Personal Finnish War Stories

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Lotvonen
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Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 29 Dec 2021 07:33

Matti Polojärvi

My Brother Had a Premonition

“Kansa Taisteli”, 10, 1962

Fighting at Kiestinki 1941, JR 53

Our outfit [14.K/JR53= AT gun Company, tr.rem.] was set up in June 1941 at Kurkijärvi village in Kuusamo. Reservists were added in our number, among them my brother Reino. We, conscripts in active service, considered ourselves as veterans because we were counting the last days of our compulsory service period. Yet the reservists who arrived made us feel young men. We were not depressed because we knew that this time we would not be fighting our war alone [as a nation]. Also we were entertaining the idea that the war shall be a brief one.

After several incidents and having passed through several villages we arrived at Kiestinki in early August 1941. By now we thought we were experienced first line fighters although our experiences so far had been just a child's play compared with future incidents. Our Coy stayed in Kiestinki for several days that we spent in R&R. Constant rumble of artillery and Stuka formations passing overhead told us that war would just get more intense for us in future.

It may have been 11th August 1941 as we were issued orders for two of our three Platoons to set out to support the infantry in the direction of the Louhi railway line. Finns had driven a deep wedge in that direction while the Germans, attacking at the road in the same direction, had been left considerably behind. My Platoon stayed in Kiestinki to load our AT guns in railway waggons. [Actually a jury rigged motorized platform, tr.rem.]

Some time after the transport had rolled out my brother Reino came to me and told that our older brother had been badly wounded already as Kiestinki was taken [the 7th Aug 1941] although we were informed only this late. But it was not the last of my brother's worries, since he continued in earnest:
-I have carried my pay all summer in my pocket, do take them and mail to our dad, I could not find the Company Sarge to do that for me. I think I do not need it any more.
I tried to encourage him:
-Nonsense, we shall see him some time later.
I did not accept the cash he wanted to hand over.

The next day we took down our tents and marched to the station where we loaded, led by the Lieut, our AT guns on railway waggons as we best could fit them. Late in the evening the Lieut told us that each man is to find himself a place to sleep overnight anywhere in the vicinity of the station. I and one pal found a spot next to a pile of material covered with a tarp where one man already appeared to be sleeping. We lied down covering ourselves with our blankets and fell asleep. Next morning we woke up, then wondered how sleepy our neighbour was. We lifted the tarp a little and found that we had been sleeping next to a fallen German.

We were just making ersatz coffee as the train from the front line arrived, laden with wounded and dead soldiers. There were about 10 men of our Coy among them. One lightly wounded came up to us to recount what had happened the day before. He listed the names of the fallen men, among them 2nd Lt. Sillanpää who had been an acting Platoon Leader and left behind on no-man's-land.
joukkosidonta_3.jpg
Now I bitterly remembered my brother's words that he had uttered and that had been bothering me ever since. I kept asking questions and became aware of the severity of the situation. The wounded were ordered to board a lorry, the man bringing me the news left but before that he added:
-There was also your brother Reino, abandoned on no-man's-land.

The fate of my older brother remained unconfirmed, and another sad case, premonitioned even, was a stunning blow.

In the evening of that day we loaded the last guns in the railway waggon and embarked ourselves there, too, for the tip of our wedge. When we had arrived we found that the tip of the wedge was so narrow that enemy movement could be heard on every side. Although it was only late August the weather was cool and rainy, too. Since the AT guns of our Coy had been dispersed, there were not enough tents available. Neither had we raincoats, we were feeling hopeless.

My AT gun squad was next to the railway line and our gun was placed at the rim of a sand pit. We dug 2 to 3 man foxholes on the pit slope. There was always one man in turn as sentry at the gun. One day as I was in sentry duty the enemy started lobbing mortar bombs at us as their habit was. The first ones landed some 100m to the right but the next ones started approaching me in a straight line of hits. As the nearest hit burst at a distance of 30m, I bounced quick as a lightning in a foxhole 2m off. The same moment the hole was about to collapse due to the power of an explosion. As I and Sgt. Hietanen went to see we found that a bomb had hit the very same spot I had abandoned one second earlier. The recent shocking events had frayed my nerves, to be honest, and it was pure fear that apparently saved me from certain destruction.

Later it was found that we had been surrounded, the enemy blared with loudspeakers, urging us to surrender, promising us all kinds of goodies. It was the 24th August as I was wounded in one knee by shell splinter. After several phases, two days later, I managed to escape from the “Motti” with other lightly wounded by a circuitous route back to Finland. Yet my mood was not much improved because my pals were left in the lurch and the fate of my brother was occupying my thoughts.

Later the name of my brother Reino was added in a gravestone in the military cemetery among other men who had made the supreme sacrifice for the fatherland.
JR_53_Motissa.jpg
War dead database extract:

Most likely the oldest of the brothers Polojärvi, the only one with that family name:


Polojärvi, Oskari ;PFC ; B.19.07.1909 Oulu ; D.24.08.1941 Kuolajärvi, Salla ; age 32 yrs ;JR33, II Btn, Mortar Platoon ;KIA, evacuated, buried ; grave at Rovaniemi, I Hautausmaa ; occupation Knife blacksmith, no children

Reino Polojärvi (Sotasampo data)

Reino Johannes Polojärvi, unmarried
Language Finnish, occupation forestry worker
Rank: PFC
B. 07.04.1916; MIA 14.08.1941 in Kiestinki
D. 19.01.1943 in Soviet Union as a POW
Grave in Kuusamo, grave no. 389

Service history
Winter war : 11.10.1939 - 19.05.1940 E/Er.P 16
Continuation war: 12.06.1941 - 13.08.1941 Tyk.K/JR 53
POW 14.08.1941 - 19.01.1943 .

Their Platoon leader:
Sillanpää, Ilpo Veikko ; 2nd Lt. ;B. 21.05.1920 Kurikka ; D.15.08.1941 Kiestinki ; age 21yrs ;JR 53, AT gun Coy ;KIA, not evacuated ; Grave in Oulu ; Phil.Stud., no children

14.K/JR53 war diary extract

2.8.1941
21.30hrs
Coy was issued marching orders. Securing posts pulled back at 2240hrs. March to Sohjana started.
3.8.1941
March continued, road repair while marching
22.00hrs
Coy at destination, next to Kokkosalmi kolkhoz.
4.8.1941
R&R.
5.8.1941
16.10hrs
Aerial bombardment at the bivouac area.
6.8.1941
Weapons maintenance. Two aerial bombardments.
7.8.1941
Two aerial bombardments.
8.8.1941
R&R, sauna bath.
9.8.1941
21.00hrs
Entire Coy started march to Kiestinki.
10.8.1941
02.45hrs
Coy in Kiestinki, bivouacking. Shelling all night.
11.8.1941
09.30-10.00hrs
Enemy shelling at the rail head and village perimeter. Enemy a/c approached, AA started firing.
13.0013.30hrs
Enemy kept shelling, another failed attempt to bombard by air
12.8.1941
06.00hrs
Russki fired shells at our bivouac area.
09.00hrs
Three Russki bombers raided Kiestinki.
19.35hrs
Again Russki bombed Kiestinki, wounding four Lottas and three soldiers.
13.8.1941
07.00hrs
Air raid.
17.55hrs
Orders received to start march.
14.8.1941
00.15hrs
I, II and close range AT platoon set out to march without AT guns and vehicles.
01.45hrs
Coy at the Kiestinki rwy station, continued to E along the rwy line.
09.00hrs
III Platoon + admin squad sent the II Platoon AT guns by rail after them.
11.20hrs
Detachment in objective 28 km from Kiestinki.
12.15hrs
II Platoon set out to patrol to secure the right flank. Platoon engaged the Russki.
17.30hrs
II Platoon returned from patrol after accomplishing the mission. War booty included two autoloading rifles and other Russki rifles.
17.00hrs
I Platoon and Close range AT platoon set out to jump-off positions as rifle infantry.
19.30hrs
II Platoon set out via Kolhoosinmäki hill along the kolkhoz road in the direction of the Kiestinki – Louhi road.
Constant mutual artillery and mortar fire, infantry firing very lively.
22.15hrs II Platoon has placed their AT guns in position on both sides of the Kolkhoz road.
19.30-21.00hrs
I Platoon and Close range AT platoon participated in an attack as rifle infantry. Russki mortar shelling very intense as well as the infantry weapons fire. Russki defence supported by tanks. Platoons suffered great casualties in the attack. Among others the Coy CO was badly wounded. KIA: one officer, three men, MIA one man, WIA sixteen men.
15.8.1941
07.00hrs
Lt. Niiranen posted as the Coy CO.
Cpl. Haapala's gun fired at enemy lorries at the crossroads, hitting four lorries since their engine noise died down.
II Platoon with their guns participated in the attack, advancing with the infantry as far as the Russki abatis.
15.45hrs
Cpl. Haapala WIA. Guns were firing at enemy tanks moving on the road, setting two in fire.
21.00hrs Guns withdrew with the infantry about 250m back.
Firing went on all night as well as mutual shelling.
18.30hrs
III Platoon left Kiestinki with their AT guns.
16.8.1941
Sporadic skirmishing all night and AM.
17.8.1941
Skirmishing all night, one gun of I Platoon placed in position at the Kiestinki – Louhi road (Kiila)
18.00hrs
Russki outfit comprising not full two Companies reinforced with MG and mortar outflanked on the left, making it up to the Kolkhoz road. Only few enemies escaped as our counter-attack started. Enemies left plentiful war booty, MG s, mortars etc.
18.8.1941
III Platoon in positions next to the rwy line.
Fighting went on all night.
Russki renewed their attack yesterday, outflanking on the left, with similar force. Most of the Russkies fell, our men took just ten POWs.
19.8.1941
Fighting went on all night. Men were stripped from every gun, and together with the men of 2nd Lt . Juutilainen's Gun platoon subordinated to the Coy was set up into a Platoon led by Sgt. Pihlman. The Platoon was subordinated to the Rgt.
At first the Platoon was set to sweep the terrain on the left side of the rwy line.
The Platoon relieved Lt. Mikkonen's Platoon from their positions N of the rwy line.
Platoon received as replacements 16 men, mostly volunteers born in 1921, 1922, 1923.
One gun of II Platoon shot up at the Kolkhoz road and main road some Russki object that burned several hours, with explosions at times.
Russki kept shelling all the time.
28.8.1941
The remains of Close range AT platoon were relieved from the front, bivouacking at the Coy C.P. The night was calm,
Russki gave us loudspeaker propaganda informing that we are surrounded. (A fact !)
Artillery cut out the Russki transmission.
22.8.1941
Some firing during the night, the day was fairly calm. Artillery harassment shelling.
Platoon Pihlman handed over their positions to a Platoon of Lt. Mikkonen's Coy and arrived in the evening at the Coy C.P.
22.8.1941
2.K/JR53, Lt. Toivonen's Coy, set out to open the rwy that Russki had cut off in our ear on the 19th. Aircraft dropped ammo and food for the Rgt. Close range AT platoon and Sgt. Pihlman's Platoon tried to break through the Russki encirclement N of the Rwy line. The attempt failed and the outfit returned to the vicinity of the Rgt C.P. In the breakout attempt 2nd Lt, Mustonen and five men were KIA. 2nd Lt. Mustonen's and Sgt. Pihlman's platoons were merged, Sgt. Pihlman the CO.
23.8.1941
Constant shelling all night, going on all day.
II Platoon gun no.2 took a hit and was rendered useless. I Platoon was able to man one gun only, the other was handed over to II Platoon.
Lt. Tolvanen's detachment advanced to-day S of the rwy line in the direction of Kiestinki. Platoon Pihlman still subordinated to Lt. Tolvanen.
The outfit liaised with Uhtuan Sissipataljoona of Maj. Könönen attacking from the direction of Kiestinki.
24.8.1941
All night heavy shelling in “Motti” and all day too. Russki appears to have an abundance of shells.
Lt. Tolvanen's outfit launched an attack at the Russkies who had cut the rwy line. The rail line was not opened now, nor ever. Lt. Toivanen was wounded and died en route to Kiestinki. Half of Platoon Pihlman WIA.
Rgt supplying started functioning across a 10 km wide bog area using pack saddles on horses.
25.8.1941
In the “Motti” continuous shelling all night. In the day barrages keep hitting our positions.
26.8.1941
Artillery and inf.fire went on all night and the day, too.
27.8.1941
Quite silent and calm except the annihilation of a Russki NCO school student patrol S of the rwy line. Patrol comprised about 100 men. Platoon Pihlman's subordination to Lt. Tolvanen's Coy ended and the Platoon returned via the supply road to the “Motti” near the coy C.P.
28.8.1941
Very calm everywhere in the front. One squad of Platoon Pihlman securing at the rwy spur.
29.8.1941
Nothing special. Stukas, 8 of them, raided the rwy and road crossing. Quiet all day, in the evening mutual shelling started. Rgt CO Col. Lt. Turtola fell.
30.8.1941
Heavy shelling at our positions went on all night. All night heavy inf.weapons fire.
31.8.1941
Calm night, in the day some shelling and inf.fire.
1.9.1941
Calm night, in the morning heavy shelling at our positions started and went on till late evening. In the evening Russki attacked W of the Kolkhoz road but was beaten back.
2.9.1941
03.30hrs
The heaviest shelling so far started, Russki poured a real barrage on us with every calibre of field gun and mortar. Bombers raided our battery positions. After signals from an a/c a Russki general attack started. Russki had tanks, 30 ton ones among them, of which the I Platoon gun shot one in flames and the other one smouldering. Sgt. Trapnovski and Pvt. Kananen were KIA at their AT gun. The rest of men withdrew after the infantry from “Kiila”.
04.30hrs
2 Squads of Platoon Pihlman were subordinated to 2nd Lt. Koli. 2nd Lt. Koli was issued orders to secure the perimeter of the bog W of the Kolkhoz road. Since our lines were crumbling at the Kolkhoz road 2nd Lt. Koli led his Platoon E of the Kolkhoz road where the Platoon was in positions until the general order to retreat was received.
07.00hrs
Russki advance was stopped after they had proceeded some 250m. II Platoon withdrew during the attack in the rear positions on the Kolkhoz hill.
15.00hrs
Coy received orders on retreat.
16.00hrs
Platoons started retreating hauling the AT guns on the supply road without horses, 4 to 6 men per gun.
18.00hrs
2nd Lt. Koli disengaged and Sgt. Pihlman was ordered to report with two of his Squads to LT. Niiranen. Coy withdrew 10 km to the rear over continuous boggy terrain. Withdrawal was quite laborious and heavy, several times the guns had to be dismantled into parts to pass through the worst spots.
3.9.1941
Withdrawal went on under Russki harassment fire by artillery and inf.weapons.
18.00hrs
Coy marched past “Kettu” and bivouacked S of the rwy line in tents, W of the derailed engines.
Coy total casualties so far:
KIA 2+2+8 [Officers+NCOs+men]
WIA 1+4+35
MIA 0+0+1
Total 3+6+44 = 53
4.9.1941
R&R.
5.9.1941
09.00-11.00
AT gun cleaning and maintenance.
14.15hrs
Coy moved 6km in the direction of Kiestinki.
Coy CO reorganized the Coy. II, III and Close range AT platoons were reformed.
6.9.1941
09.00hrs
Coy started building three saunas.
7.9.1941
11.00
Saunas were completed. Sauna baths taken.
(end of day)
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Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 02 Jan 2022 06:40

Antti Kyllönen

Fateful night at Rukajärvi

“Kansa Taisteli”, 09, 1962

Going to my second war in the summer of 1941 I was posted in the 9th Coy of III Battalion of JR31. I did not manage to get posted as a lorry driver although it was my civilian occupation, also I had done my compulsory military service in a Transport Company as a lorry driver. Advancing to Rukajärvi, hundreds of kilometres through wilderness was extremely strenuous for me who had bad legs. Carrying a full backpack and also weighty weapons and ammunition depressed me many a time as my legs were cramping and I had never used to strenuous leg work. Moreover, advancing was for us far from a parade. Sometimes it took several days to cross a bog and several lads found the end of their journey.

Finally as the advance phase of the war was over I managed to get posted as a lorry driver with the help of a medical certificate and my own application. I considered that now I had found a suitable, fairly safe slot. I was in the belief that the war would soon end and the worst would be over by now. Later I found out that being an infantry lorry driver was not enviable after all.

This time we had been lodged in Ontrosenvaara village. We, the five lorry drivers of the Battalion built ourselves a dugout of logs, half sunk in the ground, barely big enough to fit all of us in it. Our lodgings were situated at the end of a road in a lonely spot about half a kilometre from the Battalion HQ. It was early 1943. We were certain that the enemy would not make it as far as Ontrosenvaara as the hottest period of the war surely was over, we reasoned, and did not maintain guarding at our area.

One night as we laid down to sleep peacefully as usual we could not guess that a large about 500 man (sic) enemy outfit would be sneaking among us the same night. By chance I woke up about 0200hrs and got up. Having stepped out of the door I spotted in dim moonlight in front of me at a distance of 3 to 4 m three men in snow camo, SMGs slung over their necks. I thought they were friends, because our Jaeger Platoon used to leave and arrive from patrolling via our dugout, even in night-time. I did not pay any more attention to them, neither did they address me.

Having stood for a while to unbutton the front of my trousers at a corner of our dugout about 6 to 7 m from the SMG gunners, who were watching me quite intently, my attention was attracted by a larger group of men in snow camo, busy at our white cardboard garage,. Why the heck had the Jaegers opened the smaller door of the garage? I was perplexed by the open door and the same moment I saw a man run to the door and shout inside:
-Pikom, pilkom! [Poidyom = Let's go]
In a flash I realised: -Enemy patrol !
Nervously I was glancing around: where to go? It was no more possible to return to the dugout, and the directions of the road were full of men. The same moment the SMG gunners yelled me:
-Ruki veerh! [Hands up!]

Running away, a burst of SMG fire missed me. I ducked in a thick snowdrift being unable to flee any further. At the same moment the enemies on my left opened a lively LMG fire randomly at the forest in front of me. I thought my last hour was at hand. I turned my head down and covered my eyes with my hand. I was thinking that it was better they should shoot me from the rear since they certainly would detect me. Being unarmed I felt myself very little and helpless, I was praying to be saved. I did not think I had great hopes for that, also it was not feasible that the enemy would take a half naked man as POW to be carried a long stretch in their own lines; they would not even attempt that. I did not feel cold even I was in shirtsleeves and bare-headed, wearing shoes.

However I began to feel shivers on my skin as firing ceased behind my back and I heard skiers approaching me in a line. The LMG was still blasting at the patch of forest on the right. I totally sensed the presence of enemies and I was fearing that they should strike me with ski sticks when passing me. I peeked between my fingers. To my amazement I saw the enemies pass me – the distance was one meter – three – four – about ten away from me.

Spark of hope to survive emerged in my mind: enemies did not spot me. The same moment there was a blast behind me. I was thinking about my pals who were left sleeping in the dugout. A huge bonfire lit the forest. The garage and the vehicles were burning. I imagined that our dugout and its inhabitants would suffer the same fate.

I did not waste time in watching the fire, instead I tried to creep in the nearby dense forest with the flames providing illumination. Finally I found myself there and thought that I was in cover. I waded in the forest until I reached the tent of the Battalion horse-drivers, all in confusion after a hasty exit. I found on the floor a greatcoat which I pulled on because by now I was feeling cold. There was also an opened cartridge box. Without hesitation I stuffed the greatcoat pockets with cartridges then grabbed a rifle lying next to the door. I sneaked in the edge of the forest to observe the enemy movement.

I set up a small fighting position. Now I was feeling that I was an armed soldier and felt much safer. Now it was clear that death would not take just me, the enemy, too, would have to suffer. Having hunched for some time in my position I spotted a blue flare fired by the enemy on my forward right. Shooting at the Proviant distribution point ended the same moment. A normal flare was fired in response in the opposite direction, I heard yells and clonking. I heard how the enemy rallied, supposedly to pull out. In the twilight I saw skiers going in the same direction.

Still I stayed put in order not to reveal myself. Finally after long silence I started to find my way to our dugout, which in my opinion had been blown up. I was hearing human voices from there, suspecting the enemy still there I called out my pal by name. He responded shouting my name and to my amazement I found them still alive.

Soon I learned that they had never seen any enemies, it was not until the garage exploded and in flames that they were woken. Also they did not go anywhere because they did not know where they would find friends. Our lorries and cars were destroyed, but we praised our luck for being still alive.

We deduced that my fate had woken me in time before we all would have been liquidated in the dugout with a satchel charge. When I got out the enemy was distracted and thought that the dugout was unmanned as no one else came out, and left it alone.

This way Fate protected us from an apparently certain death. Being an ex-infantryman I had witnessed and heard about many horror incidents, but for my part this one was the most thrilling.

Of course the enemy did not escape unpunished. Our troops started a pursuit and despite the considerable lead the enemy was caught up and they paid a price of some half a hundred men. We suffered no losses except our vehicles.

III/JR31 war diary extract dated 10th Mar 1943

10.3.1943
01.45hrs
An about 100 man enemy patrol attacked our camp from the North torching a garage with two lorries and one car, and the barracks of horse-drivers and the HQ rag store. One end of the Proviant Supply point storage was set in fire but the fire was curtailed, so only a part of it was lost, about ¼.
Russkies fired their rifles and SMGs in the darkness. Our sentries carried out alert by shooting.
No casualties.
Simultaneously a similar sized enemy patrol attacked the Ontrosenvaara bridge. Our bridge guard opened fire with rifles and an AT gun. The patrol managed to dump a satchel charge on the W end of the bridge which damaged the bridge handrail and deck at the length of 3 m. Then the patrol started disengaging while some of them fired at the bridge surroundings.
No casualties.
03.00hrs
Enemy had disengaged at both locations and firing had ceased.
03.00hrs
The Jaeger Platoon and the GHQ Long range patrol residing in our area started pursuit led by Lt. Räisänen.
06.30hrs
A JR 10 Coy led by Lt. Koivisto arrived and was ordered by the Btn CO to join the pursuit.
08.00hrs
Weather: Temp -10ºC , clear and wind-still. Storm broke out in the day. Good skiing conditions.
10.30hrs
Jaeger Platoon and GHQ Long range patrol returned. They had caught a three man rear guard Russki patrol that they had wiped out.
12.00hrs
A 10 horse transport column to the proviant depot.
19.30hrs
Bible reading circle in the canteen, Rev. Honkanen. 10 participants.
(end of day)

Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 08 Jan 2022 06:51

Armas Kammonen

Failed POW catching operation

“Kansa Taisteli”, 10, 1962

[4.K/II/JR8 October 24th 1942 ]


Our front line was static at the E end of the Svir river line in the year 1942. Just minor hostilities were carried out to keep up the fighting spirit and perk the men up. Minor operations to the enemy side were launched, in the hope of catching a POW and as a reward home furlough. Many a time the operations dried up but provided material for evening banter.

Our Company (4.K) was just then in R&R as the reserve for II/JR8 as I was issued orders one October morning (24th) to launch a prisoner taking patrol. I got up and toured the dugouts to find volunteers. I did find a sufficient number of them and it was agreed that we would set off the next morning at 0500hrs.

Next morning as we were just about to set off the Battalion Dispatch officer Lt. Puhakka came to me and explained that he wanted to join us. I told him it was OK but during the mission he would have to be subordinated to me, although I was but a Sr.Sgt. Puhakka told me that it was an obvious fact, so we set off the mission, fateful for him.

We crossed the front line from one of our strong-points about 80m from the enemy line.
We knew that the nearest enemy strong-point was situated to the left and ahead of ours, and it was my intent to outflank the strong-point and catch eventual food detail men or any other lone enemy on their communications path.

I did not send out a scout, instead I proceeded in the vanguard, followed at a distance of 4 to 5 m by Cpl. Kivimäki and after him the rest of us. The terrain comprised sparse forest with bushes and other low vegetation. Having proceeded some 150 to 200m straight away from our strong-point we turned left and soon enough I spotted barbed wire reflecting among bushes. So they had secured their supply path with wire, indeed. I signalled a warning to my men and started carefully sneaking to the path. Kivimäki was following me just at my heels.

