Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
Hosted by Juha Tompuri
Posts: 852
Joined: 29 Aug 2009 02:21

Re: Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944

Post by igorr » 02 Sep 2013 05:40

Waralbum is infamous for errors in his photo's subscriptions.

Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944, Melansaari

Post by Lotvonen » 16 Nov 2015 15:27

Here is an account by a defender of Melansaari in July 1944.

A Day in Melansaari Island
by Iikka Raja
Journal Kansa Taisteli 1964, vol.8

(It was July 1944, Gulf of Viipuri in the Eastern Baltic sea. The Soviet offensive had reached the Gulf of Viipuri from the East. Expecting invasion Finnish commanders of coastal defence wanted to keep the islands of Teikari and Melansaari off Vilaniemi to deny the enemy a stepping stone to the mainland. Battles on the islands caused heavy losses to both sides, because both the invader and defender were fighting with their back to water. The author was an infantry squad leader, Corporal. [No other information is available from him.] Tr. rem.).

The first enemy attempt to take the island of Teikari had been repelled on the night of 30 June/1 July. The remains of our 16th Coastal Defence Company of Coastal Artillery Regiment 2 had been placed to Melansaari. less than 1km North as a reserve for the actual defence forces.

We had set ourselves up as comfortably as possible without tents or any other comforts. There was one British tent but most of our men had to do with shelters made of spruce branches.

The Company on the island comprised some fifty men including two officers. The supply units had been left in the mainland as we had left for Teikari and they did not catch up with us in Melansaari.

Pvt. Antero Tähkäpää, the orderly of our Company Commander, Lt. Toimi Hoikkala had visited the mainland and he brought me my personal property: a haversack containing all that I had been able to keep during the retreat through the Carelian Isthmus.

It was morning of the 4th of July 1944. Lt. Hoikkala had rallied his men to read us a piece of encouragement sent from higher-ups , which the rank and file could not care less. It was just some review of the past and look in the future. I listened with little attention: I was more interested in the engine noise from the sea, approaching the coast and Teikari island.

Lt. Hoikkala's reading was cut short by an artillery barrage descending on Melansaari and us.

We had dug foxholes next to our camp and now they proved useful. I jumped in the nearest one and it was quite a fall: There was a two meter tall lad in my squad and he did know how to dig. There was no stop during which he did not dig a foxhole. We used to laugh at them, because of their depth and placement. I am still wondering how such a tall man was able to dig such a deep and narrow hole: a man standing on the bottom was not able to touch the rim. This man did not trust any other foxhole than his own, so soon three-and-a-half ells of bones in army uniform fell on me. With a wonderful skill he slid to the bottom of the foxhole, and soon I saw the Pfc "stripe" on his shoulder shake as if in malaria. The man did not claim the hole all to himself, but since the situation seemed to have calmed down a little I climbed out making use of his shoulders to seek myself a new place where to fear.

Having climbed up I took a look around. There was smoke and stink all over. Here and there a man rose out of their holes. From the direction of the sea we could hear shouting and intense infantry weapons fire. Panicking men came in our field of vision, whose Swedish language we managed to interpret enough to find out that the enemy had managed to make a beachhead during the artillery barrage.
- Stand by for counterstrike!- It was Lt Hoikkala's voice and it made the rest of the men to emerge from their foxholes. My stomach contracted. Whose turn will it be today? But we had engaged the enemy before this day, and we were going to do it again now.

The small Company soon got organized, we did not possess much to carry with us. I had my haversack and a gas mask sack which now served to contain SMG magazines and hand grenades.

Off we went.

Melansaari extends to the sea in the shape of a fishtail. An enemy battalion had created a beachhead in the middle notch of the tail and started to advance to the middle of the island. The terrain in the fishtail is boulder strewn pine forest but turns into a bushy meadow toward the center of the island. The meadow then is replaced by a rocky slope closer to the center mass of the island.

We reached just the crest of this rocky slope. The fishtail of the island appeared to be in the hands of the enemy. In front of us, maybe 100 m from us there was a MG firing at the defenders retiring in the bushes.
- Careful, they may be our own! - I heard Lt. Hoikkala say as someone tried to fire at the MG. I fired a burst at the enemy MG nest and continued my run to the other edge of the island. There was a wire fence ahead, I dashed under it. The strap hook of my haversack was stuck in the wire while MG fire lashed at the turfs around me. I used my sheath knife to extricate myself and stuffed the cigarettes from the haversack in my pockets, leaving the rest.

The view ahead from the top of the rock was good and a small group would be able to control the terrain with a LMG. Pvt. Hartikka, a sturdy lad from Pyhtää, placed his LMG at the edge of the rock and Niilo Herneoja, a lad from Loviisa, came to his side to fill his magazines. We were old pals and had been treading the same paths since autumn 1941. Pvt. Hartikka had been on farming furlough as the hard fighting started and we found him at Koivisto as we withdrew. Now we were together again and we had experienced in a matter of a few weeks more than many a man in his lifetime.

