JR7 in the Continuation War

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Lotvonen
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Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: JR7 in the Continuation War/Adolf Ehrnrooth, CO

Post by Lotvonen » 09 Apr 2020 05:34

JR7 during the trench war period

Col. Lt. Adolf Ehrnrooth was posted as the JR7 CO on the 28th January 1943. By that time he had been badly wounded on 1.7.1941 and was still suffering from the consequences. Ehrnrooth looked like the opposite of Col. Kemppi: a nobleman, young, ethnic Swede which reflected on his pronunciation of Finnish, meticulously dressed, cavalry background.

JR7, holding the about 7 km wide Ohta sector on the Carelian Isthmus with some 3600 men, that the new CO had “inherited”from his predecessor was in a good shape, and Ehrnrooth wanted to maintain the situation. He also admitted that the trench war would not go on indefinitely, and he wanted his outfit to be prepared in the best possible manner.

First he saw to it that the field fortifications on his sector were updated: trenches, weapons nests ad dugouts were improved or new ones dug. Most casualties were seen to be due to bad positions and lack of communications trenches. Men preferred to avoid water flowing trenches and walking on the trench banks exposed themselves to enemy snipers. By late 1943 the Regiment's trench system was in exemplary order.

An interview by then Gen. Ehrnrooth around 1980:

“-I kept telling my subordinates that we must see to it that the Regiment does not get tired in this trench war phase. A healthy contact with fighting must be maintained. The first line, our wire, cannot allowed to be a terrifying final line facing no-man's-land followed by enemy positions. Our troops had to learn to operate in front of our own positions, set up ambushes and even attack enemy defensive positions either supported by fire or by surprise.

“- I know that some have said this kind of strategy caused unnecessary losses. However, I disagree. The men in the front line are not guilty of the war, but since the nation has decided to fight a war, it must be done in earnest. No half measures will do. In a defensive war no major Verdun style battles are not necessary all the time, but it must not be allowed to shrink into a “Sitting war” (German: Sitzkrieg). Every commander, including future ones, should understand this. A practical touch with fighting must be upheld constantly, bearing in mind that the casualties should be minimized. If no touch is upheld it will avenge itself in case the enemy launches a major offensive. In that case our casualties would be the double and most significant, the defence would be broken far sooner.

“- However, these fights must not be fought by volunteers. Then the Regiment would loose the elite of their men in reconnoitring attacks. If such an action is deemed necessary, it must be fought by any Company, any Platoon, any Squad, any man. On our three sub-sectors there always was one Company in reserve to be employed for such reconnoitring attacks. If there was a specific target , training in our rear was provided for the action. The missions were taken in alternate order; no volunteers were accepted. The troops actually did not like training. They were experienced in attacking, enough so to think: “ We already know what is to be done”. But actually it is just training that cuts the casualty figure.”

An example: a raid on 15 Dec 1942 by 3./JR7. Extract of the war diary (neatly typed document)

7.12.1943
07.00-11.00hrs
Relieved [from 1st line] by 1st Coy who took over our sector. 3rd Coy was transferred to Battalion reserve. 1st Coy and 2nd Coy received as their reserve two squads each 1+9.
12.00-16.00hrs
Weapons maintenance and inspection.
8.12.1943:
08.00-11.00hrs
Work duty
12.00-12.30hrs
Medical inspection. Four cases of scab.
13.00-15.00hrs
Work duty

9.12.1943:
Work duty at the armoured dome line: digging and covering communications trenches, building an overground trench, setting wire posts

10.12.1943:
Work duty as yesterday.
13.00-15.00hrs
Rgt CO issued orders on reconnoitring and on a raid to an enemy strong-point on 14.12.43.
18.00-19.00hrs
Briefing by Btn CO on artillery and mortar actin in the coming task.

11.12.1943:
Work duty as before.
07.30-09.30hrs
Btn CO and Coy CO in recon patrol at the E side of the Inkilä forest. The patrol detected the bunkers in the objective and the weapons nest on the sides.
12.00-13.00hrs
Btn CO briefing

12.12.1943:
09.00-11.30hrs
Briefing for Platoon leaders
10.00-11.00hrs
Sunday Service
12.15-14.00hrs
Briefing by Rgt CO

