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Skirmish in the enemy rear
Journal "Kansa Taisteli" 02, 1961
The author was a Border Guardsman in the 32nd Border Guard Company.
In September 1941 the 4.D was transferred from the Carelian Isthmus to Eastern Carelia. Being a part of it our detached outfit (32nd Border Guard Company) we were a part of the transfer. We arrived at a small border railhead and our journey continued on lorries to Prääsä. Once there we were subordinated to the 11.D that was preparing to continue the attack at Petroskoi from W. Immediately after we were unloaded we marched to the terrain E of lake Prääsänjärvi. We set out a camp in old forest.
On 17 September 1941 we received orders to go on, and well before evening the Company had arrived at the ordered location. The Company CO ordered the I Platoon reinforced with two Squads of the II Platoon to proceed and man an isthmus between two lakes somewhere in front of us. This reinforced Platoon was led by Lt. Suomalainen. Immediately after the briefing the outfit set out to carry out the task.
It was a foggy and damp autumn day, the sky was covered with grey cloud. There was a wide and wet bog opening in front of us and we could not help it, we had to traverse it to make it to the objective before the onset of darkness. We did not have a slightest idea that there was an enemy patrol at the edge of the bog watching our passage. What were these enemy soldiers actually thinking? The most incredible matter was that they did not open fire at us, even though they were in an ideal position. This error was to be very fateful for them.
The darkness fell fast in the autumn night and before we had traversed the bog the darkness was complete. There was a supply road cut in the forest by the enemy and a phone cable next to it but we had crossed them, without noticing anything.
- Now the enemy is close, one of the boys said at the edge of the bog, because there is a scent of mahorka in the air.
We climbed up a gently sloping hillside. It was not possible to see the man in front of you even though the distance was but one step. Having arrived at the top of the hill we were forced to stop because in complete darkness and in unfamiliar terrain it was impossible to find the objective.
Dispersed in squads on a small area we started spending the night. Sentries were set to guard our safety. We were not allowed to make fires, and when smoking great care had to be taken to keep the striking of a match and the glowing cigarette concealed. It was a cold autumn night, and since our clothing had turned humid and boots wet during the bog crossing we were feeling uncomfortable. We would have felt even more uncomfortable had we been aware of the actual situation: we found ourselves in the enemy rear and the enemy was informed on our presence.
In the course of the night the clouds dispersed and stars could be seen. The Lieutenant spread our securing more whereby our Squad was set at the edge of the swamp to secure the direction. The hill on which we had had to spend our night was surrounded by bog on three sides in a horseshoe manner. In the spot where our Squad was placed the bog was some 200m wide but to the East it was considerably wider. A deep but now dry ditch had been dug some time here across a tongue of land sticking in the bog. Our Squad took refuge in it while one of us at a time was guarding just at the edge of the bog.
The night passed calmly however long it felt for us. On my stint at the very early dawn I saw a group of men pass on the far side of the swap, but due to the dusk I could not tell if they were friends or foes. As the outfit was heading East, thus posing no danger to us even if they should have been enemies. I said to myself, let them go.
After the day had dawned we were recalled from the edge of the bog. Now the Lieutenant sent two squad-sized patrols to look for the lake isthmus that was our objective. The rest of us were allowed to make fires to make surrogate coffee and to warm ourselves. Suddenly there was a sound of firing in the rear, but it ended after a while. We guessed that an enemy patrol had been up and about.
Lieutnant Kiiski ordered our Squad to set up a double sentry post to the direction of the recent shooting. Our Squad leader, Border Pfc. Kakko took the first stint and I joined him as a SMG gunner. When looking at the terrain ahead of us we spotted a supply road right in front of us at the edge of the bog. We set out to inspect the road and spotted now a telephone cable laid along the side of the road. Pfc. Kakko cut the cable at once in two locations and reeled in the severed stretch. Then we spotted that the road turned to transverse the bog as a corduroy road a little farther off. We returned to our sentry post that was near the road. On the hillside there was just there a convenient hillock which provided an excellent view. We agreed with our Squad leader that in case the enemy comes we shall let them pass before opening fire at them.
We were lying prone on the ground while watching the terrain in front of us intensely. We did not have to wait for long before three men entered from a thicket, they were a few meters from each other and they carried their weapons under their arms. Scouts! They were advancing carefully, watching the terrain ahead of them but they failed to spot us. Some 10 or 20m behind them a dense line of men emerged from the bushes. Shaking with excitement I was counting the oncoming men: ten, twenty, forty, and more kept coming. The van of the file had passed well past us and everything seemed to be just as planned but then a shot fired by our Squad leader cut the silence.
