in the dark evenings and nights we had been moving about as if in moonlight because light was reflected from the constant fires raging in the town, caused by enemy bombardment.
I and Einari Sikanen from Sakkola had been in sentry duty at our AT position all day until at dusk another pair of sentries arrived to relieve us. The long stints of duty were practised to avoid unnecessary exposure to shelling since the distance to our shelter was about one kilometre.
We set out for our shelter that was said to been an accommodation for hospital personnel during peacetime. Since the enemy kept on shelling despite darkness we jogged on all the way up the Heinjoki road, Sikanen ahead of me. On the road through the hospital park I slowed down to walking pace and my pal did likewise. Suddenly a shell burst at a large fir of the park which broke like a carrot. Just before this we had spotted three men on their skis under the fir, having a smoke. We run there at once and a third man arrived, too. Actually there was nothing to do for us, because of those three men only one was able to speak his last words to his Lieutenant:
-Send my things in my backpack home and my last regards to my dear old mum, let her know that this was it. There the life third young soldier was finished. We bared our heads for prayer to honour the three men who had made the supreme sacrifice for their Fatherland.
Thinking back on this case I often pondered in what miraculous manner the Providence protected the Undersigned during the days of the Winter War in hundreds of incidents. If we had hurried more during our return that day we would have shared the fate of those three men.
Some days later we were getting ready in the morning dusk for an all-day stint in the front line. I was ordered to join two “leaders”, Corporals H. Hyvönen (from Pöljä) and A. Heikkinen (from Lapinlahti). Our AT gun position consisted of a gun pit by a huge boulder just next to a road. The boulder provided cover from weather and fire, and also a good view to the terrain in front of us. Our AT gun was at hand but nothing special happened at daybreak, just normal roar of artillery fire. Shelling appeared to get more intense the higher the sun climbed over the line of the forest. Then the enemy as if woke up into feverish activity. It was as if all the spirits of Hell would have been let loose, roar and crashing increased into a fever pitch. This of course implied another attack at our sparsely manned line
Soon some men were sneaking about our position and as they told us they were pulling back we three had a problem. What to do, our CO, 2nd Lt. Raunto found himself in our shelter and there was a diabolic steel storm between us and him! Who would take the message to the Lieut in that storm, of course it felt safer to stay next to a big rock than move on the open ground.
Well, it is not hard to guess that a Private runs when ordered by two “leaders”! I explained my designed route to them so that they should be able to follow my track in case they would have to leave before the Lieut arrives. Then I set off. I dashed from one boulder to another, run the distances between them and again dashed.
I had planned to have a rest at a stone that was visible in our position but having reached it I saw that it had been occupied until a moment ago. There was an unmanned MG but I had no time to ponder about the matter, I just left a silent man next to his weapon and kept dashing as fast as a young man is able to. It was a heavy and sweaty journey that appeared to last an eternity while iron was falling on the rocky ground as if dry peas would have been poured. But I felt better as I was approaching our shelter. By dashing and bouncing I arrived happily at my destination, once more having survived a steel storm.
This time we were sheltered in the kitchen of the hospital pig-sty that had appeared to be a safe abode with its meter thick stone walls. I sat down on a stool, panting, while explaining Lieut Raunto the situation. I did not manage to say anything more before a tremendous pressure wave made the doors fly open. I collapsed on the floor. The next second there was an ear—splitting explosion and our allegedly safe shelter was filled with a dense burst of smoke, dirt and pieces of stone. We saw nothing for a while.
Finally the rumbling of stones ended but smoke and dust of dirt still filled the space. Then I heard the voice of our Lieut:
-Anybody alive here?
It was an extreme miracle that all seven of us were alive, but – of our shelter, nothing was left. The meter thick stone wall had been crumbled by an aerial bomb! The walls had vanished in thin air! The first bomb had hit on the yard, opening the doors and the second one had landed just next to the wall. No one had suffered as much as a scratch.
Was this not another proof of divine protection? One whose number is not up was protected. It was one hundred per cent more wonderful than modern rocket tests by humans.
Having survived the bombardment and after shelling had eased down a little our Lieut set out find out about the front line situation. It was not different from the morning, so the deserting men had been talking nonsense. Next night we sought a little better position for our gun and found a new shelter in the cellar of a slaughterhouse.
