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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.
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Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 02, 1961
The author appears to have been a Platoon leader of JR10 at Rukajärvi.
We had practised hostilities for almost two years, now it was the spring of 1943. The waves of war were flowing evenly at the Rukajärvi front section. Every now and then an angry burst of SMG fire reminded the men carving birch warp cups that the war indeed was not yet fought to the end.
My pastime was that time cut short by the lame buzzing of the field telephone. I received orders to report to our Company CO. Half an hour later I was standing in front of him.
This jovial fellow, Lt. Korhonen, holder of the Mannerheim Cross, gave an impression that the war was over, if not in the world so at least for JR10. Actually this was not the case. Our CO just was not able to refrain from smiling. He did not share the worries of neither Hitler or Stalin, as he jocularly had stated.
(Tr.rem: Niilo Korhonen, MR2 #107 was KIA 26.9.1943)
Soon he started talking business: the unfinished war.
-Listen, you old veteran! There is a serious piece of business here. Another small one must be carried out in the enemy territory, and since you have been there so many times already, why don't you do another one next morning ! Yesterday Lt. Korhonen's patrol was over there and they intercepted enemy patrols in such a place that we suspect something special is going on.
We studied the map. We thought and pondered. Would the enemy be doing this or that – maybe widening their flank securing? Our operating theatre comprised the area between the Reboly-Belomorsk road and the Lake Ontajärvi (Ondozero). Our uncompleted strongholds were manned by JR10.
The orders had been received. The outfit including NCOs included ten men. Close range patrolling – the most unpleasant of all patrolling – was always advisable to be carried out with a small outfit, specially now as the hard snow easily carried a skier.
It was the morning of March 27th and the red of dawn was about to break at 0500hrs as we set out on our journey. We crossed the seldom used securing ski tracks – our own and those of the enemy. After half an hours of skiing we found fresh enemy ski tracks and on tree branches leaflets exhorting us to end the mindless war and come over to their side. We agreed on the ending of the war but the method to do it was in our minds radically different.
When collecting the leaflets I remarked 2nd Lt Korhonen (not related to our CO) that there was a smell of the enemy in the air. He smiled at my comment and opined that it was due to the leaflets and seeing them. I did not explain to him that last spring there had been a case when my nose had detected the same smell on a patrol mission and saved the lives of many a man. We continued skiing across a small bog and arrived at the edge of dry ground.
Then sub-machine guns started chattering at a range of 30 to 40 meters. Lots of things happened in a brief time. Fire – seeking cover – terror!
It was difficult to get through the crusted snow but we had to because we were there as on a platter. Jets of bullets swept over us. I felt a sting in my back. A bullet had swept under my skin while others had ripped into my backpack and garments. It was in my mind a cramped and shallow world, but I had to get lower. I do not know how it was possible but after a while there was a hole in the snow large enough for a man. I mentioned the 2nd Lieut next to me that I was wounded.
Then something unexpected happened in a flash. With the exception of my runner, PFC Mannerheimo all men rushed for the patch of forest on our left in one group. I shouted stop! many times but to no avail. They vanished among the trees followed by a barrage of fire. Now I and Mannerheimo were alone under enemy fire.
We tried to return fire but without result. The enemy fire appeared just to increase. What could we do? There seemed to be no way out. We were soon short on ammunition. It was a hopeless situation: just five cartridges were left.
Indeed, what could we do? There was no route for a wounded man to retreat, actually none for a healthy one. Our shooting had given us away and the enemy was aware that there were just us two. There may have been maybe a platoon of them, maybe 40 to 50 men.
I was dumbstruck. I did not inform my runner on the ammunition situation. He seemed to keep shooting. Then he stopped and told me that he was out of cartridges. He also requested permission to withdraw. I did not grant that but neither did I deny him to do that. I was hoping in my mind that maybe that boy could save himself from this hell, then at least one good soldier would be saved.
The others that had abandoned us and withdrawn in the forest may not have been any safer. If they were not all dead, at least there must have been wounded among them.
Mannerheimo turned in his snow hole to the direction of our arrival.
I shall try to get out of here, he said, his last words.
He put up his head and shoulders but immediately he slumped. I had been watching his preparations because I could do nothing else, being wounded and out of ammunition.
I reached out to him and just managed to grab his leg.
How are you?
No answer. My good runner, PFC. Mannerheimo had paid the ultimate price at the age of a conscript. I prayed for the salvation of his soul in front of the Great Leader, sensing that also my own end would be at hand.
I was alone. There was the wide Carelian wilderness around me and open sky above me. The enemy was facing me. It seemed that for them my death was as valuable as my life for me. Bullets kept swishing overhead, cold metal carrying death. The wound in my back was bleeding. I felt warm wetness dripping down my sides. I was feeling bitterness, not only at the enemy and the war, but also at my pals that had run for the rear, I could not understand their action. I thought they were traitors without honour.
The only one I respected was my runner. He had followed me to the very death. I was sure I would join him in a moment. We would continue our journey together. I already saw myself next to him on the March crusted snow, the SMG slipped out of the hands that had carried it a long time. There was just the wilderness and sad emptiness.
Suddenly firing ended. There was a silence. Such a big silence that one can find in a wilderness only. Had the war ended ? I was frightened by a tearing yelling of “uraa” tearing in the fresh spring air. Echo from the hills responded in tenfold “uraa”. I lifted up my head from the snow to see the crowd of enemies rushing at me. My heart was beating in my chest as if trying to get out of there. Fear and panic finally took over me, also I became aware that I would meet the final great happening in my life – death.
But no. Again something surprising happened. I caught a glimpse of men in white cloaks among the fir trees. The enemy was retreating. they, too, had abandoned me. Why? Did they fear getting taken from the rear? Now I was truly alone. The rasping noise of enemy skis was just a faint hiss that finally died out. There was just silence, silence. It was as if the nature herself would be holding her breath, asking: why?
I was actually stupefied and helpless, but n more without hope. There was a small lamp flickering a message: life, life ! Death that recently had stood in front of me, stretching his bony fingers, now he had left with the “uraa” yells.
I started estimating my situation: Would I be able to move? Yet I did not dare to get up, but kept lying low. The enemy was capable of deceitful action. I suspected that some men would have stayed to ambush me while the rest had left. I observed the situation sharply, listening until my ears started hurting. I raised my cap a little as bait. Nothing! I lifted up my head to look. There was noting special. I tried to get up slowly. There was a flash of pain in my wounded back . I looked around and at my fallen runner, lying near me. With a broken mind I started seeking my skis. I found one, where was the other one? I failed to find it, and the skis of my runner were not there. I did not have the strength to seek them from any longer distance. I had to save my energy. I started dragging myself on one ski along our track to our lines. It was a hard effort.
I stopped for a while, looking back. Goodbye to my good runner, PFC Mannerheimo . I was feeling pain in my soul, turning into burning feeling of guilt. Why did he try to retreat, why did I not prevent him doing it? Why, yes why? My brain was brimful of questions but I found no answers. If I had denied him to leave we two would be here together as many times before. In low spirits I left him there on the white Carelian snow, continuing my slog. Then it was a hospital, then furlough before new battles.
Database “Menehtyneet 1939-1945” informs us:
Mannerheimo, Lauri Ossian. b. 20.June 1922 in Lohja, KIA at Ontajoki on 20.4.1943.
Age 20 yrs.
Unit JR10, 7th Coy. Buried at Nurmes.
JR10, 7th Coy war diary entries:
15.00hrs Coy CO received preliminary notice that the Coy shall be transferred to reserve at the “Veikka” terrain.
14.00hrs Coy CO summoned the Platoon leaders for a reprimand (Saluting, dressing and overstaying furlough)
The Coy shall be transferred to reserve behind the present front section. For this purpose two half-platoon dugouts shall be built in the said terrain.
Action to be taken:
Men to be detached:
I Platoon 2 men
II Platoon 2 men
III Platoon 3 men
IV Platoon 1 man
These men shall comprise a building team, being accommodated at the “Veikko” terrain. 2nd Lt Salo was ordered another building team (1+9) comprising men from the Squads under his command. Work is to be started on 31.3. in the morning.
(The same from 19th to 22nd.)
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Another Patrol mission
Journal "Kansa Taisteli" 03, 1961
A recce patrol in July 1941 does not go as planned. At this early phase of the war there was just patrol activities on this front section. The author was a 2nd Lieutenant.
In the first days of July 1941 our outfit 42. RajaK (Border Coy.) was stationed at the Lappeenranta-Viipuri road near the present national border line. Recon missions to find out the details of the enemy defensive system were launched. First of July our Coy CO, Lt. Linnakallio called me, the undersigned, to him and enquired if I would do a two-day patrol and who would I choose to join me. It was an easy matter to decide because there were enough suitable men in our outfit. Another favourable fact was that our outfit mainly comprised men just from the Lappeenranta area, many of whom were familiar with the local terrain. The Coy CO posted me as the patrol leader and gave me three men. It was to be one of the first missions and the purpose was strictly reconnoitring, which means that the number of men was not all-important.
When preparing for our task in our tent camp area an Aspirant of an AT gun platoon next to us came to me; he had found about our patrolling task and as an eager soldier enquired about his chances to join us. But since our patrol had already been set up the Aspirant returned to his outfit. In the afternoon he came again to me and being willing to join us he asked me to mediate. Now I enquired about the matter because a patrol is more effective and smoother in action if it consists of courageous and volunteered men. As I learned that the Aspirant had not been granted permission by his superiors to join a patrol I explained him that it could not be helped, and later on he would most likely to get a chance to find action.
In the evening just before we were to set out the Aspirant appeared in our tent fully equipped, saying that he had been granted permission to join our patrol. There he stood, a backpack on his shoulders, a SMG in his hands and a pistol stuck in his tunic so that only the grip was sticking out. I checked his story. Our Coy CO also accepted this. So the Aspirant replaced one of us who was left out of this patrol.
We left our camp at 2100hrs. Making use of terrain cover we advanced to the national border. Lt. Linnakallio escorted our patrol up to Haisevanjärvi lake in the immediate vicinity of the border (=front line, tr.rem.). There he provided us with final advise and orders; we crossed the border line at 2300hrs when a minimal dusk had settled over the terrain. A last glimpse at our CO and a salute to him standing in cover under a fir tree with his Runner. In my mind I hoped that we would return with valuable data.
Our actual task started. We were advancing in a file, our first objective was the road from Lautalankylä village to the border. The Aspirant was leading in battle readiness, just as the rest of us following him. We traversed a broadish abatis line at a point where an enemy patrol path crossed the line. The path told us that it had been used many times in both directions. It would not have been easy to traverse the dense abatis line in some other place, and eventual mines made us shun the obstacle.
Our advance continued, we every now and then stopped to listen. There was the beating of the hooves of an enemy riding patrol on the Lautala road in the cool night. Everything seemed to be fine. It was very important to find out if there was any other traffic on that road. We proceeded through a dense piece of forest that protected us. At 0400hrs we arrived at the edge of an alder thicket.
In front of us to the left there was open field with a triple wire hindrance about 70m from us. We sneaked closer to the wire, where the Aspirant already was. He signalled to us that there was something ahead. We ducked and listened. Sounds of coughing emerged from the far side of the hindrance. The Aspirant pointed with his arm and said:
see, there is an enemy sentry sitting on a tree stump over there?
The distance to the enemy was about 30 m from us. There he sat, holding his rifle between his knees. We were looking at the alert sentry and his face that was turned slowly to the left and to the right, ahead and at times behind. We also were wondering about the enemy sounds of coughing, they sounded somehow fake. Soon we were hearing similar coughing to the left of the sentry, as if responding to the previous one. We were not able to proceed but had to find another route. We left the enemy sentry carrying out his duty.
We made a new plan and due to the wide open field we set out to the terrain between Haisevanjärvi and Kanaoja manor. At 10 o'clock we were watching how enemy soldiers, 5 men and 3 women, were training swimming on the opposite side of the lake. They had no idea about the danger lurking nearby. The distance to them was only about 100m, the very best for shooting. Since our main task was still unfulfilled we moved to South of the lake and tried to penetrate through the enemy lines there.
At 13 o'clock we found ourselves in front of a 200m wide clear cut line spreading to the left and to the right. We were watching and listening. Behind the open ground a little to our right there was a squad of men digging a weapons nest. To the right from them we saw a tallish covered MG nest that was opening its maw through the oblique shooting sectors. In front of us and to the left there was a group of men engaged in digging trenches. Lively clanking of tools and bantering filled the surroundings. We decided to stay there for a while, observing and locating our findings on the map. To make sure that our observation would be efficient I left one man to secure our rear. The rest of us crept closer to the edge of the clear-cutting. The Aspirant was placed to the right at a distance of 10 m and the fourth man on my left.
Each of us settled in his position so that we all saw each other. Binoculars revealed an enemy sentry standing with a rifle in his hands in the middle of the clear-cutting in the cover of a bush.
Suddenly a shot rang out on my right. It was a surprise. At first I thought it was the enemy sentry who had fired an alerting shot. At the same time I heard and recognized the voice of the Aspirant. He was dashing to the clear-cutting, yelling and wailing terribly. I and one of my men ran to him and caught him at the edge of the open ground. We saw him sway and hold his belly. His pistol was hanging by its strap and blood was constantly dripping down his trousers. We carried him in the cover of the forest. He was in great pain, yelling and wailing:
- Do not leave me! Do not leave me! I want to die on our side of the border!
We gagged him with a cap to prevent his wailing betraying us to the enemy. We spotted some restless movement on the far side of the open ground, even the sentry seemed to have left. Having carried the wounded man some 200m to the rear our third man joined us, unaware of what had happened. The wounded man was not able to answer our enquires, he was getting weaker by the minute. We pulled him yet farther because there was chattering of the enemy in the direction of the clear-cutting, and it was getting closer. Some 400m from the scene of the incident at the edge of a small bog we checked the wounded man and administered first aid. He did not say anything more to us. His face had become pale and the movement of his eyes decreased. His pulse was slow. Maybe he with his last strength tried to talk to us, or at least look at us to make sure we would not abandon him.
As we opened his trouser waist we saw that he had been wounded in genitals and right thigh. We checked his pistol and found that it had gone off. I deduced that he had carried the pistol unsecured in his tunic while prone in his observation position. The pistol may have slipped to the ground and gone off or he had shifted the weapon in his tunic, accidentally touching the trigger, with sad results.
We built a stretcher of birches growing at the edge of the bog using belts and withes to assemble it. We padded the stretcher with fir boughs and moss. We felt his pulse once more. His heart was beating but with slower and weaker force.
We carried the stretcher in turns, one of us was constantly behind us, securing. It was well possible that the enemy was following us. It was a hard work, the afternoon sun was hot. We took a break three times, a short while at a time. Our last break was some 400m from the border.
There on the stretcher was the Aspirant who had volunteered for the patrol as an energetic and plucky officer. His heart had stopped beating already. He was not destined to die on our side of the border as he had wished. We crossed the border at about 16.00hrs. We decided that one of us shall go to our camp and get a horse to transport the dead man, because we simply were not able to continue carrying him. I and the other man stayed there to wait for the horse, sitting at the rear end of the stretcher, watching to the direction of the border. We had been sitting for some while as a sharp flash of light hit my eye. It was like a flash of lightning to the left at the side of the path some 15 m off, sun rays hitting the knife-bayonet of an enemy patrol.
I jumped up as well as my pal by instinct.
On the opposite side of the path behind the boulder an enemy soldier was lurking, behind him 5 to 6 men crouching. I saw the enemy rifle and the knife-bayonet that had revealed the imminent danger. I also saw the features of his face, the eyes rapaciously staring over the boulder. Oh! Fast action was now necessary. A bounce in the bushes nearby, my pal jumped at the same moment. The enemies opened fire at us, encouraging us to accelerate. Bullets whining about us and hitting tree branches we made it to a knoll nearby. It was only there that we returned fire with our SMGs. We had not any time to do that in the tough spot. After a while, having taken a shot mutually the enemy patrol pulled back in the direction of the path and vanished from our eyes in the forest thicket. I and my pal were worried what would happen with the horse and the driver that were to arrive just from that direction. Fortunately the enemy patrol had soon turned to the direction of the cut line and left for their own side, without surprising our horse.
We returned to the stretcher of our dead pal. Enemies had frisked him, the compass had disappeared from his wrist, also the SMG that had leaned against the stretcher. We had indeed been followed by an enemy patrol, they had searched the terrain up to the border line. Having spotted us sitting at the stretcher they had decided to catch us. When approaching they had made use of the cover provided by a boulder next to the path, but they had failed. The knife-bayonet of an enemy and the rays of the Lord's sun saved us. There was a clanking of cart wheels on the path and there was our patrol pal with a horse and cart, secured by some men . Our skirmishing had been heard in the camp area, that is why several men had been sent to meet us. Everyone was happy now, they had been alarmed, believing that we had been ambushed. We lifted our fallen pal with his stretcher on the cart, it was the beginning of his journey back to his home.
The Aspirant was (most likely) Onni Oskar Parila, born 9.3.1919 in Kymi, KIA 1.7.1941 at Kananoja, Nuijamaa. His unit is reported to be 42. Raja K. He is buried in the Kymi cemetery. Civilian position: farmer.
Source database: Suomen sodissa 1939-1945 menehtyneet
Then let us have a look at the war diary of 42. Rajakomppania:
There seems to be some confusion as to the dates.
Entry (written in a school notebook)
1.7.(1941) At 06.00 returned the aforementioned patrol (Sihvo, 1+2, reconnoitring the terrain in the front, tr.rem.)
At 20.00hrs 2nd Lt. Pukka received orders to set out for a recon patrol, patrol strength 1+3 officer patrol. The patrol's task was to reconnoitre the terrain in front of the front line.
At 07.15hrs one man of Pukka's patrol returned to report that the patrol had not yet returned in its entirety, because one man had been wounded and they were trying to recover the wounded man from the enemy side.
At 09.00hrs the patrol returned with the wounded man who was already dead. The dead man was Res. Aspirant Parila, Onni.
At 20,00hrs Russki artillery shelled the terrain at Rapattila village.
At 20.25 hrs Enemy shelling ended, the result of shelling was that one Artilleryman fell and one fire was started, which was duly put out.
At 00.00hrs started enemy shelling directed at the Rapattila village and along the road.
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Autumn 1943 at Maaselkä
Journal "Kansa Taisteli" 03, 1961
A honest non-heroic story by an artilleryman. The author's rank at that time was NCO Trainee.
In autumn 1943 Kev.Psto 13 had been transferred to the Maaselkä isthmus where they took positions in the forests North of Povenets town. The terrain was divided by numerous small brooks , the banks of which could be used to dig dugouts in and the brooks could also be dammed to make pools for cooling off during a sauna bath
The three fire control observation posts of the Battalion were placed on the banks of the Stalin Canal. The southernmost one was situated on a hill at the edge of a bog North of Povenets town, at the first lock gate of the canal. The location was rumoured to be called Aallonmäki (Aalto hill) because the first one to fall here had been Lt. Aalto. It was not known to me whether this had happened as the front lines were congealed here or earlier during the war when the front line had been considerably farther to the East. To have a more favourable front line Finns had retreated and set their positions along the channel. The canal provided for a natural defence line but here where the lock gate provided a bridge between the East and West sides the situation was a bit awkward.
Our positions were situated on the top and the side of Aallonmäki hill while the Neighbour held the opposite side of the canal and the lock gate. At the lock gate the distance between the lines, according to some, was but 70m measured from the thick concrete wall of the gate to our first listening post which was manned in the night only.
The F.O.O. post of the third battery of the Battalion had been placed on the right edge of the hill, providing a good view to the shore of lake Onega in the South and up the canal to North – that is almost 180 degrees. The lock gate was almost right ahead, at a distance of a little more than one hundred meters. To the left and a little ahead was the first infantry weapons nest, but on the right there were no sentry or observation posts until in the ruins of Povenets town which was almost one kilometre off. During the night the listening post of the F.O.O post was situated on the extreme right edge of the hill ahead and to the right.
The actual F.O.O post consisted of a covered foxhole dug by the side of the communications trench to the listening post. A periscope binoculars stuck out of an hole in the roof in such a way that a few times enemy snipers managed to “blind” it.
During the autumn I had been posted as replacement in this Battalion – known as Simola's gang – and from there to the F.O.O team of the 3rd Battery. I had no experience at all of a “big war”. During the early phases of the war I had been at Uhtua in a field stronghold. No actual fighting positions existed there because no heavy weapons were available. The LMG had been the most powerful and least mobile weapon in use there. This front here was a totally foreign experience for me.
On the 17th Nov our F.O.O team led by 2md Lt. Tilen moved from rest to the front. With a serious mien I was marching as one of the team on the path to the “Golden Rooster” which was the name of the F.O.O team dugout. There was a rooster fashioned of birch branches in white bark on the facade of the dugout. My mind was bothered by an incident in this location last week; my school classmate Veikko Linjamäki had fallen in the observation post of our F.O.O team and Mauno Rantanen, who was to be the goalkeeper of our national football team after the war, had been wounded. A mortar bomb had hit our observation post that had been lacking its roof due to repair work. Our task was now to complete the repair work during the first nights of our stint by hauling in the logs provided for the roof. We managed to complete the task by Saturday Nov, 20th to some extent.
Now the observation post comprised two parts; the actual observation post was situated behind an entrance room that had quite a strong roof. The door to the entrance room opened to a trench along it, because here there was an elbow in the trench that led to our listening post.
My own sentry stint that day in the small hours 0400-0600 had passed without mishap. At that time of the year it was the last stint in the listening post, because in daylight it was not good for one's health to enter or to leave the listening post, because the trench descended downhill just in the direction of the enemy positions. Moreover the trench was quite wide because the unreveted sides were left to undisturbed crumble, making the trench not only wider but also lower, and nobody ever had attempted to fix it.
My stint started at 1000hrs in the usual manner. It was a cold and damp November day. Cold blast right from the open Onega was blowing and sending sand dust in the air on the Aallonmäki hillside. I was observing with periscope binoculars the opposite canal side slope. There was a gate lock, menacingly massive, and to the right sandy soil criss-crossed by trenches up to the top of the slope and beyond. On the right there was the brick building of the Povenets Red Officer School, Onega beach and finally the ruins of Povenets town.
To the left of the lock gate the terrain comprised sandy beach slope which farther to the North was ever farther from our beach side, to a safer distance. Again I turned the binoculars to the South until the silhouette of the Red officer school came into view, and back again. At times I watched the enemies moving about far at the edge of the forest, some were always visible at their dugouts doing their chores. It felt odd to me that right in front of me there were men who were living their lives in a totally different world . The distance between us was just a few hundred meters but those meters constituted the limits of two words and the limit could not be crossed without violence, and this borderline reached from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea. In this line, thousands of kilometre in length, there were thousands upon thousands men in their foxholes, crouching with cold, fear and tension. All of them were individuals tasked to guard their world and to kill and expel any intruder. For each of them the most important matter was to protect and save themselves, at least to some limit, depending of personal attitude to the war and its harsh laws. Hero was one who was able to defeat his natural fear and using his wits and cold reasoning act according to the the circumstances - taking into account not only himself.