The enemies had been coiling their phone cable and when they found the cut-off point they stopped to wonder at it. The officer in the file stopped and spread his arms to signal “halt”. As he then turned to have a look at the hill he spotted us and raised his weapon to fire. The Squad leader, all the time watching the scene, was faster and the enemy officer collapsed. I had all the time been watching at the edge of the thicket counting the coming men until I was sprung into action by the shot fired by the Squad Leader. Immediately I squeezed the trigger of my SMG and let fly a long burst at the file of enemy who immediately dropped down.
The enemy did not voluntarily accept being a target but soon recovered from the surprise and now it was our turn to take a blast of fire. As to me I kept my SMG buzzing. I wonder what kind of a commotion was at the campfires as the battle started? But it did not take long before the men had found their positions and the battle earnestly started. The enemy kept desperately seeking for cover, however small, in the terrain because their position was not enviable.
The pressure against our sentry post was considerably relieved as soon as the rest of our men managed to join the fight and the enemy had to spread their attention to the entire platoon.
The battle went on intensely, auto weapons were active constantly on both sides. I cannot tell how long it lasted,in the heat of the battle I did not pay attention, but by the by the shooting decreased and finally died down altogether. The enemy no more responded to our fire. Had all the enemies fallen? There they were lying along the edge of the bog, and there seemed to be a lot of them. Our casualties in this battle included one fallen and two wounded.
The battle was over but only now we became aware of our situation: we found ourselves in the enemy rear. Even if the fought battle had ended victorious for us the situation was by far not clear. Enemy countermeasures could be expected, and since our store of cartridges had been fairly spent in the battle, it was obvious that we could not fend off another enemy attack attempt. Therefore our leader made a decision, ordering us to withdraw. One of the recon patrols returned at the moment the Platoon started withdrawing, they had taken a prisoner. The patrol led by Cpl. Himanen however was intercepted by the withdrawing enemy outfits. The patrol were scattered and the men returned one by one, two of them the next day after thrilling adventures.
When traversing the bog along the trail we had created the day before at the edge of the horseshoe shaped bog we saw in the middle of the bog about a squad of enemies. They, too, were leaving the recent battlefield. So not every enemy had been killed but these ones, having found their situation hopeless, had feigned death and thus saved themselves. The situation was a little comical, because both sides found themselves on the same bog leaving the battlefield with no intent to harass each other.
The interrogation of the POW made us wiser. An entire enemy battalion had been here in the wilderness securing, and this morning they had started their withdrawal. Would this withdrawal operation have been provoked by the penetration of our outfit in the enemy rear? Likely so, because there had not been any actual battle activities in this front section because the decisive attack was launched not until two days later.
The prisoner also recounted how their patrol had been the previous evening at the edge of the bog watching our passage, and he also could tell that our number had been 52 men. The position of our Platoon at the moment had been dangerous, it could have even been fateful . It was just the enemy errors and neglect that tipped the scales for us. The shooting in the rear that we had heard and that actually as told may have saved us was the enemy opening fire at the food carrying party sent to us.
The Company War diary covers just dates 11 Dec.1941 to 28.2.1942, on the latter date the unit was disbanded.
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Withdrawal from Koivisto
Journal "Kansa Taisteli", 02, 1961
The Commander of the Isthmus Army, Gen. E. Heinrichs, allowed the troops to leave the Koivisto islands on 22. February 1940. The story is written by a Machine Gunner.
Thin gray fog over the white snow desert of Gulf of Finland created the appearance of an endless and unlimited expanse in every direction. The gray sky was descending ever lower in the distance yet never touching down but leaving a small man sized space in horizon for us to proceed.
-Proceed? This was a retreat, in fact.
As far as one's eyes could see in this kind of visibility there were skiing men in snow camo suits with their baggage and weapons. There were squads, platoons and also single men, tens and hundreds of soldiers. The foremost ones were seen as small dots that would vanish at the horizon.
On our right we could catch a glimpse of a horse drawn column heading for the same direction with their escorting outfit. They must have used a supply road ploughed on the ice during the winter because we at times could see but the head of the horse and the top of the shaft bow. (ref. Photo in source p.46).. What if – it had been clear weather? The thought flashed in one's mind as if by stealth and inallowed. What kind of destruction could a couple of enemy fighter planes have caused to a skiing Battalion in this coverless “terrain” ?
What about some fast tanks? They could have cut us out and in one or two hours we would have been wiped out or encircled. Fighters and tanks would have just cut us down and let the wind and the frost finish the job.
