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I was wounded at Okanmäki
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 11, 1960
The author, born 13 July1913, died in the year 1999 in Kauniala, a nursing home for war veterans.
He did not mention in his story his actual outfit that must have been KTR10 that was assigned to support JR58.
In the initial phase of the Continuation War, the last day of July, I was serving as a F.O.O. In JR58, that was led by Col Eero H.Juva. Our task was to advance to the direction of Sortavala and we had reached the Okanmäki – Tirinmäki line where our advance was checked for a week. We had arrived in front of Okanmäki on the 21st July with Maj. Erkki H. Tara's Battalion. There had been several attempts to take the hill but the battles were unsuccessful.
The last of July was a more calm day and therefore I decided – being curious, maybe – to check the other side of Okanmäki. I took with me four men of my team and a radio squad. To my surprise I found there men that I knew, a company of JR37 comprising men hailing from Ylistaro. They were just preparing to attack, the H hour was to be 1300hrs. The plan was a surprise attack at Okanmäki, without artillery preparation, and I with my F.O.O. Team had to be involved.
We started advancing up an open slightly rising slope to the top of Okanmäki but as we found ourselves about 10 m from the edge of the forest the enemy opened up a tremendous fire at us. They obviously had been totally aware of our preparations and now was receiving us warmly. Our attack stalled, initially we just stayed there and waited, some of us began to dig in and I started to direct shelling at the enemy positions with our artillery stationed on the far side of the hill. Soon the Company CO found that it was impossible to continue the attack and gave an order to withdraw. I let my F.O.O. Team to join the retreating company but stayed behind with my two radiomen to prepare for our withdrawal. It did take some time to pack our radio gear.
Then it happened. I cannot tell if the shower of fire that hit us was produced by MG s, LMG s or AT guns but the result was that first one of the two radiomen, Cpl. Rantala began to wail and beg for help, and soon also Pvt. Rintamäki. While I was immediately dashing to them, I, too, was hit. I found that my left leg was wounded, although I did not know how. The shaft of my boot and the leg of my trousers were in tatters. I dragged myself to a field ditch a few meters farther off. I tied the strap of my map case around my thigh to stop the bleeding. Of course I expected that the enemy would come and check the no-man's land while I was aware that none of our men would come for the wounded during such a continuous shelling.
There we were laying, the helpless three of us, a few meters from each other, there was nothing else to do but yell in turns to attract attention. In my opinion it took hours until a Cpl. Hiipakka came to us. He stated that Pvt. Rintamäki had already died of his wounds, but Cpl. Rantala was not very badly wounded in his opinion.
Hiipakka did now his best to get me to our lines. Lying on his back he dragged me using a belt wrapped under my arms half a meter at a time down the ditch for about 50 m. Finally there were other Finnish soldiers, they made a stretcher out of fence poles and using that they carried me until stretcher bearers took care of me. I was taken to a field dressing station and from there to a field hospital. Later I learned that Okanmäki was taken a few days later.
(The Author lost his left leg due to the wound, but he did not mention it in his story.)
For comparison some war diary extracts. They do not necessarily confirm the story but there must have been very hectic activity and some details may have been left out:
JR37, II Battalion war diary
07.30hrs Btn was as ordered set up in defence in the directions of Voimäki, Laukkasenmäki and Kansakoulunmäki (Primary school hill)
08.00hrs Order arrived from the Regiment: To take over by 0900hrs (sic) the hills of Laukkasenmäki and Kansakoulunmäki in co-operation with Btn Larko.
09.05hrs Btn Commander's order:
1. Two platoons of 4th Coy and 5th Coy shall attack from the tongue of forest to N in the direction of the road and having reached the road they shall turn to the direction of the schoolhouse, target being the river line W of the river. 4th Coy on the right wing liaising with 5th Coy.
2. 2 platoons of 4th Coy and 6th Coy shall set up securing as previously.
3. The road shall be traversed N of Kukka-aho.
4. Btn Larko shall assist the attack with their fire.
5. H hour to be determined later.
6. I shall join 5th Coy until the road has been traversed, then I shall be near the command post of Btn Larko.
12.45hrs Attack launched.
School house hill was well fortified and the attack failed.
20.00hrs Renewed attack but failure. 2nd Lts Halttulnen and Pullinen were wounded.
22.40hrs Btn returned to the old campsite in the terrain S of the brook.
22.50hrs Russki tried to attack but failed.
12.25hrs Regimental order received on renewing the attack to the hills of Laukkasenmäki and Kansakoulunmäki.
16.15hrs The new attack started but failed for the same reasons as before and also due to the tarrying of 6th Coy.
01.45hrs Btn arrived in the previous positions.
08.45hrs A patrol 1 NCO + 3 men was sent to reconnoitre in the schoolhouse terrain.
14.00hrs An observation patrol was sent to Voinmäki hill.
23.00hrs The Btn runner stationed in the Regiment brought a report including a description of a planned attack in which the Btn would have an occupying role
JR 37, III Battalion war diary (Just to find out what happened later)
Regimental order: III Btn shall attack into the patch of forest W of Okanmäki and then be subordinated to Rgt. Juva (JR58)
08.45hrs Attack was launched.
Attack stalled at the S side of Okanmäki. Russki fired all day treacherously at our men who were moving, causing several wounded.
11.10hrs 1+1liaison patrol set out to liaise with Rgt Juva
In 8th Coy every officer was wounded.
Maj. Kontio subordinated also 8th Coy to 2nd Lt Rautio and ordered MG Coy 2nd Lt. Heiska as a Platoon leader in 8th Coy. It illustrates the situation that Sgt. Rasku, having joined the Btn two hours earlier, fell in front of his Platoon when liaising with 9th Coy. A Russki auto cannon also fired,
harassing our men. The night was spent in the patch of forest SW of Kimanen under hard Russki artillery fire. HQ, 7th, 8th and 9th Coys are at the level of Lamperi farmhouse in positions.
7th Coy sent as ordered by Regiment a patrol 1+8 from the terrain S of Okanmäki directly to W. Immediately the patrol ended up in crossfire. One man fell. The patrol did not reach their target. Arty Btn CO Capt. Inge is today subordinated to III Btn. In the evening one of their guns was a little mislaid and 7th Coy CO_ 2nd Lt. Rautio and Runner Martti Koski were wounded.
Maj. Kontio led the attack in the front line and cheered up the tired boys. There were several wounded as the open ground to the foot of Okanmäki hill was crossed. Btn command post about 80m behind the front line beyond the Simpura ridge.
10.00hrs Juva Rgt reports: 5th Coy has advanced to the peak of Okanmäki hill but 6th Coy and our Btn report that they are unable to advance, no matter what. Now a terrible enemy shelling started. Simpura farmhouse caught fire. Command post had to be relocated.
18.00hrs Juva Regiment started their attack on the right wing. Firing lasted all the evening. III Btn in defensive positions.
Still in defensive positions Men are longing to get some rest which is not granted. Regimental demand: Btn must attack.
21.30hrs Our artillery started action at Okanmäki, Russki responded, searching the positions of our artillery. Elements of 9th Coy and Jaeger Platoon tried to advance after artillery preparation but they had to stop and return to jump-off positions.
Still in defensive positions. Regimental order: III Btn shall secure the E side of Okanmäki for a future operation.
20.00hrs Orders received to attack Okanmäki.
9th Coy and Jaeger Platoon advanced together with Juva Rgt. Some 60m but were forced to retreat under heavy fire. In the night a heavy shelling at Okanmäki and Tirinvaara was launched . In the small hours Russki artillery harassed randomly. Day's casualties include one wounded.
III Btn in defensive positions Btn liaising with various detachments. All day mutual arty activities. Enemy fired mostly at Juva's sector.
18.30hrs Our artillery performed an artillery preparation at Okanmäki to probe if there still are enemies there. Probing was launched but the enemy was firing intensely. Enemy recon a/c overhead AM.
20.50hrs Jaeger Platoon was ordered to patrol the same terrain and seek lone enemies. The patrol retuned without encountering anything.
00.00-00.20hrs Russki launched a normal strafe. Our positions were shelled and fired at with light weapons. Rgt Jaeger Platoon arrived to secure the 7th and 8th Coy sector at Hopeamäki and Suomäki.
It was a restless night all through.
08.45hrs After artillery preparation another attack was launched at Okanmäki.
08.50hrs 8Coy CO_ 2nd Lt Heiska reported that at Tiirivaara Russkies had fought each other, sounds of shooting and yelling.
During the attack at Okanmäki Russkies had not shown up.
11.00hrs Maj. Kontio issued order: entire 9th Coy must advance with strong patrols to Okanmäki.
12.00hrs The first trenches on Okanmäki were free from Russkies on the E side up to the Sortable road. Advance continues. Complete liaison with Rgt Juva, enemy has not been contacted.
12.20hrs 9th Coy started advancing on full front. Jaeger Platoon waiting for orders at the 9th Coy command post.
Regimental order: After Okanmäki has been liberated the Btn shall rally and subordination to Juva Rgt ends. The order was accompanied by thanks for Btn Kontio for the action of the Btn.
12.30hrs Btn CO order: Jaeger Platoon shall send patrols to Luukkainen and Ijas to find if those places are free from enemy and secure the terrain until further orders. 9th Coy was ordered to set MG s to support patrols advancing over open ground.
12.35hrs Btn CO order to 9th Coy: As soon as the W edge of Okanmäki has been manned and found free of enemy and as soon as patrols have confirmed that Luukkainen and Ijas are free of enemy, Btn shall be rallied and subordination to Rgt. Juva shall cease.
13.00hrs Liaison officer of JR37 came to find out about the situation in Okanmäki, briefing provided by Lt. Keski-Tuuri
14.00hrs Enemy has retreaded to SW.
16.35hrs Rgt Juva took over the front from III Btn in the Luukkainen - Ijas terrain.
18.30hrs III Btn rallied in the Mäkelä terrain, setting up tents for rest and recuperation.
KTR10, III Artillery Battalion diary:
During the night the enemy shelled for suppression and barrages at Multamäki terrain
00.30hrs The howitzer battery subordinated to I/KTR10 shelled enemy mortars.
Enemy arty harassed “Koivu”
18.00hrs Tel. connection from I/KTR10 tel . exchange “Jorma” to III/KTR10 positions exchange “Lukkanen”
20.00hrs 2nd and 3rd Batteries were ordered to get ready to change positions to Roivas terrain.
20.15hrs Commander set out to liaise with Group Officer Maj. Huhtala
20.30hrs 3rd Battery set out for the new positions
20.50hrs Arty Btn Officer set out, moving to Roivas terrain.
Entire Arty Btn in firing readiness at Roivas terrain at 02.00hrs.
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Abandoned by God
Journal “Kansa taisteli”, 11, 1960
URR men who survived at Vammelsuu continue their retreat. Ref. Story 28 Dec 2015
A ragged, dirty and tired group of men was trudging slowly in the forest for the coast. According to the instructions of Col. von Essen it was best to take a detour that way to Uusikirkko, because the direct route could not be used any more. There was no thunder of artillery. There were no shouts of dying men nor laments of the wounded. The forest was just painfully and oppressively quiet.
We had left behind the steel hell at Vammelsuu. We had survived five days full of death, that had wiped out any memories of of heroic marching songs and also of our next of kin. There was just a mentally killed and famished band of men who was wandering to the rear, ignorant of the target of their journey.
SMG magazines were beating my sides, hurting a little. Actually it was the only feeling I had: neither joy nor sorrow, I was somehow absent. With me were shuffling some of my pals, those who were alive and managed to get away from the steel rain that had fallen on us in Vammelsuu. We did not know if any other survivors of our outfit were also in this forest. Here were six stunned human shapes trudging on.
Suddenly we were shaken into attention by a sound of weeping. The forest path in the morning sunshine was alive with quiet sobbing. It was Unto, our recruit, who tried to hold back his tears biting on a willow twig. Drops of clear liquid were ploughing ugly grooves on his dusty face. His recruit pals had been left in the shelled field at Vammelsuu and now he felt his loneliness here in the middle of silent forest ever more oppressive.
-Quit bawling, we don't have it easy either, Pfc. Nissinen uttered. He was stumbling at even the smallest bulge on the path. His eyes, wildly widened, were staring at the path, his breath was hissing between his lips and he appeared to have problems in moving his legs.
Unto's shoulders were still shaken by sobbing but there were bitter creases on his face. What was he now? A man? No, he was more than that. He was a fighter who had been introduced to death and the cup had been full of blood.
-There is blood dripping down your side. Let me take a look, will you?
-Let it be. Just take care of your bawling
-I am finished with it now. Pull of your tunic and we shall see.
We stopped, amazed. Was it the wound that Nissinen had concealed or was it Unto's odd words that had shaken us out of torpor? Anyway we rushed to Nissinen because he had fallen down like a shot man.
There was a large wound, covered by congealed blood under his trouser waist, up to his haunch. Everyone was reaching for his first aid kit. I piled them in front of me and sank on my knees next to Nissinen. Jorma, wearing a pullover, turned the groaning man over to enable me to bandage the splinter-torn haunch. However there was no disinfectant available, not even water, to clean the wound . Also I lacked the skill to do it properly and my hands were dirty. Sand was shaking from my tunic as I tried to bandage that sweaty body somehow.
Raimo, our Platoon leader, had taken off his tunic without any comment. Jorma followed his example, then he took his field spade into the alder bush and soon we heard sounds of cutting. The rest of us, except Unto, had abandoned our spades there where we had been digging foxholes the last time. The tunics were converted into a makeshift stretcher. The silver (reserve officer) rosettes were shining on the tattered tunic that now was supporting our wounded pal.
Quietly we had a smoke. Then Raimo beckoned to the stretcher, grabbing the other end. Jorma took the other end and we supported the sides. There was some faint moaning. The wounded man had lost his consciousness as we were dragging him on. Where were we taking him? We had no idea. We just were hoping to find somewhere a field dressing station where to leave our pal for treatment.
We had no idea how long Nissinen had been wounded. We did not know what pains he had endured. But we did not want to abandon him, never, even if we would all drop dead in one pile. We did not use any words to make the decision, it was visible on every face. We had fought together, we would meet our end together if it was what the fate decreed. There was no difference between the officer and his subordinates. There were just five tired and hungry men who were dragging their wounded pal somewhere. Minutes turned into hours. We proceeded on kilometre after kilometre. Sun was shining in cloudless sky. At times an aircraft t passed overhead, friend or enemy, we did not care to find out. We just tried to keep going. Nissinen was at times conscious and telling about his home somewhere in Savo. At times he was ploughing his field, then he was driving his horse, or he had fired his ammunition and calling for resupply. He was in pain but there was nothing to soothe them. There was no water either.
My tongue felt like dried into my palate. It was more than one hour that we had been talking with each other. Our legs kept going until our recruit stumbled. The stretcher was dropped on the path. There was a painful yell as Nissinen rolled on the ground.
-Help us, decent people. Where are you tarrying, it was promised you would help us, come on now! Only the echo answered the furious shout of our Officer. Biting his lips, he alternately wept and cursed. Shaking all over he was looking at Nissinen who was curled up on the ground, and looking desperate he was clenching and opening his fists.
- Have a smoke and sit down, said Jorma, as he dragged Nissinen by the belt to lean against a tree. He put a cigarette between his lips.
- He does not feel anything any more. He is quite numb already.
- But he is still alive. Can't you see! If you, boy, once more should drop him, I shall kill you! Raimo was raging
- You don't...The boy could not help it. It was Pentti defending Unto, he sat down opposite to Raimo and pointed his SMG at the officer's bare chest.
- Hey, recruit, lend me a hand, I said and grabbed the wounded man by his shoulder.
- Never mind about this, sometimes we are all like this.
We lifted Nissinen again on the tunics and pulled his bent legs straight. We stared at each other for a while and then started again. The wounded man regained intermittently his consciousness and then he would shout in pain:
- My god, why did you abandon us!
There was an odd strangling feeling deep inside as this odd procession was stumbling on.
Suddenly, as if this call for help had been heard somewhere, we suddenly caught sigh of a “poison bus”. Three men were just taking down a tent. A motor was running. A small ambulance van was ready to depart on this forest road and an officer, wearing a Sam Browne belt, was just stepping in it.
-Hey, wait a moment! Here is a wounded man!
The men stopped their task and looked at our band in amazement.
-There is no room! The ambulance bus just left and we have packed our gear, the van is full!
The man with the officer belt came out of the van, he was a surgeon captain judging by his insignia. Also we found ourselves in a first aid post.
-Do you mean that there is no room for a wounded man ? Raimo was standing just in front of the Captain, his voice was one of amazement. Getting no response, Raimo pulled the rear doors of the van open and started throwing out the stuff inside. One by one packages were flying in the heather covered ground. Then water pails were rolling on the ground as he kept emptying the car, breathing heavily.
-Water pails? There must be water somewhere here! Suddenly we realised how thirsty we were, it was like a bolt from the blue. Pentti was the first to comprehend, he grabbed a pail and looked questioningly at a Sergeant who had turned up. He beckoned to a path going downhill, and Pentti was already running there.
-Who are you and where are you coming from? The Captain asked, looking at the group in front of him, maybe a little afraid as Raimo, assisted by Unto, began to load Nissinen in the van he had emptied
-From Hell! But you are going to take this fellow to a hospital. We have been on the march from Vammelsuu. Anybody got tobacco?
Jorma was calmly looking at the Captain who appeared to have regained his composure shattered by the recent incident. He pulled out a case of “Sevilla” cigarettes, and he treated everyone of us.
Raimo's eyes were still furious and the Captain explained:
-I am a doctor and I have received orders to follow with the field dressing station gear to Viipuri by this here road.
Surprised, we were looking at the Captain. All kinds of thoughts were rolling about in my brain. I did understand that something had to be done something to check the enemy advance. But where and what, I did not bother to think.
At the same moment Pentti trudged up the path to us, wet all over, carrying a full pail of water. We tried to drink out of the lip of the pail but the water just kept flowing on us. Finally we thought of a better way: we pushed our face in the pail and were able to drink. A mug was found and Pentti used it to give some water to the wounded man. Nissinen had recovered consciousness once more, saying a few words in a subdued voice.
The Sergeant, one of the retinue of the Surgeon Captain, picked up a plywood box discarded by Raimo, and the doctor took out an ampoule and a syringe.
-This is all I can do here.
Raimo was sitting, his head sunken on his arms, staring on the ground. Responsibility was weighing heavy, although it now was just a leader's instinct. By instinct, we., too, still trusted him. We could not even imagine that it would not be he who would lead us, in case we needed any orders any more Everyone could do what could be done in every case.
-That is all right. I understand. But we must be going now. Hey boys, get on board, the Captain called his men. Once more we went to the van to shake the hand of the wounded man, in a simple manner. We tried to smile.
The gears of the van crunched and with a low buzz it vanished down the forest road. We were grateful for our pal, and maybe a little bitter. He had got rid of this insecurity. There was an empty spot in our chest as the noise of the van had got out of earshot. But for a while only. Soon we were, wolf-like, tearing open and emptying the stuff Raimo had dumped out of the van. We scattered everything, throwing pieces of clothing around and swearing terribly. Finally we found a full carton of crispbread in the bush. Probably there could not have been anything more delightful for us but the dry army bread. We filled our bread pouches with it, pouches already in use for ammunition. We did not care about the gun grease that could spread on the bread. Raimo had found a flannel undershirt that he pulled on.
-You look like a human being indeed. How about leading us to the parade of the sixth of December, right to Helsinki . Do you think they would accept your salute?
-What about you then? Your face looks like it was flattened by a roll, although you never was a beautiful man. If the girls in Lappeenranta would see you now, I bet they would run.
Once again we were alive. We were joking, crudely though, while we were chewing the hard bread with teeth crunching. Raimo and Pena were the one in the best mood. Jorma put in a word every now and then.
-Unto, our junior! You know to do other things beside shooting. Come here, let's light up.
Raimo hugged his shoulder and pushed a fag in his mouth. The fear of superiors that had been planted in Unto in the training camp had been shaken off in two days. He was still young but he knew more than an old man in the home front, although he had lost more.
While we were talking we were crudely interrupted. As if stamped up from the ground there were men standing in front of us wearing green helmets with red starts. We do not know their number even today, there was no time to count, and it is not clear what actually happened. Suddenly the SMG hanging on my side rang out and I threw myself in the heather. Three men in front of me folded down like clasp-knives. Their yells were ringing in my ears.
I rolled over. There was Raimo, his red striped flannel shirt flashing as he was jumping from one tree to another firing single shots. Muzzle flames were flashing on the far side of the road in the heather. Jorma and Pena were sending lead there. But Unto, our junior, oh my, was using his field spade. His rifle was slung on his back since he did not have time to take it into use. Yelling terribly he swung his spade with two hands. Two enemies were down at his feet while a third tried to hit him with the butt of his rifle. I pointed my weapon at him and fired. The man appeared to be launched in the air before he flopped down, looking amazed.
There was a noise of shots and bullets hitting trees. Raimo shouted a command and we broke into a run. We had been surprised by an enemy patrol. We did not know how large the outfit was and we did not stay to find out. We ran, our legs were working in a machine like manner, our lungs were about to burst.
- Oh migod! I cannot make it any further. Keep going, you.
Raimo was panting. He had been burned out like a candle, his head was swinging on two sides as he strode.
Let's sit down, for heck! They can kill us just once. I am not running, be there an entire battalion of them.
Pentti sunk down, exhausted, leaning against a tree.
What had we done when we had to run about like beasts of the forest for our lives. Had we really been abandoned and left alone, and how long would we be able to go on?
Swearing creepily Jorma hauled himself up, poked everyone with the butt of his gun until we got up and so we kept slogging on. Where to? The fate would decide. There were no maps, no compass either, just a dim instinct of self-preservation that was driving us on. The watch on my wrist showed it was 1500 hours. At home somewhere they were preparing to have dinner. Our jaws were grinding crispbread soiled with gun grease. We had been marching from 0400 hrs. It was June sixteenth. Our troops were scattered in the forest. Which men would still be alive? We tried just to save our lives as long as possible.
We arrived at a group of buildings. There was a sound of shattering glass as Jorma smashed in a shop window with his gun butt, then we crept in. The door was locked, but we did not even try to break it. We were too tired to do it. We threw ourselves on the floor here and there, soon we were snoring in deep sleep. On the other side of the road the swells of Gulf of Finland provided a lullaby.
At 0300hrs next morning the entire building collapsed on us unexpectedly. It was only now, running on the road, we saw that there was some of our artillery in position behind the village. They were drawing the enemy shelling, of which we had received our share. Our boots were beating the road to the shore and we did not tarry.
A few hours later we found ourselves at a crossroads. There we stopped a lorry, a Lieutenant in a clean uniform was sitting next to the driver in the cab. After Raimo had introduced himself we were given a ride to our destination where we found the remains of our Squadron. By evening there were about thirty of us. But, a miracle, no one was telling about the steel storm at Vammelsuu or their journey here to the rallying point. With blank eyes we were watching the laughing men wearing clean whole uniforms, heading for the front line. Could they do any better in a battle than we had done, one thought. The intuition said: They, too, are men, nothing more
Pfc. Nissinen...later we learned that he had not survived.
For comparison, 3rd Squadron war diary extract. It is not known which Squadron the author was serving in, and this is the only surviving URR Squadron war diary of Summer 1944.
The Squadron settled in defence in the Main Defence Line at the beach of Raivolanjoki river.
Minor firing and fighting activities.
07.00hrs Enemy launched an intense shelling and infantry attack that was repelled.
23.00hrs The Squadron disengaged and pulled North for Pienjärvi lake.
Fighting continued as delaying action from Mustaruukki to Piispala.
The Squadron defended Kaipiala village before retreating to Kuolemajärvi.
The Squadron was in defensive positions in Patjalahti village, retreating via Taatila, Kolmikesälä and Hyksälä to Hörkkö.
Defensive fighting continued in the terrain of Hörkkö village.
The Squadron retreated via Viipuri to Vilajoki.
Rest and recuperation for the Squadron at Vilajoki.
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East of Tolvajärvi
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 11, 1960
In this story NCO Helkiö, 1./Er.P9, tells his story from the beginning up to the two stories published earlier, ref. Stories 16 Nov and 25 Nov 2016.
There was an early reveille on the 12th December 1939 in the barracks of Kouvola garrison.
After the confusion of the sudden departure we soon found ourselves in cattle wagons and the train was heading East in a calm rate. Later we could see that the direction had changed to NE. There was Tolvajärvi, and alarming news had emerged from that quarter even in our ears as we were waiting to leave Kouvola. Would we have to get right under fire to plug a hole in “the wilderness front about to collapse”? Many a man who had been in compulsory military training a good many years ago had cold shivers pondering this possibility.
One afternoon the train arrived at sad-looking Värtsilä, where we at first were marched here and there looking for a place to sleep overnight, until we settled in the railway station house after midnight. As the next night fell a great number of buses arrived at Värtsilä, and our bus journey with dim lights through scenic wilderness started. It was obvious that the end terminal of such a journey could only be a place called Korpiselkä (“Wilderness ridge”).
We spent that night and the next day in Korpiselkä. At the next nightfall we set out for a war march that was a hard and energy consuming trudging on a snow covered road, it was like a through filled with dry hay. Every step would slide in some direction. The weakest men began to collapse due to fatigue. I was not one of the oldest of us, neither among the youngest ones, but during this march I regretted very much that I had not taken care of my stamina lately. The march was an extraordinary strain indeed, and I pondered how I would be able to practice warfare if I would perish on my way to the front. But we made it anyway.
Once at Tolvajärvi the news of the moment were excellent to be Winter War news. A terrible piece of evidence of the goodness of them were the dark heaps and spots that could be seen on the ice of a lake, a defeated enemy outfit that no more fired nor attacked.
-There are more than one hundred of them, and thousands have probably been buried already, explained someone who had been creating the scene.
In the snow covered terrain of Tolvajärvi I relived memories of my childhood. Trees chopped by rifle fire, a lop-sized house with a hole in its wall, black holes in white snow. I had seen all that some twenty years ago at Lempäälä (during the Finnish Civil War of 1918, tr.rem). Whistling bullets, whining shells, explosions, fires had been a part of daily life. One day my home had gone up in flames. I recalled all that and I was able to admit that the traces of war are looking the same still today. I found that war was rather familiar to me. Being aware that I mastered every infantry weapon almost at a master level, I believed I would be able to do my share in future operations. I was just hoping that I would have the time to achieve something useful for the country before I would be killed or wounded. I carried a P/08 on my belt and my good familiar M28/30 rifle slung on my shoulder, and I was intent, willing and feeling responsible to use them to do all that a man and an Infantry Sergeant is able to do.
The replacements, hailing from Kymenlaakso, were distributed at Tolvajärvi in various outfits. I lost contact with most boys of my home village with whom I had arrived. I felt strangely lone in the large crowd. I followed the others as they went on, I followed their example and on a new march I saw the huge machinery of war rolling around me. Who is in command of all this, who controls these columns, baggage trains and everything involved in this campaign? This is not a child's play, indeed not. One single Infantry sergeant is a minuscule factor in this process.
During the small hours we were approaching the front line, the sounds of battle began to reach our ears. Enemy artillery would send every now and then a single shell or a battery volley in our rear. Our side responded even more sparsely. Here and there a flash of fire ripped a fiery hole in the clay grey cloud cover, a heavy shell appeared to fly as far as Tolvajärvi, and the sound of explosion reached us like an echo from the past.
Then we were stopped, and about time, too, because by smell alone we could sense that the enemy was near. On what basis were the recently arrived replacements divided out and how successful was it, taking into account the haste and the darkness? At least it was a quick process. There may have been documents and lists of names, mine among them. Anyway, soon I found myself in a tent, dimly lit by a hurricane lamp, where a tall looking officer wearing a dark beard, explained that I belonged to his Platoon, and continued:
Here are your men – write up their names if you have the time.
Next he ordered everyone to get food from the field kitchen under a fir thee, eat quickly and get ready to fight.
It was a fairly clear and brief programme: ready to fight, all right! However, I had expected a briefing and information concerning “the terrain, the distance to the enemy, friendly troops and the intent of the commander” etc., matters that had been considered necessary before a battle during the compulsory military training. Few of us were any better informed than a recruit of the Cudgel War (1596-1597, tr.rem) who had asked “Do you have to quarrel first when in war, or are you allowed to start bashing at once?” Maybe it was needless to do any explaining, quarrelling had been finished, and also for me the purpose of our fighting in itself was clear.
Yet I would have hoped for some information according to the training in the Battle Academy, and kept hoping for one month but never did I get any.
The platoon I was posted in was speaking in such an odd dialect that I was initially bewildered. The constant expression heard was "bargele" and its synonym "bärgele" . As we were standing on the road, ready to depart, I heard behind my back:
The Corporal of our squad perished – what a brave man
I wonder what this new one is like?
The platoon started advancing slowly. Single rifle shots were heard from a distance of some 200 m and some SMG bursts. A wounded was carried to the road from the forest and taken to the rear on stretcher.
Now this was the real war. Those shots had been fired in order to kill, the wounded man was a fact. We proceeded another hundred meters and there was a stop. A small red light was twinkling on both sides of the road on tree trunks, warning us not to continue. I expected we would continue on the two sides of the road, but we did not. The black bearded officer had a word with someone then he returned and said:
Follow me !
In the darkness of the night I was not able to estimate how large the outfit obeying the officer was. It could have been one Company. Also I did not know if there were other officers among us, actually I did not know anything. Never in my life have I done anything important under such a great uncertainty. Maybe nothing important was going on, it was best just to follow the black-bearded one. He led the outfit along the side of the road, then there was a turn and I sensed that the road was left behind totally.
Now it was dawning. I was able to see that there were maybe hundreds of men in a double file following us. What was this manoeuvrer that was going on? The front line battle noise increased steadily but we left them ever farther to the rear and to the left. In the forest we arrived at the perimeter of a small open bog. There we halted. The black-beared one chewed some dry food, studying his map, apparently hesitating. Then he summoned me and showing me the map he said.
-We seem to have this path here. Lead the Company right North from here to that point here.
-Yes, Lieutenant, Sir!
-My rank is Cornet, I am Cornet Kajennuk, the officer corrected me.
It was not until now that I learned the unusual surname of the officer. During the march there had been another black-bearded officer whose surname was said to be Volontis. Did we already get some aid from abroad, not only humanitarian?
I started leading the Company, bearing North. Soon it appeared that we were heading right for the front line. We could hear the sounds of battle, shouting and commands right on our left, and the whine of bullets began to disturb our advance. The Cornet came and began to admonish me severely:
You have been leading to Hell. At least half a kilometre too much to the left. We are not going to the front line.
Having a compass I cannot make such a great orientation error in this simple a case. Maybe we started from the wrong location? I opined modestly.
Having checked the situation for a while the Cornet admitted his error. Now we headed to the right and after fifteen minutes of trudging we found the path. It was beaten hard by other men and there appeared to be several companies there.