The reticle of the periscope binoculars swept the beach bank. There was the communications trench to the lock gate, and above it a parallel trench. Someone was moving there. He stopped, watched our way, went on and vanished. For one hour I had turned the aiming knob of the binoculars back and forth until I stopped at the same spot. Now there was another man wearing a helmet. He stayed there, watching our lines. Quickly I looked to the left and to the right. There was no movement in any other spot. Again I was observing the immobile man. A sniper, I reasoned. I kept observing the terrain but returned to this neighbour staring at our side. He seemed to be within a stone's throw. His facial features were shadowed by the visor of his helmet , else I could have seen them. At a whim I took the SMG and went to the firing slit provided at the edge of the trench. This was one of the last things many a man had done before getting killed. Quick´y I peeked through the embrasure. Oh how far the object now found itself. I was not able to catch the sight of him at once, so I ducked fast. I repeated my attempt, but prudence won over my stupid intention. Shooting with a SMG at this range would never have made sense. I returned to the observation post and turned the binoculars left and right. The man with the helmet was still there, immobile.
It would soon be 1200hrs, my sentry duty stint would soon be finished. Once more I had a look at the lone observer – I concentrated my attention – a man wearing a fur coat and white fur hat came to the spot, and another one, too. Obviously they were officers. All of them stayed there for a moment observing our lines. In my opinion the arrogance of the enemy – they were very well visible – was too blatant to remain unpunished. I grabbed the telephone crank and turned it. I reported my find to 2nd Lt. Wilen and asked for a few shells at the spot the neighbours were congregating. He promised to try to persuade the local mortar outfit to lob a few bombs and he told me to observe where they would land.
I hanged up and kept observing the terrain. The time was in my opinion creeping very slowly – obviously there was a discussion on the necessity of firing. Now the man with the helmet was again alone. I turned the binoculars to North and was startled. My field of vision was teeming with me. I did not at once understand what was going on, but soon I realised that on the opposite side an AT gun was being pulled to the embankment, In a flash I was at the phone, turned the crank hard for an alert signal.. Panting I managed to shout in the handset that now an AT gun is being set up. It was all I had time to do before the crashing started. The AT gun managed to fire maybe twice before other weapons started sending iron at our hill. I had managed to report the approximate bearing of the AT gun, then I returned to observe the situation. I tried to get an idea of the terrain in front of me but soon I found it was impossible, because all I saw was just a chaos of smoke and dust. I was not able to see the lock gates even. I pulled the binoculars down to protect the lenses. I phoned to get instructions. I heard something about common connection and fire command to a barrage target but suddenly the phone went mute. The cable had been cut by a shell.
Helpless and tense I again tried to observe but without result. The heavy artillery strike that appeared to smash the entire world was raging around. Since observing was now useless, I moved to the front part of the observation post, there the door to the trench was situated. I checked my SMG and started removing the safety off from some hand grenades. Cautiously I peeked every now and then in the trench. Suddenly I spotted someone running down the trench. I was just about to grab the SMG as I saw that he was one of ours – the infantry sentry of the neighbouring weapons nest. He came to me out of breath and explained hurriedly that at least one Company of enemies is emerging from the gate and he asked me to alert the artillery at once. I told him that I already sounded the alarm. Yet I went to the periscope binoculars to check the situation but in vain. The sandy soil had developed such a dust that in practice nothing could be seen through it. I returned to the entry of the observation post and saw that my recent guest was running back in the trench. I wanted to grab the SMG but to my horror I found it was not there. I dashed to the observation post – neither there was it! I looked up the trench and saw the infantryman running with the SMG under his arm. As he came to me he had been unarmed. Had I been able to use my wits I would have run away with good speed. I did not have a weapon, the telephone was out of order, and the situation totally unclear to me.
For some reason I was not able to push myself to action, so I stayed there, setting hand grenades to readiness while glancing to the trench, seven meters straight from the entrance to the next elbow. Suddenly I detected movement at the trench elbow. I just realised someone wearing brown had turned up, pointing a SMG right at the entrance. I remember that I realised that the SMG muzzle spewed fire and I heard a command in Russian that I knew meant to come out or something like that. My fright was so enormous that I completely lost my ability to function. The only way out was there where the SMG was spewing fire and bullets. Behind me there was a small foxhole with an entrance to the observation post, and from there the only exit was the hole in the roof , which could not be used due to the small size. Like a panicked hare I dashed to the rear – the only direction that did not mean the risk of a certain and quick death.
In the hole between the foxhole and the actual observation post there still was the sill of the previous observation post which in the renovated foxhole divided the entrance into two parts; the floor of the entrance room was almost one meter below the observation post floor. I still today do not recall how I passed the sill – above or below. Anyway, now I found myself in the observation post where I had a chance of pushing myself into a shelter dug in the sidewall and partly below the floor level. This was the “hare bush” into which I pushed myself. Paralysed by terror I sat down on the shelter floor, staring at the entrance to the observation post. It was not until then that I was still clutching in my hand the hand grenade whose safety I had been removing. In the middle of the shelter there was a 10cm thick support behind which I tried to get. It was not possible due to lack of space.
Just then I started hearing agitated talking and sounds of movement, I deduced that the attackers were coming to check the observation post. There was a sound of footsteps on the sand floor coming closer – babbling and panting – closer and closer – finally a man pushed in through the entrance, all the time loudly talking dashed to the field telephone set and ripped it from the wall. I was not able to fathom the fact that my “room-mate” also was quite pale with tension and fear. He just shoved the telephone set under his arm, then grabbed the periscope binoculars' illumination gear and hurriedly left the observation post. In his haste he did not look to his sides, but having spotted anything passing for war booty he had grabbed them and run.
It is difficult to describe the moments I spent in my cramped hole, staring with horror at the enemy busy at a distance of one meter. There was no consideration neither clear idea in my brain – just paralysing mortal fear. AS the man had left my ability to think returned partly, however. To my amazement I found myself alive and well. I also noticed that the sound of shelling now came from a distance, no shells were landing at the spot, yet judging by the vibration of the ground and loud noise the I deduced that the battle was still going on at the location. I realised that the attacker had taken our positions and our troops had withdrawn – where, I did not have any idea.
It was almost noon. That meant that it was a long time before the darkness would fall and provide me cover to try to get back to our lines. I planned the route to take at dusk. At first I would descend the hill to the bog, there I might get as far as Medvezhegorsk if I would move carefully. I was about to get out of my hideout and check the situation a little as I heard noise from outside.
Immediately I pushed myself back in my hole and started listening. Again the paralysing fear grabbed me totally. Surely they would check this spot better and I would be found out. The fear of getting taken prisoner together with mortal fear had frozen me in the spot.
I hear sneaking steps in the entrance room – stop – panting – some more steps – silence. Immobile I kept staring at the entrance, waiting for my fate. Soon I had a desperate idea: I looked at my hand, there still was the hand grenade ready for use. Just strike it at the support beam and stretch your arm – that would do the intruder but me, too. The grenade would explode one meter from my head, there was no doubt about the result. In my desperation I had a flash of an idea to be soon free from everything – just strike the grenade fuze at the column and forget. All this had time to pass through my mind during the few moments from the noise of the first steps to the total silence.
Heavy shelling was still heard, shaking the ground so that sand from the roof was dripping on me. At the moment I did not feel it – I just kept looking at the entrance. The same moment a sharp crack was about to burst my ears. Some sparks flashed in my view. In a fraction of a second I deduced that it was a Russian hand grenade, the fuze of which cracks far louder than that of ours. I also remembered that the delay of this grenade comprises three seconds
One...in panic I tried to glance around to find the grenade and throw it back, maybe.
Two...had it landed at my feet? I lifted the hem of my greatcoat and kept seeking -
Three.. now there is going to be an explosion!
But no. Nothing happened
Five...nothing at all happened.
I was sure that the hand grenade was a dud somewhere under my greatcoat and I did not dare to move at all. At the very moment I heard some movement at the entrance. The recent intruder was still in the nest, instead of seeking cover after throwing a hand grenade. I suddenly felt some relief, maybe it had not been a hand grenade after all.
My uninvited guest left. Again I began to wait and plan. I was planning how to slip back to our own lines and my chances of making it. I had not managed to think much longer as again I heard noises from the outside. Someone was coming to the observation post. I could hear someone creeping carefully to the entrance. I was holding my breath in my desperation. It was obvious that now they would do a thorough enough checking to detect me. I kept staring at the entrance opening without batting an eyelid, by now I wanted to yell them that I am here, because I wanted to be freed of this tension and fear once and for all.
There! A man appeared at the entrance. At first I saw the edge of a fur hat to emerge. The same sort of hat that I had seen the enemies wear in the trench before the attack – that flashed in my mind. Slowly a man's head emerged through the entrance. During the fractions of second that passed before the rim of the hat and the cockade emerged I managed to send one wish to the direction of the heaven: let it be a blue and white one. In a flash my mind was filled with tremendous joy. The cockade was blue and white. At the same moment the man's face emerged – Sr. Sgt. Veikko Isolammi's familiar mug was looking at my foxhole with a worried mien,
Like a rocket I dashed out of my hole and grabbed the hand of my “saviour”. Soon I learned about the situation. It was by no means as hopeless as I had imagined, because the attacker had soon been beaten back and firing was now dying down. Our artillery was still beating the opposite bank of the canal. I stayed for a moment to look at it with the periscope binoculars. I soon met the infantrymen who had rolled the trench. One of them said that he had shot an enemy who had been using a flamethrower and running at my observation post. I felt dry at my throat thinking of my fate if that man had made it to my hideout. A glance at a still smoking infantry weapons nest aided my imagination enough.
When talking about the course of events it was found that my second “uninvited guest” had been an Infantry platoon Sergeant who had checked the observation post. He had fired his pistol right in it while having a hand grenade in readiness. If he had heard the slightest sound he would have thrown his “bomb” there. Fortunately I had stayed silent. It was also found that one of the infantry boys had been taken prisoner. He had been in a situation like mine, but he may have been less paralysed by fear and he had believed the exhortation to come out. So it was seen that he had vanished in the neighbour's side, yelling for help, dragged by a couple of enemies
The dank air in the “Golden rooster” felt wonderfully calm as I after a while was able to get some rest. A few fags to soothe my nerves and a nap had a great effect, soon my gloomy experience was something that I was able to talk about with a smile on my face.
KevPsto 13 war diary extract:
Busy movement all over the sector. On the opposite side of Käpälä_5 an enemy outfit comprising 20 men including 5 officers equipped with map cases. Marja fired 6 rds whereby the groups were scattered. Casualties include 1 fallen/1 woulded
Enemy launched a heavy artillery strike at Käpälä_5 and Käpälä_6, firing more than 1000 shells. Immediately after this Käpälä_5 was attacked by a force of one Platoon, but only 5 enemies managed to make it to the wire. At Käpälä_5 the F.O.O: was PFC Puhuri, alone. At Käpälä_6 the enemy attacked with a force of 50 – 70 men, managing to get into the trenches and the observation post of Käpälä_6. At the observation post in sentry duty was NCO trainee Kajan who managed to hide in his foxhole under the observation post. At Käpälä_6 the enemy snatched the periscope binoculars illumination device, its case and the field telephone set. The case was recovered from a fallen enemy. The enemy was beaten back by a counter-strike. 3 fallen enemies were left in the K6 trench .. The Art.Btn. did not suffer any losses. Inf. suffered 1 fallen and 2 wounded and 1 taken POW. The enemy launched smoke at Käpälä_6, Käpälä_5 and the Devil's Island. The show was 0ver at 14.45hrs as Marja shelled a firing 3” Art. Section.
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Sounds in the night
Journal "Kansa Taisteli", 3, 1961
Background information: III/JR53, Kangasvaara in Kiestinki
It was the end of March in 1942. One week earlier I had been transferred from an artillery F.O.O. Team to infantry – to be a mortar F.O. It was a different outfit but the observation post was but 20m to the left from the old post. It was a small change in the eyes of an outsider but for the concerned it was something inconsolably sad, because I had been eight months in my outfit and grown accustomed to them. But order is order and that's it.
That evening it was the time for my first F.O. Stint, a fairly unaccustomed task, because in the artillery I had been a telephone NCO. After a cursory F.O. Training session I was posted in this task. Our CO, 2nd Lt. Karjalainen, advised me with these words:
-Just keep observing there in the front, we here in the firing positions shall take care of the rest-
We set off in a single file down the path, me, Matti Vesanen and a telephone man for the stronghold “Ville” that was to be our lodgings for the next 24 hrs. We were accommodated in a small and foul smelling dugout originating from the time of the hard battles during the previous autumn. Then it was shooting all night and sleeping in daytime with no time to improve the positions. These positions were then held by “jerries” who were said to have cut trees with MG fire and hewn them with meat cleavers, resulting in these poor excuses for dugouts. They were cramped and the smell was pungent, as on top of human smells someone at times was smoking bread in his pipe.
Then, by the by, despite grumbling one managed to fall asleep and return to home in one's dreams. When shaken by the shoulder the dream did not cease until you opened your eyes wide.
-Get up, start supporting the fatherland
Night-time reveille was causing this kind of muttering, but as soon as you got your eyeballs peeled and a fag, you started smiling. I just made sure that the compass, my tool, was wit me, then I just shouldered the gun sling and headed for the position I asked the MG and infantry men if there was anything special they had heard, because you could not see farther than your arm in the darkness, although the snow was still on the ground. Water was dripping from the trees and the sky was overcast. We were all looking alike. Both uttered the same well known borrowed word:
Each of us went in his foxhole to listen. Soon a man from the neighbouring stronghold “Matti” came to liaise. He said that a moment ago there might have been on our right in the no-man's-land some sound caused by dragging, and he asked me to join him and investigate the matter.
The two of us walked in file that 100m to listen. We kept listening for a while, but it was quiet, as if in a felt boot factory during vacation period, so I returned back to “Ville”.
After a while there was heard right a head a faint “ting” as if a wire would have been cut, or a weapon cocked. There was a quiet alert, the positions were manned and again we just listened. Someone believed that he heard a cough muffled in a mitt, and to the right and in front some sounds as if a largish outfit were creeping in the snow. The Corporal, as the commander of the stronghold, estimated after we had been listening for half an hour, that it is water dripping from the trees, nothing else, let us get back and get some sleep. The MG corporal said that he is not going to reveal his guns for some trifling sounds. I disagreed and said it aloud:
I guess I have to use the mortars to fend off the noise-makers.
There was a bit of an argument on this matter and the result was that a reinforced sentry force was left in the positions: Two SMG men and a LMG gunner on the right wing, but they were ordered not to open fire until something really substantial would be heard. Sometimes talking is gold, indeed. Also some riflemen stayed in the positions forced by their own senses. I contacted the mortar fire positions and explained the situation. Our stronghold “Ville” was so far from the Ivans, some 500 to 600m that no barrage had been fired in front of it.
-Since we have been now waken up I might as well order a strike there, although I do not believe there would be anything because the infantry has not requested any fire, said 2nd LT. Karjalainen.
I commented on that:
-As the dawn breaks and we have survived, then we shall see, but I shall eat a strip of willow bark of my height if there are no less than one platoon of Vanyas.
The Vanyas had such a tough fire discipline that they did not fire yet although we constituted a fat target, standing carelessly on the embrasure, each one smoking a cig or a self rolled one.
I gave the first fire command:
-Range 800, direction 3.00. HE. Shoot.
After a file there was a “cough” in the night and swishing sound as a mortar bomb flew overhead. It was 200m over the target.
-Decrease100. Left 50. HE. Shoot.
The flash could be seen and I thought I heard muffled wailing at the moment of the explosion and sounds caused by a largish outfit.
One alteration more:
-Decrease 30. Right 20. 5 rounds. Shoot.
Now louder wailing could be heard, swearing and other sounds. The boys opined:
-There must be an elite outfit, because they are still holding their fire, let us get them all.
We decided to give them a thirty bomb strike while two SMG gunners on the left and one LMG gunner on the right would “play the music”.
Stronghold “Ville” was not equipped with a flare gun, because it had not been needed so far, but now it was sorely missed. In the meanwhile the positions had been manned, because only a man related to trolls would have been able to sleep in the noise.
I gave a fire command:
-Connect to I. Barrage, 30 rounds . Shoot.
The SMG s buzzed and the LMG gunner used his RPD in a manner that was a pleasure to behold. Even the riflemen were firing like crazies. Only the MG s stayed obstinately silent. The Vanyas did not open fire even now, instead they were trudging in the snow and yelled. The banging lasted for about 5 minutes. Then there was silence, we listened and wondered if after all there had been but a small patrol, after all.
My sentry stint was over a long time ago but I could not go and sleep before I had found out if there had been adversaries and how many of them.
Finally the dawn started breaking. At 05.30hrs the Battalion Jaeger platoon arrived to set out for a patrol. They were accompanied by the Btn CO, Maj. Korpijaakko, 2nd Lt. Karjalainen and other officers to wonder the view. There was good cause to take a look. The Ivans had managed to cut every strand of the wire of our three meter deep hindrance. The cutting had been carried out by two Sappers with steel nerves, sitting in the snow back to back. The work had been skilful because the distance to our trenches was less than 20m. The terrain next to the breach was full of sitting holes and mortar bomb hits. We counted 90 of the former and 25 of the latter. There was some 50m from the breach two fir tree stumps, there had been a command post and a first aid post because there we found the most blood, paper, LMG mags, cartridges and other stuff that you leave behind when having to get out fast. It was also apparent that many a boy had had to depart in the land of no return.
Listen you mortar man, your bombs did arrive just at the right moment. They had cut the breach ready, they would have had a direct route to us. It was a close shave but the mortar bombs blocked the road.
The Jaegers found that there had been two platoons of Vanyas close to the breach and another company some 300m farther, their presumed intention was to carry out forced reconnaissance.
III/JR53 war diary extract:
Weather: clear. Morning and forenoon calm.
Afternoon and evening quiet.
Transferred from Artillery to the Battalion arrived 3 NCO and 12 men.
Nothing like the story mentioned end March. Instead:
25.3.: Same as the previous day.
2nd Lt. Tervaskanto posted to the Btn as the Supply officer
Situation in the morning: nothing special
Situation during the day: nothing special
Situation in the evening; nothing special
Lt. Kantola transferred from the Btn .
27.3.: Calm night.
Enemy is attacking in the North, the task of the Btn is to tie down the enemy imperceptibly (sic) except on the left flank where the fire activities may be more lively. The Jaeger Platoon shall be posted in the terrain of Vinkkelissuo (?) bog, at the NW tip. The Jaeger Platoon is to be reinforced with one rifle squad of 8th Coy and Art. F.O.O. Team, they shall advance in the said terrain on 28.3. at 0530hrs. The reinforcement to the Jaeger platoon shall report to the 7th Coy CO at his command post at 0500hrs. The task of the Jaeger platoon is to secure and if the situation so demands to fight a delaying battle to our positions. The Jaeger platoon shall stay in the said terrain until 1200hrs. Tel.-exchanges have been ordered to create connections during the night.
The order was issued on 27.3.42 at 23.30hrs to us by phone except Lt. Hotinen and 2nd Lt. Hämäläinen who received it spoken at the command post.
Our artillery shall fire strikes at the terrain of the shore road and S of Kangasvaara.
The night was quiet.
The Russki stayed calm at our sector all day.
12.00hrs Our securing outfit N of Vinkkelisuo bog retreated.
Situation in the evening; nothing special.
Surgeon Lt. Tervo has been promoted to Surgeon Captain.
AM: Nothing special.
Quiet on the entire sector.
11.15hrs A patrol returned. They had not detected anything.
During the day nothing special.
AM quiet. At the second line the F.F. Work went on.
18.20hrs Our artillery started shelling enemy positions. I Btn patrol at the same time advanced to the terrain at Pukkila.
18.40hrs III Btn opened fire at Kangasvaara sector to draw enemy attention and to enable the I Btn patrol to operate. Shooting went on until 2000hrs.
2nd Lt. O. EEllilä was transferred out of the battalion.
05.30hrs On the left flank of 7th Coy one Russki was shot.
11.30hrs The patrol returned. They had not detected anything special.
14.00hrs on the left wing of 7th Coy in front of Rinteenkangas two enemy weapons nests were fired at with LMG s. One blew up (most likely hand grenades or explosives) and the other one caught fire, producing a small flame (most likely flare gun ammo)
14-30hrs At “Tissi” two Russkies were fired at, both fell.
The entries for a later date:
03.00hrs In the terrain at “Ville” movement and exchange of shots.
03.08hrs Order issued to “Uitto” to secure the seam and when necessary provide fire support with an AT gun .
Hotinen reported that between 2100-2200hrs the enemy had sent light signals at Rinteenkangas.
05.45hrs Everything calmed down .
15.30hrs 2 enemy dugouts destroyed with a 5” direct fire cannon on the right from “Tissi”.
16.30hrs Sr. Sgt- Järvinen's 4 man patrol went to the S edge of Veturipuro bog, about 130m from Russki positions. Several Russkies were seen. They also found that the Russkies had considerably strengthened their wire hindrance on the N side of the said bog.
20.45hrs Movement at “Ville “ terrain. Nothing happened.
01.00hrs Movement at “Ville” terrain. Trench manned 0100-0230. Inf. fire.
01.30hrs Lt. Kajava's platoon found that in the above-mentioned spot there had been about 20 Russkies in position. They had arrived by a new path, cut our wire and the first ones had advanced to a distance of 10 to 20 m from our positions. There was a track of blood on the Russki path. The Russki had touched off one mine.
10.20hrs Capt. Kaila with his three Runners found themselves moving around at the “Hottinen” sector and they advanced without permission on the no-man's-land. One Runner touched off a mine on a patrol path. One leg was blown off. Capt. Kaila returned.
13.00hrs Russki fired some artillery shells behind the “Hottinen” sector.
14.00hrs Using a cannon one dugout was destroyed and the roofs of another two were squarely hit . The location was a little left of “Tissi”.
20.30hrs Field fortification work on the support line: 30 men, repairing hindrances and setting traps: 42 men. On the support line 55m of wire and 6 trap holes were completed. Of the first line wire 230 m were renewed and 5 pcs illumination traps and 20 pcs pipe mine traps were installed.
A few LMG bursts were fired from Rinteenkangas to “Luistin”.
Mortar Platoon of III/JR53 war diary extract:
01.30hrs Fired: 6 bombs at Ville
01.30hrs Fired: 10 bombs at Matti
02.15hrs Fired: 18 bombs at Ville
08.00hrs Dugout and field fortification work
Pvt. Vikström Tauno on furlough.
11.10hrs Food rations distributed.
Pvts Karjalainen Ville and Pvt. Niiranen were transferred to the Rgt. Mortar platoon
20.45hrs Fired: 12 bombs at Ville
08.00hrs Dugout maintenance and firewood collecting
Staff Sgt. Came and paid daily allowances.
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Heading for Savukoski
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 04, 1961
JR40, III Battalion, 8th Coy is baptised by fire at the Salla front.
