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Ravanmäki as I experienced it
Journal ”Kansa Taisteli” 11, 1961
The battleground N of Säämäjärvi , In Russian “Sjamozero” After the map case incident I and my Platoon were idle for a couple of hours. Sounds of auto fire bursts and rifle shots from various directions told us that action was going on. Then Lt. Törni's Runner arrived. We had to start working. The Platoon stood up and was ready the same instant.
Lt. Törni indicated the bearing with his arm, and the distance thereabouts:
-Vanya is there about to break in our positions. You shall get one LMG with you.
We set out hastily. We advanced in the same direction as in the afternoon on the left wing, just about at the edge of the forest. We set up our line: First squad on the left, Second on the right. Open ground, then a willow thicket, open ground, thicket. This was repeated about ten times. The tension increased. Now? Not yet. Our hasty steps turned into sneaking, our bodies were bent into a crouch in readiness to duck any moment. Our eyes were trying to scan through the willow thicket ahead for anything. Nothing yet. Another meadow. Again, nothing. The bearing was correct for sure. Tension increased the length of the distance. How far are they actually? My Platoon shall definitely do their duty as long as I do mine. I have to take the Platoon in action in a very short range, whatever will happen. Still not yet.
Now, what's that? The terrain behind those bushes is rising. Carefully now. They must be there. Indeed they were. We heard foreign babbling. Did they spot us already? They didn't, else they would have fired. There we shall stop, in front of the bushes. I rose my arm to halt the line, then whispered my command to the right and to the left:
-Not until I order. Then all at once. Kneeling, not to hit the clouds.
I supported my left elbow on my knee and my hand was clutching the magazine. I aimed a bit over the ground through the willow bushes. My right forefinger started squeezing the trigger, slowly and evenly.
It was but a whisper but the effects were terrible. Twenty SMGs, one LMG and a few rifles were mowing down their targets. Opening the fire relaxed our tension and relieved our minds. I fired the first drum magazine almost in one go. Magazine swap. The lethal rattle went on. The surprise had been total and the effect corresponding to it. Behind the willow thicket we could hear loud babbling, grunting, wailing and shouting:
Clunking of metal almost next to me to the right: they are going to aim a MG at us. I turned my body to redirect the burst of my SMG. Clunking ceased. Yet weapons were aimed at us. Bullets were whistling about past our ears, tree branches were snapping and the bushes were cracking.
My finger was ever tighter on the trigger. Now it was all about which side would gain the upper hand. One side must give up. We could not give up. At the corner of my eye I glimpsed how Pvt. Vilkuna on my right dropped down from his knee position, sinking slowly to the ground. Did he die? No, he didn't! Vilkuna got up, even picking up his weapon, turned around and left, clutching his chest. But this sturdy youngster did not utter a sound, except the quiet grunt as he took the hit.
On the left my deputy Sgt. Öhman and a Squad Leader, Cpl. Lahdensuu reported that they had been wounded and withdrew unassisted. Despite these casualties we gained the upper hand. Firing at us ceased. The surviving enemies fled if they were able to. The ground on the far side of the willow thicket was covered with bodies. But it was not possible to go there. The open ground was controlled by enemy MG s farther off.
We, too, stopped and began preparing to pull back. I watched at the terrain to make sure that no one of the men would be left behind. I saw nobody but on the left, in the forest, someone was wailing. MG burst had shattered Jaeger Ahlberg's both legs, one at the knee and the other one at the ankle. He was lying helpless on the ground, in pain, ripping moss with his hands. I stopped two boys: Nokka-Halonen and Kilpiö.
-You two, take Ahlberg along. Anybody else in that forest ?
-None. Everyone is here.
I listened for a while. I heard nothing. To test I fired a couple of brief bursts in the direction of the enemy through the willow bushes. No retaliation. Slowly I left to follow the others, yet I stopped a few times to listen. When I had made it with the Platoon we once more counted our casualties. One man was missing – Saastamoinen. Where is he ? Saastamoinen had been the last man on the extreme left wing in the forest and he was left there. Someone knew that he had fallen in action but was that true? Should we have peeked deeper in the forest before leaving? All we could do was to make believe that Death had been merciful to Saastamoinen.
For the hours of the night my Platoon was posted as the close range reserve on the same sector. The infantrymen were honestly grateful for the help we had provided and made us, young men, engage in too loud chatting. The result was that enemy mortars began to harass us and annoy the infantry officers. Fortunately there were no casualties.