A reconnoitring airman could have spotted from above a winding file of men, about one kilometre in length, snaking over open bog to North. This is what certainly was the risk and that is why we were making haste. And it happened that just as the tail of the file had crossed the bog there was a noise of aircraft emerging from the East. The airmen surely could see our tracks but we were hiding under trees, undetected by the enemy. The Finnish outfit of several hundred men proceeded past the front line into the enemy rear. I had an idea that we were doing an enveloping manoeuvrer. I asked one officer about it, he admitted with a smile that there was a surrounding operation being attempted, but he could not tell more.
The brief winter day soon turned into another dusk. During the daylight period we had advanced in the forest as if to spend time, and in the darkness we advanced just as slowly but for other reason. We must have been approaching suspicious areas. I was leading a column and I remember the several instances of rebuke by Cornet Kajennuk at me, for being too far ahead or too much behind. For a change, I had strayed too close to the second file, a few times too far from it. Always there was something wrong, never right.
Around midnight we stopped in a dense forest and we were told that extreme caution was necessary from now on. We may have been ahead of our schedule because the halt was quite long. Standing in thick snow I leaned against a pine trunk and due to exhaustion fell in a torpor-like nightmare. There appeared to be a gigantic portrait of Stalin hovering over the tops of trees in a shimmer of eery liver tinged light. The portrait was swaying slowly until it suddenly vanished into something cold and damp. I had fallen on my face in the snow, receiving a refreshing snow wake-up. I was also feeling cold, but at the very moment we started again. I should say that the final leg of our march was less than one kilometre Our advance comprised now every element of night action: silence, alertness, high tension, maybe also fear. Night is frightful always in this kind of circumstances. Ahead of us there was the objective that was unknown to most of us, risk of getting ambushed, threat of getting surrounded and anything else unpleasant.
The forest covered slope was getting steeper. Then we encountered a stake fence, through the gate we advanced to the perimeter of an opening overgrown with low bush. There was a group of buildings looming a few dozen meters off. We had reached our objective.
Cornet Kajennuk came to me, chewing crispbread. Beckoning to the houses he whispered:
- that is what we shall attack. Find positions for your squad at this spot.
I proceeded another ten meters and was just looking for “positions” as the very first shot of the attack rang out just next to me to the left. I dropped down on the spot and pointed my rifle at the houses, ready to start shooting. Now several rifles were shooting on my left flank. Since I imagined seeing dark shapes running hastily about among the buildings, I, too, fired the first shots of my life “with lethal intent”. My squad had taken cover at once all about the place. Cpl. Pesonen had managed to set up his LMG just at my right ear, giving a long burst at the said shadows. With my eyes temporarily blinded and my ears likewise deaf I told myself that this was also the so called baptism by fire for me in this war.
I told Pesonen to get a little downhill and he came at once just next to me.
-I guess your ears did get hot, he enquired, laughing.
Our firing ended quite soon as if by itself. No one was firing at us, why should we in that case keep shooting at the houses. Instead, all around us there was a lively cracking. Rifle shots, brief and long LMG bursts, and tremendously intense MG fire ahead of us. Judging by the echo there was open ground. In the forest the reports were muffled as if in a bag.
Cornet Kajennuk had probably received a message or seen in his schedule that our mission was accomplished for the moment. Nothing great was accomplished, I thought to myself, if nothing better is coming up. That was all, actually, because soon we found ourselves on return journey stepping on our incoming track. We had returned one kilometre, or maybe two or three, as we encountered a patch of forest in the middle of a bog. Soon the forest was full of men. There were sounds of chopping with axes, standing dead pines were cut, firewood was split, fir branches were collected. What on earth was going on? Soon a campfire was shining bright in the middle of the forest, followed by a second, third – and scores of them. Men carried fir boughs in a circle around every campfire. They were lying down! Would they sleep just like that? A good sleep would have been necessary of course but in my opinion it was extraordinary that in this situation, our lines being at least ten kilometre off and the distance to the enemy no more than two or three km, the men would calmly turn it. Who is securing this peace? It was to be me.
At a campfire I saw the officer that I had met before and he assigned me to set up a couple of listening posts and four double sentry posts to secure the outfit having a rest. “Setting” proved to be an exercise in futility. The men of my platoon had dispersed like all others, each at a different fire, and it was a wasted effort if a strange little bearded Sergeant tried to recruit unknown men. No volunteers turned up. Finally I managed to post one single man at the direction of the enemy. I explained him that he is now at a so called listening post, so he would have to keep his ears pricked. In case he would have to be also a so called sentry, he had better to keep his gun in firing readiness. On the right flank I managed to find one man – a feeble “geezer”, to my great amazement a man of my home village. I had thought none of them would be left in our Company since Tolvajärvi. He very much feared my proposal of making him a sentry but he stayed there anyway as I had explained him that there are lots of men just around. Everyone is coming to help him if there is any trouble. Just shoot if you should see any enemies!
I should not have said the last sentence, because the man of my village saw “enemies” almost at once and fired twice, the forest echoing. I ran to him, enquiring the reason for shooting. The man was trembling, he was panicking and seeing enemies all over the place. I explained him as well as I could that there is no emergency here, just get to the campfires and get some sleep.
For one hour I tried to set up sentries but in vain. It was a totally hopeless task. Heavy snoring was the response at every fire, all now dying down, even though there must have been men awake among them. They just feigned unconsciousness deeper than sleep when poked at. A moment later on my “inspection tour” I found that my only listening post had vanished. I had to admit myself with a little bitter irony that the safety of the entire fighting detachment depended in this dreary morning hour on one tired and sad Sergeant.
It was not until much later I have understood that the Sergeant, too, should just have turned in. A decent sleep would have replenished the energy now wasted for future duties. Today I believe I understand the significance of this foray to Pojasvaara village as a part of grand strategy. Pajari's attack was approaching Ägläiärvi with great force, and one Division of enemies were about to be annihilated there. In this situation as the enemy found out that large numbers of Finnish troops are on the move more than ten kilometre deep in their rear, not one man of the supply troops in Pojasvaara village is going to set out in the forest to search, catch and destroy Finnish outfits. On the contrary, there will be a great anxiety in Pojasvaara village and presumably also in Ägläjärvi which probably has to be ceded soon. Most of the troops are set to retreat as soon as possible and the troops left to secure are abandoned to death.
It must have been something like this but how could a Sergeant know that back then. I had just an idea that for a trifle we had suffered cold, hunger and wounds, too. Own men may have been accidentally fired at somewhere there.
Next afternoon as we reached our font line it moreover appeared that the enemy activity had greatly increased, they might have advanced and our troops would be retreating. So the bog that we had traversed without worries of being shot at the previous morning was now subjected to such a hail of bullets that it was impossible get across it. On top of all the enemy artillery, fighter planes and bombers set up at evening dusk as we were coming “home” such a grand show that we were not amused. I asked a Captain if we were having a hard time and would we have to retreat? He responded that the opposite is the case and it looked very much like that tomorrow we would start advancing again. Such was the difference between the belief of a Sarge and the knowledge of a Captain.
The next morning was clear and beautiful. The gloominess and stress of the Pojas foray had been wiped off. After a good night's sleep it was really nice to proceed along beautiful snow drifts, chewing crispbread, to expel the enemy from Finland. The foe did greet us at once with some kind of odd “hornets” that when incoming would buzz nastily and upon landing made a big bang.
Soon we reached a low ridge across our direction of advance. The road almost touched the lake shore and then continued on the far side of the lake. There was a lively shooting in every direction, echoing in the clear winter morning a hundred times .
A private was running down the ridge and shouting when coming:
A tank is breaking through now, our gun jammed
Nothing is going to break through, said the “sturdy” officer I had seen yesterday.
He won't, because there is another AT gun on the left wing
Having heard the piece of news propagated by the Private I hastily climbed on top of the ridge to see with my own eyes what was going on there.
Behold indeed, there was a tank but it was burning with high flames. Quite so, another tank is coming from the enemy rear, creeping along like a bug in the forest. Now he is passing the burning one.
The AT gun on the left went bang once and it was all that was needed. The tank took a square hit and started getting scorching. “National defence” appeared to be so good that I felt like singing.
An affable looking Lieutenant down in the gully was heard saying that we shall soon start off but before that our artillery should send 400 shells at the enemy. He appeared to be amused by the high number, a couple of zeroes might well be found missing.
While waiting for the artillery preparation I enquired Cpl. Pesonen for some facts, such as the name of our outfit, the names of our officers and so on that would be good to know in this stage! Pesonen told me generously in his Carelian manner all he knew. We found ourselves in the ranks of Er.P 9 and its 1st Company, the Coy CO was Lt. Vesterinen, the “sturdy” officer. Our Platoon CO was the man recently talking, the affable Lt. Ikonen. I did not see Cornet Kajennuk that morning or ever after.
At the very moment our artillery started softening up the adversary but stopped at once. The given ration had been used up, maybe a dozen of shells. Our platoon was advancing on the extreme right wing. We proceeded at a good walking rate, but a couple of kilometre later we sort of hit a wall and our movement was stopped by fire from the ridge in front of us. There were heard odd “thinly” buzzing bursts, the sound was “weaker” compared with the sound of LMGs (Probably Simonov m/36 automatics, tr.rem.)
Finally there was only a low gully between us and the “rattlers” but it was not possible to advance there. The 3rd Platoon on our left dashed however on the open ground in the cover of trees and was greeted by bursts of five or six shots so that snow was flying. One young 2nd Lieutenant had his arm shot off. He sat down on a tree stump and burst weeping due to pain:
- Can't do anything..
An officer shouted with a loud voice:
-Get back from the open ground! Get back in the forest! Take cover!
There was a pole fence parallel with our advance between us and the 3rd Platoon and the “rattlers” were situated on the left side of the fence from us. They kept shooting right ahead but time to time also “acknowledged” us. We were like fools standing among the sparse pine forest, without taking cover and kept shooting while standing straight. So one BG Sergeant took a bullet in the heel of his boot and he left to have it bandaged!
-Why don't we get going, since here on our sector there appears to be no other resistance than mortar bombs?
-Sarge, don't make haste – we have all the time in the word.
Yet I went on. Lt. Ikonen joined me and soon half a dozen men were following us. A tall soldier came from somewhere, walking at the fence standing up. There was a quick burst fired behind the fence and the soldier came wailing back with his arm shot up. He crossed the glen quickly, “pulling” with him all my men.
I had seen the case of the tall boy so well that I was able to determine the spot where the burst had been fired from. I approached crawling and then peeked through a slot between the fence poles at the enemy positions. There it was, about 40 m off, a foxhole surrounded by small pines, the outlines marked by brown (sand) on white snow. At the very moment a mortar bomb went bang in the gully among my men that took three of them out of game. I turned back to avenge.
There were several green helmet tops seen in the hole, but so low down that it was not worth while to shoot. I was waiting for a better chance. Then an auto rifle rose on the front edge of the hole, it was levelled at our 3rd platoon and soon the gunner's helmet was emerging. I had a quick thought that now one of my Finnish brothers is going to die or the enemy.
It was the enemy. His helmet clanked emitted a damp sound, his head flopped down and the rifle was left on the embrasure. Immediately a rifle muzzle emerged from the rear of the foxhole between two pines pointing at me. Let's see if he is going to put up his head or is he going to fire by estimate. I had drawn the bead already. He did not fire by estimate but was going to aim. As soon as I saw his brown forehead under the steel hat I sent a bullet and again a helmet rang out with a dull sound.
Time for a break. There was maybe a council of war in the foxhole. Next two enemies tried to escape, one from the front and another from the rear, from my point of view from the left and from the right. The one on the left flopped like an empty bag on the embrasure, the one on the right scooted five meters before the bullet caught him.
-Any enemies there? Someone shouted in the rear.
-There were a few. There may be some left, I responded but still kept an eye at the rim of the foxhole. Immediately there was a burst fired randomly flying overhead, and the shooter must have believed he hit me because another rifle rose, aimed at our 3rd Platoon. The gunner put up his head and fired a burst the moment he died.
He was the fifth one, I counted. For a moment there was no movement. The foxhole appeared to be dispatched with. I decided to get over the fence and throw a hand grenade in the hole. I took a few steps along the fence, climbed on it, beckoned with my left hand to the rear while advising my men on crossing the fence with a loud voice and watching the foxhole.
In a flash a rifle was shifted from one edge to the other. I had just time to drop myself down while the rifle was repositioned, so I found myself in the snow the moment the automate was spitting bullets at the fence so that splinters were flying. The shooter must have believed he had made me drop because the course of following events was quick .
Having crawled on all fours back to my old sniping position I saw the rifle being already being tilted at our 3rd platoon that was now coming with a loud noise on the bottom of the glen. The enemy rifle fired one shot “by itself” but as it was not fired at the man put up his head for a new attempt. It was the last thing he did in his life. I was quite sure that this one had been “the last of the Mohicans” in the foxhole but I was prepared none the less.
Lt. Ikonen found himself near in my rear, shouting:
- Don't shoot any more, our men are coming from the glen.
Cpl. Pesonen emerged on my side,asking:
- Are you still shooting? How many did you actually get?
- Six of them.
- I wonder if there are any of them left in the nest?
- Try with an iron egg!
Pesonen produced a hand grenade, struck the fuse at a fence pole and threw the bomb.
- It was not activated, I said
- You struck it at a soft pole
- Well, yes, it's not activated, bärgele, how come did I bungle like that... Hey, Sarge, there are men running away over there! Two wadded tawaritches trotting! Shoot quickly, Sarge!
Men had emerged from some hole were heading for the glen. Can¨t afford to let them escape. Every dead one is a relief for us...As the last one fell the one ahead of him improved his pace abandoning any attempt to find cover. The guy managed to make another five metres.
- It is eight men now that you have sent to the better world now! You are a tough one, Sarge!
I rebuffed his praise but I admitted that I was used to shooting with all normal weapons “at targets on ground, in the air and on water”.
At this moment our surviving enemies left their positions also on the other side of the road. We launched a hot pursuit. There were enemy men running among the pines, two of which I got with quick shots. Lt. Vesterinen's voice was loud and clear at the road direction:
- Follow them, boys, and fire as much as you can.. There is a lake ahead...there will be targets on the lake. Forward, forward!
Having run for a few minutes I reached the lake shore. Our platoon must have withdrawn closer to the road, but Cpl. Pesonen followed me with light feet, and came to my side on the lake shore. Indeed there were targets on the lake, plenty of them, but most were out of the range of our weapons, approaching the far shore of the one kilometre wide lake. Some stragglers were plodding in the snow in the middle of the lake. They could be reminded that they were mortals. At the same moment Pesonen spotted even closer three enemy men who were still closer, plodding away from Finland.
- I wonder if they are still in your range?
- It is just the standard 300 meters as in a training range, I said, lied down on a hump and drew the bead on the middle one.
- They flopped down, all of them Pesonen yelled
- The one in the middle for the last time, I said. The other two make now small targets but let us keep an eye on them, let us go to the road along the beach line. I can see Our men There already.
The battle was over. We proceeded without haste along the shoreline to the left, arrived at a small church and then followed the others uphill on a hillside toward a red house. On the road we saw the bloody trace of war. Horses and men were lying on the road, at places totally covering the ground, and there was blood literally flowing on the hard road surface. It was a terrible sight but already so self evident that we did not stay to gawk. When we had proceeded to the house I remembered the targets on the lake that I had forgotten about, and hurried to the shore. One was lying on the ice but the other two were pressing on. Their fate, too, was to remain on the ice of lake Ägläjärvi.
When firing these last shots of the day I may have been aimed at by death because there was a threshing barn nearby with a number of enemies hiding in the attic. They had been left there to secure the retreat with auto weapons. Some minutes later they sent their last greetings from a blackened hatch of the barn at Finns rushing at them. Then they were killed by the hand grenades of our infuriated men. On the opposite shore the enemy was digging in the Finnish soil like moles. New battles were waiting for us.
Er.P9 war diary extract, for comparison
(Hand written in a grid paper notebook, unusually legible!)
Remarkable that no mention of received replacements. 1st Coy is mentioned but their war diary has not survived. .
08.00hrs Btn CO briefing unit CO's. The CO emphasized that this day can be used to rest, yet the weapons must be cleaned and inspected to make sure that every weapon is in due condition, specially auto weapons. All necessary resupplying must be carried out.
11.15hrs Report that our fighter plane shall be flying at 12 to 13 hrs on the direction of the road for East.
11.50hrs Det. T sent an urgent tel.message to Det. P from the GHQ to the attention of the troops:
“Accept personally and forward to your troops my recognition and thanks for the tough and victorious battle of yours. Mannerheim.”
14.00hrs Btn CO sent 1+2 men of the light detachment to find out about Btn Herranen's advance directed for the Hietajärvi terrain.
16.35hrs The patrol returned reporting that Capt. Herranen's troops have advanced to the vicinity of Kotosuo farmhouse
16.10hrs Btn CO issued order to 2nd Coy CO to send a recon-battle patrol N of Hietajärvi.
17.00hrs Btn CO order to 2nd Coy CO to secure the area of the tent camp and send out patrols to circle the perimeter.
18.45hrs Btn CO reported to Col Pajari and issued order to Coy CO s : Take down tents and be ready to depart at 19.15hrs at which hour the Btn is going to set out.
22.40hrs Halt at the Btn limit line about 1 km from Kotasuo farmhouse.
23.00hrs Order to 3rd Coy CO Lt. Sievers to take with him the remaining men of his Coy and also 3 Runners of the HQ Coy command Squad and to send out a recon patrol to the line Kotasuo-Pojasvaara.
Btn camped for the rest of the night at the spot they had stopped in the forest right to the road.
00.30hrs Btn CO briefed the outfit CO's informing on the attack plan for further advance.
05.00hrs Reveille and morning tea.
05.45hrs Btn set out halting at the Kotasuo farmhouse, from there they went on to the right of the road on the path Kotasuo-Särkijärvi, continuing on the line for Pojasvaara. Having crossed the wide bogs they stopped on dry ground about 1.5km from the road. Communications detachment built a telephone line.
09.00hrs The recon patrol sent out by Lt Sievers. They reported that they did not spot in the said area any sign of the enemy.
12.30hrs Staff Sgt. Mielonen reported that the recon/battle patrol sent out by Lt. Sievers has returned and joined the the Battalion marching on the line. The patrol did not spot at Pojasvaara any significant enemy presence.
13.45hrs Runner with message from Col Pajari to the Btn CO. The main column to proceed slowly while engaging the enemy. The Btn is to push over the Herranen Pien-Hiekkalampi (pond) toward the E tip of Kylänjärvi lake.
14.00hrs Btn CO order: Secure positions
14.45hrs Order to 1st Coy to set out, objective the road to Pojasvaara, with recon patrols scouting. Having reached the road take positions.
15.30hrs Order to the other Companies: set out in the same direction as the 1st Coy.
22.00hrs Report: Road reached. There is a house next to the house.
23.00hrs Exchange of shots started. After about 1,5hrs the Btn Co ordered the troops to return to the camp.
1st Coy that could not be liaised stayed in the positions they had gained on the left wing. The rest of the Btn returned to the camp.
03.00hrs Btn rallied at the camp, then the men had a meal and turned in. During the day there were several enemy a/c overhead but there were no bombardments at the manned areas. (Struck out: KKK probably shot down two enemy planes)
11.50hrs 1st Coy runner brought in a message: they find themselves in the positions gained last night. In the night the Coy had retreated a little deeper in the forest to avoid being detected by the enemy. At dawn they retook the positions. According to the Runner's report there was an enemy artillery battery in front of them and the Coy had the intention to get it annihilated.
12.50hrs Barn Co sent a report to Col. Pajari on the action of the previous day.
14.35hrs 1st Coy CO reported that the Coy had returned from the positions they had gained yesterday N side of the road to Pojasvaara. The Company had noted Russki supply transports to the direction of Ägläjärvi. They also saw an enemy company leave at about 10.00 to the direction of the said village. The Company was much tired having returned from their mission. Btn CO order: The Coy must get the rest they need.
18.30hrs Btn CO briefing to the unit CO s: Description of the ongoing situation. Btn advance and securing in the direction of the road. Starting at 20.00hrs. 1st Coy stays behind for R&R. Marching order: 2nd,3rd, MG, Mortars. ?? also joins the march.
22.00hrs Btn halted at the height of Jylmäkänlahti and camped in the forest to the right of the road.
24.00hrs Report to Col. Pajari: Our front line at the moment situated from Pien-Akonlampi along the perimeter of the forest 200m SW to Pien-Kylänjärvi. Btn Kanerva's attack detachment is advancing at the side of the road to N, consequently the final front line cannot be defined yet. The aforementioned front line is manned with one Coy and 7 MG s. Securing patrols have been sent out to the bog E of the road to a distance of about 500m.
At Jurvanniemi, manned without battle by the Company, there are one rifle coy and 4MG s ready support the attack tomorrow. A mortar outfit has been found to be firing from Suurselkä. It has not been possible to determine the bearing. Is Suurselkä already manned by our troops?
02.15hrs To: Capt. Turkka and via him also to Capt. Kanerva
With ref. To my spoken order, the attack shall continue today at 09.00 for Ägläjärvi after the artillery fire preparation starting at 08.30. At the direction of the road and to the left, the focal point shall be on the left flank attacking Btn Kanerva and immediately on the right side Btn Turkka the first objective being taking over the terrain of Vasikkaniemi.
To the right of Btn Turkka shall be attacking I/JR16 and II/JR16.
Mortar Coy shall be subordinated with one platoon for the use of Capt. Turkka and with two platoons for the use of Capt. Kanerva.
Jump-off must be arranged so that the attack against the enemy main defence line can be launched at 09.00hrs. Capt. Kanerva must try to create a maximally strong MG flank fire on the left shore of the strait with the force of three MG s.
III/JR16 shall be at my disposal as reserve S of Jylmäkänlahti, and I can be found there.
Ammunition musts be completed before jump-off in the usual manner. Ammunition supply shall follow the attack at the direction of the road as soon the attack has started proceeding.
Er.P9 shall set up a field dressing station for both Btns at the beginning of the attack, Er.P112 for the latter phase.
Signed: Col. Pajari
04.00hrs Alert: Sentry reporting that in the forest to the right there has been spotted enemy movement from the rear (some 200m behind the command post)¨
04.20hrs Order: 3rd Coy shall man and sweep the right flank of the road. As soon as the men had set out some exchange of shots ensued. Btn Kanerva also manned with 1st Coy the right side of the road.
04.50hrs Instruction to forward sentries. In no case do not move off from your posts but stay put.
05.05hrs Report by Btn CO to Col. Pajari:
I am reporting that the front line is situated at the edge of the forest situated about 200m from Akonlahti to SE up to the lake. The line is manned by 1st Coy and 7 MG s.
at 04.30hrs a stronger enemy patrol penetrated from the East between the front line and the camping area, resulting in alert. At the moment there are 1 company of Er.P9 to the right and 1 coy of ER.P112 on the left side of the road sweeping the terrain.
I suspect that the enemy has come from the Suurselkä burned out hill that the detachment of I/JR16 did not yet manage to take.
Since I shall hold my position at the road and I cannot afford to send from here any major troops to the Suurselkä hill, I am requesting that I Btn should be given orders to take over the hill with a force of at least two companies, it would also be a good starting point for today's attack
06.10hrs Report from the Regiment: Order issued to I Btn to man Suurselkä.
06.10hrs Report from 2nd Coy CO: They have been involved in a firefight with the enemy for about 2, 5 hours.
06.30hrs Btn CO report to Col. Pajari:
I am reporting that strong enemy has attacked our front line at different locations, among other things taking one AT gun. The troops that were in the front line are rallying at the road at the beach and the small field where they are fighting a heavy fight against the enemy in several directions. I sent one Coy of ER.P112 to help the Companies fighting and sweeping on the right side of the road, because there are no more reserves in use.
Forward positions shall be retaken, so the planned attack can be launched from them as we have planned.
I need quickly to the front one Anti tank gun at the direction of this road. Due to the scarcity of troops I would like to request that some of the attacking troops in the rear would advance in the direction of the road.
07.00hrs Report: AT gun has been retaken.
08.10hrs Order by Btn CO to the mortar detachment CO: I Platoon in the spearhead subordinated to Lt. Aro and another platoon at the Command post to provide hard firing during the attack.
08.30hrs Report from the front line that 2 tanks have been destroyed. It has been found that the enemy has several tanks in use.
09.00hrs Report that there will be a friendly a/c flying between 10-12 hrs.
10.15hrs Report that the liaison to Aro and Blomqvist exists and the enemy has by now lost 8 tanks destroyed and two usable cannons have been taken.
11.10hrs Btn CO order that 3rd Coy shall liaise to the right with the attacking Btn between Herranen and the road.
11.15hrs As the front had advanced the Btn command post was shifted near Jurvanniemi farmhouse at the road.
11.30hrs Btn Co report to Col. Pajari:
The attack has stalled at the village fields on the Kyläjärvi side and there is no force to push on. The platoon of I/JR16 that had been sent to Suurselkä last night reports that they find themselves surrounded NW of Suurselkä and they have not seen the rest of the detachment of JR16 (?)
The enemy still hold the Suurselänmäki hill.
12.00hrs Report by Capt. Herranen: They have been able to push on, reaching the shore of Kyläjärvi and the enemy is fleeing.
12.10hrs Btn Co reporting to Col. Pajari: Liaison with the main element of Btn Herranen has been established. They find themselves at the easternmost houses at the shore of Kyläjärvi. We shall attack in co-operation to the direction of the bridge. There are still Russkies in Suurselänmäki. Some of I/JR16 ( HQ Coy, 1st, 3rd Coy) under overwhelming enemy fire NW of Suurselänmäki. They are requesting help. The enemy is fleeing SW on the road.
13.15hrs 3rd Coy CO reporting that the enemy is sticking to their positions at the road.
14.40hrs Report that Coy Aro and Coy Sievers. are advancing at the height of the Church hill.
15.25hrs Capt. Herranen reporting that they have taken one end of Salmisilta bridge. The big red house has been taken by our troops.
15.40hrs Btn CO report to Col. Pajari: Btns Turkka, Kanerva and Btn Herranen have taken Ägläjärvi village up to the Salmisilta bridge.
15.50hrs Btn CO order to the units to sweep carefully both sides of the road to find every eventual enemy weapons nest.
18.30hrs By this hour the Btn camped some 300m from the road to Suurselkä, on both sides in the forest.
20.00hrs Btn CO issued order to unit CO s to secure well the camp area with the MG s in positions.
A general observation of the day's battles is that the enemy suffered great losses of men and material.
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A winter war memoir, Former part
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 11, 1960
The author was a NCO in a MG company. JR64 had been mobilised in Kemi and the Regiment was transferred to Suomussalmi about Christmastime 1939.
As the third Battalion of JR 64 arrived by lorry at Haukiperä ferry in Suomussalmi the enemy greeted us with shelling. We dispersed in the forest and nothing untoward happened. It was my first taste of war. We had progressed from theory into practice, because I was a Corporal who had just completed his compulsory military duty. My pals Eino Kaitera and Risto Huovinen were like me in that respect. I had read stories about the heroes of the 1808-1809 war who with good luck and plucky action had created wonders. I and Kaitera planned to follow their example hoping that we would not be killed outright but would be granted some time to accomplish things.
With these ideas in my mind we took over positions at Suomussalmi “town”. There we heard what kind of whining and hissing bullets produce. That was the overture music composed by Ivanovitsh and soon we got used to it.
The Battalion Commander, Capt. Paavo Simelius set up his command post in a house near the front line, but the enemy shot it up in flames. The fighting at Suomussalmi had reached the culmination point by now and on the 28th December 1939 the enemy resistance was broken at the Vicarage hill, big heaps of dead were left behind.
Pursuit and patrolling started. At times we were surrounded, at times we surrounded the enemy and we rounded up prisoners. During a battle we were so mixed up that in the dark we could not tell friend from foe. Our password was “Oulu”, that also the enemy learned and kept shouting; “Oulu!”. It was easy for them to remember it because their initial mission had been to be in Oulu in three days.
We were not able to follow with our heavy equipment the rifle infantry and I and Kaitera found ourselves in Siurunniemi cape of Lake Kiantajärvi. As it did not make sense to go anywhere from there we had to set up defence. We were there for three days and soon out of food. As we found some sheep that had been left behind in the cowshed we managed to create lamb steak. We had some visitors, too, because Viljo Männikkö brought with him three Vanyas when he returned from his trip to the well, they had happened to come for water at the same time. Another three were taken on the ice of the lake, one of them held the rank of Colonel-Lieutenant. Since the lamb steak was ready we treated the guests, too. This time we did not have any oxtail soup for the officers but Eskelinen suggested we could cook the sheep tails.
In the end we managed to liaise with the main body of our troops and we returned to our outfit with our prisoners. The above mentioned Colonel-Lieutenant was taken to Capt. Simelius who treated him with afternoon tea and started enquiring where the guest hailed from and what was the news? In German language the man admitted that he had studied medicine in Germany and he had been on his way to Oulu.
On the 5th January I arrived at Ylävuokki with the 7th Coy. I joined a Platoon for a six kilometre patrol mission to cover the sappers who were building abatis and mining roads around a village held by the enemy, The mission was repeated three times, and the return route appeared to be safe. AS we were on the 8th Jan 1940 on the return leg of the mission Huovinen and his platoon took a straight cut while we with our sled took the old track, but Sgt. Kinnunen left with Pitkänen to ski quickly to report the CO. Soon Pitkänen, however, was back, exhausted, asking for our assistance as four enemy men had taken Kinnunen.
I took some men with me, ordering the rest to stay at the MG and we set out. Huovinen, too had spotted felt boot prints in the snow and understood that now Honkanen's outfit was in danger, immediately he had started following the track. We happened to meet each other on the ski track at the spot where Kinnunen was lying with a bullet hole in his neck. At once we started pursuing the enemy. It was no farther than one hundred meters that we caught up with them and that was the end of the enemy patrol. The ambushing outfit had comprised two officers and two men. Thanks to Huovinen the enemy ambush failed because it would have been quite easy to overwhelm a squad pulling a sled.
No war diary of this MG Company has survived. As luck would have it the diary of the 7th Company is available online.
(messy hand writing on grid paper)
24.30hrs Departure from Kemi to South.
7.30-8.30hrs Stop in Oulu
12.00-14.00hrs Stop in Vaala. Meal.
05.00hrs Arrival at Hyrynsalmi.
09.00hrs Arrival at Suomussalmi on lorries. The first mortar shells hit the ice as our Company was crossing the strait at ferry point .
Baptism by fire. Our Company took over the defensive positions at Suomussalmi village. The village is in ruins almost totally. The enemy has dug in among the ruins.
Our Company made the first sacrifice for the Fatherland. Pvt. Kuttuvaara, Yrjö, fell pierced by a bullet.
Pvt. Matinlassi Martti was killed by shell splinters. Also the butt and the flash hider of his LMG and 10 magazines were pierced by splinters.
Four NCOs wounded: Staff Sgt. Jäppinen, Cpls. Lapinkallio, Puhakka and Horttanainen. 6 men wounded. All casualties due to heavy enemy shelling whereby we also got one gas shell in our positions. No gas, it evaporated soon without causing any damage.
Due to our attack yesterday which we did not participate the enemy retreated. Our men are pursuing the withdrawing enemy. They are salvaging the weapons abandoned by the enemy and war booty.
For their withdrawal the Russki provided a bombardment by 12 bombers that did not cause damage.
