Hosted by Juha Tompuri
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“Kansa Taisteli” 02, 1963
Story about an aerial battle.
I met him after the war in a restaurant, sitting with a drink in front of him, just like I had been used to seeing him. Of course I sat down next to him since we had not met for years. Soon we were talking about our days in the Squadron, he had been a fighter pilot and I had been a mechanic for the planes he flew.
- I definitely do remember my last mission with the Morane fighter even though I am not able to forget any of the earlier ones, said the retired W/O Urho Lehtovaara alias “Little Giant” His nickname was due to his low stature, just a little over one and a half meters.
- It was I think March 1943 as we took off from Hirvas air base, our mission was to reconnoitre the front line in the axis of Karhumäki – Seesjärvi lake. Our patrol comprised three aircraft, one Lieut to lead us and I and a novice Sergeant as his wingmen . We climbed to 3000m because the weather was clear and visibility moderate. To pass the time we used our radios for mutual communication since we were the only Finns in the sky in that stretch of front and so did not disturb radio traffic with our banter.
As we were approaching Karhumäki I spotted some movement in the air in that quarter and reported it to our leader. He did not believe me, however, seeing himself nothing neither did the Sergeant. I requested him to change our direction a little to the right to get within visual distance. After we had flown for a while in the new direction they too did see something but we were not able to identify the aircraft or count their number.
My trigger finger was already itching, as a hunter seeing game, but our leader appeared to have other ideas since he steered again to the left. I tried to persuade him to engage the enemy, in vain. We had our mission and we had to stick with our instructions, I was told. Yet I could not let the distant specs get off my view and I kept trying to persuade the officer to turn to the right. I believe I used inappropriate expressions about my superior, in public also, but as the result was threats by him I decided it was best to abandon the military discipline and abandon the patrol.
I turned at the enemy and turned off my transceiver since our communication was not very friendly any more.
Having left my friends to go on with their mission I started climbing. Once at 5000m I turned on the oxygen tank valve to adjust the oxygen flow but in vain. The tank was empty. Fortunately my engine was running at max power so that our Creator did not have to hear my words about the hungover on duty pilots yesterday. While sitting in the plane they had sucked dry the oxygen tanks and, busters, failed to inform the mechanics.
But once I had decided to engage the enemy I did not want to quit, it was a matte of principle for me. I kept climbing at the target, I identified it as a Pe-2 bomber, which was still higher than me. By my estimate she was at 7000m but by now lack of oxygen was affecting my vision and mental faculties. The horizon was rocking in my eyes as if I had had a few drinks...
My altimeter reading was by now 7000 m and still the fast "Pekka-Eemeli" was overhead. It was remarkable that the airmen did not spot me, instead they kept turning around the same spot of terrain. Our distance was still 500m. I decided to risk it and shoot, because it might be my one and only chance before I would be spotted.
I pushed the nose down a little to pick up speed for the pull-up. I turned on the gunsight illumination and loaded the MG s. We were flying in opposite courses and having estimated that the range was right I pulled up the nose of my plane while keeping the Pe in the light ring of the gunsight. As I felt that the speed was diminishing and the belly of the Pe was just in the right spot in front of me I pushed the trigger. Firing time was scarcely more than one second because the target vanished from my field of vision.
You see, my plane stalled the very moment and the engine stopped. I did not have any time to observe any hits.
As the engine stopped and the plane stalled there was for a second odd silence, lasting for the blink of an eye as the fighter stood on its tail at the zenith of the stall. It was interrupted by a stunning blast of noise from the rear and below. A jet of tracers swept up on both sides of my cockpit. Instinctively I glanced over my shoulder, and saw below under my tail two fighters, La-5s (sic), sending streams of tracers at my plane. Fortunately my plane was already going down tail first, so they were a fraction of a second too late.
There was nothing I could do. The fighter went down for a while tail first but soon the weight of the engine made the difference and the plane went into a nosedive. Airflow pressure started rotating the prop and soon the engine was restarted. At the same moment tracers started dancing about my wings because the neighbours had turned around and found themselves within firing range.
As the engine restarted the plane shook terribly because some of the six carbs had been left open while the rest had closed as I had pulled back the power setting lever. Now the neighbours forced me to open up the power and pull the stick back to my belly, the centrifugal force evened the carb floats and the engine was again running steadily. Quickly I looped behind the enemy firing at me and now it was my turn to push the trigger. They may have been confounded by my rapidity because they did not react before one of them was in flames and started diving at the wilderness.
The other one tried to disengage by diving but did not succeed in getting out of the ring of my gunsight. Both of us dived with full power until we had to level off due to altitude. All the time I was behind his tail and as soon as we were in level flight I drew a bead on him and fired. As I pushed the trigger only one of my wing guns fired one single shot and that was all. I reloaded several times without success. We were flying at treetops for dozens of kilometres, he was weaving in front of me and I was following him 20 m behind. Being unable to do anything more I had to let him go. He did not respond to my hand wave, he appeared to be that badly shocked.
I returned to the base a bit bitter due to bad luck and was prepared to be admonished for insubordination, seeing the others waiting for me. But, as soon as I had climbed out of my plane my mechanic hurried to me to congratulate me for my kill even before I had had any time to report it. Also our Regiment CO was there and I had to report him on my mission and the La-5 that I had shot down. The CO congratulated me for that but also for the Pe-2 that had been reported by the local field artillery. It was a surprise for me because I had not even seen that I had hit her.
Insubordination was not an issue any more, but if looks could kill our Lieut would have scored one.
It was my last mission with the Morane-Saulnier because the next day I was transferred to a squadron equipped with better aircraft, Messerschmitts. [HLeLv34, tr.rem.]
Lehtovaara, Urho Sakari, W/O (Lentomestari)
B. 7.10.1917 at Pyhjäjärvi
MHR 2nd Class on 9.7.1944.
44 ½ confirmed kills.
On the 5th March 1943 at Maaselkä front: 1x I-16, 1x Pe-2.
Outfit: HLeLv 28
A/c: MS-641. (Morane-Saulnier MS 406)
(His kill list includes 3 x La-5 with Bf 109)
HLeLv 28 war diary extract
Weather: Clear, temp -10º C
2 MS of 2nd Flight on a search mission at Seesjärvi.
Staff Sgt. Lehtovaara shot down 1 Pe-2 and 1 I-16.
Both crashed about 10 km W of Kärkijärvi village. Pe-2 caught fire, 1 man parachuted. I-16 crashed and was destroyed.
2nd Flight carried out a search mission with two a/c at Kärkijärvi. The destroyed I-16 was confirmed and there were 6 men around it. The Pe-2 was not found. Low cloud cover hampered the task
Enemy messages: [Air surveillance ?]
13.51hrs 297a9 [map grid ?] Buzzing N.
14.05hrs 321a From E 1 / 2 to W [one two engined a/c]
14.11hrs 321a 4/1 curving in the NE alt 1000 [m]
14.16hrs 273b3 From S 1/x to N
14.26hrs 321a9 From S 1/x turning W
14.37hrs 297d3 SW 1/x to E alt. 4000
14.45hrs 297d3 From E 1/x to NE alt. 6000
Else nothing special
1 MS flown to Äanislinna for maintenance.
(end of day)
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Last days at Mustaoja in Taipale
“Kansa Taisteli”, 02, 1963
6./JR19 in battle at Taipale . Platoon Leader memoir.
[During the last weeks of the Winter War the Taipale front was a sideshow the main action being at Viipurinlahti and Vuosalmi.Tr.rem.]
(On our Independence Day 6th Dec 1939 Russians launched an unusually ferocious attack at Taipaleenjoki river. Due to their overwhelming number they did manage to take Koukunniemi and Terenttilä. In the evening our troops launched a counterstrike that managed to retake both Koukunniemi and Terenttilä, except the beachheads at the ferry, the Schoolhouse forest and the mouth of Mustaoja brook . From the last mentioned bridgehead the Russians kept launching attacks at our line during the entire war which created an evil fame for Mustaoja. -K.T. Ed.)
I am now recounting about one of the Russian attacks that has remained in my memory as one of the more unusual.
It was the 7th March 1940 as I was summoned to my Company CO for briefing. Having arrived at the C.P. Lt Rasimäki gave me an order with the following content:
"II Platoon of the 6th Coy of JR16 shall tonight man the Mustaoja stronghold and relieve the outfit manning it for R&R. Reinforcement comprises two Squads of the IV Platoon. You are not to leave the stronghold until ordered to do so or another outfit shall relieve you."
I felt cold shivers having heard the order but then I thought that others have survived there and this would not be the first time if we should get under fire. An order is an order and that is it.
Having returned to my Platoon one of the boys said “Now we shall find ourselves in a mess”. We had today seen from our present stronghold how fiercely the enemy had been attacking the Mustaoja stronghold. One of the boys may have grumbled why it was just our Platoon that has to go there, another promptly explained that “it is just our Platoon that is always the first one heading for any trouble”.
We spent the rest of the day in weapons maintenance. Having been resupplied with dry rations and ammunition we started trudging for Terenttilä. Having arrived at dugout Virstakivi at about 2100hrs it was totally dark. We got a guide from the dugout to lead us in the positions in the front. A communications trench had been dug there in the past but now not a trace remained of it. The terrain from the dugout to the trench was like badly plown field, shell hole next to shell hole all covered with black dirt. Weapons nests were just normal foxholes interconnected with a communications trench, then in reasonably good condition, also providing good cover against enemy fire
As the Platoon Leader Lieut of the outfit holding the stronghold was briefing me about the situation an explosion just near by was heard and clods of dirt flew as far as our trench. The Lieut explained that the enemy was constructing a sap to be able to get closer to our trench. When leaving the Lieut once more warned us against moving about between the stronghold and the dugout because it had been found to be detrimental to one's health to cross the ridge. The men and the leaders of the relieved outfit wished us good luck and told us it was their wish that we should not allow the enemy to break through. Then they would not have to launch a counterstrike. We promised to do all we were able to.
The early hours of the 8th March 1940 were calm disregarding the continuous exploding work of the enemy. The men had great difficulties in staying awake that night. We had indeed been holding the Linnakangas stronghold for several days. I had my work cut out for me walking up and down the trench and waking up the boys to keep on observing. The enemy might sneak in our trench in the cover of darkness. I had plenty of time to think time and again how the men would be able to withstand if the enemy should launch another of their regular attacks.
Finally the 8th March started dawning. At 08000hrs the enemy launched a small red flare, every one of us knew it was a signal for attack. I sent an order to be passed down the line to observe even more attentively since soon there would be a wealth of targets. One of the boys was heard to say “Now let's get outta here lads as long as we can” . Having heard that I sternly forbade anyone to leave the positions before we would be relieved.
Soon we had other matters than leaving the position to think about because suddenly men in a dense crowd went over the top at the enemy trench, starting running at our positions I fired at the first one with my rifle. Every one of my men picked their targets and started shooting. No-man's-land was thusly cleared of running enemies but new ones kept emerging from their trench. We had in this manner gained the upper hand and none of my men felt any fear any more. Everyone was behaving bravely and rationally. Some overtly so. For example Pvt. Liimatainen, although he was taller than average, was standing on a hand grenade crate to gain a better view. His torso was completely above the parapet and exposed to enemy fire.
I had stationed the LMGs already in the night at the extreme wings of the stronghold so they were able to provide cross-fire in front of our positions, but they also could fire at enemies attempting to outflank us and get in our rear. The enemy did try to envelope us but was checked by the LMGs.
When I found myself in the LMG nest on the left wing observing the situation one of the boys informed me that the enemy was moving a MG in the cover of a pine stump on the no-man's-land. Immediately I found a spot where I was able to see the MG well. The enemy gunner was just carrying out the loading procedure as I caught him in the sights of my new M28/30. Poor man, he never managed to take his thumbs on the trigger before he was taken out. I, too, would have been taken out if the assistant of that enemy gunner would have been a little better shooter.
I had committed the very same mistake against which I had warned the boys, exposing myself too carelessly. The assistant hit the pine stump next to me and I was saved. I ducked down in the trench, then carefully got up on the embrasure where a fallen pine top provided me with cover. Next the enemy assistant shared the fate of his gunner.
Our situation may have appeared threatened when seen from the Linnakangas stronghold because during the day Platoon Leader 2nd Lt Perilä and his Runner arrived at our stronghold to find out about the situation. Perilä's runner was inspired to join my boys in battle because there were enough targets for him, too. Since the situation did not appear to be turning any worse, Perilä returned to his stronghold, but his Runner did not want to leave but kept sniping together with my boys.
The enemy was totally unable to use their artillery and mortars due to the vicinity of their own positions. They had to resort to rifle grenades which all were bursting behind our trench without any damage. The enemy artillery did fire shrapnels which were popping far behind our line.
The enemy attack went on unabated until the evening dusk. New men kept emerging from the trench to replace the fallen ones. It was not until onset of the darkness that the enemy quit attacking. Later, in pitch darkness, they once more tried to get in our trench but fortunately one of them got stuck in our wire and made noise informing us about their arrival. We threw some hand grenades to welcome them and the noise ended. Soon there were again explosions and clods were flying in our trench.
After the fighting died down we had time to open our bread bags. During the melee we did not even remember about eating. When chewing our “plywood” pieces (crispbread) we were wondering what could have been the idea of the enemy commanders when driving their men in hordes to be destroyed. They should have been able to see that it was not the way to gain access in our trench.
Now I must admit I do not recall if we were relieved in the stronghold by another outfit or if we abandoned the positions. Anyway on the 10th March we found ourselves in new positions farther in the rear. I did not tell this story for the reason that it would have been a major deed, instead the reason is that we survived the battle without casualties, all of us were unscathed.
(1450 words) 6.K war diary extract:
A route tread by enemy tanks the day before was mined with AT mines on a stretch of about 1 ½ km. Also traps were added. When plating them there was an accident whereby one Sapper was badly wounded, dying later.
Quiet on the Coy sector. Enemy employed mostly their artillery, harassment shelling at various points of the Coy sector. Mostly they strafed a bog. They did not succeed in making any damage.
Battle between a Field stronghold and an enemy recon outfit, report in the appendix.
Lively reconnoitring going on on the Coy sector.
Weak mutual artillery activities.
Constant upgrading of mainly the main defence line. Another two dugouts completed.
Tel. Message received on peace between Finland and Soviet Union.
I read the message to the Coy. The entire Coy received the message of peace in seriousness. Not a single smile. It was tried to guess what the conditions of the peace are. No fighting activities on the 13th March AM. Enemy fires a few scattered shots in front of the Field stronghold, that was all.
II Battalion war diary extract:
6.K forward stronghold reporting that the liaison patrol to 4.K did not make it because they were intercepted by enemy that they opened fire at.
Northern forward stronghold (Paananen) reporting that also there enemy was moving to South.
Order to 2nd Lt. Talma to send a battle squad in the direction of the liaison ski track.
2nd Lt. Ikonen was issued orders to proceed via the 4.K NCO sentry post to push out the enemy that had advance in the terrain between 6.K and 4.K a the Southern Hautalampi lakes.
2nd Lt. Ikonen reported about the position of the enemy. Due to the brisk action by 2nd Lt. Ikonen the enemy advance was checked.
A patrol cut enemy phone cables in the enemy rear. Due to the deep snow the attack stalled and the fighting sides were left some 30 to 50 m from each other. Yet the enemy appeared to be intent on withdrawing but due to the accurate fire of our boys they did not dare to put up their heads, being unable as well to advance as retreat.
6.K Platoon Raunio was ordered to liaise with 2nd Lt. Ikonen, the purpose being to expel the enemy from the ground they had gained.
2nd Lt. Ikonen reporting:
Everything in order, enemy attack has been stopped,
We requested artillery fire at the enemy rear.
Platoon Raunio engaged the enemy. The battle was brief but intense. The enemy did not retreat yet because the snow was a hindrance preventing our troops to attack briskly.
2nd Lts. Ikonen and Raunio were issued orders to keep their previous positions and not to advance to the firing sector of enemy auto weapons because the Russki found themselves in very good positions.
Our boys kept from their positions Russkies under such an intense fie that by 1830hrs it was considered the enemy had taken enough casualties as the survivors retreated in the cover of darkness. It was found feasible to check no-man's-land. One POW was taken. He admitted that against us there was the enemy Regiment 609. The POW was sent in the rear for more interrogating.
Enemy losses in the battle comprised 30 KIA and by estimate about 20 WIA. War booty included a considerable quantity of rifles, a radio, a phone set, 3000 cartridges, a number of auto weapons etc.
6.K forward stronghold reported that Russki was moving around at the supply road direction. They were given a well hit artillery strike that discouraged the enemy from attacking all day, since the rest of the day was calm.
(end of day)
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Home sweet home
“Kansa Taisteli”, 02 1963
Somewhere in the enemy rear at Aittojoki, Suojärvi.
Os. Pajari (Detachment Pajari) comprised JR 16, Er.P. 10, 11, 112, 9./KTR13 in the period 24.12.1939 – 13.3.1940.
Estimated date 21st to 27th January 1940.
Clouds are slogging on low, fleeing like the night. Wind is chopping them up and shoving them somewhere in the direction of the Arctic ocean.
It is a January morning in 1940. The village is there, quiet in front of us. Its houses are silhouetted against a clear patch of the sky. A rusty weather wane squeaks somewhere and a dog is barking very far away. Or is it a fox ? The rumble of war has receded for a moment, silenced by the cold weather. As the night recedes the cold intensifies, dry tree trunks are snapped by it . Phone lines overhead at the roadside are buzzing quietly.
A group of long range patrol-men in white camo are standing on their skis in a patch of forest next to the village. They are leaning at their ski sticks and listening. When the frost cracks a trunk in the forest, the men twitch, point their SMG s and stare in the forest attentively. As nothing else happens the men again shift their posture soundlessly , leaning on their ski sticks. They are waiting.