So we kept on the firefight for a few hours. After the first flush I had somehow cooled down. I found I was able to freely walk on the rock (under enemy fire, tr. rem.). I advised the lads where to find a better position or where to find drinking water and so on.

My calmness effected the others, too, and with a smile someone wondered if this would be his last day...

As I was walking I suddenly heard a swishing noise, and my instinct made me drop down. At the same moment there was a jolt next to me. There was a small step on the rock and I happened to be below it. The Russians had brought a mortar along and it had been about to get me.

My ears were deaf but I did notice how a MG kept the slope behind me under fire. I rolled downhill. There were shell holes at the boundary of the rock and the meadow, and one of them provided cover for me. The MG jet had followed me and was not blasting at the earth ahead of me. The protective gravel mound decreased centimeter by centimeter, and I would soon be caught by the ripping jet.

I bent my legs for a leap and as soon as the MG jet had swept over me, I leaped in the opposite direction. I run uphill leaving the jet behind me, it followed me but it was short all the time.

There was a boulder at the edge of the hillside, and I managed to get in cover behind it. Sgt. Toivo Salo was there engaged in sniping. A mortar shell was dropped to the other side of the boulder.

- Get the heck out of here, he is going to hit a man even in a well with that gadget! I advised Sgt. Salo, but he stayed there. I proceeded. A man was lying at the side of the path next to a tree stump, Pfc. Kitula, a lad from Koivisto, ripped up by a mortar shell. So it was he whose turn was the first...

At the top of the hill I met Lt. Paavo Pitkänen, whom I knew well from the past, he had been at Ino commanding the Light Battery 211.
- What's up? I trust you have a lot of men with you?
- No way, I just came to see as I heard some of my men are here.
- Where is Hoikkala ? Any other officers here? Pitkänen enquired.
- There is one young Second Lieutenant, Ruusuvuori, he arrived yesterday from the (Officer) School.
- Well yes, Näräkkä is coming here with his lads -
- You don't say so, another batch to be killed ?...

Capt. Näräkkä's company comprising men born in 1926 had been fighting already in Teikari. They kept their heads up, but a man who keeps his head up is likely to lose his life.

Soon there was some noise, Capt Näräkkä arrived with his lads, they spread in a line and started advancing immediately, at 1400 hrs.
Lt. Pitkänen suggested that we two could cross the clearing ahead by creeping in the grass at waterfront.
- We can't, the shore is mined, - I told him.

There was a ditch overgrown with willow at the edge of the clearing in front of us, we easily moved at it. Below the slope on the enemy side there was a huge boulder. Angry bursts of LMG fire were coming from its both sides. I told the crowd that was crouching in the ditch to lift their aim at the hillside, then I requested two stick grenades and threw both behind the boulder, dashing after them, followed by the other men. I reached the rock, saw how Capt. Näräkkä dropped on the ground. The enemy was in retreat. Just follow them!

As I was climbing up the hillside Pvt Einar Juslin dashed next to me.
- Listen, now - he was flushed - You should, listen, be a little careful !
- Every man must be careful, if he wants to save his head - no time to waste now, we have to push on as he is in retreat.
- But you have to watch out for that one over there, Juslin said nodding his head to the rear.
- What is it ?
- Summanen has sworn to shoot you! The lads told me to warn you, do not let him behind your back..

Oh, dear God! In a situation like this someone threatens to shoot me in the back. Bitterness filled my mind. In the past sometime I had had to witness against Summanen in a Court Martial, it had happened at Ino.

This is what had happened: A work detail from our Battery had been despatched to dig the foundations for our canteen at Fort Puumala. Two squads were digging while the third was taking a rest. Summanen was mouthing off all the time, as I told him to shut up he just increased his volume. The Army and politicians got their fair share but mostly the NCOs controlling the work. The W/O who was in charge of the work finally had had enough of his lip. Some days later an officer arrived in the Battery to interrogate. The facts could not be denied, but I tried to present favourable details about his service record to his defence. At the end Pvt. Summanen had to do a bout in a "holiday home" (military jail). He considered it was due to my testimony.

- Ah hah - it is the hour of revenge now! I stood up.
- Hell you don't said Juslin
I went to Pvt Summanen.
- Why the heck are you loitering here, get up that hillside, you are needed there
- All right, I am going - the man was avoiding my gaze. I had a nauseating feeling

Pvt. Summanen was creeping ahead of me. I caught up with Pvt. Juslin.
- Let's sweep that cape, he suggested.
- Let's, why not, I agreed. I was walking like dazed.

The cape was unoccupied. An abandoned Finnish tent. a 20mm Madsen lacking its bolt, stretchers next to the tent.

I walked around the tent. A shot rang out, there was a blow at my side. There was one more hole in the tent as well as in my gas mask bag. I knew where the bullet came from. A SMG magazine had saved me.

- Now let's go - I told Juslin.

The bullet was fired from the place we just left from. I looked around to find my stalker but he had gone. At the top of the hill I found Pvt. Pitkänen who had taken two explosive bullets in his chest.