We moved some 5km to the West where we stayed overnight, nothing special.
Nothing special. Field service. Payday.
Our entire Battalion set out at 05.30hrs bearing South. Heading for Alavuokki, Järvelä. Good marching weather because there was no fear of air raid. It was snowing, the road was unploughed. Our guide was trainee Kivijärvi. Due to bad skiing weather our marching rate was quite slow. We arrived at Alavuokki, Järvelä having proceeded 40km at 1800hrs. Btn stayed overnight in the local houses.
0500hrs our Company and the subordinated MG s and mortars set out for Ylivuokki. At first we did not have a guide, therefore we made an orientation error of 2km due to snowed up roads. Having received a guide at Rimpilä we went out on the correct road. We made a halt at Vänkä farmhouse. Since our guide turned back we sent scouts to find the road to Ylivuokki -Pehkola.
We arrived at Pehkola at 1100hrs. It was very cold, once an air raid alert. When at destination we had a good rest.
Our recon patrol visited the Russki rear, reconnoitring in the direction of the Raate road near the national border, in order to find out about enemy manning and chances to cut off the road. The task was fulfilled, it was pretty cold all day and good skiing weather.
The Raate road was cut off behind the back of the enemy with abatis and satchel charges. Booty: one tank, 2 motor vehicles and about 20 Russkies. All of it was destroyed. Our guide Roivainen, Vilho, fell pierced by two bullets. We could not recover the body due to intense enemy fire. Pvt Rajaniemi was wounded. Intense cold all day, good skiing weather.
The road is still cut off, at the dusk of dawn the enemy bombarded our camp with artillery without any damage to anyone. While we were harassing the enemy Cpl. Koskela was quite seriously wounded. NCO trainee Lehtomaa shot off one finger by accident with his rifle (sic!). Cpl. Huovinen's squad brought about large number of casualties to the enemy.
Enemy had cleared the hindrances from the road, consequently we had to stop the traffic on the road with other means. We pretty much accomplished it with sissi action by our Platoons. Pvt. Hunttala took a bullet through his palm, several enemies were killed.
Our subordinated MG fired at a house occupied by the enemy and the tongue of forest. The leader of that MG platoon, Sgt. Kinnunen, A., was in a tough spot on his way back as he was taken prisoner by a Russki patrol. Before Cpl. Huovinen's platoon managed to arrive to the scene the patrol had shot the Cpl. The patrol, strength comprising 2 officers and two privates, was annihilated in totality. We immediately sent a report to the Btn. HQ. The weather was mild all day, there was some snow falling and the skiing weather quite bad.
Recon patrols were sent out in the very morning, several of them, because it was suspected that there were enemies straggling in the forest. 2nd Lt. Kaiponen and three platoons and the Mortar Platoon and a MG half platoon reconnoitred defensive positions on the sector of our Company. In the afternoon the patrols were returning to the camp by the by. The catch included a total of some 40 enemies KIA and 3 POWs. Specially distinguished themselves our Admin Squad that alone fell about a squad of enemies. Our men were greatly assisted by good skiing weather and mild temperature. Fighting spirit and eagerness were excellent, greatly influenced by the news of our great victory the day before.
We did not suffer any losses ourselves.
About a day of rest. Only two patrols were sent out to reconnoitre the enemy activities as they were retreating to the Eastern border. A great part of the enemies is still erring in the forest half-frozen. 2 platoons of our Coy were building defensive line just for in case, but they interrupted the work because we were informed that our Coy shall soon be transferred away from our present location.
Surprisingly silent everywhere. No more new shell holes were found at our ski tracks, most of the enemy gun barrels were aimed at the Eastern border. Only when disengaging Russkies fired hard at us in their anger.
During the night our officer patrol liaised the outfit that was to take over our place and task.
At 0330hrs our entire Coy set out on the Suomussalmi – Hyrynsalmi road. No one knew the final destination. The mood among the men was happy, the reason must have been that everyone was hoping for a change and maybe a bit of rest, too. Skiing and sledge weather was initially excellent and the journey progressed well. The last part of the journey the weather changed and it got colder. Therefore some of our men were exhausted.
At 14.15hrs we boarded lorries on the road and our journey to Hyrynsalmi continued.
At 1800hrs we found ourselves at Hyrynsalmi where we stayed overnight. There we saw both women and soft bread and other signs of civilization. (Sic!)
The day was spent in loading, the entire Battalion was loaded in a train at Hyrynsalmi rwy station. We wondered at the multitude of war booty that our troops had accumulated in the victory at Suomussalmi. It had been collected mostly between the station and the road to the station.
15.30hrs Our train departed to South . We halted for the first time at Kontiomäki, the boys about emptied the station house restaurant. The next stop was Joensuu, the boys did not quite manage to empty the place but they carried big bundles from the marketplace and the market hall to the train.
At 10.15 (PM?) we continued our journey. Before that we had dinner.
To be continued.
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Winter War Memoir. Latter part
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 12, 1960.
JR 64 is transferred at Lake Ladoga.
As to III/JR64 the fighting at Suomussalmi was over. On 14 th Jan 1940 we found ourselves at Leppäsyrjä railway station situated N of Lake Ladoga, and a long skiing march started. I did not yet know where we were heading. We had gained war experience, I and Eino Kaitera were guessing on future and hoping that our streak of good luck would continue.
When we were skiing the wind blast felt extraordinarily cold, it was said to be as low as -50deg C! Actually we had no other thermometers than our nose tip, each one had it frozen every now and then, we had to rub it with snow to re-establish blood circulation. As the journey continued we found that we were advancing in a wedge because loud fighting was going on in each flank.
Finally we had in front of us a battlefield with a tremendous number of enemy dead, touching each other, lying on their back with their mouths chillingly open as if still screaming. The sound of battle on our flanks was caused by fighting to close the encirclement of Lemetti East and Lemetti West, while the “Regimental motti” was already completed. At Koirinoja the big Kitelä motti was being made and we were going to join the encircling troops
The cold weather during the march hurt the Battalion a lot. Hands, feet, faces were frozen so that the Platoons shrunk in strength. Finally we arrived at the Ladoga shore, between Koirinoja and Pitkäranta. Without any major preparation we attacked from the North to the mills. We did not get much farther. The enemy had dug in the ruins and without artillery it was impossible to advance. Our poverty could not be helped. Our artillery was next to non-existent and there was a scarcity of shells.
In this situation one of my best brothers in arms, Risto Huovinen, was killed. He had saved me at Raate from being ambushed by the enemy. Our Company CO, Lt. Lavi had tears in his eyes and he said it was as if he had lost his right arm.
In these ruins we were peeking out like stoats to find something to aim at and the enemy must have been doing the same. I was next to Veikko Vatanen at a MG position, prone and ready to fire as there was a sudden nasty crack. Both of us were nonplussed but neither of us was hit. Then I had a look at my bent right arm. Dammit, that is where the bullet hit, the sleeve of my greatcoat was torn up from elbow to shoulder. A close shave!
Lt. Lavi came to the positions at dusk. He, too, was tired, so that he was hallucinating.
-Shoot now, heck, there are enemies landing at the shoreline !
-Lieutenant, Sir, those boys are not going to get up ever, I said.
They have been lead poisoned.
Our first line was pulled a little back to the edge of the forest, but my and Kaitera's MG s were close to the beach-line. It was evening dusk as a group of more than ten men appeared from the direction of Koirinoja along the shoreline.
Who are these I wonder?
They are foes all right, but the unarmed ones may be Finnish POWs. Let us take care not to shoot them!
We heard shouting: - Do not shoot, it's Finnish prisoners here!
The result was that their escort was taken out. Three Finns were rescued, a Lieut and two men. The Lieut had frozen his hands and one of the men was wounded, he had to be taken away with a sledge. Should these boys still be reading these lines, please accept my greetings!
Next I was transferred with two MG squads to the direction of Koirinoja at a ruined military camp area, whereas Eino Kaitera was sent with two MG S to Maksimansaari island, that later turned into a real “Devil's island”. In both places our task was to deny the enemy supply columns access to Koirinoja and to defend the stronghold.
Wooden barracks had been torched but the stable, built of red brick, had survived, and it became a cosy abode. The windows on the lake side were covered with big heaps of stakes. The nice park-like beach looked agreeable. Our stronghold included also one AT gun, the squad was led by A. Kuusla, an actor, and a projector.
We tried to use the projector a few times at night but it was not expedient. As night fell the enemy column would set out from Pitkäranta (over the Ladoga ice, tr.rem.) while our positions were being shelled. The column was escorted by tanks a part of the journey. As the tanks fired their guns while advancing our projector was put out and the man using it was badly wounded.
I said that we are not going to have that gadget here, and it was indeed taken away.
Despite that firing in the darkness had results, in the course of time a large number of killed enemy horses and abandoned sleds were left on the ice. In the night we went out to check what kind of foodstuffs were being taken to Koirinoja in the transport columns. There were good loaves of bread and packages that turned into amazingly good porridge when mixed in water and then boiled up.
As the enemy transports were being harassed from Koirinoja on the mainland and from Maksimansaari on Lake Ladoga, their supplying was greatly hampered. The enemy resorted to airdrops. Once they tried to get to Koirinoja with two light tanks but they were stopped by our AT gun and mortar fire, and they remained at our stable, destroyed.
One day we saw that two bombers were heading for our stable and someone shouted: Bombs away! We could not do anything else but drop on the floor, with our eyes shut and mouths open. A few seconds of terror until there was a tremendous crash. Windows were rattling and the doors flew open by themselves, but nothing else happened. Pvt. Leväniemi, who called himself a lumberjack, finally put up his head and said:
There is a cross draft here, like in trousers with torn butt and the rest in tatters!
There were two deep craters in the railway embankment and the rails were curled up. If those bombs had fallen 30 meters short, we would have met our poor fate.
Artillery and air activities kept getting busier. Fighter planes sprayed our positions with MG s and dropped leaflets that told us among other things: “ You are going to be shot without mercy because you have attacked defenceless transport columns”. Enemy artillery batteries in Pusunsaari were so close that we could see the muzzle flames also in daytime, and Finnish artillery could not afford a duel. The enemy on the other hand did not have any shortage of ammunition.
One day a hard shelling started at Peräkylä where our sentry post was situated, then the strike was shifted beyond the railway line. It occurred to me that there was going to be trouble, and I set out to observe. A crowd of enemies was coming my way.
Alert, get the MG (used to fire at the transport columns) here, firing direction along the embankment and the lake shore!
After I had given my orders we launched a counterstrike along the embankment, managing to beat back the enemy. We reached the spot where the MG post had been. Sentries, Heiskari and Laurila, had fallen.
The enemy had advanced along the shore using armoured sleighs to our right wing. The MG pinned them down so that they were unable to turn their front. It was our pleasant chance to hit their flank. Every target was shot at once and they were unable to escape in reverse. We also lost Cpl. Pellonpää and some others were wounded. The enemy platoon was beaten back having lost 18 men. Looking through my binoculars I saw that the enemy was getting a flood of reinforcements while there were aircraft flying like gnats in summertime. The largest formation comprised 93 bombers that flew over us to inland to sow death and destruction.
The enemy activity increased. They were digging corridors in the snow and infiltrating under artillery fire cover.
Another two bombers were heading for out positions. The bombs were released, they looked like cigars, we saw them fall down at us but this time, too, the hits were either long or short. Shells were howling and whining, mortar bombs were hissing. There was a flash and bang to the left. A piece of flesh was flung in front of me, it was a piece of Pfc. Kangas, he took a square hit.
Then I had a miraculous experience. In addition to a rifle I would carry a war booty Nagant revolver without holster on my belt and the lanyard over my neck. As I went to check the previous incident suddenly a bullet snapped at the revolver cylinder, flattening it without any other damage. Even though I am not a religious person it came to my mind that now the god of war is on my side.
At the same time fell also the LMG gunner Testman of a rifle Coy and Rasi of the MG.
One quiet day we were having our coffee in the stable chamber as two or three shells went off next to the stable wall. Suddenly there was a crunch in the pile of stakes in front of the window and the side of the window collapsed. Reino Konttinen dropped the field kettle lid from his hand and he said that his arm was broken because a splinter had cut into a bone in his arm. We escaped through the back door of the stable. The enemy had brought a direct fire cannon to Vihkimäsaari island opposite to us. The stable began to crumble and we were lacking abode. Our AT gun attempted to duel with the enemy gun but was helpless. There was a ruined cellar next to the stable that we settled in. It was actually visible to the enemy gun but it was underground.
Pvt. Nyberg was a kitchen man in our Coy, due to his conviction he did not take a weapon in his hand but he dared to bring split pea soup to the men without a gun. I directed him in our cellar, and of course more movement was created as the soup was distributed. The enemy spotted this and soon there was thumping on the ruin above. Next the cellar space was blown full of sand dust.
- Damn the foe for messing with our soup, someone said in the lakeside corner. Sun was shining through a crack of the ceiling but reinforcement bars prevented the ceiling from caving in.
- Please do not curse, boys, this can be a serious moment, Nyberg tried to calm him down.
Fortunately shelling ended right there that time.
Maksimansaari island was subjected to heavy aerial bombardment and shelling for long periods of time, looking like a sea of flames constantly. It seemed nobody would be able to survive but our brother in arms Kaitera with his MG s hung on still. The enemy was attacking hard. At times the enemy took one end of the island but they were every time beaten back with a counter-attack. The constant complaint was: Why do we not have any artillery. Under constant pressure and overwhelming superiority the defence of the island finally broke on the 6th March 1940 evening.
Kaitera was met by a kind of miraculous chance in Maksimansaari island. An enemy bullet went in the inner corner of his left eye and exited under his right ear. His jawbone joint was smashed but the eye survived. He was considered dead already but he swung his arm, being unable to speak, and his brothers in arms dragged him by his arms away from the island. It is not known to me how many Finns were saved from the island.
Stronghold in the stable was being battled still. I had none of the original men left and the new untrained material did not survive there, they were just cannon fodder. There was also an older photographer's shop owner Papulous from Helsinki. When it was time for him to do a stint of sentry duty he said:-
- My stuff is in this backpack here, and the address on it. I shall not survive over there.
Actually he did fall.
It was March now and there were rumours of peace. Day after day we had had to retreat under heavy shelling and constant enemy pressure, until we were allowed to abandon the Ladoga shoreline. All that remained of the stable was a pile of bricks and the beach park was like roughly slashed forest. As I returned my arrival gave cause to mirth, and our Sarge, Eero Liukko, said:
You must have been fighting, being so tattered looking!.
My greatcoat was indeed torn by splinters, there was a bullet hole in a sleeve and some lion adorned buttons were flattened. I had had good luck, but I would like to claim that my small stature and quickness also favoured me. It is a hard task to shoot an ermine. I can thank my ideal age and most of all the tough training before the war.
The Battalion Commander, Capt. Simelius gave us a briefing after the peace had been made, reading the hard conditions of the peace. I was thinking that actually we were now standing on foreign soil, the soil that we just had tried to defend to death, with guts and heart. It cannot be helped, it is taken from us by force and violence. This was a bitter memory for everyone.
7th Coy war diary, for comparison: 13.1.1940
Our train journey continued. At Matkaselkä we halted again for a meal, we also got coffee. The boys again emptied the shops.
16.00hrs We continued our journey for Leppäsyrjä where we found ourselves at 1800hrs .
We went on for the Eastern border on lorries for some 20km where we stayed overnight in tents. We all were tired by the travel so we slept well. The distance to the front line was about 2km but we heard only some mortar shots and MG bursts from our side.
There were no further instructions so we were able to rest well which was very necessary.
There was a quite lively sound of artillery from the front during the day, it was said that the Russki had been surrounded from every quarter. This place is said to be Syskyjärvi.
18.30hrs The Battalion set out on skis and horses. The weather was cold, the skiing weather bad and the blast was cold, specially intense on open lake ice, several of which we traversed. The general bearing was South even though we had to do quite a detour to in order to get behind the Russki back.
Our journey continued in the darkness of the night, every now and then we passed our securing elements, on a bog we saw the wreck of a shot down Russian bomber. Due to the long obligatory halts due to the darkness we often had to stand in one place which was not fun at all in such a cold weather. We learned that it had at one point of time been -42 deg C. Fighting against sleep and cold weather 15 men of our Company froze their feet or hands, some badly, others less so. It seems that at this time of the year fighting would call for gear instead of weapons.
In the small hours we were almost sleeping while standing during a halt. At dawn we arrived at a road that had been heavily fought over judging by the Russki corpses strewn in the ditches, some on the road, too.
10.00hrs We arrived at a place 5km N of Pitkäranta. We stayed overnight there. The Russki air activities were lively which resulted in 3 a/c being shot down by our AA. The frostbitten men were taken to a field dressing station.
03.45hrs Reveille. Tents were taken down and our gear packed, we set out heading right South. After 5 km we set up tents again at 1500hrs. Severe cold weather persists. We rested the day and the next night subjected to some mortar fire. No fighting.
We were resting in the same location, only a recon patrol was sent out by our Coy. Cold weather persists, the men are tending their frostbites, no fighting. In the night our Coy set out to the Ladogan shore W of Peräkylä village, reconnoitring and at the same time the coastal road at Lake Ladoga was mined.
11.30hrs We again packed up and set out for the location that our Coy had reconnoitred last night.
13.00hrs We again set up tents in a gloomy fir forest. At night our Coy set up securing on the Ladogan shore W of Peräkylä. Weather quite mild, lively air activities.
In the morning our officers set out to reconnoitre positions, due to which our Coy in the evening at 1600hrs attacked Peräkylä. We did not meet resistance until at the mills of Pitkäranta. In the darkness the Coy was engaged almost in hand-to-hand fighting with the Russki who had retreated in the ruins. After an intense match the Russki retreated in the forest nearby having suffered heavy casualties. The attack was checked at a blue house where the Russians had too many MG s. Next night we liaised with our Battalion and set up a line to the shore. Pvt. Pussila and Trainee Karjaluoto were wounded.
The success of yesterday was secured and improved a little . We were not able to advance in the forest, the Russki had too much auto weapons that they used without hesitation. We took in our positions quite lively mortar fire and haphazard MG fire due to which Trainee Majava and a Pvt. Were wounded. Lack of sleep is tiring the men down.
We maintained our old positions despite heavy artillery and MG fire due to which Pt. Niskanen fell and Cpls. Huovinen and Lauri and one Pvt. Were wounded. At night we handed over our positions to the 5th Coy and were allowed some rest. That is what we needed. Air activities are lively. Our a/c also bombed Russki accommodations. As our planes appeared in the sky most of the Russki planes made a full turn or climbed in a great altitude. Weather is getting milder.
The weather is much milder. Our Coy is preparing to set out to another place somewhere.
11.30hrs We set out to the same direction that we came here. After a three km march we camped at 15.00hrs. Temperature is sinking.
06.00hrs Reveille. It was quite cold. Our Coy set out to clear the near forest of minor enemy outfits. At about noon we did engage the Russki. After a brief and intense fight the Russki fled from their camp and positions, leaving behind several dead, autoloading rifles and LMGs. Our casualties include 3 fallen, Trainee Harova, Pvts Taipaleenmäki and Lahtinen. Cpl. Salomäki was wounded, also 5 Pvts.
At nightfall we had to abandon our positions due to Russki enveloping action, we set a field stronghold a little to the rear from our positions. Russkies are skiing and they are armed with auto rifles.
The field stronghold is still there, the rest of the Coy set out for a reconnoitre task. A separate recon patrol found a Russian field stronghold at the S edge of Mustalampi pond. It appears likely that the purpose of the Russki is to cut off our supply road. Air activities are totally depressed due to continuous snowstorm. Our Coy did not encounter any larger enemy outfits in this area.
Our field stronghold is still out there, our recon enabled us to find out that some enemy outfits have advanced past our field stronghold at Hopsunvaara on the winter road to N. Weather is still mild and the heavy sentry duty is tiring out the men.
23.00hrs We learned that an enemy outfit has managed to break through our sentry chain and attacked some horses on our supply road about one km N from our camp.
Our Coy together with some neighbouring outfits formed a line against the enemy and tried to liaise with our men on the opposite side, finally succeeding.
26.1.1940 (Margin remark: Russki tried to cheat by fake surrender)
Surrounding ring is getting ever tighter around the Russki crowd that attacked our supply road. Their strength appears to be 70 to 100 men, they still maintain liaison with their side.
Of our company, fallen are Cpl. Suomalainen, Pvts. Torvela and Väärälä and in the field stronghold Pvt. Kinnunen Toivo.
At noon the battle was about finished, the surviving Russkies withdrew by the same route they had arrived. When passing our field stronghold the Russkies were once more subjected to our efficient fire.
Piles of Russki bodies are witnessing the intensity of the battle. Almost everyone of them was armed with an autoloading rifle and snow camo suit and skis.
After the tiring battle the men had a profound rest.
In the night we moved some 2km along the road N to the direction of Nietjärvi where we again camped near Coy Simola. PM the frost is getting more intense, we are again in reserve which is needed. We have set up only our camp guarding and a small patrol has been sent out to reconnoitre. The patrol did not observe anything special. Mail and packets were distributed.
Fairly cold temperature, air activities by Russkies due to clear weather are lively. We are carrying on as before, the men are satisfied due to getting rest.
17.00hrs We took down the tents and moved back to the previous camp, on the other side of the road.
We were still resting in reserve, in general quiet on every front sector, just now and then a shell explosion is heard. The weather is quite a bit milder. Air activities quiet due to bad visibility.
In the evening our patrol liaised with Coys Simonen and Sutinen and set up a regular contact vial skiing patrols.
Mild weather, it appears to be quiet in every quarter. Some Russki planes are buzzing in the sky sometimes. We have kept a constant liaison with our neighbouring Coys.
It is snowing every now and then which makes the air activities to wind down by evening.
03.00hrs we were woken by heavy artillery fire which was immediately followed again by the rattle of infantry weapons. We guessed that the Russki is going to attempt another attack, that is why we were in the standby. After a couple of hours everything died down again to the old. At daybreak it was snowing a little which meant no aerial activity.
Quite mild weather, our task is going on. We have received artillery fire as before. Else relatively calm.
Still mild weather although clear. The Russki had mobilized their air force. We counted that there were more than one hundred a/c in the air at one time.
Our Coy sent out a recon patrol to check the houses near Hopsunvaara and the old battlefield where we had to abandon our 3 KIA. No enemies were seen but due to lack of marks our fallen were left there.
21.00hrs we again folded our tents and moved to the location of 18 Jan.
We set the tents up at night and rested until morning.
Clear weather persists. During the day our patrol set out and recovered the three bodies. Else nothing special. We also manned the field stronghold.
Quite lively air activities, shelling too. One gets used to anything.
At night 4 of our men returned from a military hospital.
Our Coy still manning the field stronghold. Cold weather persisting.
12.00hrs Our Coy set out as battle reserve about 1km to E.
19.00hrs We returned.
Intense shooting can be heard all over our line, normal shelling upon us every now and then.
07.00hrs WE again folded the tents and moved again about 7km to Nietjärvi where we camped.
AS soon as we had set up the tents the men again set out for battle reserve duty which was continuous. Snowing suppressed enemy air activities totally.
We were still in battle reserve, for now our men have not been needed in the front line. Snowstorm again suppresses the enemy air activities.
02.00hrs One half Coy was shifted to battle reserve with their tents about to our previous camp.
Still some snow which means sparse flying activities. One half of our Coy is still in battle reserve. In the rear our Coy is sweeping the area at Peräkylä where enemy movement had been detected. As we found ourselves in rocky terrain the Russki gave an artillery strike that wounded 1+4 of our men, Cpl. Korhonen, Pfc. Pelimanni, Pvts Teräs, Hosio and Seppälä.
Our Coy was assigned to Peräkylä to secure a wide sector, including a stretch of 700m to be secured by ski patrols. Half of the Coy moved with their tents closer to the sector to be secured.
The same as before. Some snow falling. No aerial bombardments.
Securing ongoing as before, mostly quiet in every quarter. 3rd Platoon joined the Coy, only the Admin Platoon stayed with their kitchen in the old location.
08.00hrs our mobile securing found out that Russkies had plodded to their securing area. Consequently there was an alert and a line was formed around them.
15.00hrs The situation had returned to normal. The enemy had left about 30 men on the battlefield , also 1 MG, 3 LMGs, 1 telephone and rifle mortar. Our casualties include one KIA and one wounded. After this the area that was secured by mobile patrol was manned.
Old securing duty going on. Clear weather and plenty of a/c.
Still the same task, cold weather. Pvt Pellikka received a rifle mortar bomb on his neck and died.
Old job and cold weather, lively air activities.
Still the same job, although there is a hope that new men shall take over our task. In the evening we did hand over our positions to new men.
We had rest during the day, in the evening some 15 men were assigned to the 8th Coy to cut the Russki supply road. Some 20 horses with full loads were left on the ice of Lake Ladoga.
New men have been received in our Coy as replacements and there shall be more of them.
The same men again at night attacked on the ice a Russki supply column. Not one horse got through, again some 30 nags with drivers and sleds were left on the ice. Severe cold.
Again severe cold and clear weather which meant that lots of a/c were moving about.
In the evening again 15 men set out to the ice but not a single horse came.
New men again came to our Coy. WE were enjoying the well deserved and necessary rest. Pretty low temperature.
Rest continues as well as the cold weather. Artillery is quiet on both sides.
In the evening 20 men were sent to the Rgt HQ for a mission. A/C still active.
Very quiet at every quarter. A few shells are sometimes falling at a distance somewhere.
22.2.1941 (New handwriting style)
In the evening we again moved. Fourth time. We arrived at Hopunvaara. It is the eve of the Poor Little Red Army anniversary. Calm before storm. “Moscovian hag” announced that tomorrow Russkies and Finns are going to shake hands like brothers. What would the Russki brotherly handshake be like?
AM: the usual exchange of shots.
11-12hrs Brotherly handshaking started. Trees fell down as David and Goliath had a match! At first we gave in a little and then a counterstrike followed. Russkies remained there, fallen, and at next daybreak we had 11 MG s in our hands!
Sorting out minor differences in opinion goes on. Finding unanimity was almost impossible. Finally Russkies were tired out and the normal exchange of shots went on.
Minor exchange of shots and “taming” of replacement men. The 23rd did a trick. “New ones” may have received too hot a baptism by fire. They were frightened by the wild firing of Russkies and abandoned their positions. Those were retaken but more than sixty were wounded as they ran through shelling and seven sacrificed their lives on the altar of the Fatherland. But fifteen poor ones went totally missing. Where could they be? Somewhere where sometimes somebody may reappear after long straying. These days were spent in searching for them.
Calm day. Finally the Coy CO got some assistance! 2nd Lt. Kaiponen returned from furlough.
AM: A minor incident:
Btn CO heard that Russki shells were hitting the ground. He phoned Lt. Lavi: “Find our where the packets are falling!” A Runner was set to the task. After a while the Runner was back: “ The aim is good but I think one fell short, almost in our line.” So the Russki was shelling their own lines – one was too long!
The day reminded of spring. Sun tried to warm the warriors lying in the positions. The Russki is oddly quiet. A few single Russkies had to be evacuated. Good flying weather.
21.00hrs Russki started playing the music so that -!
2nd Lt. Lepistö said when phoning in the morning:
“Nothing special really. Morning song by Melartin accompanied by the bass drums from the March of the Pori Regiment.”
As the morning was, the day also was. There was a customary minor altercation at the “Skull hill” as there usually has been on a Sunday. So the day ended so that the GHC could inform: “NE of Lake Ladoga attacks have been repulsed.”
Kaiponen together with “Captain” Määttä was relieved. 2nd Lt. Palmgren with his adjutant tried to take their place. But they were greeted in such a manner that they, as replacements before, soon found themselves in the field dressing station. Only the veteran is standing his ground instead of falling like a tree without roots.
Five Ivans, “Politruks”, did some propaganda for us on the “Skull hill “ situated NE of Härkösenlampi. Using a megaphone they shouted over the no-man's-land (30mwide) .” Comrades, over here even a prisoner is fed four times a day, if he wants” etc. Moreover, they kept shouting just nicely. So I am able to register the fact that there was a lull of entire10 minutes at the “Skull hill”. War is fought in several different manners!
Late in the evening we disengaged. It was a success. No casualties at all.
Again at Pitkäranta. Coy CO set out for furlough. The Coy was “scattered” all over the place. All through the night Runners came to take men from us time and again. We could not give more men than there were of us.
The boys fought at different quarters and Nikke Nikula managed to “evacuate” just three Russkies.
“Slayer”Heiniaho took a scrape on his side and was out of the game. Nikke Nikula is the only man left in our Platoon to keep up the “tradition of our fathers”.
We started a delaying battle that went on as a single fight up to 1900hrs next day.
In the evening we finally set out to rest.
After 1100hrs the banging ceased. The rumour was .” It is P e a c e !” We found it hard to believe. I am not going to write about the stipulations of the peace. It is out of place in a war diary.
25 December 1939 we received our baptism by fire at Suomussalmi.
13 January we were shifted to the Pitkäranta front where we fought until 12 March, 1900hrs as we were sent to rest and recuperation.
What does the time period 25.12.1939-12.3.1930 include?
What did it teach us? It cannot be exactly described with words. General features, slogans! Those can be told but not the experiences of a single man. Never in brief. It would call for a novel.
The peace is here and the stipulations are heavy. Thank you, our Western neighbours!
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- Location: Finland
Battle of stronghold “Jumping board”
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 12,1960
The author appears to have been a squad leader in I/JR5 at Maaselkä front section .
-All right boys, start strapping mags on your belt, said Erkki Suominen, displaying his sense of humour as he was peering out of the dugout window. He continued:
-It is the Battalion CO runner coming here, it means for Lieut Kaisla a briefing by the CO. Soon we shall be in action, I am telling you.
Despite the comic tone the remark included a tone that made Eetsa Paananen change mien. He had been writing a letter to his sweetheart with concentration, now he was smiling with smug anticipation. He used to long for new adventure, and the appearance of the Battalion Runner implied some with certainty.
Trench war had been going on at Maaselkä isthmus for one and a half years. The Btn chaplain opined that the war would suddenly end in 1946. Our outfit, the Jaeger Platoon of the I Battalion of JR5 was led by 2nd Lt. Kaisla and we were used to being issued orders in the said manner.
It was night, 24th of March (1943, tr. Rem.). The runner's visit was now two weeks in the past. Preparing for the task had taken longer than usually but now everything was in order. The H hour would be 04.00hrs. Our dugout was busy, the platoon was armed “to the teeth”. Jokes were flying. A and B orders were placed for the better gear of the pals – even girlfriends.
- You won't ever return from this gig, why don't you give me Maija's address so that I can go to console her, and I would be a good man to him unlike you.
The enemy held the “Jumping board hill” that was situated across the front lines to the right from Maaselkä village. IT was partly surrounded by bog and on the opposite end the enemy had a well entrenched stronghold. Using that as a base they at times launched surprise strikes at our positions, using the tip of the hill as a “jumping board” which explains the name. Of course this pain in the neck shroud be eliminated, not by a temporary strike but by repositioning the front line once and for all. The decisive blow would be dealt by the Divisional Sissi Company together with us Jaegers. Then our infantry would occupy the line permanently.