Lt Perälä, a young Reserve officer, slowly skis past the line of men to the extreme wing and stops by me. I can see him in profile. There is frost on the breast of his white camo suit. The straps of his pistol holster and map case constitute a cross in the front of his breast. He is whispering in my ear:
-So this is your home village. You are familiar with the area. Our intelligence has reported that the enemy divisional HQ is situated in that house over there... The one on the extreme left, do you see it?
I nod. I know the house: it is my home. I intend to tell that but change my mind, there is now a lump in my throat.
The Lieut continues:
-We are going to sneak there and destroy as many of them as possible. We shall torch the house. Also we shall torch as many of the other houses as we can... But destroying that HQ billets is the first priority. Burning it down may create confusion which is our aim.
Again I nod. I am looking at my home...my old home. It must be sacrificed...like everything else, I am thinking. A great cause call for great sacrifice. The house is dead already, being occupied by the enemy. Nobody knows it is my home, and I make up my mind not to talk about it.
-The two of us shall be the spearhead, the Lieut continues, -you and me. There seems to be a sentry on the yard. We are going to take him out. The ahkio sleds are left here and guarded by one man. We have to act fast before it is too light.
I bend down to check my ski bindings: they are all right. I switch off the safety of my SMG and move the weapon on my breast. Frost is biting my cheeks yet I am feeling how an odd wave of warmth is passing through my body. I am ready...
I start skiing as the spearhead. Our pals are looking at us, silent. Skis are hissing in the soft snow. We reach open ground. There is a sauna, the sauna of my home, where I have bathed innumerable times...I may have been born there. Now it is smelling of soot and rotten birch leaves: it has not been used. The snow is untread and the path is covered with snow. We are skiing past the window of the sauna and I think I spot a piece of candle and a matchbox on the window sill inside. My chest is aching and a smarting veil is rising on my eyes.
We stop and start staring at the houses. They appear to be dead but our ears discern sounds of horses chewing and stomping in the stable and the cowshed. We are skiing closer.
Suddenly the Lieut grabs firmly my arm: he has seen something. I am following the direction of his gaze. Quite right: there is a sentry in the shadow of the porch. He is watching the road, presenting his side to us. There is a black SMG on his chest, visible against his white camo suit. Holding my breath I am staring at the man. There is a number of stacked rifles on the yard which tells me that there is at least one Company of soldiers billeted in my home and they are sleeping in the main room. The HQ is billeted in the guest rooms, I am guessing.
The Lieut signals me. I understand it and hand over my SMG to him. Then I pull out my pistol and get off my skis. When kneeling to start creeping the sentry moves. That makes me freeze for a while. I point my pistol although I know that my Lieut, too, is aiming at the man standing on the yard in case there should be a surprise. But the man keeps standing there, immobile. Maybe a weak premonition of danger is lurking in his subconsciousness.
I am creeping on the yard of my home. I remember that I used to creep there when I was a but a boy. The yard used to be my playground back then. Now I am facing a cold and cruel reality, but despite the tension mixed with fear the ancient memoirs are revived in my mind. Trying to expel them I am creeping ever more carefully. A failure would be fateful not only to me.
I feel how the back of my shirt is soaked with sweat. I am right behind the back of the man. I am holding my breath. Silently I get up, then my one arm is grabbing around the throat to the man and I stab.
We carry the man in the space between the cow-shed and the stable. Everything happened in a brief moment. The Lieut gets on his skis and is away. I hear a brief command and in a moment the entire Platoon is standing in the shadow of the houses. The Lieut is whispering his orders. Half of the platoon is skiing to secure. Some of them shall target two of the nearest houses.
I am entering in the porch as scout. Foreign smell hits my face, but as I open the door of the main room it squeaks with a familiar sound. There is a sound of snoring in the big room. Three hand grenades and two Molotov cocktails are flung through the entrance... They burst before we are out of the porch. There is a flash of flame in the windows. There is yelling and men trying to get out. SMGs join the melee, their nasty chatter is heard at the neighbouring houses, too. There are men pouring out from the stable on the snow covered yard illuminated by flames flashing out of the windows. Our attempt has been successful and we start quickly retreating back to our ski track.
There is a howl of a siren...Bullets are whistling overhead. We retaliate randomly and get back to the men guarding our sleds. Arriving at the edge of the forest enemy AA weapons open up at us. Shells are bursting overhead but now is not the time to seek cover. We put our wounded in the sleds and start our return journey as the first rays of the sun are illuminating the tops of pines. Now it is a clear January morning.
Our “visit” has indeed created confusion. Although we now find ourselves deep in the forest we still can hear lively shooting and shouting. Three houses used by the enemy had been torched. I am skiing in the securing rear detachment and I stop every now and then to listen. There may be pursuers at our heels any moment. I am in low spirits. I know that I shall never more see my home as it once was. There is only going to be sooty ruins with chimneys sticking up.
We are skiing through forest that I know. There, under a thick layer of snow, is lying a pile of firewood I cut last autumn...there is another...and if I remember correctly it was here that I had a break and ate my provisions. There is a big boulder, one side is bare of snow. I have been hunting in this forest, it is here that I got my first prey of game. Everything is familiar but dead, cold. I keep skiing, sunken in my thoughts. I scarcely notice the drops of blood by the ski track... our wounded in the sleds have left it behind.
Suddenly I am alerted. There are fighter aircraft flying overhead. Fortunately the forest here is dense but what is going to happen as we shall cross the bog in front of us? The aircraft are sending bursts randomly, there is whine and cracking in the forest. The Platoon has stopped. Everyone is peering past the treetops.
The aircraft vanish. I can guess that they are seeking us. As we arrive at the edge of the bog I stay there with a ten man squad. The ski track cuts through the bog as a straight line. Snow is glittering, making the ski track look almost black. It is amazing that the airman did not spot it. We are waiting as the rest of us are skiing across the bog. We are listening and watching behind us. A distant noise of firearms starts to be heard from the front line situated somewhere at Aittojoki. Enemy artillery is joining in. They are not far from us because the reports are feeling nasty in our ears. They are nasty because we are aware that every report is sending a dose of death at our friends.
Again the aircraft are coming. Just at the convenient hour as the last man crossing the bog is vanishing in the opposite forest, hiding there. We cannot continue our journey before the fighters have gone away. They are flying low and spraying the forest with their machine guns. Apparently our sabotage has made them bitter. But no pursuers are turning up. They may be assembling their troops believing that we, too, were there in great numbers.
The bog ahead of us is wide. De.-touring it via forest might be fatal. We do not know where the enemy has placed their forces. Now, apparently our track has been spotted from the aircraft. The planes are circling over the bog, decrease altitude and keep in the vicinity of the ski track. There are six of them. They are not shooting any more but two planes leave the formation and fly in the direction of the track above the forest opposite to us. We are lying in the snow, listening. The enemy is not firing, our pals are saved in the cover of the forest.
What about us now? We do not dare to cross the bog as long as there are aircraft overhead. Either we detour the bog or wait for the night. Freeze is numbing our limbs. The two aircraft return and join the formation, after a while the escadrille vanishes in the direction they came from. Now we mount on our skis. Our equipment is light, we shall soon reach the far side.
Then the aircraft return once more. Engines are whining with joy as their trick worked. We dive into the snow and dig in it. The planes are diving and nasty cracking is tearing the cold air. Snow is flying around us as bullets are hitting the frozen moss under the snow cover. We do not budge, we just are waiting for a bullet to hit us. Six fighters are spewing them. One could believe that a bloody aerial battle would be going on. I would like to stand up and retaliate with my SMG but I abandon the idea. My fear is that every one of my pals could be pierced by tens of bullets. They are lying still just as I am. I am thinking how I would be able to retrieve the bodies of my pals.
Then the aircraft vanish. They have completed their task.
I put up my head and meet blinding sunlight. I am looking around. Another head rises, a third one...Actually several more, everyone is getting up from the snow. I am feeling pleasantly grateful. Not a single scratch in any of us. The men are covered with snow and stiff due to cold – but undamaged. I cannot but laugh. I am laughing for a long time while weeping until my pals manage to make me calm down. My nervous tension is relaxed and I am back to normal. In the forest we catch up with the rest of our outfit. They did not leave us behind but stayed to watch the painful show on the bog. They, too, thought that we would not survive.
We find ourselves on the ski track again.
Home, sweet home... Thinking about it I am trying to decide whether I truly did everything I could for it in the best manner. The house is no more but the soil is there, the land and the familiar terrain. Fire was not able to destroy them and shall not be. The destruction of my home was the price to be paid for them. I am resigned to this. Energy is returning in my tired limbs and I am struggling to ski to be the leading man of the Platoon.
We are waiting for darkness. It is favouring us as we shall cross the area patrolled by the enemy on skis. Our wounded are moaning in the sleds, they have been administered the first aid and we cannot do anything else for them.
Lieut Perälä skis to my side. His boyish face is tired but he tries to put on a consoling smile.
-Was it your home?
-I could guess it since you found the door without trouble in the dark porch, he said, offering me a cig.
Mutely we are staring at the open ground in front of us being very slowly immersed in darkness. Once we have traversed it we shall find ourselves among friends. The sounds of battle can be heard in the otherwise silent wilderness. We are listening to it without talking, leaning on our ski sticks.
-We shall no more use our old ski track from here on. It might be mined.
The Lieut is speaking in a low voice. I admit he is right and as we finally are able to proceed in the cover of darkness we are making a new ski track. We manage to slip through and I am feeling really happy after a long time.
Os. Pajari war diary extract: (Although far-fetched still the most relevant diary that I was able to locate. Tr.rem.)
Very intense shelling at all of our positions started. Enemy aerial activities are intense. At the front lines minor attack attempts so far.
Report by Lt. Pikkola of II Btn:
Messenger dog relayed a message from the front line informing that EVK has held their positions but the enemy has tried to break in at both wings. The Btns holding the main defence line have sent one Platoon to each of the wings of the EVK.
Saarelainen reported that Russki is trying to “wade” to the West at the Arteminen path. One of our Coys is resisting them and another has sent reinforcements. No emergency. Enemy has considerable force.
Maj. Sokajärvi reported from the C.P. Of Er.P.10 that Hyttinen's patrols have reported that enemies have been spotted at the Vaasanki road on the line 152-154 including 6 telephone lines.
Group CO message: S.-Pr shall be subordinated to Col. Pajari until further notice.
Next night an AA MG section [sic, 2 guns] shall arrive at Pajasvaara for the disposal of Os, Pajari .
Order to Sokajärvi, Er.P.10 and Er.P.9 shall be subordinated to him and he is to clear the Vaasanki road from enemies up to the Kotijoki crossroads. He is to secure with Er.P.9 Viitavaara to the West.
At the S and Middle Hautalammi lakes the enemy has crossed the road and dug in at the shore of Hautalammi.
Patrolling at Hautalammi, W of Haukijärvi, at Kivijärvi and Säynäjärvi. No enemy encountered.
One enemy Platoon has advanced for Iivinkylä to the direction of Hautalammi. They were forced to retreat.
Soka reporting that the attempt to open the Vaakseninen road has failed.
Hyttinen is moving in the old place held by Toppola. T. is moving to Viitavaara W.
Enemy has been all day very active everywhere. A bear aroused from hibernation cut telephone connections and caused a minor alert at the main defence line.
Snow camo suits are worn out.
Pössi reporting that the enemy has widened the road to Ketojärvi.
Patrol skirmishes at various places on Pössi's sector on the S side of the main road.
Enemy pressure from the direction of the Vaaksaus road at Saarelainen's outfit has been very strong.
Enemy attack at Er.P.9 tents has been beaten back. War booty includes 3 MG s.
Night was fairly calm.
Lively enemy patrolling during the night. Enemy patrols have been destroyed or beaten back.
Lively enemy shelling and aerial activities started at 0820hrs .
Enemy has been very active everywhere but they have been contained, they appear to be losing their grip. Great enemy casualties.
Enemy launched a heavy attack at Vieksinki.
Enemy attack at V-vaara has stalled. Nieminen wounded. Liaison with Leinonen interrupted.
Saarelainen is forcing the enemy to pull back. He is going to attack frontally if his flank strike is successful.
Enemy has dug in on the W shore of A-joki. Tanks are moving about. A strong patrol has been sent to defeat the enemy at the river shore.
Enemy pressure is increasing everywhere. Especially in the direction of Lugla the pressure is hard.
Enemy is retreating in the direction of V-vaara.
Karinen is chasing the enemy at the Kämppä terrain. Booty 7 MG s.
A strong enemy detachment coming to Kelojärvi, at least 1 Coy. Billeted in the 3 shacks to the South. Pössi has been issued orders to surprise the enemy.
At Aittosilta fighting is going on intensely. 1 POW, 1 MG taken.
Leimu's Battalion has been scattered. Leimu has not been heard of.
Vieksinki in enemy hands. A patrol has met a strong enemy outfit in the terrain of Kelojärvi.
A calmer night. In the morning the enemy started again lively action in every direction. Shelling very heavy specially in front of the main defence line-
Fighting going on.
Hänninen, at Särkijärvi, ordered to move to the Visa terrain.
Saarelainen report at 1115hrs: Enemy detachment wading, without snowsuits, crossing the river line. Was subjected to LMG fire. Enemy without skis. 10 to 12 skiers with them.
Enemies spotted at the Pyöreämäki terrain. The terrain is difficult to pass.
Enemy attempting to Pojas via Karsikkolammi. About 700 men on skis. Sokka and Teppola have been ordered to beat the enemy.
Toppola promises to beat the enemy which later happened.
Enemy losses: 120 KIA, rifles etc. as war booty. 7 POW
Enemy beaten also in the Tonni terrain. Enemy losses 150 KIA, 3 LMG, 70 rifles and other war booty.
RT. orders Pössi to use all their force to find out about enemy strength and axis of advance in the Kelojärvi terrain.
Pajari enquiring when Coy Kanerva and MG s can be expected to arrive at Ägläjärvi.
One weak Coy of ours is moving about 2km SW from Sp2, to support the securing of the transport column.
Cpl. Painilainen reports that the enemy, advancing from Särkijärvi, has cut the Tolva(järvi) – Ägläjärvi road.
Viljanen has been assigned the task of sweeping the rear. Kanerva set off at 0530hrs
At 0200hrs on the 25.1. about 50 enemies attacked at the Särkijärvi forest warden house. 8./JR16 and Jyrä set out to defeat the enemy.
Härminen is to move, after accomplishing his task, to the Joutsenlammi terrain as previously ordered . Jyrä shall continue with the task.
Enemy advancing in the Arteminkangas terrain. Without snowsuits.
Fighting in the direction of Vieksinki.
Enemy attack dying down at the sector.
Pössi's patrol has destroyed several enemy patrols and parts of baggage trains.
Saarelainen reporting: Our patrol has surprised enemy setting up bivouac. Plenty of enemy KIA. Enemy is digging down everywhere.
Enemy artillery started heavy shelling followed by an attack at the main road. EVK had to pull back because the pressure was hard and our troops very tired.
At the sectors of Sokka and Pössi as well as that of Saarelainen, fairly calm except patrolling. Artillery fire, both enemy and ours, has been lively all over the front. Enemy shelling has resulted in some casualties.
The resistance of EVK and the right wing was about to break down. Capt. Loimu was sent to organise the defence on the right wing. At the same time reconnoitring was extended up to Salonjärvi lake and in the front in the direction of the enemy.
The terrain of the Pylon is in enemy hands and they have set up a red rag in the pylon.
Enemy shelling again increased to intense.
Enemy has sent in the cover of darkness troops to map word Alajoki “i”. The enemy is to be defeated, being few in number.
An enemy detachment of one platoon spotted at our extreme wing about 1 km to S, skiing for W.
Enemy is still moving around in bands of about 20 men, at the E perimeter of the forest, presenting themselves on the open ground. By yelling and shooting about they are trying to make us reveal our auto weapons and other positions.
Incoming shelling constant at a rapid rate.
Russki keeps trying to attack at the main road. Advancing attempt supported by 3 tanks. Our artillery scored a square hit at the first tank which caught fire. Enemy towed it to the rear. Direct fire of fired guns at the blabbering Russkies caused confusion. Our men are very tired. Enemy artillery is harassing our positions constantly.
Russki artillery pieces detected at Arteminen, map word Rajakankaat “aj” and bivouac area at map word “Artem”. Bivouacs also on the dry ground beyond the river at the cleared line in the forest direction SW,distance about 1 km, and at the river inflow N of this. Requesting artillery support.
Coy Pössi given permission to move in the terrain W of Northern Heinälammi. To be effected on the morning of the 27th 1.
Toppola has been promoted to Major.
Enemy started heavy shelling which is going on. It was confirmed that the Vitsavaara pylon taken by Russki has been destroyed by our shelling.
The night was fairly calm. Only mutual artillery activities.
Calm at Sokajärvi.
Toppola reporting: our patrol has reconnoitred the Vaaksaus road S of the “red bridge”, finding enemy trenches dug in snow. Most likely to secure the road traffic. N of Pt.143 to the direction of Hautalammit there is a Russki path (likely on our old supply road).
Enemy artillery fire is going on intensely.
Hyttinen reporting: Patrolling going on.
It has been found that the enemy has a supply road across the Middle Hautalammi lake. Ambush as been set up there.
Enemy shelling heavily, Casualties include just one WIA.
3.K and 7.K of III Btn subordinated to Penttilä.
A logging camp house held by the enemy is burning due to our shelling. Also in front of our main defence line at V-vaara the enemy has been shelled by our artillery.
Enemy appears to be retreating all along the line. They are holding on to their positions S of the main road.
Quite calm PM. Only occasional artillery shots.
Our patrol has detected enemies at the “red bridge”. They have been fired at.
Enemy found to be retreating at the direction A-silta – Vuontele. Sounds of vehicles have been heard.
Calm all the night so far. The men are tired.
Our troops are attempting to advance by using battle patrols. In the direction of the main road the target is the previous EVK positions.