- Don't leave me, take me along!
- We don't, just wait for a moment - I remembered the stretcher at the tent.
- Get the stretcher here, I said to some men and advised where to find it. Pvt. Forsgren, a veteran of our Battery, ran to get the stretcher. Soon Pvt. Pitkänen was lying on the stretcher but his eyes were rolling ominously. He would not make it.

- No amount of clear sense is going to help him. Pvt Pitkänen often used to say "With any clear sense you should be able to get it". Juslen, too, remembered that.

Pvt Forsgren and another man had carried the stretcher to the north shore of the island. As Pitkänen was being loaded in a motor boat he had expired. "He had come only because there were our own lads in the island."

I continued to sweep the slope. No trace of Pvt. Summanen.

Lt Hoikkala with his messenger and some men had sought cover behind a large boulder. A few dozen meters in front of us there was a wall made of stones and turfs. It had been our defensive position but now the enemy made use of it. A LMG nest was situated at the end of the wall at waterfront, and an angry burst of fire emerged every now and then.

I smoked a fag in the shade of a rock and tried to find my composure. I fingered at the bent SMG magazine, weighted it in my hand then at a whim threw it away.

The wall in front of us had ended up under our flanking fire and fell silent. The nest at waterfront, however, was still active. I and Pvt. Antero Tähkäpää approached the nest under the cover of the wall. Antero threw a hand grenade over the edge of the nest - it was a dud! Without waiting he had started dashing at the nest, a shot - ow! He was hit...

I saw how Pvt. Tähkäpää ran back to the rock where we had started. I sneaked next to the nest. A hand grenade, then another, both duds, what a rotten luck, those were my last ones.

I dashed past the nest into the water and found myself behind the enemy. A cocked hand grenade slipped below the man who had been about to throw it and went off there. The expression in the face of the terrified LMG gunner was horrible as he realised he was at the final moment of his life. The third one covered his eyes with his hands. What may he have been thinking of?

Our counterstrike had stalled. Exhaustion, thirst, hunger. I was prone on the crest of the hill behind a tree stump and fired at the rising shoreline.

Twenty meters from us an enemy LMG responded. Next to me, a few meters away, an elderly Sergeant was likewise occupied. I had run out of matches. I asked the Sarge for them and he gave me a box. It must have been the tobacco smoke that gave my position away because I got a flurry of flying moss on my face as I threw back the matchbox. The Sarge laughed as well as I. A close shave!

Not until I was borrowing matches for the third time I noticed that my pal was not smoking at all.
- Have you got any fags ?
- Definitely not - I started thinking that does not that bloke not understand to treat me some !

The Sarge got a cigarette. We felt good, he presented himself as Uuno Taberman, hailing from somewhere near Uusikirkko.

Lt. Hoikkala was organizing a new attack. It did not start at all. The fire in front of us was too dense. Our advance had stalled on the shore ridge like against a wall, and night was falling.

But we had to advance. I asked for hand grenades, got three or four of them and then I went. There on the shore ridge was a big rock and the enemy appeared to have set up some kind of stronghold around it. Let us get them!

Half-way to the target there was a shallow rock that I took as my first objective. As our own fire was as intense as possible, I rose and dashed . Panting, I threw myself in the cover of the rock. Hardly had I hit the ground as there was a crack against the rock. Goddammit! Who did that? The bullet came just like that - I did know why. I glanced behind and saw how a rifle barrel was pulled back behind a tussock.

I could have hailed to Lt Hoikkala and let him know but something was holding me back. Maybe the shame for that sad sack.

I kept the tussock on eye while I pulled the pin of one hand grenade, I prepared a stick grenade, too. I was extremely tense. I knocked the grenade at a stone to ignite the fuse, then threw. I let the stick grenade follow it. The first one went off while the second one was still flying. Both went home. I dashed without waiting for the second explosion. Sand and pebbles were flung against me as I threw myself in the enemy hole.

The enemies were running downhill from the hole. I fired a burst after them. I turned around and was surprised. I was staring at a young boy in the face.

- Where did you come from-?
- I am Torikka from Näräkkä's oufit. Am I not allowed here ? ( He was speaking in Carelian dialect.)
- Welcome. I was amused by the lad's clear round eyes and his high pitched voice.

All right. We found at the edge of the hole some gadgets that the enemy had left behind, I recognised them as some kind of SMGs ( PPSh ). I had seen them before but never had I fired one. I was watching down the slope. As I detected movement in the bushes I pulled the trigger. The gun was about to jump out of my hands. (The author was used to the 6,8 kg M/31 whereas the PPSh weight is 3,67kg, both with full mag. Tr. rem.)

- Ouch, said my pal
- Are you hit?- Where?
- I am, do you see any blood? The lad was pale as bedsheet.
- No blood, where are you hit?
- In the head!
Then we found out that the new weapon had spat out the spent cases against the lad's helmet rim and given him a shock.
A few more lads came in the nest. A paramedic was called for behind us, once more someone had been winged.

I selected a safe route and returned slowly to the top of the slope. Biscuits and marmalade were distributed there, to be washed down with brackish Baltic water.