It did not make sense to entertain such thoughts. It was plain to everyone that our commanders had “ordered” this kind of weather for the retreat.
All those men skiing ahead of me, on my sides and behind me and the black dots vanishing in the horizon were the men of RTR 2, the defenders of forts Saarenpää, Humaljoki and Tiuri. For almost three months these men skiing here had stood their ground as the westernmost cornerstone of the front line of the Carelian Isthmus, taking on threats from sea, from land and from air. The land front had at times received crucial support from the superheavy batteries of the fronts. Also the enemy attempts to surround over ice failed as the artillery of Saarenpää destroyed the attacking infantry and the supporting tanks, leaving them to the mercy of the cold sea penetrating through the smashed ice.
The Soviet Baltic fleet pride, the Marat and the Oktjabrskaja Revolutsija and many other vessels had “greeted” the forts. Twelve inch cannons fired shells of almost 500kg in weight, they tore up the ground and smashed dugouts, gun pits and weapons nests. The explosions had blown up the ground with the houses, trees and rocks on it. Pressure waves would tear into the men's ears and guts. The men would vomit and keel over due to the shocks. All the time the fort guns were retaliating, giving as well as getting. Aerial bombardment with heavy bombs had continued daily, gnawing on the men's nerves and the hardware of the batteries, but all of them withstood until an order was issued: “The forts are to be demolished and evacuated.”
What had not been destroyed by the enemy was destroyed by us, and here we were now, heading West, leaving the destroyed Isthmus. Somewhere far ahead of us, still invisible, was the shoreline of Säkkijärvi waiting for us. There was a faintly visible island on our left – probably Rouni. On our right, to NE, somewhere far away among the fog were situated Tuppura, Uuras and Viipuri.
Fatigue The march had started at Saarenpää almost 24 hours ago. We had been for a while in positions at Kiurlahti. There had been some minor hostilities with rifle and AT gun fire resulting in a couple of wounded. In the morning we had left our positions quietly. Now it was already afternoon. The rifle and the backpack were ever more heavy. In the evening the skis were not sliding any more, big chunks of snow were sticking on the bottoms. Fortunately we did not have to drag the MG sleds, the horse column had taken care of them.
Thirst! We should not drink, every man knew that without being told, but almost everyone drunk the salty water of a hole in the ice (Baltic sea water is brackish). The hole was bubbling like a fountain and it tasted good
Most of us shouldered their skis and kept plodding in the snow. Some dropped down on the ice on their backs to rest. I followed the example, just for a moment. In a flash my eyes were shut – and I was dreaming. Fatigue and numbness turned the squeaking of the ski sticks passing me into song of a skylark – it was spring and bright sunshine in my dream. The same moment I woke up as someone was shouting: - Get up and get going!
Captain Häyrynen and 2nd Lt. Telegin were waking up and hurrying up the tired men. Nobody was allowed to be left behind. Now abandoned stuff was seen on the ice: books, underwear, even a fur coat. I recognised the fur coat, it was Cpl. Skyttä's. How many times had that fur coat warmed me and many others when standing in sentry duty... Now it was lying there, helplessly abandoned. It was as if a man had been left behind alone on the ice.
We felt ever so tired. A lone soldier skied across the column. “Who are you?” was shouted. “Friend” he responded, but despite orders he did not stop but kept going fast as if to escape. A shot rang out and the man fell on the ice. We skied there to check, and it was only then that we found out that he indeed was a “friend”. He had taken us for Russians. The bullet had hit his cheek and exited from his mouth. It could have been worse.
Suddenly we heard the buzz of an aircraft in the air. There it is, the very thing we had feared. We flopped on the ice feigning dead men while watching at the plane. In the foggy air it was hard to identify even the type of the plane. My thoughts were running oddly. “Was it like this that the enemy felt when they were in front of Muurila?” -No, they were worse off because we shelled the ice off under their legs and the tanks, horses and men vanished under the ice. What about off Verkkomatala or Kirkkosaari? Nowhere is it good to be a target on ice.
A good civilian overcoat, anyone need one? No one wanted it and the coat was left behind. Let it remain, we have left behind our farms and property, our childhood.
More and more stuff and gear was lying on the ice, even cigarette packs. That surprised us, because tobacco was good for us any time. Later we learned that the fog had played a trick on the men. The first men of the columns had taken us in the tail for Russians and they had lightened their loads.
Someone was about to fall inexorably behind. A friendly comrade took his rifle on top of his own.
- Do not stay here! It is easier for you, too, to ski than it was being under the fire of the Marat or the Revolutsija. The tired man laughed and kept struggling on.