Fire support was to be provided by a for us incredible force of 107 pieces of artillery that would blast at the target for 17 minutes; consequently we considered that our task would be minimal. All we would have to do was to count the bodies and collect weapons. In the past our Platoon had paid a number of violent visits to the Neighbour but then the enemy always had survived the shelling with a fright only and at the breakthrough point we had to fight hard with the defenders before gaining entry in their trench.
This time only Tapio Rautavaara (the “disc jockey of front radio Aunus, tr.rem) had a serious idea of the nature of our mission because at the moment of our take-off we heard in the wireless “Pour les funerailles” by Boulanger that greatly amused our humorists.
The rasping sound of skis on the hard snow did not bode good as our troops were grouping on the take-off positions at our wire. There was a whiff of spring in the air. A thin cloud layer damped the full moon into a convenient dusk. The night was also favourable for the enemy nigh bombers known as “separators”, one of which started obstinately circling overhead. These snoops that would endlessly circle at their objective were familiar to everyone. Even though they appeared to be in a no great altitude and almost stationary they could not be spotted due to their excellent camo except when the plane happened to fly across the moon.
There was a flash and there was a rushing sound of a bomb falling at us. Next there was bog mud splashing on our clean snow camo suits and a wire post caught fire. Could he have spotted us grouped here? Would our objective be alerted too early ? We anxiously listened to the “barometer”, that is: enemy infantry arms activity. Would their tone turn nervous? For experienced men that revealed easily what kind of mood the Neighbour had.
No change whatsoever. The pilot may have tested his skill on a wire post – they could afford such a waste.
The H Hour was approaching. Men would glance at their synchronized watches ever more often. Was something wrong, as nothing happens? The watch hands are just in the right angle. No, there was a flash of 107 lightnings that once and for all removed every doubt. A perfect artillery salvo shook the air. It sounded like a solid piece of fabric being torn which turned into a constant roar. For once our artillery had the same tone as the enemy one. We did not hide our pride and malevolent joy as the first greetings hit the small target area sweeping low over our heads.
What do you think of that ? This is the manner they usually greet us, even for no reason.
Restriction of movement, whispering and absolute smoking ban were over. The second act of the show was on. A beckoning gesture, and the detachment passed through a gap in the wire and minefields spreading in a line on a small open bog and briskly proceeded on skis to the ridge. There it was: the objective, boiling earth, fire and pieces of logs was worth seeing. Our Jaeger Turkia had taken a camera with him. We would have fine photos for our archive. The pressure waves, howling in m,any tones and crashing of shells made our nerves tense. Yet we felt safe even though the shells were coming in low and hitting close. They were friendly and the enemy had lost their contacts to the rear, their sentries had taken cover and the troops sleeping in the dugouts could not get out due to heavy shelling. Enemy fire could not be discerned, before one was hit as our weapons filled the space with their noise.
There was a blinding flash, rumble and pressure wave that made us duck in the snow. A mine ? No – it was a heavy mortar bomb falling short right into our assault formation. One dead and three badly wounded men out of the game. The author had just his trouser knee and tunic sleeve at elbow torn. A normal war accident. If a mortar bomb tail is broken off the trajectory will be inevitably short.
There was a disturbance in the din: the 17 minutes had gone imperceptibly and the artillery was suddenly quiet. The last shells screamed overhead and hit the ground.
- Now !
The third act, assault and breakthrough started. A bang – there was Turkia's body, mauled by a mine, the broken camera on his chest.
-What the—Duck! Snow was boiling about us, a diabolic opening of fire at a distance of 20 to 30m by dozens of auto weapons deafened our ears. There must be really first class Vanyas against us. Fortunately there were shell holes everywhere. They provided a sufficient shelter. The situation was dire in front of the enemy weapons nests where a man could neither advance nor retreat. The artillery F.O.O. Found himself in the same rouble and he yelled in his phone:
-Gimme more and quick! -He did get that.
A new barrage, only for two minutes, but it was enough. There was only one bull-headed enemy SMG gunner firing long bursts without aiming but he was trod under our feet and we were there!
The last phase of our mission, rolling the trench, started. It was celebrated by the solemn smoke columns emanating from five burning dugouts. I yelled:
- Boys, this is like the Western Front back then!
The enemy trench was amazingly deep and in the weak morning light still dark. We took the trench to the left. A hand grenade beyond each bend, then sweeping the straight section with a SMG! I heard someone call my name. The plucky Lieut Ortamo, the deputy Platoon CO, was standing at the breakthrough point with a volunteer 2nd Lieut Vesa. I responded to him:
-We are at it already ! He commented:
The second artillery barrage had hit the defender that was just on their way to man their positions in a devastating manner. Fallen men were lying all over the trench floor preventing us to gain a good foothold on the ground. It was amusing to see the enemies that were trying to get out of the undamaged dugouts use “pushover” tactics. The stragglers appeared to be rather big in the dark in their dark uniforms. Our weapons were clogged by sand and it enabled many an enemy to escape alive. The command post dugout was blown up. It went up with every officer inside – a suicide act!
-Get me a satchel charge, quick!
At the entrance of the next dugout there was a rush – a hand grenade battle. The attacker was soon out of them. Only a satchel charge would decide the outcome. There it was, passed from hand to hand. Whump – the road is opened. Another one through the door and we went on.
One's ears picked up everything acutely, wailing, grunting of wrestling, our battle cry “Päin Ryssää!” (“Get the russki) that was mechanically repeated. -There was another one about to slip over the parados and away. I grabbed his ankle and pulled the frightened fellow down. -Another dugout entrance, is it abandoned since the corridor is empty? Let us check! The passageway is empty, there is another door and - just one man in there. He had put up his hands. Anybody else there? A headshake. While I was frisking the prisoner I told Fränti, a Jaeger who had followed me, to search the dugout. A skirmish arose in the rear part of the dugout. There were brief SMG bursts and at the same moment the dugout with its newsprint papered walls was in fire. Fränti dashed out headlong. I did not make any hurry with my prisoner. Then the smoke became suffocating, where was the door? It was opening inward and had to be pulled hard. So would this be the end and in this manner? They do not have any idea at home. There – a pull and a moment of panting on the corridor floor. Smoke and fire rushed over me. I managed to get to the entrance to the fresh air.
I heard my prisoner grunt somewhere in the smoke.
- Idi sjuda, idi sjuda ! Guided by my call the prisoner came and flopped down, fainted, next to me.
The stronghold was ours. In front of us, about 100m off, in the cover of pine saplings the enemy was shovelling up a snow wall – implying a quick counter-attack. Ortamo shouted them something in Russian, carelessly exposing himself.
Swish-bang! His yell was cut short by a hit of an AT gun ! 2nd Lt. Vesa was instantly killed and Ortamo took a splinter through his helmet. He may have survived. I was ordered to take the Platoon under my command and man the stronghold until the infantry would arrive. The Sissi Company had already returned to their base to lick their wounds.
But where was our outfit? I was not able to rally more than 14 men – 19 were missing. We had numbered 33 at the outset. It was soon confirmed but incredible nevertheless. There was always someone who could tell what had happened to each of the missing ones during the battle. The terrible casualty figure did not feel any better although about one hundred defenders had been annihilated and “only” seven essentially important prisoners had been taken. The ominous Boulanger record had not yet been played to the end.
The enemy stronghold consisted of two consecutive staggered trenches connected with each other by communications trenches, also specially deep. In the centre there was an observation platform masked by pines, badly damaged by our artillery. Of the nine dugouts the only surviving intact one was in our possession. Its entrance was commanded by enemy infantry weapons but we crouched on all fours when using it. There was a hill on our right, higher than the trenches we were occupying and enemy fire from there hampered badly our movement. Lt. Jaarma announced that he was the new CO in this stronghold and he said that a MG and an AT rifle had been brought to support. Our Btn CO, Maj. Sorsa also made a tour and promised that our infantry shall be there any moment now.
It was soon 0900hrs. Our positions were subjected to uninterrupted and increasing shelling. The enemy F.O.O. Must have been on the roof of Maaselkä village hotel, where a group of men were moving about. It was a most useful spot for a spotter, that is why every shell was a hit. Lt. Varma was wounded. Mortar Lt. Hypen took the command.
Uraa . . . aa! Enemy counterstrike started just in front of us. Our fire and our artillery barrage cut it short.
Sanitäär, sanitäär ! - The wounded of the enemy were lying on the open no-man's land, wailing until they fell silent.
We were ignorant of the plans of the enemy. We thought they had had enough once again. But the intelligence experts behind the lines had tapped the enemy telephone line and they monitored the calls, knowing better. A phone call had been intercepted during which a local commander was ordered to retake the stronghold “Park” at any cost. The response had been:
-I shall try at 0900hrs but if I should not be successful, I will definitely do it at 1600hrs
He was successful. As 1600hrs was getting closer the shelling increased into “drum fire”. There were nine tired men of us left. The liaison both to the right and to the left had been cut off long ago. And there were no others here any more since a long time. Of course it had been decided to abandon the death's hole – it just had not been possible to inform us. The promise to send a manning outfit was never fulfilled but we decided to stay put until something decisive would happen. Judging by the signs it would be soon!
What the – are they going to plough open a road in daylight and right up to our trench? Three “vehicles” approached side by side through the pine saplings, billowing snow. Don'¨t get fresh with us, we are still alive! There were bursts of snow in the snow walls as three famous T-34s opened fire with their main gun. They kept approaching at an astonishing speed.
-Uraa! -Now we are in trouble. As if by magic the open ground in front of us up to both flanks was full of enemies in white snow camo suits dashing at us. We were a bit dazed. The MG did not open up and the AT rifle did not fire. The enemy on the left had already reached the first trench without opposition. On our right the attack had similar success. Soon our return route was blocked. Now there would be cannon fodder but they do not bother to fire any barrages, I thought with a bitter mind.
-Disengage- Follow me, I yelled and headed for the nearest communications trench for the second trench knowing that we would have to emerge on open ground to run across a 100 m stretch of rising slope, as nice targets to the enemy. There it was. The spot we had broken through in the morning, now the start of the return route. In a spacious shelter there was a group of men – our men, among them I recognized Lt. Hypen. Hastily I reported to him on the situation. At the same moment there were two men rushing in the trench at the MG position, shouting that there were Vanyas all over the place. Hypen had a phone at hand and he phoned an order:
-Every barrage, Shoot! Immediately he went on:
Tanks were thundering as they rolled up the trench accompanied by a choir of Uraa. Someone said in a hopeless tone:
-Now we shall be taken prisoners.
I jumped up followed by Hypen, while taking a glance at the countenances of nine fallen men. Their turn to be evacuated would never come. Goodbye or maybe see you later!
The return path with environment was all one confusion. The area was being shelled by the enemy. Three men were left behind in the shelter as they did not dare to leave. Later we could read in the enemy propaganda leaflets the greetings that the boys were sending. They were said to be alright – as POWs .
It was one hundred meters, actually more, to the fire cover beyond the top of the ridge. On a path softened up by shells it was equal to one kilometre cross country run. At the same moment there was a blow against my left hip. My bread bag fell down and made me do a somersault. A splinter had cut a piece off the bag and also the strap. I quickly fumbled to find out that the vodka bottle had survived. I had to grab the broken bag with me.
There was a man crawling on all fours – with desperation – his legs had been shot and useless. Hypen grabbed one arm and I the other, and the boy was dragged with us beyond the hill in cover.
There we took a breath. The undamaged tank no more pursued us, fortunately. It was another two hundred meters to our lines. There was one man, stranding up with his Mg, there another, and a third one. So it was just so far the infantry company had advanced? They must have had their own opinion on holding the stronghold even with moderate casualties. Maybe they were right? Maybe we were spared a constant vain bleeding? The “Jumping board” might have become a constant matter of authority.
Incredulous looking friends received us. They were wondering how it was possible that there were survivors returning. But now the enemy aimed a heavy artillery fire also at this location resulting in nasty casualties even for the innocent. Our losses were terrible, yet probably no greater than those of the enemy. The operation ended with the result zero-zero. The remainder of our Platoon, six men, returned to the dugouts that now felt like abandoned. We had a sauna bath and tired out by vodka we slept until the next afternoon.
The remains of Turkia and a couple of other men were recovered during the spring to be sent home for burial in the bosom of the Fatherland. The Platoon received replacements and the wounded returned by the by, Etsa, too. The war continued in the usual manner just to suddenly end as early as 1944.
The battle is well documented in war diaries, see below.
Jääk.K/JR5 war diary extract:
(The Coy had been set up in January of the same year and after a training period they are to carry out the first task.)
07.00hrs Morning tea
08.00hrs Equipment check-up
09.00hrs Sissi and patrol food for one day distributed to the Coy.
12.45hrs Coy in departure readiness.
13.00hrs Rgt CO inspected the Coy, uttering a few words about the task ahead.'
13.10hrs Coy set out on skis to the sector of the I Btn where they were billeted in the dugouts of the supply personnel.
18.00hrs Officers and NCOs set out to terrain reconnoitring and the Coy CO ordered the grouping areas for the Platoons. At the same time the Coy Co briefed on the task ahead in detail. It was a matter of destroying and taking over an enemy stronghold on the “Jumping board “hill.
02.30hrs Detachment Sorsa is grouping at the previously ordered grouping spot. Our Coy is in the spearhead.
02.50hrs Det. Sorsa commenced advancing toward the enemy stronghold. The order of advance was the following:
Leading: Our Coy with one Sapper Squad of the Div. Sapper Btn, two Sapper Squads from the Rgt. Sapper Platoon, two MG s, two AT rifles, artillery and mortar F.O.O.s plus telephone men.
Second wave: I Btn Jaeger Platoon (Sic!) and one rifle Platoon of 2/I/JR5.
03.30hrs Our Coy found themselves in standby for attack in the take-off positions
03.33hrs Artillery opens up an intense shelling at the enemy stronghold. Three consecutive strikes were struck.
03.50hrs H hour. Shelling is shifted to N of the enemy stronghold. Our Coy launches their attack successfully through the enemy wire and minefield while being subjected to intense enemy fire. Platoon Sormunen is in the spearhead as the assault of our Coy reaches the enemy trench, and rolling is immediately started. Platoon Sormunen is rolling to the left, Platoon Siren to the right. Rolling proceeds in an excellent manner in both directions Every dugout and weapons nest in the stronghold were blown up.
04.30hrs The stronghold is entirely in our hands. The enemy that was in the stronghold, about 90 to 100 men, were annihilated to the last man, except the seven POWs taken in the stronghold.
04.45hrs Coy CO sends a report on the successful completion of the task to Maj. Sorsa.
05.15hrs By order of Maj. Sorsa our Coy is to stay for now as the manning detachment in the stronghold.
05.15hrs Enemy continues the heavy artillery and mortar fire they had started, causing casualties in our Coy.
Intense fire by the enemy at the stronghold continues unabated.
In the first phase of the battle our casualties include 2 fallen and one badly wounded. Fallen: Sgt. Hyytiäinen and Pfc. Hurme, wounded Sgt. Jokitalo who died the next day in a field hospital.
During the battle we lost fallen Pfc. Koski, Cpls Aura and Koponen, Pvts Rouhiainen, Kapanen and Soilampi.
09.00hrs Coy is issued an order to retreat as soon as the manning force has arrived at the stronghold.
09.10hrs Coy is handing over the positions to a rifle platoon of I Btn 2nd Coy. They start to withdraw from the base in small groups. During the withdrawal Pvt. Koivisto fell and Pvt. Karvinen was mortally wounded.
The casualties of our Coy include nine men wounded. Badly wounded were Pvts Korhonen and Ryysyläinen, lightly wounded were Pfc. Ojanen and Pvts Herrala, Kopra, Kemppinen, Felt, Lautanen.
09.35hrs Our Coy is rallied at the command post of Lt. Romi after a difficult withdrawal as the enemy harassed us continuously with artillery and other weapons.
11.00hrs Coy moved to the I Btn supply personnel dugouts, staying there for now in a 20 minute readiness.
Having carried out the task of the day in an excellent manner our Coy received recognition and thanks among others from the Div. and Rgt. CO s.
I Battalion battle report:
I/JR5 : Maaselkä 29.3.1943
By 2nd Lt. F: Andersson, Messaging Officer, I/JR5
Report on the “Jumping board” battle on 24.3.1943
Commander: Maj. Y.I. Sorsa
Troops: 2 platoons of Jääk/K/JR5
2 Platoons of I/JR9
2 Mg squads -”-
2 20mm AT squads -”-_
3 Sapper squads Pion.P 85
2 - “ - JR5
1 paramedic squad KKK/JR5
2 50mm light mortar squads 3./JR5
Arty F.O.O. team
Heavy mortar F.O.O. Team
Support group H (II/KTR1, Rask.Psto22, 7./KTR1, one 76 mm battery, one 120mm battery and two 152 mm batteries of 3.Psto) + heavy mortar platoon + light mortar platoon
Clear. Weak wind bearing 40-00. Temperature around zero degrees C.
The course of the battle
13.00hrs Leaders received an order in writing (appx). Rgt.CO was present and instructed on the flank action
18.00hrs Btn CO moved to the 2nd Coy Command post (at “Korpi”) The CO inspected and led the grouping.
02.00hrs Grouping at stronghold “Rotko” started, the Commander inspected it. Grouping succeeded well.
02.15hrs Btn CO ordered to fire low intensity fire to mask the scraping noise of skis.
03.00hrs The Detachment moved from grouping area to the attack take-off position at the southern tip of “Jumping board”, quite successfully.
03.35hrs Artillery and mortar preparation started.
03.50hrs H hour. The Detachment attacked into the enemy stronghold, rolling to the left up to the beach and to the right up to the edge of the swamp where a long straight covered trench started.
04.15hrs Btn CO set out to visit the front line, his deputy at the command post Capt. Välimaa.
04.20hrs Lt. Ollikainen reported that the enemy stronghold had been taken, which information the CO forwarded to “Korpi”. Casualties comprised a few wounded. 2nd Lt. Vaara was assigned as the CO of the “jumping board” by the Btn CO and he also ordered that the fortification work at the stronghold is to be started. Jaeger Platoon + 2 MG s + 1 AT rifle to be placed about 150m from the trench providing a good firing view to it.
2nd Coy Platoon + 1MG + 1 AT rifle were stationed on the E slope under the command of Sgt. Helenius. Order issued to Lt. Ollikainen to hold the trench for now.
04.30hrs 24 men of 2nd Coy were assigned to carry wire rolls to the S tip of “Jumping board” and 1+6 men to fix the road to the spot from stronghold “Härmä”.
05.30hrs 8 men sent to carry ammunition to “Jumping board”. 2nd Coy
05.50hrs 4 POW s from the enemy stronghold.
06.00hrs- 11.00hrs Enemy shelled the entire “Jumping board” and stronghold “Äes” with artillery and mortars, 2000 to 3000 shells (80% mortar)
06.20hrs Another 3 POWs were brought in from the enemy stronghold.
06.30hrs Report received from “Korva”: intercepted with teletapping device an enemy telephone message: “Smokescreen to be arranged, counterstrike to be launched, artillery is to be aimed”. Forwarded immediately to the Btn CO.
06.35hrs Arty F.O.O. 2nd Lt. Astin wounded. Replaced by 2nd Lt. Mannola.
06.40hrs Btn CO requested more men due to casualties so that the Jaeger Coy could be disengaged and hold the positions with our men.
06.20hrs- 07.20hrs Btn CO with Col. Pihlajamaa visited the battlefield. Manning must be decreased because the casualties are due to too much men in a constricted area. Consequently the Btn CO ordered the Btn Jaeger Platoon and the attached heavy weapons to move into the trench and relieve the men of the Jaeger Coy.
Btn CO order to Lt. Ollikainen: Btn Jaeger Platoon shall man the trench and the men of the Jaeger Coy shall move in small groups to stronghold “Härmä” and report at “Korva”.
07.40hrs 1+8 men arrived at “Korva” to constitute a reserve, sent by Lt. Raulio.
08.50hrs hrs A runner arrived at “Korva” reporting that more men and paramedics were urgently needed . Due to enemy shelling great number of casualties. “The enemy is blocking the route to “Jumping board” with mortar and arty fire.”
All connections cut off. Only the artillery radio was functioning. As the Jaeger Coy disengaged from the trench and retreated over the swamp they suffered a lot of casualties due to arty and inf. Fire.
08.20hrs Capt. Välimaa ordered Lt. Raulio to send every available paramedic to evacuate the wounded from “Jumping board” and get every available sled to be used for casualty clearance, 8 pcs were found.
2nd Lt Vasama arrived, Btn CO assigned him as the CO of the trench which duty had been carried out by Lt. Sevonen.
08.30hrs 2nd Lt Andersson arrived at “Korva” and reported that judging by the movement the enemy is preparing a counterstrike. Enemy artillery and mortar fire since 0800hrs is very intense and directed at “Jumping board” and “Äes”. Casualties so far include 10 fallen and some forty wounded.
Col. Pihlajamaa issued an order: Jääk.K shall remain subordinated to Maj. Sorsa but they shall be supplied by the I Btn as the Btn reserve.
08.45hrs Capt. Välimaa sent an order to 2nd Lt. Rantanen to detach two squads and all paramedics and send them to “Korva”.
09.00hrs Btn CO received a report from the trench: “Situation untenable” and requests to disengage.
The CO sent one squad as reinforcement in the trench. Btn CO reported to “Korva” about the situation and the request and requested more stretcher bearers.
09.05hrs Col. Pihlajamaa ordered that the positions must absolutely be held. The number of auto weapons must be increased and less men must be held in the trench. Tel. Connection again working for 10 min.
09.15hrs One squad from Lt Niemi's reserve arrived at “Korva”.
09.20hrs 1+13men (+2 paramedics) from 1st Coy arrived. The Btn reserve now comprises 1+7+23.
Order to Sr.Sgt. Heikkilä: One more MG to the trench. The positions of the MG s and the AT rifle in the trench must be checked. (Later it turned out that the order was not fulfilled as Sr.Sgt. Heikkilä was wounded. The weapons were placed as described in transparent drawing appx no.2.)
09.45hrs 2nd Lt Vaara was wounded, Lt. Savonen was ordered via runner that he shall be the acting CO of the trench stronghold until relief. Spoken order to 2nd Lt. Vuori that he shall be the acting CO of “Jumping board” until relief. Btn CO set out to his command post (“Korva”) to organise the men.
10.00hrs Order to dig a trench from “Piimä” to “Jumping board” under artillery and smoke screen cover.
10.20hrs Smoke mortar platoon fired a smoke screen from “Krapula” at the enemy stronghold situated N of Nimettömänlampi. Our artillery and AT guns simultaneously fired at the said stronghold to ease the situation at “Jumping board” and to ease the building of the communications trench. It was started to stretch a cable and dig a trench from “Piimä” to “Jumping board”.
10.40hrs Btn CO returned to his command post from “Jumping board”. The situation was calm then. He announced that he had posted 2nd Lt. Vuori as the CO in “Jumping board”
10.50hrs The Rgt Sappers, save 1+7+23, set off for “Jumping board” as replacements and relief.
12.05hrs Rgt CO issued an order to Maj. Sorsa on the arrangement of the defence of the stronghold.
12.20hrs Btn CO issued an order including:
1. The stronghold must be held. (CO Lt. Rossi)
2. Lt. Susitaival shall reconnoitre for counterstrike directions for eventual attacks from N or E.
3. Building of hindrances in the stronghold must be started immediately.
4. Interlocking fire fields must be set up by Capt. Väisänen. There are four MG s and two AT rifles in the stronghold. Two heavy MG s must be provided for reserve (available in “Tappara”).
5. Connection route digging from “Härmä” is to be started. Radio equipment have been provided in “Härmä”.
6. Plenty of ammunition must be at hand in the cartridge distribution point set up in the S tip of “Jumping board”.
7. Div. Sappers shall set up a trap field from “Piimä” via the stronghold to “Äes”.
8. The started field fortification work is to be continued.
9. Jääk.K + Coy Susitaival still in reserve.
10. Order of use of the reserves: a)Coy Susitaival b) Jääk.K.
11. Men of Coy Susitaival shall be assigned to f.f.work, at first one Platoon to dig the trench from “Härmä” to “Jumping board”.
12. My command post is situated at “Korva” for now.
12.35hrs Lt. Rossi received an order to proceed to “Jumping board” to familiarize with the stronghold with regard to the relief, and Lt. Susitaival to identify eventual counterstrike directions.
13.00hrs Lt. Rossi accompanied by Lt Susitaival proceeded to to “Jumping board” to familiarize with the stronghold with regard to the relief, and Lt. Susitaival familiarized with the terrain to identify eventual counterstrike directions.
15.05hrs Lts. Rossi, Savonen and Susitaival arrived at “Korva”. Lt. Savonen's men arrived at the same time. Lt Savonen reported that at the moment there were 50 men in the trench led by 2nd Lt. Lehtonen. At the E slope of “Jumping board” there were 2 squads + 1 MG + 1 AT rifle.
Lt. Rossi was tasked to organise relief manning to “Jumping board” and order to join the relief to become the CO of the stronghold.
15.30hrs 2nd Lt. Andersson set out to get orders from the I Btn command post.
1. Manning must be pushed for example from “Piimä” to “Paljaskukkula” using at least some of the forces in the stronghold.
2. -Hindrances must be attempted to be set up as soon as there is a chance from “Krapula” to “Jumping board” and to the N of the last mentioned. Near hindrances must be built at the same time, specially on the E slope of “Jumping board”.
3.The necessary foxholes, shelters and dugouts must be urgently built.
4. Communications from F.O.O. Posts to the artillery and mortar units firing the barrages must be secured by radio and flares.
5. The stretch of the trench occupied by the enemy must be cut off by fire and annihilated.
15.30hrs Enemy launched their artillery and mortar preparation.
15.40hrs Capt. Välimaa ordered that Col. Pihlajamaa is to be informed that there are Russkies in the E part of the taken trench which is long and covered.
15.50hrs Lt. Raulio reported that three enemy tanks and infantry had been spotted E of Ridge 19 on their way to “Jumping board”. The report was immediately relayed to the Rgt CO who ordered: The trench must be mined at the E end of the stronghold and target it for heavy mortars. The enemy positions N of “Nimettömänlampi” is to be shelled by observing every shell and the tanks must be fired at with artillery and mortar.
Capt. Haukkala was contacted by phone, he was briefed of the situation and he was asked for artillery fire. Lt Saarinen arrived simultaneously at “Korva”, describing the situation and he requested heavy mortar fire at the long covered trench at the E end of the trench, which was immediately agreed to.
15.40-16.00hrs Intense enemy artillery preparation could be heard emanating from “Jumping board”.
15.55hrs Lt. Raulio and Capt. Naakkala reported that the enemy is attacking at the base from NE and NW. Btn CO reported immediately to the Rgt CO , and contacted Capt. Naakkala to find out about the situation N of the trenches.
16.15hrs Lt Hypén arrived and reported that the enemy had retaken the stronghold and there are no our men in the stronghold and fallen men have been left in the trenches.
Btn CO immediately informed the Rgt CO and contacted Capt. Naakkala and Lt. Saaristo and requested fire at the trenches and to the N of them, alerted the the strongholds to man their main defensive positions and alerted Coy Susitaival.
Of the attacking enemy at first was spotted ahead on the right a detachment that was advancing up the trench and in the front advancing file on both sides of the first tank and a double file behind it. The tanks were firing their guns continuously while advancing while the infantry was firing off hip.
The detachment on the left simultaneously tied down with their fire, yet not launching an attack in the trenches, likewise the tank on the left.
On the right the tanks approached in brief dashes while ploughing a route for themselves. The distance between the tanks was about 50 to 75m while the nearest one approached to 30m from the trench. The troops were on foot, wearing white camo, without backpacks, judging by their rapid movements young men. MG s or any other heavier weapons were not seen in the attacking detachment. The movement of the enemy tanks and outfits are described in Appx.3.
17.35hrs Lt. Susitaival received an order to send out a patrol from “Äes” to recover wounded Cpl. Visala who was in 2nd Lt. Lehtonen.
19.00hrs The patrol set out and recovered Cpl. Visala.
20.30hrs Lt. Susitaival receive orders to sweep the part of “Jumping board” that could be accessed. At the same time Lt. Rossi was ordered to send out a patrol to recover the cartridge store. The patrols were back at 22.00hrs.
20.45hrs Orders issued on regrouping the manning of the strongholds and securing action for the night, securing to “Jumping board”, ammunition resupplying and supplying the men.
22 fallen + 19 badly wounded + 53 wounded, of which 4 fallen + 6 wounded found themselves in the stronghold as it was taken.
Estimated to be more than 300, of which in the trench about 60 KIA and the rest KIA and WIA by artillery and mortar shelling. By observation it was found that the strikes hit in the middle of the enemy troops.
To take “Jumping Board” on 24.3.43 (map leaf Maaselkä, aerial photo series E 57893)
1. Data on the enemy ref. Transparent appx.no.1
2. Our troops are in defence on the main defence line.
3. I/JR5 led by me shall take “Jumping Board” with a detachment consisting of:
-2 Jaeger platoons. Co Lt. Ollikainen, Platoon CO s Lt. Sormunen and 2nd Lt.Iiro.
-2 Platoons CO Lt, Ortamo, simultaneously leading the second half company, and 2nd Lt. Vuori.
-2 MG squads. CO Sr.Sgt. Heikkilä of 4th Coy
-2 20mm AT rifle squads CO Sgt. Rantala.
-2 50mm mortars of 2nd Coy.
-1 smokescreen projector squad (9 smoke projectors) 7 of the D., 2 of JR5
-Arty F.O.O. Assigned by II/KTR1.
-Mortar F.O.O. S assigned by Lt. Saarinen
Telephone squad (1+6) assigned by the Rgt. Communications officer
-2 Sapper squads from the Rgt. Sapper Platoon
-3 sapper squads from the Div. Sapper Btn.
-1+5 stretcher bearer of III/JR5
-3 RK s and 3 AT guns at the Aavesuo subsection and 1RK at the Kukkula subsection.
Of the Btn in reserve one Coy is subordinated for the action to me. They shall be accommodated in the Sport House, 2nd and 4th in dugouts. They must be there on 23.3.43 by 18.00hrs They can be used by the permission of the JR5 CO.
-H hour 03.50hrs
-Grouping location stronghold Notko. Grouping to be completed H-80 i.e.02.30hrs
-Securing patrol, one Squad, shall be sent beforehand to the S edge of “Jumping Board” to secure the movement of the detachment to the jump-off positions from the grouping location
-Moving to jump-off positions shall start at H-30 i.e. 03.00
-Moving shall take place in two waves, first one led by Lt. Ollikainen and it comprises 2 platoons + 5 Sapper squads + 2 AT squads + 2 MG squads + F.O.O.s (arty and mortars) + paramedic squad + telephone squad.
The second wave shall be led by Lt. Ortamo and it comprises 2 platoons + 2 50mm mortars.
-Arty and mortar preparation shall start H-17 i.e. 03.55hrs, it will be aimed mainly at the breakthrough point. At the H hour the shelling will be shifted to the rear of the stronghold and along the N shore and W of the N tip of lake Kamajärvi.
