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Taru and eighteen hours
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 9, 1960
Fighting Soviet partisans during the Continuation war. No date.
Gnats were whining around the tent, they are angry and bloodthirsty. It has been raining all night but now the clouds are being scattered and the old sky is visible here and there. Even snoring can be heard inside the tent while a sleepy man gets up and out to have a leak, as the saying goes. There are sounds of approaching steps on the road, the lads of the liaison patrol are back. They have made the usual journey to the base at Nousu. We have had this stretch under a better control since partisans have been blowing up telephone poles and last week ambushed a patrol returning from Nousu. It cost the life of a lad from Savukoski.
We immediately started following the trace of the enemy patrol but it vanished like ash in the wind and the chase was interrupted as hopeless.
The lads are moving about on the yard, restlessly, and the Squad leader enters the farmhouse where the Platoon leader is sleeping. One of the men grumbles:
We are in for a mission, though it probably will be in vain. That bloody (enemy) Cap'n is again leading his outfit so that there will not be any trace to smell.
Taru won't be able to find any traces because it has been raining hard all night. We are not going to see that Cap'n dead even though we have been promised a month of furlough for his head. He is too slippery for us.
The men are listless after several futile missions. But now the Platoon leader and the Squad leader are coming out. An order is shouted: “Reveille!” . The voice gives rise to some movement but is soon smothered in the silence of the Lapland wilderness.
Teuvo is the first man to come out of the tent, he takes a look at the Platoon CO and says:
- Aimo, do not yell, the enemy man will come and adopt you.
Food is distributed and after a while the outfit is ready to set out. Some one opines that again we are out to earn some decorations. Teuvo is agitating:
-You Imppa, sing the song “In the hospital” or better not, the enemy man...
Teuvo starts to sing himself : “There is a flag with blue cross on the roof of a hospital”...
Then he starts talking to Veikko:
- You should have put the violin in your pack, and then we would fight while you would be playing a honorary march. No one is singing, Kalle over there is marching with sweat on his neck with Roope. You should sing for example :” Akkus pintaa, Kukkus panjaa sieputa raliaa -.. ." (Total nonsense.)
Teuvo fails to get anyone to sing with him because the boys are annoyed, expecting to be on another vain mission. Taru is running ahead of the outfit, excitedly sniffing the ground, she is never discouraged. She is indeed a good friend to all of us. She has saved many a man's life, and she is full of ardour even though she, too, has hit a mine. It seems she is aware of her duty as a friend of the people in these villages in the Lapland wilderness and as an enemy of the partisans. Taru is a volunteer, just like the rest of the outfit, yet no one wants to admit that they voluntarily have left their old outfits into the special circumstances of Lapland.
The file is waddling on and the nickel sowing implements (SMGs) are slung around the necks. Magazines are giving the beat to the march and the rhythm is the normal one of a man from Lapland. Every man has learned it in the course of the time. A man's body has adopted it as the best style. That is, necessity and habit have formed the rhythm.
We have just reached Kemijoki. At one spot the enemy patrol has torn down a barn and formed the logs into a raft to cross the river. We are crossing the river with boats upstream and return to the spot where the enemy by our estimate has landed. It is hard to define it because of course the raft has been let loose in the stream.
Taru is sniffing at some twigs and heads South through the thicket. We are on the track. The enemy patrol has about ten hours of lead, and we do not think we shall catch up. Everybody is silent now. We just are watching the steps of the man ahead and keep stepping on the same tracks (risk of mines, tr.rem.). Every now and then we take a glance at the shoulders and the neck of the man ahead. Our necks are red and sweat is pushing thhrough the tunics. Our backs are steaming and gnats are sucking blood. We are applying pitch oil on our faces and hands. Oily sweat is smarting in our eyes:
Someone says it aloud:
-If we only could get rid of those blood suckers, then we would cope with the neighbour men somehow.
We have climbed from a bog on a low ridge covered with lichen, and Taru starts running back and forth. We stop for a meal and decide to make some coffee. Most of us just light up and Juno cigarettes (German brand) start smouldering. Someone takes out a box of “Työmies” (Finnish brand) and says:
-It does not make sense to smoke home grown stuff as long as there is tobacco.
Aimo and some others have stopped some way off and soon everyone is rallied around them. Aimo is poking a pile of ash with a stick and says:
There they have had a small fire, and studying his map he continues:
- They have marched a long stretch . If they are trying to get to the Salla railway line it makes at least six hundred kilometres two-way, the Neighbour is a tough man.
Teuvo interrupts Aimo's talk, wondering:
-What's the Corporal sniffing there?
Elias is coming, looking sly.
- Well, did you find anything?
- Believe me boys, there is a woman among them. I am totally sure about it. If there was just another Vanya, he would use just a stick like anybody.
- Sure, Elias is able to sniff out facts like Taru the neighbour.
- Let's get up and follow them, Aimo said.
Some men take the last puff and the file starts waddling. Someone is praising Taru, saying that she has a better sense of smell than Eljas. The file is formed, everyone finds his place. Taru is jogging ahead of us, stopping every now and then to wait for us.
Now we have proceeded about thirty kilometres and the backpack is getting heavy. Someone stumbles and his magazines are clattering. Someone is grumbling:
- Do not creep, the tinkling may be heard for kilometers.
The wilderness is large, it does not give any quarter to the locals nor strangers. Sometimes it provides cover, at times it surprises. When SMGs open up it is for us or for them. Our cheeks are pale for a moment when a pal drops down next to us, but soon morbid humour rises our mood and pushes back the fear.
We are coming to a wide bog, and we decide to cross it straight on. Taru has made it on the bog but she ducks. The Platoon follows suite, because the leading men have spotted two partisans picking cloudberries. Taru creeps to her handler and Veikko puts her on leash. We set up a line and start enveloping from the right where the enemy patrol may have a campfire. We are trying to avoid making any sound and we are signalling by beckoning. We are aiming for a surprise because it is a half of a victory. Our right wing is proceeding to get past and behind the enemy.
There is a little pond in the bog ahead of us and a clump of firs behind it. We stop there and take cover, because smoke is rising among the firs. At the very moment SMGs open up on the right. We can tell the sound of our weapons from those of the enemy. The Russian SMGs are like croaking while ours make sharper sounds. There are three of us just next to each other, and Otto opines:
-There are medals being earned over there.
The weapons fall silent on the right but as we take a glance on our left we see that the two berry pickers are trying to join the rest of their patrol. We point our SMGs at the runners and in a short while three magazines have been emptied. The wilderness is silent again.
We hear Aimo's voice:
We are heading for his voice and when getting to the campfire we see there are five fallen. We are lighting up. Our hands tend to shake but no one pays heed, trying to cover up his own excitement. Eljas goes to a small fallen and says:'
No way boys, such a short man and such a wide bum. Cannot be true.
He turns the dead over and we are looking at the face of a beautiful young girl. Her dark eyes are slightly ajar. Someone says:
- Push her eyes shut.
Aimo orders us to shoulder our backpacks and the usual race to the base starts. We arrive at our lodgings during the light summer night of Lapland. There is a journey of sixty kilometres behind us, it took us eighteen hours. Again the tents are filled with even snoring. This time the wilderness was on our side, all of us returned.
Translator's remark: Gardening season has started. No new posts until October.
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Finnish long distance patrolmen hunting partisans
Journal "Kansa Taisteli" 9, 1960
(The author does not mention his unit, neither the date nor the place of the incident. This means the story cannot be verified. Tr.rem.)
During the trench war period it was difficult to cross the trench lines to visit the Neighbour. We had to make use of open flanks, waterways or air transport. The Russians used Lake Onega and other waterways but also air transport. The 60 man partisan outfit I am telling about was airlifted in the Finnish rear. The Division had received a report from a civilian village of a visit by some Neighbours suffering from lack of food. They had confiscated a cow and a goat to make up the lack of supplies, also they had threshed rye. (The village must have been a Soviet Carelian one, tr.rem.) They also had behaved in a fairly polite manner with the civilians.
Later it was found that the partisan unit had been assigned a Finnish supply centre and a railway line as their target. They had parachuted from several aircraft and consequently scattered. Rallying had taken time and airlifted supplies did not find arrive every time, so they were forced to live off the land. This food requisition was fateful to the partisans, however. So far they had been able to stay hidden for about one month but now the beginning of the end was at hand.
Having been informed of the existence of the partisan unit the Division ordered their Sissi outfit to pursue the enemy. The task was given to a Sissi platoon reinforced with a tracking dog and its handler plus two radio operators, equipped with a “centre radio” in addition to the standard “Kyynel” transceivers. The extra transceiver was used because the “Kyynel” had a dead zone at a range of 30 to 70km.
After a quick preparation the Sissi outfit was shipped by lorries to the village that the enemy had visited. The first task was to secure the isthmuses to the West of the village to block the partisan marching direction to North-East where they had disappeared from the village. Now the Division had received a new report, informing that the partisans had been seen the previous evening in the terrain of a village. Immediately I rallied the outfit and directed our advance using a map about 10km to the East of the said village.
We happened to have a bit of good luck, as the Sissis used to say. By a happy coincidence that we discovered on a path covered by the frost of the previous night two sets of fresh footprints. The track was coming from the East, from the direction of the supply centre of the Division, where the two men must have been reconnoitring. The track was so fresh that our good dog became so eager that our men had problems in following the dog handler. As my outfit was not able to follow the dog at his pace I had to hurry up to make the dog and the handler slow down. Having passed the handler he, as well as I, spotted a rifle barrel equipped with a silencer appearing on the bank of a narrow river. The distance to the muzzle was but a few meters. The dog handler did not quite know what to do, so complete was the surprise. But the ambusher, too, must have had second thoughts as he chose not to pull the trigger. Had he done it, the strength of our Sissi outfit would have been reduced by at least one.
The enemy sentry did not fire but attempted to flee to report on us to the partisans, who had set up a campfire on the bank of the river. I signalled the Sissi platoon behind me. Then we set up a line and dashed to the direction of the campfire. The silence of the wilderness was suddenly broken by sharp bursts of SMGs. The partisans were so totally surprised that they did not manage to grab their weapons. Their field kettles with which they had been making tea were left at the campfire, the fastest of the partisans escaped. But the slower ones were left behind at the campfire, they may be there still today. Some of the weapons and sabotage gear became our booty.
The main body of our outfit started an eager pursuit. The partisans tried to shake us away from their track by crossing rivers and wading in brooks. This caused us some trouble and took some time but they were unable to distract us from the fresh track. The same evening we intercepted them again, but this time the partisans were better prepared and they managed to escape with small casualties.
The location where we caught up with the outfit appeared to have been the partisan base for a longer time. It was situated in a tongue of forest sticking into open ground. Here the partisans abandoned a considerable store of explosive and incendiary devices. The partisans regretted having to abandon their stores as it later turned out.
The hard pursuit of the day also took it toll on the Sissis. The men with the least stamina became stragglers. This forced me to split our outfit in two. The strongest men continued pursuit while the exhausted men set up a camp, at the same time guarding the partisan stores. This was a lucky decision for us, although it could have been otherwise; only a chance saved the Sissis just setting up their camp.
The Division had insisted a radio contact every second hour. But during the melee I have described we did not have any time to communicate, and then as we had the time the radio did not work. However, there was a POW camp situated at the railway line close by, and there was a telephone there.
I decided to send the Platoon leader to continue the pursuit while I took a couple of men with me to report to the Division.
I was just on my way to the agreed rallying point, the second Partisan camp, as a Hell broke out in the wilderness. I could hear a LMG open up and I was fearing for the worst because the Sissis did not have any. I already regretted having left the boys alone. Soon, however, the familiar burst of rapid firing SMGs were gaining the upper hand. I headed right for the noise of battle because I was truly fearing for my boys.
Arriving at the camp I found that the battle was over. I had heard it stop just as suddenly as it had started because Sissis do not linger, but hit and run. I shouted my parole and at first heard nothing but then there was a surprise. I heard a snap, as if a hand grenade had been activated, and soon there was a bang. This made me deduce that it was a partisan, because I had not distributed any hand grenades to the Sissi.
The autumn night was falling and it was not possible to find out more about the situation, so I headed for the rallying point no.2. Arriving there our joy was total, because I had been fearing for my boys and they for me. I was the last man to arrive, since both the pursuing outfit and the securing outfit were there, and most amazing of all, without casualties.
The boys told me that while cutting dead trees for their fires they had encountered the partisans who had returned to their camp, probably to save their stores. The eye of one of our PFCs had detected some movement in the forest and the colours were so clear that there was no problem in identification. The PFC had ordered the Sissis to take up arms and immediately to engage the enemy because it was obvious that the partisans were intending to force our boys to the open bog and finish them off there.
The partisans may not have expected the camp to be secured. They must of course have believed that every man was pursuing them. The attack of the securing outfit had been effective, proved by about ten partisans lying on the battleground, one of them administering himself the coup de grace as I arrived. He had, as I could see in the morning, placed a hand grenade under his back. The track had brought up also the pursuit detachment and consequently we were rallied.
Next morning, checking the battleground I found dead men wearing the uniforms of several countries although everyone had been a partisan. There were Finns, Germans, etc. There must have been a belief that our defence lines would include Germans.
At this phase of the chase I requested more Sissis to the II Platoon. Once more I intercepted some of the partisans and after that the survivors were totally helpless. Scattered and beaten, they fell at our trench lines so totally that it is not likely one single messenger survived.
The task of the partisans had been to destroy the Divisional supply centre and cut the railway line and derail trains. We found this out from the diaries that had fallen in our hands. We entered the game in the decisive moment since the night before the partisans had carried out reconnoitring the supply centre and initiated at once action to eliminate it, but it came to nothing now. The Sissis had a complete success in their task and the partisans were totally annihilated by scattering and lack of supplies.
Our success was mostly contributed by the good spirit in the Sissi detachment and the trust between the men and the leaders. Every individual man did his best and did not tarry, thus denying the pursued enemy time to set up ambushes or take any other counter-action. Consequently we were spared of any casualties during the chase, and it can be only imagined what losses and casualties would have ensued if the partisan plans had not been frustrated. Their target, the big supply centre, had been unsecured.
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Labour company men in battle
Kansa Taisteli, 09, 1960
The following story that tells about the experiences of an outfit raised out of a labour company may be considered trivial by an experienced front veteran, but I wish to remark at once that we were equal to the men in the firing line, because we had been drafted into military service. Although we were labourers only, we were ready to sacrifice our blood and life for the country in a firefight against the enemy, nobody is able to give more!
Our outfit had been transferred in January 1940 at Tolvajärvi from the hostel to the terrain on the far side of the lake and it was said that a tent camp shall be set up there. A reserve line with MG nests and wire hindrances was to extend up to Ristisalmi. The enemy had by then been chased to Aittojoki.
As far as I remember it was the evening of January 26th as we were told that we must set up an outfit of no less than twenty men, preferably of men who had been trained in the use of rifle, or who else would know how to shoot. Our tension increased as high as it could go as we were told that in a moment we should be marching for our destination, which was kept secret from us. First us who had the military rank of Private were selected and then others were added until our outfit was complete as to strength. One of us was ordered to act as the leader in front of our file, a document was put in our hand and we started our march to the unknown destination at a double rate.
The first leg of our march passed as the men were talking lively, rifles in their backs, some cartridges in our pockets and equipped rations for 24 hours. In the dark we passed piles consisting of (dead) enemies collected there. This view had such a powerful effect on some of the men that they did not feel like talking any more. Then a car came to us, stopping at our leader and someone enquiring about our destination and wishing to know if we had enough ammunition, each of us should have had at least 50 to 60 pieces.
This cleared off the last smile of any face of our outfit, marching in civilian clothing, and now we guessed that we shall be sent to a battle, which indeed happened later. We also learned that the Aittojoki line had been pierced by an enemy detachment of a couple of platoons in strength, equipped with auto weapons, ordered to cut off the very supply road we were just marching on. It was about 2200 or 2300hrs as we took a turn from the main road to a smaller road, one kilometre on it and we arrived at a farmhouse.
On the forest side of the fields lit by dim moonlight there could be seen some loaded sleds. We cannot tell if the horses were in the cover of the forest and the men in the farmhouse having a break, because we were not allowed in the house. A shape in snow camo suit appeared in front of us, nervously informing our “leader”:
- You must be at once aware of the situation, get organized, see those sleds, set two men as sentries at them, and two men on the open ground tilting to the beach, the rest of the men can go in the threshing barn over there to warm up in turns.
The threshing barn temperature was minus 30 to 40 deg C and more than minus forty outside. We lit a fire on the pile of stones in the corner of the barn but it did not much help in warming up the barn, anyway we had no chance to carry on for any longer.
The man who had introduced himself as Lt. Lehto continued his briefing:
- Over there, on the far side of the lake, there is a considerable group of enemies coming here, they broke through our line in the forest and soon they shall reach the terrain on the far side of the lake, as a man recently patrolling there reported . Your task is to delay the enemy on this beach terrain this night so that they are not allowed to cut off the supply road. In the small hours there shall be troops that are going to take care of the situation, but at the moment it is our responsibility.
The man appeared to be very nervous, glancing at the terrain behind the one kilometre wide lake, that could clearly be seen in the light of the full moon as a steep pine covered slope descending to the beach.
Suddenly the man yelled at me:
- You shall go alone at once, to the beach-line to secure that tongue of forest and swamp 300 meters from these sentries, do you understand ?
- I understand, I said, but alone and armed but with a rifle I shall be good for nothing so far from others.
The man in white camo fumbled for the flap of his pistol holster and yelled:
- I shall shoot you for cowardice!
But seeing that I already had the butt of my loaded rifle in my armpit his broomhandle Mauser remained holstered, instead he yelled
- Why did you return here?
-I have already done one sentry duty shift in a double sentry post, but the post you ordered needs more men, then I am willing to go.
It was at 0100 hrs in the night as I was in sentry duty at the lake beach. Conscripted labourer Surakka from Suojärvi was in his turn skiing on the ski track used for observation in the bushes of the beach. My attention was attached in the far side of the lake where I could detect some movement. Then I spotted on the ice a large group of men, and the black spot on the far side kept increasing in size as men kept flowing down the slope on the ice. After a few seconds the group began splitting to the left and to the right and rushing at us like wind. I cannot remember how I did it but soon the Lieutenant was informed of the enemies covering the ice of the lake. Soon the loads vanished from the yard and the men hurried to the firing line. Now the ammo that was enquired when we were coming was needed.
So this battle that started in the night was fought on our side by a small group of men in civilian coats, holding single shot rifles that were used in the war of 1918. Opposing us was a strike force that had auto weapons, including LMGs and SMGs . Our Lieutenant ordered and encouraged us behind the ridge top in the battle that was fought all night. Auto weapon bullets hit the trees with a rattle and the air was full of tracer tracks, as if the forest had been decorated with silver wires.
As we received enough fresh reinforcements in the small hours, the terrain was swept. My sentry pal, young Surakka, was found in the snow, stripped naked. His chest had been chopped open with an axe and the rear of his skull had been crushed, a blooded shirt had been thrown over him. The rest of his clothing had been plundred.
I want to tell about a man called Nuutinen, who had been taken prisoner, but he was such a clever man that he distributed his tobacco to the “comrades” and managed to save himself in our side, when coming he just shouted in his prosodic Savo dialect:
Mind you, don't shoot !
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Jaeger Battalion 2 fighting at Pasuri
Journal Kansa Taisteli, 09, 1960.
(Winter War, December 1939, Carelian Isthmus. The author appears to have been a Platoon Leader in the 1st Coy of JP2. A sufficient map can be found in “Kansa Taisteli” no.9, 1960, p. 269)
At Pasurinkangas we woke up after a good night's sleep. It felt odd to be totally and careless in rest. The rumbling from the front, E of Valkjärvi, could be heard magnificently and it forced us to think of the men whose turn it was now to be in the front line. How long would they be able to resist the superior number of the enemy ?
We, instead, were really allowed to rest peacefully. Most of us produced their writing gear from their backpacks and soon a number of men was sitting and composing letters home, dear letters, it could be seen in the solemn and serious countenance of the writers.
Yes, we were allowed to rest but in the evening, for the sake of security, set a patrol from my Platoon to the side of the road to Nurmijärvi so that the enemy should not manage to disturb us.
We were still in rest on the 3. December but in the late evening something odd could be heard.