Last input 2020 spring, gardening takes all my time now until winter.
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Shelling directed with cheese boxes at Someri
Journal Kansa Taisteli, 10, 1961
Stronghold Someri was manned by III/RTR 12.
The rocky island of Someri is situated next to the middle of the Gulf of Finland about 20km SSE from our outermost Finnish WW2 coastal fort of Ulko-Tammio. The distance to the Soviet held Lavansaari was about as much. (60-12-40 N, 27-38-60 S). The island is 900 m long from W to E and in width varying from 100 to 300 m.
After the failed Soviet attempt to capture the island in 1942 the life on the island had become quite monotonous, without any variation or any entertainment. Only the sound of waves breakeing on the rocky coastline and the silhouettes of other islands far away reminded us of the existence of the rest of the world.
However, our enemy kept us in contact with our daily life on earth byh shelling at times our island with their long-range 5” guns [actually 130mm, tr.rem.] and by occasionally airdropping us their actual first hand news, but with too much noise for our liking.
Since our own long range guns were unable to retaliate due to the range, the challenge provided by Lavansaari remained a soliloqy. We had to accept the fact that we could only resort to passive countermeasures, and we did by the by adapt to some kind of co-existence with Lavansaari.
On the rocky soil of Lavansaari an enemy 5” shell had a wide range of effect due to splinters and rocks thrown by the burst, consequently alert to take cover was much necessary. An alert was launched when one of the two sentries kept constant observation to the direction of Fort Lavansaari, and spotting a muzzle flame immediately sent order to take cover. The trajectory time for a shell in a 20 km range was about 62 seconds, enough time to enable taking cover.
To make the alerts better heard, the one-ton fog bell of the destroyed Narvi lighthouse was retrieved from the island that now was no-man's land, the operation was led by the stronghold C/O Capt. Åholm. The bell was hung just behind the sentry post and the cord was placed within the reach of the sentry. Now alerts were issued quickly and effectively. The bell could be heard even in strormy weather despite the noise of the sea at every quaarter of the island.
Soviet fire was mostly accurate and often it happened that the very first shell hit our island. To prevent the enemy observation a smokescreen launching network was constructed on the South shore. Depending on the wind different smoke generators could be fired from the observation tower. Creation of a smokescreen, however, took some time and some wind directions prevented it totally. As soon as a smokescreen was total, Lava.nsaari would stop shellling, restarting as soon as the smokescreen had dissipated.
Our best defence method was however to control the shelling by Lavansaari by ourselves, as odd as this may sound.
Our food rations included daily some processed cheese, supplied to the fort in wooden boxes of four kilos. These boxes were reused when empty. One kgm charge of Amatol was placed in a box topped with dirt dug from the cracks of the rock. When exploded the box created a fairly realistic reproduction of the strike of a shell fired by Lavansaari, even so credible that when testing them a sentry set off a smokescreen believing that it was an enemy shell.
When observing at a range of 20 km from Lavansaari the Russians without hesitation considered these discharges as their own, specially as they were triggered a few seconds before the real shell landed. The box charges were placed in suitable spots on the S slope of the island, visible to the observation from Lavansaari. Someri island is rising fairly high at both ends thus masking from the observers on Lavansaari every too long shot.
As Lavansaari started again their usual harassment shelling, fake hits were discharged by us on the S shore in suitable spots. Being better visible to Lavansaari the resut was that their shelling was adjusted lenght-wise. This went on until the shells fired by Lavansaari were in our opinion hitting at a safe distance, that is about one kilometer N of our island.
Next we discharged the bang-boxes in the terrain of the observation tower and our battery next to it, usually the main target of the Russian fire activities. Now Lavansaari really opened up, firing a strike of dozens of shells – over the island while our men were watching the fireworks at the door of their dugouts, smiling.
Once a sentry by accicent discharged fake hits at the E side of the island while Lavansaari was aiming at our stronghold on the W side. The rsult was that the next volley hit about ½ km W of the island. Casualties by enemy shelling at Someri comprised in two years one KIA and three WIA.