-During the arty preparation the strike outfit (of the first wave) shall move from the jump-off positions to and over the splinter limit.
-At the H hour the strike outfit shall break into the positions and start rolling the trench. The other platoon of the Jaeger Coy and the Btn Jaeger Platoon shall join them .
-The second wave shall follow the first wave at a distance of 100 to 150m ready to assist in rolling and to repel counterstrikes and to secure.
-As the objective has been reached field fortification work at the positions shall be quickly started using explosives.
6. RK s and AT guns shall support the attack by suppressing according to the manner described in the transparent, appx. no.2
I/JR5 strongholds that shall tie the enemy by fire include Rommi, Krapula, Ies and Vyö.
Indirect MG barrages shall be fired in front of the enemy stronghold W of lake Kemujärvi. Tying activities shall be carried out also on the sector of II/JR5.
7. Smoke screen:
Impenetrable screen shall be laid on the enemy stronghold W of Kemujärvi at H-5 i.e. 03.45hrs (5 projectors) When necessary smokescreen shall be laid on the E shore of Eastern Retulampi. Diversionary smokescreen shall be laid at the Bunker hill and W of stronghold Hauki at H-12 i.e. 3.38hrs .
The telephone connection shall be set up by the strike outfit phone squad, the arty F.O.O.squad and the heavy mortar F.O.O.squad. Artillery has radio connection, artillery and mortars have radiophone connection. Also liaison by runners. Telephone codeword Lauta.
Both snow camo suit sleeves rolled up. Battle cry “päin ryssiä”. Flare gun signals:
1.Front line marked by 3 to 5 reds at a time
2. Request of artillery fire by green flares that shall be fired at the requested direction
10. I/JR5 shall secure the line Nimettömänlampi – Paljaskukkula – Piimä - “Jumping board” and Äes- “Jumping board”.
Ambulance detachment shall be shifted by the Rgt. Surgeon to the I/JR5 supply outfit for the action. For that purpose the Btn supply road must be maintained in condition for the use of motor vehicles by the supply outfit of I/JR5.
Another 3 horses shall be sent to the field dressing station.
Shelter for the wounded at stronghold Notko.
The troops shall be distributed Sissi or patrol food rations for a day.
Ammunition supply: According to a separate order plenty of ammunition must be carried. The strike force must have plenty of hand grenades, smoke grenades and satchel charges.
The men are to carry tools (Picks – spades – axes)
The second wave shall have steel stakes and gravel spades.
Sapper squads shall have 100kg of explosives and traps for a new trap field.
Each platoon shall have a flare gun and cartridges ( 20pcs red)
Green to request artillery fire are allowed to be fired by Lts Ollikainen and Ortanen.
12. The second wave shall carry the material needed for a forward ammunition supply point, the supply point shall be set up at the S tip of “Jumping board”.
13. Watch synchronization with the help of broadcast radio. Shall be checked with Platoons at the grouping point.
14. Subordinated leaders shall get familiarized with their tasks
a) first wave by Lt. Ollikainen at a point of time he shall order.
b) second wave by Lt. Ortama at a point of time he shall order.
15. No one participating in the attack is allowed to carry any documents.
16. Equipment: Assault gear
17. My command post shall be situated in stronghold “Korva”.
- Posts: 676
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Surprise on Lake Ladoga
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 12, 1960.
The author appears to have been a NCO in the MG Coy of the Border Guard Battalion 3.
A hunch of approaching spring made the noble lake Ladoga and capriciously restless. On clear days her (frozen over) surface was sparkling like a shroud of diamonds. At times she covered herself in a wildly racing shroud of fluffy snow. She was specially fond of wearing a thick brownish grey cape of fog. Also the residents of the shore had changed from calm people into nasty male soldiers who constantly made noise and fired their large calibre weapons, breaking the ice and spoiling the coastal forests. Soldiers of the Third Reich were present, too.
It was a day of war, the 7th of March 1942. The front lines had congealed. On the right flank of the Svir front the Svir-Ladoga land sector was under the responsibility of a German division. ( 163.D, tr.rem.) . They were reinforced with Rj. P.3 (Border Guard Battalion 3). Parts of Rj. P.3 had been stationed in a beach village called Gumbaritza. The field strongholds were situated on the coastline and on the Ladoga ice. Kenttävartio 2 alias KV2 (Field Stronghold no,2) 2nd Lt. Kaukanen as the CO, was situated N of the village.
The BG Jaeger in sentry duty shift swore at the thick fog that only sparsely allowed the light of the dawn pass through. It was 0320 hours. Another 40 minutes to the relief.
The faintest rasping of skis from the ice alerted the warrior who had distinguished himself already in Hanko. He listened for a couple of seconds, then challenged:
A shot was the response. The BG Jaeger's thumbs hit the trigger of the MG and the good weapon emitted a long quick lethal burst.
Men emerged from their underground dugouts and dashed into their positions. An enemy outfit comprising some 30 men pulled back in the cover of the fog. Three immobile bundles remained on the ice. KV2 had done its duty.
The Jaeger Platoon of Rj. P.3 was ordered to pursue the enemy under the command of Staff Sgt. Laulajainen (present rank: Sr.Lt.). I, as the CO of a MG half platoon picked four men and joined the Jaeger platoon.
Judging by the traces the enemy had dispersed into several detachments, consequently the Jaeger platoon had to be split to follow each track. I was skiing with the patrol led by Sgt. Laulajainen. The wind had hardened and polished the snow into waves. It was a leg-tiring job to control your skis. We were proceeding in a good pace and we were able to stay on the track. It was just the fog that was hard to breathe.
I took a glance at my compass. I called the good piece of invention with a few reproachful names because in my opinion it was not pointing at the right course, not at all. I compared the needle reading with the compasses of a couple of men next to me. They all had the same reading. Having lost my sense of direction I believed we had been heading West but the compasses revealed that we had been heading South, for the strong Russian base at Cape Monastirskaja.
I was pondering what the fog and darkness would have in store for us this time. The ice of Ladoga was criss-crossed at night by Finnish, German, Russian and Finnish-Swedish patrols, so in case of a collision one could not judge by language whether there was a friend or a foe. Specially since everyone attempted to stay quiet due to reasons of security .
In addition to the password Finnish patrols were ordered to wear a visible ID, different for each mission. This time it was the rolled up left snow camo suit sleeve so that the dark tunic sleeve was visible. Despite this sometimes there were misidentification among the patrols.
While we were thinking of these matters our file had stopped. Among the fog and the dusk of dawn we by the by spotted another skiing outfit, comprising some 20 men. The white left sleeve of each man had been rolled up. Friendly ID, that is!
Neither side had uttered a single word so far. Our attention was attracted by two small toboggans that the other outfit had. Having negotiated with the others one man of the strange outfit approached us, beckoning. After all we had the same ID. Sgt. Laulajainen set out to meet him. They stopped, about 40m from each other. For a couple of minutes the commanders just were looking at each other. I believe I saw that the man opposite had a longish beard stubble.
-What is your kin, what is your nation, you bearded one, Jaeger Vesterinen whispered poetically in my ear.
The commanders were fighting a mental battle between their outfits. Our patrol was keeping an eye at the strange outfit. As the commanders had finally enough admired each others' refrain, the bearded one finally uttered:
- Kto vuy? (Who are you?)
Then the commanders turned back without making any haste to their own. Each party started eyeing at a convenient firing position. By chance the Russians had the same ID as we had. They also had good reasons to find out who we were.
Sgt. Laulajainen returned to the patrol.
-We shall fight, he said. My shot will be the signal to open fire.
In his easygoing manner he laughed a little and lifted his rifle. A shot cracked. The above mentioned contacting man was the first to drop. A mutual stalking and sneaking among pieces of pack ice and low banks of hard snow started. Russians started to fire at us with two small mortars that they had been lugging along in the toboggans. Fortunately they fired long. It was just unpleasant to listen to the incoming bombs, as you had a feeling that the next bomb would fall just between your shoulder blades.
Now the old Ladoga awoke from her sleep. She pulled off her cloak of fog and allowed the light of the morning to fall on us. Cold blast was hitting equally the sweaty backs of both parties. Judging by the scenery we found ourselves some 10 to 12 km SSW from our base on the open Ladoga ice.
Two Russian motor sleds turned up but we were not fired at. Later two Finnish fighter planes scared them away. The battle that had started in an intense manner was slackening by the by. There was no hope of ammo resupply. There were casualties, too. Cpl. Lappi was wounded in his pectoral muscle and arm but he did not abandon the battlefield. A bullet smashed Jaeger Korpi-Halkola's heel. We managed to drag him in safety under the cover of our fire. Jaeger Kekki was harassed by a sniper but he was not hit despite his bad firing position. Jaeger Vesterinen who had the gift of the gab, swore vehemently as he found his SMG an ineffective weapon “in this kind of desert battle”.
The news of our little war on the ice desert must have reached the mainland because there were Russian reinforcements sneaking to the scene. Three files, grouped with long distances, were cautiously heading for the noise of shooting. The MG and the crew that had arrived to support us stopped the enemy reinforcements at a long range.
The Finnish side was also reinforced by two men from a NCO stronghold and from the stronghold “Hati” the patrols of Staff Sgt. Ekoluoma and Cpl. Huoponen, who was immediately wounded in both legs. We had built quite good positions behind the snow drifts by beating the hard snow with the butts of our weapons. The enemy appeared to love to stay in their positions We could not verify any of their eventual casualties. It was sort of funny as two small patrols kept fighting obstinately a private war in the middle of a deserted ice expanse..Neither side was able to annihilate their opponent because it did not make sense to launch an assault. Neither was it possible for any side to disengage.
Finally the cold began to bother us, despite all the calisthenics we did. We had in fact laid prone for three hours in one spot. Also we were getting alarmingly low on cartridges.
At about 10.30hrs our artillery based at Habanova and the German artillery in their stronghold “Wasserman” opened up shrapnel fire at the battlefield. The shelling must have been a barrage at the enemy reinforcements because every hit was “over”. It would indeed have been impossible to annihilate our adversary by artillery since we were there almost face to face. Instead, German direct fire weapons opened up indiscriminately at anybody moving on the ice-
While the shrapnels were whining overhead and jets of bullets were smashing ice about us Sgt. Laulajainen organised a fire cover and ordered us to disengage. We set out in pairs. Jaeger Luoto attempted to get up several times, but each time flopped down.
-Get going now, heck, his squad leader hurried him up.
-Are you wounded?
-No, I am stuck frozen by my clothing.
A violent yanks and a good piece of Luoto's snow camo suit remained behind on the Ladoga ice.
Making use of every chance to take cover we made it to a safe distance without losses. The Russians did not launch a pursuit.
On the ice we met Patrol Lautsio who had been detached from the Jaeger Platoon, they had with them a wounded Russian soldier that had straggled from his outfit. We helped the tired patrol to transport the wounded man. By now blood was circulating with pleasant warmth in our recently semi frozen bodies.
Jaeger Vesterinen was as witty as ever.
- So we now have experienced not only archipelago and forest war but also real desert war. I was afraid that it would become our third front. By the way I would like to suggest that to avoid confusing ID s and collisions the patrol men should be equipped with fog bells to be worn around the neck.
For comparison Rj.P3, 4th Coy war diary extract: (on a school notebook, grid paper)
02.30hrs Order received from Rj.P3 HQ: The Coy is to be set in alert readiness
02.45hrs Order received for the Coy to set out to Kumburitsa
03.05hrs 3rd Platoon set out subordinated to Lt. Halonen.
-Early on the morning of the 7th at KV2 they spotted a 15 man enemy patrol who was proceeding on the ice to the direction of KV1. They at once reported this to the mainland. The patrol managed to get to a distance of 15o m from the shoreline. The 4th Coy MG subordinated to the KV, gunner Jaeger Kunnas, opened fire at the Russki patrol. Three men of the patrol fell and one was taken prisoner who was wounded. Among the fallen enemies were one Politruk, a Staff Sergeant and a NCO. The POW, too, was a NCO. The rest of the patrol managed to withdraw to the ice in the cover of darkness.
04.30hrs A patrol led by Staff Sgt. Laulajainen set out to pursue the escaping patrol.
05.30hrs Laulajainen caught up with the enemy and annihilated 10 men so only one man of the Russki patrol managed to escape. Patrol Laulajainen's casualties comprised three slightly wounded.
08.00hrs I, III, and AT half platoon set out to work.
15.00hrs The CO issued an order to the MG Coy CO to rally every MG platoon at Kumburitsa.
16.30hrs MG s for the Platoons were brought up and put in positions along the Ladoga shoreline between KV1 and KV3.
At night nothing special. Our patrols were out all night.
Rj.P3, 2nd Coy war diary extract : (on a school notebook, grid paper)
7.3.1942 (AV appears to have been a fore-post or listening post on the ice)
01.30hrs AV3 spotted at bearing 40-00 an enemy patrol comprising about 10 men distance about 2km. The enemy patrol was moving back and forth on the ice with the purpose of distracting. At the same time:
02.30hrs An enemy patrol about one Coy in strength tried to surround AV3. After a brief firefight the AV managed to disengage and retreated to KV3. The Russki advanced to the direction of KV3 to a distance of about 500m from the shoreline. The KV opened fire at the enemy, catching them by surprise, also the German artillery at Hotti fired about 100 shells.
03.20hrs Lt. Hasanen ordered 2nd Lt. Nurmela to open fire with his battery at AV3 that was occupied by Russkies.
The battery fired 10 shells.
02.00hrs KV1 Co, BG Sgt. Linjamäki reported that there was an enemy patrol right in front of KV1 on the ice. I issued an order to destroy the enemy patrol, at the same time I ordered 2nd Lt. Nurmela to fire with direct of with his battery at the enemy in front of us.
However the battery did not fire.
03.00hrs I requested reinforcements from the CO, at least one Jaeger platoon.
03.40hrs One MG platoon arrived.
04.45hrs One Jaeger platoon arrived.
04.50hrs The Jaeger platoon set out on the ice to carry out pursuit.
05.09hrs The Jaeger platoon found the trace of the enemy patrol and started pursuit.
06.00hrs A wounded POW was caught on the Ladoga ice.
07.40hrs The patrol caught up with the enemy patrol and a battle with the enemy patrol ensued, bearing 32-00 distance some 5km from AV2.
07.50hrs I sent out a patrol also from AV2 to the battleground to bring ammunition.
10.42hrs Russkies arrived from the Monastirskaja cape, an about 50 man patrol.
10.45hrs Some 40 Russkies arrived from the mouth of Svir.
10.50hrs The patrol CO ordered to disengage because he considered the Russki patrols were too strong compared with his.
Before retreating the patrol gave a strong fire strike at the enemy.
Of twelve enemies only one man survived.
Our fighter planes strafed the enemy men on the ice. Also the 150mm battery in Habanova fired 10 shells.
During the day the visibility was good.
11-12hrs A German patrol spotted, some 3km E of KV3 an about 50man enemy patrol. Germans reported that they had started pursuing the enemy.
16.00hrs Germans reported that the enemy was surrounded.
16.30hrs CO ordered: “2nd Lt Huli shall take over the command of KV3 and Lt. Pitkäpaasi is to liaise with LT. Rathloff.”
20.35hrs The Russki made two light signals with a projector, the surrounded Russki responded at once with two red flares.
Air force participation in the skirmish is questionable.
LeLv12 war diary extract
00.15hrs (3rd Flight, tr.rem.) MBR-2 dropped leaflets and reconnoitred area Monastirskaja- Megrino-Ljugovitsi. Crew: 2nd Lt. Miettinen, gunners Sgt. Salokangas and Kannuksela. Well done.
In the morning the 2nd Flight carried out a recon mission in the direction Monastirskaja- Megrino.
14.00hrs Lt. Karu requested recon on the ice area Haapanova- Monastirskaja.
I carried out the mission with a patrol.
The patrol leading plane pilot Lt. Ritavuori. When strafing Storskino village the a/c took a hit from intense inf.arms fire in the suction pipe which resulted in engine running unevenly. However the a/c made it to the base. The a/c took a total of 6 hits.
21.30hrs VI AC liaison officer called and requested recon on the ice area Haapanova-Monastirskaja. The mission was combined with the 3rd Flight mission to drop leaflets at Osta.
LeLv12 2nd Flight war diary extract
08.00hrs Aircraft in serviceable condition:
Total: 3 pcs (all Winter War veterans, with Mercury engine, tr.rem.)
08.00-09.20hrs 2nd Lt Hakulinen and Sgt Roine, FR-92 and FR-95
Recon mission Mon(astirskaja) – Ojatti – Aleh(ovtsina)- L-pelto (Lodeinoye Polje)
12.15hrs Sgt. Narkaus on furlough.
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- Location: Finland
May Day 1944
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 12, 1960
The author was a radio operator of KTR 7. 6th Battery posted to 15.Pr in Amy 1944.
It was as if the entire Svir front in this morning had stopped to breathe the fresh spring air. No MG rattle, no AT gun cracks, no familiar mortar shots. Even the ever alert Russian snipers are having a break. No-man's land between the front lines is as if sleep drunk, totally quiet and immobile. The eye of the periscope does not detect any movement in the sandbag lined trenches of the adversary. Warm air is nicely vibrating on bunkers and dew is shining. Those on the other side may also be admiring the beautiful morning, I think. There may also be 18 year old ones over there, thinking that the first of May and spring are far from war. There are a few minutes of my sentry duty stint left. Actually it is a pity to leave this sunny calm sentry post and enter the still sleepy dark dugout and its environment plagued by red coated bedbugs. The neighbouring mortar sentry may agree with me because after relief he is lingering on,smoking and blowing smoke rings in the sunlight.
It is 0700hrs. My two hour stint is over once again. I hand over my place to Erkki Kallio, a friend since the day when sweat was flowing, dust billowing and boots chafing at the Riihimäki training camp where new soldiers for Finland were being created. Kallio is residing with “Sila” and Cpl. Olli Lustre in the F.O.O. Accommodation, in the “Upper dugout”. “Sila” alias Silander is the CO of our outfit, the 6th Battery of Field Artillery Regiment 7, in civilian an architect, in war a Captain. There is a narrow communications trench with many bends from the Upper dugout to the main dugout, length a few tens of steps. Several other trenches are branching to the dugouts of the 15th Brigade.
I find myself in our dugout full of snoring and various smells, it has been dug deep and has experienced many a hard incident. I am sitting down on a bench, adjust the flame of the carbide lantern before assembling the strewn deck of cards. Then I pick up a pen and a sheet of paper. I am writing a letter home, describing this radiant May Day atmosphere “somewhere here”. Everything is calm – deceptively so.
It is 08.07hrs. I note it passing and indifferently . I take a look through the window, soiled by smoke and bugs, to Lake Ladoga and the blue expanse where rays of sun are being reflected from the waves as millions of gold coins. I am standing up, stretching myself – and just then it happens!
A mammoth explosion!
It makes the earth quake and wave. The pressure wave throws the small window of the dugout in thousands of splinters on my face, it knocks me down, it knocks over the stovepipe, drops the men down from the platforms and dirt through the ceiling. The explosion wakes everyone up and creates a cloud comprising smoke, mud, sand, stones, visible in a distance of tens of kilometres. It was a record explosion on no-man's land. It is the finishing touch of the several weeks of Russian work down in no-man's land. An almost one hundred meter tunnel to the Finnish line is opened with a TNT charge. A violent surprise attack follows,
After a few seconds a yell can be heard:
- Help, enemy is in the trench!
The grim and merciless reveille wipes the sleep off the eyes of the F.O.O. Squad, even though the first seconds are mixed with surprise, irritation and curses.
- Who the heck is banging just next next to my ear?
- How did I get here on the floor?
Soon the situation awareness is updated, swearing ends. The F.O.O. Squad is hastily clambering up, reaching for their SMGs.
Jutila, a 185 cm tall athlete from Kankaanpää is packing three hand grenades. Opri Koitto, a sturdy lad from Helsinki, has lost one of his boots . One man is rushing out, putting a cap on his head, his SMG already cocked, followed by another with a hand grenade in readiness. Pfc. Kärpänen is trying to call the Artillery Battalion HQ – in vain. The lines have been cut off. Shouting can be heard outside. Normal speech cannot be made out. Every Russian gun is firing. Crashing, whining, splinters, blood. Single explosions cannot be told in the steel storm. All hell is loose...
The phone on the dugout table is ringing. Kärpänen's face proves a total incredulity. Who can call here, all the cables have been cut up in pieces. I grab the handset with sweaty hands.
- Come and help us boys, everyone!
It is Sila. The underground cable between our dugouts has survived so far. The Upper dugout is surrounded. Instant help is needed. The Russians have been able to take the first trench line in one rush making use of the Finnish confusion
Sila must be assisted, but how? The communications trench is already being swept by the enemy LMG fire, lethally.
Being a radio operator I am aware of my duty. The Asa radio is now the only channel to the rear. My hand is oddly shaking and the tuning of the set, previously an easy task, is now going on in a clumsy manner. And the antenna on the dugout roof, would enough of it be left to raise the Artillery Battalion?
I am reciting the call sign, then listening.
I am repeating the call .
I am breaking out in cold sweat, my spine is tingling in an odd manner. Is our stronghold really totally surrounded? Then I curse myself: the wavelength has been changed today. Another attempt – a sigh of relief. A familiar voice in the Artillery Battalion HQ is asking:
- Matti Sakari Lauri, here is Risto Kalle Pekka, attention Matti Sakari Lauri here is Risto Kalle Pekka,
-Do you hear us, do you hear us, dammit, do you hear us, over.
During our training “dammit” would have meant a time in the jug. The rest of his message was as in the legit template .
After the contact had been established I reported:
-Enemy has blown up no-man's-land and penetrated into our positions. Enemy has surrounded the F.O.O. Dugout. Send assistance.
I should have sent a fire command, another attempt to contact the Upper dugout was in vain. the line was dead. The artilleryman – radio operator had to send the command himself, defining “every barrel” and “barrage” and “strike”. I reasoned that they would understand the rest having learned that the Russians had created a bridgehead at “Kemi”, the stronghold farthest to the right on the Svir front, stretching up to Lake Ladoga. The neighbouring strongholds were “Oulu”, “Tornio”, “Haaparanta” – the names of the towns on the Gulf of Bothnia.
Now "Kemi" was in trouble, threatened by destruction. The sentries who had faced the onslaught had to be written out by now. There was a slim hope that Kallio would have managed to withdraw to the Upper dugout, which was fairly well built of thick logs and reinforced with sandbags. Maybe it would be able to resist. Would the logs and the men withstand the shelling and the enemy onslaught?
The excess of the intruders had to be controlled, their life had to be made hard. The radio operator in “Kemi” gave another fire order:
- Give fire also at our forward positions.
Broad-shouldered Artilleryman Kiviranta was standing at the entrance of the dugout, his finger on the trigger of his cocked SMG. The radio operator had his pistol and a couple of “eggs”. The radio was our only means of survival, it had to be protected to the extreme.
After all it is true that has been busily rumoured in the base for a couple of weeks. A captured Soviet prisoner had told about a tunnel being dug to the Finnish line. Opri Koitto told that he had been informed “by a reliable source” that the fellows were half way under Southern Finland and would pop out at the Grand Square in Helsinki sooner or later. Someone suggested that we should copy the Vanya and dig a counter-tunnel, then jeer the enemy when meeting them underground. Our counteraction was to use our heaviest howitzer that was hauled right behind the trenches. It fired its heavy shells for a couple of days at no-man's-land to reveal the enemy designs. The shelling had had no result. “One could have guessed that, the prisoner was just talking nonsense, to blow his own horn” was the common opinion.
The talk about the matter died down and the digging, literally an underground activity, was allowed to go on undisturbed in the Olonez soil. Now the exit of the tunnel had been noisily opened, a real May Day party was in full swing and our trench was teeming with Russians. Foreign weapons were spraying bullets at Finns, two LMGs kept the communications trench under constant flanking fire, and we were not amused. We were setting up a resistance in earnest, and it was not anymore good for the health of the intruders to press on. The pain in their neck was our indomitable Upper dugout as we later found out.
I swapped places with Kiviranta and went to have a peek at the situation to get “my point of view”. There was a group of our men hunching at the spot where the communications trench did a steep bend. Artillery was still mutually shelling with a strafing rate while the soldiers of the hammer and the sickle were furiously firing at the said corner. The situation had stalled there, we were just standing with a suffering mien. A stocky NCO was seething with anger:
- There the b*ds keep firing. And we have to be here under their mercy...
- I wonder if they even have visas, Opri was pondering with a straight face.
I, too, wanted to contribute with some hand grenades. Yet my greetings were just as misdirected as the “lemons” that were hailing in beyond the bend. A daredevil climbed on the parapet and tried to creep closer to deliver his actual greetings to the addressees. He did not make it very far. A Soviet grenade stunned him and he was dragged in “dry land”.
The attack had started with a surprise, and it ended equally, as if cut off with a knife. Russian LMGs went silent, the song of SMG s ended like the music of an orchestra by the sign of the conductor. We could hear just a couple of angry commands in Russian. It took us a couple of seconds before we dared to dash forward. The trench appeared to be empty. The wooden revetments and concrete positions were dishevelled.
There is going to be a hell of a rebuild, someone opined.
What about the Upper dugout?
It was standing but looking like being devastated by a tornado. The door was a total sieve, because it had been fired through from the inside as well as the outside. Three men appeared at the threshold, they were alive and well, but blackened by gunpowder smoke. There were bullet holes in their boots and uniform sleeves. The barrel of Lustre's SMG was glowing.
Everything had been hanging by a thread. Kallio had in the last possible moment succeeded in getting in with all the three sentry post SMGs, the men in brown tunics at his heels. Lustre and Sila had emptied one magazine after the other through the door at the Russians. They in turn returned fire and had thrown an inordinate quantity of hand grenades at the dugout door, roof and walls. Yet the dugout withstood, the men likewise. We checked the trench led by Lustre. There was no one, nothing, no bodies even. Just blood, spent cartridge cases, hanging boards, broken logs and collapsed walls.
The Russians had taken everything with them . They had left behind just a couple of helmets, a piece of rope and a torn sand filled stunning bag – obvious tools for capturing a prisoner – as mementoes. Now their MG s were shooting incessantly, covering the spurt of the attackers back to their lines.
We emptied our magazines after the Russians – then the situation was over.
I sent a radio message:
- Slobos have left. They took their dead with them. Some infantry men may have been taken prisoners. The F.O.O. team has no casualties. Silander, Lustre, Kallio all OK.
The Upper dugout men were decorated by the Artillery Battalion CO Maj. Winqvist by a medal and given an extra a furlough. The May Day at “Kemi” became widely known. The GHQ bulletin was quite bare: “ At the Western part of the Olonez isthmus a minor enemy detachment was repelled as it had attacked our positions supported by strong artillery fire.”.
The men in "Kemi", instead, discussed the skirmish at length. There was a question: could this May Day hullabaloo have been prevented? Actually that at the same time as there were rumours about the enemy tunnelling a small plume of smoke had been spotted emerging a few tens of meters from our trench on no-man's-land. The position of the plume did not change, it appeared to emerge right out of the even ground. We were not able to solve the riddle of the phenomenon although we observed the terrain for a long time with Lt. Eerikäinen who was at that time our F.O.O. A patrol was sent out to investigate. I volunteered as the representative of the Artillery – I was being a tough man in those days – and with Lt. Pajunen's patronage I was allowed to join the six man patrol led by an Infantry 2nd Lt. The patrol was led by Sappers equipped with meters and sticks. The patrol that was carried out at midnight did not produce any results, but I was sure we did not proceed far enough – in case our target was the smoke plume on no-man's-land. What if we had kept creeping a little more? Would the enemy plan have been foiled – and this story be never told?
For comparison, 15th Brigade war diary on 1. May 1944:
(Piece of typed text glued on a regular war diary page)
Situation report on 1.5.1944 at 15.30hrs
Suolohko sector. AT 08.05hrs the enemy blew open the exit of the tunnel they had dug in front of stronghold “Käki” about 60m from our positions. At the same time a concentrated fire of all weapons was launched at the stronghold positions and the rear. After the shelling was shifted it was immediately followed by an enemy outfit about one Platoon in strength that penetrated into our positions, forcing our men to retreat while fighting. The enemy made it as far as the dugouts and attempted to destroy our men in one dugout using hand grenades. Our counterstrike force (11 men) repelled the enemy before their attempt succeeded, mainly by using hand grenades, causing the enemy considerable casualties. The enemy supported their raid with four Artillery batteries (3”, possibly one 5”), 8 light mortars and 2 AT guns, also a number of 50mm mortars were employed. (A total of some 500 shells, some of which landed at stronghold “Teeri” and our Battery positions). Actual fighting ended at 08.30hrs. Our Arty fired about 500 shells as barrage and at the enemy weapons firing and our light mortars 120 shells as barrage.
The enemy evacuated all their dead and wounded. Our casualties include 0+0+2 fallen, 0+2+6 wounded and 0+0+2 missing.
Karelka sector. Enemy heavy weapons fire more intense than usually at the front line, mostly light mortar (171 shells total)
Eastern sector. Nothing to report.
Our snipers: Inflicted casualties to enemy on the period 22.4.-1.5. consist of three certain cases.
Enemy status report on 1.5.1944.
1//---2//---/3//---4// The enemy supported their prisoner capture attempt at stronghold “Käki “ with a four battery strike, shelling also stronghold “Teeri” At the Karelka sector minor harassment fire with a light field gun.
Brick Factory sector
//3 At the Karelka sector in the Svir shore terrain explosions due to field fortification work. 6//---7//---The casualties inflicted to the enemy during the prisoner capture attempt cannot be estimated. 8//---9/---
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- Location: Finland
Battle against 40-fold superiority
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 01,1961
The outfit involved: JR10, II Btn, 6th Coy. Location: Rukajärvi. The author appears to have been a LMG gunner.
This story describes the courageous battle of one Platoon in a lone field stronghold at Rukajärvi sector in autumn of 1943. The actual Platoon was the AT platoon of the MG Company of the II Battalion of JR10. Since our Platoon did not have an AT task in the defence line (in roadless wilderness) we were posted to guard a bridge of the Tsirkka-Kemijoki river at Ontrosenvaara. Our duties included securing each passing transport column with a Squad on the road to Repola against eventual enemy patrols. This task ended in the last days of July 1943 as our Platoon was transferred to a field stronghold named “Joki” (“River”). It was situated about 7km from Ontrosenvaara to Uhtua, at the Tsirkka-Kemijoki river. The platoon was split in half. One half manned the next nearest field stronghold and we, a total of 16 men , stayed in “Joki”.
The terrain where the stronghold was situated was a tongue of forest sticking into a bog, actually an “island” in the bog. It was limited on the North side by a couple of meters wide brook connected to the Tsirkka-Kemijoki river. Terrain-wise the place was easy to defend because the enemy could use only the narrow forested isthmus to attack.
Our armament comprised two AT rifles, one LMG and of course some SMGs and rifles. This was not a very good set for a battle as we later were to find out.
We were left quite alone for a couple of weeks, but then the enemy made their first attempt to take our stronghold.