JR 40 that had been made up of reservists hailing from the districts of Pori, Tampere and Oulu comprised mostly a bit older men. The Regiment received their gear in Oulu and next they were hauled to Kemijärvi. (16.12.1939). Having spent a few days there they were transported on lorries to Pelkosenniemi (18.12.1939) where they for the first time was involved with Pvt. Russian. The transport took place during night-time for obvious reasons, just like all other transport operations during the Winter War. Our convoy would stop every now and then. When we approached Pelkosenniemi village we already found ourselves in an area where enemy patrols had been encountered already. It was proven, not only by rumours, but by some dead men on the roadside whom we looked at with mixed feelings. What we saw included an ironic promise that was fulfilled for many a man.
Finally our convoy stopped at the edge of the village where the lorries were unloaded. After a while we stood, in Companies, carrying our gear in the forest in something resembling a column, listening a briefing by officers on the action to be taken during the next few hours. After the instruction the Companies fanned out into Platoons in the forest at the perimeter of the village. Noises of battle were heard in the direction of the Savukoski road. Also enemy campfire flames were seen on a large area. The troops that we would assist were just engaging the enemy in the area that we saw in a panoramic view in front of us. There was a first aid post near us, and it took all the time patients, some that could be treated and others that no more needed any. It was not planned to move us at once in the front line because at daybreak we were orders to cover ourselves up as well as we could and also hide our skis so that enemy recon planes would not find out that extra troops had arrived.
So we just spent time and waited what would happen. Fighting had by the by died down. There was a rumour that the enemy had advanced a couple of kilometre but another rumour said they had retreated one. In wartime, as well as any other time, rumours are used to feed wishful thinking, and for understandable reasons there was no confirmed information available.
Some Companies had been fed, but our field kitchen was neither seen nor heard, it may have got lost somewhere during our journey here. Instead, a Battalion Runner came and told that the 8th Coy was to get ready to advance. This, after our initial preparations, was like a whip strike that made every man get busy with his gear and to ask what to pack and what to leave behind. The answer was given at once. The Company CO, Lt Koskela told us:
-Weapons, ammo pouches and bread bags are to be carried, the rest is to be left in the baggage train.
The short Lapland day was already turning into a dark and long Lapland night as we set out in file along the road on both sides. It was still so light that we did not want to use the road. However, two shabby soldiers did not hesitate to trudge on it, coming from the direction of the front line. One of them was a Russian and the other one a Finn; a POW and Pvt. Liimatainen who was escorting the prisoner to the Battalion HQ. This he reported to our Coy CO. These two men had seen action and somehow they made us feel relieved of the tension that had mesmerized us. The magic atmosphere of war began to show some practical features. Pvt. Liimatainen and his POW went on as did we.
- It seems to me that those foes are nothing but men after all, we opined, someone even dared to crack a joke. Soon we were ordered to talk as little as possible and by whispers, because we were approaching our front line. There were ammunition carriers busy with their stores. We were ordered to stop. Our Coy CO reported to the CO of the front line outfit that our task was to engage the enemy “for harassment”
It was not until here that we learned what was the purpose of our advance. We had by now wondered why just one Company of our regiment was sent out. After the officers had discussed for a while we set out, again to the direction of the road. It was quite dark now, but after we had been sneaking on for a moment we saw men in temporary positions between rocks and knolls. Here we had to stop again because the men in the positions had to be informed so that we would not get under their fire in case we would have to pull back quickly. From here on we advanced by platoons, the squads in file. Our Platoon CO was Res. 2nd Lt. Tammivuori.
There was not a single man in our platoon or in the Company with any this close war experience. So the tension was extraordinary. The distance of the advancing squad files was about 20m. Observing extreme care we advanced and soon reached the edge of some open ground where there was a double listening post. These men told us that the enemy probably is not far off because recently they had heard from the far side of the open ground talking and some kind of hollering.
-Maybe there is just a listening post just as on this side? Our CO thought aloud.
-Surely they are there for the same job but there are more of them because we heard speaking from several directions. They may have relieved sentries jut then, the younger of the men opined, he had taken care of talking so far. The older man was just sitting on a tree stump, apparently fed up with the existing circumstances. He said half sarcastically:
One who goes on that bog is not going to get bored.
Now we had acquired all he information available in these circumstances. We found ourselves on the right flank and as far as we could see the other platoons were facing the same situation. However, despite the darkness it was seen that the bog that appeared to constitute the no-man's-land was on our left more overgrown with bushes, but in front of us it was bare. Yet our mission was so evident that there was no choice but to set out to cross the bog. Our CO made sure that every weapon was loaded and unsecured, then we started in a line to cross the bog that was some 50m wide here.
We had covered more than half the distance to the far side as the “music” started playing. It definitely was not a joke. Before I realised it I was prone, as near to the ground as one is able to. I was lying there for a moment, listening to the jets of auto weapons fire hissing around me. I could not tell if I was wounded, but somehow I understood that I was still alive. What should be done? Moving would be dangerous, even though it was dark, but one could not stay there at least so long a time that it would dawn. Slowly I raised my head to look around and spotted on my left a small hillock, at a distance of about 3 meters, about large enough to cover one man. But how to get behind it? By moving slowly or as fast as one would be able to? I opted for a quick move because then I would faster get some more security, if there indeed would be any. I turned on the safety of my rifle because I feared that if it should go off during my dash, it would amount to suicide as the muzzle flash would betray me, and my “fort” would not survive. My performance was some kind of a combination of creeping and dashing as I crossed the 3 meter distance.
Once behind the hillock I to my joy found that my movement had not been detected. There I was able to look around more freely. It was still so dark that I was not able to discern which spot was a man or just a darker location. Fortunate for us there was so little snow that the soil of the Fatherland was spotty and protected her sons for future challenges. But I had to get out of this place, too, before daybreak. The enemy fire had decreased considerably already, and it was only at two locations that the field was swept with machine-guns every now and then. It was just as if the turf in front of me would have been poked with a hot bayonet as a MG jet hit it. I made a plan and started carrying it out immediately. I pushed myself rearwards, trying to keep in the cover of the said hillock until I encountered another hillock or rock that I was able to use as a shield. I knew that at the edge of the open ground there was a deep ditch-like depression. That was the objective of my life and fortunately I made it there.
Most of our platoon found themselves there already, also our officer who had denied us to fire one single shot at the far side as long as it could be expected that one single men of ours would be alive on the open ground. Having sat down on the bottom of the ditch, my two hour tension was relieved and I started hallucinating, for example I imagined seeing that one of our squad was walking on the open ground making small fires, each of which was emitting white smoke. I was watching my hallucination and asked why was Ketola doing that.
-It's me here, Ketola said next to me in his home dialect.(We were to find out that not everything one saw should be believed.) My nerves calmed down by the by, I started looking around and asking questions. One more man did return from the open ground, using the same tactics, that is, creeping slowly backwards. Shooting died down by the by but we knew the open ground was being observed. Therefore we were surprised that the two volunteers who went there to search our three missing men were not fired at. Finally they were found, two dead already and one badly wounded. There were four more wounded in our ditch.
During the last few hours odd occurrences had happened in succession. We still found ourselves in the ditch and silently we took care of our wounded. We were waiting help for them from the securing line, and it was soon received in the shape of stretcher bearers and sledges. Now we felt we found ourselves in the front line, which we had expected many times, feeling awe mixed with some fear. We had today learned some new facts, for example when harassing the enemy you must remember to take along some sledges although you did not know who would need a ride in them upon return. The equipment used has greatly changed since the days of von Döbeln ( the war of 1808-1809) but the rules of the game are the same: lottery. Paramedics evacuated the dead and the wounded, the survivors were ignorant about their future tasks. Our mission had been completed, and there were no further instructions.
It had started raining sleet that provided cover for us, that is why we were moving and grouping quite freely, yet soundlessly. We were standing about near the road waiting for orders. Men from other platoons arrived, with similar casualties and experiences. The most important subject we talked about was food, it was a long time since our latest meal at Kemijärvi. We had chewed on our dry rations, those who had any of them, because we had not been there at the time of the latest distribution.
-Does anyone have an extra piece of bread ? Our Platoon CO, 2nd LT. Tammivuori enquired quietly.
-I have some bits and pieces in my bread pouch among cartridges, I said, taking them out and blowing at them to clean them. True enough, they were a little soiled by gun grease, but as we scraped off most of it, the rest could be taken as condiment, as Tammivuori opined. Then we drank some water off a pool on the road, and after enjoying a cig we had a feeling of having eaten well. The sleet rain turned very wet and by the by soaked our clothing. Slowly we retreated past the listening post to the securing line, where the men in the line had sought rain cover under trees, as if scraggly trees would have provided any. Finally a runner came to inform that the 8th Coy is to get closer to Group Perksalo (Maj. Perksalo was the CO of JR40)
So we started off in a kind of crowd to walk on the road to the village. We used the road because we considered ourselves veterans like above mentioned Pvt. Liimatainen . As we arrived in the village the Regiment was preparing to move on, and there was an order waiting for us: Since the 8th Coy has experience and is familiar with the terrain, they shall again engage the enemy as the spearhead. This order issued in a tough manner suppressed any questions and ideas about a meal and anything else. The Regiment was so far advanced in their preparations to set out that we could but turn around and head for the front line-
December 18th dawned slowly into a twilight and the “stopping attack” by JR 40 started. Most of the Regiment was directed to the left from the column to carry out a wide outflanking operation. Our spearhead Company and maybe a couple more Companies kept advancing for the front line where the for us familiar securing line had been reinforced because judging by observations the enemy was getting ready to advance. The enemy did not attempt to cover up their intent to attack, because loud yelling and noise could be heard widely in their grouping terrain. Judging by this there would be a great force would be coming at us. Soon a tank was advancing on the road followed by a second and a third. Simultaneously the enemy infantry crossed the open ground that we had learned to know last night, in several waves, making dashes. This was something extremely disgusting to see, because we had a feeling that the firepower of our weapons would not be sufficient. This was also the opinion of the (III) Btn CO Capt. Lindberg, who advised us to pull back slowly to better positions – this was likely also tactics in accordance with the surrounding operation by our other outfits. As we retreated the firepower of the battalion on the support line with their MG s began to have an effect, the action could now be called real warfare. It was surprising that the enemy tanks did not advance much farther than their infantry line, so the psychological effect was not as great as it could have been if they had driven through our lines. Later at night they did it, yet to their detriment.
We had to withdraw on from the support line facing overwhelming force. One of the support line MG s, firing from an advantageous angle, covered our withdrawal over a minor piece of open ground. We found ourselves in better positions having crossed it. The securing MG and the crew were destroyed by the enemy, alas. The volunteer brave men were aware of this beforehand. They created history that the witnesses shall bear in their minds intact over decades.
Plenty of men were killed on December 18th and the next night in the forest of Pelkosenniemi, also there were lots of wounded, among them our good Platoon CO 2nd Lt. Tammivuori who left the “logging area” pierced through shoulder. As mentioned we now had better positions and men just crowding at the edge of an about 40m wide open area, there were rocks, hillocks and holes that we could utilize. The bog in front of us was just menacingly narrow, especially as the darkness was again falling. The enemy stopped at the edge of the bog instead of charging at us. I think they, too, had problems with their encumbering wounded and dead, forcing them to consider if it was worth while to cross the bog at once without preparation.
Loud noise and sounds of preparation were still heard on the far side, as well as the rumble of tank engines. We were waiting, apparently calmly, some 300 to 400 fingers at trigger. It took at least one hour before the action continued. At last tanks left the road to advance over the open ground, we saw now four of them. The first one drove through our line, but we were in readiness. Lt. Pesu appeared to have been waiting for this, because he at once went down the ditch dragging a satchel charge, and the tank was wrecked. The man also suffered, he was wounded in one arm and he had to be treated for it most of the war. Yet he managed to join us in the final phases of the war at Vilajoki – to get killed.
At the same moment one young boy left our line, running to the rear.
-Anyone leaving the line shall be shot, someone shouted.
-Do not shoot, I am coming back, the boy shouted back and vanished in the darkness.
It did not take long before the boy came back, crouching and dragging a huge satchel charge. He followed Lt. Pesu's tracks to the second tank and from the ditch he rolled the charge on the running track of the tank. The second tank was knocked out with a tremendous noise. I never learned what happened to the boy, because the dusk prevented any observations. Paramedics, however, were needed.
After these blasts we were ordered to fire at the far side of the open ground. Since there was a large number of auto weapons, a considerable cracking was created; that combined with the knocking out of tanks made the enemy to prefer to stay in the cover of the forest. Shooting aimed at our line decreased by the by, but the action appeared to concentrate on the right flank of the enemy. We listened and wondered at this change, because then we were unaware of the flanking operation that the rest of our Regiment was carrying out. That panicked the enemy and they fled as far as Savukoski and Salla. The enemy left plenty of dead and equipment on the rear, as it was found out in the “review” next day.
We were not able to start pursuit at once because some of our troops, including baggage train, had retreated in panic as the tanks pierced our line, that is a little before the enemy pulled back, at the moment the outcome was on a knife's edge. Battle action moved further away and faded, and we were not fired at at all. Just one tank, towing a broken down one, fired its main gun a few times at the direction of the road.
Then acts of war ended in this part of the wilderness. All that was heard was cries and prayers of the wounded in Finnish and Russian. The thaw had in a matter of hours turned into a serious freeze. Heavy magazine pouches had gnawed our skin at places raw, and frozen fabric gnawed on them uncomfortably. We were erring in the dark forest, looking for wounded, we were exhausted and sleepy, we were asleep both when standing up and walking. We had learned yet another fact, which is that a man is able to survive with far less eating than it is generally believed.
We had come out of the forest back to our old positions. The discovered wounded were evacuated to the rear where we knew they would be taken care of. We were waiting for retreating men as a kind of field stronghold. Then I saw how a group of men carried a mysterious object into a half burned small house. I went there to find out what was going on. Having entered the house I at once saw that all the men were strangers to me. In the middle of the room there was a pail from which they were scooping soup with their field kettles. In the dusky room I spotted a flower vase on the window sill, I drained it quickly on the floor, then intruded in the circle of men and did manage to put between their legs my vase in the pail and scoop it half full of food. At once I started gobbling, fearing that they would recognise me as one not of theirs, they might take away the food and maybe even beat me up.
I returned the vase on the window sill and left the house quite full. Later I heard that those had been the men of the securing battalion and the soup had been Russian. Having got out of the danger zone I rolled a mahorka cigarette, the material for which I had without permit obtained from the pocket of a silent man I had encountered in the forest. The temperature had turned colder still. A huge silence had fallen on the entire region. The cold forest was echoing with sounds of scavenger birds on the sky. (Ravens) A wolf was howling far away. The tired soldier sat on the bank of the ditch, rolled in the ditch, wrapped himself with his frozen greatcoat and fell asleep. He did not wake up until there was loud noise, originating from withdrawing troops stopping on the support line, to have a meal and get dry rations. After meal this weakly equipped “phalanx”, partly in civilian attire, set out to march as a secured column for Savukoski
Wikipedia on JR40
In the regiment the commanders hardly knew their men and the subordinated their commanders. The equipment of the regiment was poor, too.
8th Coy war diary includes an “introduction” before the entries starting 27th Dec. 1939.:
After personnel and equipment reinforcement the Coy set out from Oulu on 16.Dec. To North. Next morning 17.Dec the train arrived at Kemijärvi rwy station. The Coy was billeted in Kukkala farm some 6km from the Kemijärvi station. We settled in and among other things the pay was paid out. In the afternoon the Coy was alerted in battle readiness. However, nothing happened until in the small hours. We set out on lorries and the destination was Pelkosenniemi. AS we arrived, there was a smell of battle in the air. It was evident that we had arrived at the actual front line. Men in white snow camo were skiing at every quarter. From the direction of the front one could hear noises of firing and shell explosions. We were given small abandoned houses for lodging. The men settled in, some ate their food, others made coffee. Some men were fixing their equipment. There was thrill in the air because we were for the first time at the front line. WE were uncertain of future. On 18.Dec AM the Coy was alerted . We started skiing toward the enemy positions. Soon the enemy was contacted near the edge of the village. Our company was baptised by fire. At dusk we withdrew to the main defensive position at the edge of the village. Later, having returned to our lodgings we were ordered to immediately return to the front line. At the dawn of 19.Dec. A heavy battle started, lasting to late night. During the battle fell: Cpl. Osmo Hakola, Pvts Frans Virtanen, Tyko Laine, Seppo Haapanen and Veikko Alhainen. Wounded included: 2nd Lt. Tamminen and Pinomäki, Sgt. Wallin, Cpl. Heininen, Fagerström, Pfc. Lauri Ruusela, Pvts. Vilho Nieminen, Vilho Salminen, Vilho Suominen, Ahti Salminen, Artturi Koskikari, Reino Ruokosuo, Martti Kujansivu and Reino Heino. Missing in action: Reino Salmi, Arvo Hakala, Aarne Pohjola and Ensio Paavola. In the evening the enemy started a heavy bombardment at the village , whereby we withdraw from the village in Saunavaara village nearby. On 20.Dec in the morning we arrived back at Pelkosenniemi, that the enemy had abandoned leaving behind about 1200 dead and a large quantity of war material, among them tanks and a large number of lorries. The Coy was lodged in the previous billets. Next night we set out heading for Savukoski. The weather was very cold, about -38 deg C. We arrived at Savukoski on the night of 23.Dec and were billeted. In the morning of 24.Dec at 0400hrs the Coy with baggage train embarked on lorries and headed for Kemijärvi, where the entire (III) Battalion was billeted in Isokylä village for R&R.
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The fifteen hundred of Kuhmo
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 04, 1961
Krh.Os./Er.P 12 had been billeted in a lone farmhouse at Nurmijärvi in Lieksa end of January 1940. The battles at Kivivaara had been finished and now we were having rest.
If a soldier during R&R does not eat or sleep, he heats up a sauna and has a bath. It happened so that the undersigned and Pfc Väinö Hirvonen, both sons of Tohmajärvi village, were heating up the sauna on January 30th evening. We decided to take the first heat as a reward for our work; soon the sauna stove was hissing and cracking as two PFCs were sitting on the top bench. But mostly happiness is ended just at the best moment, like now. There was the spine chilling voice of Pfc. Eemeli Kareinen, the Runner of Lt. Kähäri, the Mortar detachment CO as he shouted:
-Get out as soon as you can and on your skis, the outfit is going for a night outing.
Our bath was finished then and there, and indeed a “night outing” started, lasting seven weeks in one stretch until we had our next sauna bath on March 14th. In the beginning we did not know what our destination would be. By the by we got wiser as we removed our mortars from the vehicles to put them in sleds and started to manhandle them on. Our Officer communicated us the following order:
-We have entered the Oulu province, in the terrain South of Kuhmo church. The outfit shall march in battle readiness, heavy equipment in the sleds and personal weapons in readiness. There is a risk of enemy patrols. No roads in the direction we are going to take.
He beckoned with his ski stick to indicate the direction.
We pulled the heavy sleds for some kilometre and set up the tents, then turned in for the night in the wilderness. Our CO issued a special order on alert sentry duty because in these parts some time ago a Finnish tent with its occupants had been subjected to cruel treatment. The enemy had surprised sleeping soldiers, killed them all and on top of it cut open the bodies of the victims, filling them with fir boughs as a hunter does when he has shot a game animal.
With this kind of advise we spent our first night in terrain at Kuhmo. Our CO said that aerial activities would be lively here, and later it was found to be true. We had “high feelings” as the dawn broke, on 1 February 1940, and our journey continued. The rifle companies of our Battalion had already engaged the enemy before this. Pulling the first sling of the sled another sled train came to our direction, laden with wounded boys of our Battalion, by which I deduced that our task would soon start. In one of the sleds was a boy from Tohmajärvi, wounded in stomach, whom I knew to be totally Red. As he was being hauled past me, he recognized me, he cried and swore telling me:
-Listen, Tauno, now fill the neighbours with lead, so that there shall be not a single soft spot, for them doing me this.
We arrived at our destination , set our mortars in position and the hot battles at Kuhmo started for us, too. The place we found ourselves was situated next to the Nurmes-Kuhmo road on the South shore of Luonlahti bay of Saunajärvi lake. Immediately it was found out that a large enemy outfit was being surrounded. Other Finnish troops were skirmishing at the enemy flanks to harass their communications, and our Er.P.12 was tasked to block the road of the Russian division advancing for Nurmes. We managed to stop the enemy and that was the start of the encirclement. This happened mid-February and the result was a gigantic “motti” in the terrain between Kuhmo village and Saunajärvi lake.
The enemy troops crowded in this motti fold proved to be very active defenders because they had food and ammunition enough. As the enemy then found themselves short of them later, our troops began systematically to split the encirclement into smaller pens. So bit by bit the enemy-held area crumbled and as far as I remember all that remained was two small round islands. These troops were saved by the cease-fire on the 13 March 1940
Next I shall recount some incidents in detail on these “motti” battles in Kuhmo.
One day in early February our Mortar outfit was informed that on the Russian side of the Luonlahti shore had landed a large transport plane that may have ferried food and ammunition. The plane may have developed an engine problem because it had been left in a well visible positions. Since we did not have much artillery in the Winter War now our mortars were called for. We at once removed two 81mm mortars from the actual firing position while the third remained to support the Battalion. They were put in sleds together with phone cable reels. Cpl. Aero Vatanen was the observer and the Undersigned was the communications man. We took the mortars about 100m from the Saunajärvi shore, removed some snow to place the baseplate and so the firing position was completed. I slung the cable reel on my back and the field telephone set on my neck, one of my pals took the other reel. I and Cpl. Vatanen skied into the shore bushes, the reel on my back whining.
There the creature was about 300m from us. We measured the range with the periscope binocular and as soon as the connection with the firing position had been established two discharges from our worn out tubes were heard. A moment of thrill as we observed the result. As the hit was 50 m over we adjusted but the next one was 50m short, so we knew that we had the target straddled. Lt. Kähäri came up and he, too, made same corrections, but if one wants to do something very accurate, the result misses the target. The plane just kept standing there unaffected. Although we requested a barrage of ten bombs, just a few of them were near misses. Due to shortage of ammunition we thought about quitting but Vatanen decided to adjust once again 5 mils and asked for six bombs. We were about to die of joy as the third “egg” exploded hitting the cockpit area. At the same time a huge column of smoke started rising from the gadget. That night the Saunajärvi lake in Kuhmo was shrouded in smoke as we heated up our sauna and a million rouble rubble pile was smouldering on the ice.
Now the boys on the opposite shore were just discovering our location, and as we were just loading our gear for the return journey about ten shells were fired at our firing position and Pfc. Lauri Lajunen from Tohmajärvi was wounded. As we had made it to a small open bog a little farther a bomber squadron flew just at us. They must have detected some movement on the open ground since the bomb doors were opened and we had to watch how handsome fat bombs were released for their final journey. All of them missed us, however, but there was a tremendous crashing in the forest and many a tree was shaken free from frost as the bombs exploded.