When I had proceeded to a distance of about 10m from the path I heard Kivimäki warn me with a sound. The same instant I stopped, immobile, and observed the path right and left. Spotting nothing I looked behind me; Kivimäki was pointing at my feet. There it was! A Russian anti-personnel mine, tilted under my heel. I had tread just at the mine rim, so that the lid had not been depressed to activate the fuze to blow the thing up. It would have been good-bye to my foot, maybe to my entire existence. Soon we found out that I had hit a mine in the middle line of a triple line minefield.

Carefully I bent down and defused the mine. Next we started examining our surroundings and found a three line minefield. Without Risto Kivimäki's attentiveness who knows what might have happened.

We de-mined some of the minefield creating a few meters wide gap, marked the limits and started waiting for any pedestrians. Simultaneously we were observing the men of the enemy strong-point about 100m to the left from us. The neighbours apparently did not have a stove in their dugout since they had to boil their morning tea water on campfires.

Wile we were squatting next to the path many of us started shaking, due to cold, not tear, because the weather was a bit cold. Some started opining that the food detail must have passed since the neighbours were busy having their breakfast. AS Lt. Puhakka started implying that we might get out of there to our strong-point and from there we would nab a sentry from an enemy weapons nest, I agreed with him. Yet I told him that he would have to lead the second attempt because I considered it too rash to carry it out in daytime. I promised to join him anyway. We assembled the mines we had found, tied them into bundles and started slogging for home.

Once in the stronghold Lt. Puhakka called our Btn CO and asked for permission to catch a POW from an enemy weapons nest . The permission was granted and we set off for another mission. We took along the two satchel charges stored in our stronghold. By our earlier reconnoitring we knew that the enemy stronghold included on the extreme left wing an armoured dome for an auto weapon and next to it one sentry in a trench, and on the right wing a MG nest with two sentries. There was no wire in front of the sentry posts.

Having passed our hindrance line Lt. Puhakka ordered the patrol to form a line. It was our plan to destroy both auto weapons with satchel charges and catch the sentry between them. We were advancing carefully towards our objectives. I had placed myself to the extreme left wing planning to keep the men in the covered weapons nest low so that the lads would have a chance to throw a satchel charge in it. Puhakka had placed himself in the middle of our line.

Having reached a distance of about 20m from the objective I saw the helmet of the sentry gleaming in the trench near the armour dome. The next moment I heard a deafening bang on my right and then loud sound of running as the lads hurried to our line. At first I thought that the right hand weapons nest had been engaged with a satchel charge and a prisoner would have been nabbed. The same moment I heard Puhakka to call my name in a loud voice.

I started running for him while enemy auto weapons opened up a heavy fire at us. Twigs and dead leaves were falling on me like snowfall. Hunched down I hurried to Puhakka, he was sitting on the ground with one leg up, missing the foot. He was just sitting there, with blackened face, asking:
-What is going to happen now?
-Don't worry, we shall make it, I told him and started looking around to find a pal to help me to carry the wounded man. Seeing no one, I grabbed him in my arms and started retreating. After a few steps I saw Cpl. Kivimäki coming to meet us. Together we carried our pal who had lost his foot escorted by enemy fire in the cover of our trench.

There Lt. Puhakka started regretting:
-Oh my, I left my cap and SMG there.

The man was more worried about his gear and weapons than his leg. Well, we could not leave them there as trophy for the enemy. As soon as firing had ceased, I and Cpl. Kivimäki went over the top and retrieved them.

This time the prisoner taking operation failed, and the man who so eagerly had joined the attempt was badly mauled - by a narrow margin I failed to share his fate.

4.K/II/JR8 war diary extract October 1942

23.10.1942
Weather: rainy
Company in reserve. Field fortification work.
24.10.1942
Weather: Clear
Company in reserve. Field fortification work.
06.00hrs
Patrol led by Sr.Sgt. Kammonen set out, strength 1+10 to no-man's-land.
12.00
Patrol returned
14.00hrs
Coy returned from work.
25.10.1942
Weather: clear.
Company in reserve.
06.00hrs
Patrol led by Sr.Sgt. Kammonen set out, strength 2+10 to no-man's-land.
12.30
Patrol returned. Our casualties: 1 wounded.
14.30hrs
I and II Platoons set off led by Lt. Keijola to secure between the proviant distribution point (Ejp) and the transport column because an enemy patrol had been detected there.

(End of day)

Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 12 Jan 2022 07:27

Kauko Tukiainen

Patrol to Vytegra

“Kansa Taisteli”, 10. 1962

GHQ Long-Range patrol mission in August 1942.

[The place names are a bit problematic: Finnish/Carelian/Russian versions and the spelling. Tr.rem.]
Vytegra.jpg
This time our patrol comprised four men. It was early morning the 9th August 1942 as an aircraft took us in the destination on the far side of lake Onega (X=37,5 Y=61,5) . The area was growing virgin coniferous-deciduous forest, lakes were small with shallow shores, beds of reeds were teeming with waterfowl living unmolested. Here was the border of the Carelian Soviet Republic but settlements on both sides of the border seemed identical. Yet it appeared to be more Veps-carelian than in the Svir area where Russian influence was considerable.

We passed a typical forest village at the Aleksandrovskaja river. There were abandoned slash-and-burn clearings by the river but else the terrain was covered by virgin forest. The river was 50 to 70 m at the widest spots. On the meadows we saw people making hay, old women and men and under-age children. We did not yet stop to interview them but went on, stopping for a while at an ancient cemetery with a tsasovna with moss covered roof and cross under tall firs and birches.

Our first day in the far side of lake Onega was coming to end. Before falling asleep I thought about the uncommonly beautiful and intact scene with moderately healthy civilian life despite the war. On the other hand there were no tractors on the fields but machinery would only have spoilt the poetic scenery.

We slept the night in the forest. To be safe one of us was constantly awake but nothing worth mentioning happened. We went on the next day hiking through the forest near the river valley. Our first objective was the Onega coast terrain, finally we were there at a village as sun was setting. One of us climbed the pylon at the perimeter of the village to observe, people working on the field were speaking their Carelian dialect. Our SMG gunner at the foot of the pylon became anxious because the barking of a dog appeared to be getting closer. Maybe there were soldiers in the village, maybe a dog would be set to follow our tracks? The observer saw nothing implying such.

The patrol went on with their task, days passed. Finally there was the Vytegra-Andoma road, almost 10m wide. There was a 8 bare wire telephone line but no field phone cables were to be seen. Lorry traffic was heavy. Lorries were passing every few minutes, no wonder because the enemy troops N of Puudoz were being supplied by this road and the material was shipped to Vytegra by vessels. The patrol bivouacked for a while at the road in the forest consisting of firs and birches. The travellers on the road could not guess that their every movement were being observed by an enemy patrol.

Civilian traffic was minimal. There were young women, strikingly dressed. Black skirt and white blouse was in common use. Eve is Eve, also here. Cracks of whip would cut the air as horse drivers gave a whack at their horses. Village "stariks" were driving small bay horses with black manes, hauling four-wheel “telegas”. The air was thick with Russian curses used by the drivers to egg their horses.

Finally evening calm landed on the Puudoz road. No disturbing sounds except buzzing of cars and their backfiring exhaust pipes, due to bad quality petrol.

Late in the evening we crossed the road to the Onega coast strip, the terrain was soggy and boggy at parts. We spent the night and the next day wandering there and found no manning nor beach securing. We had been tasked to find out the details of the beach securing, that is why we spent several days doing just that. We recorded accurately all our observations of the area between the Onega shoreline and the main road.

Then one morning we headed for Vytegra town. There were forests, slash-and-burn clearings and natural meadows. On our way we interviewed haymakers, some of whom spoke only Russian but we also encountered Carelian speakers on this ancient Carelian land now and then. As the food in our backpacks became scarce, we headed for the spot pointed out to us by the thumb of our Major as we had set off.

We arrived at a bog in the middle of wet virgin forest, there were two small lakes there [to assist orientation from the air ? Tr.rem.]. The radio operator started contacting the base requesting proviant resupply, because our backpacks were so completely emptied that we had to resort to mushrooms and blueberries from the forest. It was the 19th August so we had been hiking through forests and village perimeters for ten days.

It was at 1000hrs as the radio operator established the contact. The response message informed us that the proviant shall be delivered at 1200hrs. Before our mission had started we had been informed that due to the long range a reconnaissance a/c cannot be deployed to bring the proviant, it is a job for a bomber. We set up everything in a hurry. We spread a white signal fabric on the bog and at the perimeters of the bog we set up small campfires ready to be lit as soon as the bomber would be spotted.

Everything was ready, just the aircraft was missing. We kept waiting anxiously, but no a/c was neither seen nor heard. Several times it occurred to us that it might have been shot down. It was at 1450 that we started hearing a sound of engines. The next moment our campfires were smouldering and we rushed to the bog the very moment as a twin engine Heinkel (sic) bomber flew overhead at a low altitude. Through the engine noise we heard two snaps and the proviant torpedoes were floating down. The same moment one of the parachutes was ripped into thousands of shreds and the heavy proviant container sunk deep in the bog, just the cords of the parachute were visible.

The bomber curved back over the bog, the pilot greeted us by rocking wings before turning West and vanishing from our view. For a while we were feeling like abandoned bird hatchlings. We were wistful, standing on the bog, and not until the noise of the engines had subsided we headed for the proviant torpedoes. We took small axes from our backpacks and cut stakes to extricate the sunken container.

The sweaty job was completed in half an hour and we had to note that cigarettes and other not waterproof material had suffered in the wet bog. The other torpedo was lying flat on the moss and the contents were undamaged. Four men had a work cut out for them to haul the containers to the edge of the forest under fir trees. It was not until there before we started unloading our “booty”. We found that the contents was just what a hungry patrol-man could wish for: tobacco, chocolate, cheese, sausages etc. On top of it all there was a long necked bottle adorned with three stars sent by our CO the Captain, with instructions: “To be used with care. If the beard of Ivan the Terrible should emerge from a bush, be prepared!”

We stuffed our backpacks full, almost thirty kilos in each. We were expected to survive ten days with it before another resupply, maybe even longer. We covered up the empty torpedoes and each of us took a strip of the torn parachute as a scarf since our attire was far from military. For once there was silk available, maybe seventy meters of it in the torn parachute.

Wearing white scarves and well fed we set off and arrived at 1930hrs at the road S of Malaviina village. The next day we passed Kleonoba-Ulega village. We kept going for Vytegra, never entering it though. In the passing we interviewed haymakers who apparently were all Russian speakers. We could not enter the town, but observing with binoculars we spotted some details on the NW parts of the town. Soldiers were seen moving about as well as motor vehicles. There was also an airfield nearby, obviously abandoned since we spotted no movement there.

Next we headed East across a wide bog and arrived at a small forest lake. The next day as we were making tea two boys, picking mushrooms, came in the vicinity. We invited the boys at our campfire and saw that they were wearing “Komsomol” caps. The older one, 16 years of age, appeared to be afraid, maybe guessing who we were. The younger one, 13 years, was instead very talkative. We treated the boys with tea and sandwiches. They told us that on the E side of the town there was an army bakery and one Colonel was the CO of the garrison. A Captain with his family was said to be living in the town. At the moment there were but few soldiers in the town. No tanks nor artillery, just supply troops.

Soon the older boy, too, warmed up to tell more and we learned that no major shipping was going on in the canal. The boys became the more talkative the more sandwiches, chocolate and other goodies we served them. We also learned that now Vytegra was just a supply depot. Finally we asked the boys about the straightest road to Voznetsmik village and after the boys had left with their mushroom catch we also prepared to leave. We just took the direction opposite of that we had enquired.

Of course the boys would tell their news as soon as they had arrived at Vytegra, but we found ourselves nowhere near Voznetsmik village, instead next day we were far to SE at the Maria canal. All day we were hearing buzzing of a/c engines and ever now and then bomb explosions. We used our binoculars and found out that the enemy was training their dive bomber pilots.

In the evening we were in contact with the base and we were asked if it was true that there were but few troops in Vytegra. We were able to confirm that immediately having found that our already.

Once we found in the forest a fallen enemy a/c, probably damaged by AA and unable to reach the base. On our way we interviewed people we met. Sometimes we were taken for Soviet deserters and we may have looked like such. So far we had not found any pursuers at our tracks since after interviewing people we always asked for directions for a place then proceeded in the opposite direction.

At the Maria canal we found a forest, cut down and with narrow gauge rail line and forestry roads. Workers here were civilian forced labourers or prisoners, since the barracks village was guarded by soldiers and surrounded by barbed wire fence. We would like to do a little prank but we left the camp alone, having no reason to interfere with the fate of Russian prisoners.

In the forest we often met berry pickers and mushroom hunters. An old women told us that ship traffic on the canal was minimal nowadays, it was mostly logs that was shipped.

Heading SE along the canal we arrived at a lake, brimful of water used to regulate the canal water level. There were old fishermen's saunas near the river draining the lake and we saw a lot of waterfowl. On our route we had seen often flat-bottom boats carved out of a single trunk but now when one was needed we did not find it at once.

The river was fairly deep and maybe 50 m wide. There was a dam at the inlet of the river guarded by some 30 soldiers, blocking our route. Finally we spotted a flatboat, being paddled by some boys, then leaving it at the beach of the river. We went to the boat that held two of us at a time. Crossing was successful until during the last pass soldiers started running in our direction from the dam.

The situation was threatening: the enemy was at a distance of 300m and the boat in the middle of the river. Some bullets hit the water but far off mark because the enemies were firing while running. The boat approached the shore slowly because we had only one poor paddle. Enemy fire intensified but we retaliated with a SMG. Then the enemy took cover and kept shooting. Near the shore the boat keeled over and the men had to wade in water up to their waist. We dashed dripping wet up the riverside slope where thick bushes provided cover. We fired a few shots as goodbye and kept going.

When distracting our pursuers we found that the terrain and the map did not agree in every detail. Our maps were old and many ponds had been overgrown in the course of decades. Even some brooks had vanished in the soil.

It was our plant to meet one of our other patrols in this area. Finally we directed our course to the S tip of one Palojärvi where the appointed rallying point was situated. Here, too, we could see that the bog surrounding the lake was far wider than that marked on the map, and the lake proportionally smaller. Once there we contacted our base to find out when the other patrol was to arrive at the rallying point. We were told that the hour was next morning.

Just as the radio operator was working his key we heard a pistol shot in the vicinity. Therefore we headed N and in the course of 24 hours completed quite long a round. When back at our starting point we found on the bog tracks of pursuers. Fortunately there had been a heavy rain with thunder that had helped our diversion act.

We camped in the forest the next night and returned in the morning to the edge of the bog where smoke was rising up. Approaching the campfire we called out the password and received the correct answer. Meeting was a great joy, by now we had lingered in the enemy rear for weeks without seeing any friends. By the campfire we told each other about our experiences. We learned that they, too, had been chased and they had had several adventures when distracting the enemy off their track. The day and part of the next night was spent chatting. Next morning we parted and went on with our missions.

Once more an a/c resupplied us with food, and again the material torpedoes met the same fate as the previous time. One of them hit and broke an aspen tree, before that the parachute had been torn into shreds. We stuffed our backpacks with food and took new silk scarves.

As it was the time to return we had to wait at the defined lake almost for a week because the autumn weather was unfavourable for flying. Signal fires were ready to be lit for days but our radio operator learned time and again that the a/c could not be sent that day. So we could admire the September beauty at an abandoned lake in the forest. At the S tip of the lake there was a fishermen's sauna but for security reasons we did not use it as our abode.

One evening as the twilight was about to settle we heard engine buzzing and soon we spotted the profile of a Heinkel bomber (sic) [He-115, tr.rem.] in the sky. The same moment the signal fires were lit and the bomber turned to land in the middle of the lake, then it rolled to us at the shoreline. Soon we were all embarked. Rumbling heavily the Heinkel took off.

After a moment of flight the observer spotted seven enemy fighters behind us, but out of firing range still. We dived steeply at the treetops which threw off the fighters from our trail. By now we were at the Puudoz river where the pilot increased the altitude to 4000m. Just then enemy AA opened up but it was just “hail-Mary” fire, the shells were bursting quite low and far behind us.

When above the Onega we fired a flare to signal our troops and soon we landed in our rear. Another mission in the enemy rear, more than one month in duration, was over. We rested for a while with the Onega coastal defence men and then we the itinerant war workers continued in new adventures in the rear of Lapland and Carelian fronts.
(end of story)

Official history tells us the following:

(source: Saressalo, Lasse: Päämajan kaukopartiot jatkosodassa. 3rd printing, Juva 2010)

[Maybe tedious but tells us what kind of info was gathered by the Finnish long range patrols, also a look in the Soviet civilian life is interesting, ref. The final chapter]

“Os. Vehniäinen (U2/V) received orders from the GHQ to send a patrol E of lake Onega.
Consequently on the 8th August 1942 HE-115 took off from Kossalmi carrying Patrol “Maria”, code 43/1. The patrol comprised 9 men and their task was to reconnoitre
-the traffic on the Maria canal situated SE of lake Onega
-Fortification works at Vytegra town, the condition of the roads there and traffic on them
-Onega coastline securing
Also the patrol was to check the villages at the Andoma river and Maria canal for any troops billeted there.

HE-115, piloted by W/O Räty, landed on the lake Tukhta (some 40 km E of Vytegra). The next morning the patrol split in two half-patrols, the first one comprising 5 men and the second 4 men, then each of them went on carrying out their task.

Th first half-patrol (the above story is theirs) headed for West and the Andoma river where they arrived in the morning of the 12th August. They crossed the river, 50 to 100 v wide with steep banks, at the point where the Samenzha river flows into the Andoma. The march went on via Malya village which was reconnoitred. The patrol checked every village on their way to West; they found civilians only, no important military presence.

On the 14th August the patrol reached the road to N from Vytegra, wide but inactively used. The findings were regularly radioed to the base. They had ordered resupply for the 16th Aug but either the patrol or the a/c had chosen the wrong bog, and the resupply was missed. By radio they were informed that the a/c had dropped the material in the agreed spot; the men had heard the engine sound. Despite long search the “torpedoes” were not found in the said location. The patrol had to resort to mushrooms. It was not until the 19th Aug that the resupply was successful.
Now the patrol headed for the Onega coast, but the route was difficult due to endless bogs and thickets. On their way an old man making hay was interviewed and he provided a lot of data. Due to the difficult terrain the coastal reconnoitring was abandoned and the patrol returned to the road N of Vytegra that they had already crossed twice. Here they intended to catch a military POW but no good targets were found.

In the evening of 22nd August the patrol interviewed two mushroom hunting boys from Vytegra. One of them had a lot to tell about the military objects in and out of the town. The boys were rewarded with a meal. The patrol journey went on to SE, reconnoitring roads and communications networks, at times civilians were interviewed.

The Kovza river was crossed with a boat borrowed from civilians, else it would have been impossible. During the crossing the patrol was spotted by soldiers at the dam upstream and they opened rifle fire at the Finns. The Southernmost point of the mission, the road E from Annenskij Most was reached the 25th August. Next the patrol headed for the assembly point.

The second half-patrol comprising four men started from the landing lake for the Maria canal to the SSW. They arrived at the Unkovski farmhouse situated N of the Kousa lake in the afternoon of the 12th July. At the farmhouse the patrol met five Carelian evacuees (sent there by Soviet authorities from the area that Finnish Army was taking over). They provided a lot of information about the living conditions and opinions of the civilians in the war zone. The civilians would have liked to join the patrol (to get to Finland), the most eager one was a boy called Ville Nikitin. With the agreement of the other Carelians the patrol enlisted the boy as an interpreter and guide. Having given the civilians a share of their proviant the patrol went on with their mission, reinforced with one man.

The next day they arrived at the Maria canal that they crossed at Nikolajevskaja. The patrol arrived at the pre-determined resupply location at the agreed time on the 15th August but the base reported that the delivery cannot be effected as agreed, they were told to wait. A friendly plane overflew the location the next night but failed to see the signals of the patrol. The next morning they did not manage to contact the base and it was not until the 17th August the patrol was informed that the a/c had dropped the resupply containers and they just had to get up and look for them. The search was continued the entire next day but in vain. This patrol, too, had to resort to mushrooms and berries to enhance their diet for a while. The promised resupply plane was curving around the drop point on the 19th August but the airdrop did not happen. It was not until the 20th August at 1400hrs the resupplying succeeded.

With full backpacks the patrol went on with their mission, heading for the Karova road. Following the canal they proceeded up to the Vytegra – Osta road which was reconnoitred on the 23rd August. The return journey happened on the S side of the canal. The canal was recrossed by the bridge at Annenskij Most. The patrol was proceeding on the road to East and the civilians encountered on the road did not pay them much attention. When military vehicles approached the patrol preferred to evade in the forest.

On the 27th August the patrol reached the assembly point at 1000hrs. The first half-patrol arrived at 1400hrs.

Now that the patrol was assembled one more resupply was dropped at the assembly point terrain. The next day they headed for East reconnoitring the road S of Kousa lake. At the E tip of the lake they turned N and lake Tugas, the pickup point, was reached in the morning of the 30th August. There the men had to wait until the evening of 2nd September before the pickup happened. While waiting the patrol reconnoitred the surroundings of lake Kousa. There they met civilians evacuated from Leningrad who provided information on the mood of the population and on some of the military objects of the area.

Finally the pick-up a/c arrived and the patrol landed at Kossalmi at 2200hrs on the 2nd September 1942.

As an example of the reconnaissance results of the patrol here are extracts of their report:
[Not known what the figures after the place names refer to, tr.rem.]


“Report of Patrol Maria observations during the patrol operation 9.8. - 2.9.1942.
“Patrol Maria, led by Staff Sgt. Hyvönen K, strength 8, carried out a recon mission on the period 9.8. - 2.9.1942, the route described below, tasked to recon the traffic on the Maria Canal and the adjacent roads; the military objects en route; the fortification works at the Vytegra town; observing the guarding of the E coast of Onega N of Vytegra town.”

“II a. Railways, roads, paths etc.
The road Vytegra – Badozhskij pog. (no.74): At Nikolajevskaja the road is sort of bad, 12 m wide, pot-holed but with ditches. When the road was crossed there was no traffic. On the NE side of the road there was a 8 wire uninsulated wire line. According to civilians the road is usually seldom used, it had been maintained by sanding last spring.
The road from Vytegra up to Annenskij Most is better but from there on poorish.

The same road at Konnetskaja village (no.108): Annenskij Most about 2 km NW, on the N side 8m wide, muddy and pot-holed, with ditches. On the 26t.8. There was one set of track marks (maybe those of a crawler tractor). On the E side of the road there was a 8 wire uninsulated wire line and one the W” side there was a 2 wire uninsulated wire line.

Railway embankment (no.75): S of the Maria canal. In the immediate vicinity a railway embankment has been built, missing sleepers and rails. According to civilians during the Finnish Winter War the construction had been started but interrupted in 1940, abandoned since. The rail line continues along the Maria canal and the Vytegra river probably up to the town. It is visible from the canal at least at Aleksandrovskoye, Volokov Most and Vytergorkskij Pogost according to information provided by civilians. If the entire length of the embankment is completed or not is unknown. South of Aleksandrovskoje just the line has been cut in the forest but no embankment. The embankment is 7 to 8 m wide and at places used as horse carriage road. S of Volokov Most (no.73) weapons nest for auto weapons have been dug on a 150m stretch , the embankment had been cut by digging and the created trenches were covered, firing direction South.

The road Almjärvi village – Volokov Most (120 – 76) is about 6m wide, at places with ditches, fit for motor vehicles, with some marks of motor traffic. Telephone poles were being installed to the direction of Volokov Most.

“V. Camp areas
In the clubhouse of Rubezhi (no.70) is billeted a 10 man training outfit led by Sr. Lt. Kalmin and 1 Staff Sgt., 3 Sgts and 5 privates. They are training on Sundays at 08 to 1700hrs the youngsters born in 1924 of the nearby villages with wood rifles. There are two LMGs in the clubhouse. In the winter they had trained in the similar manner youngsters born in 1925.

In Annenskij Most (no.111) is situated a Voyenkomat led by Col. Lt. Fokin and his assistant Maj. Dorofejev. There are also several Captains and officers of lower ranks plus fifteen privates. There are 10 riding horses and 10 draught horses, two cars, three lorries.

On Sundays in the club house, situated next to the Voyenkomat, are trained youngsters born in 1924 from the Annenskij Most and nearby villages using 22.cal rifles.