It was the night of 11th August. The field stronghold was in their usual night rest in the wilderness. Sentries were alert to protect the sleeping men. It was still dark because the time was just past midnight. The silence of the night was disturbed only by the occasional sound of some animals moving about.
It was about 0200 or 0300hrs as a sentry heard an unusually loud crack on the West side of the stronghold. Enemy maybe? The sentry alerted. Our CO, Sr. Sgt. Miettinen, sent out four men to find out. For a while we were waiting in uncertainty until noises were heard in every quarter confirming that uninvited guests had arrived. Miettinen recognized that the situation was serious and he informed his superiors.
The surrounding noise kept increasing. Enemies kept getting closer and soon the entire stronghold was surrounded. From the hill situated to the West they attacked us along the isthmus of forest. We opened intense fire at them and the enemy immediately retaliated. Weapons opened up in every quarter and the fighting was on. At times the enemy fired with their 50mm mortars at us. They were rushing at our positions from every side but nowhere did they gain a foothold. Our ammunition was getting alarmingly low but we still managed to get in contact with our Battalion. Miettinen reported:
-Low on ammo.
-Hang on for another hour, then we shall be there!
This was the last consolation to us the surrounded ones. We felt one hour would be a long time. Next the enemy managed to cut the telephone lines.
As the battle continued we heard the loud enemy commands as they egged on their men to attack. At times they kept yelling us “Surrender!” (in Finnish). Enemies regrouped time and again, then attacking but they were each time beaten back.
Due to the situation the action had become more lively elsewhere, too. The outfit that was sent out to find about the first noise had managed to liaise with their own. Amazingly they had managed to proceed without being engaged. Either the enemy had their reasons to allow them pass or they were not spotted as they crossed no-man's land. The enemy presence in the terrain was implied by a mine on our supply road tat one of the four patrol-men tread on.
To help the field stronghold Lt. H. set out with a small outfit. His progress was slow because there were enemies all over the terrain. Fighting a tenacious forest battle the outfit kept heading for the stronghold. Lieutenant with his men fought bravely and it was specially Sgt. R. who had a decisive input in the outcome of the battle. But this small outfit was not able to sweep the entire surroundings of the stronghold.
Also Sgt. R with his men had hurried to relieve the stronghold. He hit the enemy enthusiastically and the surprise attack confused the enemy grouping to the extent that some of the enemies started disengaging. Hard fighting went on for another couple of hours and by 0700hrs the Finnish outfits had established contact with each h others.
The day had dawned and many hours of the dusk had been spent in tenacious battle. The outcome had by now been decided and we in the “motti” were able to sigh with relief. The hours of tension and continuous insecurity had taken their toll. Our store of cartridges had gone menacingly low during fighting and it was just a matter of some time when we would have been out of them. As the noise of approaching fighting was heard then we felt much more at ease with our situation. We were aware that our own were out there trying to help us. Every man was doing his best but we actually did not have any other choice than “fight or ...” Despite severe pressure we the surrounded got away with small damage from the trouble. Only one man was slightly wounded. The enemy did have a real intention to wipe out the entire field stronghold, the number of their troops confirmed that. The enemy was found to have sent out almost 300 men in the battle.
The enemy repeated their operation one month later. After the above described battle we had received replacements and the other half of the Platoon had been pulled out of another field stronghold and added to the defence of our stronghold “Joki”. The strength of our Platoon now comprised 27 men. The previous battle had made us wiser, we had upgraded our positions, set up wire and laid mines that later were to save us.
On the 13. September 1943 another “show” started at 03.00hrs. Sentries were being relieved and the men reported to the CO, Sr. Sgt. Jauhiainen that they had heard noises of susceptible movement in one quarter, there might be enemies snooping around. Jauhiainen pulled his boots on and went to find out.
Some sounds of movement could be heard from the brook that was flowing about 100m from our stronghold. Certainly there were enemies. A quiet alert was announced. So far we had believed that there were enemies in one place only but then Sgt., Kaikkonen came running from the far side of the stronghold and reported that enemies were crossing the brook.
We had to act fast now. Sr. Sgt. Jauhiainen called the Battalion and reported on the situation. We could hear the enemy talk and clank their weapons at a close quarter. All our weapons were in order and this time we also had two LMGs. There was also an ample quantity of cartridges. Jauhiainen contacted the Battalion once more.
It was 03.00hrs as the battle started. Mortar bombs were raining on us. Illumination mines were touched off. The dusk of the night turned into fireworks. Now we were finally sure that there were enemies coming at us – and in great numbers. We opened fire but the boys took it almost as a joke at this stage. A LMG gunner shouted before he opened fire:
- Which one do you want to hear first, “Polonaise by Oginski” or “Farewell of Slavyanka”?
He was using a captured RPD nicknamed “Emma” (due to the shape of the magazine on top of the weapon, tr.rem).
Enemy assault started. The barrels of the LMGs turned hot, so they had to be fired sparingly to maintain them in working order. Jauhiainen managed to find himself in every spot. He was running from one trench to another and gave his orders. In one trench he fired a burst at the enemy but they retaliated. His tunic sleeve was ripped off, alongside some of his musculature. He hurried to the next trench.
The boys shouted:
-The enemy is 20 meters off behind the wire!
A great number of enemies had fallen but a lot of them were still standing. With our intense fire we managed also this time to repel the enemy attempt to penetrate into our positions. A few moments later Jauhiainen was wounded. A bullet hit him under his eye but amazingly he did not lose conscience but kept leading the fighting for some time. Then he had to retreat in a dugout due to great loss of blood. Sgt. Kaikkonen took over now.
During the battle our ranks had been thinned by casualties. Therefore we pulled the men at the brook flank to the supply road where the enemy pressure was the hardest. We expected that the brook would constitute a hindrance and secure our rear. The situation kept getting ever more serious as almost half of our men were out of game.
Enemy mortar fire had been going on all the time and our second LMG was hit. Also our second AT rifle shared the same fate. So it was only my LMG that remained in action. The enemy must have found this out because they launched an extremely intense attack at the supply road and also at the brook in the opposite side, where we had pulled our men off.
Since our manning at the supply road was denser and there were also SMG gunners there, I took my LMG and together with my assistant I moved over to the brook side to control the enemy attacking there. We managed to check the enemy advance before they had succeeded in crossing the brook. At the supply road likewise the enemy withdrew having suffered great casualties. During the battle our less badly wounded men had tried to contact the Battalion with a radio-phone to report on the situation but without success.
As soon as the situation had started, outfits had been sent by the Battalion to relieve us but they had been engaged by the securing units of the enemy. By the by the noise of fighting could be heard ever closer to our field stronghold and that inspired us to ever greater efforts.
After eight hours of fighting the relief force was finally so close that the enemy found themselves between two fires and considered it to be best to start withdrawing. I cannot describe with words the feelings that the men in the “motti” experienced as we saw the first of our men. We had been fighting this long a time against a numerically tens of times stronger enemy. According to the POWs that were taken the strength of the enemy had been some 1200 (twelve hundred) men.
After the battle we counted the bodies that the enemy had abandoned in front of our positions, about one hundred, and according to the POWs they had had three to four hundred wounded. The enemy had been extremely well equipped. It was witnessed by the dozens of autoloading rifles and LMGs, including two AT rifles, abandoned on the battlefield by the fallen and the wounded.
WE had also sacrificed to the battle because we lost 12 men fallen and wounded. The severity of the battle was admitted by every participant of the “show”, but we had made up our minds to fight instead of surrendering. Everyone was aware that assistance was coming and spurred by the hope every man tried to do his best.
Thus the action of our Platoon in the common enterprise contributed to the common good of our Fatherland shared by all.
For comparison, extract of II/JR10 war diary: (Spoiler alert: rather long)
11th August 1943
12th August 1943
6th Coy reporting:
An enemy patrol, size unknown, has been found to have crossed at 0230hrs the first securing line near FS (field stronghold) “Joki”. One man of the patrol sent out from “Joki” has tread on a mine on the supply path between “Joki” and “Ryminä”.
6th Coy reporting:
Tel. connection to “Joki” has been interrupted. There is no information as to the enemy location nor the strength.
Order to 6th Coy:
Patrol to the South of FS “Pyörre” along the river and prevent the enemy from eventually crossing the straits.
FS “Sara” and “Harju” are to muster a total of three complete Squads that are to start form “Sara” and proceed along the SE shore of Lapajärvi lake situated South of “Sara”. Then they are to proceed along the perimeter of the bog South of the lake to Pt. 149,4 and try to liaise with the Reserve Platoon that set out from the Control Post. Enemy patrols that may be encountered en route must be destroyed.
6th Coy reporting:
Firefight in process at the command post with the enemy on the E side of Tsirkka-Kemijoki river.
6th Coy reporting:
FS “Joki” engaging the enemy.
6th Coy reporting:
Firefight at “Ryminä” and “Joki” continuing.
6th Coy reporting:
Part of the Reserve platoon has managed to cross Tsirkka-Kemijoki river. Attempting to liaise with “Joki”.
Order to 6th Coy (via runner)
As soon as the enemy disengages the Reserve platoon and the manning of “Joki” except securing must be sent to pursue the enemy.
6th Coy reporting (via runner):
Lively firefight going on on the E shore of Tsirkka-Kemijoki river near the ferrying place between the Reserve platoon and the enemy.
Order to the subordinated Platoon of Rj.P6:
The CO is to report at once to the Commander for orders, the Platoon to get ready to march, one day of Sissi food rations are to be carried.
6th Copy reporting (via runner):
Heavy fighting is going on judging by the sounds near FS “Joki”. The enemy may have 50mm mortars.
5th Coy reporting:
FS “Mäki” is being fired at from a 100m wide area E of Tsirkka-Kemijoki at “Mäki”. Intensified patrolling is going on on the area secured by the Coy between the field strongholds.
Order to Sr.Sgt. Hiironiemi (Rj.P6):
You shall get four reinforcement men of the Btn runner squad. You and your outfit are expected to report to Lt. Hankomäki.
Report to Pion.P 24:
II/JR 10 is requesting two Sappers who shall be tasked to remove mines.
Sr.Sgt. Hiironiemi (Rj.P6) reporting:
The outfit is on the standby, strength 20 men.
Report from tel. Exchange “Joki”:
Telephone connection to “Joki” is working.
FS “Joki” reporting (Sr.Sgt. Miettinen):
FS still being engaged by he enemy on the Western side. Also south of “Joki” the enemy is engaging Lt. Hankomäki. Our losses are minimal, the enemy has suffered heavy casualties.
Two Sappers reported at the Btn HQ and they received orders to proceed to the disposal of the 6th Coy.
Weather: Cloudy, wind S 4m/s, +16 deg C.
Order to FS “Pyörre”:
The CO is to take 10 men and proceed with them to the isthmus situated at the W tip of lake Hiisjärvi (Pt. 135.8), block that to prevent the enemy from advancing North through it.
Order to Lt. Ryynänen:
Move at once to “Ryminä” to take over the eventual duties of Coy CO as long as Lt. Hankomäki is engaging the enemy.
FS “Joki” (Sgt. Rönkkö) reporting
Platoon Hankomäki attempting to liaise from “Ryminä” with “Joki” have fulfilled their task. Lt. Hankomäki has fallen. The strong enemy surrounding the field stronghold has been scattered and they have withdrawn to N via W and E sides of the FS. Sr.Sgt. Remes joined the fight and he contributed to the successful outcome of the battle.
Order to 6th Coy (Sr.Sgt. Remes):
One Platoon led by Sr.Sgt. Remes shall set out to pursue the enemy. Pursuit to be continued until the enemy has retreated beyond the securing line. Take a Kyynel radio with you.
Order to 6th Coy (Sr.Sgt. Remes):
Detachment Hiironiemi to arrive at “Joki” shall be subordinated to th4 6th Coy for now.
About 5 enemy men tried to advance North E of lake Hiisjärvi between FS “Sara” and lake Hiisjärvi but they were repulsed by fire.
6th Coy reporting:
Sr.Sgt. Hiironiemi arrived at FS “Joki”.
Ten enemy men tried to advance N via E of FS “Harju” along the shore of lake Tervojärvi. They were repulsed by fire and they withdrew S.
The previous reported to JR52.
The surrounding terrain is free of enemies. Sweeping continuing. Some 35 fallen enemies detected. One POW. Our casualties 1+3+2 fallen, wounded: 8
Prisoner interrogation in the Btn HQ
The POW is a Cpl. of II/32. Detached Brigade (Finnish: Er.H.Pr.). The enemy strength was 270 men. Led by 32.Det.Br. Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Kaminski. The objective was to destroy FS “Joki”.
Sr.Sgt. Remes (“Joki”) reporting:
The patrol has returned. They advanced about one km from “Joki” right to North, then right to East to the W tip of Hiisjärvi. Next they headed right North along ps. 72 up to the terrain vs. 26.70. From here the tracks were going straight NNE. Estimating by the debris the enemy had constructed 5 or 6 stretchers. The patrol returned from the terrain directly to FS “Joki”
Order to Sr.Sgt. Remes:
Sweep with your outfit the terrain between “Joki” and “Sara” S of lake Hiisjärvi. Relay to Sr.Sgt. Hiironiemi the order to sweep the terrain between “Joki” and “Lossi” in the direction of the cut line in the forest.
Order to 2nd Lt. Pahkala (to “Pyörre”)
Our airmen have spotted a moment ago enemies in terrain vs.30 ps.73. 2nd Lt. Pekkala shall advance directly to the forested isthmuses at the SE tip of lake Kypäräjärvi and set up there an ambush for 24 hrs . (At 0900hrs the 5th Coy CO received orders to shift 2nd Lt. Rekola's platoon from “Mäki” to “Pyörre”.
Sr.Sgt. Remes (“Sara”) reporting:
The patrol has checked the terrain between “Joki” and “Sara”. About 700m E of “Joki” a wounded enemy Sr. Lt. Was found. Else few traces in the terrain.
5th Coy reporting:
FS “Mäki” has spotted three enemy men walking along the E shore of the river for S.
Sr.Sgt. Hiironiemi reporting:
The terrain between “Joki” and “Lossi” has been swept. No enemies encountered.
6h Coy reporting:
FS “Harju” has taken two POWs that are on their way to the Btn HQ.
(end of day)
13th September 1943:
6th Coy CO reporting:
At FS “Joki” sounds of movement have been heard.
6th Coy CO reporting:
At FS “Joki” sounds of movement have been heard again.
Order to the Jaeger platoon CO:
Set the Jaeger platoon immediately in standby to march and fight.
6th Coy CO reporting:
FS “Joki” CO Sr. Sgt. Jauhiainen reported that quiet talking has been heard W and S of the FS.
Order to the Jaeger platoon CO:
Take “sissi” proviant rations for two days and immediately proceed to “Lossi” and from there report by phone to the Btn HQ.
6th Coy CO reporting:
I am now sure that there are enemies W and S of “Joki”. Their strength is unknown. Loud talking has been heard. I am requesting permission to shift the men of FS “Pyörre” to my Command post. 8 Air Surveillance men remain in “Pyörre”. I have issued orders to detach and set in standby one Squad in “Sara” and two in “Harju”.
Order to 6th Coy CO:
Only the Air Surveillance men shall remain in FS “Pyörre”, the actual manning is to be shifted to “Ryminä”. The Btn Jaeger Platoon is on the way to “Lossi”. Their task shall be defined later.
6th Coy CO reporting:
Telephone contact with “Joki” has been cut off. Sr.Sgt. Jauhiainen reported over the said phone line that the enemy have surrounded the FS and they are attacking strongly supported by heavy mortar fire. :He is requesting assistance. I am mustering the reserve and shall attempt to liaise with the FS. I am requesting that the Btn HQ would issue an order to the outfit detached from FS “Harju” and “Sara” to liaise with me in the terrain S of FS “Joki”.
Order to Sr.Sgt. Remes (“Harju”):
Take the command of the outfit comprising the men from “Harju” and “Sara” and proceed with them, skirting the swampy terrain via pt. 149, to the terrain S of FS “Joki” where you are to liaise with the Coy CO.
Order to 5th Coy CO:
Shift at once one Platoon from FS “Mäki” to FS “Pyörre” , where the Platoon CO shall report to the Btn HQ.
6th Coy CO reporting:
Sr.Sgt Jauhainen has reported from FS “Joki” that the enemy is shelling intensely with mortars. FS casualties include 2 fallen and 2 wounded.
Order to 6th Coy CO:
Part of the reserves are to be shifted at once on the E side of river Tsirkka-Kemijoki.
Jaeger Platoon CO reporting:
I and my platoon find ourselves in “Lossi”.
Order to Jaeger Platoon CO
Your Platoon is subordinated to the 6th Coy CO and you are to contact him by telephone immediately
Btn Signals officer reports:
SW radio contact with FS “Joki” has been interrupted.
Report to 14.D HQ
Telephone and SW radio contact with SF “Joki” has been cut oft. We are requesting an aircraft to contact with the FS.
6th Coy CO reporting:
I have 40 men and 2 MG s at my disposal. Most of them have been shifted on the E side of river Tsirkka-Kemijoki. I shall group my outfit and start advancing. The outfits from “Pyörre” and “Harju” as well as the Jaeger Platoon have not arrived yet. I am leaving behind at the Command Post one NCO at the telephone to relay reports and orders.
6th Coy reporting (by runner):
14.D HQ enquiring: Did the a/c take off? Response: Yes.
Report to Pion.P 24:
The enemy has attacked one of our field strongholds and they are expected to have planted mines as they usually do. We are requesting two Sappers to de-mine the eventual minefields. -Virtamo
The Sappers are going to set out immediately
6th Coy reporting (by runner):
The Coy CO detachment has engaged the enemy a few minutes ago half-way between river Tsirkka-Kemijoki and FS “Joki”.
6th Coy reporting (by runner, signed by Coy CO at 0620hrs):
There are more enemies than in the previous battle of FS “Joki”. I am not able to advance. The outfit from “Pyörre” has arrived so my strength comprises now 55 men. Detachment Remes and the Jaeger Platoon have not arrived.
6th Coy reporting (by runner):
Jaeger Platoon has arrived at “Ryminä” and sent on according to the previous order by the Coy CO to report to the Coy CO.
2nd Lt. Pekkala reporting:
I have arrived at FS “Pyörre” having set out from FS “Mäki” as ordered by the 5th Coy CO.
Order to 2nd Lt. Pekkala:
The enemy has surrounded FS “Joki”. You are to advance via the E side of river Tsirkka-Kemijoki to the terrain N of FS “Joki” where you are to strike at the rear of the enemy and keep harassing the enemy until they are forced to retreat.
FS “Sara” reporting:
10 enemy men have been spotted on the bog W of FS “Sara”. Having been fired at the enemy pulled back to West.
Btn Signals officer reports:
“Pertti” (a/c) has liaised with FS “Joki”. FS is requesting help.'
Order to 6th Coy (by Runner):
Inform the Coy CO that one Platoon has set out from FS”Pyörre” tasked to attack in the rear of the enemy N of FS “Joki”.
FS “Sara” reporting:
10 to 15 enemy men have advanced via S of the FS to the direction of FS “Harju” . Also about one Platoon of enemies have attempted to penetrate to North between the FS and lake Hiisjärvi. Both outfits took cover after taking fire.
FS “Lossi” reporting:
Sr. Sgt. Remes' outfit has been ambushed on a bog S of pt.149.4. The outfit has scattered after Sr.Sgt. Remes was wounded. Some of them have likely retreated to “Harju”, the rest have taken the wounded Sr.Sgt. Remes to “Lossi”.
6th Coy reporting (signed by the Coy CO at 07.30hrs):
Jaeger Platoon arrived at 07.30hrs. Det. Remes has not arrived yet. My strength comprises about 75 men. The enemy is occupying the terrain S of FS “Joki” up to river Tsirkka-Kemijoki, employing also medium heavy mortars, also at my outfit.
“Joki” is still fighting.
The reinforced Jaeger Platoon shall attack from the right at the rear of the enemy in front of us. If this does not succeed I shall try to penetrate to “Joki” with my entire outfit in the direction of the supply road.
Order to 6th Coy (by Runner):
You shall act according to your suggestion.
One Platoon has set out from FS “Pyörre” tasked to attack the rear of the enemy N of “Joki”.Det. Remes has been scattered having been engaged by the enemy in the terrain S of “Joki” at pt. 149.4. The outfit men who came to “Lossi” shall be sent, reinforced, by motor boat for your disposal.
Order to Quartermaster Officer:
Organise medical supply for the 6th Coy.
Order to HQ Coy CO:
Detach ten men for the disposal of Lt. Petulant
Order to Lt. Petulant
Take in your command the the men of Det. Remes at “Lossi” and ten men of the HQ Coy, then proceed with them to the command post of Lt. Turkkila to whom you shall be subordinated.
Report to E/JR52:
In the terrain of FS “Harju” beyond the securing line small enemy patrols have been detected.
14.D_HQ (Nivel) reporting:
It has been found by aerial recon that the enemy has attacked FS “Harju” mainly from SE.
Det. Remes has returned partly to “Harju”, partly to “Lossi”. No one is missing.
Report to I/JR10 CO:
I shall provide two full platoons of 5./JR10 to be used in the battle for “Joki”. I am requesting I/JR10 to confirm to 5./JR10 .
-Response: I am sending confirmation to 5./JT10
Order to 5th Coy CO:
Send immediately two full platoons to “Pyörre”, once there their CO is to report to Btn CO. I/JR10 shall temporarily reinforce the defence of 5./JR10.
Lt. Perttula's outfit set out.
6th Coy reporting (signed by the Coy CO at 08.40hrs):
I have been able to advance 150m. Superior enemy against me. FS “Joki” still fighting. I am requesting for instructions and one officer-
Order to 6th Coy (by Runner):
Lt. Petulant is on his way to “Ryminä” with about 20 men. Two platoons are on their way from “Riuska” to “Ryminä”. You have to liaise with the FS.
6th Coy CO had managed to get a telephone contact with the battleground and informed the Btn HQ.
6th Coy reporting:
Enemy is putting up strong resistance. They have beaten back my attack with counter-strikes. According to my auditory observations 2nd Lt. Hakala is in battle with the enemy some 3km N of my present location.
FS “Harju” reporting:
No men are missing from Det. Remes scattered by the enemy at pt.149.4 situated South of FS “Joki”.
FS ”Harju” reporting:
2nd Lt. Pekkala still in firefight with the enemy, according to auditory observations at the same terrain as before.
5h Coy CO reporting:
Two platoons, fully complete, have just set out for “Pyörre”.
6th Coy CO reporting:
Enemy is trying to disengage.
Lt. Petulant reporting:
I find myself with my outfit at the command post of the 6th Coy. Delayed due to (boat) engine problems.
Signals officer reporting:
Aircraft (“Pertti”) has reported that they have received a message from FS “Joki” informing that the enemy is retreating, the FS is no more surrounded.-
2nd Lt. Pekkala reporting:
I am back in FS “Pyörre”.
Having set out at 07.00hrs from “Pyörre” I crossed river Tsirkka-Kemijoki at Tahkokoski rapids and proceeded to SE about 0,5km from the river. Having reached a point of terrain situated about 300m S of Pt. 148.6 I spotted about at 08.25hrs a platoon sized enemy outfit standing about in dense groups about 100m from us. I opened surprise fire with the entire platoon, the enemy must have suffered casualties and pulled back after a brief firefight.
I advanced with my platoon to a point of terrain vs.25.00 ps.71.00 where I again managed to surprise the enemy with fire. The enemy engaged in firefight using among other weapons 50mm mortars. Two Squad leaders were badly wounded and I disengaged at about 10.00hrs and returned to “Pyörre”.
6th Coy CO reporting
I have liaised with FS “Joki”. The enemy has withdrawn to North via W of the FS. The enemy strength was one reinforced battalion. I have taken 5 POWs. Our casualties: 8 fallen and 9 wounded, of which 5 fallen and 9 wounded in FS “Joki”. So far 58 enemy fallen have been counted.
14.D_HQ (Poukka) reporting:
Aerial recon at 10.20-11.30hrs spotted about 100 enemies in air cover in terrain ps 71.00, vs 25.00
So far 65 fallen have been counted.
Aerial recon at 14.00-15.20hrs spotted enemy tracks leading to the isthmus between Kypäräinen and Eminjärvi.
Order to 5th Coy:
One and a half platoons of the Coy shall be subordinated to the 6th Coy, they are to report tomorrow to the 6th Coy CO.
Send at dawn an one platoon patrol to check the point of terrain vs 28.00 ps 73.00. Also find out the withdrawing direction of the enemy. Report by “Kyynel” radio which you shall take along.
(End of day)
6th Coy diary of the same period just refers to a battle report that could not be found.
- Posts: 676
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Another attack by URR
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 01, 1961
The author appears to have been a Platoon leader in 4./URR.
We had arrived at Ilomantsi. Our Regiment – URR, Uusimaa Dragoons, fighting as infantry, had been disembarked from trains at Kaltimo. We had left behind the hot June days of 1944 when we had retreated under severe enemy pressure from the VT line through the Western Isthmus to Viipuri. What a contrast the war had created: on one hand the early summer, the scent of blossoming bird cherry, blue lakes – and on the other hand sweat, blood, sooty ruins, trees mauled by shelling. The battles in the archipelago of Viipurinlahti were past now as well as the period of rest and recuperation at Muhulahti.
On the 24th July 1944 our Regiment (Comprising about 6000 men, tr.rem.) was issued orders to set out to Vainikkala to embark a train. The destination was not known to us. Every now and then we had heard the news over wireless but we had not seen a newspaper for weeks. It was said that we had retreated from Svir and there was heavy fighting going on at Ilomantsi – maybe our destination?
The transport rattled through our home regions. We passed military hospitals, men leaning on crutches greeted us from the yards, we also saw girls wearing scarves... Our train kept going on ever deeper in Northern Carelia. (Undisturbed by enemy, e.g. no aerial attacks, tr.rem)
On the 27th July 1944 we arrived at Kaltimo, that was our place of disembarkation which we had learned during our journey. It was still in the extreme fringe of our home region. Front service was waiting for us in Ilomantsi.
With lorry transport our Regiment was transited to Putkela in Ilomantsi. From there on it was marching. We arrived at the ferry in Kallioniemi, (another critical spot, again the enemy remained inactive, tr.rem) then to Lehtovaara... There was the mysterious atmosphere of the presence of danger and the enemy, so familiar to a front line soldier, both thrilling and attracting. For a while ago the foe must have been here, making his tea, but how long ago and where was he now? That was the thrill. Did he squat at a path stalking or would he launch a surprise strike at our flank?
The landscape was a familiar one for the oldest men of the Regiment. It was on these very roads and paths that our outfit rode to the East in summer 1941. Three years ago – that long ago, really? One had to stop to think, one remembered the Dragoons who had disappeared from the ranks, officers and NCOs that had been replaced by new ones, only a few of the early commanders were still there. Some of the men had been demobilized, many had fallen and wounded, our losses had been great. The Carelian Isthmus had taken a lot of us, Gulf of Viipuri likewise. Now this outfit that had been fighting in the archipelago was being transferred alongside with the entire Cavalry Brigade in a new environment: wilderness.
The unfamiliar sights and the new terrain encouraged some of us to hope that we would not be encountering tanks here – but they were to be disappointed bitterly.
Familiar places had been retaken, such as Ruukinpohja at Ilaja, Ilajanjärvi, Kangasjärvi. On our left was attacking Häme Dragoons (HRR), who also had suffered great casualties in the Carelian Isthmus.
When we had reached lake Kangasjärvi , a quiet wilderness lake, the main parts of the Regiment launched their attack along the SW shore while the 4th Squadron of URR was tasked to attack along the NE shore. As the Regiment was proceeding on a path cut in the roadless forest it was just as back in 1941: The Commander led the Regiment in the ranks of the spearheading Platoon.
Finally we made contact with the enemy that opened lively rifle fire at us. We were also shelled with mortars and took some losses. The path that the Regiment had created was used by travois for ammunition and medical supplies, and far later the rest of the logistics.
We had reached the N tip of the lake and halted to secure. The night had been spent sleeping badly under fir trees wrapped in overcoats like Napoleonic solders in bivouac. We would like to have made campfires but we did not dare to. The enemy kept us warm: every now and then we had to get up and dash to beat back another attack. A resilient “uraa” was heard that night at various spots of the front line. There was the clanking sound of a tank on the road somewhere, even the doubting men had to believe in the cross-country performance of Russian tanks.
Attack after attack was repulsed by our fire although we had nothing heavier than MG s to retaliate with. During a pause between attacks we heard in the silence of the night an odd sound in no-man's-land, the clanking of a small cart. Our patrol soon found out: it was enemy signals men with their reels of cable simply installing a phone line in the terrain. It seemed there were enemies sitting under every bush, and they really were able to make use of the terrain.
The boys were getting short on tobacco, some resorted to the old trick: the backpacks of fallen Russians were searched for mahorka. Later, when passing a fallen man with an obviously rummaged backpack my eye caught a book with red covers lying on the ground. I picked it up. It
was a notebook of a Finnish girl from Salmi dated 1939. Somehow it had fallen in the hands of the invader during the Winter War from a house that had not been torched, and now by chance had returned back to its homeland. Books, too, appeared to have an individual fate.
On the morning of 2nd Aug we received orders to continue attacking. We were to get artillery support but for some reason the preparation was launched too early, as the troops were just mustering. The attack, without artillery support, was launched at 0930hrs
Initially we did not encounter resistance. The enemy had not secured no-man's-land and obviously had pulled back a little. Our Squadron was advancing calmly in a square. Suddenly, after we had advanced a few hundred meters the enemy opened fire, we dropped down and responded with our fire. We had to make progress and we kept rushing on only with the support of MG fire. The enemy that had opened fire appeared to have been just securing elements since we were soon able to advance.
We reached a piece of open ground with a lot of abatis on it. At the edge we were again taking heavy fire. MG s were soon placed on the flanks and they opened up at once. Our outfit was able to cross the open ground one squad at a time, but then there was a howling noise overhead and shells were falling among us. Many of the men who had reached the abatis were killed or wounded. Enemy was also shooting incendiary projectiles because the dry heather and dry twigs soon were in flames. With the support of MG fire two Platoons made it up to the enemy trench. The rest were left among the shelling in the burning abatis. Paramedics were called , there seemed to be a lot of wounded.
I went on with my Runner. There was a howling noise – I dropped down. A shell landed just next to me. I found that when taking cover I had dropped my SMG on my wrist. The glass of the watch was shattered but despite the uncomfortable position I managed to slip the watch in an empty matchbox. I had had it repaired after the swim in Viipurinlahti and now another battle damage..
We went on along the abatis. I saw several wounded, it was said that a Cornet I knew had been wounded, too. There he was, carried on a blanket, he had been hit in the belly by a burst of LMG fire. I enquired how he was, he just shook his head. On his way to the first aid station – the bearers were harassed by enemy patrols – he passed away. He had just graduated from the Officer School, he had been promoted in battlefield and he had earned his Liberty Cross. It was only last night that we had been lying side by side under a fir tree, smoking and thinking back at the days of peace when we were young. What was it that Remarque wrote: “Youth! We are just 20 years old. But young? It is a long time ago. We are old men.”