During the surrounding battles in Kuhmo the aerial activities turned ever more intense and after the completion of surroundment remained active up to the end of the war. There was not a moment when there would not have been an engine buzzing overhead. As the enemy introduced so called “loafers”, that is, slow night recon planes, they would croak like spawning frogs in springtime. At times they would descend to treetop level, so that our tent stovepipes were about to fall due to slipstream. This was causing sleeplessness for many a boy because lodging in dugouts was better available not until the last weeks of the war. A significant result of the enemy defence strategy was that no-man's-land often became narrow and detrimental mostly for the enemy.
It was the early days of March at Saunajärvi as I was with Cpl. Eero Hämäläinen controlling fire in our positions, about 70m from an enemy dugout. Then a Russian plane, in the middle of the day, arrived just overhead, and two big packages were dropped just at us. I had just time to whisper to Hämäläinen that now he is hitting us with wooden crates before they crashed in the snow behind us.
At once I crept to find out what the nearest sending included, it was just 15 m off. To my joy I discovered that the enemy had addressed the sending to their own men, because it included 1200pcs rifle ammo. I placed the treasure in a slot on the trench wall , and later they were returned to the enemy side one by one. The other package had landed some 100m from us and I decided to examine it, too. Carefully I crept 20m tunnelling snow and did manage to get there. It was another hard ration, that is 40kg dairy butter, packed in a wood keg in Estonia. I hauled it into safety and after darkness had descended I brought it to our tent. Then the butter rations in the mortar men tent were fairly large.
In early March a bomber dropped a packet on parachute, and it landed just next to our firing position. We observed the descend thrilled as two 152mm artillery rounds were dangling from the parachute They were useless for us but the food supply horse took them there where the right kind of barrels could be found. Another time the Red Army supplied the mortar horses by dropping rusks made of rye bread. It was said that the horses liked them.
Food and ammunition was baldly scarce during the final days in the Kuhmo motti as one can guess. It was perfectly apparent as the war ended. Not many living horses were found, instead bones gnawn bared, including skulls, were found in the accommodating dugouts. The POWs told that these had been used as food. But the “neighbours” did defend their motti heroically and in several strongholds they fought to the very last man. So it was not a wonder that bullets found Finnish soldiers again and again. During the seven week period according to one officer 1500 men were lost. Er.P.12 alone lost three COs , every one of them fell as heroes of honour.
Finally the famous 13ht March 1940 dawned, with its joys and sorrows. The remains of our Battalion were allowed to leave the wilderness to Nurmes village and Krh.Os./Er.P.12 was billeted in the vicarage. There the Vicar on Easter Day served us some coffee and thanked us with selected words on the self-sacrificing fulfilment of our fighting duties during the war.
Extract of Er.P.12 War diary by a scribe who must have been a man of few words:
21.00hrs Embarkment on lorries and departure for Kuhmo.
05.00hrs Arrival to Kannas and camping there.
17.00hrs Battalion set out skiing to Kivijärvi.
05.00hrs The Battalion arrived at Kivijärvi
16.00hrs Departure to the Kuhmo-Nurmijärvi road.
21.00hrs Arrival at the Kuhmo-Nurmijärvi road.
06.30hrs Departure for Saunajärvi, as the spearhead of 4./Os.A
10.00hrs Arrival at Luonlahti. Reconnoitring activities. Camping under bare sky.
Warm (sic), cloudy weather.
10.30hrs Attack was launched, 2./Os.A and 4./Os.A as the spearhead, 3./Os.A in the rear. Attack stalled.
16.30hrs A new attack on the right wing was launched. One enemy forward stronghold was taken,
19.00hrs Attack ended.
14.00hrs Russki aircraft was destroyed (Note!)
03.00hrs Attack was launched.
09.00hrs Attack was ended. Two tanks were destroyed.
15.00hrs Arrived Res. Cornet Lautsiala's platoon from Brigade Wuokko.
13.30hrs 2nd Lt. Setälä's patrol destroyed two Russki aircraft camouflaged at Luonlahti.
Russki fired intensely. Aerial bombarding. Patrols to Klemetti and to Murole.
Cold weather. Aerial bombarding.
05.00hrs Lt. Tuovinen attacked the Russkies in the West, of our men 19 fell and 17 were wounded.
Cold weather. Intense aerial activities.
Cloudy weather. Russki airdropped food packages.
07.00hrs Attack launched. Kariniemi and Rasi, Saunio in reserve. Some success. Russki dropped ammunition with parachute from aircraft. Res.2nd Lt. Ilmakangas fell in action.
Mild weather. Calm. No aerial activities.
Cold weather The enemy was flying at night.
Cold weather. Col. Lt Ruotsalo and Lt. Korhonen relocated to Parta.
14.00hrs Our heavy batteries are firing.
Lt. Kariniemi transferred as the CO of the Btn.
06.30hrs An attack was launched. Res.2nd Lt. Vepsäläinen's strike force spearheaded. 3./Os.A and 4./Os.A followed them. The Companies advanced about 150m and stayed there. Res.2nd Lt. Vepsäläinen fell in action.
19.00hrs The attack was relaunched, which
went on until 0800hrs in the morning but without result.
19.15hrs Two MG s and Lt' Saimo's Company were subordinated to Capt. Murole.
Fairly quiet, temp. minus 32deg C .
Lively aerial activities
Cold weather. Aerial activities very lively.
Weather as before. Enemy airdropped packets.
Calm. Aerial activities at Lautsiala-Kuhmo
Russkies airdropped sugar and butter on our side.
18.21hrs Res. 2nd Lt. Mattila returned from North
14.00hrs Lt. Kariniemi fell in action.
Direct fire cannon shelling during the night.
Lt. Tuovinen as the CO.
Cold weather turned into thaw.
16.00hrs Res. Lt. Sainio as the Battalion CO.
Lively aerial activities.
18-21.00hrs Intense firing but the Russki did not attack after all.
Cloudy weather, snowing, -10deg C.
Russki airdropped packets.
Front activities quiet, snowstorm.
Temp -5deg C, clear weather.
04.30-05.30hrs Russkies were fired at.
10.00-11.00hrs Smoke spreading. These actions were to aid Capt. Murole's attack.
Aerial activities lively.
A Russki POW acting as provocateur.
One direct fire cannon was brought up to the shore of Saunajärvi.
Weather clear, temp -20deg C.
Intense aerial bombardment.
Our field guns shelled enemy dugouts.
Weather: thaw, snowing.
17.30hrs Attack launched along the road to East (at 2./Os.A.) Lt. Suomalainen with a reinforced Coy attacked. The attackers reached the Russki dugouts but there the attack stalled and the troops withdrew to the previous positions. Res. 2nd Lts Wessman and Hämäläinen fell in action.
Calm. Some aerial activities.
Shelling (by Russki) . Aerial activities.
Two parachutes with 5” ammunition captured. 2nd Lt. Setälä back in Battalion from hospital.
Two platoons of 2./Os.A. And one platoon of 4./Os. A. + one MG platoon led by Res.Lt. Sainio were transferred to Parta. Enemy bombarded the baggage train, 9 horses KIA, 7 horses WIA.
02.00hrs(14.00?) Lt. Kahila was posted as the Battalion CO.
19.15hrs Attack from Parta led by Capt. Korhonen was launched, the first objective was reached.
18.00hrs The attack was continued in the East. Stronghold no.1 was taken.
Cloudy thaw weather. Minimal enemy aerial activities.
Cold weather. Lively aerial activities.
Lively aerial activities and an intense aerial bombardment.
Lt. Kahila fell in action . Lively aerial activities.
10.00hrs Twenty two Russkies surrendered. Two fighter planes shot (down?).
20.00hrs Lt. Hirvonen returned with his platoon from the N side of the road.
A long range patrol came and secured the shore. To the North of the road Capt. Korhonen took the enemy stronghold no.2.
02.00hrs Capt. Korhonen posted as the Battalion CO.
13.30hrs Lts Elsinen and Tauriala and Res.2nd Lt. Räsänen with their outfits arrived from Lieksa.
06.00hrs (18.00?) Res. 2nd Lt. Rönkkö returned from the North side of the road
Cold weather. Aerial bombardment resulting in two men fallen in action. A patrol to Kärkölä. Food was provided by Russkies.
Aerial activities low. Col. Lt. Ruotsala visited the Battalion.
Weather mild, cloudy, later clear.
19.30hrs Attack was launched with an outfit comprising men of Capt. Murole, Os.B. And Os.C. The attack took place in the direction of the road to the East and led by Res.2nd Lt Rainola on the beach side. Ref. Attack order
Very intense aerial activities, bombarding and strafing.
09.00hrs It was announced that firing is ended at 10.45hrs and the hostilities at 11.00hrs. Weapons may then be used for self defence only.
15.00hrs Russki negotiators.
10.00hrs Russki negotiators. Troops are pulled one km from the road.
Temp -30deg C. Field prayer.
R&R, weapons maintenance.
17.30hrs Russkies left Rastio and Luonlahti. 3250 men, 800 horses, 2 tractors, 2 tanks, 71 lorries passed by.
05.00hrs Departure from Luonlahti
14.30hrs Arrival at Mujejärvi, where accommodation.
- Posts: 685
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Fighting at Kapustnaya river
Kansa Taisteli, 4, 1961
The author uses the name “Kapustajoki” instead of the correct “Kapustnaya river”. Finnish geographical names have been used.
All through the hot July, up to 7th August in the summer of 1941 our Battalion fought tenaciously a Russian border battalion, advancing via Suvanto and Tiironkylä past Kantojärvi while a part of our Battalion advanced as far as Hämeenkylä and Röhönkylä. The objectives had been taken. We returned to Kantokylä village, had a sauna bath, some rest and off we went again.
We arrived at Kiestinki that had been recently taken. We received replacements – new faces to replace the ones no more with us – either fallen or wounded in action. On 10 Aug the Battalion – spearheading Detachment Turtola – marched East on the railway line. Going was heavy because our burdens weighed us and the sleepers were not matching our stride. We passed the “engine brook” where two Russian steam engines were lying on their sides next to the railway line. Stukas had done a good job. The thunder of guns reached our ears far behind us; there the front-line was at the road near Kiestinki.
The Jaeger platoon spearheading the battalion had engaged the enemy. With a quick attack the enemy fore-posts were taken. Now we had reached the spot where the railway line forked to Pinkosalmi, and a part of the Battalion took positions there. One Company and a MG platoon and half an AT platoon crossed on the right the Pinkosalmi railway line, advancing within sighting distance of an airfield. The airfield was well guarded, no wonder, because the bursts of SMG fire during the battle of the fore-posts had alerted the enemy. One of the aircraft on the field took off, circling overhead low and slowly. It would have been a good target even for infantry weapons but we were not allowed to reveal our location.
On the left wing firing kept intensifying. There were no breaks any more, the enemy had launched an counter-attack I and the half platoon were now in positions at the railway line, then I noticed that an engine was slowly approaching us on the rails. I shifted my two 20mm AT rifles next to the railway, distance about 30m, firing angle 90deg if the train should come to us. The train kept approaching. Now one could easily see that it was not an ordinary engine but a big armoured train with at least one big cannon in the forward part. It was pushing ahead of it a low wagon, probably intended to touch off any mines laid on the line. Now the train had passed the station with its total length and it was right in front of us. I ordered both AT rifles to fire. Both of them fired about ten rounds, but there was not a single weak point in the train, of course. Slowly the turret traversed and soon the cannon was directed at our firing AT rifles. The rifles and the men were by now lying very low in the bottom of their holes as the first shells went hissing overhead. The train kept moving back and forth in front of us for a long time, until the enemy noticed that there was one of our MG s on the embankment, abandoned there. The enemy lassoed the gun like a reindeer herder and pulled it in their train.
Again the armoured train arrived in front of our positions. As far as I remember it was Lt. Siilasvuo who had managed to find a satchel charge and blow up one of the rails. Once again the train came to greet us with cannon shots but the return to the rear was now denied to it, the railway line being cut.
In the meanwhile the left flank of our Battalion had advanced, fighting tenaciously and taking heavy casualties, taking the food depot of the Russian Army Corps near the road. We did hold it until next morning although the official owners found themselves almost at one corner. Now we saw aircraft flying overhead, we could see clearly the insignia: a German Stuka squadron it was. The planes passed us flying to the direction of Louhi over the rail line. Then they turned back, the first plane dived and the others followed the example. Huge clouds of dust rose high and pressure waves swept over our faces, there was another dive and a third one, then the planes flew as if a saluting circle and vanished in the direction of Salla. As the noise of bombs and planes vanished, there was a high pitched constant whistling sound at the bombed site, going on for hours. As the air was cleared of the bomb induced dust, we could see the armoured train derailed, lying next to the line, wheels pointing up to the sky. Its journey was over.
Making use of the August dusk the part of the Battalion that could be detached was evacuating the food depot. Everyone took what he was able to carry. Everyone appeared to be hoarding the most important foodstuffs and of course smokers did not forget the main thing: tobacco and matches. It was the last chance to evacuate the depot because the enemy had received reinforcement and took theirs back from us. Next morning the depot changed hands. Yet the depot was not of much use to the Russians because in the afternoon a Stuka squadron appeared overhead. A few dives at the depot – and it was finished. It did burn well, tens of meters tall flames rushed up to the sky.
Battles kept getting more intense. The enemy threw ever more new troops in the fire. Our defence held well initially but losses were heavy on both sides. Our ranks were getting menacingly sparse. A word was being passed from the left:
-Peace – do not shoot.
We were looking at each other. Could that be for real? We did not shoot because the shooting had died out totally anyway. The movement in front of us just kept increasing, although no shooting originated from there, either. Then, a white horse appeared on the open ground, with a man on saddle, uttering some commands in a stern tone of voice before riding away. The peace was broken at the same moment because we did not allow the Russians just march in our positions. We opened fire and the enemy retaliated in the same manner. Even this ruse was repelled with heavy enemy losses. Where this “peace” message was originated remained a mystery for us. We expected that since our line was sparse, in the cover of the burning food depot smoke an enemy speaking Finnish had infiltrated our line and started the message.
We already had dug in partially. The platoons had been assigned their sectors and the auto guns their shooting sectors. The enemy strafed us with artillery, mortars and tank cannons. I was in a position on a hill near the railway line with my half platoon. Shelling intensified, Pfc. Jussi Salla's AT rifle took a square hit, Chaplain Hulkko took a bullet in his leg, wind blew so much smoke at us that our eyes were smarting. The enemy was firing and throwing smoke grenades. Our auto weapons were firing only at the nearest terrain because it was impossible to spot a target beyond 15 meters. On the right we heard an “uraa” scream because the enemy had penetrated in our positions in the cover of the smoke screen. It was a battle of about one hour that was fought with hand grenades and brief auto weapons bursts, at times it was hand to hand fighting. We had to give up our positions because the smoke was so thick that we could identify an enemy by his backpack that our men were not carrying.
In the morning as the sun had risen and the smoke screen dissipated, a part of II/JR12 had been grouped for a counterstrike. We took about the area that we had lost during the night. This day was in many respects the heaviest day of the battles of Kapustajoki. Supplying was interrupted, the enemy had cut the railway and guarded it hard. Many officers were out of the game. Ammunition was parachuted to us by aircraft. In the first aid post hundreds of men were lying, more or less wounded. They were waiting to be evacuated to Kiestinki and from there on to be treated. The road was blocked and it was unclear if it would be opened.
Now the enemy employed their propaganda weapon, attempting to soften us with it. At times we were addressed seriously, at times a few preppy recordings were played. Then came a mild female voice with about the following message:
- Boys, you are fighting in vain. You have been surrounded, drop your weapons and surrender. Here you shall have it good, barracks have been set up for you. There are single beds with linen, the food will be good and each of you shall get a matuschka of your own.
A cheery piece of music followed. The promise was not believed by anybody, but the cheery music was a good pill against mental exhaustion.
The next day we received good news: the railway has been opened, all the wounded and dead have been evacuated. Yet we did not get any food or ammunition, we were told that the railway is again blocked. We had a lot of dry rations in store because we were eager to evacuate given a chance. By the by the surviving troops were becoming physically and mentally exhausted. Our ranks had been thinned, many men were missing. Col. Turtola had companies without any officers, a Sergeant was serving as the CO. The enemy made repeated attacks at our positions and often successfully because our line was thin. Yet every enemy outfit that broke through was beaten back. The sandy pine forest on the left side of the railway changed hands often. I can remember one counterstrike. There were only about thirty of us, the line included the Battalion CO and his adjutant. The lost positions were retaken. Our war booty included dozens of MG s and a big pile of other weapons. Among the dead enemies there was one Colonel Lieutenant among other ranks.
German Stukas raided fairly often the surrounding enemy positions. The enemy was fully incapacitated for hours following a bombardment which provided us with a chance to get the necessary food and ammunition replenishment. For the first time my platoon had a chance to pull back from the fighting line and take a rest at the command post. So far we had in daytime dozed off any time we had a chance, either in our positions or just behind them. Our Platoon leader was wounded in the very beginning of the encirclement and his duties were shifted to the undersigned. I pulled back only eight men from the line because the platoon strength had by now shrunk to 10 or 15 men.
I had been resting for five hours as a Runner came to me with orders to report to the CO. I stumbled there, sleepy and dishevelled. I was tasked to take the men I had taking a rest and engage an enemy company that had broken through and advancing toward Koskimaa's command post. Some time ago a communications platoon led by Lt Kariniemi had been sent out but they had not yet engaged the enemy spearhead threatening the command post. We set out quickly as soon as I had managed to shake the gang awake. *I shoved two hand grenades in the breast pocket of my summer pattern tunic that I had emptied, and headed in the direction of Louhi, on the left side of the railway, the squad following me with prolonged intervals. Having proceeded about 400m to a brook I spotted three enemies running on the bog to the right of us. I said that we shall take those out of their muster. Eight men joined me taking positions on the railway embankment and we opened fire.
The very same moment there was a rushing sound behind us. At least 40 enemy men were rushing at us with bayonets extended, 20 m off but they did not yet fire. I yelled:
- Get across now and on the embankment !
Six of my men obeyed my order, two ran for the brook underpass. Those two fell there because by now the enemy was firing. The enemy was just climbing up the embankment as I yelled:
- Look out, I'll throw !
I struck both at the same time at a rail and pushed them over the rails. Before they went off I already had ordered my boys to fire because the enemy was also ducking, waiting for the grenades to explode. We had the upper hand: the nearest enemies remained there where they had dropped down, a Sr. Lt. Fell on the rails almost on top of me .
As the fighting ended the enemy had left 30 dead on the battlefield, all with brand new weapons and equipment. I got a scoped rifle , a Tokarev pistol and a sniper badge for my personal use. Our casualties consisted of the two fallen mentioned above and one man who ran wearing one shoe to the first aid post to have non-existent holes patched. Had I not had the two hand grenades and obedient men such as Esko Vaara hailing from Korpuajärvi in Alakylä who did a good job with his weapon, we would have been in the receiving end in the skirmish. Rushing in this and that direction went on because the enemy did not want to give up that easily. They had a firm intent to escort us under guard to the clean beds with sheets and good food rations that they had prepared for us weeks in advance.
Then it was September. We were told that the German is unable to advance at the road. We would leave the Kapustajoki river that had become so familiar to us. A German outfit arrived in our "motti" from Pinkosalmi over the bogs. We now had a chance to taste bread that we had not had for two days. Other foodstuffs such a sugar, butter, tea even, we still had. However, we did not spend much time with Germans, surrounded, because we received orders to silently get ready to withdraw. We should get out of there the next night and the withdrawal should take place unnoticed by the enemy. Heavy artillery began to harass the “motti” perimeter from Kiestinki. We took with us only what we were able to carry easily. WE left behind both some of our own as well as captured gear, some demolished, other hidden. Every one of us had an auto weapon, we had a good selection.
As far as I remember it was 2100hrs as we left the positions and started our silent journey through soft boggy areas for Kiestinki. Next morning we found ourselves on our side, the withdrawal had happened without disturbances as planned. WE sighed with relief. We set up our tents, washed up and then we slept in warm tents for the first time in a long time. It was September the 3rd – the motti battle of Kapustajoki had ended.
Kiestinki motti (wikipedia)
During the Continuation War the Finnish III AC took Kiestinki in August 1941. German troops were trying to advance along the road from Kiestinki to Louhi and the Murmansk railway, meeting tough resistane. The Finnish Group J led by Col.Lt. Jussi Turtola advanced along the railwya line to the direction of Louhi without meeting resistance initially. Finns advanced up to the vicinity of Louhi until the Soviet resistance increased due to reinforcements. The Finnish-German outfit, thousands in strength, was encircled in “Kiestinki motti” and suffered heavy casualties. In August 1941 the troops managed to break out of encirclement.
Extract of II/JR12 war diary because it not possible to deduce which Company the author was serving in.
9.15hrs Btn was informed that Kiestinki has been taken and preliminary information that the Btn shall attack to the direction of Louhi. (…)
21.00hrs Coy Koskivirta [subordinated to the Btn] was given orders to immediately set off on bikes, leave the bikes in the rwy station terrain and proceed on foot.
To liaise with Coy Luukka in front of them, then take them and the Jaeger platoon under their command.
The task is to advance to the lake isthmus and keep it.
07.00hrs Btn command post was moved next to the rwy line about 1km E of the first rwy bridge E of Kiestinki.
07.40hrs 11.Tyk.K (2nd Lt. Paaso) received orders to proceed to the Kiestinki rwy station terrain during 10.8. Subordinated to him was AT gun platoon Juutilainen who already had bivouacked in the station terrain.
08.10hrs Ptri/II/KTR16 (Lt. Rintanen) received orders to prepare to move in the direction of the Kiestinki-Louhi rwy line.
08.30hrs The first Finnish motor train left Kiestinki for Louhi; It proceeded 100m. The engine stopped (The train has been taken from Russians).
14.00hrs 4th Coy, 5th Coy, 2nd MG Coy and Mortar Platoon set off marching from the command post to the lake isthmus situated about 10km to Louhi from Kiestinki.
16.45hrs Lake isthmus reached, liaised with the Rgt. Order to continue advancing because no enemy contact made.
17.30hrs Btn order:
Btn shall continue the march to the terrain situated about 6km SW from the road and railway crossing. Marching order; 6th Coy, Command Platoon, Comms Platoon, 5th Coy, 2nd MC Coy, Mortar Platoon. Starting at 18.30hrs.
21.30hrs JR53 informed: II/JR12 is subordinated to JR53. The march shall continue after a rest to the the road and railway crossing that is to be taken.
04.30hrs Btn march went on Marching order; 6th Coy, Command Platoon, Comms Platoon, 5th Coy, 2nd MC Coy, Mortar Platoon, 4th Coy.
07.30hrs Btn attack order by Rgt:
1._ The Rgt shall group for attack in the terrain in front of them.
2._The Btn shall group for attack as follows:
a)_4th Coy at the N tip of the lake 2km N of Kapustnaya river-
b)_Coy Koskivirta + Jaeger Platoon according to their custom order between the said lake and the rwy line.
c)_6th Coy behind Coy Koskivirta, distance 400m
d)_5th Coy at my command post at my disposal.
N of the rwy line shall attack some elements of Btn Backman. These outfits shall continue their attack to West in the direction of the road.