Something special must have happened in the front line because the road was constantly full of columns in retreat. It seemed that they had left suddenly and they appeared to be in a hurry. An endless number of transport columns. JP4 was passing them on their bicycles and there began to be congestions on the Pasuri road. The Jaegers said that they were going to cross the Vuoksi river, and there were rumours in circulation: “A Finnish speaking skiing outfit has surprised, riding patrols shall soon be here, tanks have pierced the front line.” -Afterwards I learned that Russians had managed to break through to the command dugout of Pohja Regiment, and that was the cause of the panic.
I had just sent a recon patrol in the direction of Vaalimo and was preparing with my Platoon to head for Nurmijärvi as the order to set the Battalion in marching readiness was received. By this time the patrol had returned and found out that at Vaalimo everyone was preparing to get out, the engineers had already mined the road.
Our queue of bicycles started their winding road for the Oravaniemi crossroads, 7km from the camp. When there we were billeted in houses, to return next morning to Pasurinkangas. We were up and about before dawn of 4th Dec. We left our bikes in the patch of forest behind the crossroads and proceeded on foot. Our task was to secure the withdrawal of Btn Siitonen from Valkjärvi They were to arrive using the Nousiala road and we had to see to it that the enemy would not be able to get in the rear of the Btn via Nurmijärvi.
After the Siitonen troops had withdrawn we returned to Oravaniemi, actually Pasuri without seeing one glimpse of the enemy. We mounted our bikes and started pedalling to the direction of Punnus station, there we would find a new “gig” . This was it, a strike force was being thrown here to there as needed, that was the duty of our “light unit”.
At the railway bridge at Punnus we then kept waiting for a few huts. I do not know why our Battalion had to ride here at top speed to wait for further orders, because we had nothing to do. For hours we kept jumping about to stay warm until after sunrise it started snowing and we could make fires. Finally we headed for Mälkölä on the far side of Salmenkaita river in darkness to camp there.
The campsite was calm, there was nothing to suggest war. To be on the safe side we did dig splinter cover holes because there was a crossing of major roads nearby. You could not be sure that the enemy would not get an idea to bomb it from the air. Our Staff Sgt. Paid us our daily allowance, but since money is useless in war we sent half of it home and donated the rest for the air defence. Our Battalion collected a nice sum, FIM 51.860:70 (The troops fighting on the Isthmus collected FIM t54.324:-plus 27 gold rings).
This day, 5th December, reminded me of the days of the mobilization. Holes were dug, aircraft buzzed, else completely peaceful. We got our mail and avidly we read about the battles and air raids. Then it was the Independence day. Our coffee was served with sugar coated rusks and canned condensed milk. As Jaeger Remes returned from visiting his aunt in Pölläkkälä he had a load of goodies with him: coffee, sugar, smokes, even cigars. It was a great party time in the tent of my Platoon! Coffee was made in field kettles on the tent stove and bearded warriors were smoking premium brand cigarettes or cigars. For fun we listed the tobacco brands and found 17 of them excluding cigars. It was no wonder, it was a time when goods were available for free, because the shopkeepers voluntarily gave away their stores from the shops that were to be torched soon.
In the evening the MGs of Salmenkaita opened up intensely. We wondered what they were firing at until we learned that a Company of Communists had managed to penetrate that far. They were wiped out.
It was the 7.Dec as we finally got a “gig”. Fighting on the Pasuri line had been going on for two days then the enemy vanished. Not a trace was seen of it and patrols reported that it had withdrawn. Our Battalion was tasked to reconnoitre up to Vaalimo and Valkjärvi, so we took down our tents and rode our bikes behind the Pasuri line. It was a strong line indeed, built by the Cadet School previous summer.
Our Company, the 1st, was assigned to Vaalimojärvi and the 2nd to Valkjärvi to reconnoitre, the 3rd Company stayed back at the Oravaniemi crossroads. With the help of guides and guards of the minefield we went through the minefield, my platoon leading. We did not encounter enemies until we found ourselves in the Valkjärvi crossroads where a riding enemy patrol galloped at us. Having seen men in snow camo sneaking in the forest on both sides of the road the patrol wheeled around so fast that we had time only for one shot, and it missed.
We went on and arrived at the Uosukkala crossroads that I was to man. The two MG s of Aspirant Kukkonen were put in position in poor holes dug with field spades, LMGs were placed at the ends of our front line and riflemen in between. There we found ourselves, 6 to 7km in front of the Pasuri line. Sr.Sgt. Karja's patrol set out to reconnoitre in the direction of Vaalimo and Loikkanen to the shore of Vuoksi river. Night was falling already as we started hearing buzzing of engine and shots in the direction of the Valkjärvi road. The2nd Coy must have engaged a fighting machine.
Indeed we found ourselves in a poor spot, because the enemy could have cut off the road behind us any time. An explosion was heard at the command post of the CO, it must have been the end of some armoured buzzer. Suddenly the beams of an automobile cut the darkness, exposing Jaeger Ikonen who was in sentry duty at the roadside, the very same moment the MG of the automobile opened fire at the man. It was a near miss: his haversack and coat pocket were holed , but soon Myllynen responded with his MG.
Quickly the boy turned his weapon and holed the engine of the automobile but he was not able to shoot any longer because the automobile found itself right among our Platoon, there were our men were all around. The lights had gone off but there was lively firing from behind an armoured turret.
The automobile managed to move on again until our MG stopped it some twenty meters later. At the very same moment an enemy riding patrol rode through our Platoon. Making use of the cover provided by the automobile they slipped through unscathed but they did not manage to make it very far. Karja's patrol on their way back managed to exterminate the riders.
Wit the help of Jaeger Kaitasuo as interpreter I tried to convince the enemy to surrender but my exhortations were responded with bullets only. Next I ordered a MG to open fire and Myllynen let fly so that the armoured turret was giving sparks. As we were not able to penetrate the armour we had to make use of a satchel charge that Oksanen threw next to the automobile.
I was just going to turn on my pocket torch as there was a jerk at my arm, a bullet had pierced it. I could not know where the bullet had been fired from, likely from a gun of a man who had escaped from the automobile. Cpl. Paavola bandaged my arm while I was thinking whether I had to stay or leave. I was sure I could not make it very much longer unless I had my wound treated better, so I handed over the platoon to Aspirant Peipponen and headed for the field dressing station together with Paassila who had been wounded in one leg.
We had not proceeded farther than one kilometre as Cadet Turtola and Jaeger Lehtinen met us on the road. Lehtinen had gone to our CO to report on my wounding and Turtola had been sent as my replacement.
Having provided Turtola with the necessary information the brave man went on to take the Platoon in his command, unaware that it was his last journey. As it was told me in the hospital, he had taken action to light up the automobile, but when examining the underside of the automobile he had taken a lethal bullet from the rifle of an enemy shooting from the ditch. Our foolhardy Cadet was killed in action, actually as a 2nd Lieut; he had been promoted the day before but he never was to learn that.
I and Paassilta continued our journey, taking some fire every now and than. There was another destroyed automobile on the road, a black scrap heap, but there were Russians in the forest who opened fire at the two of us, wounded men, and I was unable to retaliate.
Lieutenant, Sir, here is a hand grenade, I can use the rifle, said Paassilta but we did not have to use them as we made a long enough detour in the cover of the forest.
We arrived at the Company command post at the Oravaniemi crossroads and finally in front of the Pasuri line.
Who's the fool walking on a mined road ?
It was one of two men standing on the road. We kept going because I knew the mines were behind us by now. The men on the road were our Btn CO Capt. Komonen and Capt.Heinivaho.
-Captain, Sir, there are no mines here, I said
Why, that's Eronen, why have you left?
I am wounded, Sir.
:You, too? He had seen that Paassilta was wounded since the boy had to limp.
The CO loaned his car to give us a ride to the field dressing station. Dr Hainari rebandaged our wounds and put a tag on a string on us, then we were ready to be taken to a military hospital.
P_694, 1./JP2 war diary:
Pohj.R that had been fighting in the terrain of Nurmijärvi had been surprised and scattered. Report on this was transmitted by a dispatch rider and withdrawing men of Pohj.R.
00.10hrs JP2 was alerted and part of it was sent to the directions of Kiviniemi and Vaalimo roads secure, the rest, including 1.Coy was transferred to Pasuri.
03.00hrs 1.Coy set up camp in Pasuri.
04.00hrs Tea distributed
05.00hrs 1.Coy set out to secure the flank of Battalion Siitonen in the direction of Kiviniemi and Nurmijärvi. Previously there were the 2.Coy and a MG platoon
05.00-06.30hrs March to the securing location, the terrain of Väärämäki shooting range and the crossroads E of it . On the way a constant liaison with securing organs and 2nd Lt Liponkoski informed us that of the enemy had been seen only one 10-man patrol.
06.50hrs Securing and recon on the line Vaalimo-Kiviniemi in the terrain of the crossroads. The observer saw one 5-man riding patrol and yelling was heard ahead of us to the left, direction E of Nousiainen. No exchange of shots occurred.
09.00hrs Btn.CO informed that 1./JP2 is allowed to withdraw to the terrain of Uosukkala crossroads.
09.30hrs Withdrawing commended, securing, and the Väärämäki shooting range pavillon was torched.
11.30hrs Btn CO order to withdraw to Pasuri. Before this, a tank warning had been received from the direction of Valkjärvi.
12.10hrs Arriving at Pasuri and leaving it on bicycles for Ala-Kuusa where there was a meal at 14.15hrs. Pasuri village was in flames.
17.00hrs Leaving Ala-Kuusa for Mälkölä where we camped for rest.
21.00hrs Camp completed. Shortage of firewood and fir boughs and bad air cover behind the camp hampered. The men should be allowed to be billeted indoors for a while because all kinds of self maintenance is neglected when camping out of doors. 1st Coy has been by 4th Dec constantly been outdoors, so there would be good reasons for the Btn. To organise a chance for billeting indoors.
21.00hrs Turning in.
07.00hrs Reveille, milk instead of morning tea. Medical services available.
During AM tents were camouflaged, weapons maintenance etc.
PM: Rest and recuperation
21.00hrs Turning in.
02.25hrs A runner brought the password from HQ/JP2
08.20hrs HQ/JP2 informed that the enemy had used gas, therefore the gas masks must always be carried (on). Gas alert issued by triangle iron.
Air raid cover foxholes must be dug at the camp.
08.25hrs HQ/JP2 order that soiled clothing shall be collected for washing at 20.30hrs. At the time the missing items of clothing must be accounted for.
08.30hrs E/L-R. Sent a publication by the YE counter-espionage bureau. Subjects: Spying, behaviour when taken POW and treason.
07.00hrs Morning tea.
08.50hrs Air raid cover digging started. Gas mask maintenance¨.
09.20hrs List of casualties must be filled in and sent to HQ/JP2 by 1200hrs
09.30hrs Circular of 11.D HQ no 408/Kss/43. Gas protection order no.5.
Gas monitoring guard (by JP5) set up at the Kältiälä crossroads. Alert signal consists of brief siren howls.
10.30hrs Coy CO summoned to HQ/JP2
11.15hrs Coy CO in briefing by HQ/JP2. JP2 is subjected to 11.D and supplied by L-R.
Promotion recommendations for men who have distinguished themselves have been handed in.
11.30hrs Meal and replacement distribution of lost gear
12.00hrs 1st Coy casulaty list handed in
PM rest and recuperation
21.00hrs Turning in
08.20hrs L-R supply order E.M. N:o28
10.00hrs Meal for the Company
11.00hrs Set out for Pasuri terrain
12.00hrs Coy CO received orders by Btn CO on forced reconnaisance
12.20hrs Coy grouped at the so called Pasuri line
13.00hrs Forward on foot.
14.00hrs Report radioed. Pasuri unoccupied. Advancing on
14.30hrs Reached the Lavola crossroads
15.00hrs Radioed report: Kormikangas unoccupied by enemy
16.00hrs Received report: Mommila, Levola and Kokkosenmäki unoccupied by enemy
16.30hrs Lively shooting on the section of the 2nd Coy at Leikolanjärvi. A lorry came on the Valkjärvi road at our positions, turning to the Kiviniemi road, continuing on. 2 men riding, following the lorry. II Platoon at the Uosukkala crossroads made the lorry turn around while the riders went on to the directrion of Keikonmäki at full speed.. At Marjalampi the riders were annihilated by the I Platoon reconnoitering there. The lorry that turned back was destroyed at the Levola crossroads by the Admin Squad. But the two men in the lorry escaped with the help of darkness.
17.30hrs From Keikonmäki, driving down the road came an armoured car followed by a lorry which were destroyed at the Uosukkala crossroads by the II Platoon. In the melee Cadet Turtola was killed and Res.2nd Lt Eronen and Jaeger Paasilta (sic) were wounded.
20.00hrs A squad of the 3rd Coy brought an order to withdraw behind the Pasuri line.
23.00hrs Coy behind the Pasuri line in Syvälampi terrain where we camped.
(What happened before the moment the story starts?
Warning: The diary extract inserted below is quite long and crammed with detail).
JP2 war diary 30.11.- 4.12.1939
07.00hrs Russ. artillery started bombardment with artillery. Bomb.target the surroundings of Lipola and Valkjärvi.
08.45hrs Bombardment went on.
JR2 HQ loaded to be in readiness to move on, for the purpose of shifting the command post. Radio stations were set up.
09.18hrs 2700 reported from Uusikirkko: Direction Viipuri, plenty of aircraft. At Kivennapa uninterrupted artillery fire.
09.30hrs 3.&/JP2 ordered to send out patrols from Sgt. Parola's platoon to the site of the old field strongpoint
Coy Hyttinen disengaged at 08.45hrs, in readiness to leave Korpikylä, houses hampering the shooting sector have been torched. At Kaukoranta (?) 3 a/c strafed Lipola.
09.40hrs CO ordered Coy Hyttinen to send out patrols and to liaise with previous ?
09.40hrs Order to Lt Valavuori to man the positions at R ?
4200 ordering to inform 573 that 1065 is three Keihäs ammunition rations .
09.43hrs 573 confirming the above mentioned message
09.45hrs 2700 reporting 4 pcs single engine enemy a/c E of Viipuri.
09.50hrs Air raid alert from “Hakku”
09.52hrs 27 reports: 6 single engine enemy a/c E of Purajärvi.
9.57hrs JP2 CO order to “Leka”. It is not allowed to open fire over the border but as soon as the enemy has crossed the border they must be shot at immediately.
“Leka” reporting that at Lipola rifle battle is commencing.
10.07 hrs Report that rifle fire is not intense at Lipola, most likely skirmish between patrols
10.10hrs 1 single engine a/c above “Moukari” to the direction of Lipola.
Report: Btn can pass via “Vasara”
10.25hrs “Leka” reports: At the hindrance line Vaittila-Papinmäki a larger number of enemies encountered
Report: the bridges at Vaittila mill have been blown up.
10.20hrs Enemy artillery restarted bombardment, it was interrupted for a moment in the meanwhile, ending at 10.30hrs
10.30hrs Mäntylä reports: Enemy, about one Btn in strength, advancing from the border to the direction of Riitakangas SE of Höltänjärvi
10.35hrs JP2 CO relayed the above report to the Group CO.
10.40hrs Report from “Hakku”: About a battalion of enemies advancing from Papin. To the direction of Ritakank.
10.55hrs Vila sentry post withdrawn without casualties.
10.56hrs Mäki reported that they are in the previous positions.
11.07hrs Lt Valkonen rep. Map 1:20000: 3./Er.P5 has manned the Vaittila-Ratsjärvi line at 10.05hrs with 4 platoons. Liaison patrols sent to Lts Häkkilä and Lindholm. The telephone is at the previous campsite with connection to Peura.
11.10hrs At Riihiö about a coy of enemies advancing supported by mortar fire to the direction of the Riihiö sentry post. The post withdrew to the direction of Vehmainen. Vehmainen and Kauksama are in flames since 0700hrs. Calm at the Härkäjärvi line.
11.15hrs “Leka” report: The hindrance line from Vaittilanjärvi to P-niemi passed at 08.20hrs:
At 10.00hrs enemy crossed the road from Lepola to Arjaniemi. The strength of the advancing troop less than one btn. * unconfirmed information*
11.20hrs Report that enemy has shot up one of the lorries of 1./JP2 It is to be replaced by one of the (?) Sapper's lorries.
11.22hrs Lepola stables attacked by enemy with about 15 men. The sentries are retreating to the main defence line of 1./JP2
11.25hrs Report from “Vasara1”: Connection to “Leka” is cut off? Troubleshooting patrol sent out.
11.30hrs Connection to “Leka” working.
11.35hrs “Leka” reports: At Levonmäki enemy is advancing with strength one or two platoons.
11.40hrs The same relayed to the Group to Capt. Väinölä.
11.50hrs Report from “Leka” The enemy strength at Kivisilta is unknown.
11.55hrs The same relayed to the Group and also to Lt. Hyttinen.
12.00hrs Lt. Rönkkö reports that he shall send a strong patrol to the direction of Kivisilta.
12.05hrs Group HQ reports: Strike at Paasniemi by a troop of about 2 platoons. Enemy losses 10 KIA, no own casualties.
12.07hrs “Lapio” reports: Enemies coming from the direction of Tulli to “Lapio”. Grouping. Less than one Coy.
12.33hrs Lt. Väänänen's Runner liaised with JP2 HQ Coy.
12.40hrs “Hakku” reporting that in front of their line sparse exchange of rifle fire, an artillery strafe was received recently.
13.10hrs “Leka” reports: 6 tanks have arrived at Lipola
-”- Coy Mytty set out to counterstrike at the enemy outfit that broke into our lines.
13.15hrs Report on the tanks relayed to the Group.
13.40hrs 2700 report: Air raid alert over
14.05hrs Air raid alert from East
14.25hrs Capt. Mäntylä report: on the isthmus Vaittila-Höltänjärvi rifle battle going on
14.40hrs Korpikylä is in enemy hands, strength about 1 coy
15.15hrs 2700 reports Air raid alert over, 7 a/c are gone
15.18hrs Capt. Mäntylä: Lines at Yläntälä bombarded by enemy artillery.
15.20hrs Lt. Valkonen's recon report, Appx. 2 (n.a.)
15.45hrs Capt. Korttila: At Kolkkala about 3 platoons of enemy rallying on the road.
This relayed to “Leka” and “Mäki”.
17.25hrs “Hakku” reports that enemy has withdrawn. He has sent patrols to the front.
18.30hrs from Er.P2 12 horses 4 of which sent to Capt. Mäntylä
19.05hrs CO liaised with Capt. Mäntylä (on manning the hill)
04.05hrs Intense artillery fire in the direction of South and Southeast.
07.35hrs Enemy artillery strike at the surroundings of Valkjärvi, our battery retaliated.
07.55hrs Artillery fire ended.
08.05hrs Tel. connections cut off at Lipola
08.40hrs Mäntylä: about 6 to 7 tanks arrived at the stone hindrance and fired at it but they could not pass it. Rifle battle going on. Shelling time to time. Coy Häkkinen: nothing special.
Calm at Yläntölä and Höltänjärvi.
08.40hrs Tel. connection to Lipola working.
08.50hrs “Leka” reporting that tel.connection between “Leka” and artillery firing positions cut off.
09.10hrs One enemy tanks at the forward strongpoint of 2./JP2
09.45hrs Lt Rönkkö reports: 3 a/c without national insignia flying at Rampela, speed 300kmh, altitude 150m.
09.43hrs Commandant reports: 6 yo 8 enemy a/c W of Kiviniemi.
10.00hrs 2700: 4 enemy a/c E of Äyräpää
-”- Calm at Orjaussaari
10.02hrs “Leka" reports Nothing special
10.04hrs Air raid alert still on
10.05hrs 3 enemy tanks heading for the forward strongpoint of 2./JP2, not yet there
10.35hrs Intense infantry battle going on at Lipola, heavy artillery is firing.
10.40hrs Paarma's battery is ordering shells.
10.40hrs Vuottaa in enemy hands
10.50hrs “Between Raasuli and Maanselkä this morning intense enemy attack, but it was beaten back. Paimala abandoned. At Orjansaari nothing special.” Group R report.
11.07hrs “Vasara2” report: tel. Connection cut off (Fixed at 13.05hrs)
11.15hrs Kivin(iemi) IPAK report: Air raid alert over.
12.25hrs Air raid alert from Kiviniemi.
12.43hrs Capt. Mäntylä sent a radio message, Appx. 4 ( n.a.)
13.05hrs Capt. Mäntylä reports: Enemy tanks, four of which have been knocked out. Heavy artillery firing.
Requesting 150 shells for 5. Battery. Ordered.
13.10hrs Äyräpää reports that 6 enemy a/c flying, direction national border
-”- 3 enemy a/c overhead at Valkjärvi.