At last! At last there was the shore of mainland at Säkkijärvi in front of us but it was like an eternity before we stepped on the beach bank. We were leaning on our ski poles and kept apathetically staring ahead. At a bridge there was a food distribution going on from a field kitchen. We fumbled for our field kettles. A soldier must eat whenever he has the opportunity.
A young Runner was skiing from the direction of Ristiniemi, moving as lightly as he were training. -Can you tell me about the whereabouts of Colonel Lyytinen and Captain Miettinen ?
We the latecomers were ignorant but some men beckoned to a house near the food distribution point. The young Runner, probably recently conscripted, left. His legs were moving the skis lightly, as if he were dancing, and his case was dangling on his side. Youth, youth! Nothing can discourage you.
We shuffled to the house indicated to us to get some sleep. Some wishful thinker launched a rumour that we would be staying here for a few days to rest. That rumour did not live long because the very next day we were engaging the enemy at Pullinniemi . That battle was followed by another one at Tuppura, Teikari and Vilaniemi, which we were to learn to know well. In his wisdom G-d has ordained that no one shall know about his future. That is a good state of things, and therefore we slept well, including the men who were to fall the next day or the days after that.
For a map kindly refer to the website:
Www.talvisota.fi/taistelut/karjalan-kan ... assa-1940/
No Winter war diaries of RTR2 or the sub-units can be found online.
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Flanking operation in wilderness
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 02. 1961
The Division and the Regiment had been on the 13. June 1941 subordinated to the German Norwegian Army troops in Northern Finnish territory. The Regiment was led by Col. Lt. Armas Pihlajamaa and they fought on the Salla front.
The author appears to have been in the 1st Company, rank – maybe Platoon leader.
On the 5th September 1941 at 05.00hrs at 01.00 had the I Battalion of JR54 received orders to set out for a long enveloping march to the Ylä-Vermanjoki river. The night was pitch dark, the autumn wind was pulling at the trees and their last remaining leaves as the companies proceeded one after the other in an open file on the path marked by the Jaeger platoon to their unknown fate.
The terrain was very variable, there were soft bogs and rocky hills that were next to impassable. It was a time consuming terrain specially for the pack horses, and the file of the battalion was broken in several places into pieces comprising a Company or a Platoon, at times only a Squad. But as soon as the terrain was more even the gaps were closed and the file kept slithering on like a great snake, quietly and without complaint.
For three days before the start the Battalion had been on the standby near the old national border. We had been allowed to have some rest after the heavy forest fighting. Our rest had not been complete because our positions had been on a small ridge next to an artillery battery that the enemy airmen and artillery greeted with their munitions several times a day. It was a bit restless, but what could you do?
Setting out to the outflanking march in a way exhausted your body but at the same time strengthened your willpower. To tensely wait for the unknown future to unfold increased your circulation and the restless period of rest was left in the past. One had to try to marshal all the energy one had for the tasks ahead and the past had to give way to the present. White rags flapping on the backpacks informed the following man where the man in front of him found himself. At times a man of the file fell flat on his face, but energized by a silent curse he would get up and made haste to catch up. We even passed and enemy mortar position in a short distance, the shots and the babbling could be heard in an amazingly close range. A foolhardy man boasted and suggested that we should capture the entire position including the babblers, but since the trek of the Battalion was only just started, the plan had to be abandoned. The silent, careful and cumbersome march continued ever deeper in the enemy rear.
The day dawned, it was a cool autumn day and the advance still went on. It was not until at dusk of the evening as the scout suddenly took cover. We had just passed a vertical rock face, height some 6 to 8 m. The spearhead had bypassed it and started climbing up the gently rising side of a hill as the scout, Pvt. Kantola from Tornio, signalled that there was something ahead of us.
Soon Kantola was firing long bursts with his SMG. The Battalion spread out in a line and then we
found out that there were right in front of us on the hillside enemy overground bunkers, and the muzzle flames, well visible in the dusk, were flickering all too near. A firefight broke out as our Battalion found themselves as if on a platter on the hillside, subjected to enemy fire.
- Hey! Kantola - Kantola – where are you going ? Kalle Yli-Pekkala was yelling to Kantola as he kept creeping ahead.
- Don't go, Kantola, don't go !
Yli-Pekkala dashed next to Kantola and heard him tell in a tight voice:
- I am going to earn some furlough!