- Who was the one that was just wounded ? I enquired.
- Summanen.
- Summanen ? How ?
- Just in the arm.
- Where?
- There on the hill.

I went there.

- Where is Summanen ?
- He is taken to the mainland.

I sat down and laid on my back, watching the summer night’s sky. I think I thanked God.
The nightmare that had oppressed me almost for half a day was gone. After my silent moment I got up and examined the spot There was a hole low in the trunk of a spruce, as thick as a man's wrist. It had a message to tell. Two missed shots, maybe more. Many a timid man have been wounded in the left arm. (Shooting through a tree trunk leaves a wound uncontaminated by telltale muzzle blast. Tr. rem.)

I walked down the farther slope of the island. There were men at the abandoned tent. The lads had resorted to getting supplies from the stuff abandoned there. I let them know I did not approve.

- Don't grumble, here is your share! A rucksack was tossed at my feet and a pair of white underpants slipped out. I got interested, I found also a shirt. What about a razor and soap? I did find one and a piece of pine soap.

Then I remembered my haversack, I had a razor and soap there, too. Now there was a chance to reclaim them.

I left to seek my haversack from the spot where I had left it. On my way I met Lt. Hokkala whom I advised to change his underwear. Laughing he refused and advised me to crouch down since there were stray bullets flying around. I disregarded his advise and went on.

I found the wire fence and the spot where I had went under it, but the haversack was gone. Someone had taken care of it. Also my wedding photo from the last May Day was gone.

I wandered to the other side of the beach. Two men were soundly sleeping in the grass. Who is sleeping here while others are fighting? It did not occur to me that I myself was not in the front line. A young Second Lieutenant and a private stood up. I could not care less about their torrent of Swedish language. I undressed, took my shaving kit and waded to a rock rising from the water. Pine soap and sea water made my face smart. It was a tedious job to shave without a mirror. It was not until now that I detected my face was full of small holes. It was my dash after the hand grenades that had caused them. I washed up carefully, put on the clean underwear and was like a new man.

I returned to my men. The situation had not changed. I took my position behind the same stone where I had rushed together with Torikka in the night. It was evident that the beach could not be mopped up without rolling it up. We could absolutely not do without hand grenades.

Lt. Hoikkala had been promised a new shipment of explosives from the mainland and now we were waiting for them. I had suggested Lt. Hoikkala that I would roll up the beach with the lads of the battery but he had rejected my suggestion as impossible without a larger store of hand grenades.

While I was watching the rocky terrain in front of me I heard some noise behind me. A young Lieutenant in neat uniform followed by some men was approaching my position. I beckoned at them, to stay lower. Crouching, they approached. The Lieutenant's face was somehow familiar to me but I was not able to recognise him. The Lieutenant enquired about the situation as he was next to me. I told him all I knew. I now heard that this outfit had been assembled on the mainland and now, on the night of 4th to 5th July was sent as reinforcement to the island, carrying as much hand grenades and satchel charges as they were able to. I at once repeated my suggestion to roll up the beach and volunteered to join them.

The Lieutenant approved of my idea but he did not take me along.
- You are staying here, I was told.

Soon the hand grenades had been distributed along the front line and soon the beach was covered by clouds of explosions. The Lieutenant went "over the top" followed by his men.

Sec.Lt. Ruusuvuori, who had fought like a man despite his young age, climbed next to me.
- Who is that Lieut? I asked
- Why, don't you recognise him, he's Bebbe Storsgrubb. (A nationally famous track and field athlete, Tr. rem.)
- Oh my! And now he is charging among the rocks over there.

I and Ruusuvuori were watching attentively how Storsgrubb would manage. He managed all right. Those enemies that were not killed in their holes stood up and surrendered. In a matter of minutes the beach had been mopped up. It was 06.15 hrs, 5th July.

Later during the day Storsgrubb and Ruusuvuori found an abandoned Russian 45mm AT gun. They dragged it into a position where they could take a shoot at a Teikari island beach where the enemy kept landing troops. Ruusuvuori shouted at me, inviting me to join them. I gave my thanks for the invitation:
- I have a wife, we were wed last First of May, and a lot of children I did not yet father, I am not interested in becoming cannon fodder.

The officers laughed and went on shooting until they ran out of shells.

Then I started scouring the island, seeking for my lads who would fall asleep all over the place. We had been told that the island would be abandoned in the afternoon.

There was the rock that saved me from the MG fire yesterday, and there I found Sgt. Salo. He had stayed there against my advice. He had shared the fate of Pvt. Kitula, a direct hit by a 50mm mortar shell. The only son of a widow was left there. Then I took a look at the Eastern "fishtail" part of the island and got quite a surprise. A Russian gunboat had approached the beach, the range was scarcely 300m.

I started running. At the other edge of the "fishtail" there was an unoccupied 84mm cannon (British 18-pdr, Tr. rem.). I and Ruusuvuori had checked it in the morning. It seemed to be in usable condition. On my way I met Pvt. Miettinen from Merikarvia whom I told to follow me. On our way we met a MG in position on the beach, a couple of LMGs and a number of SMG- and riflemen. Hastily I told them that I was going to the cannon and told them to open fire as soon as the cannon fired its first shot.