13.19hrs 6 enemy a/c attacking SE of Oravaniemi.
13.28hrs Enemy artillery bombarding. Casualties unknown. Connections cut off. One AT gun left (radio message)
13.33hrs Capt. Mäntylä reports: At Lipola a lot of tanks and a lot of enemies, intense fire, our troops are unable to hold their positions, retreating.
13.37hrs JP2 CO order to Capt. Mäntylä: You can retreat if it is considered inevitable. Report to JP2 CO in case you are leaving.
13.40hrs Report to ER.P5 on the situation at Lipola (Disengaging started)
13.43hrs Connection to “Vasara2” cut off. Reported the situation in Lipola to Maj. Vieska.
13.50hrs Report that JP2 field kitchens are in Kuoppalampaala (?) at the side of the road.
13.55hrs Report to Sihvo that disengagement at (?) starts.
14.00hrs (Btn) CO issued orders to the Messenger Officer to go and set up the HQ in a new command post . He must take the necessary number of NCOs and men.
14.10hrs Alert; 14 enemy a/c E of Heinjoki
14.15hrs (Btn) CO ordered the HQ leaders to head for the new command post . Order carried out at 14.50hrs.
14.15hrs Tel. Connection to Vasara2 and Leka cut off
14.50.-14.55hrs JP2 CO briefed group CO s on disengaging and the phases of withdrawal.
14.57hrs Coy Valkonen that had been subjected to JP2 has been returned to Er.P5.
15.04hrs Order to JP2: Battalion shall rally at Siparila, N of the Nurmijärvi road.
15.10hrs 2700 reports: 1 Finnish A/C taking off in abt. One hour. Flying via Vuottaa – Tali – Suur-Merijoki.
15.15hrs Connection to Capt. Mäntylä established. He is ordered to arrive at Vännilä.
15.15hrs Supply officer, supply CO etc. left for the new command post.
15.20hrs Staff Sgt. Martimo ordered to take along horses and head for Korpioja to retrieve the sleds sent there.
15.30hrs At Vännilä arrived 1.Coy CO, JP2 adjutant and a little later Mäntylä. They briefed the CO about the situation.
16.00hrs CO left the command post at Könnilä
16.15-18.00hrs JP2 CO briefed the L Group CO on the situation in the Group command post in the Big Vicarage.
18.15hrs CO arrived at the new command post.
18.40-19.50hrs CO visited the Companies and ordered the Companies that were present to move to Pasurinkangas with their bikes. Companies Häkkinen and Pakainen had not arrived completely.
23.40hrs “Ilves5” reports:
“Patrols have swept from the Ratsjoki mill up to Pitkäjärvi. A patrol brought along 9 men of JP2 and they are now at Hiekkalanmäki. Nothing found out about Lt Heikkinen and Pokkinen.”
02.20hrs Capt. Uomanen arrived at the JP2 command post.
“ - Report by Lt. Häkkinen, Appx.5 (n.a.)
04.10hrs Lt. Häkkinen arrived at the command post and reported that everything OK.
05.25hrs Connection to the Group L HQ established.
On 2.12. morning Russians launched an attack starting with intense shellng at Yläntölä village.
6.-11. hrs Notes in Pfc. Pakarinen's notebook.
Report: most of the 3./JP3 backpacks which were missing have burned down in Yläntölä.
11.40hrs 570 reports:
“The AT gun of JP2 shall be subjected to 572, to a location they shall define to be ready for use tonight (unless the situation calls for a faster subjection). 572 and 510 shall agree on the hour of subjection.
12.55hrs Lt. Pokkinen arrived at the command post.
12.00hrs Lt. Väänänen reported:
At about 12.00hrs 2 platoons of enemy rifle infantry carried out a forced recon mission to the Rampala stone hindrance, but they were repelled with rifle fire.
13.00hrs Transport column leader reported. Appx.6 (n.a.)
13.25hrs Password on 2.12. starting at 1200hrs to 1200hrs tomorrow is number 1132 (Rep. By 570)
14.45hrs Reported by Er.P5 adjutant:
"At Salokylä, Pulkainen, Pisterinmäki 2 Coys of Russ. Battle going on. At Nirkkola nothing special."
14.48hrs Lt. Väänänen reports:
Battle patrol at 12.30hrs. From Valajoki “k” to the direction of the road via Ratojoki hill, to point 112, from there right to N . Returned via the hill in the directions of the road. -No enemy.
14.00-22.00hrs Notes in Pfc. Pakarinen's notebook.
22.30hrs Report from the Group: JP2 Command squad summoned to briefing with the CO. the Group issued orders for action.
05.00-06.00hrs As soon as we got up it was prepared for transfer. Lorries etc. loaded.
06.20hrs Our planes shall be flying at 07.35hrs Route Pihlainen-Jarrila. Mission shall last 20 to 40min
06.55hrs JP2 CO reported to the Group that he is moving to the tents.
07.05hrs Div. Orders to Kiisa, transmitted by Lt. Jalkanen. At the same time order about the area to be demolished. JP2 shall take care of demolition.
07.12hrs Group CO allowed to charge and mine the stone school building of Nousiala.
07.40hrs 510 briefed the Kiira btn comms. Off. On the houses to be demolished and mined.
08.30.-08.50hrs Col. Kiira's supply CO visited the command post and found out about the food and ammunition resupplying and messaging connections.
09.20hrs JP2 CO left the command post in the side of the Kyyhkysenmäki hill and arrived at the new command post at Pasurinkangas where the HQ Coy started building structures.
10.25hrs Tel. Connection to the command post established.
16.30.-20.45hrs JP2 CO receiving orders from the Group CO.
19.29hrs Radio message from Capt. Mäntylä:
"JP4 passed at 19.00 with its last units the road Valkjärvi-Uosukkala."
21.15hrs CO order to Coys to have breakfast by 07.00hrs
21.20hrs A 2 man patrol sent to Nousiala to find out about the situation.
21.50hrs Group L HQ reports.
At the surroundings of Kostiala an enemy unit of about 1 coy has camped. An artillery strike was directed at them and it hit.
-”- CO order to 2., 3. and MG companies: Coy CO s at once to the command post.
22.40hrs 2 officers of JP4 were briefing on the situation on their own sector, and on the area held by Pohjan R. (E.G. it was found that at Nurmijärvi a skiing Russian patrol had been seen, and they had been speaking Finnish)
23.00hrs JP4 officers left the command post.
23.05hrs 3.Coy CO arrived
23.10hrs 2.Coy CO arrived
23.10hrs 1/JP2 CO brought a report to the Btn CO.(?)
23.12hrs Order to 2./JP2 CO on reconnoitring and securing.
Maj. Linden's battalion in a firefight, among others at Yläntölä they encountered Finnish speaking enemy ski troops.
23.35hrs MG Coy CO arrived at the command post, leaving immediately. No orders.
23.38hrs A Sapper Lieut. Of group R visited the command post, briefing on the situation. He told that enemy infantry had turned up at the Petäjärvi road. Maj. Linden's outfit had withdrawn.
23.45hrs Sgt. Rajala set out to take an order to the 2.Coy CO. 2.Coy reinforced with one MG platoon must secure at the Petäjärvi road. At the same time the Vuoksi beach road must be secured.
23.50hrs The abovementioned information relayed to Group L. (Note: according to the abovementioned reports no tanks had been seen)
23.55hrs 1./JP2 CO arrived at the command post.
24.00hrs report: Valkjärvi church village is in flames.
Group R password: “Väärämäki”.
00.40hrs Maj. Linden's Btn reported that the troops at the four roads' crossing had been scattered and a Commander was being asked for. Btn CO sent Capt. Mäntylä to take command.
Capt. Mäntylä ordered 1.3.Gun Coy to stand by .
Companies set out to the direction of the Viipuri road. Btn CO issued order to billet in the houses in Pasuri and send one Runner to liaise with the Command post.
03.45hrs Admin Coy started taking down the tents
- Posts: 584
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Almost successful “kidnapping”
Journal “Kansa taisteli” 09, 1960
“Malviainen village was situated in a cape sticking into lake Malviainen. During the Continuation war it was occupied by 6./JR 12 on 2.August 1941. During the stationary war Malviainen was situated in the rear of Uhtua front 20km from the front line.(Tr.rem.)”
The long and vexing peaceful co-existence had continued week after week. It was already December 1941. Sentry duty was no more any burden for us because there was no action. At night-time we were observing enemy muzzle flames as accurately as possible, to be able to take them out when given a chance.
It was “rasputitsa” time, the most energetic men were swearing in their frustration. Fortunately there were but a few in our outfit who were risking choking in energy, anyway there were two of us and the third fool was a replacement who in his plain stupidity wanted to see an experience everything, saying that he had been given a chance at last. This bloke, affected by heroic stories, was nicely stroking our endless vanity, implying that we had been fortunate enough to be in the game from the very beginning, whereas he had been tortured in the chambers of the rear echelon.
It was a very beautiful day, a Sunday, as we set out to introduce the enemy lines to him. We had decided to get right near. From a longer distance a newcomer would not get the correct idea of the tragedy of the war.
The forest provided a very representative view, ideal for landscape artist. We were wearing white camo suits as we were sneaking towards the abatis. The front line formed a horseshoe shaped salient here at the Malvianen road. We started at the spot closest to our trenches, planning to do a tour along the entire line of our sector. The right side of the road was forest but the left side had entirely burned down in the past and now it was overgrown with raspberry, almost as tall as man.
Successfully we reached the abatis and started crawling on all fours in its cover. Ahead of us there were two weapons' nests, one with a MG and the other one with something we had not been able to find out. The distance was no longer than some fifty steps but the weapons nests were darn well camouflaged. Our new pal was enthusiastic. He did not understand that we were in danger, as nothing was seen and we had not been fired at. Yet I was sure that we had exposed ourselves, our sneaking had been careless enough.
I started suspecting that everything was not as it should be. A voice was whispering in my ear: it would be safest to get out of there. It was actually foolish to peep here, and almost for no reason, because we knew about the enemy positions and nothing appeared to have changed since the last visit.
Encouraged by the silence and calm existence my pal stood up. The new pal obediently followed his example to show that he was no less a man than us. My pal suggested that we should cross the abatis and get behind a boulder over there and open fire at the weapons nests. I sensed that he was not serious, but due to the new pal he had to brag a little.
Then it happened. Once again the warning voice had been right. A long burst of SMG fire rang out behind us, the gunpowder smoke almost blacked our faces as we turned at the shooter. There was a pungent smell in the air, sour and sweet one. For a second we exchanged looks. I nodded and instinctively started proceeding right ahead, for the “bottom” of the horseshoe. Without a sound my pals followed me, I passingly wondered about the obedience of my pal. Usually he did not do as he was told to, not without grumbling, at least. Now he was like a sheep and jogged behind me like a yellow-bellied big ram.
We came out of the forest. I bounced crouching over the road and fell flat on the bottom of the ditch covered by raspberry canes. Again we were fired at from behind, accompanied by bursts of LMG from the weapons nests. So we had been spotted also from the horseshoe. We were unwelcome in every quarter. As we ran I realised that they had planned to nab us as from a plate. In our stupidity we had exposed ourselves and now our return route appeared to be cut off.
I dug a peep-hole in the snow of the road bank, seeing that for now we were quite safe unless on our side of the road there were someone to sweep the ditch with his fire. Glancing over my shoulder I almost swore, although I usually am a calm character. My pal was lying on his back in the snow and unhurriedly fumbling for his cigarette box in his breast pocket. I hit his arm, pushing back the box and said:
- Are you crazy?
Our new pal was watching the activities of our Russian brothers with round eyes, and once I had believed he would have to change his underwear as he suddenly had gone pale. My pal gave me a look that is hard to describe. There was pity in it but mostly hatred. But there was a flash of intelligence in his eyes and he turned over as he heard my words:
-Creep to the bank of the river, I shall hold them back if they are coming. I shall follow you, and give fire at them so that I can disengage, if needed.
To my amazement the stubborn fellow obeyed, although he flexed his jaw muscles.
No more bullets were flying from the weapons nests. They may have seen that they were missing and they might be firing at their own men. I looked through my peep-hole and on the right I saw a line of men approaching gingerly the far side of the road. I counted nine men. I was wondering where and when they had been able to get unnoticed behind us. We may have been so immersed in our guided tour that this was possible. One of them had even had the time to drop his trousers which the waste proved.
Now they were just reaching the road and maybe already spreading beyond it. Then I would be bagged. I glanced behind. My pals had vanished among the raspberry bushes.
I don't after all find myself in a real trouble, unless there is another patrol coming at the riverside, I thought to myself.
Peeking through my peep-hole I found three men in a good target position. I found good support to my legs and pressed the butt of my SMG at my shoulder. - Dammit, they do have detected something since they are glancing at this side of the road and gesticulating. I did not wait any longer. I let go three long bursts and found myself dozens of meters away as the first bullets were beating my previous position . I had managed to see three men do a kind of somersault and hear inhuman roaring before I ran in the raspberry bushes like at the finish of a running race. I got to the river and saw two pairs of eyes looking like horse harness rings.
-All OK, no problem any more, I panted.
In our line a LMG was hammering away at full rate, our operation must have been detected there, too. Now we could do with a smoke. I looked at my pal, got a fag and a grin.
-How many? He asked, nodding to the direction of the road.
-Two or three, I should think, I said, trying to feign modesty.
Our replacement man had satisfied the worst of his hunger for adventure, I thought, and we had to face our foolishness. I never admitted that it was my instinct that guided me to the opposite direction instead of the expected reasonable one. I just said that I had an idea for my plan in a flash and then I completed it lying in the ditch.
Thus I was able to salvage what I could : Feeling of self-worth.
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Puffs over Leningrad
Kansa Taisteli , 02 , 1983
(Onni Rautava, engineer, died on 29. March 2013 in Mikkeli. He was born on 9. March 1920 in Ulvila. This story is requested by a Forum member.)
It was the 21st of February 1943. The sky was totally clear, some frost. Medium heavy bomber BL-158 is taking off from a/b Värtsilä, the base of Flying Squadron 42. I am sitting in my old place in the rear of the plane, facing the tail. In front of me there is a machine gun and within my reach the radio equipment. Through the firing slot and the perspex canopy I can see the receding runway and the edge of the forest where the dispersal dugouts are situated. The speed increases, the plane takes off. Landing slats are pulled in and the landing gear rises inside the fuselage (sic). Hatches turn in to cover them. (sic). The plane is gaining altitude while heading for SSW.
It is all familiar and I have been through this many times but still I am feeling tense this time. The target is new for me. I have heard a lot about it. There is a tremendous AA artillery. Fighter squadrons have been concentrated there.
The toughest spot
Our task is to photograph sixteen active or standby airfields in encircled Leningrad or near it in a relatively small area. Photographing has been attempted once but the fully loaded camera would not work in the extremely low temperature. During that mission the pilot and the observer were the same as now: Pilot Lt. Tauno Kangas, observer Lt. Matti Autio, both experienced airmen. The radio operator had been Eetu Hilden, a master boxer. Now he was in furlough and I had been ordered to take his place.
Before we took off Lt. Kangas made a phone call to Suulajärvi to the fighter air base there (HLeLv24, tr.rem).
Colonel, Sir we shall take off at Värtsilä at 10.20hrs, we shall be above Suulajärvi at about 11.10hrs and...
Kangas was listening, obviously the Colonel (Magnusson, tr.rem.). Kangas' cheeks started flushing and finally he said in a constrained tone:
Colonel, Sir, we are not asking you to join us. I am just reporting that it is us who is taking off.
What did he say ? I asked after he had finished the call
He started moaning how bad their oxygen gear is. There is nothing wrong with them...they are working but they know how what a hell of AA fire there will be at Piter. That is the matter.
In the first photo mission fighters (Brewsters) had joined in at Suulajärvi but as soon as the first AA shells had exploded they had vanished. Actually it was just reasonable, it did not make sense to risk more aircraft than it as necessary.
Neither was it possible for the Neighbour fighters to get into the AA fire of Leningrad, consequently during shooting the photo plane was totally immune to them. Else we did feel exposed.
No fighters seen, really.
Our mission continued in silence. None of us seemed willing to discuss, there was probably nothing to talk abut. The plane kept gaining altitude. Oxygen masks were taken into use at three kilometres of altitude. We arrived at Suulajärvi. _I was watching the airspace below with curiosity.
Nothing in sight, I commented. My throat mike sent the message via an amplifier to the headphones of the pilot and the observer.
They are not coming and we are not going to wait for them, Kangas said.
Now we had set our course right to Leningrad. We climbed to the defined altitude of seven kilometres . Soon we shall find ourselves in the range of the enemy AA artillery. I know for sure that we shall soon be fired at and heavily at that. I cannot remember any other time being this tense during a mission. Maybe except on my first mission over the Carelian Isthmus on the 4th July in 1941 I had experienced the same – waiting, awareness of the danger and possibility of death.
By now we have been for a long time over the enemy territory. The first airfields have been photographed. Why do they not shoot? Are their fighters coming? I know that my eyesight is good but I am hoping it would be even better. I am trying to discern anything unusual in my field of vision, anything that moves...fighters. Nothing can be seen.
AA opens up
Suddenly a small cloud appears behind the plane, it is fast receding. At the same time more clouds are appearing – first a flash of fire and then a puff. I am looking to the side: similar puffs over there. They are seen both above and below in every quarter.
As soon as the first puffs appear the tension is gone. It has started! No more waiting!
Puffs behind...puffs to the right, puffs to the left, puffs below, I commented in my mike turning my gaze.
The same ahead of us...to the right a little...now right on...doing fine, I heard the calm voice of Matti Autio.
I felt a wave of good mood: the men in the nose of the plane were the right men. They were the masters of their trade. The voice had not revealed any fear, not even nervosity.
New puffs are emerging all the time in every quarter. They are appearing simultaneously, they are appearing at brief intervals. They are appearing far, they are appearing near so that it is possible to hear the explosion and the plane sways. Thousands of puffs, tens of thousands of puffs!
In the city of Leningrad there is an AA battery almost in every unbuilt place where it can be placed with a sufficient firing sector. They are situated around the city. Also ships are firing and the coastal forts, Cronstadt. All this fire has been directed at one target – us.
Suddenly I hear an angry buzz on my right. Looking behind, I spot a hole in the turret canopy, big enough to fit a thumb. The fragment had just passed my right ear but my headgear was still intact.
The sky had all the time been totally cloudless but now I saw behind us a roundish white cloud. Where did it come from? Then I realised that we had been flying in a straight course fairly long, since there were three airfields to be photographed in row. There were behind us all the AA puffs that had emerged during our photo run.
I had a brief thought in my mind: “I wonder how many bomber plane worth of shells have been spent on us! They are making a loss! But war and commerce are making different calculations.”
Leningrad is a big city
Leningrad is there to be seen below me to the side as if on platter. It is a big city. Many millions of inhabitants. Almost as many people as in Finland. How many Finns are left there? Somewhere over there is the grave of my grandfather. That quiet man from Häme province found his final resting place in a foreign country. His grave must have vanished by now. There used to be a large Finnish “high school” and a Finnish church somewhere there. Dozens of thousands of Finns were working there, as craftsmen, as builders, as civil servants and in many other jobs. They were appreciated and they were aware of it. Living among foreigners they stuck to their Finnishness and their national pride..
AA fire went on relentlessly, maybe increasing. I could hear in my headphones the sparse conversation of the pilot and the observer:
-To the right...some more...fine...now right on...
- Perkele, now we are out of film. Let's go home.
The aircraft camera employed 30by 30cm film on a roll in a cassette on top of the camera. The camera was electricity operated from the cockpit. Normally it was the duty of the observer to operate it. Single pictures could be taken by pushing a button in the camera itself. The camera was placed in the aircraft fuselage behind the bomb racks near the MG turret.
Since the camera had not been able to function in cold weather with a full cassette, less film had been loaded in it. There was not enough of it, the photo mission could not be completed .
We headed back to Värtsilä where we landed at 13.00 hrs.
There were four holes in the plane. One splinter had been stopped by a support structure at my knee. One had pierced the wing between the wheel and the fuel tank. If it had hit a few centimetres more in any direction the result would have been fatal.
Two days later on the 23 Feb 1943 the same aircraft with the same crew takes off for Leningrad. Their mission is to photograph the rest of the airfields
Before we had taken off I had asked Kangas:
- Are you going to call Suulajärvi ?
- No, was the answer.
- They would just become nervous and I would get aggravated.