In the small hours the Platoon was returned to the old positions. Lt. Törni had personally led a recon patrol up to the enemy artillery positions and now he sent me with two of my boys to reconnoitre on the left. Silence was reigning supreme and nothing was seen, although the gut feeling was to pay attention to the open left flank. Securing was upgraded by posting on the bog our III Platoon half-platoon led by NCO Asser Tiira.
I had an express shake from my thoughts to the reality. A SMG started chattering in the direction of Tiira's fore-post. I bounced up and ran to the Command Post where Tiira's runner was already panting:
-Enemies are coming all over the bog.
Lt. Törni issued his order without having to pause to think:
-Get your platoon and Asser's half-platoon.
The fighting line was set up in a moment and we were advancing down the slope as I caught sight of Asser's bulky countenance on the left ahead of us. He had disengaged his half-platoon from the bog. I told him about the subordination command. He joined his half-platoon to my line to extend it to the left, then the word was passed:
-Ready ? -Ready. -Forward!
Our line was moving in sparsish coniferous forest to the direction of the bog. Undergrowth covered up prone men so that they could not be seen
We advanced stepping crouched meter by meter. The slope was descending. We had made one hundred meters, then some more. Suddenly something appeared to have moved ahead our us.
-Get down ! Fire !
In the same instant we took a torrent of fire at us. There was whistling in the bushes. There was snapping at the tree branches. The moss was boiling. Our fire was a torrent also: thirty buzzing SMGs. One drum mag in one burst. Magazine swap and again the gun was playing. I let go a few bursts and stopped to listen. -The firing on the enemy side had decreased. If I wanted to make the counterstrike proceed in an effective manner I had to make our fire and movement synchronized. Leaning on my elbows I carefully raised my head to be able to observe the situation and slowly moved my gaze front the right to the left and...
A sudden strike at the right upper arm bone was of such huge force that it threw me in the air and dropped me on my back on the rising slope. Before I had landed there was a searing pain on my right knee.
-Now the Lieut died, I heard Jaeger Lilja on my right side say to Jaeger Kuikka next to him.
-I am not yet died – I managed to think this much before a darkness landed on me and took me in the depths.
As I came to it was silence all over. Sun was shining right at my face and songbirds were twittering somewhere near. My first thought was that the enemy attack had rolled over us and I had been stuck in a territory they controlled. What to do? I found myself in quite a helpless state. My right arm was listless across my chest, bent at the point of fracture. A sharp end of a bone was sticking out of the wound an blood was flowing out. My right knee was bent, bleeding. At my legs I saw my SMG and my cap. I would not stay put. That was my decision and I started thinking how to reach the weapon and how to get in a sitting position against a tree to wait for the chance to make my last stand. Then a crack from the side reached my ears and my instinct told me that I had been dazed only for a moment and the situation was unchanged. Supporting my left elbow and heel to the ground I started dragging myself to the rear, up the slope.
Lilja and Kuikka saw what I was up to and crept to me. Holding me by my belt they dragged me in cover behind a dense fir tree. Asser Tiira also found his way there, assisted by Tuure Virta he placed me on his back in a “bag of salt“ manner, stood up and proceeded carrying me. Of course the enemy saw what was going on. The bushes started boiling. Tiira just asked me if I was hurting, and tried to step as evenly as he could. I told him to go on although my arm was hanging limp, swaying at every touch with a twig, the pain making my brow sweat cold drops. If one is lucky, he just is that way. The journey appeared long to me, over one hundred meters in cover on the top of the hill, we finally made it.
Our MG was being rushed past us to support our defence and our Runner NCO, Cpl. Antero Ruottinen had been ordered to take over the II Platoon. There was a stretcher waiting, and our experienced and calm paramedic NCO Cpl. Lahti was already mounting the needle on his morphine syringe. Our outfit was indeed well equipped in every respect. Alder branches were expertly fashioned into splints to support my arm as immobile as possible. Lt. Törni and I Platoon CO Lt. Holger Pitkänen came to my stretcher and I told them all I knew. Törni and Pitkänen appeared to be very worried: it was a bit questionable whether a horse could get through via the supply road, and they could not afford to assign men to escort us. Yet we had to try.
On the horse cart was hoisted another stretcher: Jaeger Johansson of my Platoon had taken three bullets through his lungs and was unconscious and wheezing. Another man with a light leg wound joined us. The horseman was the only able-bodied one, and what could he have accomplished with the rifle slung on his back. So the last horse from Ravanmäki set out. The distance to the C.C.S. Was long, about ten kilometre. The shaking of the cart overcome the effect of the morphine and even though half unconscious my ear tried to capture sounds from the sides of the road. When would the ambushing enemy open fire? Johansson, by my side, struggled to get some air in his lungs.