A certain catch ! I was imagining anything already. But the finger of Fate interfered. During the entire withdrawal through the Isthmus I had not seen one single friendly plane. Now I did. Three bomber formation approached from the direction of Viipuri, they spotted the gunboat and bombed. Their bombs fell short, I think. The boat left at full speed behind the nearest cape to get cover. I think I let the bombers know what I was thinking.

I never made it to the cannon in time. Pvt. Miettinen joined the men waiting on the beach and I continued my tour on the path along the slope.

On the crest of the hill I saw an odd sight: ten or twelve more or less wounded enemies were sitting on the edge of the rock. A young smooth cheeked Corporal was guarding them, holding his rifle across his knees.

-What are those doing here? Why have they not been shipped to the mainland?
The boy could not say anything, maybe he did not even understand me. He probably was one of the ethnic Swedish outfit.

I beckoned to the prisoners to follow me. They began to get up. I signalled to the Corporal to follow them, and began to lead the group to the sea side of the island.

The prisoners were talking agitatedly, and I managed to understand as much as to find out that their most pressing question was: when were they going to be liquidated?

I tried to explain: "Niet upit - (no kill). Baynou (sauna) - lasaret (hospital) - hlieba (bread) - rabota (work).
- Vot-vot, harasho. The prisoners calmed down.

There was a commotion at the shipping beach. Some older men had reserved the best places to embark the first boat to come. Nervousness was general among the men expecting to get out of the island.

Lt. Hokkala was talking with a couple of Germans (Wehrmacht 122D was holding the mainland coastline opposite to Melansaari. Tr. rem.). He was surprised as he saw my convoy.

- Where the heck did you find them?
- They were at the far end of the island, they have been taken in the morning, and now they must be shipped to the mainland.
- We do not have enough boats for our own men.

A boat arrived at the beach in the same moment.
-There is the boat we need! I told Lt. Hokkala.
- It is a German boat.
- We can use it. I beckoned to the prisoners to get on board. They rushed on board, helping each other.
- Don't, dammit, tell them to get off!
- No way.
I jumped on the bow deck, took a boathook and began to push the boat out . The Germans grabbed the gunwale and climbed on board too.

The boat turned her bow to the mainland. I sat down on the bow deck with the SMG across my thighs. The coxswain seemed to be competent. He also was a monolingual Swede because he only nodded and answered my questions in Swedish. The Germans were sitting on the right hand board of the boat and the Russians on the left side and also on the bottom.

Our voyage was not without mishap. An IL ground attack plane emerged, spotted us and began to strafe us, both incoming and pulling up.

Our life depended on the skill of our coxswain. He did his job in an excellent manner. He turned the boat to the left, to the right, he stopped the boat, then full speed ahead.

I did not feel fear and the coxswain was also calm but there was a carousel around the engine of the boat. The German lads, a moment ago proud men, were going around the engine together with the prisoners, so that their heads touched each other. Oh you old life, how dear you can be!

I exchanged sympathetic glances with the coxswain and we both smiled a little. Yet we made it to the mainland. When ashore, I took my caravan to the command post. There was a shed for prisoners, with some inmates already. One of the Russians asked for pen and paper. Each of them scribbled his name and address on the lid of a fag box. I put it in my pocket but unfortunately it was lost . I left them waiting in the shed at Vilaniemi.

I headed for the main road. Pvt. Niilo Herneoja joined me. There were a couple of fallen electricity poles on the side of the road, we sat down on them and lit up. We felt we had done another good day’s work. Niilo pushed his cap back on his head, then looked at me and said:
- You certainly are a hell of a man!

Those words appeared to come from his heart, I appreciated them more than the promotion to Sergeant and a decoration that I received some days later.

(5284 words)

Posts: 234
Joined: 03 Sep 2011 17:22
Location: St. Petersburg, Russia

Re: Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944

Post by Swing » 18 Nov 2015 06:34

Thank you, Lotvonen. Your translation is a good addition to this subject.

Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944

Post by Lotvonen » 23 Apr 2016 07:27

An account by a defender of Ravansaari in 1944:

Mass swimming event on Viipurinlahti
by Heikki Pohjanpää

Journal “Kansa taisteli” vol.4, 1958

(In June 1944 the squadrons of URR (Uusimaa dragoon regiment) had to withdraw by swimming from Ravansaari to the mainland, a distance of about 1,5 km under constant enemy fire. The author was a Platoon Leader. Kindly refer to map on journal page 113. URR had fought at Kuuterselkä where the enemy broke through the VT line.)

Hardly had our dragoon squadron been re-equipped to full complement and reorganized to battle order for a few days in Säkkijärvi as we again had to engage the enemy. We had been transported by lorries by 20 June 1944 from the battles of the Carelian Isthmus here, West from Viipuri. We had seen for the last time the ancient castle with a blue-white flag flying above it. We were tired out and hungry, but were allowed to get a good night's sleep. Yet some days later the platoons of 4th Squadron/URR were posted to man the islands of Suonionsaari, Esisaari and Ravansaari.