In Badozhskij Pogost (no.138) there is a training outfit comprising 25 men (Capt. Kolgujev, CO, 1 Lt, 2 Jr. Lts, 2 Staff Sgts, 2 Sr. Sgts, 7 Privates) training on Sundays the youngsters born in 1924 of the nearby villages with wood rifles. On weekdays they are controlling the work at the airfield being constructed N of the village.

In the village are billeted the manager of the airfield construction : 3rd Class military Engineer Serbian as the CO, 2 St. Lts, 3 Staff Sgts, 10 Privates and 5 drivers. They have in disposal 1 car, 4 lorries and 2 crawler tractors.

Capt. Kolgujev and Mil. Engineer Serbian plus their officers have a common “dining room”, the other ranks have their own.

“VIIa. Signalling.

On the E side of the Vytegra – Pudoz there is a six wire bare wire line. On the W side of the Nivat – Kiuoja road (no. 36-140) there is a two wire bare wire line. At the rwy line from Valkeaoja to NE, on the W side, there is a three wire copper line and on the E side a two wire bare wire line. At the road from Annenskij Most (no. 111) to NE on the S side there is a six wire bare wire line. At the Maria Canal following it to SW there is a 8 wire bare wire line, fairly recent. At the road Vytegra – Badoshkij Pog. (134 – 139) there is on the NE side a 8 wire and on the SW side a two wire bare wire line. At the road Almjärvi village – Piltshina (no. 120 -121) on the W side there is a two wire bare wire line.

“VIII. Civilian population

In all the villages at the Maria Canal the civilian population is present. The villages have been collectivized, Kolkhoz fields are being farmed about completely. Kolkhoz members have usually one cow and a small plot of land for their private use, which means that they are not quite starving. The opposite is the case of the people evacuated from “Eastern Carelia” [under Finnish occupation, tr.rem.], of whom there are quite a lot in Devjatino, Rubezh, Annenskij Most, Aleksandrovskoje, Konevo, at the Shima river etc.- who were last autumn taken from Äänislinna, Vieljärvi, Teru, Soutjärvi etc.- up to Tshaika and Kirillovo. These evacuees are living in dismal conditions surviving on bare standard proviant rations
which are:
Bread
-For heavy work in a day: 800g bread
-For lighter work in a day: 600g bread
-Unemployed daily: 400g bread
(Evacuees are mostly included in the third category)
Sugar
-Working people 200g a month
-Unemployed 100g a month
Salt
-Everyone 400g a month
Matches
-For each family 3 boxes a month.

The goods listed above are the only ones that are available to the civilian population. “
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Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 16 Jan 2022 07:55

Eino Summa

Special mission for Jaeger Platoon

“Kansa Taisteli”, 10, 1962

IV AK, 4.D., JR5, Jääkärijoukkue 31st August 1941

Finnish IV AC was taking over the Western side of the Carelian isthmus in August 1941 the enemy was sticking to their positions at Rokkalanjoki by the Koivisto road. JR5 as a part of IV AC had advanced to Huunola as the Rgt CO Col. A: Paasonen issued orders to the Rgt Jaeger Platoon to penetrate in the enemy rear to speed up the enemy disengaging.

The Platoon was to penetrate in night-time about 12 km in the enemy rear to Kaijala village situated on a small ridge S of a river, occupy the village and keep it to cut the enemy retreat road to S.

This was a chance to have adventure and hunting. The more dangerous the game the more satisfaction when catching it. To surprise or get surprised, tuning up one's senses.

Studying the map revealed that the village on the hillside was passed by the actual enemy withdrawal road at some 300m across an open wide field but two smaller forest roads led to each side of the village. The railway line passed the village perimeters in the rear. There appeared to be a lot to do to defend the hill on every side.

In the cover of midnight darkness the Platoon led by 2nd Lt. Taina had completed their preparations and moved to no-man's-land in the direction of the forest road passing our village. In our quiet rear the Platoon assembled on the road for bicycle march and soundlessly set off led by Cpl. Toikka's Squad. All one could barely see was the white tip of the rear fender of the man in front in the dim light of the night. The sound was broken only by the soft sound of rolling tires.

There was an indescribable festive feeling, because during that period many of our soldiers were entertaining the hope of liberating their lost homes. The faith to gain the target was unwavering, the author, for one, was separated by his place of birth, Uusikirkko, by no more than 30 km. One's thoughts and hopes were cruising freely, yet one's senses were alert to catch from the darkness everything one's eyes were not able to see.

Cpl. Toikka's energetic shout “who is it?” followed by intense SMG buzzes cut short the solemn thoughts. We had run into a largish enemy outfit having a break at the road, their scare was apparent by the frightened yelling, scattered shots and disorganized fleeing in the forest on both sides of the forest.

With the admirable help of intuitive unspoken agreement our platoon launched an enveloping attack on both sides of the road. After a brief violent chase we hurried back to our bikes and our march went on. The enemy was left behind to continue mutual battle with great noise. Our advance went on without surprises except when we met an abandoned baggage train stopped by the roadside in the cover of forest.

We had a mild surprise finding the gate of the first village house right at the edge of the forest. Enemies manning the village appeared to have been waiting for our arrival because there was a process of scattered withdrawal going on. We were immediately aware of the situation. Quickly the Squads fanned out into line with plans of action

Running, yelling and shooting off the hip we took the village by storm and cleared it of enemies up to the railway embankment. Still we were not the first Finns here because from a thicket emerged a Finnish soldier, straggler from a patrol. He told that large enemy formations had passed the village on their way to South. Due to the skirmishes we had had our mission had lost its ambush character, that is why we were getting ready to meet stiffer enemy resistance.

The sound of calmly approaching horse vehicle on the road we had arrived by gave us high hopes. The ideal chance to take a prisoner was foiled by the fact that the driver was Cpl. Huhtiniemi of our Platoon. He had alone stayed back to examine the baggage train that we had met, and being a farmer, he had spotted a brisk pony from the steppes. He had driven the cart after us at a slow speed, as if going to church.

The next set of enemies, three of them, arrived from the other side of the village along the forest road to the village, surprising one of our Squads who had entered a farmhouse for a moment to have a meal. The surprise was mutual, however, and the enemy paid the price of two human lives.

The main road passing the village was busy with traffic all day, but after several obstinate attempts the enemy abandoned the use of rte road, instead concentrating on crushing our Platoon. We controlled the situation easily and in the evening after liaising with our advancing troops we swept the fields and rounded up the enemies in the field ditches for farm labour in the home front. The enemy main force had taken a safer route. Marching through the forest they totally abandoned their heavy equipment for our troops.

Liaison with friends did not take place without incidents because we could hear in the patch of forest in front of us still Russian blabbering all over the place, and by chance our scouting outfit happened to be made up of ethnic Swedes. So they, when trying to advance to the South along the main road, were received by our Platoon just as Ivans just a little time ago. Fortunately the friends were able to take cover without casualties. As the movement opposite to us just kept increasing our sniper identified them as friends through his sighting scope. Being ignorant of the fact that we had taken the village already we were soon to be strafed with mortars, for now obstructing the advance of our victorious army. The matter was settled in the last possible moment by our formal surrender signalled by raised arms.

Mission accomplished, without a scratch. Our happy, experience enriched Platoon received orders to rejoin the Regiment at Kämärä railway station where the Division started the long transport to Eastern Carelia.
(1049 words)
Kaijala.jpg
Extract from the JR5 Jaeger Platoon war diary (they indeed kept a war diary, despite the small size of the outfit):

29.8.1941
04.00-08.00hrs Transfer from Pilppula Rwy stop to Vääräkoski.
10.30-17.00hrs Liaison by two Squads with Coy Rinttala, who are surrounded, failed.
17.00hrs - Succeeded in this
30.8.1941
-02.00hrs Sweeping through the forest NW of Säiniö rwy station. Enemy losses about twenty KIA, entire Platoon engaged in this work.
22.00hrs We relieved Coy Rinttala and secured the forest until
02.00hrs when we returned to the bivouac.
30.8.1941
In the morning patrols went on sweeping, liquidating another 6 Russkies. PFC Toikka and PFC Paananen and Pvt. Pantala distinguished themselves out of ordinary.
15.00-17.00hrs Moved next to the Honkaniemi Rwy stop. Securing a CP.
31.8.1941
12.00hrs I received orders to report with my Platoon to Maj. Hirvikoski at map word Siltasaari S, distance about 25 km.
17.00hrs I was ordered by Maj. H. to reconnoitre the road Siltasaari – Metsäkylä. When meeting enemies we were to open fire and maintain contact. Distance was 13 km, Platoon strength 1+6+17.
On our way we did not meet enemies although I left 4 men at Russki footpaths.
00.00hrs Returned.
1.9.1941
08.00hrs I received orders to man and sweep Kaijala and Metsäkylä villages and the forest E of them, until further orders.
11.00-12.00 hrs On our way we skirmished with an Russki gang comprising some 10 men, 4 to 5 Russkies fell. PFC Kihlman (autoloader) and Sgt. Nikkanen (SMG) scored them.
13.00hrs In our objective we liquidated 10 to 15 Russkies partly with hand grenades (Cpl. Huhtiniemi) partly with SMGs and autoloaders. (Jaeger Lyytikäinen Arvo)
14.00hrs Jaegers Sydänmaanlahti Lauri and Palander A set off to forward a report to Maj. H. A 10 man enemy outfit surprised them by opening fire at our boys, fortunately missing. Jaeger Palander shot two Russkies, the rest fled.
18.00hrs Jaegers Puranen Tauno and Hietamies P. managed to liaise with JP24 who were fighting at the shore of Gulf of Finland. Report on this was forwarded by Jaegers Puronen Tauno and Hietamies Pentti.
21.30hrs
Jaeger Puranen brought orders to arrive at Maj. H.'s CP where we arrived at
00.00-01.00hrs.
Now we were allowed to eat cooked food for the first time since leaving Honkaniemi.
Our task was to liquidate the remains of the 54th Division moving about between our troops manning the coastline of Gulf of Finland and the Vuoksi Wedge (attack detachment) which was about 15 km in distance.
(blank space of four lines)
2.9.1941
08.00-10.00hrs We returned to the CP in Huumola. Rest and close securing.
13.00-21.00hrs Sauna.
(End of day.)


It is apparent that the Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Taina himself wrote the diary, and he had planned to fill in for the 1st September but failed to do so.
Rgt CO Aladar Paasonen was posted as the GHQ Chief of Intelligence in 1942.
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Lotvonen
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Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 19 Jan 2022 06:25

J. Kivistö

A Day in the Kilpolanniemi beachhead

“Kansa Taisteli”, 10, 1962

A story of a landing and withdrawal at lake Ladoga in 1941

Er.RajaJP 2 [or plain RajaJP2] action during the Continuation war started at Parikkala on the 2nd July and continued via Syväoro - Elisenvaara to Kurkijoki. Their advance wen on along the road to Käkisalmi until Kilpolanniemi was reached. There the enemy had bitten in the perimeters of the wide open fields in the East and South so tenaciously that our attack stalled in front of the enemy positions on the 13th August.
kilpolann.jpg
Having been in positions for a couple of days our Coy CO Lt. U. Petäjä ordered the Coy to disengage, and it was to be carried out unnoticed even though it was noon. Judging by enemy fire they never detected our departure. The purpose of this operation was unclear to everyone, the men of my Platoon enquired about it and speculated about getting some R&R.

Having marched about one kilometer to the rear in the direction of Kurkijoki to a bay of Lake Ladoga we spotted 16 pcs small flat-bottom landing boats. Now the men started guessing about transfer to Navy or boarding those boats.

In the evening the platoon leaders were summoned for briefing by Lt. Petäjä. We had guessed right, because our CO informed us that we were to land the next night at Kilpolanniemi cape in the enemy rear.

Preparations were completed in the course of the evening and the next night on the 16th/17th Aug at 0200hrs our landing boat fleet set quietly out covered by some fog for the unknown-

Landing was successful beyond expectations, because the enemy fired at just the last boats yet without any serious damage. Our Company manned a hill with an area of about one hectar as the beachhead without any major skirmishing. By now the enemy had started wondering about the shots in their rear and sent patrols to investighate. These patrols never returned to report, however.

The vegetation in the beachhead was so dense that visibility was not more than 20m. That is why and also due to our surprise landing enemy men remained sleeping in our rear. I found that out in a rather unpleasant manner. Having led my Platoon in the ordered location I told my Runners, Cpl. Karvonen and Pvt. Lepistö that I would have to visit the loo. I walked a little off, set the autoloader leaning against a pine, took another ten steps.
As soon as I had squatted I heard rustling in the alder bushes behind me.

Taking a glance there I spotted two enemies, carrying rifles under their arms, heading right to me. Fortunately I found myself so well covered by ferns that they did not spot me although the distance was now less than 10 metri. My rifle was far away and my battle posture a bit inconvienient. Therefore I turned at the right direction and yelled : "Stoi!”

Desperately I was unholstering my Parabellum [P/08] dangling on my hip. The command frightened the enemies a little but they did not stop neither did they notice where the order came from. Now the distance was next to nothing, I repeated my command while pointing my weapon. The enemy nearest to me spotted me and turned his rifle at me. However he was too slow and lost the match. Having seen the fate of his comrade the second enemy turned quickly back and vanished in the alder bushes. I fired my weapon empty yet did not hit. Having heard the shots my Runners hurried to me and seeing me in my funny pose, my trousers half-way down, trhey laughed out loud and estimated that I had been “overheated”. I explained the situation to them, they started sweeping the bushes and ended the military career of that intruder in the alder bushes of the waterfront.

In the course of the morning our Company started a slow movement to our front line but our enemy had other ideas. They wanted to push us in the Ladoga, I believe. Exchange of fire ensued because we had no idea about abandoning our foxholes. Our “fleet” had to ship casualties to our side all day. This went on unti 2110hrs as the 2nd Coy of our Battalion relieved us and took the positions.

Our Company was allowed to get food rations from the boat landing spot and have a meal in the alder bushes of the waterfront. I and my Runners selected a spot about 200m from the shoreline and I ordered Jaeger Luukkonen to guide the platoon in the same terrain for theier meal. We were sitting and smoking while the warm August evening was turning dark. Now sleep overcame me. I woke up as Sun was shining at my face.

I looked around me. My both Runners were asleep, sitting. I woke them up and we found out that it was 0430hrs. It was a most beautiful morning, not a single shot was heard from any direction. We speculated what could have been going on during the night, finally we headed for the shoreline. There were no boats, no men. We deduced that our troops had attacked in the night and the connection with our front line had been opened.

We decided to follow the same route, it was but 2 km. Our positions of the previous nights were abandoned as well as the enemy forward foxholes. Seeing nothing else we considered our estimates confirmed.

Having advanced about half a kilometer in dense alder bushes we spotted a green boat cap with a red cockade behind a rock in front of us. The very same moment the man wearing the cap appeared in front of us. We were just eye to eye, so the command "Ruki veerh" and pointing a SMG at the man had an immediate effect. With my poor skill of the language I enquired the enemy sentry about his comrades. I got the impression that all the rest of them had left in the direction of Käkisalmi. My Runner Kaironen was not believing it but kept glancing at the surroundings. Soon I heard the same command behind me, and there was Karvonen, persuading an enemy Staff Sgt, sleeping under his greatcoat, to get up. Judging by his countenance this Sarge was experiencing a miracle.

I, too, was getting shivers up and down my spine because my instinct was telling me that we found ourselves in an enemy bivouac. We agreed by whispering to return to the landing beach of yesterday – and soon. We removed the mags from the enemy autoloader rifles and made them carry the weapons, we wanted to get some war booty, too. The enemy Sarge was not very interested in joining us, maybe due to a case of indigestion. He made us understand that he needed to relieve himself. I advised Karvonen to witness the procedure and not allow any tarrying. I decided that the beach line was the safest way of return and by the time we had reached it Karvonen and the Sarge caught up with us.

Once at the beachline we got a third POW. It was probably the comrade of the recently caught sentry who was squatting to scoop tea water from the lake. I wished him good morning with the old command. This tovarich was carrying his rifle on his back, so he did not constitute an immediate risk. Having looked at our extraordinary outfit it was not until at repeated command he understood what I wanted. It had taken less than 10 minutes for us to make this haul.

While striding through the alder bushes I enquired the meaning of my boys about the situation. Cpl. Karvonen opined that “it is a serious but not hopeless situation, let us swim across”. The bay was about 800m wide. I agreed with him and we decided that at the landing beach we shall undress and start swimming. Having proceeded about 300m to the direction of the landing beach we came across a thick reed area – there was one of our boats used yesterday. I remembered that it had been used to resupply my Platoon with ammunition yesterday and the boat had been abandoned there. The effect was comparable with the news of the Winter War armistice in a Taipale front dugout.

Boarding was a quick piece of business. Lepistö took the paddle, Karvonen sat in the bow, prisoners in the middle and I took the stern seat. Our crossing was undetected until we were near our side of the bay. Some enemy who had come for a morning wash fired a few shots in our honour, missing.

After lengthy enquiries I found our Company and I learned that in the night of 17th/18th August the order to disengage from Kilpolanniemi had been issued. In the hurry of departure we who were sleeping in the alder bushes had not been found. It was deduced that we had either been taken POW or a shell had wiped us out.

The Ivan Sarge apparently found the journey to West very hard because he had kept pointing first at the pistol in my hand and then his temple while were coming home. Our travel comrades were handed over to the POW assembly point at Kurkijoki.


Another earlier story about the same battle:
#55 Post by Lotvonen » 18 Dec 2016, 07:06
“Landing at Lake Ladoga in August 1941”
by Keijo Katajainen
Kansa Taisteli 09/1958 pp. 248 - 253

Rajajääkäripataljoona 2 war diary extract: (with good handwriting on an official template)


16.8.1941
00.40hrs CO arrived. Attack order:
Harassment fire starting 01.30hrs continuing all night.
Artillery preparation to start at 0700hrs
1.K shall attack along the shore line to E.
Maj. Kilpeläinen shall carry out the crossing and landing.
If this does not succeed, attack order shall be cancelled (Appx.no.4)
01.20hrs Lt. Petäjä received orders to carry out the above mentioned attack.
11.25hrs II Btn adjutant reporting: Coy relief completed at 1100hrs
11.30hrs Col. Valkama reporting: Orders modified so that Er.RajaJ.P shall move to the Kyläjärvi terrain ready to advance SE, one Coy shall carry out the landing.
12.00hrs Order: Officers summoned to briefing.
12.05hrs Jaeger Platoon patrol shall reconnoitre the terrain for CP location etc.
12.50hrs Coy CO s arrived,
13.05hrs Capt. Arvela arrived.
13.20hrs Artillery strike at the CP. No casualties.
13.30hrs Maj. Polon provided a situation report and distribution of orders. Lt. Petäjä was charged with the crossing and landing. CO replacement.
14.30hrs Departure for the new CP, situated 700m NE of Pt. 77.
3.K + Jaeger Platoon to Torikanniemi, 1.K and 2.K to the Metsäpirtti terrain.
19.00hrs In the new CP.
21.15hrs Order by Col. Valkama: Battalion ready to move on on the 17th Aug 1941 at 0600hrs.
17.8.1941
05.05hrs Order by Col. Valkama: RajaJP shall march at 0600hrs to the Sepänmäki terrain. Report on the success of Lt. Petäjä's crossing and when Salomäki is in his hands.
Crossing at 0100 – 0300hrs.
06.08hrs Departure for Sepänmäki.
07.23hrs Liaison with Rgt CP.
09.58hrs Lt. Petäjä reporting: “Mustienrintojenmäki” in our hands.
10.02hrs Order to Lt. Puolakka: The Coy shall at once head for the 3.K following the same route.
10.55hrs CO heading for Torikanniemi.
11.03hrs Two enemy fighters flew overhead at 100m firing MG s
11.25hrs CO arrived at the C.C.S. 4 WIA due to the air attack, 3 of them of 2.K.
11.55hrs Liaison with Col. Valkama at Torikanniemi, report to him:
Lt. Petäjä is doing fine, Mustienrintojenmäki hill and Salomäki hill still in his hands.
12.20hrs I/2.k shall cross over with flat-bottom boats.
13.15hrs Enemy is breaking through at the hillock situated W of Salomäki and the beach. Heavy rifle and MG fire mutually. Detachment Tiikeri order, Appx. No,5
13.30hrs Strike by heavy artillery at the CP.
15.50hrs Liaised by radio with Lt. Petäjä .
16.10hrs Lt. Puolakka reporting:
Coy mostly ready to attack, Lt. Petäjä's patrols have detected plenty of enemies in no-man's-land, requesting artillery support.
18.15hrs 1.K arrived at the tip of Torikanniemi.
Lt. Simola reporting to the CO.
18.40hrs 1.K crossing the strait with flat-bottom boats [in which direction? Retreating? Tr.rem.]
21.30hrs CP moved to the N shore of Torikanniemi opposite of the island.
Col. Valkama's order: RajaJP shall disengage and move N of Torikanniemi at the road.
18.8.1941
01.40hrs Entire 3.K at Torikanniemi.
02.35hrs CO sets off.
03.15hrs All units of RajaJP at Torikanniemi are moving on to the road.
03.55hrs CO leaving for a briefing by Col.Lt. Valkama.
07.00hrs Orders to units: RajaJP shall be posted as reserve in terrain at Matikkala.
Lorries are to be used, 10 of them shall be available.
Departure: 1.K + Signals Platoon at 1000hrs,
2.K + Jaeger Platoon at 1400hrs,
3.K + AT Coy at 1800hrs.
MG Coy + 17.Er.Ptri at 2200hrs
10.00hrs 1.K + Signals Platoon set off
12.00hrs CO and Admin squad set off
14.00hrs CO at the Matikkala terrain,2.K + Jaeger Platoon a
24.00hrs Entire RajaJP at Matikkala

(End of day)

2.K/Raja JP2 war diary extract (school notebook)

(on the 17th at 17.15hrs while the Coy was in defence III Platoon was subjected to mortar strafe wounding 17 men)

16.8.1941
Mutual artillery fire all night
10.00hrs Coy handed over positions to Capt. Kilpelä's Battalion and moved in the rear in the terrain about 1 km NW of map word Muistola M where loitered.
10 volunteers were taken and subordinated to Lt. Petäjä for a special task.
14.00hrs Coy CO distributed Liberty Medals for the following men:
...
[I Class two, II Class 17 of which one posthumously, names omitted, tr.rem]

17.30hrs Coy started marching, moving to terrain 700m NW of map word Unkola U.
Once there the tents were set up and Coy bivouacked
The night passed calmly.
17.8.1941
05.25hrs Coy CO issued orders.
06.20hrs Coy set off from bivouac arriving at the terrain 400m S of Map word Mustola M where breakfast.
11.00hrs Coy set off for the tip of Riekkalanlahti cape tip.
11.20hrs A burst was fired from a Russki a/c wounding Pvts Kostiainen and Valtonen.
13.40hrs Coy crossed the waterway with boats, Russki did not fire.
15.50hrs Coy was in positions on the hill 600m NW of map word Päijälä P. A Russki patrol managed to get so close that they threw two hand grenades wounding Pvts Lempiäinen Arvi and Joronen.
Simultaneously IV Platoon was repelling Russki counter-strikes at the Riekkalanlahti shore where plenty of Russkies fell, in the melee was wounded Pvt. Paakkinen.
19.30hrs Coy repelled Russki counterstrike, Pvt. Jäppinen was wounded.
23.00hrs Coy received orders to withdraw away from the cape. Disengagement succeeded well.
18.8.1941
02.30hrs Coy had boarded boats and started rowing over the strait, crossing was successful. Russki did not bother in any manner.
As soon as the Coy had disembarked Pvt. Niemi was wounded by a Russki shell.
04.00hrs Coy arrived at the terrain, on a hill NW of Riekkalanlahti where they had some morning coffee.
The Coy was exhausted.
The Coy was informed to get ready for a march.
21.00hrs Coy embarked on lorries and the transport started, route Rahola – Alho – Asemakylä – Ilmee – Ylikuulu – Inkilä – Lehti – Hiitola – Matikkala.

(end of day)

There is another story pertaining this operation, shall be put online next. Stay tuned !
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Lotvonen
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Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 23 Jan 2022 06:54

Armas Hänninen

Kilpolanniemi landing and retreat: “Rowing over to Kilpolanniemi in Hiitola – swimming back”

“Kansa Taisteli”, Unpublished Manuscript # 2483. (Actually published in K T 08, 1981)

Waterway crossing was not a popular method of fighting for Finnish warriors.
It was dreaded, even refusals occurred.
But with tenacity even a crossing was accomplished – even if one had to return by swimming.
[Chapter originally redacted by editor.]