Our journey proceeded much in silence. It was the third photograph mission to the same objective within a brief period of fime. Would there be fighters to greet us?
None was but the AA was on the standby. The fire was at least as intense as last time. High winds were hampering us when trying to fly in a straight line. When on a photo run the camera must be horizontally level so the plane has to pass right above the target. Over Leningrad wind pushed us off course. The pilot made a 360 degree turn and again headed for the airfield to be photographed. I realised that the camera was not running and Leningrad was below us. Admittedly our plane was tilting slightly, I went to the camera and with manual control exposed two photos.
I returned to my seat. Something was not right. I realised that I did not feel the flow of oxygen to the oxygen mask on my lips. I felt at the hose with my hand. It was in the right position. I looked down. The oxygen hose had a kink between a structural tube and a spare MG magazine.
How long has the hose been blocked? How long a time I have to fix the hose? Is it intact? Without oxygen I would perish in a little while, I could lose consciousness in a few seconds. I reached down. The hose is easily released, straightened out and again I am feeling the flow of gas on my lips. What a relief.
During a photo run you fly straight.
During my private emergency the AA fire has continued relentlessly. There were dark large puffs, there were off-white puffs...four different kinds of puffs. Suddenly a faint thud is heard, the plane is buffeted, something dark swishes by.
-Perkeles! I can hear Tauno Kangas' calm voice in my earphones
-I closed my eyes...
An AA shell had exploded right in front of the plane. Several other shells went off so close that the sound could be heard in the plane and pressure waves buffet her.
Matti Autio, the observer, had caught an idea of the wind, its bearing and speed. Now we were flying straight. The remaining airfields were photographed without extra turns.
Toksova was the last one to be photographed. We were out of film just above it. During our return we were discussing if the entire base was covered.
We landed at 13.35 hrs at Värtsilä. This time our plane had just two holes. One of them was in the left engine, an induction pipe had been cut off. It had likely been caused by a shell exploding in front of the plane. Fortunately aircraft engines have double subsystems almost everywhere. The engine kept running despite the cut off induction pipe.
Mission must be completed
Only half of the Toksova airfield was covered! The film had run out also this time. One more mission to the same target was ordered. It seems that it was absolutely necessary to get this information.
Sgt. Hilden was back from furlough and he took his place.
Fourth mission to the same target within a short time! Surely there would be fighters this time to meet the photo plane.
Indeed they were. The photo plane had just made it above Toksova airfield as two enemy fighters appeared. They had been waiting there. The other side of the airfield was photographed and finally the mission was completely accomplished.
The fighters kept approaching all the time. The Blenheim turned her bow (sic) to North. There were clouds at about two kilometres South of lake Ladoga. The plane is in low descent, engines are running at full revs with maximum manifold pressure.
Eetu Hilden is clutching the grip of the machine gun and keeping his finger on the trigger button. The fighters keep coming, the distance is getting shorter. The MG is aimed at the nearest fighter. He is going to shoot soon...soon is the gunner going to shoot, too. They are still a little too far.
At the same moment the photo plane dives in a cloud. The fighters are not seen any more. Once again there was safety in the clouds. The high command got the photos they wanted.
For comparison: PLeLv 42 war diary
07.00hrs Photo weather in Carelian Isthmus.
07.30hrs Order for photography in Carelian isthmus( Squadron order no 3/43)
Takeoff at 10.30hrs (In the photo mission on thee 9th February 1943, as the enemy airfields in Carelian Isthmus were being photographed, the Rb camera was at first functioning perfectly but after 36 exposures the camera totally stopped. The observer had not stopped the camera even during turns. The camera was then tested on ground but it did function without any problem. No other reason could be deduced except the fact that the extremely low temperature had caused the camera to stop. A similar case occurred on 24Jan 1943 as the observer actually stopped the camera after a photo run. This time, too, the camera (did not start running overstruck) could not be made working until at an altitude of about 1000m. In the former case the temperature was about -50deg C and in the latter case about -60deg C.)
09.00hrs Photo weather at Poventsa (Povenets).
09.05hrs Order for photography at Poventsa (Squadron order no 6/43)
09.15hrs Agreed on fighter escort with Col.Lt. Magnusson (LeLv 24 Tr.rem.) Four BW fighters covering at Mainila at 4000m
10.30hrs BL-151 took off for photo mission.
10.40hrs Capt. Siirilä reported that during the photography of the Poventsa area, the Sekehe (Segezha) factory location must also be covered.
11.05hrs BL-160 took off for photo mission.
13.00hrs BL-158 returned from photo mission (sic)
13.10hrs BL-107 and BL-115 arrived from Joensuu. The a/c received in (the equipment inventory) of LeLv 42
13.35hrs BL-160 returned from photo mission. Segezha factory locatin was photographed whereas the Poventsa area was not due to engine problem. Mission repoert no 11/43, as appx. No 729/sp.
13.50hrs Mission report no 10/43 sent to Op./LeR4
14.00hrs Mission report no 11/43 sent to Op./LeR4
21.00hrs There are five operational BL a/c in the base. BL-151 in Immola, BL-160 turret broken and BL-138 undercarriage pump still faulty.
No photography weather.
13.45hrs BL-155 arrived from Joensuu. The a/c is received from LeLv44. (LeLv44 was being re-equipped with Ju-88s. Tr.rem.)
14.00hrs Order sent by the Regiment HQ to photograph three areas in the Olonez Isthmus. Order and map transparent as appx no 730/sp
21.00hrs Squadron order no 7/43 for photography in the Olonez Isthmus. Appx on 730/sp
08.00hrs Photography weather in Olonez Isthmus.
08.15hrs Order for photography in Olonez Isthmus (Squadron order no. 7/43)
10.45hrs BL-158 took off for photo misson (Osta area)
10.50hrs BL-109 took off for photo mission (Lakes Osenajärvi and Latvajärvi)
12.50hrs BL-120 and BL-156 arrived from Joensuu. A/c received from LeLv44.
13.05hrs BL-109 returned from photo mission. Two photo runs on the North side of both objectives carried out. Mission aborted due to running out of oxygen. Mission report no 12/43, appx no. 730/sp
13.35hrs BL-158 returned from photo mission. The ordered Osta area was covered from the East with five photo runs. Photography aborted due to clouds. Mission report no.13/43, appx.no.730/sp
14.05hrs Mission report no 12/43 sent to Op./LeR4
14.10hrs Mission report no 13/43 sent to Op./LeR4
20.00hrs Capt. Airaksinen reported that Komendantskaya II and Toksova air fields have been missed in the photography carried out on the 21st February.
21.00hrs There are eight operational BL a/c in the base.
07.00hrs Photography weather in Olonez Isthmus.
07.15hrs Order for photography in Olonez Isthmus (Squadron order no. 7/43)
09.50hrs BL-107 took off for a bombing training mission. Landded ar 10.30hrs. Another bombing training missin 10.40-11.10hrs.
11.00hrs BL-109 and BL-115 took off for photo missions
11.15hrs BL-151 arrived from Immola. A/c operational.
13.35hrs BL-115 returned from photo mission. Mission completed. Mission report no 14/43, appx no 730/sp
14.10hrs Mission report no 13/43 sent to Op./LeR4
15.05hrs BL-109 returned from photo mission. The target was Osta, only three photo runs completed. Mission aborted due to engine problem. A/c landed at Nurmoila at 13.00hrs. Mission report no 14543, appx no 730/sp
14.10hrs Mission report no 15/43 sent to Op./LeR4
21.00hrs There are seven operational BL a/c in the base.
(Appendixes not found in the digital archive. LeLv42 diaries end on 31.12.1943)
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Underage soldier at Porajärvi
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 09, 1960
AS our Continuation War broke out in the summer of 1941 I was 17 years of age, consequently I was not sent to the front line troops. Together with my other pals of the same age I was engaged in air surveillance duties at home. This task, in our opinion as “big boys” was secondary compared with the real war. The faster our troops were advancing in the fronts the more we schoolboys were attracted by the idea of joining the “game”. We were thinking that at this rate the war shall soon be fought to victory and we might get left aside from the work of real men.
So, at the last days of July of the same year we travelled to the HQ of our military district to enquire if we, considering our age, could have any chance of joining the front troops. In the military district building we were received by the Commanding officer who had led a battalion in the Carelian Isthmus front during the Winter War. He treated us with stories about his war experiences and in a lively manner described the suffering and deprivations that his Battalion had to suffer facing a numerically greatly superior enemy.
Afterwards I have been thinking whether he with his show wanted to dampen our excessive eagerness for war, or did he want to instruct us, future front fighters. Go figure.
Yet our ardour was not dampened, and a few days later we found ourselves with tickets and documents in our pockets heading for Kajaani where Brigade K (=Col. Eero Kuussaari. Actually at this point of time the outfit name was Detachment K . tr.rem.) was being set up. Having arrived in the camp we were set up in a line to be distributed in companies. There was a tall Corporal looking for two men in his MG squad; we volunteered to him with my pal Pentti Lauren as we had some experience with this weapon. Now we were incorporated in the field army.
Since then we were men in the MG Company of Aunuksen Heimosoturipataljoona (AHSP) that was led by Jaeger Lt. Jussi Mäntylä who had participated in the skirmish in Simo in 1916. (Ref.1) We spent some summer days in the town and trained how to set a MG in position and how to shoot with it. We indeed needed the training because we actually were not experts in using the weapon, we had gained some experience in the Civil Guard.
I want to mention that the rank and file of our Brigade comprised volunteers, ages from sixteen to sixty. There may have been some older ones, veterans of several wars. Even though the training of our outfit was not the best possible, the spirit of the Brigade made up for any deficiencies in training. This is what we by necessity discovered later.
We did not linger in Kajaani for long, because one week after our arrival we boarded a slow train that took us to Lieksa in freight wagons. There we started our march via Hattuvaara to the national border. Our Company had the first contact with the enemy at the -vaara road, there was a skirmish and our MG squad received the baptism by fire. There was a strongish enemy patrol against us, and they scattered after a brief firefight.
We advanced at a good rate for Porajärvi where the enemy as far as it was known had a strong force in defence. Our progress might have been advanced by the rumour that the enemy had their famous female battalion over there. Our outfit did include men like Rahikainen of “Unknown soldiers”.
The next major battle was fought over the Kuutamolahti village. In the battle our MG had to make the first sacrifice as our cartridge carrier fell. After the victorious battle over this East Carelian village our Company camped in its vicinity. For days we maintained our gear and replenished our ammo. At night we would write anecdotes for the “Wilderness Echo” front paper and were rewarded with a diploma and cigarettes. We kept vigilant guard for enemy patrols that were found to be about in numbers in the wilderness between Repola and Porajärvi.
It was a September evening as our Company was requested to send a volunteer MG squad to join an infantry platoon that would leapfrog through forest and swamp in a long sweep to the direction of Porajärvi. Our squad leader Cpl Luukkonen, a m an of action, was willing to join the expedition and since his men did not grumble the matter was settled.
We started the preparations at once. On two travois we loaded our MG, a great quantity of cartridges, food for a fortnight and other gear we would need. Next morning at 0500hrs we set out. It was a fairly cold morning. The frosty night had frozen the top layer of the swamp and it crunched under our boots. Replacing the spearhead patrol every now and then we went on until sunset, arriving at a glen growing a dense patch of forest. It was an excellent spot to camp overnight. The dense firs were covered by beard lichen and they hid both our tents and our campfires.
It was now the evening of the third day of our operation, so far we had not met the enemy. This time we chose to camp in a patch of pine forest on a swamp. Guarding was easy because anyone moving on the half frozen swamp would have made easily heard crunching noises.
IT was the morning of the fourth day and it was rainy and gray, as if a premonition of something special. AS we set out it was still so dusky that the standing remains of pines on burned down ground on the far side of the swamp looked like ghostly enemies and made us fumble for our weapons and cock them.
Having crossed the burned down area the clouds, sweeping the tops of the ancient pines, started dripping water on us, at first mist which slowly turned into heavy rain. Our mood sunk together with the barometer reading. In the afternoon as we were approaching a dugout village that the Neighbour had built during the Winter War the leader of the spearhead patrol, Sgt. R. Spotted some movement ahead. Due to the dusky day and the rain did not discern the brownish clothing of the men meeting him, but taking them for friends he challenged for the password. He never heard the answer, be it correct or incorrect because a SMG burst from the side somewhere ended his journey on earth. For the rest of us this was a convincing proof of the password being incorrect. Soon the entire forest was just one ear-splitting noise of shooting. Ahead of us to the left an enemy LMG opened up, trying to remove us from the rolls. However it took just a while until also our MG was in position next to a big boulder.
We opened fire from our position, at first at the LMG that obstinately kept shooting, managing to silence him, or actually, as we later found, to move in a safer haven. After the battle had gone on for about one hour we gained the upper hand and managed to advance at the nearest dugouts. From there we kept firing at the big swamp on which the survivors of the enemy patrol were on the retreat.
But there was still one LMG, the same one, in his position in the dugout village, firing disc after disc, replaced by the gunner himself as his assistant had either been killed or left him alone. There we had a true soldier against us, having lost one arm he continued his uneven fight against our entire patrol. He might have continued for a long time, had a SMG burst not ended the desperate struggle.
AS we finally had the dugout village in our hands the patrol leader decided that we would stay there for a few days to maintain our gear after the battle. Our MG squad took over a poor dugout in the middle of the area, where the bed platform was about half a meter from the ground.
On the third night after the skirmish, having returned from a stint of sentry duty at the edge of the swamp, I heard some quiet squeaking intermingled with the snoring of my pals. The sound appeared to be emerging from below the sleeping platform. Having listened for a while I deduced that there may be rats as our tenants, so having brewed my substitute coffee I lied down on the platform.
Next morning as I told about this to make a plan to hunt down the rats, another sentry also told he had heard some odd sounds under the platform. Now the others, too, were interested in the matter and we decided to examine what was the source of the sounds.
As some boards of the platform had been removed a bloodied arm rose from the gap created, holding a hand grenade. After dismantling the platform some more we pulled out a Vanya, wounded in the right arm, miserably blabbering, from his cramped hideaway. We made him sit at a campfire, a paramedic bandaged his wound, we treated him with a “Työmies” cigarette. Then his tongue was loosened. There were among us some who knew the Eastern language, so the conversation flowed without problems.
Then, having had some hot substitute coffee, our prisoner willingly told about the movement and objectives of their patrol. The strength of the outfit had been more than forty, elite soldiers who were used to this kind of environment. As to his role he told that as their situation became hopeless he slipped into the dugout and under the sleeping platform, believing that we would leave the village as soon as the battle was over. Then he would get back to his side. Seeing that we settled in the same dugout he had to delay his departure. Confined in the cramped location he had planned to blow up the dugout with his hand grenades of which he had several. Fortunately for us he had abandoned his plan that might have succeeded in the darkest hours of the night.
This skirmish at the dugout village constituted the end of our war as to the youngest ones. The same day we were informed that all men below 18 years of age must be sent down the civvy street immediately.
No war diaries of Prikaati K or the sub-units, in this case VHSP, are available. The reason can be speculated.
According to Wikipedia pm 25.July 1941 of the 1324 men of the Brigade 559 men belonged to Soviet ethnic Fennougric minorities . Tr.rem.
(1) Skirmish at Simo in 1916 :
The skirmish at Simo was fought between Jaeger movement men based in Germany in one side and on the other side Russian and Finnish authorities. The Jaegers were betrayed and surrounded as they were staying overnight in a sauna at Ylioja in Maaninkajärvi, Simo. The Jaegers and the authorities (four Finnish policemen and six Russian soldiers) fought about for four hours before the Jaegers escaped.
The skirmish at Simo was the first firefight between Finns and Russians since 1809. (Wikipedia)
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Fighting at Omelia in Rukajärvi
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 10, 1960
It was the 21st July in 1941. After fighting at the “motti” at Omelia Lt. Laine the CO of 6th Coy of II Btn of JR52 of 14.D had been ordered to advance in the direction of Rukajärvi along the quite bad road until he would meet the enemy. Everything had happened as planned for a while. We had advanced in approach formation on both sides of the road from the Omelia encirclement closing point to the East. We had left behind dry flat land growing pines, now there was bog on both sides of the road. We had marched at times in pine forests, at times in boggy ground until we had reached a ridge growing tall pines, such as there had been on the several ridges we had passed by now. There was dense fir growth, the branches reaching down to the ground. Total air cover was provided.
A beautiful July day is turning into a cool night. We seek a spot that we consider suitable for a break to plan further our mission and at the same time we are looking into the last of our proviant reserve to find something to eat. For quite some time we have not been resupplied by our logistics troops, instead the Neighbour's “Red Cross” has provided us with the necessary food and ammunition supplies. A little while ago we managed to take from the enemy some of their supply lorries where we found the necessities to prolong our existence.
WE have not decently started our meal as there was a powerful rumble of an engine approaching from the East. To be on the safe side we regroup at the sides of the road. In a minute an armoured car enters our field of vision, driving at a good rate until stopping at a distance from us. It seems they are checking the surrounding terrain. Soon the car opens up MG fire at the sides of the road. Bullets are hitting the rough bark of the big pines and pieces of bark are falling on us. We stay put because shooting with infantry small arms would be in vain, we would just give ourselves away. The car may continue and meet with appropriate opposition closer to Omelia.
Indeed the car starts again and there he goes at full speed disappearing to the direction of Omelia.
The sun is setting slowly, finally sinking beyond the bogs and forests. Flocks of ravens appear to the scene, croaking cruelly they are hovering overhead. They turn and curve here and there, at times playing with each other. They keep repeating their spine chilling croaks. Something unpleasant is going to happen since those birds of ill omen are flying just above us! This has happened before and this omen might be found to be true this time, too.
The armoured car obviously was not welcomed in Omelia as he is soon seen again, driving at an astonishing speed for his motherland. He did not even greet us as he did when outward bound. We do nothing – we would not have any time to attempt anything – to set up a roadblock to the armoured car. Patrols are sent to probe the surroundings and sentry posts are set up in every direction. Fog is rising from the bog nearby, bringing with it a strong smell of wild rosemary and heather. Visibility gets ever worse as the midnight is appearing.
An enemy patrol has been able to infiltrate us during the darkest hour of the night and now they are trying to slip away without saying anything. No way, boys! We are giving a fiery greeting at the visitors. There they vanish in the forest, but we are sending some greetings for home after them.
I sit down at a big pine and lean against the thick trunk. The very next moment my eyes are closed and I doze off. Finally I am woken up, shivering with cold. My thin summer tunic is a no good cover for the damp night air.
It is the small hours. The ravens keep circling above the treetops and their ill boding croaking goes on. W have been marching and fighting for several days in succession and sleepiness is forcing our eyes shut. There is a swollen feeling in our eyelids and they are smarting. There can still be heard heavy rumble of modern war in the direction of the Omelia encirclement.
A patrol led by Cpl. Ilmo Tiikkainen, leading the 3rd squad of our Platoon has returned from a mission on the left flank of the enemy.
Do you want to take this one or shall I dump it?
Cpl. Tiikkainen, with whom I have shared many experiences , is offering me a Russian compass, hanging it by its strap. He had “evacuated” it the day before from a lorry that we had taken.
- Why don't you want to keep it, I ask him, wondering.
- I shall never need this any more, is the answer that contains more than would have been necessary. I am dumbstruck by surprise.
- If you don't take this I shall dump it right here, he says.
I accept the compass and wrap it on my wrist.
Tiikkainen lingers on for a moment, his head is hanging and I observe that his eyes are getting damp. He turns away from me, then he lifts his gaze up to the clear sky, looking up there for a while. I can hear him sigh out: “ God in heaven, please let me survive this night and beyond. Please let me see my dear wife and my little child.” Then he leaves, stepping slowly as if in a funeral procession, but then he returns to me asking what time it is, in a hasty manner.
Having learned that he is looking up to the sky and sighs:
- It will be soon now.
I am beginning to understand the meaning of his recent words but I am not asking any questions and he doses not return to the subject. Just then a Runner rushes to the scene and informs:
- We shall start advancing at two o'clock. Get everything in readiness, squad leaders to the Platoon leader for briefing on grouping and attack.
Our Platoon is grouped right on the left side of the road, and my squad on the far right wing at the road. All the other platoons are grouped on the same side of the road, after us. On the right side of the road there is an outfit of the 5th Coy to secure. We are grouping without further orders and at 0200hrs sharp we start advancing cautiously. There are signs of the night skirmish on the trees. Bullets have chipped their trajectories on the trunks. There are no dead to be seen except one who is lying belly down on a tree trunk. There are blood soiled bandages behind a big boulder. Wounded men have been bandaged there probably.