Yli-Pekkala, the Squad leader, knew of course that Kantola had applied for a furlough before this outflanking manoeuvrer had started, because his wife had become seriously ill just before giving birth, but his application had been rejected. Now he appeared to be earning credits by any means. To destroy the bunker in front of us might be worth of a spot of furlough, Kantola may have reasoned.
We knew Kantola from the civilian days. He was a short, gutsy man with dark fiery eyes, with a nondescript mien. He possessed a dose of Finnish obstinacy to such a degree that one would not have expected in such a short man. But in the war even the small may become great. He had born in a small home, he had earned his bread starting at a very young age, life had trained him into a man who was able to prove himself both in civilian life and in war.
Pvt. Kantola had been offended having been refused furlough and to get it he was ready to risk everything – including his life. He kept creeping closer to the bunker, his largish backpack he still was carrying just swayed. There was a flapping muzzle flame of a LMG just in front of him. Kantola heaved himself up a little, maybe to throw a hand grenade at the weapons nest as there was a single flash of a muzzle flame and Kantola ducked down. Soon Kantola moved again and another single shot rang out. Now Kantola turned on his side and tracer bullets started their diabolic dance around him, kicking up dirt. Kantola had been hit with two sniper bullets, one of them was lethal. Ketola found his final resting place next to the memorial in the war graves section of the cemetery in Tornio, but the baby to be born lost his father. Audacity had blinded Kantola and his love for his family made him misestimate the situation.
An order was transmitted from the rear to the 1stCouy CO:
-The Coy is to disengage as soon as they have handed over the positions to Germans. Rallying point below the steep rock face.
The firefight went on. Darkness had fallen. Suddenly we were taking fire from behind. Now we found ourselves between two fires, that is what every man was thinking first. Are we surrounded?
The III Platoon leader jumped out of his position and ordered his Runner, waiting next to him:
The Platoon leader's instinct told him that the fire from the rear, specially auto weapons fire was sounding different from the fire coming in from the front. There must be a misunderstanding, the Germans may have been mistaken in the darkness – and now they were shooting us in the back.
Cold sweat rose on the brow of the Platoon leader, his shirt was already glued to his body – by the sweat of pain. With dance like steps he and his Runner tried to dodge the bursts of bullets that were buzzing nastily close. The line of shooters was no farther than 40m off – would they hear shouting?
-Finnen – Finnen – Wir sind Finnen! That is what they tried to yell. The two men kept stumbling on and finally they flopped down among the shooters, panting and repeating:
-Finnen – Finnen !
Now the case was cleared – it was Germans who were in the rear – those who should have taken over the positions from us. Fire was stopped at once – the Germans were ashamed and annoyed by the incident. There was banter, clatter, cursing that indicated a target for the real enemy. Soon shells were falling among us. In the darkness of the evening it was a terribly beautiful sight to see shells hit the rocky slope and in bursting create rainbow coloured shapes.
It started raining hard as Finns handed over their positions and pulled back to the cover provided by the rock face. Shooting on the slope went on but in the cover of the rock face we tied to get some cover from the rain. There were no tents, we were badly in need of sleep and it was a long time to dawn. We did find some kind of shelter and dozed the rest of the night.
On the 7th September the Battalion spread out to widen the German left flank and the attack continued. We were facing again the same bunker reinforced line. Now in daylight and as the rain ceased the attack supported by mortars easily broke the enemy resistance. Every man was stepping lighter elated by the breaking of the enemy line.
Ahead of us there was a small pond and a river on our left. The 1st Coy led by Capt. Segerstråle penetrated on the isthmus between the river and the pond. The objective was just in our view.
- Dang – some men ahead!
It was Cpl. Yli-Pekkala's voice and at the same moment his SMG buzzed and the men were left there. Four enemies were lying on the moss, their lips coloured dark from eating blueberries and their tongues silenced for ever. Yli-Pekkala's brief burst had wiped out the patrol in one spot. Their blood was slowly dripping on the blueberry bushes and their bodies would twitch nastily as the muscles were slowly turning cold. One of our men read a quiet prayer for their souls, they, too, were innocent of this maelstrom.
But we had to press on. We already saw the Salla-Kannanlahti road in front of us. There was an abatis and a power line between us and the road. Our advance was stopped behind the abatis – we dug in and a couple of MG s were sent to us to provide fire support. The enemy started harassing our entrenchment work with 50mm mortar fire. Most of the Company pulled back behind the line to rest, only sentries were left in the positions.