13.12.1943:
07.40-08.45hrs
Coy reformed into a task force
09.15-10.30hrs
Briefing by Btn CO for the task force and details for the Coy CO.
09.00hrs
Sapper Squad led by Cpl. Pellikka and Flame thrower Squad led by Cpl. Kontio reported .
11.45hrs
Briefing by Rgt CO for the Battle group officers.
PM spent in preparation
19.00-20.00hrs
Briefing by Btn CO.
23.15hrs
Order by Btn CO on delaying the action to the 15th December.
14.12.1943:
The day was spent on training and preparing for the action tomorrow.
20.15hrs
Watches synchronized.
15.12.1943:
04.30hrs
Reveille
06.00hrs
Watches synchronized
06.00-06.10hrs
Rallying
06.10-06.25hrs
Inspection, march to the Btn Command post crossroads where the Rgt CO addressed the task force.
06.356-07.15hrs
March to tkk.12
07.18hrs
Battle group spearhead passed the wire at tkk.18. Battle group strength comprised 7+27+120.
3 rifle platoons 1+6+32
Command squad 1+2+4
Telephone squad 1+0+4
Sapper Squad 1+7
Paramedic squad 2+7
2 Runner squads 1+4
Arty F.O.O. Team 1+2+4
Mortar F.O.O. Team 1+1+1
Battle group led by Capt. Kiiskinen, I Platoon 2nd Lt. Nyberg, II Platoon 2nd Lt.Vainio, III Platoon Lt Talvitie.
The outfit advanced to the jump-off positions to the S tip of Inkiläinen forest in a file, at the SW corner the order was: Platoons I, II, III, Sapper squad, Runners with I Platoon. Command Squad and Arty F.O.O. Followed I platoon. Mortar F.O.O. Followed II Platoon. Paramedics followed III Platoon. The outfit was ready in open double file at 07.45hrs
07.53-07.54hrs
Arty Btn fire strike at the objective.
07.56hrs
Smoke mortars started firing at both sides of the objective and kept it on for the entire operation.
07.59-08.00hrs
Three Arty Btns shelled the objective and four Regimental guns and three AT guns fired at the objective and the weapons nests on its flanks.
08.00hrs on
Two batteries firing a barrage on both sides of the objective.
08.00hrs
The Outfit started advancing in open double file to the breakthrough point. A gap in the two row pipe mine field in front of the wire was opened by the Sapper squad advancing with the spearhead.
The enemy opened up MG fire from the flanks whereby Cpl. Jukka was KIA. I Platoon broke through the enemy wire in the enemy positions where the bunkers on the right were firing.
I Platoon started rolling up the trench to North, destroying the dugouts at it.
II Platoon that arrived at the breakthrough point immediately after the I P started rolling up the trench to South, destroying the dugouts and weapons nests. The leading Squad of the Platoon advanced some 250m where they destroyed an enemy accommodation dugout.
III Platoon, having followed the II P through the breakthrough point, advanced past the right side of the I P in front of them, staying to secure the I P to North and East.
08.45hrs
The strong-point had been destroyed and 2 POW taken.
The outfit disengaged like this:
I Platoon withdrew via the breakthrough point to tkk.11
III Platoon, having requested a barrage in front of them, pulled back after I P.
II Platoon requested a barrage in front of them and pulled back in two stages via the breakthrough point to tkk.11
09.00hrs
The rear parts of the outfit found themselves on the open bog as the smokescreen over the enemy positions was temporarily lifted, the enemy fired with mortars and direct fire guns at the withdrawing outfit. In the enemy fire 3 men were KIA and 16 WIA.
09.15hrs
The outfit had withdrawn to tkk.11.
Our casualties:
5 KIA, 19 WIA.
Enemy losses:
Estimated as 33 KIA and 2 POW.
Destroyed structures:
7 weapons dugouts and four accommodation dugouts plus 18 covered weapons nests.
War booty:
1 pcs autoloading rifle, 2 rifles. All documents found on the enemy dead were secured.
14.00-15.00hrs
The outfit was served in the canteen surrogate coffee and sweet buns. Rgt CO and Btn CO thanked for the accomplished mission.

16.12.1943
The day was used to check and count the weapons and ammunition.
(End of quote)

[II Platoon did not follow orders concerning the retreating route, instead they returned along the attack route, which resulted in casualties.]

To oversee the maintenance of the fighting capability of his Regiment, Col. Lt. Ehrnrooth carried out daily inspections. Every morning he visited the front line trench, systematically from the left to the right and then vice versa. For lunch he returned to his HQ in Termola, and in the afternoon he checked rear echelons.

A by-product of his inspections was that he learned to know his men personally, Mr. Sinerma even claims that “in practice” Col. Lt. Ehrnrooth remembered the name of each of his men. When talking with their CO on personal issues the men learned to know their CO and to trust him. The men had nicknamed Ehrnrooth “Aatu”. Yet he maintained a strong discipline: he insisted on saluting, military bearing and when inspecting, the sentries had to formally report.

Sources:
War diary of JR7
Martti Sinerma: Adolf Ehrnrooth sodan ja rauhan näyttämöllä (Juva 1981)

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