Coy Koskivirta shall attack to the Vaskijärvi – Lebedevajärvi lake isthmus.
4th Coy shall proceed to the road via the Lebedevajärvi lake isthmus.
6th Coy shall be in readiness mainly to support the attack of Coy Koskivirta and secondarily the 4th Coy attack.
5th Coy shall be in readiness for action mainly to support the 4th Coy, secondarily Coy Koskivirta.
Order of setting off: Coy Koskivirta at 06.55hrs then immediately 4th , 6th, 5th Coy and Mortar Platoon.
08.30hrs Coy Koskivirta engaged the enemy about 200m E from the Rwy station house, attacking and taking the enemy positions behind the abatis and manning them on both sides of the rwy line.
Coy Heikala of Btn Backman did not manage to advance N of the rwy line, instead they took positions at the edge of the bog facing N.
5th Coy advanced on the N side of the rwy line to the isthmus between the bog and the rhomboid shaped lake – front facing N in the direction of the road
6th Coy in reserve at the Btn command post at the height of the station house S of the rwy line.
4th Coy carrying out their orders No contact with the Coy.
10.30hrs Enemy armoured train drove up to the front line gained, opening intense cannon fire at the front line. The train withdrew then immediately.
11.15hrs The train again drove to the front line and as previously opened cannon fire. As soon as the train had withdrawn the rails were blown up. The train kept shooting at the level of the Russki positions.
To destroy the train a Stuka raid was requested and it was promised to take place by 1500hrs.
17.00hrs Stuka planes arrived and bombed the armoured train in an useless state. Immediately after the raid Coy Keskivirta and 5th Coy continued the attack. Enemy repulsed Coy Keskivirta's attack and the Coy withdrew to their previous positions. 5th Coy attack instead was successful, the Coy made it up to the road, taking an enemy food storage as war booty.
0.30hrs 4th Coy arrived at the Command post terrain and bivouacked there.
01.30hrs Coy Keskivirta reported: Enemy has launched an attack, they have to withdraw from their positions
01.50hrs Platoon Keskinen received order to launch a counterstrike S of the rwy line. At that moment the first elements of the enemy had reached the height of the command post on the N side of the rwy line.
02.05hrs 5th Coy reported: Enemy has also here launched an attack from the direction of the road supported by three tanks.
02.15hrs 6th Coy was ordered to withdraw to the direction of the command post, where they are to join the counterstrike N of the rwy line.
02.20hrs The men near the Command post, numbering some 30, were rallied and led by the officers of the Btn HQ started a counterstrike on both sides of the rwy line. The counterstrike was successful and after a heavy battle the enemy, having taken heavy casualties (130 men), was beaten back and our own lines were manned again. 2nd Lt. Koivisto fell in action, (?) was wounded.
During the battle a medium heavy enemy tank was taken.
05.00hrs 5th Coy reported: Coy has withdrawn to the terrain of the small lake S of the road. Front facing east. Coy Haillola (?) not liaised. One AT gun has been lost, and two MG tripods. Short on ammo, large casualties.
07.45hrs Fighting ceased.
08.30hrs Battalion order:
1. The Battalion shall set up defence in the present positions, sector limit to the right the triangle shaped bog NE of the map word Kapustnaja and left limit the parallelogram shaped pond S of Elowoje lake. On the right flank there shall be Regimental securing patrols, on the left flank Coy Nisula.
10.15hrs Btn Command post was transferred from the old place about 700m to the rear in the direction of the rwy line, to the edge of so called “log clearing”.
16.15hrs 5th Coy was ordered to secure with two platoons to the E of the spur rwy line at the rhomboid shaped lake the isthmus, situated some 500m S of the lake, between the lake and the triangle shaped bog. The Coy has established radio contact with the Command post.
07.45hrs 4th Coy reported: Enemy has broken through the lines from the direction of the rwy line. The Coy is under threat of being surrounded.
At the same time the enemy started an attack on the 5th Coy sector, which attack was partly repulsed by the Coy.
08.10hrs 6th Coy reported: Enemy managed to break in their positions on the right wing.
08.20hrs Coy Koskivirta received orders to launch a counterstrike in the direction of the rwy line on the 4th Coy sector.
08.30hrs Battalion order.
09.20hrs Kt. Kikkonen reports: His Coy has retaken their positions. Situation unchanged.
14.30hrs Coy Rannanoja received orders to launch a counterstrike on the 5th Coy sector in the direction of the spur rwy line and in co-operation with 5th Coy. Push the front line to the E for about 800m.
15.30hrs The order to Coy Rannanoja was recalled.
20.15hrs Btn CO was being briefed by the Rgt CO.
23.30hrs 5th Coy radio report: Russki is outflanking our right wing to West.
09.30hrs Unexpectedly the enemy appeared next to the 6th Coy command post S of the rwy line from where they tried to attack in our rear, across the rwy line to N.
10.15hrs Coy Koskivirta and the men rallied at the Command post terrain carried out a counterstrike . Later the counterstrike was joined by Coy Rannanoja. The enemy was beaten back , taking heavy casualties, to the E side of the spur rwy line. The W side of the spur rwy line was manned by the following outfits: Two Platoons of 5th Coy, Coy Koskivirta and Coy Rannanoja.
War booty taken included one MG and 3 pcs mortars, including ammunition.
Nothing special, normal pressure against our lines.
21.00hrs Lt Vesanto reported: Enemy has penetrated in our rear and started to attack.
At the same time 4th Coy reported that the enemy had attacked W of the small lake and that our line there is broken. A counterstrike was carried out by Platoon Nisula from the Rgt on the 4th Coy sector. The Counterstrike was not a complete success but it stopped about 200m W of the spur rwy line. On the 5th Coy sector the attack stalled.
12.30hrs Russki launched another attack, reaching in the direction of the rwy line the height of the 6th Coy command post where the advance was halted.
In the direction of the spur rwy line Det. Haataja had been sent by the Rgt to sweep the terrain, they reached the spur rwy line. This line was then secured by Lt Vesanto with two Platoons.
Det. Haataja returned from the spur rwy line to the Btn Command post, where they were ordered to launch a counterstrike in the direction of the rwy line on the sectors of 4th and 6th Coys. S of the rwy line the positions of 4th Coy were retaken but on the N side the counterstrike failed to succeed. Securing line on the N side of the rwy line was set to connect with the 6rh Coy line. Battle ended at 17.30hrs
During the evening Russki was very active on Backman's sector,
22.15hrs 4th Coy received orders to detach Platoon Nisula that was subordinated to Maj. Nisula as reserve on the Kolkhoz hill. Simultaneously the Coy was ordered to draw the front-line to the height of the station buildings, lean the right wing on the bog and liaise with 6th Coy on the left.
12.15hrs Btn command post was moved behind the Log clearing to the right side of the rwy line. Immediately after move the previous command post area was subjected to heavy shelling.
21.00hrs Russki tried to attack on the 6rth Coy sector but after a hand grenade battle pulled back.
08.30hrs Every outfit reported on sudden enemy withdrawal. At the same time Russki launched heavy shelling at their own positions (barrage).
08.45hrs The outfits were ordered to send strong battle patrols to no-man's-land.
In the East the patrols reached the spur rwy line. On the Airanne sector, instead, the enemy manning was unchanged. War booty included 10 MG s in Russki positions. Also the body of 426th Rgt CO Col. Sedorow, KIA in front of the line, was found. His adjutant had also been killed about one hour earlier.
10.30hrs Arrived Sgt. Pihlman's Platoon tasked, in accordance with the Regimental orderto man the tip of the forest N of the rwy line E of the abatis.
The Platoon reached the objective but was not able to carry out the manning due to open right flank.
During the night Russkies remanned their previous positions, so the front line remained as before.
Russki withdrawal was apparently caused by the falling in action of their CO .
16.05hrs Subordination of Coy Rannanoja to the Btn ended.
14.40hrs Rgt reported: Btn shall be withdrawn in the rear of the Rgt for rest. Relief shall take place with Maj., Schreiber on 21.-22.8.
Relief did not arrive. Nothing special worth mentioning. Russki shelling continuously the front line and the environment of the Command post.
09.30hrs Btn CO and messenger officer visited Rgt Command post to agree on relief practicalities.
12.45hrs Relief with Maj. Schreiber's regiment started, they manned the front line of the 4th, 5th and 6h Coys. However, the enemy found out that relief was going on and started shelling that cost the Germans about 30 casualties. No casualties for us. The relief was completed at 18.30hrs.
18.30hrs Mortar Platoon was for now subordinated to Germans and also one Squad of 5th Coy.
The outfits moved to the new bivouac area in the terrain SW of the Rgt HQ between the Rwy line and the pond.
19.30hrs Btn Command post moved to the new bivouac area.
15.30hrs 6th Coy was ordered to move to be subordinated to the Rgt CO to the direction of the rwy line (in the motti terrain)
16.15hrs 4th Coy shifted to N of the E tip of the lake to securing duty. Securing E and S.
Due to enemy pressure in the direction of the spur rwy line 4th Coy was moved to be the Btn reserve and Coy Koskivirta led by 2nd Lt. Ertama was given the securing task. 5th Coy securing the terrain between the W tip of the pond and the rwy line.
19.00hrs Coy Koskivirta spotted a 15 man Russki patrol in the terrain S of the pond heading SW.
10.30hrs Btn CO and the messenger officer briefed by the Rgt CO. Btn was issued orders to get ready to move on 25.8. to W in the direction of the rwy line.
12.50hrs Btn started off for the new bivouac area situated about 1,2 km W of the W tip of the pond in the direction of the rwy line on both sides of it.
14.25hrs Arrival at the new bivouac area, where the Btn command post is situated, too.
1. The enemy find themselves in the direction of the rwy line about 2km W of this spot, on both sides of the rwy line.
2. Our troops shall launch an attack from W to the motti S of the rwy line at 1330hrs. After the area (?) has been swept the attack shall continue on the N side of the rwy line.
3. The task of the Btn is to secure to W on both sides of the rwy line. 6th Coy + 1 platoon of 4th Coy + MG half platoon shall push the securing about 600m W on the N side of the rwy line to the edge of the bog. To reinforce the right wing, the Coy shall have two MG s subordinated. Patrolling is to be carried out to Western direction N of the rwy line.
4. 4th Coy is subordinated to 6th Coy shall secure to Western direction S of the rwy line, at the height of 6th Coy, liaise with 6th Coy and agree with them on the securing of the seam.
4th Coy patrol returned having liaised with Maj. Könönen's Btn.
03.00hrs A patrol was sent out to the right wing to mine enemy supply routes.
07.00hrs The patrol returned having fulfilled the task.
12.30hrs Btn CO being briefed by Rgt CO. The subject matter was analysis of the present situation of the Rgt and planning for eventual withdrawal to new positions to shorten the front line. The new line could be the Kapustnaja river line S of the rwy line.
17.00hrs Btn received replacements; 1+9+86.
19.00hrs Col. Lt. Schuheim (?) reported that Rgt CO Col. Lt. J. Turtiainen had fallen in action and he had been ordered to take the duties of the Rgt CO for now. Briefing for Btn CO s hall take place later in the evening.
21.00hrs Rgt reported that considerable enemy forces had withdrawn from the motti to East.
16.00hrs A patrol was sent out to N tasked to reach the road and another one to Western direction
19.30hrs Patrols returned. The one sent to the road did not reach the target. The patrol sent to Western direction had detected enemy manning at the W edge of the bog E of the supply roads.
14.30hrs German MG Coy CO Capt. Schr..with his subordinates reported as subordinated to the Btn. The Platoon leaders participated in the afternoon in terrain recon whereafter they returned to Kiestinki to their Coy.
04.00hrs Enemy started heavy shelling from East on Maj. Nisula's sector.
06.00hrs Report: Lines at Maj. Nisula's sector have been breached, Russki made it up to the Kolkhoz hill where they were stopped. At the same time enemy shelling rwy line from North.
06.15hrs Report: The KV stationed on the bog isthmus had withdrawn; enemy attack in the terrain between the Rgt and the Btn from North to the direction of the rwy line.
06.30hrs 6th Coy received orders to launch a counterstrike against the enemy force advancing to the direction of the rwy line.
07.15hrs Platoon Hynninen of 4th Coy received orders to support 6th Coy subordinated to them.
09.05hrs 6th Coy report: The enemy has been destroyed. Terrain is being swept.
11.30hrs 6th Coy reporting on considerable enemy movement N of the bog, being it the regrouping of enemy forces.
12.30hrs 4th Coy was issued orders to move S of the bog to support 6th Coy that had manned the S edge of the bog. 4th Coy was subordinated to 6th Coy.
18.30hrs German MG Coy Schr.. arrived and manned the reconnoitred MG positions on the Btn sector .
20.15hrs 2nd Lt. Rissanen relayed the Rgt order telling the Btn to keep the present positions. In the evening in the darkness the main parts of the Rgt shall withdraw to a new line: The E tip of the lake S of the rwy line – rwy line – edge of the bog in North where 6th Coy is to be liaised. Front facing East.
22.15hrs AT gun platoon Saarela was ordered to withdraw to the supply road with their guns.
22.40hrs Btn received orders to carry out disengagement during the night and set up defences at the S edge of the bog line S of the rwy line.
02.15hrs Order to units:
4th and 6th Coy shall disengage at 0245hrs. 5th Coy at 0230 as well s Coy Koskivirta. Our own heavy MG s shall follow the units they are subordinated to. Mortar platoon at 0215. Coy Schr...received their disengagement order at 2400hrs.
The units shall man the new defence line (points to be pointed out in the terrain) as soon as they have arrived there in the following order starting from Btn Nisula's left flank: 5th coy, 6th Coy, 4th Coy who shall liaise to the left with the German right wing.
08.30hrs Btn command post at Pt. 27
10.15hrs New defence line manning completed.
16.15hrs Unit CO s briefed at the command post. Subject matter: present situation, eventual need for further withdrawal.
19.00hrs Btn reserve comprises the AT gun Coy Saarela and 5/III/JR53 subordinated to them.
07.00hrs Jaeger Platoon was sent out to patrol right N of 5th Coy sector. Having reached the rwy line the patrol returned through the terrain in a more Western route without encountering enemies.
During the day the patrols sent by the units to no-man's-land discovered enemy manning in front of our lines.
13.15hrs Russki tried to attack on 4th Coy sector but withdrew after a firefight.
14.15hrs Coy Saarela received Rgt order to move to the left to the sector of the German Battalion 3rd Coy for launching a counterstrike
17.30hrs Btn command post was moved to the new supply road about 1,5 km in the direction of “Kettu”.
07.15hrs Relieving Coy Kujari arrived, immediately manning the Btn sector. Btn units for now remained there waiting for disengagement order. The German MG Coy was ordered to stay to support Coy Kujari.
19.25hrs Disengagement order received from the Rgt HQ. Disengagement at 2000hrs.
19.35hrs Disengagement order forwarded to the units.
19.45hrs Btn CO left the Command post, as well as the Jaeger platoon and Anti-Gas squad. Arrival at Kiestinki 23.30hrs.
- Posts: 685
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Strong-point farthest to the East
Journal “Kansa taisteli”, 4, 1961
The author was a MG squad leader with the rank of PFC.
After the II Battalion of JR9 had attacked in autumn 1941 in the Easternmost tip of the Finnish front line in Oshta village S of Lake Onega, several MG squads of the 3. Linn.P were subordinated to the Battalion. Two of these MG s were left at the road to Oshta, securing to the direction of a bog. The other two squads were taken by the local Company Commander, Lt. Vuorensola to another place. Standing in front of his tent he ordered his Runner to guide the MG s about one km to the right in a glen where an infantry platoon tent was set up; the Platoon leader Runner was to guide them on.
After PFC Repo had reported his squad to the Platoon leader told his Runner to show the positions for the MG s at the edge of a piece of open field; the weapons were to be taken into the positions after nightfall.
-As long as it is light you would not get there. Wait here for the onset of darkness, the 2nd Lieut continued.
There was an about 200m wide tongue of forest, with open field tilting in the enemy side in the tip. There was a barn at the edge of the field, next to which the other MG was to be placed. From there it was another 60m to a threshing barn next to which the first MG was placed as the Easternmost MG of the Finnish front line. At that time there were men of our platoon manning it, and there was a plenty of killed Russian soldiers on the field. Hard battle had been fought here as the terrain was taken, the Runner told Repo.
Having returned to the glen the lads were grumbling while waiting for darkness. Someone predicted it would be the last journey for every man, because it was a tough spot, it could not be denied. One had to get there as darkness had fallen, that is the rule of the war. The men stumbled on Russian corpses when carrying the MG s in the dark, wet and slippery plown field before reaching the objective. This may have been the eeriest “wedge” in the entire front line, the men in there opined. All communications and food transport had to be carried out during the dark hours. Trying to get to the positions in daytime was very risky because one would be subjected to AT gun and mortar fire. These two MG squads could not be envied for their lot because there was no possibility to create a decent cover. Constantly there was the greatest risk of being hit, because 45mm AT gun shells would pierce the walls of the barns with wood splinters flying about. Also mortar bombs were landing nearby.
Every man had to seek his own cover directed by his instinct. It was a hard job to gouge a shallow foxhole in the rocky wet soil, moreover water kept seeping in it. Once as PFC Repo was observing between the logs of the barn at no-man's-land a direct fire shell hit the corner of the barn; instinctively Repo dropped for cover in the foxhole, full of water, dug in the floor of the barn, It was not fun to dry one's clothing because no fire could be made. It was almost constantly raining and the autumn weather was damp and cold. The food, too, was cold, the men had to get in turn during darkness from the distribution point in the glen on the far side of the open field.
Seeing Russian soldiers running about the machine gunners tested their rifles at them in position next to the barn, often successfully. It had been promised that the men would be relieved at the latest after two or three days. The relief kept delaying and it was easy to understand why. There was a general shortage of men and no one would volunteer to put his head in such a noose. Finally the MG men were fed up as wetness, coldness, lack of sleep, cold food and constant tension were constantly plaguing them. They decided to send the elder of the outfit, PFC Repo to run the errand. He would have to go to the glen and demand that the Platoon Leader should carry out the relief as soon as possible. The 2nd Lieut advised to address Lt. Vuorensola. PFC Repo explained the Lieut that the men, in case of Russian attack, would not be able to properly repel the attack, being cold and otherwise exhausted. Also in sentry duty the men would have to stay extra alert because the Russians were rattling their weapons just in front of our noses. There was an emerging feeling that the Russians would be attacking quite soon.
Having heard the account Lt. Vuorensola agreed to relieve the manning with rested men. He told Repo to take half of the men manning the two MG s at the side of the road with him to the outpost. Once there half of the present manning would be relieved and return to the road, The rest would be relieved at midnight. By this time the relief had been completed and the new men had been briefed about the known Russian positions and dangerous spots.
Lt. Vuorensola consoled the relieved men:
-You shall man the MG s by the side of the road, facing the bog, there is no major action expected here. You shall have some rest and recovery.
The men released from that torture chamber found themselves in a new world. The men in the fore-post, however, were facing a menacing future. They could not guess that their first morning there would be the last for many a lad and for several it meant the loss of health for the rest of the life. For one man it was to be a day of brave action. That night there was more than usual movement in the Russian side but before dawn it was quiet on the front, because Russians were just about to launch an attack at the outpost with its two MG s and the riflemen supporting them.
The Russian attack started after a minor artillery strike. Finnish MG s started cracking. The leader of the other MG PFC Hietanen took a bullet at once and remained prone on the ground, unable to move. The men of his MG were either fallen or wounded, the weapon remained where it was, silent at the barn corner. But at the threshing barn corner PFC Pöyhönen's MG was working perfectly well. Despite having lost men Pöyhönen was able to suppress the entire spearhead of the Russian attack.
PFC Pöyhonen's last assistant was Machine Gunner Tolvanen. Before getting killed this man had managed to shoot with his rifle every Russian who had managed to get in their rear. Soon Tolvanen got a bullet through his head and he fell dead next to Pöyhönen. Now he was alone behind his MG. He kept shooting as long as anyone kept coming at him and the Russian attack stalled. The Russians started firing at the threshing barn next to the MG and managed to start a fire. The barn burned down and took Pöyhönen's MG with it. He managed to retrieve Toivanen's body. The dead and the wounded could be evacuated beyond the open ground not until it was dark
So it was the burning barn that forced Pöyhönen to abandon his MG, not the Russians. There was a man who was able to stop an enemy attack single-handed with his MG. He was a strong man, a wrestler-sportsman who had proven that he is able to defend his country when necessary. In civilian life he had been a modest, friendly factory worker who had lived with his mom. Of course there were other men in battle who did not boast about their achievements.
PFC Pöyhönen was for a long time after the battle so in shock that he was literally trembling. It could be heard when he was speaking, even though normally he used to be very calm. When he was asked how he managed to fight so well although he saw that there was no one to support him with fire.
-As long as Pvt Tolvanen was next to me, shooting at the Russians arriving at our flanks and rear, I felt some kind of security and hope. But as Toivanen dropped dead next to me I was taken over by hysterics. I was sweating all over. My rage was seething as I saw that my pal had copped it. In this emergency I was thinking that it is me who has the cards in his hand and if I should fail the entire defence of the strong-point is going to collapse.
-I was able to control my nerves as if there had been someone in my mind egging me on: keep shooting, you shall be OK!
-I just let the MG play and it would cut like a scythe cuts hay. Men were keeling over in front of my position and thank G-d the MG kept gobbling up ammunition. Finally I noticed that there were no more Russians coming.
The author failed to mention any dates and to identify the Company he was subordinated to.
The clue provided is the name of the Company C.O.:
Vuorensola, Ahti Kalervo (1918 - 1994)
Holder of the Mannerheim cross # 63
Decorated 19.5.1942, Captain, Coy C.O. 5./JR 9.
At the end of his military career Col.Lt.
According to the war diary of 5./II/JR9 the Coy was at road building.
5th Coy was included in II Btn, their war diary extract:
19.00hrs Lt. Kröger + 6 MG s with crews have arrived. 2MG s to Vinkalo (=Vuorensola), tasked to secure E from Rapina.
21.30hrs From Linn.K (sic) 6 MG s, of which 4. here and 2. to Enberg.
The night was calm, nothing special
06.30hrs Lt Kröger: 2 MG led by Sgt. Vehniäinen were sent to the canal.
08.10hrs To Vinkalo: Russki patrol has been wading in the bog E of Rapina.
2 MGs shall be sent.
08.15hrs Forwarded to Jyrinä.
08.23hrs Vinkalo: Patrol bearing 05-00, encountered 2 Russkies
To Eero: 2 MG s to be placed.
08.30hrs Vinkalo: more than 100 Russkies in North, behind Vinkalo's back
08.40hrs This forwarded to Jyrinä.
08.45hrs Sgt. Haavanen to be sent to the roof to lead observation.
08.57hrs to Koivu; Get Lanu here on lorries.
09.07hrs Between the canal and the lake there is one Platoon of Russkies. The Russkies find themselves abut 500m E of the spot where the river and the canal merge on the N side of the canal.
Forwarded to Jyrinä.
09.15hrs From the canal: Another 15 Russkies more.