Silence continuing. Battle patrols have engaged the enemy in several locations.
Aircraft paid a morning visit. Accomplished nothing.
Saarelainen's field stronghold (sic) reached the Vaaksaus road.
Patrol Pössi surprised an enemy outfit retreating S, in the terrain E of the S tip of Särkijärvi.15 to 20 KIA enemies. Enemy keeps retreating in the direction of Kelojärvi.
His patrol had reached the W shore of Vegarus finding the S part of the village inhabited by the enemy. On the Tervaniemi bay about 200 Russkies had been in closed order drill as three Finnish fighters strafed them with machine guns and dropping bombs. [A case of friendly fire? Tr.rem]
Enemy retreating from Vieksinki heading for Korpijärvi.
All evening very calm. Enemy appears to be digging in for defence on the E side of Aittojoki river.
Puhakka's patrol has crossed the Vaaksaus road. No enemy. Continuing to the Vegarus road.
Report: 2 big a/c flying above the Vegarus – Vuontele road and 3km W of it.
All night quite calm.
Patrol activities very lively on the entire sector, and fruitful. Enemy contact upheld all the time.
House-warming party at the new dugout, pleasantly up to small hours. Col. Pajari made several patriotic speeches, emphasizing the importance of our cause. Lampén answered in behalf of the junior officers, emphasizing what effect the example of the leader had on the troops.
Calm night. Enemy stayed in their previous positions.
Patrolling constantly up to the rear of the enemy.
The field stronghold liquidated 6 Russkies in front of their positions.
It was found that the enemy is retreating S of the river line Kivijärvi – Säynäjärvi.
Also the enemy has withdrawn from Vieksinki.
His patrol has liquidated in the terrain N of Kivijärvi 1 + 6 enemy MG men and 12 riflemen and caught a detachment (about 2 Platoons) marching to Sivilä. Harassed them by firing, one enemy KIA.
Rare visitors received:
A British MP was familiarizing with our circumstances. He was accompanied by Gen. Maj. Talvela with his staff officers.
Pössi has been issued orders to destroy the huts in the S terrain.
Day has passed calmly.
(end of day)
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One day at Muolaa church hill
“Kansa Taisteli” 03. 1962
7./JR4, Winter War . Muolaa.
The stronghold on the Muolaa church hill may have been one of the most peculiar battlegrounds of the Winter War. The trench had been dug in a cemetery There it zigzagged between headstones and crosses from the shore of Kirkkojärvi lake up to the wall of the church nearest to the road. The rest of the trench followed the stone fence. The troop dugout was situated in the cemetery among graves. The communication trench to this large dugout had uncovered a coffin which had to be straddled over. The door of the dugout was pointing right at the enemy positions on the far side of Kirkkojärvi. In daytime it was advisable to enter or exit the dugout by creeping only if one did not want to be targeted by enemy snipers.
My Squad had been accommodated in the morgue of the same cemetery. The roof had been reinforced with a layer of logs and another of rocks. Our dugout was not very large, there was room only for two men to sleep while the rest had to sit side by side. When heavy shells were landing this dugout would sway like the Northern Express.
7.K/JR40, our outfit, had manned the Kirkonmäki stronghold end of January 1940. It had been fought over starting early December and at times it had been in enemy hands. The church had burned down so that only the walls were standing. Daily shelling was chipping the stone walls ever more down. As to its location the stronghold did not allow neither entry nor exit in daytime. It was surrounded by open field totally dominated by enemy fire. It is true that Sappers were digging a communication trench across the field to make our life easier but it had not been completed by the time the stronghold was abandoned. Our outfit was supplied in darkness, evening and morning, only if fighting was not going on.
It was the 11th February 1940, a clear frosty day such as the days of the Winter War often were. It was a quiet and silent morning. The supply men had arrived with their “soup train” to the gate of the cemetery where food was distributed. We were just receiving our rations, asking for news, the field kettles clinked and dry snow was squeaking under our boots. The enemy may have heard this extra sound. Suddenly there was a loud explosion, as if a shell would have hit the church ruins. Clumps of earth were flying through the air. The supply men and their horses left and we left for our dugouts, without paying any more attention to the recent bang.
We had just started our meal as in rushed Pvt. Munne, who had been at the listening post at the tank hindrance line. He was very much out of breath having run fast but still he was able to shout:
-So you b*ds are still lingering here? They are attacking and blowing up the mines as they come. Get in the line at once, every one of you!
Our meal was interrupted, the last meal for a number of us. We grabbed our guns and ran for our positions as fast as we could. The foxholes of my Squad were situated on the extreme right wing near the church behind the cemetery stone fence. By routine every man easily found his own foxhole. We had manned our positions several times already.
Pvt. Lauri Hermunen of my Squad had been the sentry. I was advised by him about the situation. He had not seen enemies but heard the explosion and seen flames in the direction of the road at the tank hindrance line.
Together we were attentively observing no-man's-land but saw nothing. It was so dark that we were not able to see well enough the tank hindrance line 200m off from us. After a while there was a flash of light at the tank hindrance, as if someone had struck a match. We speculated that those who had set off the recent explosion were now lighting up to get a smoke to sooth their nerves. We fired a few shots at the spot of the flash but seeing nothing we quit shooting.
Then there was another flash at the tank hindrance and the surroundings were shaken by a tremendous explosion. Clods of dirt was raining on us and the surroundings were covered by a black cloud of smoke. As it finally dissipated we saw two big gaps in the tank hindrance line. An enemy soldier in white camo was running on the field near the edge of the forest. We fired several shots at him, missing, since the distance was about 400m. Once at the edge of the forest he swung his arm, as if to greet us and signalling his F.O.O.s to open up.
Indeed soon enough we heard the enemy artillery firing followed by whine of shells and explosions in our line. We crouched in ouf foxholes. An artillery barrage, a rain of steel had started. An ear deafening rumble prevented us from hearing anything else. Single explosions could not be separated from the rest. The cemetery papered to be boiling, clouds of sand dimmed the air. The enemy appeared to have determined to wipe out the entire church hill, at least we thought so. We were not able to move anywhere from our foxholes. We were there like moles in their holes. The time appeared to have totally stopped. The hellish rumbling went on hour after hour. Crouching in a small foxhole a man felt himself tiny compared with what was going on around us.
Yet even this barrage hand an end. After four hours, at noon, the shells were now passing us overhead and landing behind us as another barrage. When getting up from our foxholes I could immediately see that none of the men of my Squad had been wounded. The stone fence of the cemetery had sheltered us. The other Squads had not been equally lucky, because the trench down the slope had been badly mauled. Many a man had seen the end of their war. One of them was my good friend Cpl. Toivo Tani who was covered by the sand of the cemetery
We were looking around, not recognizing the place as the same four hours ago. Little of the church walls remained, all big trees had fallen over, tombstones and crosses broken or vanished. Although it was winter no snow was visible. There were no communication trenches any more. When looking at the edge of the forest beyond the field covered by white snow, there were tanks driving on the field, and they were coming as if from a conveyor, a total of 28 tanks. It was a grand and also terrible sight, considering that we had no AT weapons at all save some Molotov cocktails.
The tanks started moving in a file at the gap blown up by that “tovarich” in the morning. A caravan of death was approaching our line. The first tanks reached the gap in the AT hindrance line and kept approaching. Soon they were at the wire.
My heart was pounding and my blood was running hot. The next moment the wire was flattened. Terrified we were watching the approach of the tanks. Our only safety were our rifles, the cemetery stone wall and Molotov cocktails. The black muzzles of the tank cannons were pointing at us. Their MG s were shooting so that sparks were flying off the stones of the cemetery fence. There were seven tanks heading for the line of my Squad. It was our plan to throw the bottles just as the tanks would be crossing the stone fence because then we would find ourselves in dead angle.
We were still crouching there behind the stone fence. The rumble of tanks kept approaching but nothing seemed to be coming across the stone fence. Fleetingly I had a wish for satchel charges but there were none. We did not dare to put up our heads enough to see beyond the stone fence. Finally, as there was nothing to be heard just beyond the fence we in turn stood up to observe.
The seven tanks were driving at our right at a distance of 20m, heading behind our line, then fanning out on the field between the Vicarage and the cemetery with a distance of 30m between each of them, turning so that their weapons were pointing at our backs. Another seven tanks had spread in front of our stronghold positions, about 30 m off from our line and seven more grouped in the same manner against the line of the II Platoon on our right. The remaining seven tanks stayed behind the AT hindrance line, maybe waiting for their infantry.
There was the narrow Kirkkojärvi lake to the left of our positions, totally under enemy fire. So we found ourselves in a “kettle” and there was nothing else to do but fight.
As soon as the tanks had completed their grouping, from the edge of the forest where the tanks had come from, enemy infantrymen started emerging like rabbits from a conjurer's hat. They started creeping and crawling over the field at our positions. Slowly but certainly they were advancing in the thick snow.
I was looking at the tank nearest to me 30 m off, there was the cemetery stone fence between us. I lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it at the tank, but my hasty throw missed the target. The tankers spotted my throw and retaliated with a few shells, hitting the stone fence so that shards were flying.
We sought spots where we would be able to shoot, covered from the murderous fire of the tanks, at the black mass of infantry congregating on the field. The first enemy infantrymen would soon be at our range and we had to engage them. We draw a bead at the nearest enemies, squeezed the trigger and so lifeless lumps started falling on the snow.
Our casualties, to, started mounting. Our Platoon leader 2nd Lt. Martti Hyvärinen had come to our Squad to find out about the situation. He put his head up too high and took splinters of a shell fired by a tank in his body. Hyvärinen started creeping for the dugout having wished us luck in this battle. The first of my men to fall was Pvt. Syrjänen, hit by a tank MG right in his forehead, dying instantly. A moment later Cpl. Kovasiipi was very badly wounded.
As the enemy infantry was still 300 m from our line all our serviceable men of our Platoon joined the battle. Both of our MG s were firing long bursts, sweeping down the closest enemies and forcing the rest to stay put and low.
My fate was decided at about 1400hrs as I still was among the men of my Squad behind the cemetery stone fence. We were just firing at the enemy as suddenly I blacked out...The next place I was able to recognize was the big dugout I mentioned earlier. There were but wounded men around me, some had a broken arm or leg, others were otherwise damaged. Some were in great pain that could not be relieved in those conditions. It was a very depressing view to behold. Paramedics told me that I had been concussed and hit by splinters by a shell fired by a tank some 3 to 4 hours ago. I tried to sit up but in vain.
The battle was raging on just as earlier in the day and the situation was unaltered. Some of the enemies had made it to the tank hindrance line which means they were 200m from our trench. We the wounded were being relayed information by our less severely wounded comrades who were guarding near the dugout. The wounded were desperate for help and it was expected to be coming at the onset of darkness.
As darkness descended on the theatre our men took the initiative. Sappers set off with their satchel charges and Molotov cocktails. First they took out the seven tanks in our rear on the Vicarage field plus one of the ones in front of our trench. The rest started withdrawing by the same route as they had arrived. The enemy infantry on the other hand stayed in the positions they had advanced to during the day.
As the Vicarage field was now free from enemy tanks the expected aid arrived. Capt. Lillia's Company, of our JR4, arrived to relieve our Coy from the duty of defending the Muolaa church hill stronghold. The exhausted brothers in arms of our Company had been able to hold their positions, unwavering, against many-fold overwhelming enemy. Now, many a man was shedding a tear of relief and others were sighing with relief as Capt. Lillia, the CO of the relieving Coy, entered the dugout. He was fearless and confident looking and told us at once that help was at hand. Ahkio sleds for the wounded were waiting outside, the very moment as many an invalided wounded man was getting desperate. We were loaded on the transports and our journey for hospital started. The bodies of our brothers who had made the supreme sacrifice were placed side by side outside the dugout. It was promised that they would be evacuated later.
The battleground had turned silent, only occasional rifle shots were ringing out in the starry night. On the Vicarage field there were in flames the tanks knocked out by the Sappers, their ammunition was cooking off in the heat. Our route passed them at a short distance. After our Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Hyvärinen had been wounded, Sgt. Hellman took over. It was due to his fearlessness and leadership that the enemy infantry had not been able to advance up to our trench. Our sharp-eyed riflemen must also be remembered, their accurate fire made many an enemy lay their head down forever on the field next to the Church hill. I wish to mention Pvt. Jalmari Vainikka who said that he had scored that day forty-eight definite kills.
As Capt. Lillia's men relieved us at the Church hill stronghold the surviving ten men of our Platoon were still holding the line led by Sgt. Hellman. Our initial strength had comprised some 40 men. The Grim Reaper had indeed had a busy day. Many a good man had been lost. Yet the opponent had lost many times more and that day they did not take the Muolaa Church hill.
P.S. Capt. Lillia fell at Muolaa Church on the 13th Feb.1940
III/JR4 war diary extract: (the only relevant source, unfortunately incomplete for the day and the next, implying error in digitalization)
Even more heavy shelling of the entire sector started .
Russkies blew a gap in the dragon's teeth line on both sides of the road S of Muolaa church.
Tanks have been spotted advancing on the road for the church.
All communications to the front line are cut off, liaison by Runners only.
Church hill reporting by Runner:
Shelling in decreasing, an attack is expected.
½ Platoon of 1.K have been sent for reinforcement to the Church hill
(Request: one Squad to the Vicarage, another to the Church)
Another ½ Platoon to the Forest Isthmus to reinforce Lahti.
An AT squad has been sent to Tuunila (?).
Earlier one AT squad had bee posted at the end of the Communication trench.
Order to the MG ½ Platoon to take positions on both sides of the AT dugout on the side of the church.
Report by the CO, sent at 1115hrs:
Enemy has rallied in jump-off positions near the MG Hill at the edge of the forest. The Stronghold has taken a strong shelling. The trench is full of earth and snow. One KIA, one WIA.
Artillery F.O.O. Reporting ( Jukonen) that every communication line broken only radio contact to the rear is left. Optical telegraph is not working at Luumäki.
-Enemy has advanced to the open ground by now.
This info has been forwarded to the Rgt HQ and request to shell targets nos 1202, 1209, 1210 and the area between them, by Lukko 2.
A man has been sent to liaise with the church (stronghold).
Russkies attacking on the Pöllälä side, focal point on the right limit of the sector.
3 tanks at the hindrance line. (sent at 1220hrs)
½ Platoon sent to assist at Pölllälä, and an AT Squad.
Timonen reporting at 1240hrs:
7 tanks advancing toward the left limit of the sector. Three columns at the hindrance line. Requesting more men.
8 tanks have broken through the line on the Church hill.
Enemy preparing to attack.
Requesting more men and Molotov cocktails.
Liaison with Pöllä 2, promised to send here 1 AT gun and one MG platoon for support
In front of the dugout (?) there are 2 tanks firing direct fire at the MG positions. X cannot fire. MG and CP dugouts taken square hits, no casualties.
Tanks have broken through, advancing on the road
4 tanks have crossed the hindrance line at the left limit of the sector, advancing toward the road. Enemy is advancing in the cover of armour plates. Plates are 1 m in height.
Report from Peltola:
14 tanks at the stone hindrance line. None have crossed the hindrance line. Inf. advancing in the cover of armour plates.
Report by Lehti:
5 tanks have crossed the hindrance in the middle of the sector.
A LMG squad 1+8 (men of 8.K) sent to support Koistinen's stronghold.
Some tanks have broken through. AT gun opened fire. The number is not known.
4 tanks at the Vicarage, 2 advanced on in the direction of Koriala.
An AT gun arrived at the CP dugout, they were sent on to take a position at Pöllälä.
Timonen reporting at 14.50:
Enemy inf. has advanced to the stone hindrance. In the front 4 tanks shooting up the stone hindrance.
Kuhanen reporting: 4 tanks have broken through at his stretch of the sector.
Assistance has been sent home to the schoolhouse (?)
Russkies are at the stone hindrance.
Timonen reporting at 15.50hrs:
Tanks that broke through are firing at our positions from the rear. Inf. 150m from our positions. There are at least 28 tanks in front of us.
Request to shell the hindrance at Pölläkkälä by Lukko 2.
Phone connection to Lahti. There already more calm.
There are still 6 tanks at the Vicarage. Observable by sound alone. Turret guns in action.
End of page !
War Dead database extract:
Tani, Toivo Vilhelm ; Cpl ;B. 04.06.1915 Sippola ;D. 11.02.1940 Muolaa ;
Age 24 ;JR 4 ;KIA, evacuated and buried ;Buried Lappeenranta, Military cemetery ;
Occupation farmer ;no children
Syrjänen, Sulo ; Pvt ;B. 01.03.1910 Luumäki ;D. 11.02.1940 Muolaa
Age 29 ;JR 4 ;KIA, disappeared ;Gravestone in Luumäki, Military cemetery;
Occupation worker ; no children
Lillia, Pehr Georg ; Capt. ;B.16.03.1904 Tampere ; D.13.02.1940, Muolaa
Age 35 ;JR 4, II Btn ;KIA, disappeared ;Headstone in Kuopio, Military Cemetry ; Occupation Officer ;2 children
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To the last man
Kansa Taisteli 03, 1963
Delaying action on the Carelian Isthmus in early December 1939. JR11 (“Ässä”)
At the outbreak of the Winter War on the Western Carelian Isthmus the front line was held by II AC, their delaying troops included Group Uusikirkko which covered the Viipuri-Rajajoki railway line and Viipuri-Uusikirkko-Rajajoki main road. The first battle was fought at Vammelsuu where they repulsed the enemy attacks in the first days of December.
When it was reported that the enemy would have landed in the rear and advanced from Kivennapa far into NW – this was a false report – the AC shifted the Group Uusikirkko troops in the rear as early as 2nd December, past Uusikirkko to Pelppola.
Russian troops advanced at a surprising speed on the middle parts of the Isthmus Viipuri. Consequently most troops of the Group Uusikirkko were pulled behind the Main defence line on the night 5th to 6th December. Yet Group Uusikirkko still had forward units in front of the Main defence line delaying the enemy.