The night passed calmly. At dawn the enemy started to shell us as hard as they could with their three 50mm mortars. We manned our positions and started improving them. It felt nasty to be subjected to mortar fire. The bomb would come in suddenly, almost noiselessly and burst when hitting the ground. The small splinters would whine like gnats when cutting the air. The three barrels were shooting bombs at the isthmus as if competing in fire rate, and we were digging our foxholes with bloody fingers and drenched in sweat. Someone may have been praying for protection from above when hastily digging for some kind of cover for himself.
I was lying in my deficiently dug hole with Cpl. Mäkivuoti next to me. The man on my other side was SMG gunner Taskila. The shelling was still raging about us, and we took turns in taking a peek at the abatis in our front. I knew that our position was precarious because experience told me that the enemy would not allow us to infiltrate their terrain without countermeasures. Soon enough the terrain in front of us was dotted with men in brownish uniforms. There they were coming under the mortar fire cover. Some were crawling on all fours, others were dashing as if in battle training. They may have imagined that they would surprise us.
- Look – Just look at the crowd – shoot, shoot! Cpl. Mäkivuoti exclaimed. His yell was spontaneous as he was observing the terrain.
The same moment our entire line opened fire and the dozens of men creeping in front of us were wiped out.
Don't shoot – don't – they may hear where we are ! Taskila shouted hastily as nickel was flying in two directions, of course the attackers knew where we were.
Our two MG s were expending tracer bullets belt by belt but the enemy kept creeping closer no matter what. The abatis was about 10 to 12 m wide and some crawlers had managed to traverse it.
- Idi sudaa - idi sudaa - ruki verh, the Platoon leader was yelling.
- Do not yell, they are not cattle ! Taskila shouted. But the noise of the battle and lust for blood had mesmerized the Platoon leader, too.
- Shoot – shoot – they are coming at us. You damned one – take that!
It was Mäkivuoti, and he angrily flung a hand grenade across the abatis. After the explosion a man in brown dashed from the abatis right in the Platoon leader's foxhole. He dropped in and a wild wrestling match ensued – for a while. The enemy was unarmed and wanted to surrender. There we were lying side by side, the POW was seeking for cover more than the owner of the foxhole. At the same moment war broke out in our rear, and bullets were whining over the flat terrain, beating the ground and trees just at our line.
Are we surrounded? It was the very first thought in every man's mind. (Finnish soldiers dreaded nothing as much as getting surrounded, tr.rem.) And I had to share my foxhole with a POW. We had to sort out the situation and at once. I selected some men and my Runner and ordered them to liaise. The men crawled on all fours and soon were out of sight. There was a LMG firing at us behind the abatis and another one farther off, keeping us low but alert.
At noon the fire directed at us from the front died down and the rest of the enemies disengaged and run, leaving behind tens of dead. The battle behind us also ceased by the by and I was able to hand over the Ukrainian POW to the Company CO. The enemy had suffered a defeat despite their good attempts. Their intent had been to defeat us with a two pronged attack and retake the isthmus.
Some of the rear attackers ran to the island in the middle of the pond on duckboards. Some managed to do it but the island was small, treeless and lacking any other cover. There was some reed at the edge of the water that covered the enemy for a while. There was no possibility to escape from the island. The entire day we were hunting the visitors of the island and their swimming escape tours were cut very short due to our accurate fire
To revenge their defeat the enemy sent eight aircraft at us, they dumped their loads at us. From a low altitude the accuracy was good, and four of our men lost their lives and half a dozen were wounded.
It was just a few days later that the encirclement was completed and the road was opened. Every day up to that had involved lack of sleep, fighting and making sacrifice. After the road had been opened we were granted a few days of R&R for a change. There were some great tits and Siberian jays merrily bouncing around our tents and begging for titbits. They were not interested in the tens and hundreds of dead lying in the wilderness as food source – they wanted to get some cheese.
Database of fallen men informs us:
Kantola, Erik Ulrik.
1st Coy of JR54
Private, civilian occupation factory worker.
Died 6.9.1941 at Tolvantojärvi
Age 32 yrs
1st Coy war diary extract:
10.15hrs Coy received orders to move East by the road some 400m S of the 70th road post. The Battalion moved led by Capt. Pokela to the said location. Once there the tents were set up and local securing placed.
Rest and weapons cleaning. Enemy heavy artillery shelled the camp area. No casualties.
Still resting. We received new gear.
10.00hrs Coy received orders to prepare for a march. We were to take along the tents and ammunition on pack horses.
Our Battalion was subordinated to the German Battalion Sumpf.
03.15hrs The Battalion joined in after the Battalion Sumpf, the 1st Coy in the lead. We advanced on the shore road, then along the old border line. Our objective: Hill 366,2.