We keep advancing like a stalking lynx. We cross the first glen. We have not seen one single enemy. It is a promising start. The night around us is silent, the noises from Omelia have died down, too. Every now and then a dry twig cracks under a boot. Even that sound is too loud in our ears.
The terrain is rising behind the glen. Some of the big pines have been cut down some years ago, only sturdy stumps remained. The surviving forest is rather sparse. The treetops are just being lit by the sun appearing over the horizon. We arrive at the highest of the terrain and are continuing on the slope descending East. Then, faster than we are able to think we have ducked. We can just note that explosive bullets are cracking all about the place. It is as if we would be fired at from the front and from the rear.
A man carrying the MG is the first one to take a hit, because he was the slowest one to take cover due to his heavy load. The man ducks but not on his volition. Stretcher bearers have a job they are trained for.
Our fate is being decided once more, and we can see prepared defensive positions in front of us. The order to open fire is scarcely heard in the din of the battle. Cracking and crashing is just louder as our weapons join the chorus, providing cover for us to try to advance by dashes .
I am doing my best to exhort the men of my squad to follow me one by one. Yet my voice is drowned by the concert of scores of auto weapons and even larger number of other weapons, Finnish and Russian.
One of my SMG gunners is preparing to dash, he gets up and manages to stand up. Then he falls down on his face there, Otto Jääskeläinen does not move any more. He has let go his SMG. The nearest rifleman grabs it, leaving his rifle there. The Grim Reaper has started his harvesting from the best ones, Otto was one of them.
The Platoon leader has come my way. We have had a few words as his Runner, Pvt. Ulmanen arrives having completed his task. He is carelessly putting up his head. A stray bullet cuts his reporting short, and moaning he falls next to us. During the same minute another Runner arrives, but having no chance to follow our advise to take better cover he shares the fate of his colleague and falls down partly on his pal. Another two young, certainly hopeful and energetic hearts have stopped beating. They are left on the field as so many others during this charge.
No matter what we keep trying to advance and bite into the enemy positions that by now are very close to us. They are looming well camouflaged, without wire and minefields. Bullets are raining like grain-seed from the hand of a sower. Ammunition is not spared on either side.
There are ever fewer dashing men. Trying to exhort my surviving men into their task one after the other does not respond any more, but moan and pull back in cover to wait for help. Advancing seems to be hopeless, but the attack has not been stopped. It is about one hour since we started.
The only survivor of my squad is the LMG gunner who still keeps dragging his heavy “Emma” (RPD, Tr.rem.) ahead. I can hear a burst and again he starts advancing for the objective. Again he puts up his head to fire but this time the enemy is faster. A bullet through the head ends his life painlessly. His head falls down to the ground and the man stays there, as if kneeling in deep prayer. I can hear just an odd croak as his spirit leaves the body, his last greeting.
I am the sole survivor of the seven men of my squad. At the very moment I get like a message from above: “Look out, man! Get cover!”. I bounce up and take a few strides over the tree stumps at the roadside and then find myself in the bottom of the road ditch flat as an earthworm.
The Scripture passage comes to my mind: “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” I have been praying for Divine protection a while ago as we started our attack and again I can profoundly see how my prayer has been heard.
Scarcely have I got out from the reach of enemy fire in the ditch as bullets keep ricocheting off the ditch bank and puffing dirt on me. The order to retreat has still not been received but I start my retreat by creeping in the ditch for the rear. Sweat is pouring out and combined with dirt I am soiled all over. I am writhing like a snake on a warm summer day. My backpack, still on my shoulders, must be seen to the enemy side from the shallow ditch, bursts of bullets keep hitting the embankment. I am surprised to see that no one is firing along the ditch. In that case I would not find any cover there.
Having crept for scores of meters I reach a small hole on the edge of the ditch. Sand for the road has been dug up there. I drop in it to catch my breath. Shooting is on the decrease. I try to peek over the edge of the hole to find out what is going on. I can see that the attack has been stopped. Everything appears to be mixed up. Dead men, each in a different position, are lying about on the field. The wounded have retreated or lying immobile at the spot where their charge ended.
I am continuing my retreat. As the terrain starts slanting in the rear I jump up and run for a glen that I have spotted. I find some other men of our Company there. The battleground is silent now. Somebody is telling hat our Company CO had fallen into enemy hands, as he was somewhere on the left wing with his Runners. A group of enemies had been surprised when they were torturing our CO, another man says. They had tied him against a tree and bayonetted him almost dead. His mouth had been stuffed full of moss to keep him quiet. They indeed paid for their dastardly deed in the same manner as Lt. Laine had to suffer. During the long trek in the forest when he was being carried to the rear to be cared for he had died in his wounds. The road could not yet be used due to the encirclement at Omelia.
The clear July morning is by now so far that the sun is visible over the treetops. Exhaustion getting supreme. Talking about what happened is not getting on. An odd feeling about the fleeting nature of life takes over. Certainly there are many of the survivors quietly thanking God for their survival.
The silence is interrupted by a call for help on No man's land:
- Help, boys!
We can hear him quite well and immediately we recognise that the man needing help is Ilmari Tiikkainen, the same man who half forced his compass to me. He did foresee his fate after all. Oh how our heartstrings are being pulled! Is there anything that we could do to help him? - An explosive bullet had hit the rear of his helmet, our deputy Platoon leader knows. Ilmari had fallen down like a dead man but he wasn't one yet, he is still alive. Shouts for help are continuing.
Ilmari---Come this way! We are shouting in chorus and one by one.
We can see how he stands up and starts staggering just in the wrong direction . After a few steps we see how he stumbles and falls down.
A brief moment later we can hear Ilmari's hasty soliloquy:
Forgive me dear God my sins because I have been sinning all my life!
- His words are at times muddled and unclear but finally we understand that he is reciting the Lord's prayer. It is shocking to hear it emerge among our brethren lying on the battlefield. Another pause and he starts the hymn “Nearer, my God, to Thee,” “Nearer to Thee; E’en though it be a cross That raiseth me..” He starts with a clear voice but it soon it is failing and the words cannot be discerned. After the hymn he recites a prayer for the salvation of his soul and then another one for his wife and his baby. Judging by his voice he appears to be fully conscious but he cannot be, else he would attempt to get out of there.
We are discussing about any chances to save him from the vicinity of the enemy positions. Two stretcher bearers set out to try their luck. If only the enemy would let them unmolested get the poor wounded man out of there. They are approaching the place where we saw Ilmari stumble the last time. The stretcher bearers are advancing cautiously but decisive-looking. Every step is full of tension. Any moment and any step may be their last. Is the enemy going to let them take Ilmari away?
Bating our breath we are staring from our cover at the passage of the two men. There they are,about there where Ilmari should find himself. They find him, grab him and lift him on the stretcher But then the enemy opens up. Both stretcher bearers start rolling on the ground to find cover.
As if by miracle they are able to get back to us because the bursts aimed for them were fortunately aimed too high. Ilmari is left there. The Russians launch an counter-attack. We have to withdraw up to the hill where we spent the previous night. Now the enemy attack is stopped by our fire. They stop to lick their wounds. Twenty-four hours later we make another attempt at the same spot. The enemy resistance is broken now and our advance continues.
When the battlefield was cleared neither Ilmari nor the stretcher could be found. He is still today another soldier missing in action.
JR52 II Btn war diary. The entries have been written in a school notebook with a bad handwriting, it is very difficult at places to interpret.
6th Coy war diary is not available, taking the circumstances in account, not surprising.
00.30hrs Report from the Regiment that the Battalion shall be joined by an Engineer half-platoon and one vehicle of I/JR52 at 06.00hrs. Order to send one Officer for briefing at 06.00hrs
06.00hrs Regimental order on grouping for attack (appx.13)
06.25hrs Half-Platoon of the Engineer Battalion led by Sgt. Lampinen arrived. Reported to the II/JR52 CO. With them a vehicle that has to be returned to I/JR52 when converting to travois.
(Appendix 00[ N.A.])
(it seems there are no entries for 21.7., it is as if the pages would have been missed when digitized. Anyway, JR 52 marched on the 21st through the wilderness North for the Omelia-Rukajärvi road. Tr.rem.
"JR 52 started advancing to the North on the morning of the 21st July and the troops cut the Omelia-Rukajärvi road in the afternoon. This surprised the enemy who had not expected that this strong a force would be able to appear in their rear via badly passable terrain. I/JR 52 turned west and grouped in defence as the enemy counter-attack started at the level of the E side of Lake Taraksino.
II/JR 52 turned East and advanced a couple of kilometres to Luusinkajoki river. At this stage the Finnish troops were holding six kilometres of the road." Source: Suomen Sotahistoriallinen Seura )
02.30hrs 2nd Lt Kekki reported that he had received a message from the 4th Coy. The message had been sent on 21.July. According to it the Coy was crossing the Lusinka river at the W side of Lusinka lake. Lt. Lillqvist has taken positions at the road on 21.July 1941 at 21.30hrs
05.35hrs Two Russian armoured cars armed with cannons arrived on the road crossing the Lusinka river bridge. The AT gun subjected to the Btn incapacitated one of them. The turret of the other one was hit by a projectile so that it could not be traversed, but the car turned back and fled.
07.00hrs Regimental order: The Battalion shall set up defensive positions at Lusinka river and the bridge is to be destroyed.
09.21hrs Sgt. Lampinen was ordered to report to the 6.Coy CO to get orders on destroying the Lusinka river bridge.
10.15hrs 2nd Lt. Laasonen of 5th Coy shall set securing at the river flowing into Lusinka river at half-way. He is to liaise with the 4th and 6th Coys. A patrol is to be sent on the far side of the river. Information about the 4th Coy concerning its action and placement must be at once transferred to the Btn. To contact 4thCoy and report location and advance along the W shore of Lake Lusinkajärvi to the 6th Coy location (??)
12.15hrs Order from the Regimental Adjutant to the Battalion Adjutant: Send one officer and five men to the supply road temporary bridge at Tarassila. Their task: In case the Russki attempts a breakthrough at the I Btn sector they must be prepared to prevent deserters to get across. Also the Rgt. CO orders Maj. Hyvärinen to rally about three Platoons to be used as reserve when needed on the sector of the I Btn if there is an attempt to break through. If the I Btn needs the said reserve, the phone connections to the Regiment are cut off. I and II Btns are to agree on the use.
Lt Hukkinen and 5 men have been sent to the supply road bridge.
16.30hrs A POW taken by 6th Coy arrived at the Battalion.
14.50hrs (sic) Sent on to the Regiment.
17.15hrs Order to sweep the terrain between Lusinka river and the road. Action to start at 19oohrs to be completed by 2000hrs.
17.20hrs Patrol report by phone from Hopea (?).”Cpl. Lassinaro: 4rh Coy carried out, 21-22hrs. No enemies. 12 fallen Russkies on the road. A dozen horses in harness. Artillery shells on horse carts. Two double horse carts going East. Coy patrolled abut 2km road to the West, to the east some 5km. No Russkies. Patrols sent to N too. There is an abatis on the road. One fallen. No wounded. 2 cars drove to the West, did not return.
19.00hrs Attack to the aforementioned terrain carried out. Platoon Koristo on the East, Platoon Sjöblom to the West
20.20hrs Attack completed. Terrain swept, about 10 Russkies destroyed. 3 POWs. Casualties: 1 officer, 3 men.
21.7.(Sic! Shoud be 21.07 ?)
Order to 6th Coy: 2nd Lt. Hakanen is to send a patrol to inform Hakanen that he is to build a footbridge at the spot he now is across Lusinka river.
Hakanen shall also immediately send a patrol to liaise with Lillqvist and order :Lillqvist is to secure to the East and move at least one platoon to Lusinka river.
Jaeger Platoon shall reconnoitre to the East.
21.15hrs Order to 5th Coy: Platoon Hakanen + one Squad to be ready to engage to the West. One MG securing to the North.
The Mortar platoon subjected to 5th Coy is (now) subjected to I Battalion, they must report immediately. 3rd Platoon of !1st Coy to move closer to the brook. To secure to the West and the East.
4 MGs are subjected to I Battalion.
22.15hrs Regimental order to sweep the cape at the S shore of the lake, some 2km from the E shore of Lake Roukkulanjärvi. Of the S shore only the small tongue of land closer to the shoreline.
22.50hrs Order to 6th Coy: Cross Lusinkajoki river, take bridgehead positions. Using patrols sweep the cape W of the bridge and the elephant head shaped cape N of it.
Maps available here: 14.Divisioonan perinneyhdistys
http://14dperinneyhdistys.fi/datafiles/ ... nassa2.pdf
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The hand of fate
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 10. 1960
(JR54, part of Finnish 9.D, was fighting alongside with Wehrmacht units in Lapland. Tr.rem)
It was the Lord's year 1941.
The troops in the Salla sector, Finnish and German, had crossed the border in the first days of September and proceeded in the wilderness fighting their way. There had been a battle at River Voitajoki, Lyssajatunturi fell had been traversed and finally River Vermanjoki was ahead, the front line was established there finally on the 19th September 1941 “ The gains were not worth the sacrifice” appears to be the verdict of military historians. We who were there did not know that, but the fact that a firm front line was established was a welcome piece of news for us. Finally the marches in the forests and wading in the bogs was ended. III Battalion of JR 54 had moreover the good fortune of being sent to rest and recuperation for now as the reserve of the Division (9.D)
The author had been promoted from his position as a Coy CO to the deputy Btn CO while Maj. A.G. Arimo was on a brief furlough. It was a calm October afternoon as we were calmly sitting in the Command Post tent with the Btn Adjutant. We agreed that the Jerries were indeed supplying their troops in an excellent manner. Our chatter was interrupted by the telephone. The Adjutant, Lt. Penttilä got up and answered the call, then he handed over the handset to the undersigned.
-This is Col. Mäkiniemi speaking, can you immediately come to me to “Karhu”?
-What's up now? The Adjutant asked.
-Don't know, it must be something that cannot be discussed on the phone. It is best that you are staying here next to the phone.
The stronghold called “Karhu (Bear)” where the deputy Divisional CO, Col August Mäkiniemi found himself was situated but one kilometre from the Btn Command post
Position "Karhu" , where the deputy Divisional CO Col. August Mäkiniemi resided, was but one kilometre from the Battalion command post. IT did not take a long time until the Company Commander was reporting to the CO. He started his briefing, coughing and twitching his shoulders.
-The enemy has sent over to our area a large patrol, to be exact, 999 rnen. Our BG Battalion (RajaP) has taken a prisoner of the outfit. The patrol was detected for the first time the day before yesterday, and they were having a rest. Last night they suddenly set out. The patrol is led by Col.Shukov. It consists of Russian BG troops. Their task is to liberate the POWs at the (German) air base and destroy the air base. According to the latest information available they were seen N of Lt. Pitkänen's forepost company where they had set up campfires.
-You shall take your Company, reinforced with a MG and a mortar platoon. A lorry transport is provided for the men and the pack horses. At the Alakurtti air base you shall find guides provided by Battalion Wetterstrand (Capt. Leo Wetterstrand), they shall give you detailed information about the enemy. From Alakurtti you shall immediately march to Lt. Pitkänen, to co-operate with him to destroy the enemy. Further orders shall be issued later by Capt. Wetterstrand.
Three hours later lorries rumbled in the October night. One hour more and the Company with reinforcements had been unloaded at the perimeter of the Alakurtti air base. The guides assured the Company CO that they knew the road – there had been no message from the Battalion Commander – the situation obviously was the same as in the afternoon. It was almost midnight as the Company started marching slowly on the wide path starting at the perimeter of the runway. The path was slightly visible because there was snow on the ground. It followed the winding course of the Tuntsa river bank , and at about three hundred meters from the airfield we passed a German sentry post, the men were standing behind their MG. They reported that everything was calm ahead.
Of course, the Company Commander thought to himself. I guess Wetterstrand and Pitkänen would have sent a message if the enemy would be up and about. About one hundred meters from the sentry post men were spotted in front of us. The Company Commander went at once to the head of the column and identified the men as the line troubleshooting patrol of the Vetter Battalion.
-Sarge, what's the news?
-The line to Pitkänen went recently dead. We are fixing the cable. Sir, there is something in front of us there.
-A German patrol ?
-We think they are Vanyas.
-There are also German patrols out there, they are seeking Shukov. How could the Russian be there, the air field is but 300 m from us. Let us check anyway.
-Cpl. Kiviniemi, get a couple of men and proceed ahead! Let us find out who is there. These lads claim that the bog over there is teeming with enemies. Approach from the side. The Company stays where we now are.
Kiviniemi set out and vanished in the dusk. We heard only the footsteps of the patrolmen until they ,Too, vanished. Suddenly we heard the Corporal shout:
- Who's there?
The Company Commander, too, sharpened his ears:
Could there after all be something, by heck? But it cannot be – only Jerries can be there.
Twice more the shout of the Corporal was heard, followed by silence. Then the forest came suddenly alive: The dark night was filled with the music of rifles, SMG s and LMG s, tracer bullets weaving a roof at a few meters.
Kiviniemi ran to his CO.
- Enemies are there, the entire forest is full of them.
- There could be them damn Jerries who once again have got lost. They may take us for Shukov.
There was no time to ponder the matter any longer. Firing became more intense and the German language shouts of the Company Commander were responded by rifle shots and SMG fire.
- Runner! Get the MGs in the front ! Platoons Knuut and Matti, get in firing line and quick!
It was not needed to hurry up the Platoon leaders. The attacking enemy prompted the firing line to get set up quickly. Our rifles started banging and SMGs buzzing. But MG and mortar men had vanished. The Company officers' orders did not make the MG s appear in the front line, and there still was the lingering doubt that we could be facing Jerries, and who would then be found responsible?
It was a relief to hear at the same moment to hear the familiar cry “Uraa” in the front. It was the right opponent after all. Men frightened by the initial contact began to creep to the firing line from the cover of the high bank of the Tuntsa river, and finally the MG opened up its familiar music.
- They did not come fast enough, damn them, the Company Commander thought to himself as he went along the firing line. But the Vanya had been really close. Platoon Matti was already almost nose to nose with them. Yet there was not a great pressure behind the enemy vanguard and the noise of shooting had come from a wide line. The firing line was in order and the Jerry was also awake, pushing the perimeter of the airfield full of men. Heavy firing went on but there was no real trouble. The Divisional Field Hospital, situated about half a kilometre from the battlefield was busy during the night, evacuating their patients to safety. The doctors felt a bit uncomfortable as bullets began to fly through the walls of the barracks.
Three or four hours later the firing died down, the Vanya had obviously changed their plan. The Lapland night was not yet turning to dawn. It was not until at dawn that we could see what had been accomplished. Dead enemies were lying in front of the positions. Darkness had hampered us and Vanyas equally. There were 30 to 40 fallen, our casualties included one KIA and some ten WIA.
The situation continued however. The company started following the enemy tracks, caught up with them and there was a battle some 4 to 5km from the previous location. Next night they passed the last of Pitkänen's field strongholds and finally camped after proceeding 30km, tired and in cold weather. There they also met the dispersed Hauptmann Bettr Company that had been ambushed at Repovaara. Finally the Company surprised the careless enemy in their camp and dispersed the entire Detachment Shukov.
(The story above is not supported by diaries. Btw, the fact that the author did not mention the exact date and identify his Company implies that fiction has played a role. The closest match time-wise is the extract below.)
II /JR54 war diary:
00.10hrs Lt. Sappi received orders to send out an officer patrol to lake Kutujärvi. At the same time telephone connection was established do Kaarna and Köysi (=Coy Vitikka)
09.00hrs Sappi returned from patrol, he has seen tracks of 6 to 7 men from yesterday.
09.35hrs Kaari reported that at the Hanhisalpa terrain there is an approaching 20 man enemy detachment direction along his line. K. received orders to destroy the enemy if the strength is not more than 20 men, and try to get a prisoner.
09.45hrs 2nd Lt. Pekkarinen reported that the mortars are in firing positions.
10.20hrs Lively exchange of shots at Kaari sector.
14.00hrs Enemy fired with 50mm mortar (est. 3 of them) at the Kaari camp area. German batteries opened up and the enemy was seen to disengage.
12.00hrs Officer(led) patrol set out from Köysi 1+15 for Hirviselkä
14.30hrs Pelttari was ordered to follow with two Platoons the disengaged enemy.