09.16hrs Stenvik: Been at Vinkalo, seen 30 Russkies
09.25hrs Vinkalo: On the Bunker hill, seen at first a securing outfit of 20 to 30 and then more than one hundred Russkies.
09.26hrs E. Hakulinen: 3 MG s have been set up from the village to Rapina on a 1 km area. Staff Sgt. Järvelä shall be the strong-point CO + mortar + phone.
Koivu: Briefed on the situation, nothing to mention. Promised to attack. -Permission granted.
09.33hrs This briefed to Vinkalo.
09.44hrs 2nd Lt. Veitola (of Linn.K., sic) briefed of the situation and issued orders to proceed to the canal to organise the defence.
10.01hrs From the canal: Russki has fired some, Campfires and some men. 1 wounded.
10.04hrs Forwarded to Jyrinä.
10.07hrs Vinkalo: about 100 Russkies on the left flank were fighting and attacking at a bunker. They were beaten back about ½ hrs ago. Russkies are wearing snow suits, most of them.
10.08hrs Sgt. Vehviläinen: There is a flat spot at the canal in the direction of the lake where a MG cannot fire. He shall send a LMG to the shore to close it.
10.13hrs Forwarded to Jyrinä; Simanova was taken by Russkies yesterday but it has been retaken.
1020hrs Lanu has arrived from Koivu,
10.23hrs Sgt. Vehviläinen with his platoon has arrived at the canal. Observing.
10.32hrs 2nd Lt. Stenvik: Jaeger platoon 1+5 from Lanu. (Patrolling) Bearing 15-00 (East) from here up to the river if they can make it.
10.40hrs Matala: At the merging spot of the canal and Oshta river there is a Russki stronghold, it was fired at.
10.55hrs Nothing special from the canal. Vehviläinen and his platoon have arrived already.
11.10hrs From the canal: Russkies are firing hard from this side of the canal at the command post, 1 wounded.
11.23hrs Stenvik: Outflank on this side and continue in the Russkies' back.
11.25hrs From the roof, observation post reporting: Bearing 17-00 on the bog a patrol moving about. Lanu fired thrice (?)
11.52hrs Jarvelä: MG s are in positions and observing has been set up.
12.00hrs Jaeger Platoon; 8 Russkies 1 km from the road, heading SE, at least ten, maybe.
12.04hrs Jyrina has been briefed about the situation.
12.10hrs Vinkalo's dugout has taken a bullseye. 2 wounded. Propaganda company car was sent to get them out.
12.30hrs Vinkalo has been liaised.
12.39hrs 2 POWs taken from the bog. 2nd Lt. Stenvik returned with one POW. He recounted: 1 Company following them. IR1063, III Btn, 9th Coy, about 150 men.
12.52hrs Käm(?) Russki is attacking hard on Enberg's sector.
13.00hrs Vinkalo: Russki attempting to attack between Vinkalo and Nikon.
13.01hrs Eero: 6.MG alone to the left of Vinkalo, too few men, need more in the seam.
13.20hrs One Coy approaching the command post about 2km off, bearing 15-00
13.22hrs F.O.O. On the roof, firing.
Art. F.O.O.2nd Lt Pelkonen was wounded and died on his way to the first aid post.
13.47hrs Vinkalo: Russki scored a hit at mortar propellant. More than ten mortar men wounded.
13.45hrs F.O.O. Shelling the approaching Coy.
14.00hrs To Vinkalo: The recent may be a fire preparation. Keep your eyes open!
-Russki is shelling our positions intensely. Almost each shell has wounded one man.
Vinkalo: The other mortar has been blown to smithereens during the recent melee.
14.13hrs Jyrinä briefed about Vinkalo's situation, one mortar broken.
-The swamp is now so hard that it can be walked on. Today the Russkies have had the initiative all day.
14.32hrs Russki is shooting intensely around Vinkalo's command post-
14.36hrs To Vehviläinen: Patrol between Onega and the canal up to Oshta river.
14.50hrs Heavy mortar patrol: from here half way to the canal and from there bearing 15.00 along the edge of the bog.
14.55hrs A patrol of Höijer's Coy, 1+6, along the road 1300 m, from there right to East with the MG observation line.
14.55hrs Lt. Matala returned from Vinkalo. Russki has been firing hard.
15.02hrs Vinkalo: Sending some sappers on the Russki path to plant captured Russki mines.
15.50hras 2nd Lt. Stenvik.
17.25hrs Höijer's patrol: Nothing special, no traces.
17.30hrs To Vehviläinen: Leave at the canal bank 1+6 and set them as a strong-point on the waterfront, the rest in the MG tent
From the canal: 8 men to Järvelä
Artillery: 9 men to Järvelä.
(?) Infantry 600m ahead of the MG.
18.25hrs Koivu: Russki is drunk. The village below Koivu is burning up.
06.45hrs Order to all units: fire strike with all pipes at 0715hrs
07.15hrs Fire strike done.
07,20hrs From Regiment:
On the road from Liebuska one of our men was wounded in a thigh. On the spot also three riders and one Finnish bloodied greatcoat. They are asking for a patrol from here. Another one from there is coming to meet.
07.23hrs 2nd Lt. Stenvik + Jaeger platoon + 1 squad of 4th Coy to the patrol (12 men) to Oshta river-
07.30hrs Barbed wire is requested to be delivered to the canal, to be set up on trees if any, also poles to be set up.
07.35hrs To Lt. Höijer: send a patrol to clear the road between Rgt HQ and Liebuska (1+4) The rest here for work.
07.35hrs Järvelä: One Coy of Russkies have been moving about in bearing 05-00 range about 2500m.
To the canal: MG positions are to be moved along the canal 500m to the front so that Russki would not be able to dig in in the patch of forest on this side of the open ground.
08.30hrs Liaised with the Rgt. Situation report.
08.30hrs Läykki: On the Fedotanskaja – Nikidinskaja road a Russki patrol has been encountered. Artillery battery has taken one Russki POW somewhere in the rear.
08.31hrs Kokko's heavy mortar platoon subordinated to Enberg.
10.37hrs At the canal shots in bearing 25-00 range about 500m.
11.45hrs Divisional Canteen arrived. Staff Sgt. Kalpio and the Coy Sgts shall see to it that purchases are made by Companies.
11.47hrs 2nd Lt. Stenvik returned from patrol at Oshta river. -Nothing encountered.
11.40hrs 2nd Lt. Veitola from the canal: The patrol proceeded on the N side of the canal, saw one Russki who alerted the rest. Some exchange of shots ensued.
-It was found that the man wounded on the Liebuskaja road was Cpl. Olavi Heikkinen of Staff Coy who in the morning was on his way to the Rgt with Pvt. Leinonen.
12.50hrs Pvt. Löija of 4th Coy reported that E of the road Russki talking is heard.
To Lanu: Two platoons to sweep there at once.
Relay to Järvelä: MG s are to be put in positions and in standby.
13.00hrs To Regiment: On the canal both parties have been active at times, Now at Fedotasovaja “d” environment.
In the South bearing 30-00 German muzzle flames are visible and rumbling is heard.
This observation by Arty F.O.O. Last night.
13.14hrs Vinkalo: Checked the corpses on the bog, 39 of them, including one Seaman.
Muzzle flames in the night bearing 34-00.
14.00hrs Lanu: Reporting that Russki talking was heard so far off that it does not matter.
16.30hrs A fire strike set up, by inf. and by art. In turn. Forwarded to Jyrinä.
17.30hrs Fire strike. In Oshta village the enemy is living in the buildings and manning the positions there. In Oshta lorry traffic all day. Russki firing fairly intensely with heavy mortars and miniature mortars.. One heavy mortar position suppressed with artillery.
18.20hrs 1 mortar from Koivu to Enberg.
18.45hrs To Lanu and Haaranen: Sgt Vehviläinen's platoon shall go at 0515hrs next morning with a Sapper squad to the canal to mine with pipe mines (20pcs) and Russki tread mines the isthmus between the canal and lake Onega.
06.30hrs Vinkalo: Ravens croaking above the bodies. Shall give a fire strike at 07.00hrs, forward that.
07.00hrs Fire strike done.
07.00hrs Briefing, present: Jäykki, E. Hakulinen, Alatalo, Kurri, Kokko, Höijer, Kalpio, the Chaplain.
Reported on the mining done in the crossing of Oshta river and the brook.
-Men going to the village must carry their rifle.
-Today all men shall be doing f.f. work. Securing is not a big deal now.
-“Farming machinery” to Vosnesenja – Leduskaja (?)
-Find out a means to torch the bunker village.
08.00hrs 5 POWs – telling that a Battalion of Russkies has left from the small houses. 150 men.
08.15hrs Units have been alerted.
08.16hrs Rgt liaised.
08.20hrs From the canal: 1 Russki had touched off a mine and then the Russkies started shooting with their rifles.
09.15hrs Exchange of shots at the canal, first on the mainland one MG+rifles, then a mine went off on the Onega side
09.20hrs Canal: Russkies coming on on the shore side quite a lot.
09.30hrs Matala is shelling the canal isthmus
On the canal: Nothing at the MG on this side except 10 Russkies, one of which was wounded, whereafter the Russkies left.
10.15hrs Sgt. Saunamäki: He followed the tracks of the surrendered Russkies, they had come right from the merging point of the Oshta river and the canal, where the Russki was in positions on the bog - Russki opened fire not until the patrol was returning. Artillery fire appeared to be about 200m over.
11.30hrs 2nd Lt. Stenvik returned. The patrol had found nothing.
11.30hrs Capt. Voutilainen of 4th Coy saw 3 Russkies about 500m E of the MG, of which the patrol wounded one.
11.35hrs 2nd Lt. Veitola: the minefield on the beach bank side is too near.
It should be shifted farther off.
-To be amended and widened.
15.00hrs Kontiolahti, or ex-Huuhanmäki canteen arrived with their goods.
15.15hrs 25 replacements arrived – a total of 70 are to come.
Skirmishing at the canal. Stenvik shall patrol.
Vehviläinen shall soon expand the mining at the canal.
16.20hrs Russki shelling this village with heavy mortar.
16.30hrs Vinkalo: Did you get any packages, I saw that Russki fired from the bog behind a barn.. I shall let them have it with a direct fire cannon.
16.32hrs Russki fired another four times.
17.25hrs Läykki: As we were just being shelled, from the village where the Rgt HQ is stationed we saw Morse signals at the height of the church.
17.45hrs Vinkalo: Observation: signal lights spotted bearing 05-00.
17.35hrs POWs recounted:
Div.CO had issued an order that this village is to be taken else the Coy CO + Politruk shall be shot. 9./III/1063 was assigned to the task.
New Russki weapons:
AA gun at the Oshta church. Probably more heavy mortars. Vinkalo spotted the heavy mortar shelling here (*maybe 2) ) and fired 6 bullseyes there with direct fire. Next Vinkalo took mortar fire from the Nike sector front, which again was shelled, and it was suppressed. At Berniakova “a” enemy MG suppressed with mortar.
-When this village was being shelled light signals were emitted at the church.
-Also the Kalashnikov lighthouse is busily blinking – isn't it due time to control because they are in our territory..
The Stable corner was hit, 2 men wounded, 4 horses killed and 6 wounded,
So 2 mortars suppressed, also 1 MG and 1 mortar destroyed.
20.30hrs 26 replacements arrived. A fire strike to be launched at 2400hrs.
24.00hrs Fire strike with all front line weapons and artillery.
-Urjenko, Paavil Nikolai, 1063, 9th Coy, 2nd Ptn. Comprised 40 men, 20 surviving. Yesterday 1 wounded. There is one small mortar. He has not seen any others. At the barracks there is a bridge across the river constructed of boards.
-Sinonoff, Mikael, 1063, 9th Coy, 2nd Ptn. 29 to 30 men, 3 platoons, a total of 80 men. Entire Rgt no more than 500 men left. Tank MG is placed on the bog, 50m. He has heard in the Btn HQ that yesterday 6 new heavy mortars have come. A Captain is their CO. This morning this village should have been taken at 3 o'clock. This is to be taken, else there will be shootings.
Of the Armour Coy 3 KIA, 1 WIA yesterday.
-Petrov, Vasili, 1063, 9th Coy, 2nd Ptn, 28 men.
Armour Coy, 9th coy 3 LMG.
-Magoroff, 1063, 9th Coy. Armour Coy, 9th Coy 120 m.
Russki plan to attack today at 3 o'clock.
08,20hrs Salpio: A Russki patrol has intensely fired at the schoolhouse where the Rgt HQ is situated.
08.25hrs To Lt. Höijer: Send a patrol from Liepuskaja to find out. Improve your securing.
Vinkalo: Russki is firing from the double pole hill. We should take the entire hill. Vinkalo suggested that his sector should be contracted.
Russki had dug in behind the Crossroads village at the farthest houses.
09.45hrs to Jyrinä: Forwarded the above & the old men now received should be swapped with the Rgt Baggage column men.
10.15hrs 2nd Lt. Stenvik returned from patrolling the bog. He had seen Russkies at the river juncture about 1 km off doing something, setting up an observation post(?). Some treetops have been cut off.
This was forwarded to the Rgt.
10.45hrs Cpl. Partanen: returned from patrol at the far side of the village, bearing 15-00. Saw nothing.
11.00hrs Fire strike with all barrels.
14.30hrs PFC Ikonen of 4th Coy returned from patrolling. He reached a point of 30 m from a Russki sentry post, 20 m behind which he heard talking. They saw a total of 5 Russkies, one Russki saw them but did not shoot. Our patrol fired off a packet of leaflets and left.
16.04hrs Two POWs.
-Ternoff, Nikolai, 1063, III Btn 2nd Coy 2nd Ptn. 30 men. 38 men in 2 Ptns. 9th Coy and Armour Coy on the bog, the rest of the Btn along the riverside.
1 Lt., 3 men, one Lt. of 9th Coy has 3 Ptns (?)
Attack across the bog. One Sapper Coy , 6 MGS s 10 to 20 m. Behind the canal 2 LMGs. 4 LMGs placed on the bog. Sentries have not been relieved yet.
It had been promised to relieve the men on the bog, 4 were coming but 2 were frightened and ran back, as our men shouted “Ruki-vjerk”.
-Baijeff, Feodor, 1063, III Btn, 9th Coy, 2nd Ptn. Coy comprises about 100men.
- Posts: 685
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Näätäoja (former part)
Journal "Kansa Taisteli", 04, 1961
About the author:
Vikanti, Viljo Aleksander (1915-1978)
Civilian occupation: Detective Inspector
Winter War: Mobilized 13.10.1939. Demobilized 21.7.1940
Service: 28. AutoK, Squad leader, Platoon leader, Company Sergeant. Carelian Isthmus.
Continuation war: Mobilized 18.6.1941. Demobilized 17.11.1944
Service: 9./III/JR 56, 9.SPol.K, 3.SPol.K, 22.SPol.J. AT squad leader, Vice Platoon leader, Platoon leader.
Battles: Kollaa, Näätäoja, Kirvesjärvi, Matkospuro, Nuosjärvi, Solomanni, Salmi, Lehtiniemi, Tulguba, Kodoguba.
Rank: Lieutenant, decorations: VR 4, Vm 1. As Kev.Os.4, as a part of Battle Group Lagus, had advanced to Kollaa on 15 July 1941 they met a strong enemy supported by artillery. Therefore 1.D. CO Col. Paalu was ordered to send there JR56 reinforced with artillery, led by Col. M. Vihma, they arrived at Kollaa on 16.July 1941. The next day the I Btn led by Maj. Oksanen launched an attack to take the Näätäoja rwy stop. Yet the attack stalled due to strong enemy resistance.
Therefore Col. Vihma shifted the focal point N of the road and ordered the III Btn led by Capt. Lauri Miettinen to attack at the focal point. At that time I was serving in the 9th Coy led by Res. Lt. N.Niiles, my old schoolmaster. The other men of the Coy were my acquaintances, boys of my home parish. My task at the time was to lead the Coy AT function. Unfortunately our weaponry consisted of infantry arms and a 14mm French (sic!) AT rifle and satchel charges, familiar already in the winter war.
The same evening, 17.July, our Btn started their attack. We crossed Kollasjoki river, famous from the Winter War, marching “in peace”. Beyond it the CO issued orders to his Platoon leaders and the Coy turned to the left in the forest, heading for the enemy so far unknown to us. At the very moment our artillery opened tremendous fire from their positions that we had not noticed. Many a man was scared and ducked, but seeing it was our guns, they soon kept going. Next the enemy joined the artillery battle, yet without inflicting any casualties. Soon it was really serious because the enemy, dug in the terrain, opened an angry fire that caused us the first casualties as some men were wounded.
In spite of that the Coy was advancing for the target. The enemy intensified their small arms fire, and soon we had to take the enemy artillery barrage. Supported by our artillery the Battalion managed to cross a rather wide boggy area under enemy flanking fire and take a few hillocks. The attack of our Coy was stopped at dusk in front of a hill SE of Syvälampi where the enemy resistance was very fierce. Fighting went on at the railway line as far as we could hear. As the hot July day turned into night dense fog rose from the bog, which had impaired vision and liaison already a the final stages of the battle. I, too, found that my small AT outfit had scattered some, yet soon they all rallied with me without casualties. Having set up securing it was time to make some substitute coffee. Our first battle at Kollaa had ended victoriously.
Next morning the Battalion, including our Coy continued their attack in SE direction from Syvälampi, the task being to defeat the enemy facing us and reaching the road. Tensely we were waiting for the H hour and the preceding artillery preparation. Soon we heard the artillery firing in our rear and then the whistle of shells – but what on earth – the first six-inchers dropped among us. Fortunately we found ourselves in boggy terrain and some of the shells hit Syvälampi pond, so we had no casualties, but this appeared to have a depressing effect on men prepared to attack. Ye the Coy went briskly “over the top”. Having crossed the first hill we met intense infantry fire soon accompanied by shelling. On the far side of some open ground were well entrenched enemy positions including AT guns and MG s. I followed with my AT outfit our Coy CO right in the spearhead because it had been found out that the enemy had tanks.
The attack proceeded well and the strong-points in front of the main positions were wiped out, although some of the enemies manning them managed to retreat in their main defence position. It was a hard firefight. The Coy CO runner, advancing next to me, took a MG burst and dropped squirming. There were more and more casualties, mostly wounded but also fallen, and there were not enough paramedics and stretcher bearers, so the fighting me had to lend a hand carrying the wounded and the dead. I, too, found myself in trouble because my personal weapon beside a pistol was a Swiss SMG began to act up after a few well placed bursts. It did not shoot burst any more, just a few shots at a time until it stopped working altogether. Oh heck, there would have been targets more than enough. Quickly I field-stripped the SMG and stretched the bolt return spring. It helped only for a few bursts. There was no time to waste in fixing time and again the cursed SMG because there were enemies so close by that they had to be shot at with pistol. That is what our Coy CO also did, advancing in the spearhead, a brave Summa veteran who was not asking any quarter.
Yet we managed to advance, our Coy as well as the Battalion, and we were near our objective, the road. The enemy fire was heavy and sniper shots accurate, lethal. As the left wing almost had reached the road the advance stalled, however, but firefight went on without respite.
-Lying nest to AT gunner Lehmusvaara in a shallow trench dug during the Winter War and observing the terrain in front of us with binoculars I saw a great number of enemy soldiers in entrenched positions and behind almost every tree. We appeared to be facing a strong, even superior enemy.
An enemy prone next to a thick pine appeared to be equipped with a sniper rifle which he was pointing at us. At the very moment a Runner arrived from the right, enquiring for the Coy CO. I had no time to warn him about the sniper as I saw blood bursting out of his forehead and he dropped dead. Young Pvt. Heikkilä, who had proven his bravery in battle, dashed to help him but it was to be the end of road for him, because the same sniper placed a bullet in him – a lethal one. I decided to annihilate the sniper with the AT gun but as I aimed I could not see the man anywhere. Casualties kept increasing. Soon I found the Coy CO sitting in the trench with bloodied face. He disregarded it, instead he kept leading his Coy until he was hit another time by an enemy bullet as he stood up to observe. Fortunately it was not a lethal hit this time either, but his battle at Kollaa was over, as I saw when I had approached him to enquire about resupplying our ammunition that was about to be spent. His answer was brief and clear: “Take them from the dead and wounded.” Before he was evacuated from the battlefield he ordered 2nd Lt. Eero Aula to take over the Coy´.
The battle continued but soon the Battalion CO sent an order: “Hold your fire” and announcement that the enemy, almost surrounded, was surrendering. What on earth? The enemy, in well entrenched positions, why would they surrender? Yet firing ceased mutually. Using my binoculars I saw that enemy soldiers had even got up on the parapet to sit and smoke. I also spotted the same sniper who had in my view killed two of our men, maybe even wounded our CO. I got angry and decided to revenge, but then I remembered that we had been ordered to hold our fire. Well, I thought, there will be another day. What now? From an enemy strong-point emerged a group of some twenty men, walking on the road toward our positions, holding their arms up but having their weapons on them. Everyone was watching that group. Were they indeed going to surrender or was that a ruse? That is what it was. As the group had arrived about 30m from our positions the leading one – later found to be a woman – took a hand grenade from his belt, pulled the pin and threw it in our positions while he entire group dashed in the road ditch and started shooting as much as they could. AS if by a push of a button weapons went off in our positions as on the enemy side. It was a hellish firefight, no single shots could be heard, just a total din.
Our casualties increased. The enemy group feigning surrender paid a bitter price for their practical joke – they were wiped out to the last man. In the same instance I had borrowed a rifle from a pal I managed to pass the mentioned sniper in the great army of the dead because I got him in my sight at the very same pine.
Minutes passed, weapons were rattling and bringing death on both sides, because the terrain dug up in the heavy shelling of the Winter War did not provide much cover for us. There were no trees, no bushes, just only some shallow holes, trenches and ruins of dugouts. I and my AT gunner were still lying in the same shallow trench, the bank of which provided us some cover from the enemy infantry fire. We were discussing the situation and what would happen next after the “Hold your fire” order had been cancelled. Looking at my men I found them in their positions and like the other men of the Coy firing well aimed shots at the enemy. Then I saw that the men nearest the road to Suojärvi were nervously glancing to the rear on the left, that is in the direction of Suojärvi. As was expected we heard loud buzzing of engines and clattering of chain tracks. Reinforcement was on its way, but not to us but to the enemy.
This was something that I had feared, because I did not at all trust our 14mm AT gun as a tank destroyer, and the chances to knock them out with satchel charges in this kind of terrain were non-existent. Yet I was ready to meet with Lehmusvaara the challenge heads-on, and we turned our “cannon” to the direction of the approaching enemy. Soon the first tanks were rolling at the road for our positions, some of them on the road and some off the road in the forest. There were as many as 13 of them – what an unlucky number, too – and they started firing at us with their cannons and MG s from the left of our rear. At the moment I found myself with my outfit some 150m from the left flank that was taking the initial beating.