17.00hrs We had reached a point some 2km W of hill 366.2 The Battalion grouped for attack as follows: On the right the 1st Coy as the leading Coy that was to liaise with the Germans on our right. To the left of the 1st Coy the 2nd Coy and to the left of them the 3rd Coy staggered to the rear. When the grouping was completed advancing started.
At the point about 1km W of point 366.2 the enemy was engaged. The attack proceeded slowly . When we had made it half-way up the slope we started suffering casualties. In the dusk the enemy positions could not be detected. The German company to the right of us withdrew a little to the rear because they had suffered big losses. I reported to the Battalion CO that it is difficult to make any progress and asked for instructions. The Btn informed that it is not necessary to advance since the Germans have stopped. Dig in.
Fallen : Arvo, Toimi; Kantola, Erkki; and Kuosmanen, Otto Ville.
WIA Korpi, Akseli; Hietala, Aapeli; Kotajärvi, Väinö.
The Germans were to take over the sector of the 1st coy at once in the evening but they did not arrive. The night was rainy and very cold.
06.00hrs Germans took over the sector of the 1st Coy.
06.30hrs I reported to the Btn Coy and we were given the task to secure a sector from the lake Ylä-Vielmajärvi (?) SW tip some 600m to SW up to the small pond. On the far side of the pond there was the 2nd Coy.
12.00hrs We received orders to continue the attack. The first objective was the brook line SW of the lake Ylä-Vilmajärvi. One MG platoon and one 14mm AT rifle were subordinated to the Coy. The Mortar platoon was on the standby to support the attack. On our right wing was the 2nd Coy.
Having advanced some 500m the enemy opened intense fire from the E side of the small brook line where the enemy found themselves in field fortified positions. 2 men of the MG platoon were wounded. The attack stalled but after the mortar platoon had fired 15 bombs we managed to proceed. The enemy abandoned the positions and withdrew.
The advance went on without resistance and at
17.00hrs we found ourselves about 800m from the objective as the Btn CO issued orders to stop. We sent recon patrols to the front. The first patrol returned after 10 min and they reported that there was an enemy MG about 500m from the place we found ourselves. The enemy was in positions <bout 200m E of the Ylä-Vermanjärvi lake SE tip. Cpl. Eino Simone was tasked to repel the enemy across the river with two Squads. Cpl. Uimonen attacked unhesitatingly and yelling loudly the Russki that immediately left their positions, withdrawing across Vilmajoki river to its E side. The Battalion camped for the night. We set up close range securing and we made some surrogate coffee while waiting for food.
22.00hrs Cpl. Puusa brought the tents and dry food. Tents were set up.
06.00hrs Advance continued. The 1st Coy was placed on the left wing of the Battalion The objective was the lake line about 3,5km SE of Ylä-Vilmajärvi.
12.00hrs At noon we arrived at the objective.
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Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 02, 1961
The author appears to have been a Border Jaeger. The scene is the front NW of lake Ladoga.
As far as I remember it was the second August 1941 as our Company, 3./RajaJP 2, was plodding in forest terrain for their target, the road Poutala-Syväoro. Our Battalion was advancing on the extreme right wing of the 2.D attacking to the direction of Elisenvaara-Lumivaara.
I was as the scout of the leading squad as we were approaching the road. I was advancing alone some 100m ahead of the squad, orientating and checking the terrain to inform my superior in time that we were approaching the objective.
Having arrived at the foot of a hill I heard in front of me some loud, indefinite noise emanating from a large area. I stopped the leading squad. Accompanied by a Border Jaeger I sneaked to find out about the source of the noise.
Finally we caught sight of a road on which the enemy was marching in a constant flow. It seemed to be the transport column of a larger outfit. There were horses, four-wheel wagons, field guns, some tractors and a lorry in one file leaving the threatened sector of their front. The congestion was so great that no one was able to bypass anyone ahead of them. It would have been totally impossible to give way to oncoming traffic.
We took a quick glance at the situation. My pal set out to inform the Company CO. I stayed there to observe. The Company CO acted fast. The Platoons took quickly positions by the roadside. Although their action was fast, it was unnerving to wait and watch the column passing on the road.
I was looking at an heavy howitzer outfit marching on the road. It was led by an AT gun closely followed by the field pieces. Horses were pulling the guns, filling the entire road. The drivers were shouting to their horses and each other.
The Company CO crawled next to me and said:
- Now we shall open up! Let them have it !