Finally our opponent got wise about our clever assistance to their F.O.O., but still we were constantly able to confuse their observations so that the eagerness of Lavansaari to shell us was considerably diminished. They would fire single brief strikes with haphazard accuracy.
So, the processed cheese, consumed by us in great quantity, created some useful side effects.
Extracts from the Someri war diary:
01.25hrs One green flare bearing 142deg.
05.45hrs AA shooting bearing 184 deg
09.00hrs Weather (blank line)
09.29hrs Enemy launched harassment shelling, firing 18 shells, one of which seen from the tower was about 300m short of the coastline, another about 20m over , a third short, about 10m SE of the tower and the rest 15 hits were 50 to 400 m over seen from the tower..
Smokescreen was launched at 0934hrs but due to too strong wind it was not quite uniform. Yet it made the emeny interrupt several times. Smoking was ended at 1122hrs.
Two windows of the turret were broken.
Before midnight enemy patrol boats patrolling at Lavansaari.
Aerial activities: 4 enemy missions. 10 a/c.
(End of day)
13.43hrs Enemy launched harassment shelling from Lavansaari, 12 shells fired, 6 of which hit home. One in front of the tower, 500m short, one in the direction of the turret. Two hits on the N shoreline. 2 hits at Länsijyrkkä (the W tip of the island) , 500 to 600 m over. One hit at the Länsijyrkkä isthmus well, 20 to 30 m S of the tower. One at the Länsijyrkkä ishtmus direction 300m over, one hit at the cellar, one hit in the park, two 50m over in the direction of the tower. Shelling ended at 1425hrs.
13.46hrs Smokescreen launched and maintained unti 1442hrs. Too strong wind hampered smokescreen development.
07.23 to 07.29hrs Lavansaari launched harassment shelling fing 10 shells, of which the first one about 200m short, the rest 100 to 200 m over in the direction of Länsijyrkkä isthmus No damage.
07.25hrs Smokescreen launched at Reuna
08.20hrs Six smoke pods lit by thunderstorm and they burned for 5 min.
19.23hrs to 19.56hrs Lavansaari Ristiniemi battery fired at our island 11 shells of which 3 short, 1 hit and 7 over. No damage. Smokescreen was launched. Three short fake hits were fired, deceiving the enemy to add elevation so the hits were even more over.
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Do not let the devil across
“Kansa Taisteli”, 10/1961
The author was a F.O.O. Team man of I/ KTR16, subordinated to 3.D at Uhtua. The day must have been 14/15th August 1941, and location at Vuoninen village.
It was a stifling hot day in the first half of August 1941 More likely July, tr.rem]. There was no trace of cloud on the sky, no wind whatsoever in the air shimmering with heat. Nature appeared to be still, waiting for a storm, and the soldiers had joined the wait. It was a hard slog through a difficult terrain and the air, thick with smoke sucked the juice out of the toughest men. Struggling up and down on steep rock y slopes the men appeared to be concentrating all their attention in staying up. Soft, sinking bogs and almost impenetrable bushes did not provide any refreshment. This god-forsaken wilderness was being baked by the blood red sun through the smoke created b y forest fires.
A surrounding manoeuvrer was being carried out since the enemy was unwilling to abandon the village of Vuonninen [Voiniza] just like that. They had entrenched themselves well N of the village with an apparent intent to stay there.
A small F.O.O. Squad of KTR16 stopped on a low hill. The visibility was poor in every direction because the low bush was as dense as possible. We had not reached our objective and would not get there since suddenly we heard intense firing breaking out to the left from us. Judging by circumstances a premature firefight was going on there. Ghostly silence had ended. Our tension appeared to have relieved or then our senses were just numbed because we were tired men in any case. Our bread pouches contained just cartridges, nothing else, doing nothing to relieve our pangs of hunger, just adding to it. Our radio operator was desperately trying to establish contact. Sweating he was busy with his apparatus.
Of course we are depending on that damn radio, that cannot reach even our command post!.. The idea came into my mind unexpectedly, and it was obvious that bad luck was haunting us still. Our mission would fail, we could now guess that. A Runner of the infantry battalion confirmed our doubts when he informed us:
-Contact the F.O.O. Position, telephone connection is cut off, there are enemy patrols on our incoming route, our left wing has contacted enemy manning, right wing is not secured, we need help.