RajaJP 2 had attacked from Parikkala via Elisenvaara to Kurkijoki, then to Hiitola. Now the Kilpolanniemi cape in Kilpolansaari island was to be cleared of enemies. The tip of the cape was crowded by enemies. They were defending themselves with all their strength to get evacuated via lake Ladoga to the harbours in the South. Due to the open ground attacking was difficult and the tough enemy resistance could not be broken.

I was serving in the Jaeger Platoon of the Battalion, led by Lt. Ruuska. Later he was promoted to Captain and still later he fell in action.

Border guards summoned
Our Battalion was in this phase ordered to launch the landing attack from a cape, led by the Jaeger Platoon and 2.K. The landing craft were just plain civilian rowing boats.

On the 16th August in the evening we were assembled at the end of a bay on our side. The enemy was restless and was shelling angrily here and there all the time. Despite that Lottas arrived with their canteen truck to the shore to serve the men waiting to attack, apparently disregarding the enemy fire. They were tough girls!

We set off at midnight. The boats were normal Ladoga fishermen's boats each taking about a squad of men. Lake Ladoga was completely windstill. A thin layer of fog was floating over the water and full moon lit the terrain. Two men per boat were rowing, each with one oar.

We were advancing initially peacefully following the friendly beach. At the tip of the cape we were to turn and head for the enemy rear.

Suddenly there was trouble: an enemy direct fire gun fired three shells hitting the water about 50m from the boats. The enemy had detected the boat convoy!

Since we were still near the friendly shore we turned back in the cover of the cape.

Bravest ones went on
Then something happened, something that would sometimes happen when Finnish troops were to carry out a waterway crossing operation: men refused to board the boats, considering the task hopeless. A couple of lads fainted due to shock.

Now our Platoon Leader Lt. Ruuska came up to his outfit and stated in a calm manner:
-We have been assigned an unambiguous task. We shall carry out the orders.
We knew that Lt. Ruuska had a strong religious conviction and he was a man of principle, and a fatalist, too.
Ordered by Ruuska our Sarge yelled:
-Men, embark the boats!

In a jiffy the Jaeger Platoon had manned the boats and the rowing started. The boats advanced in a double file with a distance of some 50 m, my vessel was leading the left hand convoy. We were advancing slowly and carefully, without splashing water with oars.

My place was in the bow of the boat with my SMG in readiness, my boots kicked off and my tunic buttons open – in case I should have to swim the rest of the 300 to 400 m journey. Every man was intently observing for any muzzle flames.

Yet nothing was neither seen nor heard. I jumped off the boat before it hit the shoreline, forgetting about my boots. We landed without having to fight.

Enemy is alerted

About ten meters from the shoreline there was such a steep rock face that the men had to help each other climbing it. At this stage the enemy woke up from their morning sleep.

It was about two o'clock at night as the music started: the air was full of metal and alder branches were falling on us – as if cut with scythe. However we found ourselves in a favourable position and were able to quite easily liquidate the weapons nest at the shoreline, I think that very few of the men escaped.

We manned the ridge at a width of about one kilometer.

Then the (enemy, struck over by editor, replaced with) defender launched their counteraction: enemy outfits were hitting at our bridgehead here and there, each time the attempts were repulsed. Skirmishing went on until afternoon.

At about fourteen o'clock there must have been a lull since I had fallen asleep in my foxhole in the shadow of a juniper bush on the right wing. I woke up with a start as Staff Sgt Mensonen was poking at me and saying in a low voice:
On the standby now, please, now they are coming and there is a lot of them.
The same moment I saw some of our men running past me to the rear, apparently wounded. There may have been created a gap in our flank.

I, however, held the opinion that there has to be a lot of men here before I would be getting out: I had five SMG magazines filled and about ten hand grenades in readiness at hand.

Then it started: there was a wild [yell] URAA on the entire width of the forest and a heavy burst of fire. Enemies were coming in great numbers and metal was flying.

I did my best by firing accurately and always eliminating the ones who had made it close to me with hand grenades. At times I had to switch my position as bullets started buzzing at my ears. No quarter was neither given nor begged.

Moment of decision

Suddenly I realised horrified that I had almost spent my last mag. I had been out of hand grenades for a while.

Was the game up for us now? Shoud we surrender? Would that guarantee our survival?
I decided to try one more trick. I stripped off my uniform, leaving on only my shirt and underpants, then diving in the Ladoga. Now there was a considerable swell obliquely to the direction of the enemy which covered a swimmer as long as he made sure not to put up his head when lifted by a wave.

When I dived my loose underpants had slipped down, now hanging at my ankles by the ankle strings – like a wind bag. The underpants greatly hindered my advance as I was diving trhough waves bvut I was not able to shake them off.

At first I was taking incoming bullets but always managed to feint each burst by diving. In the cover of waves I finally made it up to the middle of the strait where I was out of the range of fire.

Now I was about at the end of my forces. At least three times I unvoluntaril sunk under the surface. At the third time I thought that the end was at hand and as my last thought tried to recll the Lord's prayer. Maybe that gave me strength. I do not know – exerting my utmost I managed to surface once more.

Having breathed again some precious oxygen I forced myself to calm down. I tried to rest and and continue swimming for the beach quite slowly, economising my strength.

The beach was indeed approaching centimeter by centimeter. It was a wonderful feeling as my feet finally hit the botom. It was only now that the strings of my underpants gave way and the pants were left behind in lake Ladoga.

Having rested on the rocks of the shore I found that fighting had ceased and I already believed that our entire Platoon had been massacred in the bridgehead. Afterwards I learned that the Battalion reserve Company had been sent to the bridgehead before the last battle and they saved the day. The next day the general situation forced the withdrawal of the entire Battalion from the bridgehead.

Having rested I went up the beach slope to the pals there. My platoon mates were bearing a serious mien.

3.K/RajaJP2 war diary extract (pencilled in a school notebook)

15.8.1941
...
Manning the Mustolanmäki hill was a costly affair to our Coy. There were fallen and wounded men due to the Russki counterattack and shelling. The wounded included Alanne, Laapotti, Kajo, Heinonen, Pulkkinen, The fallen include Hämäläinen H and Korhonen J. Korhonen got it as a shell landed on his leg about 2m away from the undersigned.
16.8.1941
2400hrs Departure on pontoons behind the Russki back. Crossing the waterway was the most thrilling of all action we had experienced so far. 21 pontoons full of men and ammunition were in motion in the darkness of the night. Our artillery was firing for the duration of the entire crossing. Russki on the other side was sending packets around us. It was an interesting sight to see the many boats advancing on the narrow bay.
The landing went well. After six boats had made it to the beach we received some hand grenades and a few LMG bursts at us. No one was wounded during the landing.

A hill was taken quickly. During the day we repulsed several intense Russki counterstrikes. Had we not received support troops during the afternoon all of us would have been doomed.

The next night again we retreated back since we were supposed to be relieved by other troops. Yet no other troops came. We were utterly tired as we had returned to our tents.
19.8.1941
Moved to Matikkala on lorries.
(end of day)

In this operation RajaJP 2 casualties comprised 9 KIA and 39 WIA.

Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 26 Jan 2022 07:06

E. Rakkola

What time do you have, Autio?

(Ässä rykmentti = JR 26)

The hero of this story is Johannes Autio, rank Sr. Sgt and civilian job policeman in Helsinki. He set out to war serving in the Jaeger Platoon of the I Battalion of JR 26 together with several of his colleagues. It was just policemen who constituted the largest group of the same civilian job in our Platoon, of course there were several other professionals among us. There were shoemakers, tailors, an optician, customs official, a couple of musicians etc. Ironmonger Ahti Jelo was the deputy Platoon Leader and Lt. Väinö Leskinen the platoon leader [future top politician, tr.rem.]

“Operation Gruegen” was the first patrol mission by the entire Platoon on the Suokumaa front sector N of Viipuri. In it we were playing the role of a German battalion and the result was that it would have been best to set up the Platoon on a volunteer basis. After that our Platoon was sending out five man patrols only. I was posted in Sr. Sgt Autio's squad. Therefore I consider it to be my duty to respect his memory with this story.

It was one July day in 1941 as we were assigned to carry out another regular recon mission and if possible, to catch a POW. I was posted as the scout and we were advancing soundlessly in the twilight of the summer night, without spotting or hearing anything out of ordinary.

As we were advancing up a gently sloping ridge side and approaching the comb I heard Autio whisper something. I stopped and he sneaked to my side and said he would be the scout from now on. I remained there and could see Autio's every movement as he examined the soundless forest. I was maybe 10 meters behind him. Suddenly he stopped. The very same moment a shot rang out and I saw a rifle muzzle flash about a couple of meters from him. The enemy probably had been observing our approach for a long time, lying in a foxhole and aiming at Autio. He fired – but missed.

Scarcely had the muzzle flash disappeared as Autio's shot off his hip rant out. He did not miss. Autio's reaction had been indescribably rapid, only a man born to be a fighter is able to do that. Silence turned into loud banging. Our mission was not to engage the enemy, since the patrol had been forced to reveal themselves every chance to go on with reconnoitring had been lost. The only thing to be done was to get out of the scene of battle, and Autio issued his orders accordingly.

At this stage I lost contact with others but managed to return, passing enemies and jumping over rocks and hindrance wires.

Autio was wounded later in the same month [most likely on the 13th] but it was not just another case of WIA. When we were assaulting down the sandy slope of our hill strong-point “Gibraltar” Autio was faster than the rest of us. Then an enemy SMG gunner hiding behind a tree stump fired at him and hit his watch in a trouser pocket. The parts of the watch penetrated up to his abdomen. Autio was serious by character and now in pain, yet he laughed out loud as Cpl. Savolainen asked him when he was to be carried to the rear:
-Autio, what time do you have?

In the rear went not only Autio but also Ahti Jalo, and 2nd Lt. Järveläinen's body. He had joined our Platoon for this piece of action. Jalo had dashed to help Autio in spite of his order to stay put, and had been hit in his thigh by the same enemy SMG. Our Platoon had lost another two good Jaegers. However, both of them returned to the ranks later. Autio's wounds were healed fast because the patient was in a big hurry to get back to the front lines.

Autio was lucky at this stage to the war. Later at Krivi his luck failed him as a group of enemies, feigning surrender, opened fire and killed Autio as he was approaching them to disarm them.

War dead database extract:

Autio, Johannes ;
Sr. Sgt ; b. 07.11.1910 Nurmo ; d. 13.04.1942 at Maaselkä ;
Age 31 ; Outfit Jalkaväkirykmentti 5, III pataljoona ;KIA, evacuated and buried at Seinäjoki, Nurmo cemetry ;Occupation: policeman ; Children: 2

Järveläinen, Veikko Sakari ;
Cavalry 2nd Lt; b. 26.02.1921 Viipuri ; d.13.07.1941 Konnunkylä, Nuijamaa ;
Age 20 ;Outfit Jalkaväkirykmentti 26, I pataljoona ;KIA, evacuated and buried ;
Student ; no children.

JR26 II Btn war diary extract: (ink on a school notebook)
10.7.1941
The night was calm
00.30hrs Inf and mortar fire at the 3.K sector and
04.40hrs shelling
In the small hours Russkies set up campfires.
16.40hrs Capt. Lahtinen reported that he had observed houses being burnt down in Kuurnankylä

(Different handwriting follows)
Jaeger Platoon set off at 20.00hrs. Objective: the terrain between lake Suokumaajärvi and Kuurmapohja. Russki is extending for nights listening posts, armed with LMGs, in front of their line. They have carried out continuous fortification work along their line by setting up among other things a single wire. Russki tries to surround our patrols. No casualties. Platoon returned at 0430 hrs.
(The last entry pertaining to the Jaeger Platoon alone. Maybe they shifted to five man patrols after this?)

11.7.1941
The (previous)night was calm. Inf and mortar fire, but no casualties as to us.
19.00hrs Russki launched, covered by AT gun fire, an attempt of forced recon at a 2.K forward position. Jaeger Platoon was sent to 2.K to the Russki side to repel an eventual Russki attack.
During the firefight a Border Guard Sgt. took a bullet through his head, he found by chance himself during a relief in strong-point “Näppylä” on a visit. The firefight was participated also the Battalion Mortar F.O. Team who found themselves in “Näppylä” . Our men resorted to hand grenades which started a forest fire. As Russkies then withdrew from “Näppylä” there was an intense Russki mortar strike.
Of the Btn AT platoon ( Corrected: 1.KKK) fell Sgt. Niinimäki Antti Joh. And slightly WIA was Cpl. Sulo Järvinen of 2.K. The sides of the slope were now manned both by the relief and to be relieved outfit.
About simultaneously with the above battle was going on the 2.K left wing was involved in a firefight against Russki. This happened at the tongues of forest which the 2.K had been ordered to man, without fighting if possible. No one was encountered in the tongues of forest but the Russkies surprised from the rear – 6 Russkies and 4 dogs and they fired and launched a flare where-after the front of the hill was teeming with a great number of Russkies. Our men broke through the 6 man Russki patrol and they were successful except
SMG Gunner Pvt. Puukari Niilo
Rifleman Pvt. Åker Väinö.
Both were seen to have escaped from the hill but they were either taken POW or the fell.
After the above incident our men manned the edge of the forest on the Finnish side. Next it was found that the enemy was accurately sweeping the forest on their side. Judging by sounds Russkies stayed constantly at the vicinity of the border line.

War dead database:
Niinimäki, Antti Johannes ;
Sergeant; b. 21.09.1919 Helsinki ; d. 11.07.1941 Nuijamaa ; age 21 yrs ;
Jalkaväkirykmentti 26, 1. komppania ;KIA, evacuated and buried ;Helsinki, Hietaniemi military cemetry ; Student, no children.

Puukari, Niilo Viktor ;
Pvt ; b.18.07.1907 Lappeenranta ; d.11.07.1941 Nuijamaa ;age 33 yrs;
Jalkaväkirykmentti 26, 2. komppania ;KIA, evacuated and buried ;Lappeenranta, Military cemetry; Occupation: Foreman, no children

Pvt. Väinö Åker is not listed in the war dead database. Presumably he was taken POW and survived.

Capt. Lahtinen's (1st Coy CO) report:
[Admittedly it is a little off topic but I am adding it here anyway]


Situation Report
On the 14th July 1941 at 0130hrs I was woken up by bursts of SMG at the border line. When I had got out the II Platoon, bivouacked nearby, was getting ready to take the positions. Just as we were arriving at the line our LMG posted in the extreme left wing at the Kuurmanpohja open ground opened up. In the terrain in front of us was observed movement and bantering. III Platoon leader Lt. Lentilä set out with 12 men to envelope the Russkies because the Russkies found themselves in a “motti” limited on our side by a steep hillock, to the left an open field that could be commanded by our MG and to the right a slight slope down which our line was advancing . As the Russkies noticed that they were enveloped ( Lt. Lentilä's line reached by then the edge of the field) the patrol, estimated by Lt. L to comprise 20 men, launched one red and one green flare. Then a strong relief force from the Russki lines started advancing at our rear and our line had to yield.
Before this the Russki patrol had fired another two red flares which resulted in a mortar strike at our defence line that wounded II Platoon leader 2nd Rekola and one Private. At the same time the Russki support force had arrived there and cheering the entire mob launched an assault at our very sparsely manned line at the hill slope. The weak line (on a front of 100 m there were 8 men and 1 LMG) was unable to resist but Russkies broke through and took the hill.
At this moment I set off to organise some depth for the defence. Since the Coy due to the length of the line to be guarded had no chance of having a reserve I liaised with Battery CO Lt. Nuolimaa and he subordinated me one Officer and some 40 men who without delaying manned a blocking line on a ridge between a pond and the field. I also alerted Lt. Kivikoski's mortar platoon to the front.
Some of the Artillerymen manned the rear line to the forest isthmus N of the field and a half platoon the blocking line to the left in the direction of the road. Lt. Kantola who was in command of the artillerymen on the blocking line sent a report that there were plenty of Russians in front of them advancing at them, requesting artillery fire at the area manned by the enemy. It was about 0330hrs.
The Mortar Platoon arrived at my C.P. And on my orders they immediately set up one mortar and got ready to fire. Some of the unoccupied mortar men were sent to beef up the support line.
At about 0400hrs the Battery fired four volleys at the indicated target and immediately there was a report from the front line that the Russkies were on a hurried retreat pursued by our inf men, rolling from the right. After this the situation was over and the border line manned again.

The experiences provided by this incident and earlier less dramatic incidents I have concluded that if the sector of the Company were shorter I could keep one Platoon in reserve so that no situation could turn into as dramatic as this one. It is by no means sure that the next time I would have at my disposal such a good reserve as the F.O. Team, the Mortar Platoon and the AT gun Platoon comprised. Another solution is to have a Platoon transferred as front line reserve.

Transport of wounded from my sector on dung carts is very painful for the wounded. Therefore in the front line there should constantly be available one or two ambulance vehicles and from the Rgt Medical Coy two pairs of stretcher bearers with stretchers. On a several kilometres wide sector carrying patients is going to wear out one pair of stretcher bearers in one mission.
Signed by 1/J.R.26 Coy CO Capt. Väinö Lahtinen .


As to the last day of Vainio's life:

JR 5 War diary extract

13.04.1942
02.45hrs Russki started strafing strong-points “Leikkaus” and Sormi with mortars and direct fire cannons. Most of the shells were hitting “Leikkaus”. Russki spent more than 700 shells .
03.30hrs Russki attacked with a force of about one Coy at “”Sormi” from two sides, the main body from NW and a minor body from E. They made it as far as 15 m from our line where they were beaten back with inf arms, hand grenades, mortar and artillery fire.
Simultaneously loud bantering was heard in front of “Leikkaus”, most likely there were troops ready to attack “Leikkaus” if the attack at “Sormi” would have been successful.
After the strafe they shelled our rear. Sparse shelling went on up to 0600hrs,
There is no good data on Russki casualties but some KIA have been spotted.
War booty included among other material 2 SMGs.
Our artillery scored a bullseye on a Russki AT gun with three shells. This could be confirmed from three observation posts.
Russkies were most probably included in a specialized recon outfit. They were wearing snow camo and the rest of their gear was painted white.
Our casualties included 3 slightly wounded.
11.00hrs
At Sormi, Sr. Sgt. Autio was killed by a shell (?)
13.00hrs
Russki tested (?) smoke screen in front of “Leikkaus”.
15.30hrs Briefing for unit leaders by the CO. The subject matter was the previously planned operation.
[Forced recon next day, tr.rem.]
End of day.

Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 30 Jan 2022 06:52

Pentti Hiunu

End of the road of a wilderness warrior

“Kansa Taisteli”, 10, 1962

JR 10, Rukajärvi

Stronghold “Pallo” was set up on a hillock surrounded by bog about 80%, shape roughly oval, about 500 m wide and 800m long. There were 8 dugouts and 10 weapons nests connected by trenches and a raised observation platform. Intense battles were fought there, the largest one on the 25th to 26th June 1943.


Clouds were hanging low over the landscape, the a couple of days old snow was creaking under our boots as we were approaching the front line. The closer we got the more desolate the surroundings were. We crossed a stretch of cordyroy road that had been built as a short-cut to the stronghold in front of us. Sgt. Korhonen was walking by my side.
His eyes were scanning the terrain in front of us, as if looking for something,
-It has been said that the Battalion CO has promised a home furlough for any man to find an undamaged tree at this stronghold.
He was cut off as he stumbled on a lump of earth frozen on the path.
Having regained his balance he opined:
-Just look at that, even the paths have been ploughed.

Both of us observed the surroundings but failed to spot a single undamaged tree or sapling. Broken tree trunks were lying on the ground pell-mell. Only long tree stumps with sharp tops were standing, the longest ones maybe four to five meters tall. Farther off there were standing trunks with the branches ripped off. At a calm moment a woodpecker could visit them to seek grubs under the bark. Some of the thicket was starting to rot because the period of fighting here was measured with years by now. We could only guess how many men had taken their final steps on earth here.

The stronghold was named “Pallo” [“Ball”] because it was being contested continuously. There may have been calm in other places but something was always going on at “Pallo”.
-It was once at that tree stump that I almost had to start reciting the Lord's Prayer. Just look at those marks in the thicket! Cut as if with a dull two man saw. It was a true counterstrike . It seemed that fhe enemy would not yield at any cost, but they did at last when their casualties had mounted high enough. Soon it will be our turn be here. I would prefer the spring, there would be more daylight hours...
Those were Korhonen's thoughts.

The stronghold did look inconsolate indeed. The recently fallen snow accentuated the gloominess. The soil surface had been shredded, there were black holes under ripped up roots. Nowhere could one see untouched nature. Despite all that it was another quiet afternoon in early winter. Thin plumes of smoke were rising to the sky to prove that, from underground. Next to a smoke plume one could see a square hole leading underground. A flash of weak light or a dark shadow might also be seen. As we went on I began to reminisce which dugout we were heading for.

-Which one was Capt. Raevaara's dugout ? I asked Korhonen to be sure.
He beckoned with his arm:
-The middle one over there, where a cap flashed.
There we went.
Now afterwards it is easy to describe what it looked inside.

The entrance was steeply downwards. The door, made of boards and covered with carton opened inwards. The dugout was not large, maybe three by three meters, height that of a standing man. There was a steel stove next to the door, with a dying fire now. It was crackling every now and then as the heat was escaping. The wall next to it had turned yellow and smell of the resin that had boiled out of the logs added to the dugout atmosphere. The ceiling logs were round, the undersides had been stripped clean. A small lantern was buring in the opposite corner. Next to it a Runner was sitting on his sleeping platform, holding a letter pad on his knees, preparing to contact his home or his loved one maybe... Then a couple of unoccupied platform places.

On the following wall there was the Captain's bedstead, a platform hastily constructed of boards. There he was lying on his back, his eyes fixed on the small window at the level of the ceiling. All there was to see was a piece of gray sky. He was staring at it with his hands behind his head. He may have been thinking about his loved ones or the past incidents, who knows.

His essence was balanced and calm. His tunic was hanging on a nail and the map case under it. Now he was just half dressed, the width of his chest was accentuated by the three stripes of his sweater.

Life is but a mystery. I am sure that he as well as anyone else was not able to foresee that the sand in the hour-glass of his life was running out. Just a few grains were left.

Having entered the dugout we stood to attention and saluted, out of sheer respect. I am sure he would not have insisted on that. But we had seen with our own eyes his leadership in battles and found his heroism undeniable. A man like him was our ideal. He was leading his men like a father his sons.

The Captain got up. He returned our greeting informally.

-I see, you boys are now here, just sit down! Now it is so that we must start setting up some kind of wire hindrance in front of our trench...In the cover of darkness, in the night we should attempt to carry it out. Since your Platoon is in reserve you shall rest in the day...This shall be your task, you know.

The Captain would have explained more but was interrupted by Korhonen:
-The next night also? What about nailing? The sound of hammer can be heard, we should have a rubber pad on the hammer. We may have to get out of there.

The Captain stood up and pulled a map out of his case. In his calm manner he went on:
-Right, it seem the weather next night shall be favourable. The air is humid and the snow soft. We did not yet think about the nailing business. The poles shall be completed in the rear. You shall just try quietly to set them up somehow. Then you shall try to get the wire fixed on them. I admit it is a bit of problem as we are so close to them but we have to create something to bother them. Later there shall be mines out there. I expect that would make a hindrance to the stalking business.

The Captain stressed the words “stalking business” and apparently was amused. Mutual attempts of prisoner taking had been carried out lately. Dark nights and favourable weather had created good opportunities. That had also been a favourite subject of discussions in the front line dugouts, all kinds of jokes had been created. When relieving sentries in the middle of darkness the out-going sentries might curse that else it would be all right but the damn enemy may be stalking out there. The relieved sentry, when entering the dugout, could opine that again he had to stand out there with stiff guts.

Apparently the Captain's thoughts were something like that because a faint smile appeared at the corners of his eyes. We were about to go and have a look at our future place of work. The Captain got out half-dressed, but retuned at the door. Maybe it was the snowflakes raining down that made him dress up.