The situation looked menacing due to lack of useful AT weapons. Battalion CO indeed issued an order to pull back 50m to the edge of the forest and take positions there. It seems that tank panic had taken over some men, which ran right in the forest and vanished there, as far as I had time to watch. I and Lehmusvaara decided to do our best but after a couple of shots we found that our “peashooter” had no effect on the armour, the bullets just bounced off. Instead we had been spotted and our target tank was turning its gun menacingly at us. Soon the dirt was flying in our position as shells were hitting the sooty parapet. To continue shooting would have been equal to suicide, and there were no foxholes from which to throw satchel charges. There was nothing else to do but to leave the position and follow the Coy that had already pulled back.
As we were about to dash Lehmusvaara lost his AT rifle as a hit crushed it. In this situation I told him to dump his useless weapon and save himself because the advancing tanks were joined by enemy infantry, shooting intensely. Just as we were about to reach the edge of the forest I stumbled and fell, fortunately maybe because at the same time the SMG I was holding in my outstretched hand was hit. I dumped it because it was out of order anyway, and crawled on all fours in the nearest bush where there was at least cover from enemy observations.
I found the situation helpless because I did not have a weapon longer than a pistol , also the enemy was approaching and I did not at once meet any of our troops. Having proceeded in the forest a few tens of meters I met with a pitiable sight, stumbling on a shelter for wounded men, where there were sitting or lying several immobile wounded, covered in blood. The paramedics had had such a lot of men to carry and bandage that they had not been able to take care of everyone. Soon I found enough men to help me to carry the wounded in safety. We were in a hurry because e soon we would have been overrun by the enemy. I still remember how terrible it was to hear the wounded plead not to be abandoned to the enemy, because many a man had run past them without stopping.
Due to energetic action of the commanders the retreat was mainly stopped at our jump-off positions, yet the ones with the weakest nerves ran far past them. We lost the terrain we had taken and we lost also far too many good defenders of the fatherland fallen and wounded. Our attack had failed due to the tanks outflanking us. As far as I remember only one was destroyed, that one by a MG Coy man with a Finnish 20mm AT rifle, which later proved to be an excellent weapon. In this attack our casualties were extremely heavy. Many of my friends and childhood acquaintances fought their last battle for their beloved fatherland.
The battles of 18th July 1941 had for us a bitter end, but the positions were in the evening firmly in our hands. We did not retreat beyond “Lapakukkula” hill even though the enemy tried to evict us with intense shelling. The enemy resistance was strong with elite troops, tanks, AT guns – of which we did not have any – and entrenched positions, but we were not allowed to yield.
At midnight the enemy launched a strong fire at our positions. They were using artillery, tanks and all available infantry weapons. It was “the devil's music” but also in a way a beautiful view as various tracer ammunition were drawing their arcs in the dusk of the summer night at Kollaa above the glens between the hills.
We sought cover from the infantry fire and the shelling was not accurate, either, the main aim appeared to be the moral effect, scaring us and of course harassing. The enemy infantry did not start an attack and the tanks just were clanking on their own side, oozing power and destruction and reminding us of their existence should we attack again.
On 19.July our Btn did not attack. However, we were in standby and preparing for the next attempt. The enemy instead launched a strong attack at the I Btn to the right of us after an intense artillery preparation whereby our Btn also manned their positions Enemy shells were landing also in our positions creating casualties. For example a small poor excuse for a dugout took a square hit whereby a young 2nd Lt who by chance found himself there was annihilated in the full sense of the word so that all we found was his dog-tag and some pieces of human body. War is cruel indeed.
As my outfit had lost their AT rifle we were subordinated to a rifle platoon and I was posted to lead it. I and my platoon found ourselves in positions in the middle of Lapakukkula hill. We were in cover for the frontal enemy infantry fire but suddenly the enemy subjected us to flanking MG fire from Korsukukkula hill at a range of about 500m. I still vividly remember how nastily the bullets were whining and how one wished to get at least a little down in the ground. No positions had been dug while waiting for our attack. There were not many of us who still had their field spade, I believe. I was digging into the sandy soil with my hands and that made me feel better. But simultaneously I had to take care of the Platoon and make sure that the enemy should not enter our potions by surprise. Enemy artillery, although firing at a low rate, also increased the nervous tension, I could tell that by observing the movement and glances of my men.
E.Lehtomaki who was nearest to me on my left seemed to be very nervous, glancing to the rear as if pleading to get there to find cover, because the enemy MG kept singing his death-predicting song. I exhorted him to stay calm and to attempt to dig in with any means possible. Of course no one could get up any because it felt as if the bullets would hit one's back at any moment. Yet Lehtomäki was unable to control his nerves but he rushed up and started running downhill to the rear. Soon a MG jet caught up with him and he fell, trembling. In that way he, too, ended up in the army that would never be demobilized. The death of my good school friend had a heavy effect on me. I recalled then how he had recently been married and many other facts.
But we the survivors had to remember our duty. Lehtomäki was the first man to fall in action of the platoon given under my command. I had my revenge for him on the enemy getting a chance next morning. I had just taken as war booty a good Russian autoloading rifle (SVT?) and now as sun was rising I found myself a good observation point providing good vision to the Korsukukkula hill. The circumstances were favourable because the terrain was open and sun was rising behind the enemy positions, consequently their every movement could be seen. Lying there using my binoculars I managed to spot a tall enemy to come out of his dugout and standing at the corner leading against it, while “having a leak”. I set fast the rear sight at 500m, then good aim and shot, which I saw caused the man fall down and stay there. Two Comrades hurried at once to help him but the cruel fate did not allow them to ever again see the steppes of their country.
To return to the 19th July I remember that the situation on our Btn sector remained relatively calm all day except the usual fighting activity. On the I Btn sector instead the enemy retook with a violent attack a couple of points in terrain. The total situation as to JR56 appeared precarious since there were no reserves and the casualties had been heavy in the intense battles; the ranks had been thinned, the remaining men were tired because there was no time for rest and recuperation. Constant vigilance, fighting and patrolling was consuming, no matter what. Replacements were not available.
The same day Col. Vihma however received strict orders from Gen. Talvela to beat the enemy he was facing.
-You cannot rely on any outside help, you have to fulfil your honourable task alone, the order mentioned.
During the next few days we did try to carry out the given order. Attacks were launched mutually. We were not able to proceed yet we held our ground by beating back even the most intense enemy attacks that were supported by artillery and armoured troops. As a proof some two hundred dead enemies were left in no-man's-land but there was no shortage of them, the enemy kept getting replacements continuously.
(End of former part)
Since 9./III/JR56 war diary for the year 1941 has not survived, here is an extract of the III Battalion diary:
22.15hrs Btn CO in briefing. Marching orders.
02.00hrs Btn leading part set off.
07.50-09.20hrs Tea and break.
-On the sides of the road there are single Russki corpses and other kinds of garbage. There were Russki barracks situated a little ahead of the Tolvajärvi crossroads, the poor building quality, e.g. windows on different levels – was a source of amusement.
-We turned on the road to Muuanto.
10.40-12.40hrs A stop caused by the artillery preceding us. As soon as we set off again a couple of a/c flew overhead, the AA MG started firing at them. It was ordered to take cover, some of the ducked men were even using their rifles. It was found that the a/c were ours. Fortunately the AA MG did not succeed in their intention.
14.30-15.15hrs Meal break.
17.00hrs We arrived at our destination near Uuksujärvi lake in Suistamo, the bivouac area is in lush terrain.
Marching distance was 42 to 43 km. The road was broad and fairly even and straight but badly softened up by traffic. It was mostly cloudy with some sunshine at times. New foot patients did not turn up by any significant extent, even though the distance was this long, neither did men flop down despite the fact that the previous night's rest had been wasted, also cooked food was available not until 24hrs later.
Swimming and washing up in Uuksujärvi.
-On the hay growing fields the horse drivers for once reaped enough feed for their horses.
-Russkies had been making hay but their mowing machine had cut poorly.
In the evening in the command tent there was a Russki POW that Rgt men had captured. He was a well-fed kitchen attendant.
Men securing the bivouac area did not have to engage Russkies.
06.00hrs Started marching for Loimola.
-Again there were enemy corpses and all kinds of enemy stuff on the sides of the road, we even saw a group of POWs being led away.
10.50-11.50hrs Meal break.
13.40-16.00hrs Marching break because I Btn was being loaded on lorries for transfer to Kollaa for action.
17.00hrs Reached Loimola where most of the buildings had been left untouched by the Russkies. At a war booty collecting point near the road some forty Ivans, all possible kinds of types. At the rwy station the boys “evacuated” Russki bread-loaves by sackfuls. 9th Coy boys had on their way found a couple of goats and 11th Coy a pig.
19.00hrs At our destination at the road to Kollaa, on the right side of the road to Mustakallio rwy stop. Bivouacking on the left side seen from the direction of arrival, abut 500m from the main road, 10th Coy closer the main road and 11th on the far side of the main road on the beach of lake Suoranjärvi. The bivouacking area is dry and suitable, yet getting water is a bit hard for those not at the lake; the water had to be found in the bomb holes created during the previous war.
For the Btn the day of baptism by fire and first casualties.
Mortar and artillery fire was heard all day from Näätäoja where the enemy had holed up and were being harassed by I Btn that had been shipped there earlier.
13.30hrs Order to III Btn fighting units to proceed to Näätäoja.
17.10hrs March started.
19.00hrs Ready at the jump-off positions in the terrain on the left side of the main road. On the way there Pvt. Yrjö Lindberg took a bullet in his chest while still marching on the main road more than 2 km away from the enemy positions. He was the first man of the Btn to fall in action.
-Rgt CO, I and III Btn CO s and unit leaders in terrain reconnoitring. (Jump-off positions in the map appx.).
21.00hrs Attack scheduled for 2000hrs took off. Enemy resistance was initially not very strong and we managed to advance at places for almost one km into new positions (ref. Map appx.).
Artillery was not able to suppress the enemy weapons nests, that is why the attack stalled.
Btn casualties: 4 KIA, 8 WIA.
01.00hrs Btn supply marched to the front stopped having proceeded 5km about on km E of Kollaanjoki.
The attack was scheduled initially at 0600hrs but it was delayed. Heavy artillery was being waited for, the attack took off not until :
During the artillery preparation friendly shells wounded some men.
During the attack III Btn advanced on the left and II Btn on the right tasked to take the Dugout Hill (marked on the map as “Koira”) and surround the enemy in the same terrain.
III Btn advance proceeded initially well, 9th and 10th Coys were rushing as spearhead and 11th Coy was securing. (On the map appendix no.1 the attack direction indicated by arrows, red ringlets are artillery targets).
9th Coy reached fairly soon their target, the road, and also 10th Coy quite near. There was little enemy resistance in this attack direction. II Btn however was not able to advance.. The situation turned difficult as 13 to 15 Russki tanks arrived from the East on the road, they started to fire intensely at once. Artillery barrage was not available. Btn had to retreat and we returned, taking considerable casualties, to the jump-off positions.
Casualties for the day included: 20 KIA (9th Coy: 9, 10th Coy; 3, 12th Coy: 8)and 61 WIA.
-One tank destroyed with AT rifle.
-7 MG s and mortars were abandoned in the terrain.
Reasons for the failure of the attack include:
-Insufficient and inaccurate artillery preparation, deficient information about the strength of the facing enemy, defencelessness against tanks.
The fallen men include Staff Sgt. B. Rosendal from Kalanti, 9th Coy CO Lt. N.Niiles was WIA, 2nd Lt. E. Aula replaced him.
Baggage train was transferred in the evening one km to the rear to the edge of the forest.
17.00hrs Russkies launched an intense artillery and mortar strike. Most of the shells went in the bog but some casualties were taken, too. Finnish artillery response scored a bullseye on a Russki tank. - 2nd Lt. Martti Salminen, 10th Coy, was killed by a square hit in the terrain.
20.30hrs An a/c dropped leaflets.
Casualties of the day: 6 KIA, 24 WIA. (Some victims of yesterday evening attack were recorded at the first aid post for today).
01.30hrs Russki moving about on Dugout hill, 10th Coy being fired at. Intense mutual rattle.
03.00hrs On the right wing Torkkeli reported that there are about 150 Russkies on the hill which the artillery soon pounded.
14.00hrs An odd balloon was seen between trees. Poukka's patrol was finding out about it, no result.
19.10hrs Enemy tank buzzing on the road but thanks to artillery action it could not advance.
21.15hrs Firing started on the right where II Btn was in trouble as Russkies attacked. Soon Russki attempted the same on the left but was beaten back as the heavy artillery fired with magnificient accuracy.
Casualties: 1 KIA, 3 WIA.
Supply outfits pulled back about one km.
00.30hrs Russki again attacking at 10th Coy, half an hour quite lively rifle fire.
13.15hrs Our AA fired at an a/c approaching from W and after a while the a/c appeared to be going down.
Quiet kind of a day, artillery fire less intense than before.
Casualties: 1 KIA, 6 WIA.
Men in ranks: 27+131+650 = 808
Dry weather continuing, nights cool.
All day sparse mortar and artillery fire.
11.40hrs Our planes on the move.
16.00hrs Russki firing at Finnish positions for quite long a time.
2000hrs Our bomber a/c overhead.
15.00hrs Patrol led by Sgt. Valio set out.
First German troops arrived at Kollaa.
- Posts: 685
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Näätäoja (Latter part)
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 05, 1961
On 22 July at Kollaa had arrived the German IR310 led by Col. Lt. Wachsmuth that was a part of German 163.D.
At last we had been given help, a joint attack had been agreed on. It was to be launched in the morning of 25.7.
I remember well how in the early morning meticulously dressed German officers arrived at our positions. They scanned the enemy positions with binoculars in the company of our officers, saying that the whole “affair” would be completed in four hours. They were optimistic which delighted us, because we had managed to advance just a couple of kilometre having attacked for several days, let alone create a breakthrough. We found ourselves in our positions, some trenches had been dug by now, we were sooty, unshaven , ragged, because our uniforms had been torn in battles and we had had no chance to replace or fix them. The Germans were looking at us, apparently feeling superior, but we did not care because we knew our opponent.
The ordered joint attack included the said IR310 and our Btn, III/JR56, stated on 25. July 0600 with an artillery barrage that was concentrated with force on the said Dugout hill. It was fun to watch the force of shells hitting the enemy positions and dugouts. It was a mayhem. The Winter War dugouts were blown apart and the sky was darkened by smoke, earth and dust. The destruction appeared to be total, and probably by error the enemy artillery completed it by shifting their shelling to the same target.
After an one-hour artillery preparation the infantry launched their attack, the focal point being on the left wing where our Btn attacked staggered, from Syvälampi to SW, enveloping to the main road. On the right were II and III Btns of IR310, the objective being the Näätäoja rwy stop. After a suppressive artillery preparation the attack was proceeding well in the beginning. The presence of the “brothers-in-arms” invigorated the already tired Finnish troops. My Coy, 9th, was attacking at the seam. We were advancing taking cover, almost invisible, and beat our opponents. The Germans beat theirs, too, but their spearhead was constantly visible, they did not creep like we did. They had AT guns and hand grenade throwers in the front. Watching them it was grand to hear their auto weapons music but on the other hand it was sad to see the casualties they were taking. The hardest hit were the men in the spearhead, but a new man always replaced a killed or wounded. Dugout hill had not been died, it was proven by the constantly stiffening enemy resistance. Our Battalion was fighting hard and despite meeting hard resistance we took the terrain between Syvälampi and the main road.
The battle had taken instead of four hours all day up to evening, but about one km deep well fortified enemy position had been crushed and penetrated, our casualties being just a few fallen and some twenty wounded. Only two men of my platoon were wounded. On their sector the Germans reached the railway but according to what I was told their casualties comprised about 100 KIA and some two hundred WIA, which probably was due to the fact that they were not trained to make use of the terrain unlike us. In the very last stage of the attack the German heavy artillery by error started shelling us but a flare fired by the liaison officer stopped that. Only one of our men was badly wounded in the head, but the rest managed to get in cover in foxholes and recently taken dugouts. Germans said that they had taken us for Russians, because they could not believe that we had already reached our objective.
After fighting had died down our Coy was promised a bit of rest and we were allowed to pull back about 100m from the first line, where we dug foxholes or made use of the existing ones. We had not been enjoying the rest for any longer time before we heard explosions at the front line nearest to us, and then the Coy was alerted to go into positions. We learned that the officers of our neighbouring Coy had rallied behind a taken dugout for a briefing, whereby an enemy soldier had managed to surprise them with a hand grenade with very sad results.
Again we found ourselves in the front line. Today's attack result was however that the road from Kollaanjoki river to Näätäoja rwy stop was opened. While the enemy held it the food, ammunition and casualties had to be transported by terrain, at one place over a wide bog that the enemy was able to cover with fire. Näätäoja being taken the German motor-cycles and all-terrain cars drove up the road, shooting hard and opened it. Our supplying was considerably easier now, thanks to Germans for that.
The same night it was found that the enemy had received considerable reinforcement by rail. Their effect was felt already during the battles of the following day as our Btn continued their attack on both sides of the road, our Coy on the left side. After intense fighting we reached in the afternoon the bobby area at Vitsajoki river but there the enemy resistance turned so tough that our attack was stopped, On our left I/JR56 did cross Vitsajoki river but their attack, too, stalled after about 800m on the N side of the road. Our Coy stopped on a hillock limiting the said bog, for now we took positions there.
An incident occurred just then. Just as in civilian life coffee is there for refreshment and enjoyment so also between heavy battles in those circumstances even surrogate coffee tasted very good. One man set off to get water for the brew in a pond on the bog on no-man's-land; on the opposite side of the pond there was a big rock. As he arrived at the pond and began to scoop water there was a crack and the man was wounded by the shot of a sniper hiding in a treetop waiting for darkness. The paramedic arriving at the scene suffered the same fate. The wounded have to be saved, and as two more paramedics set out we aimed an intense fire at the trees on the far side of the bog. In spite of that one of them, too, took a bullet in his upper arm, but the wounded were evacuated and the “coffee” water acquired. Fortunately none of the wounds was lethal. Thinking back about this it reminds me of the poem “Kaivo” by Yrjö Jylhä. [Not translated in English AFAIK. Tr.rem.]
In accordance with orders received our Coy launched the next night an attack to cross Vitsajoki river and to take the enemy positions beyond it. As my Platoon was just crossing the 1,5m wide Vitsaoja brook the enemy surprised us by opening fire with infantry weapons and AT guns. I was just jumping across as my foot slipped in the darkness, I found myself waist deep in water wet as a dog that has just come out of water. There was no time to change clothes, we had to press on. Yet our attack stalled on the bog, the enemy fire was stunning. I was prone on the bog with chattering teeth, listening how sods and moss was buzzing with AT gun projectiles. Darkness and sods, too, covered the men prone on the ground, but they were not able to advance nor retreat. Finally as the day finally broke and sun started warming us our clothes dried by the by and we started feeling better. The firefight was also over. In the night we had been consoled by seeing two enemy tanks burning on the road ahead and to the right of us, shot up by Germans with their AT guns. During the previous day and night a total of seven enemy tanks had been destroyed.
In the night the enemy had pulled back a little, so on the morning of 27.7.our Btn reached the edge of the forest behind Vitsaoja, where also our Coy set up positions. It was Sunday as far as I remember, the weather was very beautiful and untiringly warm. If one had laid down and closed one's eyes for one instance, sleep took over irresistibly. It was no wonder, because it was the 11th day of the battles at Kollaa and we had not had many chances to sleep. Exhausted and tired was also the Coy CO, 2nd Lt. Aula. The responsibility of the success of the Coy was resting on his young shoulders. We trusted him and he trusted us. As a conscientious and brave officer he bore a heavy responsibility for his Coy. The task was heavy, the Coy was depleted and exhausted. Casualties had been heavy but no help was available. In front of us there was a strong enemy in his positions. We were expected to beat and annihilate them. It was a strict order, not a wish.
At noon arrived the Southern Task force CO General Oinonen with his Adjutant on the scene. He planned the attack and issued orders for the purpose. It was wonderful how quiet it was just then. Not a single shell, not a single AT gun projectile, not a single tank, even though I heard some were hoping for it. I understood the wish was due to the fact that the General's Adjutant, an immaculately dressed Cavalry Captain with yellow stripes on his trouser seams and wearing gloves, was asking a PFC – a battle hardened man – sitting next to me if he knew how to use the hand grenade he was manipulating, and told him to set it aside. Caution may have been necessary just then, maybe.
The attack planned by Gen. Oinonen started on the designated H Hour. My Platoon was in the spearhead, and initially we made good progress, because we were encountering just a few enemies. As I just had taken a fine full auto rifle as war booty it was a good opportunity to test it. Seeing the first enemy I squeezed the trigger, and the result was that the “beating” of the rifle butt dropped me in a sitting position. I had not taken into account the recoil of the auto mode. It was a lesson for me. We made good friends.
The enemy did not want to befriend with us because soon a heavy battle ensued. Having advanced some 200m after fighting heavily we bumped on well entrenched positions where we were subjected to one hell of a firing. The attack stalled at the edge of the forest on the far side of the bog. After firing died down many a man threw themselves prone on the ground, and being tired out by lack of sleep and warmth fell at once asleep. A patrol had been sent by the Coy to the left to liaise with the I Btn fighting there, we also knew that they had sent a patrol to liaise with us. The password was “Berlin – Helsinki”. Soon we heard sound of movement on the left, and then the first part of the password was uttered, one of us responded. Moreover, we heard a question:
-Is it the Aula Company?
Having answered affirmatively we were intensely fired at. It was not our patrol coming – they had been captured – but the enemy launching a counter-attack, managing to surprise us with this ruse.
The men in sentry duty or awake naturally responded to the firing at once but since most of the men were asleep they panicked having been woken up by the noise of battle. Many of them started running or creeping to the rear, even leaving behind their weapons and tunics they had taken off.
2ndf Lt. Aula's courage and calmness affected the rest of us and we set up tough resistance. Of the men I remember Aula, Jalo, Suvanto, Lehmusvaara, Yrjö Heikkilä, etc. We were at once aware of the situation and managed to take out several enemies attempting to encircle and annihilate us. They were carrying a piece of tarp rolled across their chest and so easily identifiable. The battle turned nasty the way heads-on battles can be, no quarter was given on either side. Casualties were inevitable, but in the heat of the battle I had no time to observe any others than my men fighting next to me and the onrushing enemy attacking us in large numbers from front, flanks and some even enveloping us. Soon my childhood pal Harela crawled to me with a bleeding arm. Quickly I bandaged his arm and advised him to try to get alone in the rear. Then I had just scored a few enemies as Porrassalmi, a little hard-of-hearing, was coming with his rifle pointed at me, about to shoot me as an enemy. Finally I managed to make him understand who I was and turn his weapon at the enemy.
The battle went on, the bushes were swarming with enemies, cartridges were about spent and everything was a muddle. Then I saw that the Coy CO elbow was in shreds, hit by an explosive bullet which the enemy was copiously using. Thus 2nd Lt. Aula was in the thick of the battle forced to give up his command, replaced by 2nd Lt. Toivo Jalo. Oh, what hell this is, is there no help for us anywhere? One and yet another man falls or gets wounded, our outfit is dwindling, cartridges will soon be spent, but there is as many enemies as before. The magazine of my auto rifle – I had just one – was time and again empty even if I fired single shots only. While loading the mag I hid my head in a bush like a hare and then restarted without mercy the work of death, the enemy had to be repulsed.