The following story describes the action of reinforced 1./JR 11 from the 7th to 9th December in the terrain of Tuitunmäki situated on the isthmus between lakes Halolanjärvi and Halilanjärvi (sic) .
I was serving in the ranks of “Ässä” regiment JR11 both during the Winter War and the Continuation war. My rank in the beginning of the war was Private but I considered myself a Guardsman because I had done my compulsory military service in 1923-1924 in the Carelian Guards Regiment in Viipuri.
It was the 7th December 1939 as we received our baptism of fire. We had joked that the 1.K shall become the reception committee. Now our reinforced Company led by Capt. T.H.Luukko was to set up a reception for the invader in behalf of Ässä regiment.
We were stationed in the Carelian Isthmus, a place called Tuitunmäki situated W of Uusikirkko. The place was split by a deep river valley with a fast flowing but just three meters wide river, at the demolished bridge it was closer to four. There was a makeshift bridge now made up of logs and a handrail. Downstream there was a dam and a pond created by the dam. On the W side of the river there was a wide hillside ending on a stretch of level ground. There was a village and we were billeted in it. On the slope we had placed a couple of MG s in positions and rifle nests. In the front line we had a field stronghold manned that day by the I Platoon. It was led by Cpl. Veikko Niemelä.
Res. 2nd Lt. Poldnin's Platoon had been sent farther forward and they stopped the Russian spearhead at Kuujärvi on the 7th Dec but disengaged after an intense fight. It was already dark as sounds of intense shooting started emerging from the direction of the field stronghold. Coy CO ordered the III Platoon led by 2nd Lt. Mauno Hailikari to get there as soon as possible.
We ran across the bridge. The sounds of battle could be heard loud. Having reached the top of the opposite bank of the river bullets started whistling about us. I had been familiar with that music in 1918. At that time I was living in Viipuri, Loikkanen suburb. I had seen the war as I had less than 16 years of age and was not able to fear. I was picking up lead shrapnel bullets while they were hot and once the pressure wave of a shell threw me down. Supported by these memories I was now entering my first battle.
We heard the stomping of an approaching group of men in the terrain. Among the sounds of battle we also heard the voice of Cpl. Niemelä, loud and clear, as he led the withdrawal of his Platoon. He did not appear to be panicking although the attacking enemy outfit appeared to be strong. As our Platoon liaised with him Niemelä shook Hailikari's hand and thanking us for coming to help.
2nd Lt. Hailikari ordered his platoon to man the right side of the road. Niemelä's Platoon fanned out to the left. Next we were ordered to advance to meet the enemy heads-on. Cpl. Ahola remarked that it is not possible to advance on open field under that kind of fire. Hallikari rose into fury, he was standing there with pistol in his hand, repeating his order. Our Squad led by Cpl. Sulo Aaltonen was nearest to the road. Aaltonen, too, appeared to hesitate, maybe waiting to see how the other Squads would react. I took the initiative because the order had been to advance.
As we were setting off I saw that our LMG gunner whom we called “Red Beard” started going backwards. I ran after him, grabbing his arm and asking:
-Where are you going? The order was to go forward. You are needed here !
“Red beard” followed me. We caught up with our Squad waiting for us. We were advancing at a brisk rate. We took some fire from house ruins at us. We had to cross a couple of barbed wire fences. Crossing the second one I was pretty well stuck from my trouser bottom, standing up. Bullets appeared to be passing just next to my ears. With a hard pull I heard how fabric was torn and I was free. Relieved I went on.
Having advanced some 75 to 100 meters we took positions in the ruin of a burnt down house. Now we found ourselves near the enemies because we could hear them talk. Looking around we found out to our astonishment that there were no friends on either side of us. Our other Squads had not been able to advance on the open ground. There was a lively mutual shooting going on.
We found ourselves between two fires and in a predicament. Should we try to get back we would run the risk of getting under friendly fire in the darkness. The best option was to stay there and refrain from opening fire. There was but a squad of us and one LMG.
A line of enemies was approaching, the right wing was advancing fast. Soon they would reach us, so our situation was turning serious. About fifteen minutes had passed by now. Should we start pulling back, no matter what ? Yet we were aware how dangerous it would be.
Minutes passed, the tension was next to unbearable due to the approach of the enemy. Finally we heard a most welcome shout behind us. It was our Platoon Runner Pvt. Joutsen. We responded with joy:
-We are here !
He relayed us the order to pull back.
Those of us who survived of the Squad Aaltonen shall always remember Joutsen's voice. That time he relieved us from a rather dire situation.
For a while our entire outfit kept giving intense fire and soon Hailikari ordered a retreat. We made it to the rest of us unscathed. It was our luck that the enemy had kept firing too high, over us.
There was a barn in full flames on our side next to the bridge, illuminating the entire locality as we ran in a file on the logs across the river. In our opinion someone had torched the barn all too early. If the enemy had followed us up to the river bank we would have been excellent targets while crossing the river. Now we managed to get back to the positions of our Company without casualties. Admittedly we were quite out of breath and sweating due to tension and running.
Having panted for a while I asked 2nd Lt Hailikari:
-Did anyone break down the bridge ?
-I think it was done.
-Who would have done that without order? I asked the men next to me.
-Who wants to join me? I think we would allow the enemy to cross the river too easily if we leave the bridge intact. I want to do at least some mischief so that they should not be able to get on this side dry.
Since no one was willing to join me I set off alone. I had thought it would be an easy task to break the bridge but I found it had been built by Sappers and tied with steel wire. Also I was fearing to get an enemy bullet in my back at any moment. Finally I thrust my bayonet between the wires and by twisting I managed to break the wires one at a time. It took a lot of time but since I had taken the task I decided to finish it. Finally, having cut loose the logs I grabbed one at one end, it was terribly heavy but finally I was able to lift it up and throw it in the river. The same moment I stumbled down with it. While falling I managed to grab some steel wires and pulled myself up. Fortunately there were no enemies seen on the opposite slope yet. The second log followed. Now I was able to leave this unpleasant place with good conscience. Having climbed up the slope some 10 m I spotted to my delight Aaltonen with his rifle at a fence nearby. He had been securing my task all the time. Had I known this I would not have worried so much.
Soon 2nd Lt. Saramies came up and told me that three land mines had been abandoned at the bridge. Sappers were supposed to plant them but as the sounds of battle was approaching they quit their task. The mines should be retrieved for later use now. In my opinion it would be more safe to do this not until the barn had burned down and it would be dark. A moment later I reconsidered, however. If the mines were retrieved immediately the task would be done and over with. They would in any case be more useful anywhere but there where they found themselves.
I set off. I had not spotted the mines before but now I carried them up the slope to our trench one at a time. Saramies secured me with his rifle.
The rest of the night was spent in readiness but it was calm. Capt. Luukko had set up the Company for defence 2nd Lt. Saramies had taken positions with an 8 man squad in a stone cowshed on the bank of the river.
In the morning of 8th Dec the enemy continued the attack they had interrupted the previous night. Heavy fighting went on until PM. Our MG s were used with great effect. Enemies were attacking in dense formations and the result was corresponding. They also brought one of their MG s at the bridge. Our LMG gunners killed its crew several times but each time another replacement appeared.
PFC Metsola with his machine gunners distinguished themselves in their open gun pit under shelling. In the beginning of the battle Cpl. Niemelä was standing up while observing the enemy movement with his binocular. His men told him to get down but he was in a ferocious mood and did not pay attention.
Our men did a good day's work but finally the enemy masses managed to get over on our side. We had to start retreating in the night 8./9. December. 2nd Lt. Saramies sent one man to get more LMGs for his squad. He kept on fighting fiercely in the stone cow shed although the risk of getting trapped was obvious. Capt. Luukko had sent him order to retreat but Saramies kept seeking fat targets and stayed put.
The man sent to get LMGs was not able to get back to Saramies any more because the enemy had already managed to infiltrate between the cowshed and our positions. This man, the sole survivor of his Squad told as a witness of the battle led by 2nd Lt. Saramies:
-The cow shed had been turned into a small fortress and attacking enemies were met with lively fire from every side. The LMG s led by the Lieut and his gallant assistant Sgt. Grönfors swept the terrain almost clean of enemies several times until they were out of ammunition. Finally only single rifle shots were heard. The enemy started using heavier weapons to break down the defence of that obstinate weapons nest. The defenders fell one after the other. Thus our Squad fell to the last man in their positions.
Battle was raging on also on the main line. Pvt. Kusmin collapsed, bloodied. The men next to him thought he was gone but one of his comrades tried to drag the badly wounded man in safety. Both men were taken POW and returned after the war.
After our retreat the house where our Platoon had been billeted was soon full of enemies, the yard was teeming with them. LMG gunner Nurmi, the last one of us at a distance of 50m from them, was not able to abandon a good chance but kept firing burst after burst at ever self-replacing targets. After this final greeting he felt able to follow us with good conscience.
Aaltonen's and Rissanen's squads were left in rear securing. Men were coming in small groups and one by one. We were asking them if any more men would be coming. We were told that nobody would be coming any more. We waited for a while but no one came. A little earlier Capt. Luukko had passed, leading a bullock and saying:
-We shall need this one one of these days.
That was true.
We withdrew. Soon we met our men but Niemelä's Platoon was still missing. Suddenly we heard creaking from the direction we had come from. “Red Beard” opened at once fire in that direction. I struck up the barrel of his LMG.
-Are your crazy? It could be Niemelä's Platoon, they are not yet here !
We had to wait for a long time. We were afraid that the recent burst had hit them. “Red Beard” was too impulsive to be a LMG gunner, so his weapon was entrusted to another man's hands. As we again started retreating I on purpose left myself as the last man. I was plodding after the others sunken in gloomy thoughts.
After proceeding about one kilometre I was suddenly startled. Two rifles supported on branches were pointing at me. There were two men in a securing duty, and Capt. Luukko behind them. He asked me:
-Are there any more coming this way?
-Anything about Lieut Saramies or Sarge Grönfors?
That was the final reception formality. We withdrew on the 9th December evening via Pihkala to the main defence line at Hatjalahti bay.
We had received our baptism by fire.
JR 11 I Battalion war diary extract is the only surviving document for this incident
Weather: Cloudy, +1C, W wind.
At 10.40hrs 3 enemy observation a/c flew over our area. They fired with MG when over the men working at the Sillanpää position. Pikkala village was burnt down. 1 gun of the AT battery was subordinated to II Battery at 20.00hrs
Weather : Foggy, poor visibility
22.20hrs arrived a report with Lt. Lahtinen:
Luukko is in positions on the Sirkiä- Tuittu line. To the right from us. Sotisaari on the line Kaukjärvi S tip – 49,7 River valley - Mamia. Capt. Luukko has beaten back enemy attacks. He has remained in his positions to wait for eventual enemy attacks tomorrow. One man KIA.
22.00hrs CO left for Rgt HQ for briefing.
Weather: Semi cloudy, moderate visibility.
1.K engaging the enemy all day. Tuittu today in delaying action 1 Officer 2 NCO 6 men (2nd Lt. Saramies).
A reinforced Officer patrol sent 2.K to reconnoitre the road Station- Tuittinen road.
Enemy was staying overnight at Tuittinen. 2.K had not yet engaged the enemy.
Weather: Cloudy -6C
Btn CP moved to the CP dugout in the terrain at 0745hrs.
At 13.40hrs enemy fired 3 shells at our area.
At 18.00hrs 2.K was tasked send out a reinforced patrol. Mission: engage the enemy and take POWs if possible. Great risk of freezing [weapons?]
War dead database extract: Casualties of JR11 on the 8th December 1939 at Uusikirkko.
Saramies (ent. Cederberg), Carl Johan ; 2nd Lt. ; b.13.03.1908 Joensuu ;d.08.12.1939 Makula, Uusikirkko ;Age 31 ;JR 11 ; KIA, disappeared ; Gravestone in Helsinki, Hietaniemi; Occupation: agronom
Grönfors, Kaarle Kalervo ; Sgt. ;b.28.09.1909 Helsinki ;d.08.12.1939 Uusikirkko ;Age 30 ;JR 11, I Btn, 1. Coy ; KIA, disappeared ; Gravestone in Helsinki, Hietaniemi Occupation: Salesman
Appelroth, Martti Hjalmar ;Pvt. ; b.01.10.1910 Padasjoki ;d.08.12.1939 Uusikirkko ;Age 29 ;JR 11, I Btn, 1. Coy ; KIA, disappeared ; Occupation: house painter
Forselius, Viljo Oskari ;Pvt. ;b.30.11.1912 Nurmijärvi ;d.08.12.1939 Uusikirkko ;Age 27 ;JR 11, I Btn, 1. Coy ; KIA, disappeared ; Gravestone in Helsinki, Hietaniemi; Occupation: Construction worker ;1 child.
KIA 7th December, JR 11
Häkälä, Alpo Mikael ; Pvt ; b. 24.12.1916 Porvoo ; d. 7.12.1939 Kuolemajärvi ; age 22 ;JR11, III Btn, 7.K ;KIA, disappeaared ; Gravestone in Porvoo ; Occupation: Worker
Pvt. Joutsen fell later:
Joutsen, Toivo Henrik ; Pvt. ; b.18.08.1914 ;d.03.03.1940 Uuras, Viipuri ;Age 25 ;JR 11, I Btn, 1. K ; KIA ; Buried in Helsinki, Malmi ; Occupation: forest worker
Kusmin not found in the list of POWs.
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Lotta in first line
“Kansa Taisteli” 03, 1963
The date was 31st August 1941. We were advancing from Valkjärvi to Rautu (Carelian Isthmus). I was a catering Lotta in the 6th Coy of JR2. Since the outfit I was serving in was infantry we marched. Of course I was among the men, cooking food. The march was extremely arduous but I was encouraged knowing that we were approaching my home region. My excitement increased the closer to the boundary between Valkjärvi and Rautu we came. Every step was taking me closer to the places where I had played as a child. I had not seen my ancestral home for years. Yet it was impossible to forget the memories of childhood. Egged on by my memories of home I tried to keep pace with my field kitchen on the muddy road in a drizzly rain.
Finally we arrived at a road only five kilometres from my home...But why is the column turning? Why cannot we take the main road, why the forest road now? Indeed...we are heading for the national border. Border...indeed, this word was like a cannon shot for my ears. I had been told about our mighty neighbour beyond the border who was able to crush everything we loved by the smallest twitch. He had twitched and now we were reclaiming what was ours. Would we have the strength to complete the task?
I had seen the Death Valley and heard all the horror stories associated with it from the days of the War for Liberation (1918). Yet I never had seen the actual border. I never dared to approach the border line although I had lived next to it. The border was like the death itself, one could not approach it. It kind of poisoned everything near it...
Why did my legs feel so uncommon heavy ? I tried to keep lifting them but they are not obeying, I have to drag them. Why does the column not stop ? I am not able to go on any more. I can see as if through fog the silent road and an endless looking procession of men wearing dirty grey gear trudging on . The last in the procession is the field kitchen which I had to follow.
I almost collided with the field kitchen. It had stopped, the column was having a break. I stoked the firebox. The men were talking to me. I answered something. I do not know what I said, they laughed. At my answer ? The man who was asking the question did not give up. I came to...there was standing front of me a young handsome and dapper man, the Company CO, Captain, who was wounded soon after this. Had my fatigue been detected? Anyway the CO asked me about the names of the villages nearby. I listed more of them than was needed. The names sounded amazingly beautiful in my ears. Even my fatigue was as if wiped off. We set off and my local knowledge was tested often.
It was only afterwards that the enquiry by the CO was useful, it relieved my mind. I felt that I was needed and I had again energy to go on... White pieces of fabric had appeared to prevent the men from crowding. Being the last one I did not need one. I knew that we are arriving at Kärsälä village and soon there was an order to bivouac. We were assigned a patch of pine forest in the middle of a field.
After a meal the Company went on. The Admin platoon stayed there. The Staff Sergeant told me that an undamaged sauna had been found and they were to stay there overnight. A platform had been spared for me to sleep on. Although I knew I would be safe there I did not want to sleep there because it had not been cleaned after the enemy. I set up my bed in the old place under the four wheel cart. My bed was nothing to boast of. It consisted of a blanket, which was both my mattress and cover. The gas mask bag was my pillow and my field bed was completed. I opened my collar and belt, changed my socks. I turned my skirt hem double to keep it off from my skin so that it would dry better.
So I was ready to sleep on the grass of my home parish protected against rain by a load of proviant. Scarcely had I crossed my hands and say the first words of my childhood evening prayer before I fell asleep.
I felt myself in the terrain between sleep and wake as there appeared to be an inexplicable force shaking me awake. Sleep was stronger until I heard an anxious voice next to the cart:
Lotta P*e, get up, there are enemies all over the place !
It was Pvt. Hurri who was seeking the LMG from the load. But since he could not make it work he dropped it next to me and started running for the sauna.
I was left alone with the enemy, almost eye to eye. I did not have my boots on neither my coat. For a second I was feeling a tremendous panic. But where could I flee ? It did not make sense to start crossing the open field. I also had no idea who was firing from the forest, friends or enemies. Anyway the field was surrounded by forest on three sides. The fourth side was where the enemy was coming to me, as if in a bag. Quickly I decided to stay put. I trusted our men who knew where I was. They would not let me down in case there was any chance to save me.
I certainly did not find myself in a nice situation. Whether fired at by friends or foes I was always in the risk zone. I briefly admitted myself the chance of becoming a POW. What would be my fate in imprisonment, as a woman wearing a Lotta uniform ? I broke in cold sweat thinking about it. I had volunteered for war, moreover promising never to show fear. Now I had to withstand this. Either to live or to die, no other alternative. Dear G*d, help me to summon my courage ! -I defeated my fear and regained my energy.