My SMG had been aimed at the shoulder of the leading horse of the team harnessed to haul the AT gun. I squeezed the trigger. The horse reared up, then fell down dead. I let couple of more horses of the same team have it. In the flash the AT gun crew detached their gun, directing the barrel at us, shoved in a shell and fired at random. The projectile was aimed several meters too high. It was their last shot. The inexorable law of the war doomed this brave gun crew to pass away in the great unknown
Fired at a close range our infantry fire created terrible havoc in the packed column. I do not want to describe the scene on the road during the next ten minutes after we had opened fire. The howitzer battery was abandoned on the road, as was the rest of the heavy equipment. Some loads managed to escape in the forest but not for long.
We captured 70 live horses, counting some 80 killed ones. As to the equipment we captured five howitzers, one field gun and a lot of other material. Specially I remember “impregnated rice” that I saw for the first time in this fracas.
While we were still examining our booty a loud noise of battle began to emanate from the left side of the road. Soon we learned that there was a strong enemy bunker on the open field and that had stopped the 2nd Coy. Our heavy weapons were being transferred and they were not able to support us.
I was just about to start making tea behind a large boulder as our Squad Leader Cpl. Nissinen came and said:
Come on, pack up your gear, we have to go and extricate the 2nd Coy.
We soon found out that the outfit assigned to “extricate” comprised only our Squad. Judging by the noise the 2nd Coy was being heavily engaged.
We set to the task without hesitation. Having arrived at the first line we found that the enemy stronghold resembled the one we had taken at Rauhiaisenmäki. Here, too, a hill on an open field had been fortified and equipped with great firepower. Their MG s would “rake” every spot where they detected any movement .
The only solution seemed to be to get behind them or in their flank. It did not appear possible to “squeeze in” any outfit larger than one Squad. Making use of the terrain our Squad started their advance at the target. As if by miracle we made it to the edge of the field next to the bunker undisturbed. We saw that the bunker was concentrated in dealing with the threat in the direction of the road. The men of the 2nd Coy did play their role well, by keeping up fire and moving about in brief dashes at the road
Our only chance was to charge fast in the enemy positions and take them by surprise. Every front soldier probably is familiar with the state of mind reigning in such a situation. The task was hard and dangerous, no doubt about that. There was a lingering idea occupying one's mind: will this be the last charge for me? What will be beyond the border that I may have to cross now? All one could do was to accept one's fate and set out to do the task.
We ran in an open line across the open field to the enemy bunker. We did not open fire until at a distance of 10 to 11 meters, whereby the enemies took cover in their foxholes. We were forced to continue at the same rate through the stronghold. We cleared the trenches with hand grenades and SMGs. Close range fighting with cold weapons ensued, too. There were many a tough incidents in the maze of trench in a few seconds. I can tell by experience that it was not a good idea to fire long bursts with a SMG in hand to hand fighting. Brief bursts fired at an arm's length had the best effect.
Having taken the bunker we were surprised to find that we were all alive! We had survived the skirmish with a few small scrapes. We had opened the road for the 2nd Coy with our decisive and unscrupulous strike. Thinking about it now it was a minor wonder!
RajaJP2 had been set up only on the 19th July (of trained and experienced men, it seems) .
2nd Coy war diary extract:
Attack started at 12.30hrs from Vehkalahti after an artillery preparation. The bog was a soft road to tread. We saw some larger quantities of enemies not until at Lamminmäki. It was shelled and we started advancing. We reached the Sorja road late at night. A couple of men tread on mines and were lightly wounded. There were four abatis, mined ones, that we managed to cross without mishap. Lajunen H. had to leave for the field dressing station. The night was slightly cold.
The Russki launched an counter-attack at the hill next to the road to Syvävaara with quite a lively firing. Some (of our men) were wounded and two fell. We swept the surrounding territory and the Tyrjä village.
We were quite tired as we returned in the night at 01.00hrs to our tents.
Platoon Petäjä set out to advance to the direction of the Sorja road. Rouhiaisenmäki hill was taken, it certainly was something that many a man remembers. The Russki had a strong manning on the hill. We made war booty and prisoners.
On our left Salomaa expelled the Russkies from their positions. We captured a light MG, rifles. Darkness prevented us from continuing. The Runners had a hard task, it was raining.
We set out from Rouhiainen tasked to man a hill next to the Poutala road. Everything went well and the Platoon made it to the objective without fighting. A column was spotted down on the road and it was reported to Salomaa. The entire column was destroyed on the road. The booty was huge. 30 live horses, 82 dead ones, five 5” howitzers and all kinds of loads. In the evening we were satisfied with our days' work.
The war booty riding horses were tested and the field dressing station was frequented (?).
Gardening season has started. No more input for six months. Have a nice summer, dear readers.