-I am afraid there is going to be a panic, 2nd Lt. Varheenmaa commented with some irony while shrugging shoulders.
-We shall report to the Battalion as soon as we have made contact with them. We are doing our best.
-We are in trouble now, brother. Come here, he beckoned to me, we have to find a better place.
He took a slightly doubting glance at the men lying on the ground.
-You heard the situation report, keep your eyes open, I shall probably not return, act on your own, we have to liaise.
A benevolent grin spread on his face, that appeared to cheer the men up a little, because a cold truth garnished with a joke always had a sympathetic reception. I, for one, forgot for a while my empty stomach and hurting heel, but only for a moment. As soon as I took the first step I was aware of them.
We proceeded quietly some distance. Then the Lieutenant stopped, pulled a map out of his pocket and handed it over to me saying:
- You have to take the message to the C.P. Although I am perfectly well aware what that implies taking into account your condition, but I have no choice. I cannot abandon the men.
- I shall make it alone , if the fate wills it.
We went on in silence for a while, then I bumped into the Lieut in front of me. Unnoticed by me he had stopped and was now crouching, as if preparing to jump. Instinctively I copied his example. That what we instinctively had all the time expected and unconsciously feared was now a fact. On the left and ahead there was some cracking and silent talking, maybe commands. Inadvertently I cursed aloud. That reactivated my pal, he turned to me and whispered:
-That is what my dream implied.
-The crude tone of his voice and his pale face surprised me. As far as I remember I had never seen Lieutenant Varheenmaa that serious.
-Head for the bend of the river, then there is a straight line on the map from there to the C.P. Do whatever you think necessary, I have to get back, I still can make it. Hide, for G-d's sake!
His hastily uttered last words were still ringing in my ears even though my pal had disappeared from my view. I stood there for a moment, as if paralysed, listening and watching. In front of me I saw a big boulder, as if thrown by a giant father. It had split in two, providing an excellent cover for a Finnish soldier. I crept in the crack. It was an excellent hideout because a dense juniper bush masked the other end of the crack. I was sure that no one would spot me unless someone had the idea to come in here for their business.
Without blinking an eye I started watching the show unfolding in front of me. From the bush entered men in brown tunics, an endless file. They are heading for this spot, why the heck do they not take a detour past the rock... I started hearing my pulse at my temples strangely loud, I supported my SMG at my left arm and prepared for the worst. I heard rustling behind me and sunk deeper in the grass in the cover of the juniper bush. Soon I realised why they were coming that way: they are short-cutting the bend of the river, they are in the process of manning the river beach.
I knew I was saved now, being left outside of at least this line. I do not think I ever have sighed with more earnest relief than at that moment. I found myself stroking the cold black metal of my SMG and I wondered if any mother ever stroke the cheek of her first baby with more tenderness than I devoted to this inanimate object. I cannot tell how many men passed by me but there were a lot of them. Later Lt. Varheenmaa commented: “almost hell of a lot”, a good estimate in my opinion.
I was waiting patiently until I found that finally the file of enemies had ended. There was no time to waste reconsidering the situation, I just crept out of my hole, flat as a bed-bug. I was the only messenger, everything could depend on my being successful. I forgot my exhaustion, my heel and almost everything else. Soon I felt the typical damp smell of the river and after a while I saw it in front of me, black and menacing. There was no time to look around for anyone. Carefully I waded into the river, my heavy breathing was about bated as the cold water rose up to my waist. I feared to hear a shot any moment, because I was now an ideal target in the middle of the river. Yet nothing happened, not a sound anywhere
I trained my eyes at the covering shadows of the opposite shore, a couple of strides more and I would have passed the deepest spot of the river. Suddenly I felt a void under my heart, my belly appeared to fall down to the bottom. A nastily whining ricochet had passed overhead. I tried to convince myself that I was like a small nervous kid who now had to be calmed down. I managed to calm my mind while crawling up the river embankment. However, the riskiest part of my journey was still ahead, because the line, drawn on the map by the Lieutenant passed damn close to the enemy, almost touching their line.