My strengthened Platoon was tasked with defending the Northern shore of Ravansaari island. The command post of the Squadron, led by Lt. Tasa, was situated on the mainland side of the island. We were shipped there by motor boats which had to stay close to shore due to risk of air attacks.

Ravansaari island had been a part of the coastal defence chain of Viipuri before the war. It is separated from Uuras town and harbour by a deep strait, about 100m wide at its narrowest spot. Our island was a part of the main defence line, and we had been given sufficient fire power in case the enemy should take Uuras and try to land on Ravansaari from there. I was given two AT rifles and two MG s in our stronghold, they were placed near the shoreline and aimed across the strait.

The first days at the end of June 1944 passed fairly peacefully. We lived in abandoned fishermen's houses and worked at field fortifications. We joked about our houses and argued whose house was the best. My “address” was Uuraantie 8 if I remember right. The village was built in a clear grid pattern, a novelty for men who had been fighting in forests and swamps.
But our peaceful life was soon ended. From the next day on mortar fire at us was a daily occurrence. The enemy appeared to have a schedule that they stuck to with military precision. In the beginning we soon knew the hour when to seek cover. After some of our houses were hit – betrayed by smoking chimneys – we moved to frontline foxholes and cellars. The sector of my Platoon included some large concrete structures, storage rooms for the old fort, and I set muy command post in one. An artillery fire control radio squad joined me.

Shelling intensified day by day. Enemy soldiers were seen on the opposite shore, even a boat dared to try get across sometimes. Sinking them was an interesting sport for us but as the scale increased it was far from sport. The enemy attacked seriously for the first time on the night of 1 July, supported by strong artillery and mortar fire. We sunk several boats, the AT rifles proved to be excellent weapons against armoured boats, then the enemy granted us reprieve for a few hours. Then they restarted their attack with larger intensity.

In these attacks we once again could see the “slavic” obstinacy and sang-froid typical for the Russians: Despite our intense firing and hits in their boats, the men did not give up their attempt but swam to the shore as their boats sunk – to our side of the strait and hid for hours under a pier that covered them. Also death-defying enemy swimmers took a wire rope across the strait and then used it to tow over armoured boats with the crews lying flat on the boat bottom. In these battles Lt. Viinamäki made the supreme sacrifice as a shell splinter hit the back of this brave soldier. Our losses were quite small when compared with the shelling we had to endure.

Enemy attacked in consecutive waves for two days. On 3 July a group of German officers arrived to take over the defence of Ravansaari. They were from the Division Greif that had been transferred from the Narva front section in Estonia to us. A Hauptmann (captain) stayed in our stronghold to act as F.O.O. In the course of the night I found that the German fire control was far slower than ours, and one observer could only control one single battery only.

The artillery strike that night was truly tremendous. The enemy used not only field artillery but also naval artillery, and concentrated on Suonionsaari island. By the morning we had not been able to get any sleep, and then the enemy air force joined in. Then I guessed that the enemy intended to break through at any cost.

At dawn of 4 July fighting was in full swing already. One bomber squadron after another flies with rumble above, dumping their loads mostly in the sea, artillery and mortar fire are intensified to the extreme and there are boats on the strait, it is covered boats ! A smoke screen descends over the shoreline, AT rifles keep barking their single shots and auto weapons are firing at full rate. Yet the enemy appears to gain a beachhead at the Southern tip of the island. I cannot hear my own voice when giving commands, I have asked for artillery support but we have lost the radio contact. Ever more armoured landing boats and transport vessels appear on the strait. Splinters are flying and howling about, the concrete of the structures is crumbling.

We are in the fire control post watching and following how the situation develops. Suddenly Lt. Tasa's runner comes from the command post. He has run through shelling, he is totally pale, his eyes are inert and he keeps repeating that we have to abandon the island and leave for the mainland.

I give the order to disengange, leave one squad to secure and advise my men to rally on the shore. Shelling is slackening which indicates that the enemy has landed, sounds of SMG fire prove the same. Then I remember the Germans – nobody has, of course, informed them. I shout them the order to disengage, and as they start asking questions I tell them just that it is the order that we received.

Quickly we go to the find all the boats for evacuation to be riddled by shelling. Some of my men try to embark on one but it sinks just a few meters after leaving. I order a calm Corporal with some men to secure our withdrawal. Most of the men undress and start wading... Despite my advise to wait for eventual boats ever more men follow their example. Some boats pass us, the men shout that all the boats are broken and the enemy is ashore... The Germans smash their radio sets and head for the neighbouring stronghold. I order the men to throw their weapons in the sea, I want to wait but the sounds of SMG bursts are approaching. The houses of the village are in flames and ground attack planes are flying above the sea.

Then I order the patrol to get out, dump my weapons and boots in the sea, then I step in the water. I am sure that I shall not be able to swim one and a half kilometers wearing a pullover, a summer tunic and heavy trousers, but I cannot stay on the shore. Ground attack planes are constantly circling above, bombing and strafing the boats. I start swimming and advise the men hastily passing me to swim without haste at a steady rate.