A communications trench started zig-zagging right from the door of the dugout to the far side of the hillock. It was narrow and tight, going around the biggest boulders. It had just “born” there without planning and without revetments. The men had dug it in the cover of dusk and darkness in the course of time. We went up the trench in a single file. We proceeded side-ways, our elbows were at places sweeping sand down from the sides. There was snow on the bottom of the trench, already treaded partly black. There was also a big stain of blood, we passed it apparently disregarding it.

There was a weapons nest near the blood stain. It looked like a workshop. Small holes had been dug on the sides for hand grenade and ammunition boxes. Next to the embrasure there was a magazine bag hanging from a cut-off resin oozing pine root. The embrasure was covered with a steel plate. There was a sentry, protected by the plate, staring through his periscope mirrors. He appeared to be bothered by our arrival. The Caprtain just kept walking past him. With a disapproving glance at us the sentry muttered something to himself.

Well yes, we were aware that it would make sense to keep one's head down here. Maybe our CO trusted the shroud of the snow falling down. Walking erect we kept proceeding to the spot that the Captain had selected. There we stopped, in a line facing the enemy. The Captain spread a map in front of us. We bent over the map to get the idea of the situation.

Alas, the falling snow did not dim the enemy view. He may have been following our process from the very beginning. Through his sighting scope he must have seen our faces and our rank insignia on our collars, too. Choosing the best victim he aimed at the Captain's forehead and pulled the trigger. Or CO never heard the shot, he may just have felt a stunning blow. A bullet hit him at the hairline piercing his skull. The whack of the bullet was ringing in my ears for a long time, since our heads were almost touching each other as we were staring at the map.

Due to the bullet strike all of us three fell on the bottom of the trench.

As I came to I realised what had happened. I saw the Captain's bleeding forehead but of Korhonen only his back, he had hurried off to get first aid. Alone I tried to help our CO. I straightened his body, opening his buttons and his belts. For a while it looked like he would still live on. But the movement of his chest was weakening, just bringing frothy blood on his lips. I was looking at him in sorrow, straightened the map. It, too, had been stained by sprayed blood.

Soon I heard footsteps approaching in the trench. Behind the bend came a paramedic Sergeant with his men. Out of breath he asked:
-What has happened?
Having seen the pierced forehead he set to work, opened bandage packages while talking in Carelian dialect:
-Oh my. The man is a goner, but we shall bandage his wound anyway. We shall carry him to the dugout on a piece of tarp, stretchers cannot be used in this narrow trench.

So began the Captain's last journey to his home. For a while his body was placed in front of his dugout. The news of the Captain's fate passed from man to man. Slowly they rallied around the stretcher, half-dressed. The men were speaking in whispers and not much. Their countenance revealed that they were longing. Bearers grabbed the stretcher poles, stray bullets escorted their passage . It was a manly unsentimental goodbye.

War dead database extract:

Raevaara, Raimo Ilkka Pellervo ;
Rank: Kapteeni ; b. 12.01.1919 Mikkeli ; d. 14.11.1943 in 35.KS ;
Age 24 yrs; Unirt: Jalkaväkirykmentti 10, 3. komppania ;
WIA, died. Buried : in Mikkeli, Harju cemetry;
Profession : Officer ; no children


3.K/JR10 War diary extract:

9.11.1943
Weather: Cloudy
Coy in guarding duty
15.30hrs
Coy CO briefing the Coy, informing that the Coy shall be transferred to the stronghold called “Pallo” on the 11th November 1943.
10.11.1943
Weather: Cloudy
Coy preparing for transfer.
11.11.1943
Weather: Cloudy
08.30hrs
Coy set off by lorry transport to the terrain spot P=17 I=95,2 where tents were set up at 12.15hrs
17.00hrs
Coy received orders to relieve 7./JR52 at “Pallo”, P=12,0 I=97,0.
Relief to be started as soon as reconnoitring has been completed.
12.11.1943
Weather: Cloudy and windy.
12.00hrs
Coy CO set off with Platoon and Squad leaders to reconnoitre no-man's-land.
15.20hrs
Coy started executing the relief.
Platoon placement:
North strong-point I Platoon
Middle strong-point (“Päivä”) III Platoon
South strong-point (“Ilta”) IV Platoon.
III Platoon stayed as reserve at the C.P.
Also the Coy area includes 6 MG s and artillery and mortar F.O.O.s .
13.11.1943
Weather: Cloudy
In the course of the day the enemy fired some rounds with a 50mm mortar in front of “Ilta”.
14.11.1943
Weather: Cloudy
09.50
Capt. Raevaara was badly wounded in the head by a bullet of an enemy sniper while at the sentry post of 78-1.
Battalion CO posted the 2nd Coy CO Lt. Keränen as the acting Coy CO.
During the day no action worth notice at the Coy sector.
15.11.1944
Weather: Snowing
09.30hrs
Coy CO in briefing by Btn CO.
12.30hrs
Coy CO returned from briefing, where-after he had a briefing for the Platoon leaders. Subject matter was general behaviour and order.
During the day no action worth notice at the Coy sector.
(end of the day)

Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 02 Feb 2022 07:56

Y. Rautiainen

Armour Company Paramedic

June 1944, Carelian Isthmus. StuG Btn 3rd Coy Company paramedic.
(Rynnäkkötykkikomppania: there is a nice Finnish compound word, just pronounce it! Tr.rem.]

(...)

I am recounting a few incidents of the summer of 1944 at Perkjärvi and Portinhoikka. This is my personal experience within my Company where I was serving as a paramedic.

Cpl. Pirttilä, hailing from Hämeenlinna, was the driver of the leading StuG this time commanded by Capt. C.-B.Kvikant, the CO of our StuG Company. The area of the Perkjärvi rwy station was in Finnish hands, it was important for supplies and transports. But the situation was hanging by a thread, it was not sure who had the upper hand on the 17th June 1944. The enemy, too, wanted to take this locality and they launched furious attacks at the station. Our troops had a hard time in thwarting them and the situation was at times most unclear. Our troops were holding positions along the railway line.

Once again a recon mission was needed. The enemy had been pushed away from the railway line, but not entirely. There was occasional light weapons fire at places which our troops retaliated to. Our armour set off, the leading StuG driven by Cpl. Pirttilä. The leading tank proceeded while the others stayed farther back. Then we lost our popular CO, Capt. Kvikant.

He parked his StuG just at the station house and opened the commander's hatch to look and observe the location. It was just then as he took a hit in his head and dropped down. Cpl. Pirttilä tried to administer first aid but having found how badly the Captain was wounded he eased him down on the seat, puzzled by the wound on the Captain's head. The bullet had entered the top of his skull, implying that it had been shot from above, from a tree or from one of the surviving buildings.

By experience driver Pirttilä knew that enemy snipers were eager to climb trees providing them a good view. The resourceful and brave Corporal, who later fell at Vuosalmi, did not waste time. Having closed the commander's hatch he started scanning the surroundings through the driver's escape hatch, mainly in the direction he suspected the lethal bullet had been fired from. Soon he spotted something suspicious among the top branches of a nearby pine. There was the sniper, almost at the top of the tree. Pirttilä could have taken out the man by shooting but he decided against wasting ammunition because he was able to employ other means to eliminate the man. He started his StuG and headed for the tree. The panicking sniper tried to fire at the armoured vehicle but even a sniper rifle is powerless against armour plate.

AS the StuG bow hit the tree, it was seriously shaken and the hiding sniper's rifle fell to the ground. Pirttilä backed down and again pushed against the tree. The sniper found himself in a tight spot, the tree was tilting and its roots were out of the ground. The third push dropped the sniper down on the rocky ground where he was left motionless.
-There are several ways to die in a war, Pirttilä thought to himself and drove away.

(...)
At the Portinhoikka crossroads there was an incident when I saved a wounded, under enemy fire.

I was lying behind a big rock. There was incoming fire from the front and flanks while our weapons were retaliating in that messy situation. A rifleman of the II Btn was wounded. He was moaning and yelling for help. He was not far away but constant enemy fire made the situation dangerous. I spotted by the roadside a horse cart bringing in ammunition. I crept to the driver and asked if he had a rope. He gave me one. I tied one end around my waist and crept back to the rock. The wounded rifleman was lying there, half unconscious. I heard his rattling breath and yelled:
-Are you still alive?
-Barely, was the quiet answer. -But not for long without help.
-Are you able to grab this rope? I shouted and threw the rope like a reindeer herder.
As I felt that the rope was taut I yelled:
-Hang on now and do not put your head up.
I saw how the heather was billowing under rain of bullets.
I was pulling the rope as hard as I was able to and the wounded man was desperately hanging on the rope, clenching his teeth.

I thought that the man would be shot up to a sieve before getting behind the rock... Although the distance was fairly short I thought it was an eternity before the wounded man was next to me. He was in a really bad shape, the bullet that had hit his pelvis had done really serious damage. I bandaged the wound temporarily and dragged the man to the ammunition cart that was unloaded at once. We pulled some heather and moss on the cart platform to create a softer place for the wounded man and the driver set off to take him to the C.C.S. I can add that the man is alive still today [1961] although as an invalid in Lauttakylä, his home village.

During this battle I had to escort several wounded in the rear although I did not have to use any rope. I was working alone because the paramedics had been dispersed. The C.C.S. Was having a lot of work. Surgeon Captain Pylkkänen with his assistants had their work cut out for them.

At the Portinhoikka crossroads our troops were for a while surrounded on the 25th June as the N road to Imatra had been cut by the enemy and the enemy armour had broken through at Tali to the direction of the Juustila road with five T-34s among others. The day was saved by the counter-attack of our armour from Juustila to Portinhoikka later the same day. At Portinhoikka our troops captured 7 enemy T-34s, three of them undamaged. Our troops also lost material and men.
(…)
I had escorted another wounded to the C.S.S. And was returning to the front line on foot, at the moment there was an unusual lull in the fighting. Having proceeded about half a kilometre I suddenly met three enemy soldiers. They were stragglers, unescorted, they had considered it best to throw away their weapons. They were gesticulating and talking on top of each other but all I understood was that they wanted to surrender. I patted their soiled uniforms and checked their pockets, all I found was pieces of bread and a packet of Mahorka. Apparently they wanted me to escort them to the nearest C.P. However I was tired and unwilling to walk back to the rear. Since the men were unarmed I indicated by beckoning the direction to take:
-Get going that way! You shall be received sooner or later!

The men understood my meaning. One of them bowed deep and then they headed for the direction I had indicated. Later I learned that they had found their objective and there was nothing odd about this incident. All kinds of things happen in a war.

It was odd to walk alone in the forest reeking of forest fire smoke and war. Sun was a red disk on the sky, everything felt unnatural and unreal, like a nightmare. Distant sound of small arms fire was heard and stray bullets were hitting the tops of trees. Recon a/c were buzzing overhead but I could not tell whether they were friends or foes, and I did not care . My fatigue was so huge that everything felt unimportant. All I wanted was to sleep, even to sleep while standing up. The feeling defeated even my hunger.

Yet the fatigue vanished as soon as I found myself back in my outfit. There were my place, I was needed among them, I could not reveal my fatigue and my fear.

(...)
War Dead database

Kvikant, Karl Birger Valdemar ;Kapteeni ;
b. 30.06.1912 Kokkola ; d. 17.06.1944 en route to 39.KS; ; age 31 ;
unit E/Ryn.Tyk.P ; WIA, died, buried in ;Kokkola, Elisabeth cemetry; occupation : teacher in high school ; 2 children

Sr.Sgt. Pirttilä of Ps.Pr. not included in the war dead database.

E/Ryn.Tyk.P war diary has a gap from 12.7.1943 to 11.7.1944

2.Ryn.Tyk.K. War diary extract to give an idea about their action:


16.6.1944
19.55hrs
StuG s shifted to new positions on both sides of the roads, waiting for the [enemy] tanks to appear. (Appx no.2)
After dusk had fallen Russki launched a heavy fire strike with all weapons followed by an attack supported by tanks. StuGs nos. 8 and 9 fired at the same time and one of the Russki tanks was dead.
Next we executed an about turn in accordance with the radioed order and drove to the Perkjärvi station village. Here StuG no.14 stayed back at the crossroads while the rest went on until we took positions were taken at a railway crossing about at Mustasuo.
(Appx.no.3)
17.6.1944
06.10hrs
We set off on a march as ordered to a location situated at the road from Kämärä village to Heinjoki, about 2,5 km from Kämärä. Here we immediately carried out refuelling, ammo replenishment, barrel cleaning and meal.
15.20hrs
Received order: Despatch office was to set out to reconnoitre a new bivouac for the Company. However the Company bivouacked in the present location and had a rest.

Presumably the action of the single StuG left at Perkjärvi station was forgotten on the 17th June and since Capt. Kvikant was not in the rolls of the 2nd Coy his death was not recorded here. The Admin Coy E war diaries have a gap from 11.7.1943-11.7.1944. Tr.rem.

18.6.1944
00.15hrs
Alert. StuG no.11 was driven in a position next to the road.
03.00hrs
Repeated alert. StuGs were to set urgently in marching and fighting readiness.
07.00hrs
Set off to march for the Ylistenkylä terrain.
08.30hrs
March column had a technical break in the terrain S of Mannikkalankylä, the break lasting ½ hrs .
09.10hrs
At the objective. The final stage of the march was very slow and ponderous due to the reason that the roads were crowded by the hapless Isthmus civilians with their moving loads. [Refugees]
Once in the bivouac area the tents were set up and immediately equipment maintenance was started whereby the weapons and StuGs were cleaned and technicians started repairing minor faults. This went on until late night as we finally got some well deserved rest.
(end of the day)
Later:
23.6.1944
StuG maintenance and in standby.
11.00hrs, about
Russki started shelling near our bivouac, yet not so near as to cause any disturbance.
16.00hrs
Company had a sauna bath in a nearby sauna that had been heated by an AA outfit but they ran as Russki sent over some packets. Thus we easily washed off the dust and were ready to receive whatever the Midsummer would be bringing.
21.45hrs
Btn CO carried out honours distribution where-after there was an evening service.
AS to the distribution of medals the following men of the 2.K were favoured:
VM2 for Sr. Sgt. Brotell, Sgt. Mennista (?) Cpl. Keto, PFC Sundgren and Hakala, Tankers Kauhanen and Hirvi.
24.6.1944
Midsummer day dawned in rain and loud clanking because Russki gave the first sine such a shelling that one like that had never been neither seen nor heard and it lasted from 0400hrs to 0730hrs, continuing all day, with some less intensity.
13.30hrs
Lt. Talvitie, Lt. Kiuasperä and 2nd Lt. Sormunen set off to the direction of the front line to reconnoitre roads and potential C.P. Locations
17.30hrs
As the officers had returned Lt. Lindqvist, Lt. Peltonen and 2n Lt. Karlsson set out for the same task, terrain familiarization and recon.
20.30hrs
Coy Officers had a visitor; the CO of a German StuG Btn CO who had just arrived as our comrade in arms in the terrain nearby. The evening was a very pleasant one, discussing the mutual goings on while having a modest field dinner. [Wehrmacht 303. StuG Brigade, Tr.rem]
25.6.1944
11.30hrs
Order to Coy: get in 10 min standby.
14.30hrs
Coy alerted. Coy CO Lt. Talvitie was ordered to liaise with Maj. Hynninen's CP and to report to JP3 upon arrival at the Kylmänoja – Portinhoikka terrain.
Marching order:
StuGs, Jaegers, I baggage train.
March directed via Juustila canal [actually the lock of the Saimaa Canal there]
Marching break once there, during which briefing by Col. Puroma.
I Baggage train remained at Juustila and moving from there -
22.30hrs
-to the terrain at Portinhoikka.
II Baggage train was left at the bivouac area.
Food transport lorry arrived at Juustila at 1900hrs liaising with the fighting units who however had no time for a meal. Baggage train had their meal at 2230hrs at Portinhoikka terrain and the fighting units at 2400 W of lake Leitimojärvi.
20.00hrs
Coy arrived at Portinhoikka and was advancing in this order: Platoon Kiuasperä and Platoon Peltonen. Coy CO Lt. Peltonen advanced on foot at the level of the leading StuG, accompanied by a Signals NCO, a Runner and a motorcycle despatch rider. The command tank that was not completely in order followed at first with I Baggage train and later joining in as the last tank, serving as the artillery F.O.O. Vehicle. (Appx. no.5)
At the perimeter of the open ground Platoon Kiuasperä was in positions, StuG no.9 a little to the rear, no.10 in the front and no.11 on the left and ahead, all on the right side of the road. Platoon Peltonen was in the first line except StuG no.8 which was at level with Kiuasperä.
The road could not be used due to the fire of enemy tanks, so we had to advance by phases on the right side of the road. The first to score was StuG no. 10 who destroyed a Josif Stalin (JS). At the same time a report was received that our close range AT squad was on their way to destroy the remaining T-34.
21.30hrs
Coy started advancing. However Lt. Kiuasperä's and Peltonen's StuGs had got stuck in a soft field and could not get out but by being towed at2400hrs.
The first one to get on the top of the hill in front of us was no.10, at once starting to fire at the open ground on the far side of the ridge where there were enemy tanks, destroying some of them.
22.45hrs
We managed to advance so that the leading StuG was driving on the right side of the road and about 25 m behind it on the left side of the road another StuG etc.
23.00hrs
The StuGs reached the edge of the forest. At the edge of the forest were destroyed 4 heavy tanks and some more farther on the open ground. One StuG at a time retreated to the rear for ammunition and fuel resupply.
24.00hrs
Coy CO received orders from Maj. Hynninen to take the patch of forest in the middle of the open ground at Leitimojärvi and wait for further orders.
26.6.1944
01.15
Coy reached the E perimeter of the patch of forest.
01.20hrs
Lt Kiuasperä, having been extricated, brought his StuG to the front line.
01.30hrs
Likewise arrived Lt. Peltonen.
Coy set up defence line at the E perimeter of the patch of forest, several enemy tanks were destroyed, three unconfirmed cases
about 0300 to 0400hrs
No.21 took a hit, PFC Sundqvist fell, Cpls Vahtera and Mattson were wounded.
At the same time at the patch of forest arrived Capt. Horte with four heavy tanks, offering to relieve the 2.Ryn.Tyk.K. But Lt Talvitie did not agree.
04.30hrs
HE shells were used up and Maj. Hynninen asked Capt. Horte to provide HE shell fire. The Klim (KV-1), Sotka (T-34) and T-28 fired at the ridges in the front HE shells while the Coy kept firing AT shells.
05.00hrs
Maj. Hynninen issued an order to stay in delay with Jaegers until our defence would be stabilised at the W shore of Lake Leitimojärvi.
05.30hrs
Capt. Horte withdrew in the rear
06.00hrs
Jaegers started retreating and one damaged StuG followed behind them, pointing the gun at the enemy. The steering of the StuG was not working properly, but it took on the deck a damaged motor cycle and one KIA.
06.30hrs
Coy arrived in the terrain W of Leitimojärvi where they were ordered to take positions at the edge of the forest and harass the enemy to help the Jaegers set up a defence line. Then one StuG reported arriving from the rear having taken ammunition and fuel replenishment. 2nd Lt. Sormunen was bringing constantly ammunition resupplies from the rear with an armoured car.
07.00hrs
The gun barrels of both StuGs were so hot that firing had to be interrupted for a while. Then Lt. Talvitie ordered two of the 3.K StuGs from the rear to the front. These destroyed at least one enemy tank, likely two.
07.30hrs
Lt. Talvitie received orders to withdraw as soon as JP 3 had manned the positions and Capt. Kumlin had taken over the line.
08.15hrs
Lt. Talvitie handed over the positions to Capt. Kumlin and reported to Col. Puroma. The Coy was assembled at Juustila terrain where they had a meal.
09.00hrs
Lt. Talvitie reported to Gen. Lagus and Maj. Åkerman. He received orders to move to the bivouac area at Kylmäoja terrain for maintenance.
10.00hrs
Coy set off to march, StuGs and I Baggage train.
12.00hrs
Coy arrived at the bivouac area where a heated sauna was provided.
During the action the Coy destroyed confirmedly 20 tanks and 3 to 4 unconfirmed. Also 2 AT guns, 2 lorries, transport columns etc.
27.6.1944
Coy at equipment and weapons maintenance all day.

G, Y?
Member
Posts: 48
Joined: 27 Dec 2021 05:39
Location: Coloradostan

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by G, Y? » 04 Feb 2022 04:44

Thank you Lotvonan. I know the Americans in the Pacific did the same thing and rammed trees to shake or catapult the occupant out (if he wasn't tied to the tree).

Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 06 Feb 2022 07:38

Matti Haussila

Taking a hill in the wilderness

“Kansa Taisteli", 11, 1961

JR 60, I Btn, 2.K (unfortunately: the 2.K war diary for the period Nov 1941 – Feb 1942 is missing). The author was the Company CO . Finnish map names used.

In November 1941 the action in Eastern Carelia had turned into a battle to take Karhumäki. Our Battalion, I/JR60, CO S.Ropponen, then Captain by rank, had participated in fighting all the time since we had started our offensive. Now Petroskoi was in our rear, as well as Kontupohja. Now we were advancing from the South to the area W of Karhumäki. It was Karhumäki that had shimmered in our minds as the objective after which we would be getting some long yearned for rest. Now it was indeed close. However, the enemy resistance had stiffened all along their line, which had slowed down the advance of our troops.

More of our troops were advancing from the West, along the Porajärvi road, but it was rumoured that their advance had also slowed down when approaching Karhumäki. The terrain between the roads from Petroskoi and from Porajärvi was roadless forest. Since the advance on the road axis had stalled our attack had to be directed via the area between them. The Battalions of our Regiments were directed in the wilderness one after another. There was enough snow to allow converting our baggage trains from carts to sleds, but we had not yet been issued skis and we had to trudge in the snow on foot.

The snow cover was so thin that it hardly hampered our advance, we just created a kind of road for the vehicles following the Company. So we advanced from the South from West to East for the Porajärvi – Karhumäki road, encountering just some footpaths and at times weak enemy patrols which withdrew without any remarkable resistance.

AS we were approaching our objective the terrain turned ever more uneven, mountainous even. There were deep ravines between high steep hills. Behind one line of ravines, about three and a half kilometres from the said Porajärvi road we met a fully organized enemy defence line. Our Battalion attempted several times to traverse the ravine in front of the enemy line and take their defence positions. Finally our 2nd Coy (2.K) was tasked to reconnoitre for any chances to penetrate into the enemy rear. We had at our disposal a Russian map, scale 1:100 000 which did not contribute much to our planning for the task.

Immediately we found that in the terrain of our planned route of advance, between our right flank and the III Btn there were neither enemies nor III Btn men. We could not tell if that was due to poor maps or poor ability to interpret them. Anyway we were on the ordered direction of advance and we were holding a good jump-off point. Days are short in the end of November (it was the 25th ), that is why we had to act fast if we wanted to get anything accomplished before nightfall. There was a brief conversation on the phone with the Btn CO and a quick recon mission in the terrain in front of us. The Coy received orders to attempt an advance into the enemy rear since the terrain appeared to be free in that direction. There was a pass between two hills, leading right at our target.

Artillery support was promised for us from the direction of the Porajärvi road since our artillery did not have enough range. Yet the support was dependent on a cumbersome long telephone line, in the area of another Army Corps. I provided the coordinates for ranging shots and the shells fell right among us. Fortunately there were no casualties. I Platoon leader Lt. Matti Pitkänen told me; “Cut out that artillery charade, we are fully occupied in believing your bypass operation plans”. Yet I think the shelling was useful in making the enemy believe we had no troops in that spot of terrain.

So we kept advancing gingerly down the pass in front of us. Our recently issued snow camo suits were still clean and white, covering us fine. We did not take a single shot from the hills. All of the enemy attention ha been attached to the action on the front line where the other Companies were covering our advance. In a couple of spots we saw some enemies but they were staring at the front line, without even glancing at us. Going down that ravine we reached our target, the rear of the hills held by the enemy. The entire Company was assembled in the spot I had selected, and also one MG Platoon led by Lt. Heikki Arajärvi. The other officers included Lt. Matti Pitkänen, Lt. Tarmo Vaissi and 2nd Lt. Aulis Iisalo.

Dusk was falling by now and we had to find out soonest about the terrain and our possibilities in it. Lt. Pitkänen was to advance deeper in the rear in the direction of a lake there and the rest of my officers reconnoitred the immediate surroundings. My C.P. Was situated on the side of a hill in a depression, like a theatre gallery, providing quite a good view of the entire future theatre of action. Soon the observers spotted movement in the direction of the enemy positions. There was a footpath in front of us and upon closer examination it was found that it was the only communications route to the enemy positions.