I attempted to hurry up even though the pain in my heel had become ever more intense, now that I was wet. Moreover, I could not be sure if I was able to stay in course because shadows had grown longer and my eyes were getting dim. I kept stumbling on, falling flat time and again, my knees appeared to be failing, in short, I was totally exhausted and a kind of sleep-walker.
There was a gentle rocky slope ahead. My instinct warned me, but I kept pushing on, my senses numbed. I tread on a loose round stone and fell down. There was a searing pain on my right knee because I had knocked it against a sharp edge of a stone. The same moment I rather sensed than heard or saw a tremendous crack. Angry sparks were flying from the stones next to me. I had run almost in the arms of the enemy. They, too, were totally surprised, I think. I got a hold of my SMG and aimed a long burst at the weapons nest. I jumped up as my weapon quit. I felt I was rolling, my leg was all numb and I was no able to move it. Feeling my knee I got blood in my hand.
It took an eternity before I had made it to the C.P. I cannot recall the final stages of my journey. I just remember the commotion. My story must have been convincing because I remember how a tall clumsy man got up and headed with his hands outstretched at the phone set next to a birch. I heard him say, poetically, in a bass voice:
-Do not let the devil pass!
The words had a solemn tune. I could have sworn that the Battalion CO Capt E. Pasanen enjoyed the situation. The next moments were full of tension as Capt. Pasanen delivered fire commands in person. The first to fire were the 3” split trail guns, all our other guns joined in while the heavy Battalion was banging away some distance off. KTR 16 was now firing a barrage, a wonderful piece of symphonic music.
I closed my eyes and leaned exhausted at a tree trunk and listened. I felt shivers in my back. It was not the wet garments or the strain of the journey but a thrilling feeling of well-being. It was an enjoyment to hear our artillery fire. It encouraged and created trust. The breakthrough was successful without problems.
Extract from I/KTR16 war diary:
Weather: half cloudy, +18 deg C
Enemy artillery harassed us all day, no casualties
All available men of the Battalion were putting out forest fires.
21.00hrs Command post shifted about 1 km N of the Kursmajoki bridge.
23.15hrs 2nd and 3rd Battery F.O.O. Teams reconnoitring for positions.
2nd Battery F.O.O. Team is attached to Det. Raninen and 3rd Battery F.O.O. To Det. Salo.
Fire direction telephone exchange was set up near the c.p..
PFC Niemi MIA during a patrol skirmish. Most likely taken POW.
Weather: half cloudy, +18 deg C
01.30-02.00hrs Battaliion fired for attack preparation at Eastern Vuonninen and at the Vuonnisjoki river line.
02.15.02.30hrs Three Stukas raided enemy line, firing intense MG bursts. In the ensuing aerial battle enemy fighters shot down one Stuka.
Crossing Vuonnisjoki was partly successful on the left flank.
05.00hrs Battaliion shelled an enemy F.O.O. Post destroying it.
12.00hrs Battalion harassed enemy lines.
19.45hrs Battalion fired attack preparation in front of Det. Ylönen
21.10hrs By the order of the Battalion CO barrages were fired at the Vuonnisjoki line to prevent eventual enemy counter-strikes
22.38hrs Enemy launched a counterstrike which was repelled. Our fire was very efficient here.
Gunner Lahdenoja wounded.
76K 574 shells
122H 105 shells
Extract from KTR 16 war diary.
Report on Regimental communications
Rgt CO has had three sorts of radio communications with the Battalions
I/KTR16: Communication by Helvar C- Helvar B RL 10 with Morse code. The first one being lighter was in use for Capt. Pasanen. Communication was hindered, at times prevented, strongly by radio problems in the Helvar C.
Rask.Psto 16 was equipped with old C transceivers. Contact established before Capt. Lepisto started but since the advancing started no contact was made due to the weak power of the transceivers, the terrain and the poor condition of the transceivers.
III/KTR16 was equipped with new Telefunken artillery transceivers. Communication was excellent all the time, excluding the time Capt. Alm was on the move, both spoken and Morse, speaking over microphone or throat mic.
Distance varied from 4 m to 10 km, spoken messages heard all the time.