The bomb explosions are felt as pressure waves in the water. I am wondering when the enemy on the island is going to set MG s to strafe at our heads visible above the water.

I have swum some hundreds of meters, the idea of living the last minutes of my life in the back of my mind all the time. Then I hear agonied screams behind and manage to see two swimmers vanish in the deep. It does not make sense to try to save them, they have found their military grave in the waves of the Gulf of Finland. A motor boat arrives, I shout the crew to save the tired swimmers. Some exhausted men are pulled in the overfull boat at the last moment.

What a pleasure to see that my friend Lt. Hanström is among the survivors. He is shouting me something and waving his hand, also the Germans have found refuge in the same boat. I follow that boat for the final few hundreds of meters. As we intend to wade ashore at a cape we are warned against it from another cape: the beach is mined.

Finally we manage to get ashore. We who have swum over are getting hypothermia, and our clothing feels like glued on our bodies. My wrist watch has stopped at 11:45 hrs. My map case with my cash has disappeared. I have seen many of us carry their watch and wallet in their mouth. Our smokes are totally soaked, of course. Someone treats me with a cigarette...

We keep marchin on in the forest under constant threat of air raid, and we were attacked by aircraft a few times. It was an absurd experience. One Platoon of our Squadron was marching almost totally naked, dog tags danging. Passers-by may have found something amusing in this sight but we did not feel like laughing. It was not fun to march barefoot on gravel road in late night after swimming the longest distance of one's life...

Then we reached our supply unit. We were given hot food, new set of clothing and tents to sleep in. Soon our forced swimming was like a distant nightmare.
( 1687 words)

Forum Staff
Posts: 7041
Joined: 04 Jun 2004 19:49
Location: Moscow, Russia

Re: Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944

Post by Art » 24 Apr 2016 22:08

Some details were not remembered accurately in this account, see comments below:
URR had fought at Kuuterselkä
The regiment was not at Kuuterselkä but south of it.
My strengthened Platoon was tasked with defending the Northern shore of Ravansaari island
Must be southern or south-east shore.
Our island was a part of the main defence line
Actually it wasn't before early July, the island was supposed to be just a forward position.
But our peaceful life was soon ended. From the next day on mortar fire at us was a daily occurrence.
The shore of Uuransaari opposite to Ravansaari was abandoned by Finns on the evening of 26 June. The account creates an impression that many days time passed since between Soviet entry to Uuras and an attack on Ravansaari, but that was not the case.
We sunk several boats, the AT rifles proved to be excellent weapons against armoured boats

No armored boats employed here, only standard engineer equipment and local boats.
Despite our intense firing and hits in their boats, the men did not give up their attempt but swam to the shore as their boats sunk – to our side of the strait and hid for hours under a pier that covered them
Despite a loss of many boats a group of infantry from the 180 Rifle Regiment reached a sandy foreland of Ravansary and stayed there till 4.7
Enemy attacked in consecutive waves for two days
The attack on Ravansaari was not as large as might appear from this description, only several weak rifle companies, each about 60 men, were committed.
The enemy used not only field artillery but also naval artillery, and concentrated on Suonionsaari island.
Not quite clear what is meant by naval artillery. Heavy guns including rail guns were more employed for counter-battery fire.
One bomber squadron after another flies with rumble above, dumping their loads mostly in the sea
Bombers (Pe-2 from 12 gv.bap) were mostly bombing Finnish positions on the mainland.
Ever more armoured landing boats and transport vessels appear on the strait
As in the previous case no armored boats or some large vessels were used for crossing the strait between Uuransaari and Ravansaari.

User avatar
Aleksander P
Posts: 128
Joined: 18 Aug 2012 21:15
Location: Finland

Re: Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944

Post by Aleksander P » 26 Apr 2016 17:54

Map of URR at Viipurinlahti, 3.7.1944 from URR's military journal.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Posts: 328
Joined: 13 Oct 2015 10:05
Location: Southern Finland

Re: Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944

Post by tramonte » 24 Jun 2021 13:24

Irrecoverable loss reports of 224th Division according is suggesting huge losses. There were much more than 1400 names while also at least three reports with 86 names checked as survived while first claimed as deceased soldiers of 224 RD. I made those adding and subtraction getting finally 1429 names of soldiers of 224th Division. The point here is that i'm not sure where there double counting - same soldiers mentioned death in many lists. One rifle division i have checked carefully with names of deceased soldiers did not have double counting. Likely over 98% of 224 RD losses in July, especially 4 July to 11 July 44.

On the other hand 124 RD had just little bit over 200 deceased soldiers ( i got 203) in June-July 1944.
Last edited by tramonte on 24 Jun 2021 13:51, edited 1 time in total.
"Military history is nothing but a tissue of fictions and legends, only a form of literary invention; reality counts for very little in such affair."