I was just putting on my coat and my boots as a man came up to me. I had guessed right, it was Pvt. Lukin, the driver of the four wheel cart. Now the LMG was tested again and now it agreed to co-operate. I heard how I was ordered to take cover but it never occurred to me to do that. There was a Finnish soldier by my side defending my life. Now it was the moment for me to fulfil my promise, to support him as I was able to. I was ready to spot targets, one of which just rose up in the cover of a stake fence, swung his arm and ducked down then heading for the cover of the forest. Another arm swing, we retaliated, then a third...fourth. The LMG was chattering ! The enemies vanished in the forest, we do not know if we hit them. The air appeared to be full of lead. The weapons of every company had joined the same music from the edge of the forest. We were as if intoxicated by the battle. Weapons were firing and I kept observing lest we be surprised by the enemy.
As the last of the enemies had been chased in the cover of the forest we started pursuing them at once. But at the edge of the forest I realised I was unarmed and returned. I saw the Staff Sergeant coming to me with his pistol still in his hand. He enquired if I had seen the enemy. I admitted I had.
After shooting had died down it was as if I were in a vacuum. I set out to check the traces of fighting. There was all sorts of debris in a field ditch: bread, food tins, even a 50mm mortar. One of the men had found my cook's overcoat, rifle and cartridge pouches. Apparently the enemy had taken him; but we did not return to the matter as he turned up for work three days later. We are all erring humans, indeed.
When returning to the field kitchen the men, too, were returning. The first one was Cpl. Hyvärinen who called out in a brisk voice:
-Is the Lotta still alive ?
I waved my arm and asked how the men were ?
Hyvärinen told me he had seen the enemy swing his arm. It was not to greet us in a friendly manner but to throw grenades. Both grenades were found next to the place where I had been but they were duds. Hyvärinen had set off to catch the man. I never learned what had happened in the forest. Were the grenade throwers taken out or among the POWs ?
Prisoners were just being escorted on the road we had marched on last night. One of them was being carried on a stretcher, some more had been bandaged. They were escorted right to my field kitchen. A second time was I now facing my enemy who had tried to kill me at my kitchen. The difference was that now they were unarmed but I had two hand grenades at my disposal. However I had no right to use them, why should I use them at all. They had been fighting for their lives, we did the same. Neither of us had wanted this war.
We had got away with one wounded who was not from our Company. He had saved his life with his skill of the Russian language. Of course I could not feed the POWs. I had rations only for our own men, moreover they were constantly too meagre. The prisoners were being taken to the HQ.
Meeri Huuhka-Schadewitz was born on 21.9.1917 in Ojansaari village in Rautu
He married W/OEinar Schadewitz, MHR cross knight no. 110, on the 30th July 1949. They had two sons.
Mrs. Schadewitz wrote his autobiography at the age of 77. She passed away in Hamina on the 10th January 2000.
II/JR2 war diary extract:
07.20hrs Enemy engaged on the hill S of Häränsilmälampi lake
08.55hrs Enemy was expelled.
09.15hrs Kanaoja brook line reached. Enemy opened fire behind the brook line.
10.00hrs Enemy expelled afger one Platoon of 7.K had outflanked from the right.
11.15hrs Enemy engaged at the hill S of Koverla.
12.30hrs Enemy tank or a small caliber field gun hauled by it fired at our advancing troops.
12.40hrs Enemy expelled.
14.10hrs Advancing continued, grouping the same as during AM.
15.45hrs Enemy engaged at the Oravaniemi crossroads.
16.30hrs 5.K issued orders to start advancing via S of the crossroads, objective Valkjärvi road.
18.35hrs Enemy expelled.
19.00hrs Btn advanced on the Valkjärvi road for one kilometer, bivouacking in that terrain. Securing set up in the direction of the Valkjärvi road
During our advance there was no time to find out about the fallen enemies or their weapons.
21.00hrs Enemy patrol attempted to penetrate in the bivouack area from East but they were repulsed, losing 6 men KIA. No casualties for us.
The night was calm.
08.00hrs Btn started advancing to Valkjärvi, objective Barracks area.
10.00hrs Btn arrived at the objective. No enemies met. Btn bivouacked at the Barracks area terrain.
6.K/JR2 war diary extract:
04.20hrs Coy set out to the direction of the Valkjärvi road, securing and patrolling during the battle.
II Platoon joined the Btn Jaeger Platoon to sweep Oravanniemi.
19.15hrs Arrived at the crossroads of the Kiviniemi – Valkjärvi road where we had a break.
Tents were set up and we turned down for the night.
20.20hrs A strong enemy patrol tried to penetrate in the bivouack area but was expelled.
During our advance the enemy resisted hard.
07.00hrs Coy CO briefed by Btn CO
Coy started advancing in the direction of Valkjärvi.
II Platoon set off with the Btn Jaeger Platoon to patrol in the spearhead.
No resistance ws met.
10.15hrs Arrival at Valkjärvi.
Tents were set up at the Valkjärvi Barracks area and we had some sleep.
Weapons maintenance, saunas were heated and we bathed.
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Unpublished manuscript no. 134
In the archives of “Kansa Taisteli”
Sissis fighting at Ontrovaara 17th January 1940.
3.K/PPP7 in action in the enemy rear
The victorious battles at Tolvajärvi with all their terrors we had to go through were now in the past as the front line had shifted back to Aittojoki river.
The 3rd Coy of PPP 7, my outfit, was transferred to Ilomantsi where a hard battle was fought the 22nd December 1939 at Oinaansalmi. Late in the evening we lost as fallen for the fatherland in that battle six men and our Company CO Cornet Suorsa. The new CO of our Company was 2nd Lt. Olavi Tammivuori. At Christmastime we were posted in the positions at the Kallioniemi ferry. No major skirmishes happened, but the weather was so cold that I almost froze my feet in sentry duty having but rubber boots to wear on my feet. There were tens of Heroic fallen men of the neighbouring country lying next to the sentry post, and seeing that several of them were wearing good felt boots, I tried to remove some of them, because the owners no more needed them. But I failed to do that because they were so hard frozen. It was the Christmas Eve and having returned from sentry duty I was overjoyed receiving a packet from home, moreover it included a pair of felt boots on top of all the goodies.
I had written in my diary on the 1st January 1940:
Another outfit arrived relieving us at Kallioniemi, we took down our tents and at the road we boarded some lorries, our journey for unknown battle locations started. Our journey ended at Patrikka village, past Ilomantsi in the direction of Tolvajärvi, distance from Kallioniemi some 30km. The day before the other Companies of our Battalion had arrived there having had some R&R at Mutalahti for a few days. We were told that we shall engage the enemy deep in their rear as Sissis. The commander of the Sissi operations was Col. Lt. Viljanen. In the Sissi action participated also Er.P.112 . The Battalions had by turns R&R in Patrikka. The base of the Sissi operations was in the wilderness at Haapavaara village which consisted three small farm houses which were abandoned. Having skied there we set our tents in a sombre fir forest. Our doc and paramedics were housed in a small farm house.
Sissi action was very strenuous because we had to ski tens of kilometres through wilderness to reach our objective where we gave Russian men a violent reveille.
The craziest of us threw a petrol bomb through the window while others emptied one or two SMG or LMG magazines before running hastily away. Our skis were set up before the strike so that we immediately got into a dead angle from the enemy fire. Every day at least five patrols were in action and we struck mostly in darkness so that fires lit up the sky on wide areas. Other patrols greatly damaged the enemy supply road destroying columns of the enemy 155.D whose attack was stopped at Oinaansalmi and Möhkö by the heroic fighting of our troops.
I could make a detailed report on the patrols I participated, now I shall tell about the wildest one. This action was mentioned by the broadcast news for those who happened to be listening: “ A ski patrol totally destroyed on the 17th January near Ontrovaara village an enemy skiing detachment comprising one Platoon which was very well equipped. “
Our patrol was led by our Coy CO 2nd Lt. Olavi Tammivuori and as his deputy 2nd Lt. Heikkinen, we were 14 men strong.
We set off on skis on the 16th January 1940 as early as AM. Every man had two days Sissi proviant in his backpack and one man in two had a SMG or a LMG. [The rest had rifles, tr.rem.] The weather was very cold and the distance to be covered was 30 km as measured on the map to Ontrovaara village. It had been found out that one Regiment of enemies was billeted in the houses of the village, we were to provide them a briskish reveille.
We arrived late in the evening near the Ontrovaara village at a house near the beach of a longish lake, the inhabitants had gone away. In the house we had a break, we made some coffee and ate some of our Sissi rations while the officers studied the maps and selected the objectives to be hit. They decided to split our patrol in two; there were targets to strike for both outfits and we were to start at the very same hour which was agreed, then we synchronized our watches.
So we set out, first skiing on the ice of the lake about one kilometre, then the patrol split and we climbed on the North side of the beach into a dense forest. We skied about one kilometre in the forest and then we saw that the sky was lit by campfires; there were a lot of fires around the village and a lot of men were warming up around them. We saw that the village guarding had been improved, it was no more possible to go and throw fire bombs through windows. We decided that the SMG gunners shall fire at the men at the campfires and the riflemen and LMG gunners at the houses.
We turned our skis around to be ready in a spot we would be able to start off downhill covered of enemy fire. The agreed hour was soon there, lively fire was opened on two sides of the village by our outfits. A loud shouting and noise broke out at the campfires and in the houses but we did not have the time to observe their activities for very long, we bounced on our skis and retired using the same ski tracks we had made when coming. Soon the second outfit slid downhill to the ice, all present and accounted for, boasting what a good job they had done.
We stopped in the same house by the lake where we had started for the strike, we ate a meal to have energy for the long home journey. We did have two sentries out, it was a clear and very cold day. One of the sentries came in to report that he had heard sounds of skis behind the lake in the direction of our ski track.
Tammivuori ordered every man to take a position and stay put there. “It is the surprise, lads, that trumps in this game. We shall just let them get close, they are not going to get anywhere from the lake ice.”
Soon there were coming well equipped men in clean white snow suits, some wearing white fur coats. Our CO said that he shall open the fire, do not get nervous lads, we shall have to let them get close so that the SMGs should have a better effect. There were a lot of them, at least one hundred men, and they were approaching us in a tight queue on our ski track.
The nearest ones were at 70 to 80 m as our CO opened up and we joined him, it was a kind of volley, intense shooting. The enemy Company went down up to the middle of the column as if all of them had been hit, but the rear half of them turned around their skis for the shore and some of them managed to get in the forest. In the beginning they fired at us while lying in the snow but they soon stopped. We, too, suffered losses in the battle. Kusti Puro was shooting with his LMG as he took a bullet in his forehead. Paramedic Aarne Jokela found he was so badly hit that we did not manage to get him to our doc before his life ended. Three men were slightly wounded, they were able to ski.
There were three of us: me, Matti Isoherranen and Väinö Heikkilä whom our CO ordered to follow the fleeing enemy in the forest to make sure they would not return to surround us. He was just right, there was a lot of activity in the forest but we opened fire and they dropped down. A melee was heard on the ice, there were loud shouts “runkivei” [ruki verh ?]and SMG bursts were ringing out. Our CO and Yrjö Joenvaara set off to check the fallen enemies but there were several feigning dead who did not want to surrender but tried to shoot our men.
There were 56 dead on the ice, our men took the map cases of the officers, there were four of them wearing clean white fur coats. Their pistols and the holsters were eagerly snatched by our lads. All the weapons of the fallen were carried in the forest and covered up in snow. Kusti Puro's body was put in a storehouse of the farm. We evacuated him a couple of days later and the weapons covered in the snowdrift, it was a full load for one ahkio sled.
The captured documents in the map cases of the fallen officers revealed that the outfit belonged to the Porozero Border Guard Regiment whose two ski battalions had been transferred to patrol the area of the 155.D due to great risk posed by Finnish Sissis.
PPP7 war diary extract:
(bad handwriting in a school notebook)
04.00 – 05.00hrs Patrols returned, had not spotted anything special.
In the margin: -34 º
02.00-08.00hrs Two line patrols out, all phone lines are OK.
11.20hrs Enemy ski patrol advancing for Sotkanvaara.
Reported by 1.K
11.30hrs Col.Lt Viljanen arrived
12.30hrs Col.Lt Viljanen left.
Enemy artillery and mortars have shelling Sotkanvaara all day.
20.10hrs Lt. Leino's report: Enemy in positions about 600 to 700m from Sotkanvaara.
20.15hrs Report: 3.K returning from mission to Ontrovaara. They have destroyed an enemy patrol comprising 30 to 40 men.
23.30hrs 3.K I platoon returned from Ontrovaara. With them they had 2 wounded, one dead who had to be left behind in Ontrovaara.
In addition to the previously mentioned action the Platoon has harassed the enemy at Möhkö, Yli-Aho-oja and Haapavaara.
War booty comprises 1 LMG, 15 rifles, 4 pistols, 2 map cases
(end of day)
War dead database extract:
Suorsa, Martti ; Kornetti ; b.21.09.1912 Kestilä ; d. 23.12.1939 in hospital ; Age 27 ;Polkupyöräpataljoona 7, 3.K ; Died of his wounds ; buried at Siikalatva, Kestilä ; Civilian occupation Clerk ; no children
Puro, Kusti Nikolai ;Jaeger; b.28.09.1914 Pyhäjärvi (O.l.) ; d. 17.01.1940 Ontronvaara, Ilomantsi ; Age 25 ; Polkupyöräpataljoona 7 ;KIA ; buried at Pyhäjärvi (O.l.); Farmer's son, no children
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Delaying the enemy in 1939
“Kansa Taisteli” 03, 1963
7./JR37 in delaying action at Salmi
The enemy had at the outbreak of the Winter War managed to cross Tulemajoki river at Salmi before our outfit managed to join the fighting going on at the border even during the delay phase of the war.
7th Coy of JR37 had been doing field fortification work at the Uuksu river line until we were sent against the foe to confound their firm plan to parade in Helsinki.
It was the morning of the 3rd December 1939 if I remember correctly as our march for Salmi started. Our Company CO was Lt. E. Patojärvi, a calm and competent commander who was able to manage even the toughest situations.
Having crossed the open fields at Uusikylä we heard shots in front of us as the scouts were engaging the enemy. By now it was 1530hrs. I was a Squad leader in a Platoon was ordered to fan out on the left side of the road. We did not manage to advance far until intense fire was opened against us. We took cover in a ditch dug on the bog long ago and retaliated . Having jumped in the ditch I spotted an enemy LMG off our left flank but in the dusk we were not able to take aim at it. I at once told my boys that we were in an unhealthy spot, and ordered them to jump one by one out and over the ditch bank among the hummocks. The others managed to jump to no-man's-land but Pvt. Moilanen was still sitting in the ditch trying to extract a cartridge case stuck in the chamber of his rifle. The very moment a LMG burst swept the ditch and Pvt. Moilanen fell there without a squeak. He had fought his last battle.
Since there was an anti-tank hindrance dug on the hillside behind us our Coy CO ordered our Platoon to pull back to this hindrance where it was easier to defend ourselves. The enemy pressure kept increasing, now they were storming at the tank hindrance yelling “uraa”. For now we were however able to control them with our fire and hand grenades so that they were not able to penetrate into our positions.
Our Platoon CO 2nd LT. Kauppinen ordered me and my squad to move and secure the left flank so that the Vanyas should not manage to outflank us. Was it inexperience or what but he mentioned that we would be signalled by whistle when to pull back to the rear, even though in the cracking and banging going on a whistle could not be heard.
We were prone on the ground at the flank on a line waiting for an enemy attack but none came, instead the noise of fighting appeared to be going down at the tank hindrance. It was at the small hours as I and Pvt. Rajamäki went to find out.
When sneaking in the young fir forest to the direction of the tank hindrance line where a lone MG kept firing brief bursts to the direction of the road, we spotted two men wearing peaked caps and babbling in Russian with each other. I signalled Rajamäki to retreat the same way we came, because the enemy probably had manned that spot with more than those two men.
We came back to our Squad and started retreating across the Uusikylä open ground to the Northern perimeter where our Company was preparing positions for the next conflict. We unfortunately were unable to dig foxholes because our field spades had been dumped on the mentioned bog where our first battle was fought. Almost everyone had abandoned their backpacks, gas masks, bayonets, cartridge pouches and anything cumbersome. There were left also as fallen Moilanen, Heiskanen, Kemppainen and a number of others whose names I do not recall.
The next morning the enemy launched an attack supported by three tanks. The tanks approached in a file just in front of us at the brook line. There the first one hit a mine and the other two were knocked out by one of our field cannons firing direct fire.
Finally the enemy infantry started attacking in earnest. But what on earth! Among the enemies crossing the open ground was also a Finnish soldier, unarmed, bare-headed, collapsing in the snow every now and then. We kept watching him from our positons and finally recognised him: he was Kemppainen whom we already had written off as a casualty.
Two brothers in arms, disregardin the heavy firing, crept out to meet Kemppainen and they took him to our line. A bullet had pierced his chest, he had lost a lot of blood. He was evacuated to the C.C.S and he is still alive as far as I know.
The battle escalated during the AM into great intensity, the number of enemy auto arms just appeared to keep increasing but they did not yet manage to break in our positions. At 1400hrs Runner Niikkonen, a boy from Pälkjärvi, came to inform me that my squad can disengage and retreat for Uuksu in the direction of the road.
Cpl. Nissinen's Squad was in the tongue of forest to the left of us. I told Niikkonen to join me to forward the order there and to see how Nissinen is faring. Once there we found their positions abandoned. Both of us were surprised as at the same moment from the dense fir forest started emerging men wearing peaked caps with rifles under their arms. I just managed to see Mikkonen to freeze, his face as pale as a dead man's, and I shouted him:
-Let's go now !
I started for the fir forest making sudden dashes. There was a shout: “Stoi !” and bullets started cutting branches off the trees around me. I proceeded down the slope to the bog making quick dashes. I believed I got away from my predicament with a scare only but looking back I saw four sons of steppes wearing brown greatcoats and carrying rifles following me. They were not shooting anymore, but their attention was apparently all concentrated on cross-country running race that was going on now. Snow was slowing me down but they had my track to follow. The Vanyas were however hampered by the long hem of their greatcoats dragging in snow. I understood they were firmly committed to take another POW.