By now it was quite dark and it was impossible to continue action. We had to wait for the new day. The problem was how to survive the night since the temperature was below freezing point and making campfires and moving about was not feasible. Another attempted attack was still going on in the first line, and since the air was very clear I was able to recognize the voice of Lt. Pekka Suhonen of 3.K as he was leading his Platoon in front of the enemy. From the direction of Lt. Pitkänen's Platoon, from the lake, some shots were heard. Then it was completely silent in that direction.

After a while came Lt. Pitkänen's deputy, Sr. Sgt Kianta and reported that there is a footpath in front of their securing positions at the lake shore, the same that we had spotted and found to be a supply route. I ordered half of the I Platoon to be taken off their line, mainly for the action next morning. The Sr. Sgt was very eager to stay there. I found out that they had taken as war booty some booze, and they wanted to keep waiting hoping to get some more.

We had to do our best to survive the night. As the side of our hill consisted of jagged rocks we made small shelters covered with pieces of tarp where we lit small fires using chips of resinous wood to warm up some surrogate coffee. The night passed somehow with the help of these small fires where every man got a turn to warm up. The next day we found out what was the result of resinous firewood: every man's mug was resembling that of a chimney-sweeper.

As I mentioned, I Platoon had cut off the footpath supply road and so we had engaged the enemy. Sounds of battle were emerging from the direction of the Porajärvi road, so there, too, they were in action. The hill where the enemy stronghold was situated seemed to be in an badly accessible terrain for us. Yet I considered that we had managed to stay concealed so far, but for the exchange of fire a the lake last night. The enemy considered that just a piece of patrol action. We could surprise the enemy. It was quite certain that there was no other way to succeed. A single MG positioned on the top of the hill would be enough to keep us away from there.

All of us were tired like the rest of our troops. We had been almost half a year fighting offensive battles. Moreover, the nigh spent in freezing weather had nearly drained the little energy we had had left. Also there was no hope to get any food supplied, we had just our dry rations that most men had consumed during the night.

Anyway we had to make a push. It was the 26th November 1941. I did not hear the normal wise-cracking nor any complaining. The other companies launched their attacks from the front line against the enemy hill. It was the time for us to act, too.

The Platoons got going. Our advance kept getting slower because the terrain was ever steeper. Not a single shot was fired at us. Finally we arrived at the comb of the hill ridge and up there found the enemy engaged in the direction of the front. It was simple as anything to strike them in their rear. My tired men were exited into brisk action for the time necessitated by action. SMGs were rattling and hand grenades cracking. It was a perfect surprise. Yet the enemy kept defending themselves tenaciously, only a few of them preferred to surrender.

It took less than one hour to take the hill. As usual, our casualties also in this surprise attack were next to none, just a few slightly wounded. The enemy CO wearing a white fur coat did not lose his temper but having seen that he had lost the fight, took his skis together with a man, most likely his Runner. Firing their SMGs they raced downhill and escaped, but to the West, in the wilderness that was in the hands of our troops. Hopefully that plucky man made it to his own lines, he had bravely defended his stronghold to the end.

Now the road to Karhumäki had been opened and there were troops, Jaegers, ready to push through the gap and go on advancing. Having swept the terrain and collected war booty and POWs we were allowed to bivouac in the area of the hill and get 24 hrs of R&R. What could have been more desirable than the tents, cooked food and rest. I had to go to the Btn CP to report. There were representatives of the Carelian Army HQ commending us for our action. When I was asked about any requests I made use of my chance and wished for a Sissi food ration for my Company and sure enough, we received it the same night, together with some hard drink. What could we wish more!

Our mission itself and carrying it out were nothing wonderful but taking into account the circumstances – general exhaustion and the apathy of troops – one must admit that the result was next to unique for a Company consisting of reservists.

Later many of our 2.K men were KIA later, among them my close friend and deputy CO Lt. Matti Pitkänen, but we surviving veterans do remember the incident and as we meet we soon start talking about it.

(1844 words)

In want of the 2.K war diary here is that of 1K extract:
(In school notebook
)
The Battalion had started marching at 1500hrs the day before and bivouacked at 2100 – 2200hrs.
23.11.1941
(Sunday)
Weather: much cloud
At 0700 hrs we set off again. We had to carry the tents. En route we stopped for a while at our forward securing line but at 1100hrs was given order to continue. We went on some 7 km and stopped. We set up securing in front of us and bivouacked. It was about 1600hrs as everything was in order again.
24.11.1941
Weather: Cloudy
During the night nothing to note. At 2100 to 2200 hrs last night we liaised with the outfit on our right wing. During the day nothing worth noting .
25.11.1941
Weather: Much cloud
At 2300hrs last night a fighting patrol set out tasked to take the enemy weapons nest in front of us. This failed, however.
At 08.45hrs Our Coy was passed by 2.K, they were tasked to take the hill in front of us.
At 1400 in the afternoon we received orders to set up a fighting patrol to support 2.K, that is, tie the enemy in front of us. However the enemy had dug in so deep in the hill in front of us that this attempt also failed.
2nd Lt Saarinen, the leader of the patrol, was wounded
26.11.1941
Weather: Cloudy
During the night nothing to note.
At 1400hrs in the afternoon the hill in front of us was finally ours.
At this hour our Coy liaised with 2.K
(end of day)

JR 60 I Battalion war diary extract:
(also in a school notebook)

22.10.1941
The night wad calm. AM: foxholes dug as ordered by the Rgt CO.
14.35hrs
Telephoned order by “Varis”:
“Käki” is to advance in the axis Lake Kokormajärvi – the lake NE of Pt. 3.0 – Pt. 115.8. Start immediately.
Pt. 115,7 is to be reached today with the vanguard and once there then to liaise with “Tikka” who shall at 14.30hrs be at the small lake NW of lake Vakojärvi.
Pt. 113, 3 is to be reconnoitred, there the enemy is likely to have a securing or a defence line.
At the terrain of Parakii the enemy has, according to intel, a defence position, facing West, its left flank.
“Kari” at 14.35hrs.
15.10hrs
I/JR60 started in accordance with the orders issued their advance. Advancing turned out to be most heavy and laborious because most of the way the Btn had to pass through completely roadless terrain and bog. This march was very hard on horses specially. It was due to bad terrain and the scarce food they wer given. The horses several times sunk up to their bellies in bog and being fatigued were unable to extricate themselves. The men had to help them on their legs and at places even to haul the heavy vehicles.
20.00hrs
The vanguard of the Btn reached the objective where-after the Btn bivouacked.
Enemy harassment shelling.
Weather nice, temp about -6 deg.
22.35hrs
The following Order by “Varis” received:
“Varis” shall continue their advance on the 23rd Nov. 1941. “Tikka” shall advance from the line they now occupy to the North.
First objective the terrain E of lake Ozero Glubokoye while securing the right flank.
“Käki” shall advance Pt 115.7 to the North, first objective the brook line between Pt.113,3 and lake Ozero Glubokoye.
From that objective they shall prepare to go on immediately in the North-east.
Departure for “Tikka” 0730hrs and for “Käki” 0630hrs.
“Riekko” and “Kana's” heavy Platoon shall be ready at 0800hrs to start marching in one hour after receiving the order.
Reconnoitring to be extended to the line Pt. 1,5 – Ozero Uskoje – Stortsnoye and on the Parakii isthmus, the limit is situated at Lake Glubokoye – Krugloye.
[A Russian map was being used for want of better. Tr. Rem.]
Clearing centre of sick horses (S.hev.kp.) shall be situated at the crossing of the rwy line and the road S of Coordinate 68 starting at 1200hrs.
Group “K” (“Koivu” and “Pannu”) shall support Varis. “Koivu” as the main support and “Pannu” as temporary [Artillery battalions, tr.rem]
F.O.O. Distribution:
Laine with “Tikka”
Fabritius with “Riekko”
F. O. officer shall move to Kottila by 2400hrs. The Group C.P. Shall follow.
“Käki” and “Tikka” shall both lay out telephone cable as they advance.
C.P shall be moved to the lake 1,5km NW from Lake Kakorino by 14.00hrs.
“Kari” at 2235hrs
During the night enemy harassment shelling.
23.11.1941
06.30hrs
“Käki” started advancing the vanguard reaching the objective at 0700hrs which was the terrain between Lake Glubokaya. The Companies' vehicles had to be left in the bivouac area due to the poor road, at Pt. 115,5.
10.00hrs
Officer patrol for liaison to Kuba.
Enemy harassment shelling, no casualties.
2.K set up securing at the lake isthmus, 1.K a little to the rear in reserve, also having a securing task.
24.11.1941
Situation unchanged. 3.K moved to the brook line level.
Order by “Varis”:
“Riekko” and “Tikka” shall be in co-operation to defeat the enemy situated at the E shore of Lake oz.Tsthenov. “Riekko” shall advance SE of the lake and “Tikka” on the NE side. With their vanguard “Tikka” is to man Pt. 158.1 employing for this their elements W of Lake Oz.Glubokoye.
11.30hrs
Officer patrol returned.
“Käkl” shall advance with their vanguard to the small lake situated N of map word “Kamennoye” nn while securing to the NW. The limit between “Käki” and “Tikka” shall be:
NW corner of Lake Tsere*osye - NW corner of Lake Klobokoye – Lake Oz. Kangloye.
To prepare for attack “Tikka” shall have heavy mortar etc. at their disposal
Action is to be started at 0800hrs.
“Kari” at 2040hrs
21.15hrs
½ Platoon of 3.K set off trying to reach the objective but the patrol was repelled by enemy fire.
Calm night, no casualties.
25.11.1941
08.00hrs
2.K started advancing as ordered by “Varis”, and reached their objective, the bog pond N of map word Kamennoye nn, and set securing there.
Platoon Iisalo starting climbing up the difficult side of “Ryssänmäki'' hill but due to intense Russki fire did not make it to the top of the hill. Their advance was checked there but the platoon held the line they had gained.
Lt. Haussila set up at the shore of Lake Stortsnoye one MG which was successfully able to fire at the lake (ice).
The Coy had to bivouac in the positions they had gaken and with them them the Signals squad who had set up the phone line.
Calm night. Good weather, temp -5 deg.
Casualties:
Pvt. Keskinen, fallen
2nd Lt. Saarinen WIA.
26.11.1941
08.30hrs
2.K started climbing up the extremely difficult terrain of “Ryssänmäki” hill from three directions. The task was physically very hard because the hill was very steep (about 45°) and high. On the top of the hill there were Russki positions where-from Russkies could easily throw (actually drop) hand grenades. The pressure exerted by 2.K soon had effect.
13.00hrs
Victorious but tired 2.K men managed to take the commanding and very important “Ryssänmäki” hill without casualties. In the taking of the hill participated also an AT gun placed at the edge of the “canyon”.
Having the hill under control Lt. Haussila set up securing to W and NNW. The MG at the Lake Stortsnoye SE shore stayed in place.
The rest of the Btn remained in their previous positions.
Good weather, temp -5 deg.
Casualties: 1 WIA (3.K, by mine)
(...)

War dead database extract.
Keskinen, Taunt Olavi ; Rank: Pvt. ;
b.09.03.1918 Orivesi ;d. 25.11.1941 S of Karhumäki ;
Age 23 ;Jalkaväkirykmentti 60 ;KIA, evacuated, buried; at Orivesi, Military cemetry; Civilian occupation Forestry worker ;no children.

Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 13 Feb 2022 07:25

Erkki Ansa

Artillery battery at Uomaa to Syskyjärvi

“Kansa Taisteli”, 11, 1961

First two weeks of the Winter War NE of lake Ladoga.

KTR 13. I Artillery Battalion, 1st Battery . Equipped with 76K/00.

As the Winter War broke out on the 30th November1939 the 1st Battery of KTR13 was in positions in a scenic location at Uomaa village. The guns had been dug down on a slope facing East. Ivan had good information about us because at about 1400hrs “packets for unknown soldier” started landing on our battery area, one of them was about to demolish our field kitchen! We suffered no casualties in this baptism by fire, by chance, but it was just harassment fire and was soon redirected at other targets.

As soon as the enemy found themselves in our range, we, too, fired our first shots, using a long lanyard and then shooting went on in such a rate that we never experienced. In the time of peace shooting was minimal, very few of us had ever been present firing more than ten shells in one day.

Our ammunition store included a remainder from military history : Shrapnels. Every one of us had learned about them in theory, but as they now were being utilized they were deeply disappointing. The time fuze, a spiral of gunpowder in the shell tip, did not work. The gunpowder must have deteriorated in storage and it was not until Lt. Knuutila had radically altered the setting 600m shorter, the F.O.s informed us that “ sweeping nicely now”. Infantrymen just loved them. Unfortunately the shrapnel ammunition was spent within two weeks, also ended the preferred F.O.O. Request: “Ten volleys!” We were not able to foresee that by December shells were strictly rationed.

We stayed in old familiar positions for a few hours but then we had to move to the positions left behind by the 2nd Battery. The only problem was that the distance to our supply road was longer. Now we for the first time saw infantrymen returning from the first line. We felt bad upon learning that one Platoon leader, a Reserve 2nd Lt, had fallen and left there because his men were not able to retrieve his body even though they had tried to. They also complained that they had spent all their ammunition, there would have been targets enough.

We, too, scored one tank. The F.O.O. to whom our Battery had been assigned told us that at the Käsnäselkä schoolhouse our shell had knocked out a light tank! Great! At that time a HE 3” shell had effect on a tank, unlike a few years later...

In these positions our Battery had their first war dead. One supply Cpl died of heart seizure. He had complained about his heart problem from the day of our assembly in Mikkeli but since he was able to stand up he was good for service. Be it mentioned that during the Winter War our Artillery Battalion (I/KTR13) had just 12 KIA, one more perished in a field hospital. The casualty rate was small taking into account that two of our Batteries were deployed NE of lake Ladoga during the entire war and our Battery at Kollaa starting the Christmas.

-By the way the numeral 13 was amusing for us. For example if we during a night march (to avoid being strafed from the air) we checked a milestone there always was “13”, it was a wonder if it was not. Also our Artillery Battalion had been set up on the 13th October at 1300hrs in -39 (=3x13). Finally the war ended on the 13th March. Since we survived the war with little damage many of us still consider “13” as their lucky number.

Thinking about it now, it is amusing how important it was considered to be active all the time. All the men were at the guns constantly, both Section leaders at their Sections, battery and Section officers present at every shooting. Also both fire direction computing officers and NCOs were at their desk although half of the manning would have been enough. The result was fatiguing the personnel to the extent that in field conditions it could not be caught up with.

This is why I am no more able to recall perfectly clearly the first and the second week of the war although they were unique experiences. There are some highlights but the prevailing general impression was that one was feeling cold all the time, due to fatigue, because weather was still clement during those weeks.

The Neighbour was pressing on relentlessly and we, too, had to leave our positions. [8th Dec.] It was evening and in the very last possible instance. We were crossing some open field and MG muzzle flames could be seen on the far side, to this day I do not know if they were friends or foes. The road was twisting at the edge of pine forest, branches were falling down due to enemy fire, no one wanted to abandon the uneven road for a horse saddle. The march was ghostly because the Northern skyline was all red due to the fires at the Suojärvi saw mills and timber yards burning down, and the Southern sky was equally red as the houses and buildings of Salmi were turning into ashes.

At the Latvajärvi lakes isthmus we took positions again. There were field fortifications on the isthmus, tank hindrance rocks, deep anti-tank ditch and weapons nests for the infantry. A birch forest had been cut down to create shooting sectors. There was nothing ready for us, we just placed the guns on a piece of even ground and that was it. The battery officer had a C.P. Tent that was now dug into the ground half-way down. It was heated with a paraffin stove, it was cosy and nice. In really cold weather it was totally useless, so during the Continuation War one did not see them any more.

In the first evening there was a little incident that I shall remember for ever. Sitting in a tent I saw that the fabric overhead moved a bit and a little object fell between my feet. I was surprised to pick up a rifle bullet! It had entered so without fuss, as if begging pardon for its small size and lack of energy. It had left a hole with black edges in the tent fabric. Maybe an Ivan had aimed too high in the dark.

Infantry weapons appeared to be in lively action in the front line. The boys told us that it was nauseating as the enemy kept attacking and the piles of their corpses just kept accumulating. After attacking long enough enemies managed to penetrate in our trench. We were given the task of evicting them by shelling, and we succeeded doing that. We were worried because we were ignorant of the longitudinal dispersion of our guns but so lucky we greenhorns were that just two of our men were wounded

These positions were good for the reason that we were not shelled at all. Obviously the Neighbour had not been able to move their equipment forward to be able to support their infantry. Maybe that is why the local Battalion CO had set up his C.P. In an amazing place, which was a platform up in trees. Our F.O.O. Also climbed up there and told us that he had admired the skill of the CO moving his troops according to the situation. In these positions we fired so much that the paint on the cannon barrels was boiling! Also the boys used to dry their mitts on the hot barrels.

I was so tired that the Battery Officer allowed me to go to sleep for the darkest hours of the night. I believe I slept as much as six hours in a tent! It was well needed because the next night the undefeatable enemy Sandman knocked down the Battery officer 2nd Lt. Vahvaselkä and Section Officer Laitinen! As a fire order arrived I was shaking them both to wake them up but failed to accomplish it. Then I, a mere Corporal, took courage, went to the tent entrance and shouted an order. I think I shouted the First section leader Sgt. Vahvaselkä that he should give fire. -This is something unthinkable, during training I would not have dared even to think about doing it. I kept giving fire orders until the officers after a good sleep began to wake up. Some coffee was brewed and the life returned to normal.

[10th Dec] The next positions of our Battery were situated some kilometres to the rear in sparse birch forest. Since we detected no movement and heard no sounds of war, we made decent campfires to warm ourselves. The fire of our outfit was situated at a good distance from the C.P. Tent and it was fun just to sit and chat. Suddenly there was trouble: a small shell landed in the fire somewhere from the treetops, then more on two sides. We ducked in the snow, grabbed our weapons waiting for the enemy patrol to appear. No one was coming however. They were good mannered men, they just popped off a few 50mm mortar bombs and were gone. The only loss was our badly scattered campfire. If only every enemy patrol would have been this unaggressive. 2nd Lt. Vahvaselkä admired greatly the sensitive fuzes of the enemy. An explosion left just a scarcely visible depression in the snow, it was indeed a sensitive fuze. It was really different from the miserable S-35 which was a dud in freezing weather, even though domestically produced.

There was accommodation available for the night. It was a forest guard's house comprising a small kitchen and an even smaller bedroom . It was a great feeling to settle in a real log house even though all sanitary norms were not complied with. The banks were immediately occupied and the floor was filled fast. The house was spotted by 2nd Lt. Manninen's Sapper Platoon and also the scout squad of a Battalion barged in. Finally there were about one hundred men in the small house. Of course the air was so thick that bricks could have been made of it. Space was so scarce that I was happy when a palm size area of my body could touch the floor. But for once I had an idea. The light beam of somebody's torch revealed a tool box between the legs of the old fashioned table of the house. I managed to slip my skinny frame in the box where I was able to get some very sweet sleep. Of course I was unable to lie on y back, but I did not care about any more comforts.

The next morning my pals wondered why I had not come in the sauna. Some clever lads had realised that there was room in the sauna and it was very comfortable after they had lit up the stove. It is the wise ones who flourish in this world!

Having woken up we were issued orders to march to Syskyjärvi and to our surprise we were assigned the positions on the N shore of the lake that we had built ourselves. There was even a dugout or the Battery officer,

The sections however were housed in tents. Constant noise of intense fighting could be herd across Lake Syskyjärvi and soon we learned amazing news. The Neighbour was sticking to the road, no one even tried to veer off in the forest. As soon as our infantry had stopped the vanguard of a column the entire column stopped on the road. We were surprised, having supposed that the enemy would use the same tactics as we did. That was the beginning of the first “motti”. Since the enemy was not able to proceed they started digging down.

Soon I was ordered to a minor detail, I was to haul ammunition. The road was at first bending in the forest but at a crossroads we had to turn West. Just then the Neighbour was stubbornly intent on taking the terrain from our boys and a lamentable disagreement ensued. A loud noise broke out, bullets were flying all the time. We stopped to wait as the lads asserted us that the road would soon be opened.

While waiting we observed the goings-on. I do remember one sled with a wounded man on it. The driver told us that a bullet had hit his throat and exited from the neck. We were surprised because the man appeared to be still alive. As if to alleviate our doubts the wounded man asked for a cigarette from the driver and inserted a “Työmies” into his holder. We gave him fire and he inhaled the smoke. Every once in a while he asked the driver whether there was any smoke exiting from his neck. The driver checked and asserted he saw none. The wounded man believed him and said that if there was a hole the fag would burn not so well, now the draught was fine!

While we were waiting on the road a man of the 3. Separate battery at Pitkäranta, subordinated to our Artillery Battalion, came to chat. He praised what an accurate weapon the “pystykorva” [Upgraded Mosin] was. That was common knowledge but these lads had a particular reason. At the Pitkäranta road they had had to employ their shortened field cannons in AT work. They had stuck a rifle in the snow as a fixed point; the first shot had missed, they changed aim by five mils and bullseye! What an accurate weapon it was.

It took such a long time to clear the traffic jam that I got bored. I tried to sleep while standing on my skis; I could have made it but for the cold, oh my how cold the weather was. It was not until after midnight that the road was opened and we were able to proceed with our loads. The gap in the enemy line was not wide but enough for us to pass through with some luck.

Later this very crossing of the Ruhtinanmäki road became a theatre for intense fighting. Two weeks later there was no chance to pass through with a load of ammunition with any kind of luck. Now there was heavy fighting, the Neighbour could well afford it. There was against our JR37 a complete enemy 18th D and the 168th to the South of them. A few days later we were ordered to march to Kollaa and so we were separated from our Battalion for the rest of the war.

War dead database extract:

Strengell, Erhard ;Alikersantti ; b.13.01.1902 ;d. 04.12.1939 Uomaa, Impilahti ; age 37 ;
Kenttätykistörykmentti 13, I patteristo ; Died for reasons unrelated to enemy action;
buried in Savonlinna, Talvisalo ; civilian occupation: shop foreman


KTR13 was included in 13.D, supporting JR 38 at the outset of the war,
then Battle group “Jousimies” 15th December on, officially.

KTR 13 , I Artillery Battalion war diary extract:
(the diary of the first week of the war is missing. The code name appears to be “Ukonhattu” (=Aconitum plant). Quite long text but somehow interesting due to some informal inputs. Tr.rem.)