We reached our destination successfully and a lorry took us quite soon to Suojärvi. Although the local surgeon had a tremendous workload he took his time for me and did not amputate my arm which finally remained usable.
What about them who stayed at Ravanmäki ?
The enemy attack that I set out to beat back was a part of the simultaneous offensive all over the area. The enemy had pushed an enveloping outfit in our rear to serve as an anvil against which the defender's troops were to be crushed. The enveloping outfit was in place, dug in at the roadside as the last horse from Ravanmäki passed them. Forest assisted Finns to break through or to dodge the enemy in separate formations. Asser Tiira returned with his half-platoon a couple of days later than others, having e.g. swum over a couple of lakes to confound the pursuers.
Our losses were heavy, almost one hundred men which means about one in four fighters at Ravanmäki became casualties. Of the officers of our Jaeger Company only two survived – Lt. Törni himself and Pitkänen. Lt. Pentti Tiitinen and 2nd LT. Viljo Turpeinen fell in action on the bog West of the village. The estimated enemy casualties were several hundred.
As Detachment Törni was again mustered and refitted with new bikes and other lost gear, it was again a formidable strike force to be deployed where needed. On the other hand the brave II/JR33 had lost strength even more, but they kept fighting as a Battalion because it could not be helped.
Lauri Allan Törni was later promoted to Captain and decorated with VR1 (MHR)
The diary of II/JR 33 :
Ravanmäki = Rapavaara (synonymous meaning)
7th Coy sent a Runner with information that in Rapavaara had arrived Jääk.K/1.D having cleared the Kivatsu roadsides. The Coy had returned to their positions and the Jaeger Coy participated in the defence.
Btn CO order: 3 platoons of 5th Coy to march back, Platoon Sarkko shall take the wounded and the fallen to Onkamus village.
5th Coy in their destination in Rapavaara. Liaised with Lt. Törni.
Btn CO order: The elements of Coy Törni that are in defence shall be detached for flank securing duty. 5th Coy shall set up defences on the left flank of 7th Coy. Both Coys are to set aside one platoon in reserve. Jääk.K./1.D shall patrol on the flanks.
Lt. Torniainen's Platoon of 48.Tyk.K. Reported
Btn Mortar Platoon reported.
The platoon strong recon patrol of Jääk.K/1.D returned, they had advanced from East of Rapavaara village to to the isthmuses of Rapajärvi lake. The Eastern side of Rapajärvi is free of enemies, on the Western side there is a vehicle road from SE and artillery positions.
Jääk.K/1.D patrol set out to evict the enemy from the bushes on the left flank and found an enemy outfit advancing there. The patrol took strong fire (MG etc.) and set up defences to secure their flank.
Lt Toiviainen reported: Kivatsu road has been blocked [by enemy] and a company strong enemy outfit is advancing on the right flank.
Jääk.K/1.D sent a patrol to the right flank.
5th Coy Reserve platoon relieved the Jääk.K/1.D outfit securing the left flank.
Jääk.K/1.D sent out a patrol to the direction of the Kivatsu road.
6th Coy CO reported with two rifle platoons and one MG platoon. The CO ordered them to move as reserve to the terrain of the triangular measurements pylon and set up short range securing.
Jaeger Coy sent out a patrol to the Kivatsu road and it was found that the enemy was at the Coy bicycles.
Report by the patrols on the right flank: A company size enemy outfit approaching from the left to the flank and the Btn C.P..
Btn CO order: Every available man (Runners, AT platoon, Sappers etc.) to set up securing on the right flank and 6th Coy shall strike at the flank of the advancing enemy.
Enemy launched a strong fire strike with all weapons at the direction of the road.
Enemy accomplished a breakthrough on the 7rh Coy sector on both sides of the road.
Btn CO order to disengage and withdraw delaying to the direction of Onkamus village. Disengagement happened immediately. Delaying positions were set up immediately behind the village, on the pylon hill and deeper in the rear at the road, the last ones at the perimeter of Onkamus village.
The following units participated in the battle of Rapavaara:
II/JR33: 5.K, 6.K, 7.K, I/8.K, mortar platoon
One Squad of Sappers
17 KIA, 38 WIA, 9 MIA.
The last outfits (of 6th Coy ) crossed the Kivatsujoki river. The Battalion was subordinated to JR33.
(end of day)
Due to the lockout of public libraries it has not been possible to check Pres. Koivisto's memoirs to see what he told about this battle in which he definitely participated.