There was not a time to get sentimental, we had to get that stronghold. We were pressing on meter by meter, disregarding the shells. By the by the enemy abandoned the stronghold, they, too, had a lot of men fallen. Bravely the Red warriors stayed in their foxholes to the very end, they all had fallen facing us.
Finally the stronghold was in our hands but for how long? Sounds of battle could be heard on the far side of the lake, there the main part of the Regiment was advancing and fighting. Looking back it seemed incredible that those few hundred meters had taken such a long time .
We took a prisoner somewhere, an Ivan with a backpack in a ragged uniform. I tried to glean information about the strength of his outfit and about the artillery with my bad Russian. The prisoner knew nothing, he had just – typically – been transferred to front line duty. In a servile manner he offered us a bread but being allowed to keep his goods he was visibly pleased and he lit up. The war was over for him, let the others soldier on, vsyo rovno, he is just having a smoke among the “Finski”, and the life is smiling for him again.
Finally the fighting died down, the troops were pulled a little back into more advantageous positions and we dug down, had a smoke and licked our wounds. We took a look around: who is missing, some wounded, some fallen. It was again nightfall and the dusk fell, finally the long awaited food was brought up. We wrapped ourselves in our overcoats, we were dozing and occasionally woken up by shots fired by patrols. The enemy, too, was licking their wounds, they did not much disturb us, let alone attack.
Later ( Aug 6., tr.rem) we were allowed to hand over our positions to an HRR squadron, by then the fighting had restarted and we had taken more casualties. The relieving unit strength was some 30 men but our number was not much more. We joined the Regiment at Luovejoki where heavy fighting had been going on and still going on.
Our attack was in itself nothing special and nothing remarkable, it was one of the most typical of the hundreds launched during the war. The peculiarity was the fact that the worn-out outfit, surviving the hell of Carelian Isthmus and the pressure of Viipurinlahti, now in new circumstances, unfamiliar terrain and without artillery support to launch an attack and to break the defence of an entrenched enemy stronghold. The fighting spirit was alive and well.
URR war diary for the period comprises 30+ pages, partly illegible, no Squadron diaries exist.
- Posts: 676
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Skiing across lake Onega
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 01, 1960''
War is war, another story about it is the following one.
Our outfit was defending the South shore of lake Onega in early February 1943 as the CO of the Syväri quick response force Capt. Halme received orders from Gen. Maj. Svensson, the 7th D CO to send a patrol comprising one officer, one NCO and two men across lake Onega. (Most likely across Svirskaja Guba. Distance: 30 to 40 km maybe. Tr.rem.) Their task was to check the thickness of ice en route using an ice drill and find out about the enemy manning of the cape opposite to us.
Capt. Halme assigned to this mission Lt. Kröger, Cpl. Repo and Pfcs Kauppinen and Lindgren. Each of us was provided with a brand new Sissi suit, skiing boots, a compass and a map for the patrol leader. We were given such detailed instructions that nothing was left unclear. The patrol was to set out at our dugout at 1800hrs .
- Are you all ready to set out ? Lt. Kröger asked
I don't want any of you boys complain later on anything that could be taken care of now.
There were no complaints. With a serious mien we set out. We agreed that each of us would open the track in turns according to their ability.
- We are off to abroad and we shall get souvenirs! Kauppinen yelled as we started.
Make sure you do not remain as souvenirs on the Onega ice or in the hands of bearded men, someone responded
Let's quit joking now, it is going to be in earnest now, the Lieut commented coldly.
Some snow was falling, the temperature was some degrees minus. Lt. Kröger set the course to the defined cape with his compass which he ordered us to set in our compasses, and stick to that bearing. He set out making the ski track heading for the tip of the cape manned by Russians. We carried our SMGs and bread pouches on our backs. We carried the magazine pouch and the ice drill in turns.
After a few kilometres I took my turn in opening the track. At this stage we were in a good shape still. At midnight the night turned dark and a little foggy. We were proceeding smoothly kilometre after kilometre
Lt. Kröger told me to stop so that we could listen, at times we even measured the thickness of the ice. As nothing was heard we went on after the halt. Kauppinen took now the leading position and I shifted to the rear after the Lieut. Kauppinen had a habit of cursing and protesting, now again.
This thick snow is just plain Hell, *dammit!
Lindgren was showing symptoms of exhaustion, and being the weakest man he was placed as the last man.
Remember boys, you must be quiet now, no loud speaking either, the Lieut reminded us.
We had already skied tens of kilometres No land was in our sight yet, although we were not able to see far in the darkness. There was however pack ice ahead of us and that told us that we were not far from our destination.
Kauppinen stopped as we had skied over the packed ice.
I am not going to make the track any more! Hell no! Let them do it who sent us here!
We knew that his cursing was not that serious, as he did not speak with a straight face. However we had a brief council and it was agreed that it would be my turn to open the track.
I was sensing that we were in a dangerous environment. I had not proceeded but for a while before there was forest-covered mainland looming through the shroud of mist on our right. Soon we spotted the tip of the cape that was our objective.
I stopped and whispered:
- There is movement in the tip of the cape.
- Get down! The Lieut behind me whispered .
- Let us wait what will happen. Have we been spotted!
- Use full auto fire if necessary. Do not shoot unless we absolutely have to. Remember that we shall not surrender.
A moment of silence ensued, we were highly nervous because there was no cover anywhere. I looked at the Lieut in the face and I saw he was serious and decisive looking. We felt we had a competent commander.
The situation was getting critical because on the coast bank on our right a file of skiers unexpectedly slid to the ice and they headed for our rear. At the same time a three man patrol set out skiing fast from the tip of the cape to get in our rear from the other side. We had been detected, we admitted, and the enemy was going to bag us.
We were getting extremely tense and were hardly able to control ourselves. Then the Lieut uttered:
- Boys, get ready for an effort, we are about to get out of here and fast. Else we shall be done for.
No one delayed and our departure was sudden.
At first there was no trouble. We were working our skis and ski sticks as fast as we could but the pack ice created a problem. Our skis were slipping this way and that. On top of it Pfc. Lindgren slipped and fell, being tired. The Lieut and I helped him up in a hurry. Lt. Kröger advised us to use all the strength that we had, it was the only chance of avoiding capture.
At one stage of the skiing race we were almost losing. But having raced about neck to neck with the Russians for a while we began to pull away from them by the by. Finally after our frantic attempt we found that the Russians had abandoned their plan to get us surrendered. We were still pursued by a major outfit of skiers. We could not afford to shoot because we already found ourselves between three fires. We would have been defeated on the open ice. It was a miracle that not a single shot was fired at us.
Finally as we were on our return at a calm skiing pace it was dawning a little. There were two ski tracks across our course, and two phone cables between them. We cut them and removed a long piece of each to make them harder to fix their lines. Having then reached a fairly safe distance we had a break before we continued our retreat at a slow pace, because everyone was showing symptoms of exhaustion. The rest of our return journey was quiet, only the skis were hissing and the ski sticks clicking. Everyone was as if mute, but only due to exhaustion.
As we clambered over the shore bank to the front of the dugout where we had started from, Kauppinen broke the silence, saying:
- No souvenirs, but neither did we remain there although it was damn close.
We had some surrogate coffee in the dugout, then the entire patrol set out to report to Capt. Halme. As reward for our mission we were given a meal – a good one taking the circumstances into account – and rest and recuperation for the day.
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Troubleshooters in trouble
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 01, 1960
Signallers in the rear of the Svir front, September 1942
- Wake up! There is a fault in the main line. Troubleshooting patrol is going out...two men. Marjamäki and Helander, their turn.
It was night. The stove of our tent was radiating cosy warmth. I felt sleepy. My name had been mentioned, it kept circulating in my brain. It was raining outside. A nasty drizzle as far as I knew. Moreover, it was as dark as in a bag. I was aware of that, too, and tried to convince myself that I had just dreamed about the alert.
But the signal squad leader Cpl. Salo kept repeating like a counsel for prosecution:
- Marjamäki and Helander, wakey...the main line does not respond .
I ordered myself to wake up and sat up.
- What, not again? Some damn moose...what else could have cut the cable in the nigh?
- The fault could be just somewhere near...if we are lucky.
The Corporal did not want to provoke us. He knew by personal eperience how nasty it is to get out in the darkness and rain for a mission. Absent-mindledly he kept staring at the flagging flame of the hurricane lamp. I and Pfc. Marjamäki were now awake and the Corporal knew that we would be obeying the order. He did not hurry us up but was waiting.
Marjamäki, a farmer from Ostrobothnia, was chewing crispbread while tightening his belt. A sheath knife, almost reaching his knee, was hanging from it.
-It is raining...outside, he commented as if it was a spring rain favourable for crops.
-It sure does, I replied, irritated, imitating his dialect, while I fumbled for a field telephone set at the entrance of the tent. The farmer-Pfc took a SMG and a spare mag. He remarked:
-Why don't you take a weapon along.
-I have got a pocket pistol. It is enough for me to carry this device.
Marjamäki kept crunching his piece of crispbread while tightening his belt. He was not a smoker but I lit a fag, then we stepped out in the dark and wet night at Homorovitsa September 1942.
It certainly was dark. So dark that the rain could not be seen before it was streaming down our necks. We sought out the main line and started trudging along it. Marjamäki with his SMG was walking ahead of me while I was stumbling half-asleep after him, the field telephone set danging on the strap over my shouldesr. The contacts were connected to pieces of field cable ending in safety pins
I was hoping that the faulf would be as close as possible.
- What about a test call. I suggested hopefully after we had proceeded less than 300m.
The main line extended at least 3 km up to the Fire control phone exchange at Juksova.
- Would it be worth the trouble... so soon ?
All right, then, I thought. I admitted myself the foolishness of my idea, so we went on laboriously. Rain water had accumulated on the tree branches and it fell on us while the undergrowth wetted our legs up to knees. I swore in my mind at my bad juck, the rain, the darkness and the war. If only the rain would stop for a while! I was also irritated by the calm silence of my pal striding ahead o me. Even though he was one of my best pals my irritation wanted to be vented on him. For want of a better idea I started picking on his crispbread munchng.
-Do your really have to always crunch that “plywood”? We would not be able to hear anything in case there should be an enemy patrol that had cut the cable and wait for a troubleshooting patrol to catch prisoners. What would you say then?
Pfc. Marjamäki halted. I heard him hastily spit out the bread out of his mouth. I regretted my behaviour: how could I have been so woman-like?
- I guess your are right. We have to listen and pull at the cable oftn. If I was an enemy and would like to take a prisoner, I would do just that. I would cut the cable and wait. Now I shall pull at the cable and if it is loose the cutoff is close. We shall make a detour and surprise them.
The darkness and the proximity of war fedl my imagination. I did not want to argue. The idea was correct, I knew it, because something like that had happened. Even though I tried to convince myself that the wet weather has put out the flame of war, I finally was not able to believe that it was over. The war was smouldering someplace always.
Having waded for some time on wet boggy ground we stopped to make a test call. Marjamäki provided me light with his pocket torch while I inserted the safety pins through the insulation of the cable. I rotated the crank and listened:
Attention. Kulma is hearing you!
That was the voice of the man who had woken us up. I swore and disconnected the test cables. The fault was somewhere farther off. By now we were soaking wet. I lit up and smoked it quite intensely. Marjamäki was waiting for me, calmly. Now he could have remarked on my tarrying. He let go of the cable and turned to me, whispering in a confidential manner.
- I do not wish to be a pessimist but I believe that the cable has been cut. See, if it had been me who had cut the cable I would have chosen a spot where it would be easy to wait for the troubleshooter patrol. I know this line like the back of my hand. You know that glen with the wind blown fir trees. The partols alweays take that route. Even the one the guys of JR8 got. If the cable has been cut, it has been cut just there and there are men in ambush for us as we get thre.
- It is your imagination , I grumbled and dumped the fag butt, it is this darkness that you are afraid of
- Anyway, we can be careful, what do you say?
- OK, Ok, just pull at the cable every now and then. We have nothing to loose. Just some delay.
We continued our mission.
I admitted to myself that Marjamäki was being sensible. It was not fear. In my mind I recognized his prudence because the best method was to pull at the cable to get hold of the cutoff point. Then one could see the reason of the breakage and act accordingly. I would have done likewise in a suspicious case.
We kept striding on. Every now and then Marjamäki halted to pull at the cable. It did not yield, so far so good. We crossed a smallish bog. The rain-soaked soft turf was hard to walk on. The rain kept increasing but our eyes were accommodated to the darkness. I was able lto make out the silhouette of the man in front of me, and the flares fired at the front line were reflected in the low cloudbase.
We mande another test call.
- Troubleshooting patrol calling. Fire control exchange, can you hear me?
- ”Kulma” here...
- Over and off!
I yelled in such a nasty tone that Marjamäki considered it necessary to remark:
- Hold your horses. We shall make this all right.
The cloud of drizzle had a silver lining: the last of my tiredness and sleepiness were washed off. I began to think rationally. The closer to the fir thicket we came the more careful we were. We also knew that the troubleshooter patrol sent out from the Fire control exchange would not make it to the thicket before us because they had a longer and more difficult path to proceed.
- How about another test call?
- Not quite yet. See this...don't talk...now the cable is yielding. It is broken off, quite far off from us...it is taut but coming in...coming in...heck. I shall measure with fathom how far the breakage is.
Thrilled I watched how Marjamäki was hauling in the cable while whispering his comments. I shone my pocket torch to the ground where my pal had the end of the cable in his hand. As I saw the end of the cable I had a minor shock. It had been cleanly cut off with a blade! The rubber insulation had been cut. A moose would not leave such a mark having collided with a cable.
We were now sure that someone had cut the cable, a human...the enemy. I switched off my torch. Marjamäki whispered:
- As far as I remember there is a big rock on our left. We shall go around it..
- Around? Would it not be better to alert the artillery battalion. There may be a whole crowd of them over trhere?
- No, we don't want to alert the fire batteries, not even tell them about our suspicion...Maybe there is no one over there. We would be laughed at then.
The closer to the fir thicket we came the more carefully we proceeded. Marjamäki stopped every now and then to listen. The paatch of foresrt was so dense that it denied us the little vision we had had. Another step...another stop...Now I was able to see the rock that Marjamäki considered as a potential ambush site.
We were standing still. Immediately I heard a clear whisper from the said quarter. Marjamäki gave a pull at my sleeve and moved silently to the right. Then tthere came a burst of fire – a long one. We dropped down and at the same moment also Marjamäki's SMG started chattering. There were some cries of anguish and the forest swished under the steps of fleeing men. Then everything was quiet again.
We were prone on wet moss, waiting.
Not a sound any more.
- All right. They have left...But I think a few were left there. Let's check.
I sneaked to the rock. I felt confident enough to switch on my torch. The beam of light revealed a miserable scene. Three dead men were lying next to the stone. A fourth one was resting a little to the side. We knew what would have been our fate had we not been careful and familiar with the terrain.
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A Lotta's Winter War, former part.
Journal Kansa Taisteli, 01, 1961
The location of the story is Eastern Carelian Isthmus, most likely Leinikylä, Rautu parish.
My story starts in Autumn 1939 before the history started its avalanche and was to steam-roll the Carelian Isthmus and crush its bloom.
All the late summer an unexplainable atmosphere had enveloped the region, creating anguish and making people think of something unprecedented. To the direction of Raasuli to the East a big red balloon was dangling in the air every night, and the darker the autumn nights turned the more its fire red and yellow glow was apparent. It was something horrible, actually!
Rumours were flying like black birds of ill omen. Civil Guard units were constantly on the standby and us Lottas were also ordered to be ready. The Additional Refresher Training started, followed by transports of troops to the border. All joy of life was wiped out from our minds by something that could not be named. My home was situated less than one km from the main road, and as the tar-black darkness fell over the terrain – it was end of October – I could hear constant rumbling of traffic from the road through the closed window of my room. Odd things were going on in the darkness, gigantic in scale and unfathomable.
I remember how I often would sit at my desk, writing my diary. The entries were gloomy and could not be anything else because my mind was in constant anguish and an unexplainable fear of future was gnawing me from the inside like a maggot.
I was engaged then. My fiancée was studying in Helsinki. His letters, too, were full of odd predictions. He was preparing me for the future. What... Then I learned that he had been called up in the Refresher training...Well, this all is so familiar to everyone that nothing more needs to be commented on it...
As to me, the chain of events started one dark night ( no earlier than 12. October) as our door was being knocked intensely. Sleep-drunk I opened the door. There was my Lotta Squad Leader Sylvi S., her face was oddly pale in the flickering light of my candle. I opened the door. It was raining in torrents and Sylvi's greatcoat was all wet.
- Let us go now.
- Where? It is not Saturday until the day after tomorrow...and it is just past midnight.
- It does not matter now. The fact is that we have been ordered to muster at the Civil Guard hall.
- The Hall ?
In a flash I understood the situation. Without saying a word I went in my room, donned my Lotta uniform and packed my gear, and I was ready. Standing at the door I told my parents that I was going now. I had not fully understood what this really meant. I was still partly asleep and everything was so unexpected. I followed my Squad leader. She had two bicycles waiting at the gate. I did not have a bike and was unused riding one. I took the ladies' bike she had reserved for me feeling some uncertainty, and we started our journey on the mushy narrow road.
We reached the main road. The gravel surface was scarcely visible under our feet. At times a car would pass us, but else it was ominously quiet. The entire village was asleep. I had never had such a hard journey. Sylvi's bike was equipped with a light, and I had to try to follow her. But I was not able to ride properly, but would fall over time and again.
After a period of an eternity the forest began to cede and the Hall was in front of us, dark and black as a gigantic rock. The windows were blacked out. As we got closer we saw that there were a large number of men milling about on the yard and in the nearby terrain. We heard clanking of weapons, quiet talking and flashes of metal as some rays of light emerged from the cracks in blacked out windows.
We abandoned our bikes at a tree next to the gate and went in. The rooms were lit, every room was full of men. Wet frieze clothes were giving a nasty smell. The stench of gun oil and oil lamps was unpleasant for us who had entered from fresh air.
I noticed that the men had been in for a long time, maybe since the previous day. The floors were soiled grey by the dust carried by boots. Now I found myself in the middle of events. There was a threat of war in the air. Plenty of Lottas were there, too. Some were sitting, others standing and everyone's mien was asking: what does this mean? As if guessing everyone's thought our Chairwoman, Miss. L told us as we entered:
- Nothing out of ordinary, girls! - She distributed us into squads.
I belonged to the Air Surveillance Lottas and my task was to stand guard in a pylon when I would be ordered to do it. It was only now that I realised what I had agreed to when becoming an Air Surveillance Lotta. It may not be correct to say that I was afraid – not for myself but for the uncertainty whether I would be able to do my duty correctly. War is something else than the training in peacetime – it had been a game. But fearing did not make any difference. I had selected my task and had to act accordingly.
The night passed. Nothing happened. The tension was eating my inside, sticking my skin as if with needles and made me shiver although the room was really hot. I went out on the stairs. I was engulfed by darkness. There was a sound of innumerable steps on the sandy ground. Weapons were clanking and field kettles tinkling. My eyes got accustomed to the darkness. I was able to see the troops forming into columns that started marching away – to the border. One outfit after the other left accompanied by quiet commands. I crossed my hands and could not help crying. I was praying...I cannot say for whom but I cried a mute call to the leaden darkness, and the sky overhead was mute. Now I was consciously praying for all the men that had left, for the Carelian Isthmus, for the entire country, I was transformed into a cry to the sky. But I did not get any response.
It could be that during my entire life I never experienced such a powerful moment as those some minutes standing on the Hall stairs . I was feeling worried, but also proud, when looking at the darkness the columns of grey-clad men vanishing in the darkness. They would safeguard us. They would stand or fall, so would we, too.
With a totally new mood I returned in. Everything was clear. The fulfilment of the fate was unavoidably ahead of us, and we would have to endure all that was to happen. Back then I was convinced that the border could b e held. There were our men, brave and unflinching. I had no doubts at all that the Isthmus could break. I believed the words instilled in my childish mind that no one could conquer us. We were a people who would bend but not break...what a fool...
In the Hall the mood had somehow been unwound. There was some quiet discussion, Lotta Taimi P., whose wedding had been scheduled for the next Saturday, was weeping in a corner with her friend. His fiancée Erkki had left with the other men. Someone tried to console her but she kept weeping the more intensely.
Seeing her pain I remembered how complicated her plans of wedding had been. They had been betrothed for a long time, then Taimi had cancelled the betrothal. The reason remained a secret, just they two knew it, but just at the eve of the war they retied their broken bond and prepared for a wedding without another betrothal period...then this happened. Well I understood why she was crying bitterly. She may have had a lot to regret. Someone tried to sing but the tune was cut short, no one joined it. Finally we were all sitting and dozing all over the place.
The dim morning light penetrated through the cracks in blackout curtains. The stinking lamps were put out and everyone was sleeping where she was sitting. Outside the march of the troops to the border went on. We had such a great number of boys that the march took all the night. As there finally was daylight I found myself crouching in my corner stiff with cold and deprived of sleep. I was feeling nauseous and my head was aching, I don't think the others were feeling any better.
Finally we were assigned to duties. We, the Air surveillance Lottas, were not sent up the pylons. The men said it would be too dangerous in every respect. With a sigh of relief I accepted a task as a scribe in an outfit distributing horses to the villagers to be evacuated.
I had landed in an outfit where every man was more or less wretched looking. Thinking back, they were the sort of men that was unfit for tasks for real men...and I would be able to criticize them in several other respects, but , oh well...Initially everything went well. Tension and some kind of unfamiliarity reigned us. But the longer the situation continued the harder it became for me. The men got hold of vodka. The result was obscenities, boasting etc. I deeply hated that crowd and wanted to get out of there – in an observation pylon, for example – but that was not possible. I had to sit at my desk. I had to turn a deaf ear to it all – if possible – and sleep in the same space as the men.
For weeks I did not take off any of my clothes, it was out of question. I managed to visit my home enough to change my underwear, than I had to return. Finally the situation turned unbearable. There was no work to do actually. All civilian population had left the border villages, everyone who was able to do it, only a few stayed behind. Finally I could not take it any more, but requested permission from the Chairwoman. She agreed but insisted that I should return if need be. I agreed.
At home, too, the daily life had been thrown off course. The farmhouse was full of soldiers and the environment was all tramped down. Some of our beautiful trees had been cut down and deep trenches were criss-crossing our fields. Yellow sand and grey clay... All familiar but still new. I was devastated coming home and seeing all this destruction. I wept and ranted, because I still believed that the war would not reach us – it was a full eight kilometers to the border. So childish can a person still be at the age of 20+. One was so charged with enthusiasm and self confidence that even the impossible can be considered possible. I wept at the fate of my beautiful bird cherry trees and handsome birches.
I don't think I was much appreciated then because I was unreasonably angry at anyone I suspected of meddling with my beloved trees. Finally I sucked it up. I regained myself – yet a totally new person – that had been left behind at home that night some three weeks ago, as I had left home on the dark road. It was the first step on the journey taking me away from the Isthmus and my childhood landscape.
I had been at home scarcely for one week as the war broke out.
The previous night I had visited our neighbour for a coffee party and as many as three handsome young men escorted me home. One young 2nd Lieut had invited me there as a family acquaintance – the other two Lieuts joined us on our way home since they were going in the same direction anyway. By that date there was already snow on the ground.
We were riding in a sled with 2nd Lieut Laurimo who had invited me and the other two officers were riding their horses on the two sides of the sled...We had a good time and we laughed a lot. But as we were saying goodbyes we all turned serious and Laurimo said in a serious tone:
- Be prepared for anything. The situation has not become any better.
The recent carelessness was wiped off. It was as if my heart had taken a cold shower and I had to face the reality,
- Really ? That was all I said and none of us was laughing any more. The laughter may have been just a mask to cover the insecurity, and was torn off easily.
I stayed awake all night and let the candle burn in the candlestick. During the small hours I put it out and stared at the darkness beyond the small four part window of my room. I fell asleep.
Suddenly I was jolted awake and I bounced on the floor. A terrible crash had shaken the air and a fiery flame had flashed on the field behind our farmhouse.
- War! I shouted the word while standing on unstable legs in the middle of my room.
I put on my Lotta uniform with shaking hands and rushed to the byre where my mother was milking the cows. She had dropped the milking pail and the white milk was flowing in the yellow straw.
-It has started already!...I yelled and rushed back in. (November 30, 1939)
I did not know what to do. The rumbling kept increasing, the rattle of auto weapons joined in and flames were ripping the sky while constant howling and crashing went on overhead, as if the spirits of Hell had been let loose.
My parents were collecting the stuff they happened to lay their hands on and I set out to run to the HQ to ask whether we should evacuate ourselves. Ridiculous... A person is so attached to his stuff that one would not like to give them up even when the war is in full process overhead.
You better have left already! A fat Colonel yelled me and I started running back home.
It was only now that I reacted to all the fuss. Suddenly I felt as if the constant howling and rumbling sounds were as if tearing up my entire body. My nerves were taut as wires and my legs were about to fail me. I leaned against a fence, panting, and vomited. A shell burst somewhere near and the pressure wave passed me. Amazingly I was not the least afraid – consciously. I was just an empty hollow broken vessel void of content.
Finally I made it back home. Soldiers had already released the cows and my father had loaded a sleigh full. There was mostly flour and a hog carcass. It was food that was the main thing. Clothing was almost forgotten...and it was just one load, anyway. We had a normal farmhouse. Its total inventory could not put on a sled. Lots of necessary things were left behind...
The frozen ground screeched under the runners and horseshoes emitted sparks from the pebbles on the road. The entire world was covered by the dusk and bitter gunpowder smoke filled the air. Haystacks were burning on the bog, emitting blue-black smoke. There went the result of the days of toil in the heat of the summer. But nothing meant anything at that moment. Everything was void of significance. Time had stopped to wait...For what?
We drove the cows to the road to join the herd comprising all the cattle of the village. None had been evacuated, before the outbreak of the war the people's minds had calmed down. Also we were at home and the border was being guarded. Who would dare to..?
Now it was the enemy that was coming and all Hell was loose. The cattle was bellowing at the sombre sky, it was the lament of Carelia. While looking at all this it occurred to me that I would not join the others to get out of here. Everyone was so much out of their wits that not even my parents were able to resist, and so I remained there alone in the war zone, among soldiers. There were so many of my friends among them that I almost felt happy. I felt I belonged in their number, now more than ever.
2nd Lt. Laurimo made wide eyes as he saw me, actually he looked shocked.
- Would it not be best for you to get out of here, he suggested but I was adamant.
There was also a young Aspirant, his name was Karttunen. He was pale and sick. I treated him with camphor and talked with him as optimistically as I ever could, because I saw that he was in fear – indeed he was one of the first who fell later.
I gave the boys apples and made them coffee as if nothing were going on. The situation had actually calmed down. The first artillery bombardment had ceased and everything was quiet. The haystacks had burned down and only a thick shroud of smoke was hanging over the bog.
In the evening I was forwarded to a Command post. There I was treated in a totally different manner. I was not known. Angry glances were thrown at me. Now I realised what I had done. But there was no place where I could go. I was sitting in a tent on fir boughs and listening to the rumble of artillery and the monotonous chatter of machine guns. It was as if an iron hand were gripping my heart. I would have cried if I had not been ashamed, I had to suck it up and withstand the suspicious glances. At that time I did not understand what the men thought about me. Only later I realised it and I was ashamed, not of my action but the thoughts the men may have had. I found myself in an odd situation, no doubt about it.
I found soon a new friend, however. An elderly Staff Sergeant took care of me and I felt some relief as not everyone was angry with me. I slept the next night dazed by exhaustion among the men on the fir boughs in a tent. At times the tent stove almost scorched me and at times I was freezing. Finally it was morning.
Our troops were still standing their ground and the news from the front line informed on fallen men and losses. Just as I was feverishly thinking how to get out of there the tent door flap was pushed aside and in came Vappu V. , my best friend in the entire village. I exclaimed with joy and she, too, became visibly happy. We burst in tears and hugged. I learned that she, too, at the moment of departure, had decided that she would be the last one to leave. I was the other one. What would have happened to me if Vappu had not been there. She was a godsend at the very moment of darkness.
We alternately wept and laughed, and the entire crew in the tent as if changed their opinion of me. They all knew Vappu, and her endorsing me carried a lot of weight. She had come to take some stuff to the Company CO, because the men had been billeted in their farmhouse just as the men of the 2nd Platoon had been in ours.
Our common journey started there. A couple of days later the enemy broke through and in the middle of the night the positions were abandoned...We were indeed the last ones to leave our village.
We stood for a while on the Society Hall hill looking to the direction of the border. Our home village was burning in one big fire and the skyline covered with grey cloud was coloured red by the flames. Battle -weary troops were marching on the road to the rear. There were enemy tanks on the far side of lake Leinijärvi. The frozen ground resonated and sled runners were screeching when hitting the gravel on the road.
The last sled of the column passed us, and it was only then that we were shaken out of our torpor and we set out to follow it. No one was following our track. Large snowflakes started hovering down on the frozen earth, looking like rose petals when seen against the light of the fire. The ground behind us appeared to have a rose tint, like our youth that we left there. Ahead of us there were dark shadows, and at the next bend of the road our troops were swallowed by darkness. There was our future, like a black cloud, containing our new fate.
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Latter part of the story.
Journal Kansa Taisteli, 2, 1961
It was found that the author was
nee Lidiya Orloff, Mäkrälä village in Rautu (1914-2009)
Our journey for new fate had started now. At Oravankytö we left the troops and stayed there alone. We did not have the faintest idea where to go, but our main intent was to follow the advice of Capt. Kumlin and head for Western Finland. Yet we were held back by a faint hope: maybe we could stay here.
We slept the day in an abandoned house. It was still warm in there and all the possessions were intact. The owners must have fled just recently and left their door unlocked. I remember how we were just about to fall asleep with the nice warmth coddling us as the door was opened and in came a small mean looking old granny who started scolding us in her shrill voice:
-This is a policeman's house, get out of here at once!.
I might have obeyed her but Vappu knew to stand her ground and confronted the granny. After a moment of talking it was the granny who got out.
We had to leave Oravankytö. We managed to hitch a ride with horse to another village. We had to stay there until the next night, having no chance of getting further. Vappu had suffered from a serious case of tonsillitis just before the outbreak of the war and now her throat was sore, and I was half-dead of exhaustion. I was not able to feel sorrow or think ahead for any time.
We stayed there and slept again as if nothing had happened. As we woke up at evening dusk we were not sure if anyone had visited us. We were hungry but we did not dare to take the food that we might have found in the house. We set out to find a place where to get something to eat. We found a small house where we were treated with warm soup. Then we got lucky as we met a man with a car on his way to Kirvu and he promised to give us a ride.
The driver knew the chairman of the Kirvu administrative board, he took us to the Chairman's house, advising us to seek safety there. For a moment we stood at the gate, looking at the big white painted house. We felt like beggars standing at a strange door. I remembered my home and I was close to tears. But now it was no time to weep. Although it was an odd undertaking to knock at a stranger's door we had to try because it was quite late.
The people were awake in the house. As we knocked the master came and opened, we were received like their own people. This warmed my heart and I felt much more at ease, we were understood and they wanted to help us...that is what I thought then. But...