Once on the bog I started heading for the Salmi-Uuksu road. When I had made it to a more dense piece of forest I dropped down, pulled the M28/30 butt at my cheek and waited until my breathing evened out. A shot – the enemy had one less man to feed. The other three threw themselves down in the snow and started shooting, but with scant success. Finally one of them started creeping to his fallen comrade to see how he was. I was prepared and my rifle sent him, too, a one-way ticket to the land of no return.
Again I dashed forward but chanced to get to a stake fence. Jumping over it I got stuck by my snow-suit. The same moment splinters were chipped off the fence by bullets. I ripped myself loose so that only the sleeves of the snow-suits were left on my arms. At the same moment my rifle slipped from my frozen leather mitts on the enemy side of the fence. The situation appeared to be hopeless now, and I was also feeling weak not having eaten since yesterday morning.
When seeing that I was unarmed and tired the Vanyas did not shoot any more, but started crossing the fence to catch their certain prey. Lying behind a tree I remembered I had two hand grenades in one breast pocket of my tunic. Quickly I took them out, armed them and threw them one at a time at the fence, one “capsule” for each. I did not watch the effect of the grenades, but started wading up the hill. I heard two explosions, then it was quiet. I did not see anyone behind me.
I chanced to find a path with a phone cable running parallel to it. Three Finnish soldiers were coming my way reeling the cable. I asked them to go down the hill to see if my grenades had had any effect at my pursuers. When the men returned they told me that there had been one enemy heading to the bog from the fence but his journey had been cut short. Another had been killed by my grenades at the fence. I returned with the Signals men to the Salmi-Uuksu road where I found my Company. We had to set off at once to secure Uuksalonpää.
Pvt. Mikkonen was left there and he has not been heard of ever. What was his fate ?
The only Mikkonen listed in the war dead database at this date and front section:
Mikkonen, Matti Robert ;Alikersantti ;07.06.1912 Polvijärvi ;03.12.1939 Loimola, Suistamo ;27 ;24. pioneerikomppania ;KIA, ruumis evakuoitu ja haudattu ;Polvijärvi, Kirkonkylän hautausmaa ;farmer ;
JR 37 fallen at this date:
Järveläinen, Sulo Emil ; PFC ; b.23.08.1915 Juva ; d. 04.12.1939 Aittojoki, Suojärvi ; Age 24 ;JR 37, III Btn ;KIA ; buried at Juva ;worker ;1 child
Orava, Erkki ;Pvt. ; b.14.02.1913 Juva ; d. 06.12.1939 Tolvajärvi, Korpiselkä ; age 26 ;JR 37, III Btn ;KIA ;buried at Juva ;worker
Roponen, Eino Albin ;Pvt. ;b. 24.08.1908 Juva ; d. 06.12.1939 Ägläjärvi, Korpiselkä ; age 31 ;JR 37, III Btn ;KIA ;buried at Mikkeli, Haukivuori ;farmer ;3 children
Veman, Emil ;Pvt. ; b.18.06.1900 Juva ; d. 06.12.1939 Tolvajärvi, Korpiselkä ; age 39 ;JR 37, III Btn ; Death unrelated to enemy action ;buried at Juva ;worker
Nikkonen/Niikkonen not listed among KIA or POW
7/.JR37 war diary extract:
Btn CO order for march:
7.K spearheading + AT Platoon + 1 Battery + MG Platoon less one MG
Target: to take Pappilanmäki (Vicarage hill)
Start at 1410hrs
Scout patrol met a two man enemy patrol, the spearhead fanned out for attack, was met by heavy fire.
Spearhead Coy attacked supported by 2 MG s, did not manage to advance.
Btn CO order:
9.K shall join the attack, attacking to the right.
Attack failed since 9.K went too much to the right, withdrew to their original attack positions.
Coy CO was issued the Btn CO order to withdraw fighting to the Jaamalainen line where we arrived about at 2130 hrs and the positions were held manned all the night, during the night the enemy harassed by patrols,
The bridge in front of our positions was blown up and barns and two houses were torched
Meal and Btn reinforcement.
Movement started being seen on the enemy side so rifle fire was commenced. Artillery F.O.O. Reported at 1000hrs, at the same time there was a mission of a friendly a/c.
Shelling started, from Russian side quite weak, and aimed too long mostly.
PM: ten tanks appeared on the road. AT guns destroyed 8 of which 4 were in flames.
Coy withdrew in accordance with the Btn CO order to Uuksu where bivouacked in the terrain NE of Laasani .
Battalion 7.K + KKK less one Platoon to proceed to Alalohko, direction of action Peipposen kallio and Ylä-Uuksu - Savilahti
Morning tea and preparation.
IV Platoon (to send a patrol) to liaise with the Salmi CG coy. Report constantly me here about the situation .
I platoon set off to mark the route to Peipposen kallio from Laasani for counterstrike.
Coy moved N of the road at Märkämäenlampi pond where they had a meal.
III platoon + 2 MG shall immediately advance in the direction of the rwy line and man the right flank of Lysinvaara. Liaison to the left. Lt. Pylkkänen shall cover the right flank – subjected to Lt, Pylkkänen.
Liaison with the battery at Uuksu who are to immediately contact their CO at the Ristioja schoolhouse in any possible manner via the Rwy line. The battery is situated S of Lysinen.
Btn CO order:
7.K shall be transferred to reserve at Laasani 200m S of the road in a patch of forest .
Volunteers sought for a forced recon mission, the Btn CO shall present the plan for the operation.
Platoon Kauppinen shall secure the right flank with interlocking firing sectors, positions are to be dug unnoticed by the enemy, the DG boy detachment is to be relieved, constant patrolling. Dry rations
Positions are to be manned by 0730hrs.
I platoon set off to carry out their task
(unnamed) reported that he had wounded himself on shoulder.
The platoon set off to carry out the task.
½ platoon of III Platoon set off for Lysinvaara. The same of the III Platoon to the mouth of Hepo-oja brook to secure to the direction of Ladoga (observation)
I Platoon patrol returned. They had only gone around the Jaakkola farmhouse before returning.
(Btn ) CO order for the Reserve to stand by. Morning tea .
The Reserve is transferred to Lysinen, 400m W of it.
Securing squad is still held at Savunlahti (?) on the standby for action in the direction of Lysinvaara or Kaivolahti.
Coy at the objective, started immediately building positions. All day artillery and mortar fire.
I Platoon subordinated to Btn CO.
9.K + Admin Coy moved S of Ylä-Uuksu.
St. Suomaa + two men subordinated to Btn CO for road patrol .
The Patrol had met a two man enemy SMG patrol that had wounded Pvt. Kellus in leg and when the patrol was returning the patrol leader in leg.
A patrol was sent to liaise with Lysinvaara and with them 1 LMG squad to reinforce the securing (defence)
(end of day)
The map describes the delaying positions at the Salmi-Uuksu road in the beginning of the Winter War. Russians attacked AM on the 4th December 1939 against Finnish positions art Uusikylä but were repelled and eight of their tanks were knocked out. The next night Finns retreated to the Uuksu river line which the Russians started attacking on the evening of the 5th December. The attacks were beaten back by the Finns time and again until on the evening of the 8th December the defenders disengaged and retreated in the direction of Pitkäranta.[/i]
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Lotta in Petsamo
Featuring a witness description of British air raid.. Er.Os. P.
Petsamon Erillisosasto (Er.Os.P) 1941 – 1944
Er.Os.P based in Ivalo, and the Raja JK 36 guarding the border in Petsamo were mobilised on the 10th June 1941. The new outfit was equal in strength to a reinforced battalion (some 1200 men) . Their task was to cover the Southern flank of the German XIX Mountain Army Corps on a 120 km wide sector on both sides of the Luttojoki river.
The CO was Maj.( autumn 1941: Col. Lt., Summer 1944 Col.) Antti Pennanen. The “Lutto men” (the nickname for Pennanen's outfit) was engaged in a constant active short and long range patrolling on roadless and impassable wilderness area confronted by enemy, also tough men, border guards also. Hard battles were fought at Luttokylä, Nuortijärvi, Nokikukkula, Lounavaara, Kaaptoaivi and many more. (website Luton miehet )
During the Winter War I was posted as a Lotta in the JR32 HQ at Petsamo and Jäniskoski. Later (in 1941) I again was issued to put on the field gray and set off. The Lotta-Svärd Petsamo chairperson Mrs. Kuittinen ordered me in air surveillance duty. My post was high on the top of Parkkina fell with an excellent view of Trifona village. My task was to spot foreign aircraft and report them by phone to the air surveillance centre. We did four hour stints.
By chance I happened to be there in June 1941 the very day Germany declared war. I and my Lotta pal Lyyli K started our observing stint by scanning the horizon with our binoculars to spot any aircraft.
Soon we spotted that guests were coming, and soon recognized them – the German consul in Petsamo and his assistants were climbing up on the side of the fell. They kept a few meters distance from us and started watching the village down in front of us. We noticed that they were concentrating their attention at the Soviet Consulate house at the edge of the village. We deduced that something special was going on since the Consul would not have climbed up the fell in the middle of the night. We turned our binoculars in the same direction and saw Finnish soldiers at the consulate .
The action started. First loud knocking, a few shots and tinkling of glass. Soldiers entered the house and arrested the personnel. Smoke was rising from one window, maybe documents were being burnt to deny them from the intruders. Next soldiers entered the barracks for the consulate personnel, arrested them with their families and took them to Liinahamari.
This was the starting shot of a new war in Petsamo. Immediately the roads were full of rolling German tanks, off-road vehicles, motor cycles and other war material – the peace in the land was over.
On the 25th June 1941 the people in Petsamo had to face the fact that Finland was again at war against their neighbour Russia. Events started folding out fast. The war overturned the life of the peaceful village totally. Soldiers were marching everywhere and more men and material arrived. The Lower Restaurant was converted into a German Field hospital.
Lather the Upper Restaurant became a Finnish Field hospital.
Aircraft were cruising on the sky – at times German, at other times Russian. Once two fighters came to fly above Parkkina village. A number of us was watching them standing on the yard of the field hospital. What would happen ? A German Messerschmitt fighter had taken off from the airfield nearby and now was chasing the enemies. One of them escaped but the other one was left behind and was soon hit by a couple of bursts, starting to descend at the fell. The Russian aircraft managed to drop his bombs at the ships on the Trifona bay but missing them. As he hit the ground a loud explosion was heard and a high cloud of smoke indicated the end of his journey on the side of the Parkkina fell.
During my stint I would watch with binoculars how German Stuka dive bombers attacked time and again at Titofka and Litsa River at the enemy bunkers ´built along the border. Bunkers appeared to survive the bombing and later it was found that they were very sturdily made of steel and stone.
Heavy fighting was raging, the bunkers were attacked with flame throwers and mutual shelling was going on. Ambulances were driving night and day evacuating the wounded from the front line. The wide field hospital yard was almost covered with wounded men. They were lying next to each other wounded in any part of their body or members. They had to be administered the necessary first aid fast to avoid congestion in the next step of the evacuation chain.
The first aid personnel was sweating and struggling, with their sleeves rolled and wearing rubber aprons when carrying the wounded men on stretchers into the hospital. They were working round the clock days on end. When the wounded had been administered first aid some were taken on ambulances to a hospital ship at the harbour in Liinahamari but the rest were taken to Rovaniemi and from there to other military hospitals.
Wounded Finnish soldiers were laying on the yard of the Consulate nearby waiting for first aid and care. I was shocked to see all those wounded soldiers, Finns and Germans, lying everywhere in pain, but despite it they were quiet and uncomplaining. Their garments were bloodied and ragged. They were wounded in head, in legs or any other spot. I remember one of them with an almost fist size hole in his side. I had a few words with him, he spoke in a weak voice:
-War is really terrible, insane – when you see the results eye to eye. Men in the prime of their life are destroyed, homes vanish and what is left are widows and orphans, misery and want.
With my Lotta pal Lyyli we made coffee and treated Finnish wounded with it and sweet buns. Boys were much delighted in getting a traditional coffee with bun. They took us for nurses because we were wearing white coats.
One day loud thumps were heard from the direction of Liinahamari. Smoke columns were rising high, bombs hit something resulting in a fire. There were aircraft flying low over the Petsamo fjord and up the Petsamonjoki valley strafing with their machine guns. Civilians and soldiers alike took cover wherever they could. I threw myself down by a boulder where I then was watching anxiously what would happen next. The aircraft were British, I could see their insignia clearly. They retired as suddenly as they had appeared. There had been an aerial battle over the sea between British and German aircraft.
There were Red Cross flags flying over the roofs of the hospitals to protect them from enemy bombardment. Later the Brits air-raided Parkkina village and the banks of the Petsamonjoki which caused a landslide on both sides of the river. Storage buildings and even a few homes slid with the ground under them. The river turned into a brook at the spot.
Fighting continued. The villages of Titova and Titofka were taken. Various war material was taken as war booty, partly useful, partly destroyed. I had a chance to visit Titofka after it had been taken end July 1942. Er.Os.P supplies commander K. Rantala was liaising a Border Guards Company and I was allowed to join him. It was interesting to see what kind of terrain there was. The road winded up and down rock-strewn bare fells until we arrived at Titofka .
We saw artillery pieces taken from the enemy and other material, some of which the retreating enemy had destroyed. There were large food stores near the shore from which our boys were taking away on horse carts bread and other usable stuff the enemy did not manage to destroy
We were talking with two horseman as an enemy field gun shot was heard on the far side of the bay. The same moment I, too, was prone in a bush of nettles next to a small house as the shell burst in the sandy soil. The road ran next to the sandy slope; one of the boys and his horse were immediately killed by the splinters, the other one was wounded and his horse had to be put out. All the day shells would land here and there, disturbing traffic and activities
The weather was clear, so the enemy was well able to observe the traffic on the fell-side with binoculars. There was a German mule column was just descending the slope, having resupplied the front line troops with food and other material. There were enemy aircraft cruising overhead, but they did not bomb this time so we were able to return back to the fjord gracefully.
On our return journey we checked a bunker taken from the enemy since the road passed next to it. The bunker was sturdily constructed, the thick walls were made of stone, the roof was held by iron beams and the door was armoured. Light was reflected in through small embrasures. There were semi-circular mounts in front of the embrasures; Machine guns mounted on them must have been effective in repelling attacks. There were deep craters around the bunker after Stuka raids but the bunker had survived them.
Two of my Lotta colleagues, Veera M. and Liisa K. had been assigned to cater a labour company, a “discipline Company” tasked to bury the dead enemies abandoned on the battlefield. They told me this story:
One of the labour company men had during the day spotted in a bunker a dead enemy soldier whose boots he wanted . He marked the corpse to retrieve the boots next night. So the Finnish soldier went into the bunker and started pulling off the boots of the fallen man. But the fallen man got up in sitting posture. The frightened, pale man rushed back to his tent but did not talk about his adventure. Later it was found out that the “fallen” enemy had been wounded in his neck but by now in poor state. To survive he had sneaked out in the night to seek scraps of food abandoned by soldiers at their bivouacs and eating what he found.
By the roadside there were eleven graves of German Arbeitsdienst youngsters. An enemy patrol in the rear of the front had one night surprised the boys when they were asleep, and destroyed them to the last man.
Once I happened so see on the wide yard of the Petsamo Co-Operative shop Generaloberst Dietl addressed his Alpine Jaegers standing in a square. He was speaking something about fulfilling a task, then shook everyone by hand as goodbye. My understanding was that they were to carry out a special task.
Another not uncommon view was a group of (German) soldiers surrounding a clergyman in black who spoke to them and prayed with them, making signs of cross. Then I spotted a clergyman praying with a soldier in a corner of the fenced yard, the soldier giving the clergyman some of his private possessions and an address where to send them. The clergyman uttered words of consolation to encourage the soldier heading for battle. Then a quick handshake and the man was prepared to meet his Maker in the melee of a battle.
Maybe the end of all these men, too, was among the ten thousand fallen German soldiers who had found their final resting place at the Näsykkä military graveyard at Parkkina, Petsamo. POW s were digging at daytime long graves which were in the course of fighting constantly filled with fallen German soldiers.
After the Germans had taken over the air surveillance we the Lottas who were now relieved were given new tasks. It was by now autumn and I was granted a furlough to see my parents in Ostrobothnia.
Having returned I was posted to the Border Guards Company of Er.Os.P at Suonikylä.
Now the gardening season is about to start and I have to give up history for the summer. Also, the Finnish military war diaries access is problematic due to new online archive system troubles. Hoping that they shall be sorted out by October. [Tr. rem.]
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“Kansa Taisteli” magazine no. 4, 1963
Recon patrol from Kollaa to Hyrsylä during the Winter War
The header tells it all.
The old (1922) national border formed at Suojärvi an odd bend. It was called “the Hyrsylä bend” looking like a boot combined with the rest of Finland by a narrow shaft. The toe of the boot included the villages of Hyrsylä, Ignoila and Hautavaara with a population of more than one thousand people.
It was the small hours of 30th November 1939. At the Ignoila border guard point there were three guardsmen, I had been posted as the stopgap leader. Sitting in the house I was discussing the situation with my pals Eenokki and Aleksi. During the night the lads had observed from their post that a large number of troops had been moved to the other side of the border. The very moment clanking and crashing could be heard emerging from there. We were sure that war was about to break out. We did not think about ourselves but the people of the border region, still at home, unevacuated. Able-bodied men had been mobilized so that only old people, women and children were left.
Our border guard post had been reinforced with ten local reservists and the night before JR34 had sent another 20 men to support us.