16.00hrs Pelttari reported that about 1km from the line he had found 8 fallen enemies
16.30hrs Patrol reported that the enemy, having marched about for 1km bearing 45-00 has turned to bearing 00 and is withdrawing in eight files with 8 – 10 m distance between each. By estimate there are at least two platoons in each file. This withdrawal formation is encountered for the first time.
16.45hrs The Köysi officer patrol returned, here too the Russki has withdrawn in bearing 45-00 and then 00. in ten files, distances 20 – 75m, by estimate at least one platoon per file. A line drawn from Hirviselkä “ä” to Vitelikkovaara last “a” intersected by a line from Vitelikkovaara second “a” right to North, in that intersection point a Russian meal break place was detected.
Casualties: 5452, 5453 and 5469 one wounded in each
00.25hrs Lt. Pelttari returned from pursuit. He had found at Hirviselkä “e” about 400m N a Russki campsite that had been used at least for a couple of nights without campfires. Camp area about 200mx250m, secured as in the drawing.
From this spot 2nd Lt. Taulu's patrol proceeded about 3km N and found that the trace keeps gong N.
12.25hrs The Battalion was allowed to disengage from their positions as soon as sector CO Oberleutnant Heinrichs has inspected the positions. After inspection he thanked Capt. Karasmaa for the good and quick action that the Battalion has shown.
After this the Companies were transferred by lorries back to camp area and Capt. Karamaa reported in the 6.D HQ.
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Starving in encirclement at Stalin Canal
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 09, 1960
The author most likely was the field chaplain of II/JR 25
As JR25 reached the waterway between the White sea and Lake Onega, the canal was already known as Stalin canal. It was there as our Regiment had to experience some memorable incidents.
Finnish people learned about the taking of Karhumäki during the festivities of the Independence day on the 6th December 1941. President Ryti had saved this piece of information as the surprise of his speech. The efficiency of censorship is amazing, because the town was taken already on the 5th December and there had not been a leak.
Our outfit, JR25, was at the moment of taking the town at Vitsajoki (Vitsakylä), about 3km North of Karhumäki, an important industrial and forestry centre. We had leap-frogged there from the Paduki forestry base already on the 18 November, and we were resting just behind the troops holding the front line.
However that fortnight near the front line was far from rest. It was a life under constant shelling. Enemy batteries at the Poventsa road seemed to be in a hurry to spend their ammunition stockpiles, fearing that they might fall in the hands of “tscuhontsy”. The air activities were also lively. They would “drop bombs by the ton creating corpses by cubic meters”. Often our tent lamps were extinguished by blasts.
This period of idleness and constant insecurity was hard for us, since the men were by now totally exhausted. Constant “Assaulting” had squeezed every man out of their best energies. There had been a lot of fallen and three times that amount wounded. The men were bitter and that could be heard in the tent discussions. “Base wallahs” were abused and patriotism was not rated high. One of the contributing factors was that the steady and brave men hailing from Iitti and Artjärvi that my Battalion initially consisted of, were a 40% minority by now. The casualties had been replaced by men from every quarter of the country who did not have any previous connection with the veterans.
Bitterness caused panicking. A mere sound of field gun shot, if heard, caused the men to dash out of their tents in the foxholes that they had dug nearby, and there they had to stay and suffer from cold often for hours. During the dark hours the sentries, being nervous, were often too trigger-happy. On top of it all the supply road was long. Horse drivers had to drive alone in a frightening forest for 20km before being able to deliver their food or ammo load.
At times the caravans spent two or even three days on the stretch because large enemy patrols would every now and then “saw off” the road. Then we had to accept the fact and dig the snow for old bones to gnaw. At least a couple of times the Ace Regiment (=JR26) and KTR1 had to repel enemy battle groups of one or two battalions from the supply road. At the end of November 1941 the enemy IR132 suffered considerable losses in the forests of Venjärvi. The news on the taking of Karhumäki was welcome. The morale was improved considerable in one go.
The morning of Independence day on 6.December 1941 dawned. There had been considerable packages of woollen mitts from Iitti, Artjärvi and Kouvola. To celebrate the day I set out to distribute them. The distribution weather was optimal. Mercury was already below minus thirty degrees and weather report promised even colder. On top of all our Battalion, II/JR25, was transferred to the front line for attack.
Patrols were sent to probe. I joined one as the fourth man. We were proceeding in snowy forest to the direction of the Murmansk railway. Our artillery had created a nasty havoc at enemy cantonment areas. Collapsed dugouts could be seen every now an then. We also spotted some smouldering campfires. They indicated that the enemy had left. So we reached the Murmansk railway without meeting one single enemy. On our way back we met our men, advancing in platoons, led by Capt. A.Kaila and Lt. T. Ritari whose men our patrolmen were.
To secure their withdrawal the enemy had in the meanwhile launched a diversionary attack at our rear. There was an artillery battery behind our tents and a minor skirmish had broken out there. During the melee the Battery CO, Lt. K.S. Had taken a bullet in his head and he had been brought to the field dressing station of our Battalion. A shocking Independence Day speech was heard in the medics' tent as the wounded man was screaming
- G*ddamit! G*ddamit, dear Lord! G*ddamit, dear Lord, forgive me! G*ddamit, Jesus, save me! G*ddamit, Jesus, save men from this pain!
Next on the 7 to 9 December 1941 we had to do a strenuous march from the North of Karhumäki to Lumpuinen (Lumbus) and further to Voljärvi which was situated at the Stalin canal. Every man had white frozen spots on their faces. Tents were set up but seldom. We just warmed ourselves at small campfires and dried our clothes. Enemy patrols harassed us like other nations the Israels in the biblical days. Once I had to join the others for a counterstrike with shaving cream on my face.
The terrain was desolately bare. The forest had been almost totally harvested. There was an odd corduroy road, like a tapeworm, winding through the wilderness like a giant snake (Konnotie). At waterways there were areas with ghostly, more than two meter tall tree stumps.
Near Hiisjärvi we passed a village of barracks surrounded by two tall plank fences. There was a guarding tower at each of the four corners. This had been one of the death camps for forced labourers.
After getting lost for a while we finally arrived after a 45 kilometre¨ trek via Hiisjärvi to Voljärvi. There we were told what had been the series of explosions that we had heard on our way. The enemy had blown up the locks of the Stalin canal at the South tip of Voljärvi and in some other places. Poventsa had been deluged just now. We had crossed waterways on hollow ice! We had reached on 9 December 1941 the Stalin canal, the waterway built in 1933 to connect the Arctic ocean with the Gulf of Finland – just to fall in hunger encirclement
A funny thing happened: the supply horses, being heavier than men, fell through the ice in the water. They were extricated, of course, but the water had by then melted the sugar among the butter and turned the crispbread into rye porridge. Since there were no resupplies for the following days the only thing we could do was to scoop with field kettle lids the porridge in the crispbread boxes and fry it over tent stoves. Finally we were out of even this delicacy for a few days. We distributed evenly our home packets but finally we were out of food.
Our first task was to build a sauna. We had by now been marching six weeks wearing the same set of clothing and every man was totally loused. Someone claimed that he had counted more than one hundred on the string of his dog-tag. Some humorists selected the biggest one as their pet and named him: Kasper, Vilhelmi etc.
Soon the sauna was completed. Do not believe that we would have waited for an entry corridor or locker room to be built, no. The bravest ones ran half a kilometre in minus forty temperature, naked, to bathe. The more timid undressed in front of the sauna. Being careful a man could place his trousers so that they froze while standing; to dress he just had to leap into the hard tubes of fabric
As supplying was again established – the direct distance to Lumpuinen was but 17 km – the constant battle with the “base” restarted. Our Surgeon, U. Pesonen, had to draw up cunning plans three times before he and his paramedics managed to steal the quartermaster's pancake dough.
The war at the Stalin canal was actually this kind of quiet life. The enemy very eagerly launched attacks. The tents often changed hands and losses were quite heavy. There were judging by circumstances exceptionally cruel units facing us, because a couple of Finnish wounded that had to be abandoned were later found to be killed with bayonets and rifle butts. - It is just not right that a small nation cannot bring out charges on war crimes.
But that fighting at the canal was just a beginning. The enemy attacked with great force on the 5th January 1942 over lake Hiisjärvi and took the positions of our neighbouring battalion. Again we were surrounded for a while. We ate the last of our bread and lived in darkness as the kerosene was out, too, It was not until 21 January 1942 that the “Quarter's (=JR25) job” was done. The SW shore of lake Hiisjärvi was covered by destroyed dugouts, among them three hundred enemies who had found the end of their journey. Our young replacements proved their mettle during the fortnight of battles.
Our tired troops in the distant wilderness in Voljärvi were encouraged by a double hope: it had been promised that the offensive would not proceed further than the Stalin canal, the Marshal himself had promised that, and also the oldest men would be demobilised. The men found it hard to believe the news because the rumours circulating in the course of the war had resulted in many bitter disappointments. But soon it was confirmed: JR25 is up for rest and recuperation in Ahvenjärvi. Then, on the 28th January 1942 a true miracle: the Regiment was relieved and started a march for Karhumäki. We did get our rest and recuperation but the war was still going on; hardly anybody could guess that we would have to fight for another two and a half years.
JR25 II Battalion war diary
Format unusual, resembling a report written well afterwards.
Nothing worth mentioning on the Btn sector.
Except random enemy artillery and mortar fire the day has been calm.
During the day the enemy has fired some random mortar shots both at the first line and deeper in the rear.
Securing handed over to II/JR35.
The isthmus between Lake Nimetön and Viuhkaoja was secured. Coy Wickström subjected to Teltta.
The “motti” being secured was cleared at 13.00hrs and securing was shifted to the W shore of the lake.
Btn swept the E side of the lake and after that moved S of the railway road crossing at Vitska.
Btn marched along the corduroy road to Hiisjärvi and camped at about 3km from the shore of Hiisjärvi
Btn marched along the SW shore of Hiisjärvi to the isthmus between lakes Valjärvi and Hiisjärvi. Arrived at 15.30hrs Securing to the right by Coy Rantanen and to the left Coy Wickström.
Coys still at their previous places. A 10 man enemy patrol attempted at Voljärvi village. 4 men of the patrol were destroyed while the rest managed to retreat.
A recon patrol reached point 115.5 in the terrain and spotted enemy movement at Valjärvi.
Enemy attempted to penetrate from N with a force of twenty men Valjärvi village but they were bloodily repelled.
At 14.45hrs the enemy penetrated our lines on the right flank of Coy Rantanen, manning Voljärvi village and the right sector up to the road. In the afternoon our positions were remanned (sic) while Voljärvi village remained in enemy hands.
The enemy that had penetrated into Voljärvi village, strength up to 500 men according to a POW, was evicted in the forenoon by our attack that was supported by artillery and mortars. Enemy pulled back to the E shore of lake Voljärvi while part of them took positions on the cape E of Voljärvi village. Enemy losses more than 100 KIA.
13.00hrs Enemy launched another attack from the direction of the road situated NE . Coy Rantanen reinforced with one platoon of 7.Coy had to pull back some to the rear. 2nd Lt. Valkama, back in the front from military hospital last night, fell during the battle. 5.Coy lost five tents and several backpacks to the enemy. In the e evening the enemy managed to retake the village. The village had been manned by a Gun Coy, but they had to abandon their positions facing an enemy quite superior in number. As darkness fell the enemy ended their attack.
AM: patrolling, fortification work. 5.Coy was given 2 MG s of III Btn
12.30hrs Enemy attacked with a force of 100 men at the right wing of our main defence line, but were easily beaten back. 10 enemies fell.
A patrol found that the enemy is securing in front of their positions.
18.00hrs A patrol visited the old command post of 5.Coy.
Regimental Jaeger Platoon led by Cavalry Lt. Rantalahti reached the road N from Valjärvi village, between coordinates 90 and 92. They killed 18 Russkies, 5 horses and 1 cow. (sic)
Several blazes in Valjärvi village.
Relatively calm day.
By reconnoitring it was found that the enemy has taken positions in “Cape Thumb” SW of Valjärvi village.
A patrol led by 2nd Lt. Suovala visited the old positions of 5.Coy and found them free of enemy.
The cold weather has persisted for several days and still does.
09.00hrs 6.Coy had orders to attack Valjärvi village. Enemy launched, however, a surprise attack a little sooner against our securing, turning our attempted attack in to defensive action. In spite of enemy MG, light and medium mortar fire the enemy attack was beaten back. The enemy lost some 20 men KIA.
Right after the noon the enemy launched another attack at 7.Coy right at the right edge of our sector. An enemy detachment of some 200 men managed to penetrate in our positions whereby the 7.Coy abandoned their positions and withdrew, delaying the enemy, to the main supply road at Salmenjärvenjoki river. Most of the company was disorganised. In the meanwhile the outfit sent to counterstrike ( Rautalahti/Rgt. Jaeger platoon, Sapper Platoon, Btn Runner and anti-gas squad) was hit by our artillery strafe whereby they dispersed and among others Cavalry 2mnd Lt. Rantalahti was badly wounded.
During the enemy attack 5.Coy abandoned their positions and withdrew to NW to the dam, getting disorganised.
In the meanwhile the enemy that had gained a foothold at the W side of the Salmijärvenjoki continued their attack to NW up to level 87 ½ . Then the 6th Coy that had been in forward positions launched out a surprising and brisk counterstrike against the enemy that was just “evacuating” our tents. Using intense firing and loud war-cries the enemy was beaten back.
15.30hrs Arrived Coy Sirviö of III Btn that had been sent to help, they were given the task to sweep the terrain at the battleground while Coy Wickström was securing.
The evening was calm. 5th and 7th Coys were rallied during the evening and night.
The surprising successful enemy penetration in the positions was partly due to the fact that the essential brush cutting had not yet been carried out .
The enemy offensive that had gone on daily for almost a week ceased and the day was calm
During PM the front line was relieved by I Btn whereafter the Companies camped right behind the front line. One Platoon of the 7th Coy however was engaged in securing on the right wing of the sector.
5th Coy remained securing on both sides of the dam.
Patrol Arjaluoto destroyed an enemy 3 man patrol at the road 400m E of Salminjärvenjoki .
5th Coy relieved in the front line Coy Sirviö of III Btn. After this the 5th Coy camped near the Btn HQ.
Battalion started field fortification work in the front line.
FF work in the front line was carried out day and night. Wire was planted all along the line. Several hectares of forest was cleared and weapons nests built. Due to this work the defence was much improved.
Enemy did not disturb the Christmas Eve celebration. This Christmas Eve in the Easternmost forepost of Finland was a noble and memorable celebration with Service and Christmas presents.
08.30hrs Enemy attacked from “Thumb cape” at the right flank of I Btn, making a minor break-in. Enemy was beaten back, taking heavy losses, by a brisk counterstrike by the 7th Coy.
Btn carried out systematic FF work at the first line. Dugouts were built, saunas too.
In the front line on the sector of I Btn minor firing. Our patrols (Arjaluoto, Haapasilta, Österbacka) have been daily out E of Salmijärvi line observing the enemy activities. It has been found that the enemy is carrying out FF work. Our artillery and mortars have carried out effective harassment.
Reorganization was carried out in the Regiment due to coming Brigade organization. The backbone of the Btn (IV/5.Pr.) consists of I Btn. Btn CO Maj. Hirvikoski, Adj. Lt. Talvi and Coy CO s Capt. Pakarinen and Lts Tohka, Vainio and Vickström (sic) (Deputy Lt. Kiuru). It was ordered that men and NCO s born 1912 or later shall be transferred to the Brigade Btn.
While the reorganization was being carried out the enemy attacked on the III Btn sector. Due to this the transfers could not be completed.
On the 3. Jan Coy Rantanen was transferred to the III Btn sector as reinforcement.
Enemy had managed to penetrate two capes on the W shore of lake Hiisjärvi and the situation was getting more ominous. For that reason Coy Vainio was taken out of the first line of our Sector and sent to assist III Btn. The same night, carrying out a counterstrike at “Drop cape” Lt. Vainio fell.
Responsibility for the front line was again transferred to Maj. Hirvikoski. The front line was being held by Lt. Vickström with his old Coy, Lt. Kiuru and Lt. Tohka with their new Coys.
In the evening Coy Kiuru had to be relieved from the front line, and the sector was divided between Coys Vickström and Tohka. Coy Kiuru was transferred to the III Btn sector as well as Coy Kahila.
Enemy made it up to “prisoner village” (Abandoned Gulag camp, tr.rem.)
Enemy patrols have been moving on the E shore of Salmijärvenjoki but they were repelled.
Previous night at 22.40 about one Coy in strength attacked from “Thumb cape” against the positions of Coy Tohka. The enemy was driven away after a brief fight.
In the morning the enemy gave us loudspeaker propaganda. The Russian show revealed that they were aware of our reorganization.
15.00hrs About one Platoon of enemies appeared on the ice facing the positions of Coy Vickström and they were immediately driven away.
20.00hrs Enemy launched another attempt at Coy Vickström by creeping in the thick snow. Using flares the intentions of the enemy were revealed in time and the Russkies were repelled with intense fire. The ice mine (“Arsa”, tr.rem.) fields were exploded. One was dud.
02.30hrs Enemy repeated their creeping attack in front of Coy Vickström. Again the enemy was beaten back. In the morning 20 fallen Russkies were counted on the ice. Exchange of shots went on until morning.
At daybreak the enemy started an attack at Coy Tohka. The attack was beaten back but fighting went on until 14.00hrs
Artillery and mortar fire, at times intense, was mutual.
02.30hrs Up to 07.00hrs enemy gave harassment fire with all inf.weapons at the sector of Coy Vickström.
The enemy was showing signs of activity all day without launching any significant attempts to attack. Mutual art. And mortar fire.
Note: Det. Ruuskanen.
Enemy is alert in their positions. Mutual exchange of fire now and then. Enemy patrol has been moving on the ice at night.
Brigade organization was abandoned and the Battalions were re-established.
Our patrol has examined the E shore of river Salmenjärvenjoki, 500m deep and 800m wide, finding it free of enemy.
Calm all about the front line. Enemy has fired some shrapnels and every now and then with mortar.
Coy Pasila relieved Coy Mukkula (Kahila) that was transferred to rest and recuperation replacing Pasila there.
Front line still calm.
II Brigade officers familiarized themselves with the front line and on the 28th the II and III Battalions of II Brigade took over the front line.
Btn was shifted by skiing and lorry transport to the terrain N and NE of lake Ahvenjärvi for rest and recuperation.
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Journal "Kansa Taisteli", 10,1960
That is what happens if you are too eager
About the author: Toivo Johannes Korhonen (1916-1969) Captain, manager, Knight of the Mannerheim Cross no. 187. (10.2.1945, sic) During the Continuation War he acquired valuable information concerning the enemy during his 64 long distance patrol missions, total length about 3400km. During them 109 enemies were destroyed, 5 prisoners taken and a lot of material was destroyed. (Wikipedia)
As the CO of the 14.D long range recon detachment I was on the 15th October 1943 to get ready for a patrol mission in order to proceed to the Russian main supply road at the E tip of lake Onihma and carry out traffic harassment there. I set out with my outfit on the 19th October 1943 to carry out the task.
The strength of my outfit consisted of 61 men, 60 of whom were armed with SMGs. We traversed the enemy lines N of the famed Sakkavaara hill. That day we marched 35km and camped mid-way to our objective, because the mission was scheduled to take 4 days.
On the night 19 to 20 October a huge storm with sleet rain broke out. The sentries complained before midnight that they cannot hear anything due to the storm. On the 20th at 0400hrs the sentry posted at our incoming trail reported odd movement in the vicinity. I increased guarding and set out myself to listen. I could not hear anything but supposed the noises were caused by the storm.
Next the sentry post on the S side reported sounds of movement, and even some human voices had been heard. The sentries suspected that there were Russians were in their vicinity. In this quarter smaller patrols had often been pursued and they had had to use their legs hard to get out of trouble. The patrolling theatre was not wide because the terrain between the main road at Onihmajärvi and a railroad spur to Kuusijärvi was but some twenty kilometre wide.
Due to the noises of the night I ordered the campfires to be put out and stand by to march at 0600hrs, target E end of lake Onihmajärvi. After about one and a half hours having proceeded a few kilometre I ordered a break on a ridge in front of us. Scarcely had a fag been smoked as the rear securing reported that lots of Russians were approaching from our rear, and at the same moment I saw them myself. Since the spot we found ourselves in was disadvantageous for defence I ordered my outfit to at once traverse a narrow open bog and on the far side to take positions facing the pursuers. In the cover provided by the ridge we ran across the bog as fast as our legs could take us. As soon as we had reached the patch of forest in the bog I set up my outfit for defence.