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Two cases of divine protection
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 10, 1961
Lukkarinen's outfit was another Detached AT Platoon which were set up in a training center in Hämeenlinna during the latter phases of the Winter War as fast as imported or captured AT guns were available. Few war diaries have survived.
War was being fought at Viipuri in the first days of March 1940. We had been assigned to JR15 in the front line for more than a week now and in the dark evenings and nights we had been moving about as if in moonlight because light was reflected from the constant fires raging in the town, caused by enemy bombardment.
I and Einari Sikanen from Sakkola had been in sentry duty at our AT position all day until at dusk another pair of sentries arrived to relieve us. The long stints of duty were practised to avoid unnecessary exposure to shelling since the distance to our shelter was about one kilometre.
We set out for our shelter that was said to been an accommodation for hospital personnel during peacetime. Since the enemy kept on shelling despite darkness we jogged on all the way up the Heinjoki road, Sikanen ahead of me. On the road through the hospital park I slowed down to walking pace and my pal did likewise. Suddenly a shell burst at a large fir of the park which broke like a carrot. Just before this we had spotted three men on their skis under the fir, having a smoke. We run there at once and a third man arrived, too. Actually there was nothing to do for us, because of those three men only one was able to speak his last words to his Lieutenant:
-Send my things in my backpack home and my last regards to my dear old mum, let her know that this was it. There the life third young soldier was finished. We bared our heads for prayer to honour the three men who had made the supreme sacrifice for their Fatherland.
Thinking back on this case I often pondered in what miraculous manner the Providence protected the Undersigned during the days of the Winter War in hundreds of incidents. If we had hurried more during our return that day we would have shared the fate of those three men.
Some days later we were getting ready in the morning dusk for an all-day stint in the front line. I was ordered to join two “leaders”, Corporals H. Hyvönen (from Pöljä) and A. Heikkinen (from Lapinlahti). Our AT gun position consisted of a gun pit by a huge boulder just next to a road. The boulder provided cover from weather and fire, and also a good view to the terrain in front of us. Our AT gun was at hand but nothing special happened at daybreak, just normal roar of artillery fire. Shelling appeared to get more intense the higher the sun climbed over the line of the forest. Then the enemy as if woke up into feverish activity. It was as if all the spirits of Hell would have been let loose, roar and crashing increased into a fever pitch. This of course implied another attack at our sparsely manned line
Soon some men were sneaking about our position and as they told us they were pulling back we three had a problem. What to do, our CO, 2nd Lt. Raunto found himself in our shelter and there was a diabolic steel storm between us and him! Who would take the message to the Lieut in that storm, of course it felt safer to stay next to a big rock than move on the open ground.
Well, it is not hard to guess that a Private runs when ordered by two “leaders”! I explained my designed route to them so that they should be able to follow my track in case they would have to leave before the Lieut arrives. Then I set off. I dashed from one boulder to another, run the distances between them and again dashed.
I had planned to have a rest at a stone that was visible in our position but having reached it I saw that it had been occupied until a moment ago. There was an unmanned MG but I had no time to ponder about the matter, I just left a silent man next to his weapon and kept dashing as fast as a young man is able to. It was a heavy and sweaty journey that appeared to last an eternity while iron was falling on the rocky ground as if dry peas would have been poured. But I felt better as I was approaching our shelter. By dashing and bouncing I arrived happily at my destination, once more having survived a steel storm.
This time we were sheltered in the kitchen of the hospital pig-sty that had appeared to be a safe abode with its meter thick stone walls. I sat down on a stool, panting, while explaining Lieut Raunto the situation. I did not manage to say anything more before a tremendous pressure wave made the doors fly open. I collapsed on the floor. The next second there was an ear—splitting explosion and our allegedly safe shelter was filled with a dense burst of smoke, dirt and pieces of stone. We saw nothing for a while.
Finally the rumbling of stones ended but smoke and dust of dirt still filled the space. Then I heard the voice of our Lieut:
-Anybody alive here?
It was an extreme miracle that all seven of us were alive, but – of our shelter, nothing was left. The meter thick stone wall had been crumbled by an aerial bomb! The walls had vanished in thin air! The first bomb had hit on the yard, opening the doors and the second one had landed just next to the wall. No one had suffered as much as a scratch.
Was this not another proof of divine protection? One whose number is not up was protected. It was one hundred per cent more wonderful than modern rocket tests by humans.
Having survived the bombardment and after shelling had eased down a little our Lieut set out find out about the front line situation. It was not different from the morning, so the deserting men had been talking nonsense. Next night we sought a little better position for our gun and found a new shelter in the cellar of a slaughterhouse.
Last input 2020 spring, gardening takes all my time now until winter.