It did not succeed, the remains of our Coy had to yield. Retreating across the bog behind us was dangerous under intense enemy fire. Explosions could be heard in front and behind us, because the enemy explosive bullets “popped” at once when hitting a tiny twig. The battle was ended for many a man on the bog.
Seeing that my last cartridges were in the mag I started retreating, all the time observing the enemy. I did not dare to cross the bog but started circumventing it via the forest even though the enemy was trying to outflank. There was a dense young pine forest on the edge of the bog, providing cover from vision unless one happened to run into the enemy. Having proceeded some 20m and taking out one enemy who happened be on my way I saw Kalevi Suvanto, who had recently fought ever so bravely, lying on the bog, clutching to his SMG. I urged him to withdraw but then I found he was dead. I saw several others whose journey had been ended by enemy bullets. Alone I was unable to evacuate their bodies from the reach of the enemy, although it was unpleasant to thing that their ´”tabernacle” would never be laid to rest in a war grave next to the church of their dear home parish.
Being still alive myself I had to strive to joint the others to receive the enemy following me. When I was just about to reach our jump-off positions I took one more glance back, fortunately, because there was an enemy soldier about 30m off pointing his rifle at me. His shot missed because I managed to jump to side behind a thick tree and fire my automatic, the bullet hit – he did not attack any more. Yet there were many more coming at us, it was best to get in cover quickly. It was safer among our own men.
Dusk was falling, another heavy battle was over. The enemy counter-attack was warded off, although it cost blood. There were about a dozen men left in my platoon and the entire Coy comprised about fifty men. Fighting at Kollaa was done for us for now and the breakthrough had not been achieved - “Kollaa held”.
At night we were finally allowed to rest, because others took over the font. There were twelve days of fighting behind us, but casualties were being taken still. It unfortunately happened that as we had arrived in the rear to the road we saw a knocked out tank and decided to have a closer look. As some of us were standing next to the tank a shot rang out farther off in the direction of the road and at the same moment Pvt. Arvo Suomela dropped dead next to me, his chest pierced by the shell of an AT gun. A man of another outfit had gone to fumble at a German AT gun and being unfamiliar with the mechanism had pushed the trigger with sad results. This is how the journey of a good friend and sportsman ended. I still remember the many races where I had seen Suomela run, win and be rewarded. Now he had received an eternal prize.
JR56, allowed to R&R started marching for Loimola next morning. On a hillock in terrain mauled by the Winter War we saw the Rgt CO Co. Vihma, looking earnest and strained, watching the steady march of his regiment returning from heavy battles. Later we learned he had said: “Is my Regiment really this little”.
The Rgt bivouacked in tents on the side of the road to Loimola. Due to exhaustion we had initially problems in falling asleep but managing to do that we could have slept for days in one stretch. We had no time for that, however. The time had to be spent usefully and prepare for new battles. When Loimola was taken a lot of wheat flour and edible fat had been captured, so we started frying pancakes. They tasted good but there was a considerable side-effect. Almost every man was afflicted by severe diarrhoea and the field latrine was crowded.
The enemy did not leave us alone even during R&R, because one day their fighter a/c, six of them I think, attacked our bivouac area, shooting intensely with their MG s. Just then I found myself in the tent of my platoon and had no choice but to throw myself down and pull my backpack, full of gear, on my head for cover. The fighters did several firing runs each and even took a shot at single men swimming in the lake, forcing them to perform quick dives. Many sessions in the field latrine were also interrupted, I believe. Fortunately our Coy did not suffer losses, although many a tent roof, including ours, were holed. But the Rgt HQ, stationed next to the road, took casualties during the aerial bombardment that was carried out at the same time, some men died or were wounded.
Resting continued for some time and our spirits rose by the by and our physical condition improved. Even the pastor of my old home parish [Vehmaa?] arrived to greet us and give us the Communion. We also received replacements. I remember an amusing incident on that day. One night when asleep in the tent I dreamt that I was involved in a battle and tanks were approaching our positions in a high speed, we had to run. I woke up having stood up asleep and started running, hit the tent wall and dropped down. Still I was hearing loud buzzing of engines, and other sounds. It was not until then that I realised that an auto-bus had brought in replacements and lorry engines were buzzing. Sounds of battle were emerging from the direction of Näätäoja and our rwy gun stationed near Kollasjoki rwy stop was firing booming shots to the destruction of the enemy. All this had caused me to dream of being in battle.
(End of latter part)
Extract of the III Battalion diary:
Hot and calm day, more Germans arrived.
05.00hrs Valio's patrol returned, with data on enemy battery positions, horse placement, traffic observed on the road etc.
17.00hrs 50 replacement men arrived – In the ranks: 26+135+683 = 844
21.30hrs Russkies attempted to attack but our artillery and inf. fire suppressed it.
22.00hrs Enemy is active again, intense rattle, our artillery fired well. By2230hrs already quite silent.
23.40hrs Russki started cracking with rifles fairly intensely.
02.00hrs Rattling lasted up to now and Russki shelled the Finnish slope intensely.
17.00hrs Jaeger half-platoon led by 2nd Lt. Yrjö Poukka had set out on a patrol mission on the left wing and they had reached the E side of Soinilampi pond as a strongish Russki patrol engaged them. The position of our men on open ground was unfavourable, casualties were suffered when retreating. 2nd Lt. Poukka fell in action, as well as Cpl. Tarmo Arvonen, Pvt. Elja Vähäranta and Pvt. Ahti Salmi. PFC Allan Siemen remained on the battlefield wounded, the enemy had at once arrived on the spot, pulling his hair but leaving him alone, thinking he was dead, so he was able to return later as the Russkies had left. Pvt. Arvo Ranta is MIA, probably wounded and taken prisoner. -Sgt. Valio is posted as the Jaeger Platoon CO.
Russki shelling at Finnish positions on the hill.
23.30hrs Heavy cracking of rifles. 10th Coy 2nd Lt. Voitto Laine was wounded and 2nd Lt. Luntamo of Admin Coy was transferred to his place.
Germans were taking positions during the day.
Casualties: 6 KIA, 16 WIA.
Attack together with Germans.
02.25hrs AT guns were brought to positions closer to the front lines.
06.30hrs Ear-splitting friendly artillery preparation started.
07.00hrs Attack started. III Btn attack objective was the road at the Näätäoja rwy stop crossing (Ref. Map appx. no.2.). 11th and 10th Coy were in the front, 9th Coy securing. Russki resistance was tough, because the enemy had to be eradicated out of the innumerable dugouts of the terrain – probable numbering more than one thousand in the battlefield – with bursts of SMGs or LMGs or hand grenades. The resistance was broken, however – with considerable sacrifice – by dashing in the hot burned out terrain while artillery supported with strikes. The objective was reached at about 1600hrs.
22.00hrs While eating split pea soup an enemy patrol managed by surprise to penetrate close to 10th Coy and the hand grenades thrown by then 2nd Lt Rikkilä of 10th Coy was killed.
Casualties of the day:
15 KIA, 43 WIA, (incl 2nd Lts. Leino, Osmo 12th Coy, Kurkilahti, Ragnar, 9th Coy, and Hämäläinen, Uuno Anero, 12th Coy.) - A friendly artillery strike too near resulted in casualties.
Btn Adjutant Lt. Tauno Karttunen left for hospital due to failed nervous system.
Roll strength: 20+127+666 = 816
12.00hrs H Hour. Germans were now attacking between the road and the rwy line and on the right side of the last mentioned. III Btn on the left side of the road. 9th and 10th Coys were in the front, 11th Coy was securing
14.45hrs Rwy line was reached after difficult advance. Due to artillery fire we had to pull back a little at times.
18.40hrs Another attack launched but we had to return to the jump-off positions. We stayed in the positions and secured the left flank.
Casualties: 8 KIA (3 of them in hospital) 18 WIA
Roll strength: 19+122+623 = 764
00.30hrs Attack restarted, heavy fire, stop.
05.00hrs Again forward under heavy fire. Lt. Saarinen felled by the bullet of an ambushing Russki in a tree and 2nd Lt. Luntamo took over the 10th Coy. More casualties were taken in the direction of the road. Aspirant Sinervo of 10th Coy fell so Corporals had to be transferred as Platoon leaders for two Platoons in the spearhead Coy.
Due to tough resistance and exhaustion of men we had to return to the jump-off positions.
12.10hrs The attack was relaunched again, the failure of which was due to the utter exhaustion of men almost obvious in advance. 10th Coy managed to rise no more than twenty men to join the attack. Again we had to pull back in the jump-off positions.
(Ref. Map no. 1 for the last attack details)
-In the evening we were told that the Btn is to get some R&R.
Casualties: 17 KIA (incl. Lt. K.V. Saarinen, 10th Coy, and Aspirant Heikki V. Sinervä, 10th Coy).28 WIA, (incl. 2nd Lt. Hemmilä, Aimo, 11th Coy, and Aulo, Eero, 9th Coy)
-2nd Lt. Jalo Tervo replaced Aulo as 9th Coy CO.
Roll strength 16+110+ 606= 732.
A total of 5 to 6 tanks were destroyed.
Btn started withdrawal to Dugout hill for R&R. Bouts of shelling did not allow much rest.
Roll stent 15+106+568= 689
16.00hrs It was announced that Btn is allowed to pull back as far as the supply outfits to the beach of Suovanjärvi for R&R, which was a piece of most delightful news for the tired troops.
-During the last days of fighting exhaustion played a role in causing the large losses.
18.30hrs Fighting outfits arrived at the bivouac area at Suovanjärvi, supply outfits remained on the opposite side of the road at the same height.
The first battle phase of the Btn included the period 17.7.-28.7., casualties taken including the men died in hospitals comprise 86 KIA, MIA 12, WIA 207, and ended now.
Battle report in the appendix
It may be mentioned that only 2 men deserted during the period but instead on the attack days in every outfit able-bodied men went AWOL to the first aid post and the baggage train , returning to the lines as soon as they had recovered their balance of mind.
2nd Lt. Helminen posted as Adjutant.
Recuperation, eating, drinking [no alcohol], lot of sleeping, washing up. In the small hours heavy thunderstorm. -Diarrhoea is afflicting almost every man.
Roll strength 15+106+554 = 675
Thunderous rain showers, resting activities. Lively air activities AM, no bombardment.
Another resting day, the scribes are busy with their paperwork.
Both Admin, Messaging and Jaeger Platoons transferred from the supply area to the lakeside.
Roll strength 15+102+520 = 637
13.00hrs Btn briefing on the open ground next to the Forest Guard's house. CO thanked the Btn for their performance during the heavy days of battle, and the Rgt CO handed out in the name of the C-in-C the nine II Class Liberty medals. Then there was a Field Service conducted by Rev. Vauramo from Vehmaa and Heikkola from Uusikaupunki. They also brought greetings from home and Chaplain Salo read the final prayer.
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Artillerymen in close combat
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 05, 1961
During the Extra Repetition training preceding the Winter War my outfit III/KTR6 was mobilised comprising men from Pori town and surrounding communities. The Artillery Battalion was another horse artillery unit and the author was one of the 7th Battery riders. About one week later the Battalion embarked on a train and the journey for Eastern Finland started,
24hrs later we arrived at Luumäki rwy station where our outfit disembarked and proceeded in the vicinity of the Luumäki vicarage some kilometre further off. Some of the men were cantoned in houses while others including us riders were bivouacked in tents. So we were there, living a day at a time, and even though there was some training in terrain and work including constructing makeshift stables, digging artillery positions etc., the purposeless idling in tents began to feel monotonous. Our horse team leader was Cpl. Mauno Iissa, a somewhat relaxed man, who had the misfortune of committing a “breach of public peace”. Our Battery CO, Lt. Lanamäki therefore ordered that Cpl. Iissa was stripped of his task but not his NCO rank. At the same time Rider Kauko Joutseno was appointed in the task of the horse team leader.
As we returned to the tent after the briefing, Iissa uttered in a laconic manner: -I wish the war would break out, then you would see who is afraid. We had then no idea how near the war actually was. A couple days from this happening we were in a lesson led by 2nd Lt. Lindholm as we started hearing distant thumps, and soon a Runner came to tell us that war had broken out.
-Fine, 'cause now we shall see who really is afraid, Iissa opined.
It was about Independence day as our Battery rode to Luumäki rwy station where we embarked again a train. At the dusk we set out for our destination that the rank and file totally were ignorant of. As the December morning was turning light our train stopped and someone was wise enough to tell that we found ourselves in Värtsilä. We started enquiring where in Finland such a place was actually. We found it out, and we just disembarked our “stuff” from rail wagons and set off.
We had left the limbers at Luumäki and we were given sleighs to put our “Zero-twos” [76K02] on. In the very first downhill we the riders of no.1 gun and most of all the rear horse rider Niemi had a nasty surprise. By chance the shafts included in the gun sleigh were far too short for this large and strong horse. As soon as the horse had to trot he hit his hind legs in the gun sleigh and started kicking about in pain. There was nothing else to do but apply the braking chain even in the slightest descent and proceed at walking pace. The other guns of our battery were gone and we kept struggling, cursing the short shafts even though they did not get any longer by it. The Battalion CO Capt. Valla passed us, and seeing our creeping pace yelled us that we did not know how to drive a gun. We explained the matter to him and cursed the man who had made the shafts, considering him a total fool. Rounding off our “conversation” Capt. Valla ordered that longer shafts would have to be acquired at once.
After he had ridden away we kept pressing on in order not to be totally left behind our outfit like Gypsy-Manne in his nightmare. Finally a civilian horse driver was coming in the opposite direction. We stopped him and told him that we would measure the shafts of his sled. They were more than half a meter longer than the ones we had. Since they were sturdy looking we started undoing the ferrules although with our deficient tools this took quite a while. When every nut had been tightened we set off. The braking chain was not in use at all any more, even though the terrain at Korpiselkä is not of an even kind! However long or steep the downhill was, we just heard shouting in the rear: Get out of the way! I could not help thinking that in case my wildly galloping horse should stumble and fall, I would be done for because the rear horses and the gun would run over me. Even the gunners got a taste of speed, although it was not easy for them, clutching to the gun with for their dear life to avoid becoming a pedestrian!
When going uphill the gunners had to walk, our stern team elder Niemi saw to it, because the horses had enough work pulling the gun. In every respect Niemi always looked after his horses, even though he was a town boy like the rest of us riders. Going at this rate we caught up with our Battery late same night and were cantoned in a village in Korpiselkä.
On the 9th December we drove the guns in intermediate positions about 3 km from Tolvajärvi. Hardly had we driven them in the forest and parked them, the very first shells whined overhead and burst about 100m in our rear. We experienced some palpitations although it was just over one year ago that we had been listening the same kind of whining at Perkjärvi artillery camp.
Next the batteries were set in firing positions so that the 8th was about half a kilometre ahead of the 7th, both on the right side of the road seen from West. Our third battery, the 9th, had been ordered to Ilomantsi front where they did not have any artillery at all. At Tolvajärvi there had been before our arrival cut-off field guns manned by men from Savo,
Our horses were stationed a little behind the guns. Having set up our tent we had nothing else to do but to care for our horses and do sentry duty. An uninterrupted din of battle was emerging from the front line; our infantry was hard-pressed in repelling the hard-attacking enemy. The next night and day passed. [No shells to support the infantry?].
The next evening, 10th December, we got visitors, three Sappers in white camo, saying they were on their way to charge a bridge somewhere. Lacking any accommodation they asked for permission to stay overnight in our tent. Of course we agreed. Later that night, I cannot remember at which time, we started hearing shots. First occasional shots but by the by firing was a constant loud rattle
Soon a Runner came to the horse camp from our fire battery telling us that the enemy had surprised the 8th Battery and they were urgently requesting help. Quickly we got out of the tent, took our rifles and so we turned from Riders into a rifle squad. Capt. Valla turned up from somewhere asking if there was a NCO among us. Issa responded that he had been one bun no more since his command had been taken away. Then Valla as our commander ordered Iissa to be our Squad leader as a NCO.
We started walking down the road for the melee of battle. At our fire battery Capt. Valla, still with us, asked what the situation in the battery was. Battery Officer Lt. Hannula said that the battery had taken close defence positions. Later I learned that three men of the batter had joined us: Cpl. Koivunen, Gunner Kauko Elomaa and a third one whose name I forgot. Of these three Elomaa's body was found next morning among enemy bodies.
Having reached the 8th Battery we reported that we had come to help, and we were ordered to spread on the right wing to secure. We spread out in a line and tried to peer into the dark forest. Banging and crashing was going on intensely and a very odd effect was created the enemy bullets exploding on the trees nearby. Every now and then there was a spine chilling yell of “uraa” and the loud voice of the enemy CO as he apparently tried to encourage his men.
This temporary positional war ended for us suddenly, that is securing the right wing ended as there was a yell in the 8th Battery positions that the right wing is attacking. I cannot tell if the one who issued this order was planning to outflank but at least he could not have any correct idea of the enemy force facing us. In practise the attacking force of the right wing consisted of only Squad Iissa and some 8th Battery gunners. We were armed with rifles only because the two LMGs that were issued for close defence to each battery were of course positioned near the guns. Artillery did not have any SMG s in the Winter War, not even F.O.O. Squads. Moreover, our rifles were in the poorest condition, who knows in how many wars they had participated. Barrels were so corroded that they were ruined. Also we had not been provided a chance to test fire our rifles to allow us get familiar with the degree of accuracy of these “vintovkas”. I admit that accuracy did not matter so much in the almost total darkness of the December night. Shortage of cartridges was a bigger issue. As the war had broken out we were issued 45 “bullets” per man and since some had already been spent in shooting at aircraft, the rest had to be husbanded with caution.
As soon as the attack order had been received we heard the voice of our squad leader:
-Squad Iissa, forward !
He said that he would lead and told that anyone who was afraid should go and get dressed in a skirt. Cpl. Iissas command “forward!” could be heard over the cracking. So he was leading us in this special battle where a handful of artillerymen were surrounding an enemy battalion armed with dozens of auto weapons.
We advanced hunching, walking and at times almost running. Our Squad Leader was heard to shout every now and then and if one did not want to be regarded a coward one had to follow him. For me the battle ended fairly soon. I heard Iissa to shout to rally his squad. I stopped to listen what was going on next to me, because enemy MG s were chattering just in front of my face. Scarcely had I stopped, clutching the rifle in my right hand as I felt a hard blow in my arm near my elbow, and like a stung of a hot wood splinter. At first I wondered what had happened but immediately I realised I had been wounded. OF course the blow in my arm had made me drop my rifle in the snow because my hand was totally dysfunctional.
I shouted my pals to inform about my wound and tried to find my way in the 8th battery firing position I started stumbling to the rear and since the men in the battery position were firing furiously I was afraid of friendly fire. That is why I kept yelling that I was a friend and wounded. Finally I reached the battery where I was led in a tent and my arm was tightly bandaged. Next I and two other wounded were put in a sleigh and our journey in the rear started, but just as the sleigh turned from the forest to the road it slid in the ditch on the icy road. Since enemy weapons were firing in the direction of the road we did not feel very safe. We were however rescued from this dangerous spot and we reached without mishap the casualty clearing station. There we were next morning loaded in an ambulance that headed for the field hospital. Mid-way between Tolvajärvi and Korpiselkä in a steep uphill the ambulance started sliding backwards and ended up in the ditch. There were about 20 WIA there and we had to wait in the cold for a couple of hours before the vehicle was recovered and we could continue our journey,
in the field hospital my arm was operated and the bullet removed. The surgeon said that I was lucky; the ricocheted bullet almost touched a bone but had not damaged it. My arm recovered completely. The battle where I was wounded was later called “sausage skirmish” because the enemy after a long march through the wilderness had found a field kitchen and many an had been hit by a lethal bullet while clutching a piece of a sausage or cheese.
Upon returning to my outfit in February my pals told me that Cpl. Mauno Iissa had fallen in action on 16.December at Ignoinaho as the enemy, for the first time wearing snow camo, ambushed the battery marching on the road with a force of some 200 men. Fearlessly standing upright he had fired at the attackers although others had warned him about the unnecessary risk he was taking.
He may have though that since he had at Luumäki hoped for war in order to see who was afraid, so that every rider had heard it. Now he wanted t show that a coward was not he. In the same battle fell also Kauko Joutseno who had been the team NCO after Iissa
Finally it can be mentioned that battles at Tolvajärvi were unusual for artillery since artillerymen, too, had to take up their personal weapons to ward off the enemy that was getting “too intimate”.
7./III/KTR6 war diary has survived, extract:
02.45hrs Battery alerted by the Btn to marching readiness.
14.00hrs Skis distributed to Btr.
07.45hrs Leaving Luumäki cantonment.
12.15hrs Embarkment started
15.15hrs Embarkment completed
15.55hrs Set off from Luumäki rwy station
06.55hrs Btr arrived at Värtsilä rwy station.
Disembarkation began immediately.
10.20hrs Set out from Värtsilä.
20.20hrs Overnight stay in Hoilola village in Korpiselkä.
07.00hrs Set out from cantonment.
17.00hrs Having marched in AA and AT marching formation arrived at Tjokki village in Korpiselkä where cantonment.
Btn Order no.1
///KTR6 issued 7.12.1939
(Map 1:100 000 sheets Korpiselkä – Ägläjärvi)
1.- Enemy: as in spoken briefing
2. Btn subordinated to JR16 that is being located on the isthmuses at Tolvajärvi for a task to be defined later.
3. Btn shall continue the march on 8.12 to the terrain of Tolvajärvi as follows:
Btn HQ is to set out at 0700hrs for Tjorkki.
7th Btr shall set out at 0700 for Tjorkki.
9th Btr shall set out at 0715hrs for the W side of Korpiselkä village where they shall remain for now and continue not until at my orders.
8th Btr shall set out at 06.45hrs for the terrain W of Tjorkki Kvl shall set off at 0700 and march to the NW houses of Korpiselkä village, cantoning there.
4. Units must pay special attention to air cover and AA action. 7th Btr shall set one gun in the spearhead for AT duty.
5. Surgeon and Veterinarian shall march in the head of 9th Btr and continue their march to Tjorkki.
Baggage train shall march to Korpiselkä where they shall be cantoned in the houses on the E side. The units are to leave load and fodder vehicles unloaded in the placement location of the baggage train, they shall be returned to the units after resupplying.
6. Units shall carry out advance reconnoitring for marching rest and cantonment. Eventual other instructions shall be provided in a spoken form during the march.
Distribution: All units
Capt. A. Valla
05.30hrs Btn marched to Tolvajärvi in AT formation.
14.30hrs Btr took positions 3 to 4 km from Tolvajärvi village.
Btr in the same positions. Fired 69 pcs full charge, 54 pcs half charge, 8 shrapnel.
23.00hrs A Battalion of Russkies surprised 8th Btr, our men hurried to help. In the skirmish was wounded Matti Tuomi, Rider. Gunner Elomaa went missing (found KIA).