Anyway, I was feverish and tired, Vappu was no better although she was stronger than me. The recent illness had taken its toll on her. We at once asked for a place to sleep and we were given a place where we could sleep in a real bed for the first time since leaving home.
Half-undressed I fell on the bed and slept without dreaming. As we woke up next morning much refreshed we had a look around. Our sleeping place was a corner in the upstairs porch separated by curtain. It was not a warm nor cosy spot, actually a kind of storage space. But it had been the best for the moment, and we did not want to find fault with it.
It is only afterwards that I thought how there would have been large and warm rooms enough but for us there was no space except in the corner of a porch – Yet they, too, had to abandon it all some time later. Yet we were grateful for them. We then discussed on continuing our journey but we were so confused that we decided to stay and wait for possible information about our next of kin. The master willingly promised to find out and advised us to stay there.
So days started passing. The Mistress was a sickly irritable person who was jealous of her husband. Suspiciously she was watching me and Vappu but she specially singled out a girl called Liisa, who had been working as a nurse in the sanatorium at Kirvu but because the sanatorium had ceased functioning she was now living in the house. Liisa would cry time and again at the nasty words of the mistress, but she stayed there as the Master so wished.
Actually the Mistress may not have been totally wrong when suspecting Liisa. Liisa was a beautiful and cheerful person and the Master was a healthy and fun-loving man...At the time I thought the suspicion was groundless. It is the gained life experience that has opened my eyes to see things that I did not then notice.
We participated in the work of the farm as far as we were allowed and at the Master's order we were sitting in the same table with the farm employees . But I found it ever harder to eat as the Mistress kept wailing how great an expense the crowd of strangers were creating. It was true, too. Our help was not needed. We were “hoboes” who had come uninvited, and we had to be clever enough to leave without being ordered to do so.
The Mistress had a lot of washing to do. She ordered us to do it. We had to go and rinse it at a distance and take the stuff there by horse. Vappu prevented me from doing that part of the operation although her condition was still bad. We finished the washing and cleaned up the rooms. By then almost a week had passed and our anguish just increased. But just then help arrived. It was just as by order a farmer of our village came and we were overjoyed.
Vappu knew this farmer quite well and his horse was famous in the district – racehorse mare Alli. We caressed Alli and wept a little in her sweaty mane. A little later we boarded the sleigh and headed for the railway station . We left the fine house without regrets, although our future was again unknown.
Farmer Kerminen gave us a ride to Ojajärvi station and after hours of waiting we boarded a train.
The other villagers of ours had been loaded on a train just a few days ago and we did not learn about it until now. But now we were on a train to ...Where? No idea, somewhere, away...away from the Isthmus that was falling in enemy hands bit by bit.
Vappu decided to look for our Lotta outfit in a certain location, to join them. But it occurred to me to seek contact with my fiancée because I knew he was stationed in Lieksa. It was an abrupt decision that I am capable of making. My fate is hard or then I just always am acting without consideration. Anyway this trip should not have been undertaken. But many things happened in that period of emergencies. So our ways parted at Elisenvaara, for year and for decades. Initially I would correspond with my “sister in arms” but now -just grey ignorance.
Consequently Vappu set out on her own and I took the next train North. I cannot fathom even today how I was able to get in a military mustering centre like Lieksa just carrying a Lotta card. But I did find myself there one night, tired and hungry. I headed for Hotel Seurahuone because I had a faint idea that one of my villagers, Toini, was working there.
Toini received me with delight and I started asking the officers about my fiancée His outfit had been transferred to East to the battles just about to start there (=Tolvajärvi, tr.rem)
Some HQ granted me permission to stay and wait because these said troops were to be relieved for R&R at Christmastime. Also the man running the Hotel Seurahuone, hailing from our parish, promised that I would get a place to sleep for working as assistant to Toini – something that I certainly was able to do. Starting early in the morning we did room cleaning, cooking food, washing dishes. There was but one woman to help us. Toini was working as cashier and also answering the phone. The Madam was overseeing cooking because the officers had their meals in the hotel.
A few days passed. In the evening I used to fall in my bed exhausted and the next morning it was hard for me to get up. But I had to. I would have withstood anything if I could only stay where I was and meet my fiancée The Madame, however, hated me, me and my countenance. Also Toini complained that the “auntie” was a pain in her neck, never leaving her alone to do her job. I would cry my pillow wet almost every night regretting coming there but I somehow was unable to leave.
I am obstinate by nature and wanted to endure the results once I had made up my mind. The men were friendly and we had several interesting discussions. In case the Madame was bedridden – quite often actually – we even enjoyed ourselves when talking about any old thing. The reason of my being there was in a manner forgotten and everything appeared to be just normal.
It was just a couple of days to Christmas. I could tell by looking at the Madame that she was far from “good will” and the spirit of Christmastime did not invigorate her bloated body. Actually she was oozing hate against everyone and everything. Talking about this with Toini I said that I would leave immediately after Christmas because I had not received any news about my fiancée and the fighting was just going on in the East. I also told her that if I did not now meet him now I would meet him never. An unexplainable instinct told me that he was going to fall – the very intuition that had chased me here – and that is what was to happen.
But the Madam did not want to wait for the Christmas Eve to present her present to me. She “denounced” me on “detectives” ( Army counter-espionage agents), telling them imaginative stories about the unreliable persons in our family. My grandfather had been extralegally executed by shooting in the cursed days of the Liberation War. His main sin was that he was a working man and did not want to join neither the Reds nor the Whites. He just wanted to be left alone and he paid with his life for that. This ancient case was still able to cast its shadow on me.
I would not like to bad-mouth my employer of that period although she lied with intent causing me so much harm that no one else has been able to equal that. A person born out of dirt imagines that everyone else has also sunk there. She is dead now and being sentenced for her doings, including this one...
The detectives asked about my motive that took me here and I explained them. To their honour I must admit that they were most tactful and friendly, and at the end of our discussion one of them admitted that it is common knowledge what kind of a person “Eeva” is and he apologized me for the fuss. Lt. Korhonen, too, was on my side; even if nobody had believed me, they would have believed him.
Yet I could not stay under that roof another moment. I requested a travel permit and ticket to Pieksämäki where my Granny's family had been evacuated as far as I knew. So I travelled there. Not one human is able to understand what kind of feeling I had when sitting in the corner of a II Class railway wagon in this Christmas eve on my way to South, now on the Savo rail line.
The train halted for several hours at Kajaani and I thought of getting off and visit the family of my fiancée in Vuolijoki. But I would not have had the time for it that night. So I sat in the train and wept bitter tears. These were the very first tears I shed with bitterness in my heart. I cursed the war and all that it entailed. I was alone, rejected. There was darkness...darkness everywhere. If I ever hated any person so then it was that well fed panting woman in the well furnished Hotel Seurahuone in Lieksa, and I really did not wish her merry Christmas in my mind.
The ambiance of that Christmas is maybe my strongest memento of the war because it was the hardest one of my life. At that time the trains were creeping on at a snail's pace and it was not until the night before the Boxing day that I found myself at Pieksämäki. It was a clear cold morning. Sun was shining on the hard-blue sky like a gold coin and the snow was shining with millions of snow stars. There was no sign of war anywhere. (Later Pieksämäki was to be air-raided severely, being an important rail line hub. Tr.rem.) It was all silent and calm.
I started the eight kilometre trek to the place where my grandmother and the family of my uncle were. It was a hopelessly long way for me. Fortunately all I was carrying was a light backpack containing all my belongings. I had not slept, I was tired and actually been underfed for weeks, because I had not dared to eat as much as I would have needed – and at times I was unable to eat, because there had been a lump in my throat preventing me from swallowing. I was hungry, tired, and my legs were heavy as lumps of lead. I would have liked to lie down on the snow and forget it all but something forced me to press on. I was walking on a forest road along the winding track of a sled. A squirrel was chirping in a tree and somewhere a woodpecker was drumming a tree trunk. All the sounds somehow passed my ears half unnoticed. All I had in my mind was to get in a warm spot in a bed.
Finally I found myself in my objective. This was some kind of a centre for evacuated people, several tens of people could be seen on the yard. It was lunchtime. I spotted the eldest daughter of my uncle, Aili, and she ran to me with a radiant careless face. It was easier for the children, they were living one day at a time...I had tears in my eyes and I was about to weep but I did not want to reveal my affection.
Finally we were in the room that they had at their disposal. It was a joy to hug my granny while all five children were teeming around us like ants. Finally I was safe! I found myself in a harbour where storms would not toss me around and nobody would remind me of my past or present relatives. Finally I learned where my parents were and I decided to joint them after resting a few days here.
But my fate had decided otherwise. Our Lotta chairwoman also was here and as she found out that I had arrived, she was pleased to see and greet her lost lamb and the first thing she did was to ask if I would like to volunteer for a task in Käkisalmi? To get back near my home...What more could I wish? I was immediately ready. I felt again that I was trusted. I would be one of the cogs in the machinery defending the Fatherland. Here no one was reminiscing what had happened to my grandfather decades ago, during the great upheaval in our country as I had been no more than three years old. I returned to duty again and felt myself necessary after all the drifting.
Another laborious journey started and several days later I found myself in the objective. It was very cold. Aurorae could be seen in the Northern sky and to the East the sky was lit by fires. Thunder could be heard in the wintry air and everything was overshadowed by war. In the station there was a man to meet me, I knew him and he was surprised seeing it was me who was coming. He had just been sent to pick up a Lotta posted here.
I landed about in the same outfit whose scribe I had been at the outset of the war. This fact did not encourage me in any way, I regret to tell that this outfit was not made up of the best of men. Again I found myself far from the front line where I in my madness wanted to be. What would I actually have accomplish there? _I was just as lonely here.. I had to accept it and swallow my disappointment.
I made good friends with the other Lottas and so the days started rolling. The chain of days was a grey procession heading for the finish. At Epiphany there was an incident that was about to unhinge me. We were visiting an old Captain – he had been accommodated in our farmhouse – we had been spending the night in his place, chatting. When leaving I noticed that I had lost my engagement ring. It had been tight and stuck well on my finger but it was now gone, it was not in my glove, it was nowhere. All of us searched for it. I also combed the washing water dump using a torch but the ring was gone.
That night I wept bitterly and said:
- This night my fiancée is going to fall.
I knew it and firmly believed in the omen that losing the ring was.
- Don't be such a fool! Why would losing a ring mean anything? It will be found, I am telling you.
It was found indeed, on the floor of the room where we had spent the night. One of the Lottas had found it and kept it but the Captain had seen it, and recognising whose the ring was he called me:
Do come and get your ring. A Lotta has it here.
The ring was found but my state of mind did not find balance. I kept waiting with dread until one night the phone rang and I was asked to receive a telegram. With stiff members and coldness in my heart I took the handset and started receiving the message. I did not comprehend anything but
“...fallen stop Come home..” Home...home...where would my home be? I dropped the handset, not listening to the end and rushed out . A Sergeant received the telegram for me.
- I knew it...I knew it...was all I was able to repeat, it was as if my life had stopped at a wall with dark void beyond it.
Again I was wandering in the night – I had become nocturnal by now – for Elisenvaara in the company of a small grey haired Captain. The man was more afraid than I was, he was actually shaking. I had no reason to fear. I was numb to anything around me.
Even today I cannot tell how I made this journey but in the small hours I found myself in Lieksa, again. I shuffled to Seurahuone and headed right at Toini's door, nobody was preventing me. Toini opened as I knocked. She hugged me and started crying with me, she also told that my fiancée had arrived at Lieksa the same day I left, and he had been extremely sorry for not seeing me.
I found out about many a fact and my superiors would have ordered otherwise had they known better...But the past is irretrievable and done deeds cannot be undone... by anyone.
I did not want to see the Madame although Toini would have taken me to her. I stayed there just for a couple of hours waiting for the next train. Now I was heading for home – that I actually did not have but was provided for me by the family of my fiancée
At the time I knew to appreciate everything despite my sorrow. When I got there I was sick and exhausted, but my life became orderly even though a destructive war was raging at the border. My fiancée was not buried until February, (his body had been retrieved from the battlefield and shipped to his home, a standard procedure. Tr.rem.),after that I travelled to my parents at Jokioinen. Another period of my life started.
I was ill for weeks, it was more of a spiritual than physical ailment. I was longing for somewhere ...away from there...I felt rootless and empty. Then it was the 13 March A.D. 1940. I am not able to comment the day in any manner. It was a dead, black day despite Sun shining over the snow-covered fields of the Häme province. It was a day of the greatest suffering for all Carnelians, not only for me.
- In vain, it has all been in vain...I kept repeating myself and I was not able to weep although I wanted to.
But this black day was not the end of life, it goes on and on. Old wounds have been healed, new ones opened and Carelia is no more ours. The journey started at the Carelian Isthmus has been a Via Dolorosa for every refugee. One day, however, there shall be an end to it.
- Posts: 676
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
The tip of the wedge
Journal Kansa Taisteli, 01, 1961
The author was a Company Commander of Infantry Regiment 60, I Battalion.
Former part of his story follows.
In the summer of the year 1941 our Battalion, I/JR60, led by Capt. S. Ropponen, had advanced from Tulemajärvi in the direction of Petroskoi, the capital of Eastern Carelia. As the focus of the Finnish offensive was shifted to other parts of the front line, we had spent several weeks in July and August at the said road at the tip of a kind of wedge in defensive positions.
My Company was a rifle company (Probably 2nd Coy) made up of younger reservists hailing from Pispala in Tampere, Lielahti and Ylöjärvi. We had taken turns in defending at Tsokkila village the isthmus between lakes Kutsjärvi and Kotarijärvi. The enemy had tried to dislodge us several times from that 500m wide isthmus, supported by tanks and artillery. Yet we were now a cohesive unit with good co-operation with the other service branches, we had learned to appreciate them. Without disparaging us infantrymen I can admit that our AT gunners, Sappers, F.O.O. Teams and many others distinguished themselves.
We, too had tried to attack but as to our Company we had been in a frontal attack been squarely beaten as hard as the enemy in their attempts. We lost many a good men as casualties. particularly heavy loss for us was the death of the Regimental Mortar Company, Lt. Rauni Sorvanne. He was personally controlling the fire of his heavy mortars and we were unable to retrieve his body. The foiled attack was afterwards called “fool's errand” . The name may have been invented by the same source that made up the nickname of our Company: “Joker Company”.
At mid August we were relieved to R&R, that is, in reserve and we were given a chance to prepare for future tasks. I overheard one “Pispala lad” say: “ The brass is gambling hard because the Jokers are fed and watered before use.” Quite right, we were used.
On the 1 September (1941) we found ourselves some 5km N at the flank of the front section at the villages of Efimova and Simonova, preparing to drive a wedge in the enemy positions at the above-mentioned road. I had already earlier familiarized widely the future battlefield with my Platoon leaders. The aim was to take the “Dugout hill “ (Pt. 165.4). This Dugout Hill was situated in a triangle of roads with sides consisting of the roads from Efimova to Kutsjärvi to S and to Kotsura, the roads E to Nuojärvi and the road to SW from Kotsura to Kutsjärvi. The entire terrain of the triangle was held by the enemy and commanded to W by the said Dugout hill.
The Company was in full strength due to the replacements received during the R&R. As to the Platoon leaders, Lt. Matti Pitkänen, with whom I had as a kid played war, was in furlough (Lt. Pitkänen went MIA at the Isthmus as a Coy CO in 1944). His replacement was 2nd Lt Tauno Pälä of the 3rd Coy, he hailed from Ylöjärvi. The rest, 2nd Lt Eero Vaissi - II Platoon, 2nd Lt Aulis Iisalo- II Platoon, 2nd LT. Eino Rinne – IV Platoon, my Junior Instructor in the Ylöjärvi CG district, were present and ready to “table the Joker”. Present were also the MG men led by 2nd Lt. Arajärvi. They had been co-operating with us from the very beginning and so we had a “flush” to play.
Our task was to outflank from the North in co-operation with Capt. Heikki Pietikäinen's 3rd Coy to take the above-mentioned “Dugout hill” terrain. Having set out early in the morning we arrived at the N side of the road triangle just in the determined time. Artillery fired their support at the Dugout Hill and then we attacked. After we had traversed the road a real melee started. Enemy MG s and LMG s were firing explosive bullets just as during the “Fool's errand” but we kept advancing, just in a slower tempo. We alternately took cover, alternately advanced.
The noise on the 3rd Coy sector was just as loud. Suddenly a couple of mine explosions were heard on the IV Platoon sector, the Platoon had entered a minefield. Soon the IV Platoon Runner rushed up to me, shouting:
It did not take long before he was being brought on a stretcher, however not dead but wounded. An explosive bullet had pierced his calf and left a nasty but not lethal wound . The young man whom men older than himself almost adored was looking really desolate. I consoled him by describing the future brief hospital stay and then the recuperation furlough, but he did not pay attention, he just asked me to write a letter to his mother and take good care of the IV Platoon.
As the stretcher vanished, I, too, felt desolate but then the ongoing battle occupied my mind. The situation appeared to be turning from bad to worse. I had already reported on the development to the Commander and since also the 3rd Coy CO had provided similar information we were ordered to disengage and return to our jump-off positions. By now it was evening and we were given place to rest in the tents of the 1st Coy led by Lt. P. Ailio situated W of the Dugout Hill.
The hours of the night passed slowly. The front line was calm, it was as if the enemy would be consolidating their forces waiting for our next move – unless they thought we had had enough. I could not sleep, my thoughts were churning around the events of the past day, the wounding of 2nd Lt. Rinne and the next charge tomorrow. I knew that our energetic Commander was planning another attempt to take the Dugout Hill and I was sure my Company would be employed. I was not the least surprised as after midnight a Runner came to summon me to the Command post tent.
The reconnaissance had shown that the nearly impassable bog area SW of the road triangle was just sparsely manned. There was a chance to break through to the S tip of the road triangle with a surprise charge at the dusk of the dawn. So the machinery was set in action again – orders to Platoon Leaders – they gave their own orders – all the same familiar routine.
The small hours were foggy, we were advancing in a file on a bog. It was quite silent – just an occasional clank of a field kettle or a weapon. The telephonists were extending their cables – no sign of the enemy. When wading on the bog we were a better than good target for any enemy MG that would catch us in its sights. The situation had an miraculous feeling to it, because the farther we managed to penetrate the more convinced I was that this time we would be successful.
The entire distance to the objective, the S tip of the road triangle was but some two kilometre but it took time to wade in the bog. We did not utter many words, we just expected that the spearhead patrol would bump at the enemy any moment. Yet the silence remained on and on, even after the spearhead patrol reported on reaching the target. I admitted myself that those boys knew how to orienteer. Soon I found myself there with my Admin Squad, followed by my outfit of Jokers. It was still silent as each Platoon set out to take their positions. The Battalion Jaeger Platoon led by Lt. Eero Sarso arrived, too, to secure our gains to the S. The only thing reminding of the enemy was a couple of telephone cables to S from the Dugout Hill.
We had succeeded in carrying out our mission so far – the enemy would not be able to get out of the road triangle neither would they be allowed to get help from the S. I reported to the Commander via a direct phone line and suggested that now it would be convenient to let the artillery to do their share. So far in this show it was the Joker Company that had been playing the leading role, invisible to all, but under tense observation by all the troops and commanders of the front section. Now another actor entered the scene, and he was both seen and heard. Our Artillery gave such a strike at the Dugout hill that it would have been a wonder if it had not had an effect, and immediately the Company charged. The surprise was so complete that we took the entire hill area without casualties - what a relief for the Company who had suffered quite a lot previously.
Now the course of events started rolling at a quick pace. The 3rd Coy came at an accelerated pace on the recently opened road and went on by terrain for the main road that they reached the same day, sealing it off and securing definitely the success we had gained.
At the direction of the main road the II Battalion was able to push on at the Kutsjärvi-Kotarijärvi isthmus. A few hours later the Joker Company found themselves in the rear on their Dugout hill while the war reporters were recording the aftermath of the battle.
I had for a long time savoured the result of our casualty-free engagement as our Commander came up to me. I could see from far away that the did not bring any good news: 2nd Lt. Rinne had perished at the Field Dressing station last night. Then it started raining, and it went on even the next day. We were marching to reach the main road to get some R&R as the reserve of the II Btn marching to the direction of Nuosjärvi. The III Btn that had been in action NE of the road triangle at Kotsura was in the process of taking their own hills.
There is one more detail about the Dugout Hill we left behind to be mentioned with pleasure. After the road to our lines had been opened the first to arrive at us was our field kitchen driven by a reckless horse driver. Somehow he had managed to leave unnoticed. As the Commander then asked about any possibilities to send an AT gun and more troops I could inform him that it was OK, because our “soup cannon” had already cleared the road.
I/JR60 war diary extract:
(laudably clear handwriting in ink on a school notebook)
12.00hrs the Battalion attack was launched from the jump-off line.
The battle plan for the Regiment was this:
Target is the main road to Petroskoi, right limit of the sector: SE tip of lake Perosenjärvi – Pt.148.8 – N shore of lake Toposerojärvi. Left limit lake Nuorjärvi – S tip of lake Nuorjärvi – Petroskoi road.
Attack grouping: On the right at the direction of the main road the reinforced II Btn shall attack with a limited objective except one Coy that shall go around the lake and S of Pt 140.0 for Pt. 148.8 in the enemy rear. Between lakes Syväjärvi and Nuorjärvi shall attack the reinforced I and III Btns I on the right and III on the left, the limit between them the line from the line crossing about 900m from Pt. 120.2 – the pond in the road triangle- the NE point of lake Tsesomajärvi – Pt. 134.4 – Pt. 135.2.
Also there shall be in the second wave behind the III Btn II/JR35.
The target of the Battalions, the Regiment and the intermediate objective is the SE side of the road triangle.
The Regimental attack shall be supported by artillery Group H (I/KTR5, III/KTR2 and Rask.Psto1) and II/KTR5. Artillery preparation shall start at H-25.
The attack plan for the I Btn (+Platoon Hela of 13. Tyk.K + Platoon Lauri/28.Tyk.K + Platoon less one Squad of Pion.P29 + F.O.O. S of II/KTR5 and a Squad of Group H) was the following:
Binding element: JK + 4 MG + Sapper Squad + initially I/13. Tyk.K (last mentioned to join the attack as the 2nd Coy has reached the NW tip of the road triangle).
1st Coy shall occupy with 1 ½ Platoons (+2MG) the present 2nd sector, relieving the 2nd Coy.
Charging element: 2nd Coy + 2 MG + 20mm AT rifle + 14mm AT rifle + one Squad + arty F.O.O.
3rd Coy + 2MG + 20mm AT rifle + Sapper squad + F.O.O.
Action: Enveloping attack at the enemy right flank ( from the same direction as the III Btn). Details on the transparent drawing.
Reserve: Jaeger Platoon
Command post: Initially the present one, later the 1st Coy Command post and from there as the attack proceeds in the SSE of the road triangle at the small path.
1. with the binding element by phone and runners
2. with the charging element by phone, radio and runners
3. with the Regiment by phone, radio and runners.
Use of binding element: As the charging element shall gain the S tip of the road triangle one and a half platoons of the 1st Coy shall “roll” the enemy positions in front of them to the NW tip of lake Syväjärvi then the entire 1st Coy shall be moved to reserve.
Mortar platoon use: To support the attack from their firing positions and participate in arty preparation. Their F.O.O. Shall join the charging element, another one at the SW tip of the road triangle from where they shall join the charging element.
Artillery: Shall support the attack as necessary.
11.15hrs 2nd And 3rd Coy moved to the jump-off line.
11.25hrs Artillery preparation started.
12.45hrs Phone connection to the III Btn, they reported that they had hit a minefield right at the start of the attack
12.45hrs 2nd Coy not yet in enemy contact.
13.00hrs Mutual mortars fire.
14.00hrs Aitio reported: Haussila is approaching the N side of the road triangle.
14.10hrs 3rd Coy in a minefield that is delaying their advance, some 700m NE of the road triangle NW tip.
14.15hrs Haussila has reached the road with their forward elements and has crossed the road some 200m E of the road triangle NW tip.
14.25hrs Enemy mortar firing at the 3rd Coy. Mortar positions shelled.
14.35hrs Karmo (III Btn) 700m NW from Pt. 127.2
14.40hrs 2nd Coy being fired at with AT guns and mortars.
15.25hrs 3rd Coy right wing has reached the 2nd Coy and the left wing is some 100m N of he road. 3rd Coy find themselves in front of a stronghold well entrenched by the enemy.
15.45hrs 1 tank has shown itself on the III Btn sector.
15.50hrs Haussila has reached the hillocks some 300m N of Pt.165.4, there are traps and mines ahead of them.
16.30hrs 3rd Coy reporting: they are unable to advance.
16.40hrs 2nd Lt Rinne of 2nd Coy has been wounded in one leg (later died)
17.50hrs Coy Yli-Eerola is advancing from the E along the N road of the road triangle for Pt.127.2 on its W side.
18.55hrs Yli-Eerola has reached the lake isthmus.
Due to the tenacious enemy resistance and checked by minefields the troops shall stay in the gained positions for the dark period.
Weather : Semi-cloudy
Casualties: Fallen 1+3+2
03.00hrs Regimental order issued by phone:
The enemy in front of the III Btn and II/JR35 has been beaten. (? ) (Sic!)
JR60 shall continue their attack to destroy the enemy in the road triangle.
For this, the reinforced I Btn shall attack with their main elements in the direction of the N road in the road triangle and shall destroy the enemies still defending this road.
From the E shall attack on the same road Coy Yli-Eerola of the III Btn from the isthmus between the ponds at 04.30hrs and the said Coy shall be subordinated to the I Btn as soon as the I Btn has liaised with them. Eventual instructions on co-operation must be provided to the Coy by the Btn before the action starts.
With a smaller force the I Btn shall attack W and S of Pt. 165.4 to destroy the enemy still in the terrain with the outfits coming from N.
III Btn shall secure with their elements the SE road of the road triangle at the S pond and shall reconnoitre up to the S point of the road triangle.
To carry out the Regimental¨order the Battalion started continuing their attack according to the following plan:
3rd Coy shall continue their attack from the positions gained last night in the direction of the road to E. The 3rd Coy shall be accompanied by the F.O.O.s of Artillery and Mortars plus an AT gun.
2nd Coy less two Squads that shall man the positions gained by the Coy last night shall be detached and in co-operation with the Jaeger Platoon they shall engage in an enveloping manoeuvrer via “Saddle hill” and the Dugout hill to the S tip of the Road triangle. Once there the Jaeger Platoon, reinforced with one MG, shall secure the brook line some 200m S of the triangle S tip, and also the road to NE from the triangle tip.
2nd Coy shall advance to N for Pt. 165.4 and take it. ´The2nd Coy shall be accompanied by Artillery and Mortar F.O.O.s
1st Coy shall remain in their positions manning the Battalion defence line.
The order was issued to the unit CO s at 04.00hrs.
04.30hrs 3rd Coy and Coy Yli-Eerola started their attack.
04.55hrs 2nd Coy started.
05.30hrs Yli-Eerola reported: he is advancing to W from the lake isthmuses
05.50hrs Yli-Eerola reported: he finds himself near ??
06.00hrs 2nd Coy is advancing on the Saddle hill
06.40hrs Yli-Eerola has engaged the enemy.
07.40hrs 2nd Coy has reached the S tip of the Road triangle and from there started reconnoitring, the Jaeger platoon has secured the roads and cut enemy phone cables.
09.30hrs Jaeger platoon has destroyed an enemy three man troubleshooting patrol.
10.00hrs 2nd Coy has reached the hills at Pt.165.4, some 100m S of it on both sides of the small path. An enemy outfit comprising about two Squads has fled to the direction of the Dugout hill.
13.00hrs Since the 3rd Coy and Coy Yli-Eerola were prevented from advancing due to heavy enemy auto weapons fire they were pulled back about 400m and a heavy artillery barrage was directed at the (enemy) stronghold after which the Companies restarted their attacks.
13.00hrs Lt. Sarso (Jaeger platoon) reported that an enemy patrol of some 20 men is trying to advance from S. The Jaeger platoon was reinforced wit one Squad of the 1st Coy.
15.15hrs A tank in the Russki stronghold in front of the 3rd Coy caught fire.
15.40hrs Coy Yli-Eerola managed to penetrate in the enemy base whereby the defenders withdrew S taking along most of their weapons. The N road of the Road triangle is totally in our hands and the Companies were securing the road to S.
16.30hrs Coy Yli-Eerola was ordered to secure with one Platoon (Pl. Linkola) to the direction of the centre of the Road triangle, the rest of the Coy was returned to the III Btn. The 3rd Coy was rallied in the terrain of NW tip of the Road triangle for R&R.
17.35hrs 2nd Coy reported: they have taken the hill at Pt.163.4 that was very strongly fortified (including some 30 dugouts). The Coy was ordered to sweep the unoccupied part of the Road triangle.
21.00hrs The entire Road triangle area has been swept and the 2nd Coy has been mustered at the S tip of the Road triangle to set up camp there.
21.15hrs Platoon Linkola returned to the III Btn.
Weather: AM rainy
War booty: 1 destroyed tank, 1 AT gun etc.
2nd Coy war diary extract :
(Readable handwriting in ink on a small school notebook)
Coy CO was in the front line, then familiarizing himself with the 1st Coy sector for eventual attack.
Coy in standby for alert. Coy CO has forwarded preparing order for an attack to the Platoon leaders and NCOs.
07.00hrs Coy CO issued orders on an attack at 10.00hrs . The Coy had a meal.
09.00hrs Coy set out. The Russki fired some shells at the road.
11.10hrs Coy advanced in the terrain.
13.00hrs Enemy engaged us and stopped the 3rd Coy advance whereby we, too, had to stop. 2nd Lt Rinne was wounded. I Platoon traversed the road but found themselves in a minefield whereby 3 men fell and 5 were wounded. The Platoon secured their sector. III Platoon advanced to their objective without meeting the enemy. II Platoon in reserve. The Coy spent the night without tents.
23.00hrs Meal for the Coy. It was reported that 2nd Lt Rinne has died.
03.00hrs Morning tea. The Coy was assigned a new task and the Battalion Jaeger Platoon was subordinated to it. I Platoon stayed to secure the gains of yesterday. The Coy advanced in a single file through terrain behind the Russki's back, the objective being the S tip of the Road triangle.
08.00hrs The objective was reached. An enemy cable was cut off and their troubleshooting patrol was destroyed.
09.20hrs Coy set out to advance again.
10.45hrs Coy engaged the enemy. On a hillock on the left side of the road the enemy had a well fortified position. The enemy started fleeing after being surprised, only one dugout fought it out but it was destroyed with a satchel charge and hand grenades. At the same time it was found that the hill Pt. 194.5 on the right side of the road was strongly fortified. We had a meal while the dugout was being destroyed. Now we set the 20mm AT rifle in position and started preparing the attack with it. 2nd Lt. Vaissi attacked the hill and took it after a brief but intense fight. There were at least 30 well built dugouts on the hill. The hill was renamed as “Dugout village”. The terrain was now in our hands and we moved to the Road triangle to secure it.
(Struck out: at 11.00hrs the Battalion Command post was shifted there.)
(end of former part)