The very moment I was giving my final advice on opening the fire the first men of a triple file of Russians appeared running on the open bog. WE let the first men of the files to approach just in front of our line before I signalled to open fire. The silence was cut by the angry fire of SMGs and the scythe of death started cutting down the Russian files. The battle lasted just a few minutes and the Russian Company of 61 men was lying dead on the bog. Another proof how quick and determined actin Finnish Sissis were capable of.
We thought after the battle that the trouble was over. We did not make haste to leave the scene but watched and wondered at the result of our accurate fire. One of the Sissis even stated:
- That is what happens when you push on heedlessly !
However the trouble was not over, because soon another skirmish started. Having left the battlefield I directed our march to West in order to go around an open bog in front of us. In this direction we proceeded about two kilometre Then, when traversing a narrow tongue of bog the scout squad stopped, reporting that there were Russians on the ridge ahead of us. At the same moment I, too, spotted lively movement in the pine forest as the Russians were running to take positions.
I ordered the leading Platoon to quickly pull back to the pine forest behind us. We could not advance because we would have taken heavy casualties going up the slope. As soon as our retreat from the bog started the Russians opened lively LMG and rifle fire from their ridge. It was a miracle that no one of us was left on the bog even though the mud around us was kicked up by a rain of bullets like water boiling in a cauldron. Pvt. Högström was wounded in a heel. My Runner dropped his backpack on the bog but it, too, was retrieved. We could not afford to abandon anything to the enemy. As the Russians engaged us, Platoon Törngren in our rear also opened fire against them. This may have discouraged the enemy from charging and made their fire inaccurate.
Now the problem was how to get out of the patch of forest in the bog, because the route to South and North was blocked. I secured the directions the enemy could approach from and sent Sr. Sgt. Hirviniemi across the bog to NW to reconnoitre for any chance to proceed to the opposite side of the bog and in the favourable case to secure the cape of swamp. His Squad did manage to get across the bottomless one kilometre wide bog using poles. Next each man got himself a pole, and using them as support we traversed the bog. I joined the last squad. Crossing the bog was extremely difficult and all the time one had cold shivers and fear that any moment the pursuing Russian could shoot us in the back. There was a constant pounding thought in my mind: “It would be nasty to die on a bottomless swamp”.
As we stragglers had made it mid-way the swamp, “Dad” Kalle Väisänen commented:
Soon we shall be taking fire at our backside, Russians have reached the edge of the swamp.
The enemy did open fire behind us but either they were bad marksmen or the range was too long but none of us was hit.
Now the situation was such that we had to head for our own lines. On our way we passed a Russian camp and field fortification area being built. Fortunately we spotted it in time because we did not want another engagement. We had to take care of a wounded man and the outfit was exhausted.
I radioed my report to the 14.D HQ. When we arrived at our cantonment there was a telegram waiting for us, sent by the C-in-C, the Marshal thanked our outfit for a courageous mission.
A word of explanation:
The front line at Rukajärvi was on the line Lake Nuokkijärvi – along River Ontajoki – Lake Ontajärvi – Seesjärvi. (From Lieksa to Kuhmo). This line was hold until the Armistice in 1944. The length of the line comprised more than 200km. It was a typical wilderness front, there were not enough men to build a continuous trench line. The defence comprised individual field strongholds with hedgehog defence and bases in the wilderness. The terrain between them – several kilometre or even tens of kilometre – was patrolled daily
Field strongholds were situated in the wilderness commanding narrows and rapids. The number of field strongholds was 45 to 50, varying during the war. A continuous trench line, length 10km, was built just in the middle of the sector.
Each field stronghold was held by 30 to 35 men. The long distance between the field strongholds meant that there was no assistance to be had soon but the men had to make it on their own. The men of a stronghold soon bonded and the leaders had to take their own initiative. In the wilderness war the enemy was potentially present any time anywhere. Enemy partisan patrols were encountered almost daily at the Divisional supply road and in the thinly manned rear during the snowless time of the year.
(from the website of LC Helsinki/Siltamäki)
War diary of 14.D Long Distance Patrol Section
Handwritten diary with daily entries
Summary of entries 4.10.-23.12.1943 : Nothing special (every day)
21.9.1943 2nd Lt. Korhonen received an patrol order in the D.
22.9.1943 Nothing special
23.9.1943 Nothing special
24.9.1943 Preparing for setting out to patrol
13.00hrs Set out a patrol led by Staff Sgt. Jussi Vähäniitty tasked to advance from SW of lake Pugljärvi, W of lakes Madaljärvi and Harkjärvi to the East up to the Perttijärvi-Venjärvi road between roadposts 23-24 which constitutes the objective. Once in the objective they are to observe the enemy traffic at least for 24 hrs, preferably for three days while making observations about the condition of the road and the enemy defence lines at the road. In case an opportune target appears the patrol is to ambush it, destroy the enemy and takes one prisoner. The road is to be mined at least in two places and totally destroy telephone lines at least in a stretch of three telephone poles. Patrol strength is 6 NCO + 13 men and two radiomen, the total strength being 6+15 = 21. Appendix no.10
2nd Lt. Toivo Korhonen's patrol is preparing for mission.
16.00hrs 2nd Lt. Toivo Korhonen's patrol set out, tasked to advance via N of lake Oudajärvi and N of lake Oudajärvi, Petrolampi, Kalmokangas and Hemminjärvi to the S of the Kotskoma road to point 110.8 N tip where they are to set up a base. They shall observe the traffic on the Kotskoma road and the S road leading to the Western railhead for 24 hrs . After that they shall set up an ambush on both said roads, mine them and destroy the telephone lines. It is desirable to take a prisoner. In case the abovementioned should fail the patrol shall reconnoitre on their way back the terrain at hill Tsukkerovaara and set up an ambush to capture a prisoner. Patrol strength 4+10+35 and two radiomen, the total strength 4+10+37 (Sic!)
28.9.1943 Nothing special
09.15hrs Staff Sgt. Vähäniitty's patrol destroyed on the Perttijärvi-Venjärvi road 20 enemies and a lorry that remained there in flames, blew up 4 telephone poles and mined the road. It was impossible to take a prisoner, because the enemy was able to send help so quickly that all the men on the lorry had to be destroyed.
2nd Lt. Toivo Korhonen's patrol was engaged by a largish enemy unit that had been tracing the patrol at the E corner of lake Hurminjärvi, destroying about 20 to 30 enemies and then withdrawing E of Hurminjärvi for the patch of forest at the NW end of lake Hurminjärvi. As soon as the leading squad of the patrol had proceeded near the said patch of forest the enemy opened a surprising fire from it. The ambushed leading squad had to withdraw across a bog whereby one patrolman was wounded. The patrol had to start their return journey because it was impossible to carry out the task now.
18.00hrs Staff Sgt. Vähäniitty's patrol returned to their lodging.
12.00hrs 2nd Lt. Toivo Korhonen's patrol returned to their lodging.
Telephone message from 14.D N:o 8905/3.10.1943
The C-in-C has noted the plucky performances of the long distance patrols on the 29. September 1943 both in the North and in the South and orders to inform about his satisfaction on the performances.
By order, Maj. Vehanen.
Then a neatly typed document:
Detachment Korhonen's patrol report, period 28.9.-1.10.1943
I received from the Intelligence officer of 4200 the following task:
To proceed N of lake Ondajärvi, then N of Petralammi, Kalmokangas and Shuminjärvi until S of the Kotskoma road at the N tip of the lake at pt 120.8 where to set up a base. From that base to observe about for a day the enemy traffic to Kotskoma (between roaposts 24 -27) and South, on the road to the Western railway terminal. After that ambushes to be set up on the said road, mine them and destroy as much telephone lines as possible. A prisoner would be desirable.
In case the patrol should not succeed in carrying out the task they shall when returning reconnoitre the Taukerovaara terrain and set up an ambush to capture a prisoner from the enemy base situated SE of lake Vilkojärvi at the enemy roads to N and SE.
Starting point: at our securing line on the morning of 28.9.and return via NW of lake Petralammi by 6.10.
Patrol makeup and sstrength
The strength of my outfit comprised 4+10+35, in addition two radiomen equipped with the “Kyynel” radio, a total of 4+10+37.
A 11 day long distance patrol food ration; one ammo ration per rifle; two ammo rations per SMG; 2 hand grenades per man; 3 kg explosives per Squad; also trigger wire, detonators for various mining tasks; one ski track mine per squad; metal wire for river crossings; wire cutter for telephone wire cutting; saw and axe for each Squad
My outfit set out from the lodgings on 27.9.at 1600hrs on two lorries to Ontajärvi village, from there on motor boats to the area of 4415 where we arrived at 2000hrs.
We set out from stronghold “Rähinä” (“skirmish”) on 26.9.43 0400hrs , ref. Transparent drawing. We arrived at 1700hrs of the same day at point 99-00, 16-00. On the 29th we set out at 0400 hrs along the planned route to the W end of lake Shumi. Having arrived there we spotted smoke rising from the patch of forest N of the river. We did not cross the river for the reason that we might have been detected doing it. I ordered my outfit to scatter and cover up the tracks while retreating back to the camp where we had camped. Yet we shifted from there about one km South to a pond where we arrived at 1400hrs on 29.9. I set up securing and let my outfit rest, intending to continue on the morning of 30.9. I heard my men chatting in the evening (29.9.) that there had been some sounds at the direction of our incoming trail, which I disregarded since during our rest we neither saw nor heard any sign of the enemy.
The battle and its course
I set out with my outfit on 30.9. at 0400hrs E of lake Shuminjärvi for the objective. On our way I was reported that after we had left the camp, sounds had been heard from the direction of our track. As we had reached the E corner of lake Shuminjärvi I was reported that a largish enemy outfit is approaching us, following our trace. I ordered the I Platoon CO to traverse the bog in front of us to N. I ordered the II Platoon to take positions in the patch of forest at the N edge of the bog. Just as I Platoon had taken positions the enemy advanced on the bog, arriving right in front of our positions. Then I ordered II Platoon to take positions on our left flank where two enemy point outfits were attempting to outflank us. I Platoon led by 2nd Lt Richardt opened fire at the attacking enemy at a range of some 20m whereby every enemy on the bog fell without having fired a shot. After the battle had started, the II platoon on the left managed to take positions and opened a lively fire at the enemy detachment attempting to traverse the bog. The battle turned heavy as the enemy outfit had taken positions on the S edge of the bog, where they started firing intensely at my outfit with all kinds of auto weapons. The enemy lost by estimate 20 to 30 men KIA and also several wounded since their laments could be heard far away.
The enemy casualties could not be counted because we were not able to check the battleground due to enemy superiority. The strength of the enemy tracing my outfit was by estimate 2 to 3 platoons. At the battleground I disengaged the II Platoon tasking them to go and occupy the E edge of the patch of forest situated right NW of the battleground, and to support the withdrawal of the delaying Platoon with their fire in case the enemy should continue their pursuit. I Platoon was tasked to delay the enemy and secure the return of the outfit. However, the enemy did not anymore try to traverse the bog but just followed our outfit to the point marked in the transparent. There they continued in the direction of the path and fired weakly my outfit in the patch of forest at a long range. While in the patch I ordered 2nd Lt. Törngren to advance with two Squads to the patch of forest at the NW tip of lake Shuminjärvi and the river between Shuminjärvi lakes, and to find out about the possibility to cross the river, and before going on to leave one Squad at the S edge of the patch of forest. I joined these Squads personally.
Having proceeded from the patch of forest near the one opposite to it to S one of our scouts spotted one enemy man moving there, he reported that immediately. I shouted and order to 2nd Lt Törngren to pull back to the patch of forest and take positions there. At the same moment the enemy (later estimated strength 2 to 3 squads equipped with two LMGs) opened a lively fire at our two Squads who returned fire. During the battle one of our men was wounded in his right leg. In the meanwhile the delaying Platoon had joined the outfit on the patch of forest (02-50, 19-00)
Next I set our course to NW for the N corner of the patch of forest. I sent one Squad right to N, tasked to find out if the S side of the forest covered isthmus is free of enemy. As the squad arrived at the N corner of the said patch of forest (03-50, 18-00), the Squad earlier sent across the bog was there proving the terrain free of enemy. Now I sent my outfit across the bog by the Squad, the wounded man following the II Platoon that was the first to traverse. I Platoon remained to secure the NW end of the patch of forest. As soon as the II Platoon had made it across the securing platoon disengaged one Squad at a time and crossed the bog. The bog was treeless and there were several small ponds on it. Having got out of the patch of forest we did not anymore spot the tracking enemy outfit. Our progress was slow because the wounded man was unable to walk and he had to be carried between two men.
On our return journey we spotted (06-00, 14-00) a well worn enemy securing path and an one wire telephone line running roughly in direction NW-SE.
On our return journey we did not engage the enemy. It is my estimate that the pursuing enemy outfit took such heavy casualties that they were no more able to track my outfit. We set mines on our return route in two locations marked on the transparent. Our route and the places of battle are also marked there.
I was not able to avoid battle because the pursuing enemy was spotted suddenly. For this reason our mission was unaccomplished.
Our route comprised mainly wet, very soft bogs.
By estimate 20 to 30 men.
2nd Lt. T. Korhonen
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Court-martial me when I get back
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 10,1960
The author was a Platoon leader in I/JR53m most likely 1st Coy during the advance to Kiestinki (Russ. : Kestenga) in Summer 1941.
My military service class was BII (lowest acceptable, tr.rem) due to an accident in my childhood. During the Winter war I was a volunteer at Suomussalmi in a fighting unit.
As the Continuation War started I was ordered in staff duty, but I told my CO that I shall join the fighting men. I was threatened with Court-martial. I advised them: “Court-martial me when I get back, I am leaving now”, then slammed the door shut. Next I reported to the Commander of I/JR53, Capt. Breitholz.
It was the evening of 25 July 1941 in Carelian wilderness. The sky was overcast with dirty gray cloud. A faint breeze made birch leaves quaver. We had had a 24 hour rest. Long marches had drained out the men, the rest had indeed been necessary. But our hunch was that this bliss was not to last. There was a war and it was just at this phase as rest was not granted in any great quantity.
-Get ready! It was the Runner screaming at the entrance of the next tent to ours. Soon we were ready to go.
- Forward! We set out at 2400hrs in the dusk of the night. We did not know anything about our task for sure. We had been hinted that our target was Valasjoki at lake Tuoppajärvi.
As we were marching on the road the “asphalt” boasted by “Tiltu” (Soviet propaganda radio) was terribly dusty. The dust penetrated our mouths and nostrils, everywhere. It was difficult to breathe.
We marched, then had a break, then we marched on.
- Air threat! We took cover. We covered every shining object to conceal our march. The buzz of the plane, disant at first, could be heard overhead now. It did a few circles and disappeared. So we had not been spotted.
The march continued. We passed the scenic village of Kananainen. At the evening of the next day we arrived at a bog near Valasjoki. Smoke started emerging from the hill nearby. It was best to check the situation. We formed a battle line. We advanced crouching while scanning the bush in front of us. We surrounded the hill. An observation tower was in flames on the top. It could be deduced that it had been torched by an enemy patrol that had escaped. A part of our Company stayed there to ensure that the fire did not spread in the tinder dry forest. The rest started setting up the tents.
Next morning, the 27th of July at 0500hrs we started making a corduroy road across the kilometre wide bog. Men who had been loggers showed their skill. When they had been given two-man saws it was: Timber! One trunk was not yet totally down before another had been half cut. The gain was good and it was a hard work to carry the logs by manpower to the squishy bog. We worked that day and slept the next night. Road building took another half a day. In the meanwhile our Company CO, Lt. Toivanen summoned us for briefing. We were to send a volunteer outfit across lake Tuoppajärvi to patrol in the enemy rear. 80 men volunteered. Everyone was given an auto weapon and the equipment was checked so that everything was ready for take-off.
Road building went on. As the last planks were being nailed, lorries carrying landing boats arrived on the far end of the bog road. We were given a 24 hour rest, then in the dusk of the night we marched to the mouth of river Valasjoki. There was an air cover overhead.
Just before boarding the boats new orders were received and our Company was returned to the old setup. Sounds of bomb explosions were heard in the direction of Sohjana river. It was Stukas attacking the enemy positions. Boats were launched, engines checked, ammunition and food rations replenished.
At midnight of 30 to 31 July 1941 we boarded the boats and the 30 km voyage started. The boys had a serious mien. No wonder, everyone was worrying whether we would make it to the hard ground on the far side of lake Tuoppajärvi. There was a light breeze on the lake, and some mist. The rising sun was reddish, as if bloodied.
Our fleet was dashing on across the lake. Our boat had been armed with an AT rifle. The boat on our left was carrying an AT gun. German aircraft covered our voyage. Finally the beach could be seen. Our speed was good. Now there was but a couple of kilometre to the shore. There was a green vessel ahead and to the left- enemy! Engines were turned to maximum revs. The boat with the AT gun turned at the enemy and opened fire. Our engine started acting up, the boats passing us almost sunk us with their wake. Finally our engine started running properly. We hit the beach with full speed. The impact literally ejected us from the boat to the land after a three hour voyage.
- Take positions !
There was a sound of shooting on our left. Actually there was no emergency. It was just an enemy patrol that had fired about before disappearing. Lt. Toivanen ordered the CO of the I Platoon, Sgt. Salo, to patrol with his half platoon. Half an hour later I was ordered to take the second half platoon and advance to the terrain near a beached enemy vessel, reconnoitre it and take prisoners if possible.
Soundlessly but silently we continued our advance. Twigs were cracking in the bush ahead of us. Take positions, quick! With our fingers on triggers we scanned the terrain nearby. It must have been a reindeer or some other beast of the forest. We swept the terrain as ordered but all I found was a fresh track in the grass, direction Sohjana. An aircraft hovering overhead spotted us and started circling. We identified it as a German one. I spread the orange yellow ID fabric on a piece of open ground. The aircraft curved to the sun, flashing his insignia on the wings and flew away.
Sounds of exchange of shots began to emerge from the direction of our Battalion. We deduced that patrol Salo had been involved in a skirmish, as they were. We sneaked on in the bush quietly. I recognised Salo's voice, and challenged for the password. Had we managed to open up there would have been killed men.
Our return succeeded without fight. I debriefed on my patrol. I was informed that tomorrow we shall attack, “rush” as the boys used to call an attack. We slept very badly, kind of dog's sleep. Our patrols were out and there was a sound of intermittent shooting all night.
In the morning we prepared for the attack. We were grouped and we were waiting for the start signal. Now I had been assigned as the CO of the II Platoon. Suddenly on our right, on the sector of the 1st Coy a hell of a shooting noise broke out. Firing spread on every sector. Lt. Tolvanen shouted an order but the deafening rattle of shots drowned a human voice. He crept next to me and shouted right in my ear:
We dashed some twenty meters, threw ourselves down and fired at the enemy. Then the first half platoon dashed and the second half platoon provided fire support, to soon advance on the same level. We had to get out of the open ground soon, else we would be lost. I signalled to the second half platoon to open hard fire. At the same time we with the first half platoon did a long dash and reached the edge of the forest ahead of us.
During our firing the second half platoon repeated the trick. On our left there were the III and IV Platoons and on our right the I Platoon. We forced our way in front of the enemy positions. Shooting just increased. It was also raining hard. Long sturdy pines were being bent near the breaking point by storm
Our attack stalled. There was an enemy MG in front of us, firing furiously. Pine saplings were cut as if by knife. Suddenly there was a paralysing blow at my shoulder. It was as if I had been hit with a meter long piece of firewood by someone. Y:et I was able to move my arm. So it was nothing serious. Just a scratch.
Lead was raining continuously. It was not possible to change position. He was about to shoot us up. Now there was a stop. A jam? Quickly I moved to another position. Again bullets came flying. Now I was able to see the gunpowder smoke. The rain revealed the enemy weapons nest. I fired quick shots at it. Another jam in the enemy weapon! I beckoned to the boys to change positions. The next burst of lead was whining about our ears. Finally the others, too, had found shooting positions. We gave the enemy a common dose of bullets, and finally he went silent.
The very moment I saw that Lt. Toivanen was approaching along our shooting line from the left, at times ducking so that water was splashing on the wet bog. He came to my side and shouted a retreat order. We had to go seven minutes later. He also ordered that the Platoon would be the rear securing. Now I had to be prudent. Should the enemy detect our attempt to withdraw too soon, they certainly would butcher us while we were traversing the bog behind us. I made a signal to fire hard. Then I crept to my men and briefed them by shouting in each man's ear. I told everyone to fire as much as their weapon allowed even after disengaging.