- Gaston de Pawlowski, Dans les rides du front

User avatar
Posts: 328
Joined: 13 Oct 2015 10:05
Location: Southern Finland

Re: Viipuri Bay

Post by tramonte » 24 Jun 2021 13:33

MikeF wrote:
10 Sep 2006 18:54

The russian losses were estimated with 1000 kia by the 122th ID."

Thanks and regards,
According irrecoverable loss reports represented in...

... there were just little bit over 200 names ( i got 203) of deceased soldiers of 122 RD. But losses of 224 RD were totally different story. If there were no double counting its irrecoverable losses have easily passed 1 000 reaching as high as over 1400 deceased soldiers. Reports after reports i got 172+207+126+52+191+104+112+30+110+20+225+15+20+2+4+53+10+5+3−35−17−34+23+14+17= 1429 There were also reports mentioned 86 (35, 17 and 34) soldiers first reported as irrecoverable losses but later confirmed to have survived. Last reports mentioned loss men in Karelian Istmus Juny-July 44 (namely in Bay of Vyborg) came in spring of 1945.
"Military history is nothing but a tissue of fictions and legends, only a form of literary invention; reality counts for very little in such affair."

- Gaston de Pawlowski, Dans les rides du front

Forum Staff
Posts: 7041
Joined: 04 Jun 2004 19:49
Location: Moscow, Russia

Re: Viipuri Bay

Post by Art » 25 Jun 2021 19:47

tramonte wrote:
24 Jun 2021 13:33
According irrecoverable loss reports represented in...

... there were just little bit over 200 names ( i got 203) of deceased soldiers of 122 RD.
124 Rifle Division, probably? I guess, the quoted post talked about combat on 9 July 1944. Of course, the 124 Rifle Division didn't lost anything close to 1000 men on that day. In fact the number of infantrymen committed to action was smaller than 1000. According to my calculations based on lists of casualties the division lost 142 men killed, missing etc on 9.7.44. According to daily losses reports submitted by the division on 9 and 11 July there were 143 men killed in action. That's a good match.
Worth to add here that there is a persistent idea in Finnish historiography (even repeated in wiki IIRC) that the combat on 9 July was a major Soviet attempt of landing on the continental coast. Which in fact it wasn't and never supposed to be.
But losses of 224 RD were totally different story. If there were no double counting its irrecoverable losses have easily passed 1 000 reaching as high as over 1400 deceased soldiers
Official casualties numbers were 1511 killed and 14 missing and prisoners in July 1944. Which was probably a little overstated.

User avatar
Posts: 328
Joined: 13 Oct 2015 10:05
Location: Southern Finland

Re: Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944

Post by tramonte » 02 Jul 2021 07:13

According Manninen Soviet all personal losses in the Battle of Vyborg during two weeks were not high, just around 3,000. The claim of 9,000 losses is likely based on all combat between Soviet forces and Finnish V Army Corps, not only in Bay of Vyborg but also in Tienhaara and timeline stretched from 20 June to end of July. Personally i have strong doubts was fighting in Tienhaara very man costly at all. Finnish losses were not high and all that claiming of 9,000 losses against V AK is highly inflated. When it comes to real Battle of Vyborg Bay the most interesting part is how almost half of Soviet losses there were KIA or DOW or MIA (confirmed as deceased later).
"Military history is nothing but a tissue of fictions and legends, only a form of literary invention; reality counts for very little in such affair."

- Gaston de Pawlowski, Dans les rides du front

User avatar
Posts: 328
Joined: 13 Oct 2015 10:05
Location: Southern Finland

Re: Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944

Post by tramonte » 02 Jul 2021 07:33

SovietEurope wrote:
12 Aug 2010 16:55
during the vyborg-petrazavodsk operation, soviets lost 22k killed (krivocheev) and the Finns & germans 18k
Finnish losses (deceased, all reasons) in all fronts:

June 44: 8,509
July 44: 7,135
August 44: 1,843

Total 17,487 of which around 68% in Karelian Isthmus and 31% in Karelian Front. Soviet forces also captured around 1,700 Finns (who survived).

German losses were minimal in Karelian Isthmus: 600 KIA, WIA, MIA.

Soviet losses according their sources: around 25,000 deceased in Karelian Isthmus (June-July) + 16,924 KIA in Karelian Front (June 21- August 11).

I have no idea how many Red Army soldiers did Finnish forces captured during summer 1944 but numbers likely have been quite low, likely just few hundred.
"Military history is nothing but a tissue of fictions and legends, only a form of literary invention; reality counts for very little in such affair."

- Gaston de Pawlowski, Dans les rides du front

Posts: 112
Joined: 17 Sep 2016 00:57
Location: USA

Re: Bay of Viipuri (Vyborg) 1944

Post by Virginian » 18 Jul 2023 13:53

According to the operational summary of the 224th Rifle Division, its losses in the clearing of the islands and defensive operations in July were 1,389 killed, 1,148 wounded and sick, 176 missing, one captured, four non-combat = 2,712 total casualties. Full breakdown can be found in the document on, pages 6 and 7.

Return to “Winter War & Continuation War”