The war started the same day at 0700hrs and at once we found ourselves surrounded because noises of fighting were emerging about 15km in our rear at the ferry since the enemy had attacked at Hautavaara. I ordered to withdraw from the guard post some 200m to the defensive position. We stayed there until noon, waiting, and in the meanwhile villagers started congregating there; men, women, children who were able to ski in the forest somehow. The road connecting us to Finland was roamed by enemy and their tanks. We were a part of Er.P.10 and we had orders that in case of war the Ignoila and Hyrsylä guard posts shall join and withdraw to the friendly side as they shall see fit.
The men of the Hyrsylä post, led by my old friend Martti, successfully joined us and the
some tens of civilians. We set out in the cover of the forest for Suvilahti.
Among us were men who had left behind at Hyrsylä their wives, children and parents, and for them our departure was bitter indeed. Without major mishap we arrived at Suvilahti in the morning of 1st December 1939. There was a lorry for us to take us to our Company in Er.P.10 but it had to leave without us. We were transferred in the ranks of JR34 and later to the Sissi detachment of 12.D.
The division Sissi detachment was in R&R during the first days of 1940 as the AC HQ called for volunteers to set up a recon patrol for the Hyrsylä bend.
Aleksi, Eenokki, Martti and I got excited but we decided to think about it for a while. The target was far away, about 70 km, and our ski tracks would be left visible. My pals appeared to be eager to go for it. They were quiet men, steady and modest soldiers who did not boast in vain, instead they were reliable in action. With them one could patrol anywhere. We agreed to volunteer and decided that there shall not be a leader, instead we shall unanimously settle any matter we shall come across and support each other.
We were granted freedom to draw up a plan of our for our task. We were issued orders to reconnoitre the enemy in the Hyrsylä bend and what is the fate of the more than one thousand civilians left there.
Making up our plan Aleksi told that at the edge of Hautavaara village there is a widow, his cousin, living in her cabin and we could visit her. The other lads knew the cabin, too. All right, we decided, let us pay her a visit. Yet the cabin was situated some five meters from the road, but we estimated that a middle aged poor widow could not be under any strict surveillance, and the cabin was the outermost of the village.
It was our plan to head from Kollaanjoki at first to the E side of Kotajärvi lake and then continue between Myllyjärvi lake and Artahuuhta for the objective. It was about on the 6th January 1940 we started off. To begin with we went to the Regimental CP where our CO Col. Lt. Teittinen wished our luck for our mission. We were redirected to Capt. J Ahde's CP and next to the Easternmost stronghold of the Kollaa front whose CO was to inform us about the enemy and their securing ski tracks. We had been issued strict orders not to talk about our task to anyone. As we arrived at the stronghold the CO, a lieut, looked at us askew at first because at Loimola during the R&R we had taken a sauna bath, shaved, maintained our gear and we had been issued new white snow camo suits. The stronghold men on the other hand were long since unshaven, dirty and fatigued by battles and patrolling. No wonder then if the Lieut took us for recent replacements lacking fighting experience. His behaviour was consequent but I, being the most talkative of us, chatted with him for a while and he did calm down and we were provided with accurate information of the no-man's-land. We found that he was an energetic and conscientious man
It was a wind-still frosty day as we headed out to East on skis. We sunk deep in the snow and our backpacks were weighing on us like sin because each of us was carrying a ham plus rations for ten days. The wilderness, its trees and bogs covered us and we felt at home as if we had been patrolling in the time of peace. At the very beginning on a wide bog enemy aircraft disturbed our peace reminding us that now we were not in peacetime work,
First we headed for the Ulismainen terrain, next to the national border where I knew there was an old underground sauna in which I had spent nights. Advancing in soft snow was slow for four heavily laden men and it was not until the nightfall that we found the sauna. We immediately heated the sauna a little, made some coffee, cut good portions of ham and started planning for the next night. We went outside and peered in the gloomy dark wilderness and observed just artillery fire from Kollaa. Then we decided to hit the hay without worrying too much to be in good shape the next morning. We were confident that Creator and the wilderness had taken us in their protection. So we slept soundly that night and were alert as we woke up the next morning,
We decided to ski the day , the next night and the next day in one go, estimating to arrive at the vicinity of Hautavaara. At daybreak we started off, bearing East, and arrived at noon at the Eastern side of the village. We were listening the sounds from the village, buzzing of engines, shouting and other noises. We had a hasty meal and pressed on,
That day the skiing weather was very bad because a thermometer might have had a zero centigrade reading. At midnight we found ourselves between Myllyjärvi lake and Artahuuhta. The terrain was covered with snow covered young deciduous trees which was very difficult to pass through in the night. In mild weather lumps of snow would fall from the trees on us and we became quite wet, but we kept pushing on as well as we were able to.
The next morning the temperature sunk , our clothing froze and our backpacks with the hams in them felt quite heavy. Our journey continued for our objective and in the afternoon we arrived at Suojoki river, we skied in the cover of the river banks for a while, listening to the many kinds of sounds emerging from Hautavaara and the ferry.
Then we arrived at the Ignoila – Suvilahti power-line where there was another old underground sauna in the vicinity. We decided to stay overnight, get our gear dry and rest since we could not know what the next day would have in store for us. Our sleeping place was about four km from Hautavaara. We covered the windows to prevent the glare of our fire. We fell into a calm sleep.
At dawn we woke up refreshed. Our task was not yet accomplished and we very carefully headed for the cabin that I mentioned earlier on. One kilometre before the cabin we encountered an area with paths trodden in the snow and all kinds of lines cut in the forest. We wondered at them and observed in this and that direction but seeing nothing we continued our journey.
In the afternoon we arrived at the edge of a field, seeing the road some 200m off and the cabin that was our objective. There were sounds of children which enabled us to deduce that someone was at home. Lorries were driving up and down the road, and we could not know if there were enemies in the cabin. We pondered what to do. Aleksi and Matti decided to head for the rear side of the cabin via forest and then listen.
One hour later they returned and told that as the widow came for firewood in her shed Aleksi had whispered her that he was his cousin and there was no reason to fear. She was very surprised but she recognized her cousin and said that there were no soldiers in her cabin although in most houses there were. Aleksi had told her that he would visit her at nightfall, with her leave, and she agreed.
We were sitting in the cover of the forest there waiting for the dusk. We decided to enter together. As the darkness was falling we started off carefully. We hid our skis in the snow at the edge of the yard, observed the traffic on the road then finally entered the small cabin. The widow, a brave woman of the border region, was there with her three children and she did not seem to fear what would happen to her and her children in case we would be surprised there. They were just happy to see Finnish soldiers. As our hostess said that she would make us coffee with the rest of what she had, we opened our backpacks and gave her most of our coffee.
The widow told us that he had been in the shop on the far side of the village and told us what she had seen. There was a large HQ in one of the houses, the schoolhouse was now a hospital full ow wounded, there was a car repair depot and other repair shops. On the Tsasovna (Orthodox chapel, tr.rem.) there was a big fuel dump and about one kilometre from the house there were one hundred tanks. The paths and lines we had seen were a part of the new Suojärvi railway line. Rails had been extended up to the perimeter of the village.
Her neighbours had found out that Finnish soldiers, border guardsmen, were present. The inhabitants sneaked to us carrying a pail of milk, demanding us to drink all of it. We were shaking hands, we were asked how someone's son or husband were faring, were they still alive, when would Finns come to liberate them. They had been waiting now for more than one month to see friendly soldiers and now the day of joy was there.
We did our best to inform them and told them to stay calm, because this time we had just arrived to see how they were doing, but we could not promise anything for the future. The civilians had no way of escape, their skis had been confiscated and old people and children were anyway unable to pass through the wilderness. So far they had been allowed to keep their cattle and property.
The people told that Russian soldiers used to arrive at about 2000 hrs and count the inhabitants checking they all were there, and no one was allowed to move outside after that. We thought that the Russian tally would be mixed up if we were there. The people agreed that it was best that we should get out of there to avoid any trouble. We asked them to let the children to sweep our tracks next morning to avoid any problems.
Half an hour before the tally we said our goodbyes and see you later. The Carelian inhabitants were left there to their fate.
Slowly we returned to the underground sauna and thought about the situation. We deduced that the HQ in the village may be an Army Corps HQ because there were such a number of tanks and other material. We agreed that our task had been carried out and we would have some rest before heading back to Kollaa the next morning.
We set out before sunrise and found that it had snowed that night, our tracks from Hautavaara had been covered. It was a good skiing weather and our backpacks no more were weighting down on us since we had left almost all of our rations in the widow's cabin. At nigh-fall we reached the wilderness at Ulismainen but since it was preferable to approach our lines in daytime we decided to stay overnight at Ulismainen in a forest cabin.
The next morning we headed for the Lieut's stronghold where we arrived before nightfall. They immediately allowed us to enter and they were surprised to see all four of us alive still, they treated us with coffee and whatever delicacies they had. Now we were their equals as to appearance, having long stubble and shredded gear. We were happy and relieved to leave to report on our mission results.
Later we learned that our airmen had raided the fuel dump at Hautavaara and burned it.
The people at Hyrsylä had not been evacuated in time because the Government did not believe that the Red Army would invade, among them the Minister for interior affairs, a certain Urho Kekkonen...
1827 civilians were left behind.
The abandoned Carelians kept living one day at a time, tending their cows. Otto Ville Kuusinen's puppet regime, “People's Republic of Finland”, introduced Bolshevism at Suojärvi, including Hyrsylä. Village committees were set up, shops were ordered to be reopened. Kuusinen's officials gave speeches and distributed leaflets. Two schools were started and the education was changed “from bourgeois to proletarian and scientific”. Teaching of religion and prayers were forbidden.
In the beginning of February 1940 Soviets shipped the people of Suojärvi to Soviet Carelia. About 1300 people were packed at a temperature of -30 deg C on lorries and shipped to Interposolka near Prjaza. It was a forestry base built by Finnish-American immigrants in the 1930 in a previous monastery. More than 500 people were sent to Kondopoga in a Gulag camp.
In the filtration camps the Suojärvi people were ordered to logging work. Finnish money was forbidden and Finns were renamed to “soviet people”, The conditions were so hard that the Finns considered that the time , more than three months, they spent in logging equalled to a prisoner camp.
Finnish peace negotiators were informed about Finns left in the ceded areas, finally they were repatriated by rail transport at the end of May 1940.
Out of the 1827 civilian POW s hailing from Suojärvi 1763 were repatriated. In the course of the six month imprisonment 62 children and old people had died, 61 people preferred to stay in the Soviet union. Three were imprisoned and their fate is unknown.
(Source : Newspaper Kaleva 23.09.2017)
Hyrsylä is still well remembered in Finland, mainly thanks to Mrs. Aira Samulin, a celebrity who hails from there.
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Enemy tanks at the Svir hydroelectric power plant
“Kansa Taisteli” magazine no. 4, 1963
Battalion commander's story from the year 1941.
l/JR 44, as an element of Detachment Lagus had advanced from Korpiselkä up to Nurmoila and rested together with the Regiment at Kuittinen. In the early days of October 1941 JR 44 relieved then JR 23 in the bridgehead position at the Svir hydroelectric power plant. The relief went on by battalions in the order of numbers so l/JR 44 was the first in turn. Having received the battalion positions from Maj. Onni Lampinen I spent the night listening to the sounds from the enemy side. There was clanking of tank tracks, yelling and sound of ground clearing all the night, also the intel battery reported having located new battery positions. As very intense harassment fire was sweeping our positions constantly I began to suspect the enemy was planning to attack. My suspicions were increased by the fact that at the dusk of dawn there was for one hour clanking of tanks on a wide front. Four small Bofors AT guns were subordinated to me but at dawn I requested more. Just then the Regimental CO Col. Lt Yrjö Tuompo visited the front line and he also considered that an attack was imminent and he promised to send more AT weapons.
Returning to my C.P. With Col. Lt Tuompo we for the first time made acquaintance with the “hectar gun” [“Stalin's organ”] and it was not a pleasure. Fortunately the Vanyas kept firing long so that only the terrain between the front line and the Svir shore was under rocket bombardment. We got away without a scratch that time but the same day afternoon Col. Lt Tuompo was badly wounded at his C.P. As shelling by tanks forced him out of the water cistern which was under shelling by artillery and mortars.
Lt. L. patrolled before dawn with a platoon sized patrol behind the Volga boys' front line and destroyed there a column comprising some 30 lorries and a number of horse drawn waggons. He did not see any tanks, probably because they were already in the jump-off positions.
The enemy considered the Svir power plant as strategically important and kept trying to retake it. Having received reinforcements and artillery they launched counter-attacks One of the reinforcements was IR 326 of the Red Army 21.D. On the 2nd October 1941 they were issued orders to attack supported by an artillery regiment, one tank battalion and one battalion of IR116.
Later the orders were captured and reading them proves that the enemy was well informed of our small number of troops. Using their superior number they attempted to destroy our men holding the power plant. The orders issued to IR 326, abridged, are here:
Order for battle no. …
E of Tevenitshi 2.10.19441.. 01.00hrs.
Map 1:100.000 - 26
1. The enemy, comprising about two battalions. is putting up tough resistance, defending the Svir, receiving our forces trying to advance with intense rifle, machine gun, mortar and artillery fire.
2. IR 326, the artillery regiment and the Battalion are to attack on the 2nd October at 1200hrs on the right flank in co-operation with I/IR 116 . The enemy is to be surrounded and destroyed at the area of S* and M* villages.
Jump-off positions: IR326 and l/lR 116 1 km E of S. - the N shore of the unnamed brook, 1 km South of S. After completed attack a defence line is to set up from villages S* to M*.
Artillery is to be in readiness on the 2nd October 1941 at 0500hrs.
a)to destroy the weapons nests at the front line
b)to destroy the mortar positions S of the power plant
c)to block the enemy reserves from arriving from the W shore of the Svir
d)to suppress counter-attacks from the direction of the railway line and the nameless brook.
The Sapper CO shall provide one Platoon to destroy the enemy weapons nest in the houses at S.
Divisional HQ situated E of Tevenitshi.
My second in command is Col. Lt. Mohin and the second in command for the Divisional Polkom is Polkom Korosv.
11.Situation reports are to be forwarded at 0100hrs and 1700hrs.
Starting at 10.00hrs the shelling intensified tremendously and the hectar guns were sending their salvoes at full rate. Everything was implying at an attack any moment. The very hour the promised AT support arrived. A Lieut whose name I forget reported with his four AT guns. I, my adjutant LT. Jarmunen, the Runner NCO Sgt. Kreivilä, Runner Lemmetyinen and the undersigned with the recently arrived Lieut set out to select positions for the AT guns. Yet they were still en route on a ferry crossing the Svir, and they did not make it to the battle. It did not matter, however, because the 37mm Boforses would have been useless against the tanks of the heavy tank brigade [sic] attacking us.
I had selected as my temporary C.P. an Russian air raid shelter some 300 to 400m from the first line. We had proceeded about 100 m from there under quite a brisk shelling as two ugly tanks emerged behind a bend of the road, firing wildly with all weapons. We took cover quite quickly. Jarmunen and Kreivilä found foxholes dug by Russians, I and Lemmetyinen took cover in forest and kept heading for the front line.
Now we met Lt. Pentti and he told us that an intense fight was going on at the positions He also told that our AT guns were useless against these tanks. The lads had fired at them even at 15 m without result. More than twenty tanks had broken through our line, crushing two of our AT guns. Lt. Pentti was just organising men with satchel charges to attack the returning tanks; since the Vanya infantry had not broken through the tanks would have to return from the shore of the Svir that they had reached.
I saw how Lt. Valtari, the mortar Coy CO, with two Signals man was running to build a new field telephone line from the mortar position to Gripenberg's F.O. post because the enemy shelling had cut the previous cable into occasional bits here and there. After a while it was heard how our mortars started to suppress the infantry attack accompanied by Maj. Gyllenbögel's heavy field guns.
What a luck it was that the focal point of the enemy attack was at the line of l/JR 44 since we had been in our positions for 24 hrs while the relief on the other sectors of our other Battalions was still going on and the responsibility for the front unclear.
The depth of our beachhead positions was only some 600m. The Svir was behind us and on our left flank the weak Kev.Os. 6 at the Jandeba road. My Battalion that had proved themselves already before in hard battles was also now showing how tough and unyielding were the quiet Häme boys hailing from Hattula, Renko, Tyrväntö, Tuulos and Pälkäne.
When I arrived at the peak of the battle at Lt. Jormi's Company on the "Commander Hill" the CO was busy. He reported that there were no problems. Even though the tanks had broken through, the lads stayed in their foxholes and the enemy infantry was not able to make it to our positions. Piles of bodies at 20 m marked the line that the attacker had reached.
Young Lt. Ami Liukkonen, who later fell with the rank of Captain, proved himself in this battle and Sr. Sgt. Heikkilä was later promoted to 2nd Lt. Lt. Koskinen with his men from Renko fought in an exemplary manner and the Jaeger Platoon CO Lt. Karppinen with his Jaegers was “making hay” on the “Kill Hill”. Our Defence Minister now, Maj. Pentti, then a Lieut, destroyed with his men several tanks, however three of them were left on the No-man's-land and were definitely destroyed not until the next day. One tank, slightly damaged, we generously donated to Maj. Riitesuo because his repair crew fixed the tank in the night and drove it to safety. That [T-34/76] tank was immune even to the Vanya's own AT guns as they tried to destroy it before sunset, every hit was just a ricochet.
Another tank was left in our rear, and the crew refused to surrender. Immobilised, it kept firing and making a fuss all day but the next night Lt. Pentti's men ripped off its radio antenna and blocked all viewing ports with mud. Finally explosives were placed under the rear hull and the explosion rocked the tank nose down, the long gun barrel muzzle sticking in the bog. There we had some half tamed neighbours to address to, we contacted them a couple of times every day on the subject of surrendering. They were tough men, confined in a small spake where to live, eat and shit, but they were not willing to give up. IT was not until the fourth day that they started inquiring what would happen to them if they would surrender. Although I was sitting on the tank and personally reassuring them with my best school Russian that they would be considered POW s they thought about it for a long time – finally telling that they would surrender.