On the N sector the infantry advance was stalled at the Vuonnisjoki river line in the night 14/15.7.1941. In the small hours the enemy launched a strong counter-attack that forced the infantry to retreat. The counter-attack suppression was participated by I/KTR16. The counter-attack was so strong that our positions at Vuonnisjoki were about to break. The effective action by I/KTR16 saved the day, however.
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- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Military policeman in Winter War
11._SpK was deployed at Kemijärvi instead of Kuhmo, the info provided by the author must be erroneous. Very few SpK diaries exist, nothing was found to confirm the story.
My experiences of our wars shall remain in my memory maybe to the very end of my life. My war started as I volunteered in the early days of December in 1939 and I took off my field gray garments on 12th November 1944. During the intermediate peace I was granted a two month furlough for joining up as a volunteer. What a lot of incidents happened during these years. Yet my luck was such that I survived with my skin whole from the beginning to the end. My health was perfect, so as an infantryman and a NCO I had to go through all that a man can in his outfit.
I shall recount an incident of the Winter War.
I felt the first smell of death at Suomussalmi in January 1940. My outfit then was the 11th [?] Military Police Company led by Capt. Eino Kaipainen (a police officer who became a successful actor, tr.rem.). The most exciting incident happened in Kuhmo, behind Lammasselkä near Saunalampi.
Saunalampi was a small lake in the middle of a lake, next to it there was a small field, a couple of hectares wide. There had been a forest warden's house there, now only ruins of it were left. A cow shed and a barn next to it had not burned down, and there was a poor small granary huddling in the cover of the forest.
The cow shed was being used now as a kind of storage space. The barn was empty, small and made of hewn logs. There was a small hatch in one of the walls. The door was old and weather-beaten, hanging on wooden hinges. We were using this shack as our temporary quarters. At night-time we had a sentry post at the edge of the forest, and our securing ski track ran to the right from there.
Now it was a clear February day. Enemy air activities went on, bombs kept falling from the sky. There were aircraft diving and pulling up. Their noise was tearing our ears. A supply outfit housed in a nearby patch of forest took heavy casualties, men and horses were killed, even a field kitchen was damaged and became unusable.
There were four of us lads shivering with cold in that shack of a barn, there was no way to warm up and the temperature must have been about -30 deg C. We were trying to keep concealed from the enemy aircraft that kept bombing and strafing.
Suddenly the rumbling was cut off. We were surprised by the silence but at the same moment we started hearing noise of skiing rubbing the snow and squeaking of ski sticks. Peeking from the hatch I saw nothing. I heard just babbling and clattering. I opened the door just a little and to my horror I found that we were in the middle of a group of enemies, actually surrounded by them. They were milling about and some were already nosing in the small barn while more of them were skiing in our way on the open ground.
I pulled my mug out of the door crack and before the door was slammed shut, a burst of fire hit the door already. I got some small splinters in my eyes because they were smarting. I dropped down at the wall and was so scared that I had problems in breathing. I pushed myself lower, pawing the straw below me. With a sigh of relief I found that the enemy bullets and bursts were passing overhead. The rocks supporting the wall and the rising ground outside covered us quite well.
Yet out situation was quite dire. Penttilä, lying prone next to me, whispered:
-We shall not be taken alive.
He pulled his pistol that he had brought from the civilian life. A pull of the slide, switch off the safety – turn off life.
My past life was flashing in front of my eyes, I caught a glimpse of my father and mother, too. I was sure that the death was not far – it would be just a matter of moments when it would take us, at the same time I was bitter: should my life end so soon. Yet I encouraged Penttilä at my side:
-Not yet, we don't have to, actually!
I kept glancing at the hatch in the wall, fearing that soon a hand grenade would be tossed in. I regretted not having blocked it but it was too late now. We fired through the walls a few times but found it useless since we could not see anything. Suddenly the enemy firing stopped and again the wintry ground outside started squeaking. We could hear whispers and sounds of sneaking outside. We decided that whatever would happen, we must soon make an attempt. Nothing was seen through the hatch, the door was ajar and we saw just packed snow and clear air.