8.12.1939
13hrs
Maj. Kontio issued withdrawal orders from the Lavajärvi positions. He blamed the artillery for having no more shells. Yet those had to be economised and the Batteries were all issued a full ration at 0900hrs this morning. In a delaying battle there should be stored as much shells as possible beforehand at different future delay positions. For now it was not possible for us. 3.Ptri had last night received orders to shift to the Syskyjärvi terrain to prepare for defence there. 1.Ptri and E.Ptri (admin battery) were left to carry out the delay task. The [delaying] lines to the rear are: Vuortaus, Lemetti, Mitro.
11hrs
1.Ptri was issued orders to move to positions at Lemetti which had been prepared there. They were ordered to build a phone line from the Vuortaus line to the rear and be ready and prepare for the support of the Vuortaus.
2.Ptri was issued orders to support the Lavajärvi line and assist Btn Kontio to disengage from this line. The task was successfully carried out and even the F.O.Os returned without casualties, including one of the 1.Ptri F.O.Os who had been reinforcing the F.O.
13hrs
2.Ptri set up positions at Mitro to support the Lemetti line defence. They built a phone line to the rear and lost a man who drove [his horse] on a mine, unfortunately one of ours.
The Battery stayed in the positions up to 1800hrs. One man WIA slightly by a mortar bomb splinter on thigh.
13hrs
I set off to report to “Jousimies” [Col. Olkkonen] since both batteries ordered to delay had received clear instructions on action . Also locations had been marked out where having carried out their task they shall move to at the Syskyjärvi terrain.
“Jousimies” had nothing special for me. I enquired about the names of the first line Cos and the locations of their Cps to be able to brief the F.O.Os . The (HQ) was ignorant of all except Capt. Halonen who was the I Btn CO on the extreme left wing W of Syskyjärvi.
12hrs
I had ordered E.Ptri to move to Syskyjärvi in the Kallio house at the village road that meets the main road at Pyörittäjä. I had placed myself for the better maintenance of communications in Korkeamäki. I had a line built for myself from Aura to liaise with “Jousimies” .
24hrs
E.Ptri in their objective. I ordered them to build communications lines.[=field phone]
9.12.1939
04hrs
3.Er. Ptri Battery Officer Res. Lt T. Blomqvist reported. They were tired and the terrain was unknown to them. I issued them orders to bivouac at the crossroads of the road to Suojärvi and the Battery CO order to report to me for terrain reconnoitring at 0800hrs. The Battery Officer and I discussed the positions previously reconnoitred by III/KTR13. The result was that we found them once again badly selected and the f.f. Work carried out in them could be dug in one day. It is a pity that the positions dug by us in advance N of Syskyjärvi are not good for this situation and the task now assigned to the Art. Battalion.
The positions have been selected for the Batteries so that the line at the Syskyjärvi side is within the main sector of two Batteries since it is the most important one. At the direction of Ruokojärvi to support the line there is one main position and one temporary position, the middle point being the area between Syskyänjoki river and Kulismajoki river to support two main and two temporary sectors.
Tomorrow the details shall be worked out as I shall discuss with the Btn Cos.
18hrs
“Jousimies” claims that the enemy shall be in front of us no sooner than in two days. Yet he advises us to hurry up wit the planned preparations. He based his opinion on the fact that two Officer patrols, strength one Platoon each, had been sent to the direction of Pyhäjärvi, had not reported anything. What a careless deduction. This lesson we learned at Uomaa already.
3.Er.Ptri was issued by me an order to carry out positions reconnoitring at the Jokka mill, to be able when needed to support the direction of Ruokojärvi.
23.45hrs
Signals officer arrived with his report, the connections are completed. I ordered the baggage train to hand over a CP tent for the F.O. Phone exchange.
24hrs
Ammunition situation
In transport 1st B 2nd B 3rd Battery
tkr. 180 20 60 15
Skr1/1p 135 – 50 90
Skr1/2p 1035 170 290 32
Sr 302 – 140 --
tkrv – – 50 3
Total 1602 190 590 140
[Skr1/1=HE, full charge; skr1/2 = HE, half charge; Sr= Shrapnel, the others ? AP ? Incendiary ?]

“Jousimies”shall relocate to the Kekki house in the morning. Me, too.
24hrs
“Jousimies” reporting that nothing new as to the enemy.
10.12.1939
04hrs
Capt. Merimaa arrived bringing the 13.D defence order and the same for KTR13 .
During the day nothing special.
Signals communications were functioning at 1145hrs in the night. 3rd Battery has been in firing readiness since noon.
09hrs
I phoned (?) and asked for phone cable resupply. Organizing defence on a wide front section calls for a lot of communications and the Art. battalion was short of cable since withdrawal from Uomaa.
Admin squad was ordered to inform the First Aid post and the Horse First Aid post that they are to move [location].
At the same time the 2nd Battery was informed that as soon as they start withdrawal they are to report about it so that I can provide guidance for them even though they already are aware of their new firing positions. Ambulance vehicle is to stay at the Battery positions.
Admin Squad is to forward the reports on ammunition situation and casualty list.
The previous night all Batteries ( including 3.Er.Ptri) each food and fodder for a day.
10hrs
I issued orders on organizing the defence.
I issued orders to the Supply Officer to move to Pyörittäjä and once there to connect with the Division HQ telephone exchange.
10.15hrs
Admin Squad leader phoned from “Neito” in Mitro that they are not able to find the First Aid post and the Horse First Aid post, neither does the 2nd Battery know where they have gone at their own initiative. They had orders to have a Runner ready in the Battery positions to relay information about the start of withdrawal. I ordered the Admin squad to return with the reports on ammunition and casualties.
10.30hrs
3rd Battery Sarge reported that the First Aid post and the Horse First Aid post Had arrived, at their own initiative, in the evening of the 9th Dec at Jukka mill and find themselves there at the moment.
10.35hrs
The First Aid post and the Horse First Aid post Were ordered to send immediately a Runner to the 2nd Battery to inform about the present location of the the First Aid post and the Horse First Aid post.
12.15hrs
Army Corps artillery commander visited to give instructions. At the same time he gave us his and the AC CO's thanks for the action of the Art.Battalion, they have received praise on us.
12.30hrs
List of targets and map of targets on the sector of I/JR38, reconnoitred by the 3rd Battery.
I sent for the 1st Battery CO for briefing.
13.20hrs
1st Battery CO arrived with his report for briefing. He received orders to take over the positions they themselves had prepared.
13.50hrs
Battery supply and admin office started relocating: Former to Pyörittäjä village the latter to Löttö farmhouse. At the same time the tel.line between Admin office and “Aura” was dismantled as well as the line from the admin office to “Ukko”.
On our way we found our phone line cut by aerial bombs.
17.30hrs
Report: 2nd Battery on their way
18.00
Report: Battery CO had phoned, he had returned from “Ukko 2” and he had but a couple of reels of cable left. I phoned the AC Artillery Commander and asked for resupply. He could not be contacted. 13.D Signals Commander was on his way from acquiring field cable with 20km Finnish field cable.
[Hours as in the diary, tr.rem.]
08.05hrs PM
CO departed for the III/JR39 HQ.
09.00hrs PM
Report from “Vesimies”: “Mars”is for now in “Vesimies” but shall soon move to “Oinas”.
10.35hrs PM
Liaised by phone with the Art Battalion supply office.
10.45hrs PM
3rd Battery CO reported that mortar shells have landed on the field near the F.O.O.post and the F.O.O.posts are to be manned so that he is at Harjonmaa and Saijonmaa in the South.
11.40hrs
CO arrived at the C.P. House
13.00hrs
3.Er.Ptri report on positions arrived
13.05hrs
report: Tanks have been spotted at Mitro. 2nd and 3rd Batteries were allowed to open fire when seeing tanks and spend 8 to 10 shells to destroy them.
14.15hrs
1st Battery CO was sent for to briefing.
14.40hrs
3.Er.Ptri ammunition situation on the 10th December:
HE 734 pcs, Shrapnels 190 pcs
19.00hrs
Ammunition situation 10.12: [Dec 10th ]
1st B 2nd B 3rd Battery 3.Er.Ptri
tkr. 150 51 112 ---
Skr1/1p 20 20 -- 734
Skr1/2p 442 535 362 --
Sr 88 77 30 190
Total 700 683 504 924

18.15hrs
Group Järvinen defence order received.
19.20hrs
1st Battery CO Res. Lt. Holopainen arrived to be provided with orders on action. He is to build a phone line to the Forest Guard's house from III/KTR13 to the 7th Battery there. He is to carry out positions reconnoitring in the terrain E of lake Syskyjärvi, front direction the Pyhäjärvi – Kotijärvi isthmus. Basic bearing about 25-00 [SSE].
19.30hrs
Btn Halonen was provided with a list of artillery targets and firing tables.
20.15
Order to the transport column that they are to replace two bad sleighs with sturdy ones for the 1st Battery by next morning.
07.45hrs PM
2nd Battery list of targets received
08.15hrs PM
Situation in “Vaaka”: Calm
21.45hrs
Rgt CO reported that he had sent to the Art Btn 30 pcs wintertime firing tables and e was back at “Oinas”.
22.00hrs
Lt. Kuutila reported that he had received the list of targets. Some scattered rifle fire at the front line, else nothing special.
22.30hrs
3rd Battery CO reported by phone that sounds of shooting are emerging from the front line but the Coy has not yet been alerted, but he estimates it will happen soon.
He also enquired which Battery F.O.O. Hämäläinen was using because Hämäläinen is able to fire at the left flank with two of the guns of the 3rd.
12.12.1939
01.35hrs
3rd Battery CO reported that the enemy had attacked and taken over 2 LMG squads (?) also requesting permission to open fire, which was immediately granted.
02.00hrs
Entire Art.Battalion alerted. There are tanks etc. in front of Sector Halonen. Report is inaccurate.
03.45hrs
A more detailed report by F.O.O:s:
Some kind of enemy vanguard had advanced crossing Syskyänjoki river to N and in a way surprised the front line men so they had to pull back some. On the straight road tanks have been observed. Their number is unknown.
[with a different handwriting from now on:] So the enemy is on the said river -
04.00hrs
“Vaaka” CO phoned, reporting that Mitro (village) is lost. “Containers” of enemies are there in “Lottoes” [Code words ? ]
He asked for shelling and I promised that. I ordered that houses in Mitro to be shot in flames.
04.20hrs
Saijanmaa reported that the front line infantrymen are lacking leaders and he had been requested to hand over one NCO to lead men and he himself had to take care of the leading of the infantry where he was now.
04.35hrs
I reported to the “Oinas” CO that an enemy outfit had surprised and struck N along Syskyänjoki river at the road, breaking through our line ( maybe only a minor outfit) .
At Ruhtinanmäki likewise, the F.O.O had to retreat and the F.O. Was leading the infantry action while the inf was lacking leaders. Coy CO and Platoon leaders maybe even Squad leaders, following the example, had apparently been sleeping.
At Uuksunjoki and Lovajärvi the inf. officers were informed about the front line by my F.O.O and were updated that way. Now it appears to be the same. Col. Järvinen did not know anything about the matter as I phoned him. Neither did Btn CO Halonen (I/JR38)

I always said that the Signals Regiment and Signals messaging field manuals are teaching the wrong lesson. When trying to liaise some place by phone one has to say : “Here is “Ukonhattu”. Connect to or I want to get “Leila”.”
Likewise when having asked a question the answer is delayed one has to keep saying “Is it “Leila” there, here is “Ukonhattu”.
[Remark: some basic stuff indeed ! The writer must have been frustrated. Tr.rem. ]
05.20hrs
Situation report by F.O.O.s
“Ukonhattu 4” has participated in the defence at the Syskyänjoki river.
In front of Saijanmaa there is quiet, likewise at Hämäläinen.
That is , at Ruhtinanmäki and Syskyjärvi village. The entire incident happened at Syskyänjoki and a front section 500m N of it, that is at the seam of I/JR 38 and Coy Kauppinen.
I shall report to “Oinas”.
06.40hrs
I/JR38 reports that everything is in order again.
The enemy is still holding Ruhtinanmäki. One tank has been spotted there. One Coy is sweeping the ravine of Syskyänjoki river.
Art.Battalion Officer reports also that everything is cal.
3rd Battery used during the incident 52 pcs half-charge HE shells.
07.10hrs
Kauppinen is enquiring via an F.O.O from “Vaaka” if the “Vaaka” CO means “Halonen” when mentioning the “neighbour”. At the same time I provided “Vaaka” with my information about the enemy. “Vaaka” answered Kauppinen's question in the affirmative. I reminded F.O.O Kolehmainen tha reports must be submitted rather too often than too seldom.
0730hrs
One of the cannons of “Ukonhattu 4” has been out of order since last night due to lack of hydraulic fluid. At 0730hrs the Master Gunsmith reported that the cannon has been repaired and it is usable.
08.35hrs
“Järvi “ enquired “Ukonhattu” if a F.O.O has been posted at “Nuoli”. He was immediately responded that none has been posted and shall not be posted. [!]
0845hrs
Situation report by “Sajari”
At the targets no 401 and 403 there is some rifle and MG fire. A house is burning at each target. It has been observed at target no. 407 direction 28-60 distance about 4 km there is a Russki “02” battery [75K02= 3”] and it is firing in the direction of Knuutila.
[different handwriting follows] (The Batt is also in Lemetti village)
08.45
I reported the above fact in writing to “Oinas”.
Also I sent to “Oinas” the following enquiry:
Where is “Nuoli” and what is the task of “Nuoli” and where is he, and where is “Järvi” and what is his task.?
09.30hrs
Saijanmaa reporting: The mentioned stretch of road W of Mitro is in Russian hands and they are either bivouacking or building road. He is preparing to shell them with “Ukonhattu” 3rd and 4th.
09.50hrs
Saijanmaa reporting: Road building ceased, or the builders stopped as he sent them some “fish pies” [sic!]. He keeps observing when they restart maybe at another location.
10.10hrs
“Mars” reporting that at 0957hrs enemy tanks and lorries have been spotted among the enemy [infantry] at Mitro marching North. I ordered the F.O.O.s to strafe them.
10.40hrs
Art.Battalion Officer reports that a F.O.O.has observed that Russkies have a marching break post at the Huovinen farmhouse, they are pissing etc. The F.O.O. Shelled them.
11.00hrs
I cannot liaise with “Järvi1”. I phoned the adjutant of “Jousimies” and requested him to inform “Järvi1” that the material that he requested has been sent to ""Metsänvartija” situated E of Aurajärvi, and they are under orders to liaise with the “Unikko” exchange or “Unikko 7” next to it. It was a poor line but I believe “Majava” understood me.
12.00hrs
“Sajari” reporting: Kolehmainen has counted 10 tanks that have passed to the West during the day to the Jetsonen – Poikonen road. Reported to “Vesimies” who in turn promised to report to “Vaaka” .
“Sajari” reporting:
At Mitro the column did not show up any more as unified, there are separate groups of men here and there and an occasional lorry is showing up.
12.15hrs
I ordered that the tank assembly point must be located and there are orders to destroy them.
Saijanmaa reporting now that he has located them and just being in the process of preparing the target.
12.30hrs
“Ukonhattu 3” has fired a trifle more than 100 “nails”.
I ordered “Ukonhattu 1” to join in with 200 half-charges. [“paint boiling on barrels?”Tr.rem.]
12.50
“Mars” enquiring about the status of matters. I reported what has been written down above.
13.00hrs
I reported to “Vesimies” that Russki is attempting a breakthrough between Juttuselkä and Häkinsuo.
13.30hrs
“Mars” reporting: The reserves are being deployed there. The Art.Battalion is firing a barrage at the breakthrough point.
14.00hrs
Saijanmaa again liaised. Reporting that Russki is advancing SE of Mustalampi where our inf. has retreated.
I issued orders to beat them with “Ukonhattu” 3rd, 4th and 1st.
Saijanmaa reported again immediately that there are our men skiing S past him.
14.15hrs
I reported to “Oinas” the F.O.O. Report that our inf. is holding the SE side of Mustalampi but the SW side would be open. He has seen one tank in the forest SE of Mustalampi.
14.30hrs
I ordered Kostamo and Kolehmainen to liaise with Kauppinen who is finding himself under pressure W of Syskyänjoki river holding still his position at the road there.
16.00hrs
Pre-order to attack by Group “Oinas”, the relevant details have been forwarded to the F.O.O.s.
17.00hrs
Ammunition situation [Dec 11th ?]
1st B 2nd B 3rd Battery 3.Er.Ptri
tkr. 70 51 88 ---
Skr1/1p 72 20 -- ..
Skr1/2p 242 585 335 --
Sr 88 77 30 87
Kr - – – 382
Total 472 733 453 469

17.15hrs
I reported to “Oinas” that on the “Kuikka” hill our LMG squad has taken positions and that Russkies are grouping for attack at the S tip of Häkinsuo bog whom the 3rd Battery is just about to start harassing.
17.15hrs
I issued orders to the ammunition transport columns to be on the standby to deliver as soon as they receive the order. The column is carrying one complete ammunition ration.
17.30hrs
Reported to “Oinas”: Lt. Patojärvi shall set off to S from the SE side of Mustalampi to retake the hill S of Peränummi. He is complaining that he has not been able to liaise with the Coy on the W side of the river.
I wonder if Olkkonen has set off already
No liaison with Kolehmainen and Kostamo for a while. Their cable is running S by the side of the path W of Sulkulampi and Tsupinoja.
It should not be possible that they would have been cut out of communications even though Kauppinen would have retreated a little to the W.
18.00hrs
Saijanmaa reporting: Patoharju should be now in the same positions that they abandoned in the morning, and he set off to follow them and now finds himself in the F.O.O. Post he held in the morning. He has not heard a single shot beyond the river on the side of “Vaaka”. He does not mention anything about tanks. Forwarded to “Oinas”.
18.15hrs
I ordered Saijanmaa to get Patomäki on the phone to report about the situation to the “Oinas” CO.
18.30
Raevaara reports: On his side everything is calm, on the East some shots probably on Kauppinen's sector. Some big ones landing occasionally on no-man's-land .
18.40hrs
Forwarded this report to “Oinas”
Also “Oinas” reporting that at Ahola there has been for a longish time a minor break-in that worries the “Vaaka” CO, and requests the Art.Battalion to intervene. Immediate intervention was promised.
Patrols have been sent to troubleshoot the connections to Kolehmainen and Kostamo long time ago.
19.00hrs
Finally Kolehmainen liaised and he informed that he is dismantling his phone cable. Immediately I issued orders that he is to return asap. He shall have to explain himself.
19.00hrs
I was reported that the transport column has the following ammunitions:
Sr 406 pcs tkrv-3gt 40 pcs
skr ½ 500 pcs tkrv lk 100 pcs
skr 1/1 15pcs skr 60pcs
tkr 1/1 130 pcs
Total K/00 1041 pcs LK 200 pcs

19.45hrs
No liaison with Saijanmaa so far because there is not any good cable and while retreating they cut it up to deny its use to the enemy.
19.00hrs
Break-in W of Syskyänjoki. Virtanen reporting that it is serious and expanding. “Oinas” does not yet have the reserves to block it.
21.00hrs
I reported : “Nails” 715 pcs and “rivets” 350 pcs [Codewords for ammunition ?]
22.00hrs
I ordered the Art.Battalion Officer to strengthen the securing at the batteries, to prepare for AT action at the roads and have an outfit in the standby for action in the direction of the path crossing SE of the 2nd Battery.
Lt. Sundqvist is to liaise with the 2 inf Coys in front of the 3rd Battery .
23.00hrs
Holopainen reporting that E of Syskyjärvi a twenty man (enemy) patrol may have broken through.
23.30hrs
Er.Ptri F.O.O.s have not been found yet Saijanmaa does not believe that Russkies would have made it up to Tsipinoja.
I issued orders to disconnect the line to Kolehmainen and Kostamo in case the other end would be held by the enemy and connect a dedicate phone set with the line so that they would be able to phone in case it should be necessary.
The break-in on Kauppinen's left wing has not yet been beaten back. It is all right, they may believe they have gained something substantial.
24.00hrs
Finally liaised with Kolehmainen and Kostamo.
They had been forced to retreat up to Hopeinvaara as Kauppinen was pulling his left wing to the W. Their cable ran right down from the N along the path W of Sulkulampi. It should not have been laid in the middle of Kauppinen's sector.
Knuutila returned to Saarinen's F.O.O.post having liaised with Virtanen, separated in the ravine terrain, where he found just one MG (squad ?).
3.Er.Ptri ammo column vehicle drivers unable to locate the Art.Battalion ammo column. Master Armourer is to guide them.

(end of the day)

Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories- Winter War

Post by Lotvonen » 20 Feb 2022 05:42

Yrjö Kohonen

Mursula

“Kansa Taisteli”, 12, 1962

A Chaplain's memoir of the Winter War NW of lake Ladoga

"Next to IV AK the Ladoga Sea Defence was holding a sector nearest the coast and they had to fight with small number of men alongside with the infantry. The battle at Mursula (16./17.Dec.1939) in Impilahti is remarkable, an outfit comprising three platoons had to face and Enemy Regiment.” (Maj. T. Reponen).

As the enemy started advancing from Koirinoja to Kitilä and fanning out the sector CO Capt. T. T. Mäkeläinen summoned the undersigned and said:
-Chaplain, recently you visited the men in Mantsi and returned through the lines. Would you like to do the trick again?
- If necessary.. . Would it be Mantsi?
- Not Mantsi, but Mursula. The lads there are facing a tough situation. They need some encouraging words as the situation demands. Also you could bring in the sleigh some this and that for the lads.
Capt. Mäkeläinen pointed at the map with his finger and briefed me about the situation.
-It looks like this now but you better not believe anyone at the moment, including me. You may find yourself as well bumping on the enemy as arriving safely, I am wishing you luck anyway.
Mursula_kartta.jpg
Encouraged by this advice we set off. In case of bad luck our list of losses would include: one horse, one sled, ammunition and proviant, a paramedic Sergeant and a Private, a horse driver and a chaplain.

The Eastern horizon is red coloured by incessant fires. Menacing sound of shells flying overhead can be heard from ahead, above and behind our route, bursts of auto weapons are angry and blood curling. It does not make sense to take the route via Kitilä to Haukkaselkä then to Mursula, The road to Mursula is being held by the enemy for two days at least now. Fortunately Alava the horse driver and I are hailing from Impilahti and are familiar with the terrain. We know all detour roads if only the ice would hold.

This time it does. At dusk we drive down to the Sumerianjoki river ice and then proceed on the river then the Sumerianlahti bay in the cover of the beach , landing at Nupposenranta. There a poor forest road leads to the Mursula village. Once there, we find that shelling is going on. No problem, it is friendly artillery and we have arrived at their battery positions.

Our group dispersed in their duties. To start with I went to greet the local CO, Lt. Jouko Niemi. He was a typical Finnish soldier: battle hardened, straight talking and brave. No one could anticipate that his fate was to fall from a landing boat and disappear during the next war.

Now it is not pleasant to be in his company. His entire C.P. Is taken over by overly tense irritability due to sleepless nights, few troops, tired to boot, continuous enemy attacks from Hunttila and obnoxious shell explosions all over the place. Yet the worst is the location, resembling a mouse-trap: if the mass of enemy are able to penetrate in the cape in the direction of Haukkaselkä we shall find ourselves surrounded. The ice, but a few nights old, cannot be trusted and farther off at the mouths of the bays it is not at all firm enough. The Lieut is adding expletives to his orders. The atmosphere is oppressive.

I am now following the soft track of a sled runner across a field. The enemy has hoed dark holes here and there all over the wide field with shells. In the billets – farmhouses of Penttinen, Tuunainen and Ahola – I meet a number of tired defenders of Mursula. They are wearing dirty snow camo suits torn by bullets, bearded, with grey faces, mentally depressed yet still unyielding in the Finnish manner.

Here are the first wounded that I meet, Sergeants Tilli and Viinanen. Last night the enemy managed to break in our positions on the 90 m high Hirsivaara hill. Our liaison patrol had bumped into them. In a blink of an eye an intense skirmish had erupted in the darkness, shooting at muzzle flashes. The strong enemy patrol had been repelled down the steep slope to Haukkalahti bay. It could not be found out if any of them made it back to the Hunttila brick factory where their base was. They left behind two KIA, a number of weapons and bloody traces. The retreating enemy had captured a MG NCO, Mikko Huuhka who five months later returned when POWs were exchanged.

Darkness had condensed into a menacing mass of shadows as I am reachin the utmost stronghold positions comprising two tents set up in the leeward side of Hirsivaara. I pull up the fabric door and dive in. Warm air hits my frost cooled face. In the weak red glow of the tent stove I can see men in snow camo suits lying on straw. The men who are not asleep turn their faces at the sound of the fabric door and the countenance is that of great fatigue. They have indeed been engaging the enemy for four days and nights with next to no sleep. The only officer here, a young 2nd Lieut, looks exceptionally pale and his eyes have a glassy shine of a dead tired man. His grey emaciated face is surrounded by long stubble, his hands are damp and shaking.

2nd Lieutenant Paul Osvald Koivumäki was posted on our sector more than a week ago. Then I had seen him just in the passing . He was a plucky 21 years old student, a lively patriotic man. Arriving from the rear he was neatly dressed, his face was healthy looking and smooth, all of his hardy countenance was marked by the desire to get “to the front”. What a shocking different man is now sitting in front of me in the light of a lamp and the stove! The face of the war personified ?

Yet the change in the young man is not due to fear. Every man in the Mursula stronghold can witness that he is fearless, foolhardy even. The fact that he fell a few days later proves his dedication. War is war indeed, the heavy burden of duty on the shoulders of the only officer here, the bloody ruthlessness of the war, cumulating lack of sleep and much besides.

We agree on a relief: He retires in the billet houses behind the battery while I assume his task as the CO. What do you think I feel as I am watching the experienced Platoon leader walking into the darkness while I am standing alone in front of the tent? Flares are rising up here and there, shells are hitting the frozen ground occasionally, and a burst of auto weapon fire can be heard sometimes close, sometimes farther off.