In this manner we managed to make it almost to the middle of the open ground without casualties.
Then I signalled that now we had to run as fast as our legs were able to carry us to the starting point of our attack. We did run fast, and what is good is that our trick was a complete success. We found ourselves in our pre-attack positions before the enemy found out we had retreated.
On our right and ahead I saw a couple of enemies some 150m off. We fired a few shots. Quickly but silently we disengaged and headed for the positions of our Battalion. We took with us the boy who had been wounded at the start of our attack. About ten minutes later the enemy had encircled our abandoned positions.
- Uraa! Uraa! They yelled attacking the unmanned place.
This encouraged us to move our boots more hurriedly. We knew that we had to traverse the bog in front of the positions of our Battalion before the enemy starts pursuing us.
- Uraa! Uraa! The enemy was coming behind us and yelling furiously even though they did not see us.
The dense forest covered us as we kept retreating in a line. The badly wounded men slowed us down. I was getting worried if we managed to take them to safety. Finally we caught sight of the bog. Sweaty and wet we straggled across it, finally to our positions.
At the same moment the enemy was already on the far side of the bog, because loud chatter could be heard there. We opened fire with every weapon and shooting increased into a deafening din. An enemy observer climbed up a tree. One LMG burst and the man fell down like a shot crow.
Our battalion had only eight heavy mortar bombs left. There was no time to do exact measurements, the range was just estimated. The “field kettles” were sent flying and they hit just squarely. The bombs exploded just at the point where the loudest chatter emerged. This may have scared the enemy so that they started digging down.
Two days later we were relieved from encirclement. When we afterwards could inspect the mentioned locations we were to find out that we had survived by the skin of our teeth.
(Group J, led by Col.Lt. Jussi Turtola, crossed the border at Kuusamo on the night of 1 July 1941 advancing East. The resulting campaing caused the relatively highest lossies of the attack phase of the war. Despite this Kiestinki is rarely remembered. The ooperation had intially been planned to support the attack to Uhtua, another sideshow. By chance Kiestinki became the main axis of advance.
The reason became apparent to Turtola's troops on the far side of trhe border. There were no roads there, just a poor path that the Carelian itinerant traders had used to get to Finland and Finns to go to railway building work at the Murmansk rail line.
Since the terrain was so awkward there was no strong enemy force there. Our troops in Kananainen village received on 11. July a new order to keep going right on for Kiestinki and cut off the Murmansk railway at Louhi.
At the fast flowing Sohjana river between lakes Tuoppajärvi and Pääjärvi the enemy was encountered. On the E side of the rapids there was a strong line and the Red army men had been ordered to fight to the last man.
Now the Finns were supported by Germans. There was a lack of common language in many respects and heavy losses were tanken crossing Sohjana on 31.July 1941. After that the enemy was encountered time after time. The Germans did not provide the help that was expected by Finns.
Source:Jukka Halonen, Kansan Sivistysrahasto website)
I/JR53 war diary extract
09.00hrs Weather clear and sweltering, about +30deg C
12.00hrs Commander left for the Group HQ (Group J., tr.rem.) to check the plan to cross lake Tuoppajärvi. The basic plan is:
Crossing shall take place simultaneously with the main attack at river Sohjana and it is directed at the Kokkosalmi¨ - Kiestinki road in the enemy rear.
Crossing shall be carried out with 18 fast landing craft, one Squad per vessel and with 11 sea-going motor boats carrying 10 – 12 – 16 men each.
First wave shall comprise a little more than 300 men, the second some 160 and the third some 250 men.
The landing beach aerial photography has been carried out as requested earlier.
Also fighter escort has been requested for the period of crossing.
Group J has been informed (Appx.28)
13.00hrs MG Coy tested heavy AT rifles and the 2nd Coy LMGs and SMGs (Order as Appx 29 and 30.)
22.15hrs Service by units.
09.00hrs Weather is clear, temperature unchanged.
11.30hrs Commander and Coy CO s set out to terrain reconnoitring to the shore of lake Tuoppajärvi.
12.30hrs Landing craft engines were tested in Kananainen.
20.15hrs Return from the said trip. The road to the shore was found to be too winding and bad for the transport of motor boats. The Commander has received permission from the Group CO to set the I Btn to road building work there.
00.30hrs Order issued to the units on setting out at 02.00hrs in writing (Appx 31)
07.30hrs Commanding echelon set out for Karnisvaara on a supply vehicle. Arrived at 11.00hrs.
(Radio contact: Appx 31a)
14.00hrs The first unit arrived (3rd Coy) and continued to securing duty.
21.00hrs The tail end arrived (HQ Coy transport column).
Units set up their tents on the sides of Kaarnavaara hill except 3rd Coy that camped at the shore of a pond some 1,5km E. Order of the day n:o 23 (Appx.32)
04.45hrs Briefing for unit CO s at the command post on the road work process.
Battalion strength (roll call?) (Appx 33)
10.45hrs Radio contact with the Group HQ established (Appx.34)
19.00hts Two patrols were sent to Valaslahti bay at the beach of lake Tuoppajärvi, and further to S in a reconnoitring task. Patrols Juntunen (1+8) and Rautava (1+4)
20.00hrs CO briefing at the Group HQ.
01.00hrs Artillery fire in the direction of Sohjana, lasting up to morning. Ours are firing, returned by Russkies.
05.20hrs The patrols sent out at 1900hrs returned. Nothing special
09.00hrs Weather clear, about +30deg C
Road work by the units going on. Near the shore a corduroy road, about 1100m, must be built across a bog.
20.15hrs AA outfits, 4 pcs 20mm AA guns and 4 pcs AA MG s were transported past on lorries.
Camp order n:o 1 (Appx 35)
21.30hrs the Group CO (Col. Lt. Turtola) and Army Corps Artillery CO Col. Lt. Schreck arrived and went on for Valaslahti .
23.20hrs The first AA lorry arrived at the shore at Tuoppajärvi
23.30hrs the first landing vessels were brought up (12 fast ones, 1 big motor boat)
09.00hrs Briefing by Commander for the outfit CO s on preparing the crossing
Weather clear, temperature below +30deg C, some thunder heard.
'(Securing: Appx 36).
10.05hrs Group informing: H hour delayed by 24 hrs
10.17hrs Information: Furlough forbidden for now.
10.34hrs Group: 4 pcs motor boats unavailable.
12.00hrs Order by Col. Lt Turtola to Lt. Stenfors on fixing the road up to the beach
14.00hrs Briefing for outfit CO s.
15.00hrs Battalion briefing: Promotions, distribution of decorations and Service. The occasion took place on the top of Karnisvaara hill around the tower blown up by Russkies.
17.00hrs The observer in a tree reported forest fires in directions 45-00 and 46-00. Compass error here is about 150 mils (that means 43-50 and 44-50). (AA weapons placement, Appx 37)
22.00hrs CO and 2nd Lt. Lautsila went to the Group HQ.
-Artillery activity all day in Sohjana, turned livelier during the night
-4 German film cameramen came to join our Battalion for the Tuoppajärvi crossing.
Report to the Group: a Russki guard vessel has been seen on Tuoppajärvi, probably of iron construction and armed with a cannon and MG s. Later (AM 30.7.) we learned that a German aircraft had damaged the said vessel with bombs. Size: 30m long, armament: 2 pcs MG (Appx.37)
09.00hrs Weather cloudy, cooler, windier than so far.
17.40hrs 2nd Lt Numminen reported from pt.109.5
22.35hrs Bulletin: 35.RajaK shall set out from Tuhkapatuna at 0400hrs and Germans at 07.00
22.55hrs Group Bulletin: Light signals and arrows must not be shown to airmen at the same time from boats.
-I Btn fighting units have all by now moved to Valaslahti.
23.00hrs The first wave (3rd Coy reinforced with MG s) set out. German film group with them.
04.30hrs Instructions from the Group CO to I Btn
-During the night Sohjana was dive-bombed.
05.27hrs Vaarnamo (3rd Coy) reported : Target (opposite shore) happily reached , securing organized.
05.00hrs The first boats returned.
One landing boat + 1 light AT rifle sunk by waves during the return voyage. Crew saved. Got lost during return in fog. (Appx.38)
06.30hrs Instructions to Lt. Tolvanen for 2nd Coy action.
06.30hrs AA MG outfit ordered to perform crossing as soon as the pontoons arrive. They are on their way.
07.30hrs 2nd wave set out.
Almost windstill, clear weather.
09.35hrs 2nd wave has crossed Tuoppajärvi. At the opposite shore they encountered a Russki motor vessel en route from K:Salmi to Kiestinki, she was fired at from the landing craft with AT rifles and a MG. The vessel was beached and the Russkies jumped in the lake.
11.00hrs Highish wind. According to weather report no change.
First boats returned
12.00hrs Report to the Group on the crossing of the 2nd wave.
12.00hrs Two wounded motorboat men were brought to the shore at Valaslahti. They had been wounded having set out from the opposite shore by a Russki patrol that had opened fire from the Kiestinki side of the beach. Also one POW (wounded) taken by Vaarnamo.
3rd Coy has destroyed 3 cars. The Coy is in flanking positions at the road.
-According to the POW there are not many troops in Kiestinki.
12.10hrs Orders issued to Tolvanen to clear the beach of enemy.
At the same time bulletin from the Group: Det. Selinheimo (II and III Btns) and Germans continue their attack at Sohjana. All Btns have crossed the river already by 0200hrs last night. According to the POWs the same Russki is the adversary (IR242). Some replacements.
-During PM smoke appeared, getting ever denser. Also the ruins of Valaslahti village are still smouldering. Outfits waiting to cross are camping on the shore and near it in Lt. Isola's tents.
-The mood is solemnly thrilled before crossing but calmed after the first waves had crossed successfully.
15.00hrs RajaK arrived at the beach from Tuhkapatuna. The pontoons, too, have arrived and they are being lashed together, two or three, for rafts, each ferry equipped with two motors.
20.00hts 3rd wave set out across the lake (1st Coy, HQ Coy, Command Squad and parts of MG Coy), a total of 285 men. They were taken across by 17 motor boats (incl. Landing craft) and 3 rafts comprising 3 pontoons each.
22.15hrs The first 3rd wave boats reached the opposite beach. Good tail wind. Dusk falling.
24.00hrs The Outfit (CO) has established contact with Lt. Vaarnamo who finds himself about 4km bearing 46-00 from the “beachhead” NE of a small pond. One 1st Coy Platoon (2nd Lt,. Paltonen) has been left in the beach to secure.
-Previously on the beach there were a half platoon of 3rd Coy and 3 MG s (2nd Lt. Tala). MG Runner Pvt. Pakanen, Reino, was just taken POW by the Russki while carrying out his task.
-Radioed report (Appx.39)
Tolvanen (2nd Coy.) finds himself between the lake NW of Vaarnamo and the road.
During the night artillery activity in the direction of Kokkosalmi. (Appx.40)
At the direction of 3rd Coy occasional exchange of shots. 2 men missing.
On the 2nd Coy sector the Russki attempted during the night pass in the direction of the road from E to W but was beaten back. One fallen, one wounded.
10.00hrs 2 AA guns and 2 AA MG s arrived on pontoons to be placed on each flank of the bridgehead to suppress Russki motor boat traffic. Also two mortars came (I Btn) and some 70 men of RajaK.
12.00hrs Battle intensified on the 2nd Coy sector. 1st Coy started surrounding, and when traversing a bog, suffered severe casualties as the enemy opened fire. During the battle hard thunderstorm and heavy rain. Auto weapons activities very intense. Russkies attacked fiercely yelling “uraa”, forcing also the 2nd Coy to retreat. The enemy managed to open the road to W but lost more than 100 men KIA. Strength maybe two to three companies. The attack did not stop until our mortars started firing a barrage using their scant ammunition.
Defence line at Kaarnamo
I Btn casualties: (1st and 2nd Coy)1+2+15 fallen (2nd Lt. Numminen), 1+2+29 wounded and 16 men missing (KIA). A large number of the fallen remained on the battlefield. Evacuation of the wounded by water to Valaslahti.
The situation and the mood improved by night. (Appx.41-44)
18.00hrs A small German company and the rest of RajaK arrived at the command post.
22.15hrs Orders on action issued to the outfit commanders.
23.00hrs Cartridge resupply.
Quiet during the night. Mortar platoon (Hieta) gave harassing fire.
Enemy attempted to attack to the direction of the command post from bearing 05-00 to 10-00. The attack was instantly repelled. Mortar fire appears to have a calming effect on the Russkies. Almost point blank aiming applied. 2nd Lt Leppälä (2nd Coy) fell and 1NCO + 3 men were wounded. The skirmish lasted for 40 min.
11.20hrs A German company (7th )and Lt. Seppälä arrived on pontoons.
12.00hrs 10 Stukas bombed Russki positions in front of us and in the direction of Kokkosalmi. WE provided harassment by mortar.
16.00hrs Briefing for outfit CO s (attack planning)
18.00hrs German artillery airman controlled fire at Kokkosalmi. Our troops are about 4k. W of Kokkosalmi. A German F.O.O. Arrived already at about 1630hrs. Radio contact with the battery.
20.00hrs IT was reported that there is a Russki column heading E from K:salmi.
-One moment later a POW was caught and he told that the Russki has suffered heavy losses and the remaining ones are trying to break through our encirclement. His unit was II/IR242. Russki casualties before Sohjana river (on the Motti hill) were 250 men.
Our troops have received 4 MG s and 2 AT guns yesterday.
20.30hrs Weather is cloudy, chilly weak S wind.
03.00hrs Three Russki SB2s from E, bombing at Kokkosalmi.
During the night a Russki cannon fired harassment fire at the bridgehead.
04.30hrs The sound of Russki AT gun began to be heard closer at the direction of K:salmi about 2km off. Also the sound of other weapons was approaching.
Russkies had 2 MG s quite near, W of the small pond.
05.00hrs A patrol sent by Det. Seppälä, one wounded (Sgt. Huuskonen). RajaK platoons Takala, Salonen and Huuskonen and two Sapper squads and one AT squad find themselves at the Kiestinki road at pt 10,0 where they are harassing the Russki retreat. There is also traffic from E to W. Finnish language heard.
13.00hrs Report by radio: I Btn is ordered to support the attack to be launched from W. For this purpose they must attack to W. RajaK and the German 7th Coy have been issued orders to move to the Command post (Radio report, appx.45)
At the same time arrived 2nd Lt Puupperoinen and reported that RajaK, having engaged the Russkies at pt 10,0, had withdrawn to the S side of the road. Lt. Seppälä had arrived together with a German outfit at the same spot where RajaK had previously been. Lt. Seppälä fell almost at once. Also 7 Germans fell and 5 Germans and 3 Finns were wounded
-Weather rainy (Sunday)
Out of food. (Big exclamation mark in the margin.)
14.15hrs 3rd Coy and 9 MG s (German) started advancing to the pond isthmus to attack to W. The rest are tying the enemy in the previous positions.
14.30hrs Lively shooting started on the 2nd Coy sector
15.00hrs 3rd Coy engaged the enemy
16.00hrs One platoon of RajaK arrived from the beachhead shore (Sgt. Salonen). Two Platoons set out to assist Germans who are on the road in point 10,0 under pressure. They shall arrive later.
-Artillery has supported the attack all the time. Platoon Vironen of 3rd Coy is blocking the road to E. There is no pressure there. The rest of 3rd Coy is in total control of the road to W. Platoon Salonen of RajaK is sent as reinforcement to the left.
16.15hrs Stretcher bearers carrying the wounded to the beach turned back having encountered a Russki patrol (8 to 10 men) in mid-way. The patrol came from the left and headed for the beach. They did not spot our men.
-intense rifle and auto weapons fire, ceasing now and then totally. Russkies are trying to break out of the motti to E using assault cries, without success.
19.00hrs Firing died down at the direction of Vaarnamo. At the same moment it was reported that a Russki transport column has stopped on the road in front of the positions there. Lorry noses can be seen.
20.00hrs Casualties: 3rd Coy Lt. Lahdenperä fallen, 5 men wounded. Germans: 3 KIA, 2 WIA.
It was reported that a German Battalion (II or III) shall attack S of the road to establish liaison with us. (Appx.46)
By radio we have ordered from the Group 300 mortar bombs, 1000 hand grenades, 60 green and 60 red flare gun cartridges.
22.00hrs Contact with our troops established at the road. Some of the troops approaching from E and W were bunched on the road when the Russki opened heavy fire from the N side of the road which was returned by our men in their positions. The firing was terribly heavy and without purpose, it lasted about ½ hour. One man mortally wounded.
23.00hrs A German battalion arrived via S of the road to the command post terrain..
Motti battles over. Mood is exhilarated. The crossing of Tuoppajärvi was worthwhile although the war booty was small, because I Btn tied down considerable enemy forces on their sector and caused casualties to them.
Col. Lt Turtola and a German commander visited the command post at night. The German battalion set out at midnight to the direction of the road to the pond isthmus.
Food replenishment from the beach.
2 Aspirants and 48 other replacements arrived.
Enemy living force managed partly to flow over via the open N flank. They left as our war booty among other things one car, 2 lorries, one of them with a quad AA MG, 2 AT guns etc.
2./II/JR53 war diary:
(1st Coy, in which the author apparently served, diary of summer 1941 does not exist. The extract below is a substitute. )
Hand written in a formatted diary.
In the small hours mutual artillery activities.
During AM weapons cleaning and gear maintenance.
11.30hrs Coy CO and 2n Lt. Kivilahti left for terrain reconnoitring.
02.00hrs Set out for a new camp. Marching.
16.45hrs Arrived in objective. The march was very difficult for the baggage train due to the terrain. Germans had reached the objective before us and they were fixing roads as we arrived .
All night hard artillery fire.
21.15hrs Meal and rest.
04.00hrs Reveille and morning tea.
05.25hrs Left for road work that we were to take over from Germans.
08.15hrs Germans stopped the road work and left.
15.30hrs Return from road work to the camp.
In the afternoon we set out marching.
We arrived the same night near the shore of lake Tuoppajärvi. Where we set up tents.
07.30hrs Set out to road work.
21.00hrs Road work ended.
22.15hrs Returned to the camp, then we had some tea and turned in.
08.00hrs Reveille and morning tea, we also received mail.
15.00hrs Battalion Commander's briefing to the entire Battalion, also the decorations granted by the C-in-C were distributed. Then the Battalion Chaplain made a speech.
Rest and recuperation all day.
23.30hrs Set out from the camp. We arrived at the beach of lake Tuoppajärvi the same night.
06.00hrs Boarded fast landing craft to cross Tuoppajärvi. Friendly aircraft were guarding the crossing in the air.
09.00hrs Hit the opposite shore.
A minor skirmish occurred on the beach. From the beach we advanced to the road between Kokkosalmi and Kiestinki, bearing 55-00. The enemy had set up an ambush at the road and they opened fire.
18.30hrs The enemy tried to break through our line several times. Without success, however. We caused great losses to the enemy. Our losses were scant, only Pvt. Määttä, Kalle was wounded.
All the night the enemy tried to break through our line, yet without success.
10.30hrs The enemy attempted to strike through our line even more fiercely, yet without success.
14.30hrs 1st Coy and two more platoons of our men arrived to help us. After that we tried to break the enemy. A hard man-to-man battle ensued. The enemy retreated slowly about one km. Then the enemy received reinforcements from their rear and launched a counterstrike that was successful to the extent that we had to pull back in our previous position. The battle was fought with hand grenades and close combat weapons.
Our casualties include:
Fallen, Pfc. Lundsten, Armas
Pvts. Pätsi, Ilmari; Nykänen, Vihtori; Karjalainen, Reino; Maitela, Eino; Kuivaniemi, Eino; Haiko, Lauri; Mälkönen Reino.
Wounded: Sgt. Tamminen, Erkki; Pfc. Ranki, Reino; Pvts Litja, Tauno; Määttä, Väinö; Tolkkinen, Martti; Hintikainen, Kauko; Pylkkä, Vihtori; Hyytiä, Arvo; Halttu Vilho.
During the night artillery fired intensely. The enemy attempted to attack but they were repelled easily. Our troops had advanced to the direction of the front and liaison with them was expected. Attack order issued by the Btn Commander was received.
Our casualties for the day:
Fallen, 2nd Lt Seppälä Reino.
03.00hrs Our artillery shelled heavily the enemy positions
All day harassment activity.
13.00hrs We handed over the positions to the 3rd Coy and headed for the Kiestinki main road, on the side of which we camped.