Next three, four or more bayonets mounted on rifles approached the door and it was being forced open with them. The door was not totally opened before we gave a volley. The men coming in dropped down . We bounced up and rushed out. While dashing I pushed another cartridge in the chamber, pointed my rifle at the chest of the nearest enemy and he fell limp rearwards. The next one was just ducking behind a pile of manure and aiming at me. I was sure that I did not have time to shoot. It was just a miracle that I did manage to fire first and even hit in a situation where your life was depending on tenths of a second.
There were targets for each of us aplenty. I fired the magazine of my rifle empty and started running to the edge of the forest with wild strides. When dashing I was hoping not to take a hit yet, at least not in my legs. The enemy was firing at us as fast as they could so that snow was flying about around us.
There was a ditch at the edge of the forest – I dived there as fast as I could – I had been saved from the worst. I was puffing like a steam engine. I reloaded my rifle. Cold snow was melting in my hands as if on a hot stove. While loading I thought that now, you devils, are going to get as much as I am able to give you, I am no more within the range of your bayonets.
I crawled from the ditch under a fence in the cover of the forest, behind a hummock and pushed the barrel of my rifle through a crack in the fence. I heard someone next to me say:
-Oh man, did you see him make a somersault! It is a wonder really that I was the faster one -
It was Mikko Välitalo on his knees behind the fence, firing as fast as he could:
I asked him:
-Where are Pietilä and Piirainen, are we all saved ?
I warned Välitalo:
- Put your head down, can't you see that there is a LMG at the corner of the cow shed?
The very same moment a burst swept the snow off from the stakes of the fence
In war it is just an enjoyment when having escaped bayonets one has a chance to look through his sights without haste at the bayonet wielders. This situation provided us the pleasure, because now there were targets so well available that it is seldom possible. We found ourselves in the forest and the enemy on open ground at a range of one hundred meters. Enemy was seeking cover in the ditches and willow bushes growing on the edges of the ditches. We kept banging away and soon there was some movement behind us, we were getting help.
The situation continued by the by until morning. At sunrise we set out to check the barn surroundings. Corpses were lying all over the place. Pietilä pointed at one and said:
-That one did not die at once, but was pointing a pistol just at your back with his last forces but I managed to intervene. Without my help you would not be walking here.
A minor band of enemies surrendered at the dusk of the dawn. The entire enemy outfit had comprised some sixty men.
For our feat Capt. Kaipainen gave us a warm handshake for a job well done. Then he gave each of us a small gift and regretted that he had nothing better to give.
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- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Sub against sub
Journal "Kansa Taisteli", 11, 1961
The author was a torpedo NCO of a sub.
Finnish navy submarine Iku-Turso was patrolling on Ahvenanmeri (part of Baltic between Sweden and Aland islands) on 26 October 1942. I was sitting in the conning tower of the sub as an order relayer and logbook updater.
At 19.40hrs my attention was alerted by the words spoken in the communication tube:
-Oh heck how big she is – really, oh my, how big she is!
I started getting up from my cramped position in front of the forward periscope, the floor space being some less than a quarter of a square meter. At the same moment I heard clanking as the Madsen gun was cocked and then a command:
-Tower, battle alert!
The Madsen opened up. I already had my hand on the alert button and was able to make the men búsy. There indeed was commotion. Some men climbed past me on the tower deck while others headed for the battle direction space. I found it hard to find a place at all.
The “big one” was an enemy sub that had surfaced some distance in front of us, then passing us at a distance of some 20m. The hull and the conning tower sides were flashing as 20mm shells exploded or the tracer projectiles pierced the plate. The very moment the enemy dived and so escaped the final shootout.
The enemy sub was painted gray, of the newest model and almost 100m in length [sic!]. Her deck armament was at least twice more powerful than ours [sic!]. The Finnish sub was in colour black as the dark autumn night so that the enemy most likely did not see more than the Madsen muzzle flame.
When the enemy sub had dived we followed her on surface run aided by hydrphone. We heard her operate her pumps every now and then, judging by that she had taken some extra holes. Then we were misled to follow another vessel running along the Swedish coast but soon we found our prey again and did not lose her again.
A little before midnight the radio operator reported that now the sub is surfacing since copmressed air is hissing into her tanks. At once we proceeded at maximum speed to the bearing indicated by the radio operator. There we caught sight of that large sub silhouetted against northern horizon which as for our pleasure was clear and free of cloud. We had the sub on a platter.