Before that I had threatened them with frying and explained that I had sent for a flame-thrower and then frying would be started- The Russians were by now in pretty bad shape, most of all the driver with his broken femur. He was sent directly to the C.C. S. They were tough fellows. The reason we did not destroy the tank with its men was that we could not damage weapons provided by our best supplier, instead we would try to take them over with minimal damages to be able to reuse them.
I put up Lt. Arvo Pentti for promotion to Captain and the Mannerheim cross. Both motions were approved and Pentti lad did deserve them.
With the Russian attack defeated another one could be expected at once. It was indeed launched on the 3rd October but this time the Neighbour tried to cross the river. A big ferry had been equipped with a tank and a platoon of men. In the middle of the river our artillery scored a hit on the ferry; the tank and the men vanished in the dark Svir water.
Even during battles like that something amusing may happen because humour survives in the toughest of situations, but not every incident is recorded and are forgotten. Here are my two from this battle.
Col. Lt. Uuno Tiirikkala, then III/JR44 CO, was just leaving for furlough in a staff car for Pirkinitsi as he heard the noise of battle at the power plant grow hugely. Since his men from Hauho might be involved, he was annoyed at the thought of missing a good battle – he ordered the driver to stop and turn around and return to the Svir. The din of the battle kept increasing but there was not a single boat there, on the opposite shore two tanks were firing at the water cistern where the Regimental C.P. Was situated. Tiirikkala ran upstream until he found a small boat with a paddle in it. He crossed the wide river and met me on the “Kill hill”. The battle was dying down and well so because Tiirikkala was armed only with a broken paddle.
A telephone discussion between my C.P. And the Rgt. C.P., the line connecting them had survived somehow. My C.P. Comprised a bomb shelter constructed by Vanyas, a strong 20 m long and 1,5 m wide structure. Three enemy tanks stopped at my C.P. One at both exits and one on the roof. The parking was provoked by a blue and white pennant marking the C.P. Ten fellows were in the C.P., among them volunteer Senu whose family name I forget.. He kept trying to contact the Rgt and Capt. Summanen. Sweating blood he explained that his abode was surrounded by tanks and asked for a “relief force” as Summanen later told me. The Captain told the caller to stay calm and avoid any fuss, it would be all right in due time.
-That's right, Senu said, I am not worrying by no means, I am just sitting here and writing roll call reports.
War diary extracts:
I/JR44 war diary extract:
09.40hrs Teira summoned to Karhu.
09.40hrs Order: Battalion to get ready to march.
14.00hrs 1st Coy of the Battalions arrived at the Svir shore.
19.00hrs Entire Btn at Svir, opposite to the hydroelectric power plant.
06.00hrs First troops set out to cross the Svir.
07.30hrs Sipilä started the relief at the right wing.
12.30hrs Relief completed.
12.30hrs Another Russki intense artillery barrage.
13.00hrs Barrage ended.
13.30hrs Barrage restarted.
14.00hrs Russki has been attacking now and then at Sipilä's sector.
At Turja's sector our artillery has been shelling with good success.
As to Viita and Kormi, nothing special.
Casualties on the 1st October 1941 by 17.00hrs
KIA : -, 1 + 2
WIA : -, 2 + 5
18.30hrs On the right side of Sipilä's sector sound of a tank heard. Reported to the Regiment.
19.30hrs Report by Sipilä: Quiet
19.40hrs Our artillery is firing.
03.30hrs Report to the Regiment: Quiet on the Battalion sector.
06.30hrs Kormi reporting: Shifting their positions ahead on the left.
07.00hrs Russki heavy artillery fired a few times.
07.00hrs Kormi reporting: Mäki-Kivistö reported that 2nd Lt. Melakaari has been wounded.
07.45hrs Report to Sipilä: 2nd Lt. Kuustela transferred to 3.K
Sipilä reporting: Russki moving (troops) from the right to the left at the Viita and Sipilä left wing (at their seam)
09.50hrs Sipilä reporting: Sounds of tanks at Liukkonen's sector. Small Russki groups moving from the right to the left. Russki in front of Sipilä's positions, distance at places 50m. Digging in.
09.50hrs Viita reporting: Sounds of tank emerging from the right. He is to get another 20mm AT rifles. There is one 20mm rifle at Sipilä's sector.
11.30hrs Russki tanks approached, one definite and one uncertain hit on them by our artillery.
11.50hrs Nothing special at other sectors. Our artillery has been shelling Russki positions with good success. Mortars likewise.
13.00hrs Russki artillery started heavy barrage at the power plant village and on its both sides and at the I Btn C.C.S.
Unfortunately the digitalizator has missed the two following pages with the most interesting content, continuing at
1.K war diary (on a school notebook) extract:
10.20hrs Coy issued orders to start off
10.45hrs Embarked on lorries and arrived at the Svir where the next night was spent.
06.00hrs Svir crossed with a ferry and landing boats and immediately positions were manned about 1,5 km E of the shore. Manning went on well and the Svir crossing happened on the N side of the power plant.
12.00hrs Enemy launched a heavy mortar and artillery barrage at the village behind our line where several fires were started.
12.30hrs Enemy launched an intense attack at our positions but was bloodily repulsed every time. Enemy continued their attacks until nightfall.
The next night was calm except single enemies moving about at their positions, our lads picked one off time and again.
Artillery and mortar shelling at the previous targets continuing.
13.00hrs Enemy launched an intense attack against our positions supported by tanks. The attack went continuously on until nightfall during which period our troops held their positions and destroyed 9 tanks.
The next night at the line there was continuously some minor skirmishing and the next day we eliminated the crews of the knocked out tanks.
Our positional warfare in our present positions went on until 15.X.
All the time there was a minor ongoing enemy contact who were specially at night sneaking in front of our positions to throw hand grenades.
Regularly every day at 1300hrs enemy started shelling our positions with artillery accompanied by mortars.
18.00hrs Coy CO replaced. New CO Lt. Liukkonen.
The only officially listed fallen of the I/JR44 in this battle served in this Company:
Nummelin, Esko, Pvt.
Born 30.09.1913 in Hattula , KIA 02.10.1941 Syväri (Svir)
Age 28 yrs, unit Jalkaväkirykmentti 44, 1. K
KIA, body evacuated and buried at Hattula, New church cemetry
Civilian occupation: silversmith, no children
2.K war diary (on school notebook with good handwriting) extract:
04.00hrs Reveille and tea.
05.00hrs Coy moved to the crossing point where we were shipped across with a pontoon and three landing boats.
08.20hrs 2.K found themselves on the power plant side of the river.
09.45hrs Relief completed with the elements of JR23. We had been placed in the road ditch flanked by the enemy. The Coy started digging foxholes to
(something missing here)
AT gun placed at the seam of I and II Platoons, firing direction the road and the E edge of the bog.
On the Punktinmäki hill two AT guns firing direction the road.
AT rifle on the right flank of the I Platoon at the ditch crossing, firing direction the road and E of the road.
3” gun N of the village in direct fire position.
III Platoon in reserve and for R&R relief in the bushes behind the II Platoon left wing.
C.P. On the II Platoon left wing (ex-JR23)
Since artillery targets were unclear or missing it was requested to define new targets and if possible a F.O. Post at the Coy sector.
Paramedic squad next to the C.P. Sent a paramedic to I Platoon.
14.00hrs Vanya fired with an “organ gun” making the dome of the sky howl. No casualties
even at the battery positions who had been under the fire.
17.00hrs Enemy directed heavy shelling at the positions for a while, no casualties however.
20.20hrs It was reported that (artillery) targets 908, 909 and 910 in front of the Coy line on the other side of the road have been confirmed. More can be agreed on with the F.O.O. Coming next morning.
Enemy artillery was sparsely shelling the power plant, the village and the terrain S of it.
06.30hrs Breakfast delivered.
07.00hrs III Platoon relieved I Platoon to R&R.
07.15hrs Artillery firing ranging shots among others at targets 908, 909 and 910.
11.30hrs Noises of lorries, vehicles and tanks started emerging from the enemy side in the direction of the road. Reported to Battalion.
12.15hrs Ample Russki barrage at our positions started lasting one hour.
As the sounds of tanks were passing the Loop road (map ref.) the approach was reported to Battalion and a barrage at target “Haili” was requested.
(Artillery targets) 34 and 16 immediately and the first smoke column was seen rising on the Vanya side.
42 produced an exceptionally black smoke.
40 took made the Russki yell, 50 and 2 were shelled and yelling did not stop,
As the sounds were in bearing 24-10 screen barrages 5 and 4 were fired.
Movement was reported behind the hill in front of us, grid 32-10, 909 and 910 requested.
There was a brief lull but it was disturbed by the noises of battle emerging from the sector of III/JR44.
Everything was in order, observation was intensified and we prepared to receive the enemy.
As tanks started rolling slowly from behind the hill M gunners were not able to remove their MG frozen to the ground , tanks were able to flatten the second MG including the weapon itself.
Enemy infantry was not yet seen following the tanks.
2 tanks were on the road in front of us,
3 tanks rolled over and past our positions
2 tanks were driving back and forth in front of our line on the other side of the road.
1 was following on the road.
The radio station in one of the very first tanks was able to disturb our artillery radio.
Tanks started firing and so cover each other.
An attempt to destroy the tanks with petrol bottles telephone discussion with Btn CO and report that the tanks had just passed the C.P. On the road for the village.
Radio contact re-established as the tanks were farther off.
Coy did not allow the F.O:O. To retreat while the enemy infantry was hiding.
Another call was made to the Btn immediately but no contact was made because the cables next to the road had been cut by tanks.
Btn was contacted via the Artillery radio, but only a scribe was there who told us he was scribbling a report.
One tank had his track cut off by a mine in front of the III Platoon and it swung into position . (?)
Lads requested permission to destroy the tank and advise how to do that since the tank was so big and immune to petrol bottles. A satchel charge was to be placed just next to the turret behind it under the widening part. [A KV-1 ? Tr.rem.] The tank was destroyed by CG Officer O.Niskanen and Cpl. Kapaila in the described manner.
At the C.P. The paramedics found a 4” log to shove between a tank track and track-wheels.
Satchel charges were useless against tank tracks because none came at a good distance.
A AT gun Corporal came to get his men and returned to his gun to encourage some of our lads with him. Pvt. Aulis Jokinen was wounded when in action at the AT gun with the Gun Cpl.
AT rifle men too were not able to place an effective hit on the tank although spending all their ammunition
III Platoon report made I Platoon (CG Officer Niskanen) to hurry to the right wing where 1.K had retreated. [This detail missing in the 1.K war diary entries! Tr.rem.]
A Runner was sent for the Jaeger Platoon.
Another Runner was sent for reinforcements to JR22.
One tank had advanced to the rear of 3.K and was snagged on a tree stump.
I sent PFC Ilola to find out about the situation as the men of 3.K had withdrawn from the road.
A Runner from the 1.K Platoon Liukkonen arrived to liaise and reported that enemy was in front of the positions 1.K comprised Platoon Liukkonen and 2nd Lt. Häyhä with his Runner.
The Runner was briefed on the situation and he was told that support was being requested and the 1.K sector was under observation.
The Runner had found the Jaeger Platoon behind 3.K. They had eliminated the snagged tank crew as they had come out to remove the tree stump. The Jaeger Platoon hurried to help Liukkonen.
The withdrawal of 1.K had attracted some III Platoon men to join them by error as the rumour on 1.K withdrawal order was being spread.
Runners did not find anyone at the C.P.
I directed the 6./JR22 that arrived to help us to the 1.K sector.
It was sent for more satchel charges and the men (3) buried in collapsed foxholes were dug up. Fortunately the only damage was one man's sprained ankle.
150 m from our C.P. In our rear one tank had dug itself stuck having driven on a tree stump. It was no major nuisance since it was unable to fire at our positions and avoiding it could be arranged. The tank crew did not promise to surrender so to begin with guarding was set up.
Another tank had been spotted in the rear of 1.K.
The tanks that had driven in the village returned and drove back and forth on the road some twice, others trice. When finally leaving one tank dragged away one stranded with fault.
It was sent for more satchel charges as only five were received.
The Regiment sent one AT gun and it was placed in position in the middle of the sector to wait for tanks showing up again.
We learned that the Rgt CO had been wounded.
Now every Platoon of the Coy were in the line.
Artillery phone line was cut, but only for a moment.
Our communications were re-established not until in the evening.
In the evening one Squad of each Platoon was sent to R&R to be later relieved platoon-wise.
In the small hours some artillery harassment.
06.30hrs Tanks emerged from the bushes on the right wing. 2 of them drove away at once but one crossed the road and arrived in front of our positions. AT guns started firing at it and finally managed to immobilise it behind the road in front of our right wing.
These tanks wounded 2nd Lt. In the head.
07.30hrs An AT gun was tested at the tank in our rear but no result.
Cpl Lehtimäki of the HQ squad was was allowed to go and place a satchel charge at the tank turret. Paramedic Sgt. Laurila asked to be allowed to join him, he was one of the men of the same district who had arrived as spectators. The turret was blown off and the tank caught fire.
10.45hrs minor exchange of fire which decreased into single shots.
11.30hrs Brisk shelling at our positions. Then CG Officer Niskanen was wounded.
2nd Lt. Myllykoski was posted as the I Platoon leader.
Sparseish rifle fire.
22.00hrs 2 Squads advanced to the tank on the other side of the road and finally destroyed it with a satchel charge.
1+4 were sent to get bigger satchel charges which had been promised but never received.
During the night minor skirmishing resulting in one WIA.
10.15hrs 1+3 patrol was to start off in the front but 3.K patrol had been on the no-man's-land and found out that enemy was in the forest beyond the open ground.
Some artillery harassment.
22.00hrs Our tank was driving on the road in front of our lines but enemy did not fire at it.
(end of day)
3.K war diary extract. (On a school notebook with two presumed splinter holes next to each other on the lower half, text skirting them !)
09.50hrs Coy issued orders to get ready.
11.30hrs March started for Pt. 40.5
16.30hrs Coy arrived at object. Lorry transport for 1/3 of the journey.
05.30hrs Crossing the Svir started.
11.40hrs Positions received
12.00-13.30hrs Coy CO inspected the positions
I Platoon pulled back into reserve.
Casualties 2 men.
14.45hrs 5 tanks ( model Klim Voroshilov) drove through our line. One was captured intact, one burned up two were immobilised. Vanya infantry did not follow their tanks.
The night was fairly calm.
Casualties one man. Mutual artillery activities. 5 bombers dropped leaflets in the village. 16.35hrs The new Rgt CO Polon arrived to familiarize with the positions,
(end of day)
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1.KKK/JR44 war diary extract
05.30hrs started crossing the Svir for relief in the front line. I Platoon had joined 1.K crossing the river at 0600hrs and relieved at once. Immediately thereafter III Platoon with 2.K and II Platoon with 3.K . ½ Platoons of the III were left in reserve as well as two Squads of the AT Platoon. One MG of I Platoon was malfunctioning so the third gave one of theirs as replacement. Casualties today 2 KIA and 4 WIA. All WIA are light cases. Coy C.P. is situated in the same air raid shelter built by Russkies as the Btn C.P. The place is situated some 400 m from the Svir shore next to the landing place E of the village. One replacement man joined the Coy..
10.00hrs Capt. Viita was given two AT rifles and two men for each rifle so that now the reserve comprises only one MG squad and what remains of the AT platoon.
Today there was a heck of a ruckus. For example at the Btn C.P. was visited by three tanks but they turned back having fired about without causing any other damage but setting one house in fire.
One tank flattened a II Platoon 2nd Squad MG. The MG was broken but the men in a foxhole were not badly hurt.
The casualties for the day comprise three WIA. Three men run over by a tank were given a couple of days R&R. Three MG s were broken today.
AT Coy/JR44 war diary extract
01.00hrs Coy guns were sent for relief in the first line.
02.30to 05.00hrs JR22 AT Coy and JR24 AT Coy were relieved. Relief went well.
12.00hrs At the I Btn sector where we had three guns, tanks were spotted.
Sgt. Karuvuori's gun crew led by Sr.Sgt. Toivonen saw eight tanks. At a range of 200m the gun opened fire. The tanks scattered. One of them wa knocked out and most others hit but the shells did not pierce but just made a small dent.
Three tanks came and started circin the gun as close as three meters (sic). Just then one gun wheel was dropped in a hole so the gun had to be abandoned for the time being.
Next, as the tanks had withdrawn a little Pvt. Kostiainen, assisted by a Rifle Coy man, knocked out one more tank.
15.00hrs The rest of the men returned to the gun and knocked out one tank.
17.00hrs Again two tanks appeared one of which was knocked out
15.00hrs Lingonvaara's and Salminen's guns spotted 2 tanks and the guns opened fire. The shells did not have effect. Yet one of the tanks remained there but kept firing.
17.00hrs Another two tanks appeared, of which one was destroyed by 2nd Lt. Lingonvaara's gun and the other one was immobilised.
During the day a total of 12 men were wounded including 2nd Lt. Lingonvaara, Sr.Sgt. Toivonen and Cpl. Salminen, Cpl. Hoppula. Badly wounded was PFC Lehti, Oiva.
During the afternoon the Coy was reinforced with two AT guns but these guns did not make it to action today.
Later another two guns were received.
06.00hrs to 0700hrs Lingonvaara's gun destroyed the tank that was immobilised last night.
Likewise Salminen's gun crew destroyed a tank immobilised yesterday with a satchel charge, this happened at 2030 hrs
Karuvuori's gun destroyed finally some of the tanks they had knocked out yesterday.
11.30hrs The 24.Pst.K guns subordinated to us yesterday were returned.
14.00hrs to 16.00hrs Coy CO managed to persuade the crew of one immobilised tank to come out: one Sgt and two men who were taken POW.
The day was calm.