Hosted by Juha Tompuri
- Posts: 601
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
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.
- Posts: 601
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
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.
- Posts: 601
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
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.
- Posts: 601
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
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.
- Posts: 601
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
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.)
- Posts: 601
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
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.
- Posts: 601
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
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.