At that moment, two minutes to 2400hrs at the polite request of our CO both bow torpedoes were launched at the enemy sub. Actually it did not take long to fulfill his request, because at the right moment at the order of the skipper some buttons were pushed and both torpedoes set out each with a 210 kg payload of compressed death. One and a half minutes past midnight one torpedo hit the enemy behind the conning tower.
A handsome flash was seen together with a water column of 40 to 50 m in height – ten seconds later nothing more.
The battle was over. Actually before the torpedo hit our deck gunners had a chance to blast at the enemy with the main gun a few times. Then we were occupied in defining the location of the sinking and observing if more enemies would appear. Hovever, the sky was now totally overcast and the night was darker than black. I had a chance to get on the deck for a moment. I sensed at once that the was a smell of diesel fuel in the air. I informed the officers about it. We tried to see the sea surface nearby for any floating oil but we must have passed the spot because nothing was seen.
I returned to the rear torpedo compartment. In case we would need more torpedoes, I should be there and ready because the rear ones were my responsibility. Senior Torpedo NCO Simo Karvonen was in charge of the bow torpedoes which had performed well.
Having been in the rear the communication tube nest to me squeaked. I answered and received an order:
-Kukkonen on the deck to smell the sea wind!
I did that but my nose was now helpless because we had been running on diesels for some time and there was such a stench of diesel fumes on the stern deck that my sense of smell was blocked out.
It was not until at dawnbreak that we found the spot with a large oil spill visible a long way. In the middle of the spill there was a spot where oil was rising to the surface in a thick funnel like flow. Our sonar indicated 150m depth, that meant that no one would be coming up alive.
Two weeks before the Vesihiisi had torpedoed an enemy sub and taken as many as four POWs. Anothr two weeks from our incident the Vetehinen sunk another enemy sub by ramming her. The bow of the Vetehinen resembled the open mouth of a shark after the attack.
Iku-Turso: 490 brt, 63 m length
Deck armament: 1x76mm, 1x20mm
Cdr.Capt. Eero Pakkala
Victim: Щ-320, 590 brt, 57m length
Deck armament : 2 x 45mm
Above data source: Wikipedia
Extract from the Iku-Turso logbook:
0825hrs Arrived at Maarianhamina.
1200hrs Departure to anti-submarine patrol together with sub Vetehinen on the Åland sea.
1345hrs Started search by using hydrophones in co-operation with the Vetehinen.
1700hrs Received by short range radio the order by Submarine flotilla: Run by the N limit of the patrol area to Maarianhamina. The Vetehinen stayed according to her previous orders at the strait on the line Tjärnen – Flötjan.
1737hrs Heading N (360º).
1930hrs Arrived at point N=60º04,5' E=19º04') where we turned left (sic!) bearing 100º.
1940hrs Battle alert. We spotted an enemy sub about 100m in front of our bow, running in direction about 320º. She passed us at a range of about 30m to our left. (sic!). Fire was opened with the Madsen auto-cannon. Plenty of hits scored. A total of 50 shots were fired. After the shooting the enemy boat was not seen any more. Probably she had dived. Sonar contact was not immediately established.
2030hrs Enemy was picked up by sonar and we started pursuing her.
2351hrs Enemy sub surfaced in the direction indicated by our sonar. Top speed ahead was ordered and we steered at the enemy bow first.
2355hrs Enemy totallly surfaced, , course E.
23.58hrs A double torpedo shot was fired from the bow tubes. Sight adjustment data: Velocity 12 knots, target ange= 100º. Aiming angle 16º.
Approach was continued.
0000hrs Fire was opened with the Bofors gun, [76mm, tr.rem]. 5 shells fired.
0001.15hrs Torpedo hit observed at the enemy sub midship, at the rear of the conning tower. Enemy sunk rapidly. We kept running to the sinking spot with maximum speed. The sinking spot was not detected immediately.
0130hrs The Vetehinen arrived at the spot.
0240hrs Sinking spot detected: a large oil slick with more oil still rising at the S side.
0315hrs Departed for Maarianhamina. The Vetehinen stayed on the spot.
0544hrs Arrival at Maarianhamina.