The night is calm – up to 0400 hrs. Then suddenly noise starts emerging from the forest on our right flank. Since the men are tired I set off with a four man patrol to find out about the sounds. It is quite dark. We are slowly wading in the snow – skis have not been distributed – and are alert, weapons in readiness, eyes attentive, ears pricked. Every tree, bush and hillock may be hiding an ambush. In no-man's-land we spot the tracks of an enemy patrol. Following them we can see at a spot in the forest the patrol has fanned out, taken positions and started firing intensely at random. Then they withdrew to their own lines. How come? Were they frightened of the forest or did they consider this the least risky way to carry out their patrol mission ?

At daybreak a heavy shelling starts. The enemy is now employing heavy mortars in addition to their artillery. The entire forest and the Mursula fields seem to be a flurry of earth, pieces of branches and steel. We are lying in cold snow for hours while observing the enemy activities at the terrain of Hunttila brick factory where our cannons are sending angry concentrations. Something is going on. Later it was found out that it was an enveloping attempt via Haukkaselkä by the enemy, which was repulsed the same day.

There is one unpleasant task not carried out yet. According to a circular the enemies fallen at our lines or behind them are to be buried. They are not indeed rising the morale of the passers-by. We have to go to Hirsivaara hill for this purpose, and it is under constant enemy artillery observation. We manage to get there by crouching. There are shell holes one next to another, bare gravel, broken trees. The dead are lying next to a trench. We drag them down the steep slope in the valley and start digging a grave. It is a long job because we have to throw ourselves down when a shell lands in the vicinity. In accordance with the instructions we place the dead – two officers – in the hole, cover it and mark the spot. The instructions do not demand anything else. Yet we bare our heads in the face of the eternity. Burial under shelling is completed.

The young Lieut has not taken rest more than 24 hours before he returns to the first line, with smooth face, confident countenance and cheery disposition. The same day we are reinforced by the platoons of Lts. Koljonen and Lakio, now the three Platoons appear to equal to an Army Corps, even though most of the replacements are young Civil Guard boys. Detachment Niemi now comprises 180 men and the morale is boosted considerably.

But this was not to last for long, just a little more than a day. During the night of 16th to 17th December 1939 another shocking Winter War battle was fought here. A fateful error contributed to the incident. Our artillery was to pull back to new positions beyond the Sumerianlahti bay but the infantry was not allowed to disengage before dawn. The cannon battery proceeded as planned in the rear. As the Company of another Regiment next to us finds out that the artillery is withdrawing, they abandon their positions and pulls back. Maybe they had not been told to wait until morning...

Seven fateful hours later there is a three kilometre wide gap in our line between our troops holding their line and the neighbouring Regiment. The enemy launches an attack. On their left wing they meet no resistance and they keep pushing forward. In the morning there is a Regiment's strength of enemies on the open ground at Mursula. On the 17th December 1939 at 0730 to 1215 hrs a desperate battle is fought in the fields and forest of Mursula.

Three Platoons break through the surrounding enemy line. Some of them are trying to cross the field but they fall, among them Capt. Kostilainen who has taken out with his MG 70 to 80 enemies during the fighting at Mursula. Some of Lt. Koljonen's and Lt. Koivumäki's men succeed in breaking through by crawling in a ditch but most of them remain in the forest for ever. Included are brothers Vaittinen – as one of them is left wounded on the ground the other one returns to him never to return.

The surviving lads of Platoon Lakio barely made it across the creaking ice of Mursulanlahti bay. Lt. Lakio is hiding in the hay barn on the battlefield, managing to return as if by wonder the next night. Every third man is missing from the ranks. Casualties comprise more than 50 per cent. The survivors pull back to the estuary of Sumerianjoki in an unprepared line.

What about 2nd Lt. Koivumäki, the only son of a widow? As an enemy MG is blocking the entrance to the ditch, Koivumäki is bravely running from a tree to another then throws a hand grenade. The same moment his chest is pierced by a burst – but his comrades have the way opened for them.

War dead database extract:

Koivumäki, Paul Osvald ;Vänrikki ;26.09.1914 Helsinki ;17.12.1939 Haukkaselkä, Impilahti ; age 25 ;Laatokan meripuolustus, RTR 3 ;KIA, evacuated ;Buried in Helsinki, Hietaniemi ; Occupation Phil. Stud. ;no children.

Kostilainen, Ivan ;Alikersantti ;07.07.1913 Salmi ;17.12.1939 ;Age 26 ;Laatokan meripuolustus ; MIA ; Gravestone at Leppävirta, military cemetry ; farmer.

Vaittinen, Arvo Lennart ;Sotamies ;23.05.1917 Impilahti ;17.12.1939 ; age 22 ;Laatokan meripuolustus ; MIA ; Gravestone at Leppävirta, military cemetry ; Student ; no children

Vaittinen, Erkki Uolevi ;Sotamies ;24.01.1921 Joroinen ;17.12.1939 ; age 18 ;Laatokan meripuolustus ; MIA ; Gravestone at Leppävirta, military cemetry ; son of an agent ; no children.


During the Continuation War on the 27th Sept 1943 seven bodies of KIA s were discovered buried in a field at Tuunanen. ID disc proved one of them was Lt, Koivumäki, now buried in Hietaniemi, Helsinki. I could end here. Yet the story must be completed. The undersigned has been tasked to evacuate a wounded man. My diary markings follow:

“We start our return to the battery and we have to cross a piece of open ground being shelled. We start driving for Impilahti through open ground ploughed black but we are being observed by an invisible eye, an enemy F.O.O. We have not proceeded more than a few hundred meters as there is a swish overhead and the road ahead of is flying in the air. The driver is scared and tries to turn the sled back to return to the battery . I order him to continue the journey, we must think of the wounded man who is with us. We make it just beyond a bend of the road until there is again whining in the air. We throw ourselves down to the ground and the very same moment a salvo of four shells crash next to us. A dense cloud of earth covers the surroundings. We push up though the layer of dirt and find ourselves undamaged disregarding the older wounds.

But this is not the end of our adventure. The horse driver loses his nerve and starts driving as fast as he can, leaving me behind. Fortunately the wounded man is still in the sleigh. I have to wade one and a half kilometre in thick snow before I catch up with the horse driver, waiting for me on the ice of Sumerianlahti bay.

The Sector CO Captain Mäkeläinen quietly listens to my report on the fateful days in Mursula. The atmosphere is as menacing as it was when I set off. During the Continuation War our CO was trampled over by a panicked horse and died during operation.

The same evening as the battle at Mursula ended we are standing in a tight square in the the Impilahti parish hall. Dirty snow camo suits have been sent to laundry but some men are wearing white bandages reminding us of the fateful past days. The hall is blacked out due to risk of air raid. Sgt. Petter Tilli is standing next to me with his bandaged arm, holding a candle. The candle is illuminating the book that I am reading out loud:
 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (Joh. 15: 13). WE all are thinking about the young Lieut who dashed to his death...”

POW database extract
Huuhka, Mikko ;b. Hiitola ;01.05.1914 ; Rank Alikersantti ; Unit: ME/RT 3 ; Occupation: farmer ;Taken POW 14.12.1939 at Impilahti ;returned 20.04.1940 ; died 19.02.1980 in Forssa .

RTR3 was the Ladoga Sea Defence outfit fighting at Impilahti.
(The format of the War Diary is most unusual: A4 pages bound in a book, every day is commenced by a typed entry apparently by Chaplain Kohonen followed by hand written
entries, often hard to decipher.)

RTR 3 War diary extract:
14.12.1939
Entry by Chaplain Kohonen about the same as above except the following:

Last night there was a miraculous battle on Hirsimäki hill, describing precisely the * course of our war.
Our sentries had heard sound in the darkness. A patrol led by K.(Koivumäki?) had set off to find out about it. When passwords are exchanged it is found out that a Russki outfit has managed to climb up the hill making use of a ravine and they have entrenched themselves. At daybreak they would have been able to command the entire front section from there. A battle broke out. Every Russki was equipped with a SMG or a LMG. Our men had just rifles. Our men detected that they can make use of the flares. In their light it is well possible to aim. The result of the battle is surprising. Russkies have lost two officers KIA and the rest fled, leaving behind bloody traces. Of our men were wounded just Res. Cpl. Petter Tilli and Res.Cpl. Antti Viinanen. The others are unscathed.
Together we are wondering about the course of events and we can see that G-d is speaking through them. I relieve Lieut Koivumäki to have some R&R in the rear and take over his task to lead the front here. Many thoughts are circulating in my mind while I am sitting in the tent with the men or when inspecting sentry posts. There was no room for fear in my heart neither then nor now.
(p.38)
Hand written entry:
0100hrs.'
Order to Lt. Niemi to set securing to the North in the directions of Penttinen and Ukonmäki.
01.20hrs
“Mars” [F.O.O.] requesting to Mitro at the (?) houses a 4 shell strike at 0700hrs
(0700hrs “Jyräys” fired 2+2)
03.50hrs
Niemi reporting: Enemy patrol on Hirsimäki at 0330hrs . Of their patrol two men fell. Our casualties 2 wounded (Cpl. Tilli slightly as well as Cpl. Viinanen)
09.00hrs
Niemi reporting: war booty 3 LMG (Lewis) + 1 sniper rifle, 4 LMG ammunition cases (3 mags each), hand grenades, 2 rifles, 1 field spade.
09,40hrs
“Jyräys” (“Mars”) 3 shells (2+1) at the N corner of Lemetti West . Enemy motorized battery.
10.15hrs
A tank at the Pitkäranta barracks. Also motor vehicles.
13.00hrs
At Valma 7 tanks at the edge of the village.
13.10hrs
Syskysalmi spotted 5 tanks to Koirinoja at the Pitkäranta barracks.
14.30hrs
Syskysalmi spotted 10 tanks at the Koirinoja underpass.
15.05hrs
“Jyräys” fired 2+2 at Jonnisenmäki hill. Great troop concentrations.
15.10hrs
Syskysalmi reporting: Pitkäranta church in flames
15.15hrs
Syskysalmi reporting: 10 tanks at Pitkäranta barracks.
15.32hrs
“Jyräys” fired 2+1 at the road Pitkäranta – Kitelä, Tuukkananmäki. Transport columns, artillery etc. spotted.
15-.15.30hrs
Enemy fired about 40 mortar bombs in the Torppa terrain at Mursula.
17.59hrs
“Jyräys” harassing the road Juntola – Tuukkana . Tank columns spotted.
21.00hrs
Niemi reporting: Calm.
23.50hrs
“Jyräys” At Ukonlampi 2 shells
(01.33hrs Crossroads Ala-hinska N 1 shell)
(01.36hrs Main road at Hunttila 1 shell)
01.10hrs
“Mars” 2+2 shells
(p.39)
Salmi sector order of the day 14.12.1939
1§.
Led by Lt. J. Niemi have the battery led by Res. 2nd Lt. V.A. Rautiainen and troops led by Res. Lt. P. Kivimäki in the battles fought on the 12th to 14th December 1939 against a superior enemy proven laudable resilience and fighting spirit and being able to cause considerable losses in men and material to the enemy.
Special mention deserve MG gun layer Res. Cpl. J. Kostilainen and patrol leaders Res. Cpl. P. Tilli and Res. Cpl. Viinanen, both of the last mentioned WIA.

I am promoting to Res. Sgt. due to bravery displayed in battle, date 14.12.1939 Res. Cpl. Petri Tilli and Res. Cpl. Antti Viinanen)
(p.41)
15.12.1939
Entry by Chaplain Kohonen :
The night passed fairly calmly. At about 0400hrs some shots were heard in the forest. I set off with a 4 man patrol to find out. It is quite dark. We are advancing slowly and are alert, weapons in readiness, ears pricked. Every tree, bush and hillock may be hiding an ambush. Once on the enemy side we can see that the shots have been fired by an enemy patrol disturbed by our patrol.

Heavy shelling starts in the morning. In addition to their artillery Russkies have four big mortars. The entire forest and the open ground at Mursula appears to be one single sea of explosions, whining and howling. We are stooping on the ground and observing the enemy that appears to be up to something special. (Later we learned that it was an enveloping attempt that was thwarted).
The hardest task is still ahead. We have to get the fallen Russkies down from Hirsimäki and bury them. We managed to climb on the hill staying low. The hill is covered with shell holes, gravel, dirt and broken trees. The dead are lying next to their bloodied trenches, one on his back, the other on his side, head, chest, thighs pierced by bullets. We pull them in the valley behind Hirsimäki and start digging a common grave for them. The Russkies are about 30 yrs in age, weather-bitten men, with somewhat cruel looking faces. Their heads are covered with woollen balaclavas up to chest, with a hole for the face, and a winter cap with red star. The upper body is shrouded by a brownish greatcoat, wadded jacket, pullover, summer tunic, ordinary shirt and undershirt. The trousers are wadded ones and under them layers of long johns. They are wearing felt boots with foot-wraps. The garments are warm but the quality is not good; as to cleanliness – forget about it. Their backpacks contain a big chunk of bread and some cold boiled potatoes, among dirty underwear. There are also some hand grenades.
The wallets contain new Russki money, a letter, photos and – one red Communist Party membership booklet and a GPU ID document. So these men were shock troops! At least one of them has an Officer cockade on his cap, maybe also the other one. As to the weapons we get three LMGs, a sniper rifle etc.
Grave digging is slow because after two spadefuls we have to throw ourselves down to dodge a shell and its splinters. As ordered in the circular we place the dead in the grave, cover it up and set a mark on the mound. The burial under shelling is over.
When returning to the battery we have to cross some open ground on which it is raining shells. The fields have turned all black with bare dirt.

We successfully make it to our horse and sled. We start driving for Compilation . We have proceeded scarcely one kilometre as the road ahead of is flying in the air. Four shells meant for the battery almost finished us there and then. The driver is scared and tries to turn the sled back . I order him to continue to drive on. Now we make it just beyond a bend of the road until there is again howling in the air. We throw ourselves down to the ground and the very same moment a salvo of four shells crash next to us. A dense cloud of dust is covering the surroundings for a moment. We push up through the layer of dirt and find ourselves undamaged. The horse driver loses his nerve and starts driving as fast as he can. A wounded man is still in the sleigh. I and a rifleman have to run in soft snow for one kilometre before we make him stop.

Now our journey proceeds without adventure. Be it mentioned, however, that on our way we meet a 23 man replacement outfit consisting of local Pitkäranta men whom I know, on their way to Mursula. Seeing that they are mostly 17 to 19 years in age, I am feeling great pity. My ill foreboding was not to be in vain.

(p.42)
(Diary of Capt. Mäkeläinen, 15.12.1939)
02.43hrs
Railway battery fired a strike (4+2) and “Jumbo” 1 shell by request of “Mars” at Koirinoja train stops where tank and armoured car units were observed.
09.40hrs
Lt. Niemi reporting:
1).Calm night
2).At 0900 hrs enemy opened mortar fire at Hirsimäki and Ahola village. Enemy firing positions not located exactly. Supposedly situated at the brick factory terrain.
3).Mursula battery fired at the terrain at Vaittinen. Two field guns spotted there. Mortars and guns not firing for the moment.
4).About 1 Coy withdrew from the brick factory to Lokasaari island on the rear slope. They were fired at with shrapnels.
5).At Nupponen a small cavalry outfit + baggage train. They were fired at.
6).Syskysalmi reporting that 17 horses are on the way from Pitkäranta to Salmi.
09.10hrs
Railway battery strike at at Pohjinmäki (2+0)
09.52hrs
Railway battery and “Jumbo” strike at Puutonlampi – Ruhtinaanmäki 250 m W of the CG hall (“Jyräys” 2+2, “Jumbo” 4)
11.08hrs
Railway battery strike at Ruokojärvi CG hall by request of “Mars” (2+0)
PM: Phone line tapped, report to 13.D.
Order to Lt. Niemi: You are to withdraw at 1900hrs to the line Mursulanlahti – Barracks Tsp.
15.00hrs
Liaison Officer Ahos reporting:
1).There is at the Alma open ground 1 enemy battery + 4 light mortars at 1200hrs.
2).On Coy [enemy] managed to cross the river at 14.12 at the CG hall. At 0900hrs enemy launched an attack with 10 tanks, crossing the hindrance line. No infantry seen. Fighting going on at 1200hrs at Jyskinen in the forest a little to S. Two enemy Coys engaging.
3).N of Taina in the direction of the road and on the bog S of the road enemy attack going on since 0900hrs. Enemies sighted E of the road, not engaged yet.
16.00hrs
CG sent 1+2+25 to Mursula. (0+2+20 to Huunukka, 0+0+5 to the sector HQ).
19.15hrs
Report: 1+1+49 from the 13.D Er.T Company to the Sector ! To Mursula !
23.05-00.20hrs
“202” (“Jumbo”) harassment shelled with 10 shells at the houses at Jonnisenmäki – Pieloinmäki.
(p.44)
“Jumbo” battery report: [152K/04 siege guns ?]
02.44hrs
While firing at maximal elevation 39º (range 12 km) the wheels of II Gun did not withhold the strain, it fell on its side. Recuperator and brake were damaged. The gun was lifted up at 0400hrs. Wheels were refitted and the cylinders sent to be repaired.
09.12-09.17hrs
Firing with I Gun 4 shells. The gun withstood it. Sentry house windows smashed while firing. The phone fell down from the wall. The Battery telephone exchange remained functional but the contact to the Rwy Battery was interrupted for 10 mins.
23.00-24.00hrs
Trees had to be cut for firing sector. Recuperator cylinder pin was broken, replaced with a new one, we just received it with a set of new wheels brought by a lorry. The wheels are still too weak.

16.12.1939
Entry by Chaplain Kohonen :
Visiting our Field Hospital. -The personal information about the KIA, WIA and MIA is hard to find because not everyone has a personal record sheet or they are in places hard to find out. It takes time.
Another writer:
12.00hrs
Night was mostly calm in the direction Kitilä – Loimola. Our artillery thwarted an attack preparation at Kitilä. Yesterday at least 3 tanks were destroyed.
24.00hrs
Repeated enemy attacks repulsed at 1530hrs at Leppäsilta. In this direction Finnish Reds have been found among the enemy.
On the Ruokojärvi – Tuukkananmäki line enemy attacks repelled, the ones who broke into our positions have been evicted.
At Syskyjärvi the enemy is pressing on hard.
On the Saarijärvi – Kotajärvi isthmus fighting has been going on all day.
Pressure in the evening at Kitilä is hard. Stopped on the line Hirvosenlahti – river line to Matkalampi – Railway line and road crossing E of Leppäsilta – E side of Linnavaara open ground – Ruokojärvi terrain.
At Ruokojärvi 7 tanks, of which 1 destroyed.
AC counter-attack today.
L.Me.Pt. t.32
12.00hrs
03.00-06.00hrs
3 intense artillery barrages at Mursula.
“202” fired strikes during the night.
21.00hrs
Lorry and horse columns en route from Pitkäranta to Koirinoja, 4 tanks and 4 lorries from Pitkäranta to Salmi. “134” fired a strike at the tank column. Three tanks destroyed.
Documents retrieved from fallen enemies at Haukkaniemi reveal that they were of the enemy 462th Inf.Rgt.
(p.46)
Entry by “Jumbo” :
00.07-00.19hrs
4 shells fired at the same targets as last evening. Russki started firing intensely (not at us) 02.10hrs
Men were sent to have rest.
HQ informed that enemy patrols were up and about some 3km from us.
16.16-18.38hrs
9 HE and 3 shrapnels at the Kitilä rwy stop.
II Gun was fixed as a spare cylinder arrived at 1800hrs
23.16-23.47 hrs 4 shrapnels fired.

Entry by Capt. Mäkeläinen:
01.05hrs
Phone line patrol 1+5 to the Mursula line broken by horse transports.
04.20-04.40hrs
“Aallokas” [gunboat] fired at Pitkäranta.
08.30hrs
Situation report by Lt. Niemi:
1).The line Kurttinen – Tsp has been held
2).Patrol action during the night.
3).Enemy shelling at Mursula terrain with artillery and mortars at 0300, 0430 and 0600hrs.
KIA 1, WIA 1.
4).Kuivaniemi sweeping continues.
09.00hrs
Res. 2nd Lt. Karpoff from 13.D to special duty in the Rwy battery (phone line tapping).
09.30hrs
Laurila reporting:
Partial enemy breakthrough to the direction of Kitelä road.
10.30hrs
Liaison officer Ahos reporting:
(via “Mehiläinen” 09.50hrs)
a) The night was mainly calm.
b) At Alma S of Kirstijärvi at midnight, after artillery preparation, the enemy started grouping likely for attack, but artillery dispersed them.
Also
12.40hrs (via “Mehiläinen” 12.15hrs)
-at 1050hrs at “Augusta” starting from the Helli brook line a continuous inf. column from the “Augusta” crossroads another 2 km in the direction of Aura. The column was standing still, direction N
Kaarina – Kerttuli : no traffic S of Sääksjärvi: columns heading W.
Syskynsalmi reporting:
12.17hrs
At the Pitkäranta new school house a 20 horse column heading for Koirinoja.
12.30hrs
At the Pitkäranta new school house 10 lorries heading for Koirinoja.
12.45hrs
3 covered lorries going to Salmi.
12.50hrs
2 tanks going to Salmi.
13.00hrs
2 tanks and 1 lorry going to Salmi.

14.00hrs
Lt. Laurla reporting:
It is being considered to pull back Coy Aaltonen to N to the directions of roads and rwy line.
15.15hrs
Enemy pressing on at the rwy line at the Kitelä rwy stop. “Jumbo” has been ordered to shell the stretch of rwy line between Syskyjoki and the road with ten HE.
16.36-16.38hrs
“Jumbo” strike 3+3 at the rwy line.
16.15hrs
Lt. Laurila reporting:
Coy Aaltonen has been issued orders to retreat via Hirvonen village to Matkalampi.
16.20hrs
Ahos reporting:
a) Breakthrough at Leppäsilta.
b) 100 more [men?] shall be received.
17.00-17.10hrs
“Jumbo” fired 3 HE at the Kitelä rwy stop.
18.35-1830hrs
“Jumbo” fired 3 HE barrage at the at the Kitelä rwy stop, road and rwy crossing.
18.35hrs
Ahos reporting:
a) in the direction of Alma repeated enemy attacks have been thwarted by 1630hrs at the Leppäsilta terrain. There are Finnish Reds among enemies.
b) In the direction of Kirsti at 1230hrs at the CG hall the enemy tried to cross the river with two Coys. Det. Aho managed at the Kulisma river bridge , S of the road, launch a limited attack with some success and created disorder.
c)Det “Vesimies” launched an attack at Tuukkananmäki but due to the strong enemy holding the Syskyänjoki line pulled back, now in action in the terrain to the West.
d)Det. “Jousimies” at 10.45hrs mainly situated 2, 5 km S of Ainajärvi lake.

22.20hrs
101 order: The battery at Mursula is to be moved to Lehtoranta (map 1: 20000, Impilahti)
23.00-00-30hrs
“Jumbo” harassing the forest at Kitilä rwy stop.
(…)
(p.47)

17.12.1939

Entry by Chaplain Kohonen :
Field Service at the Impilahti Parish hall at 09.00hrs. Present are not only our troops but locals, too.
The miserable battle at Mursula has ended. An overpowering enemy managed to surround our small outfit. They were scattered and suffered heavy casualties. Of the fallen Juho Sirkkunen could be evacuated and seven WIA. Seven fallen had to be abandoned and twenty-nine are MIA. The men are mostly new inexperienced volunteers who were clueless when subjected to fire from an unexpected direction. The worst is the fate of the ones who may be taken POW by the enemy. I spent the evening with the boys and they told miraculous stories about their survival.

“NMP”:
12.25hrs
Lt. Niemi reporting:
Liaison with troops cut off.
14.00hrs
Res. 2nd Lt. Jouki ordered, with Töysä (MG)
to receive men at the Lapinniemi – Vuoratsu shipping lane.
16.20hrs
“Mehiläinen”
1)At Kirsti a furious enemy attack at the edge of the village
2)At Aura, intense fighting.
3)At Taina at 1500hrs fighting going on.
4)At Eija the enemy advancing on the Siira road to N was beaten.
5)At Alma, quiet.
18.15hrs (reported at 2035)
Kirsti – Taina road at parts in our hands.
19.40hrs
Road to Kirsti empty by now.
(…)
(p. 48)
New entry:
-13.D. Situation Report no.9 on the 17.12.1939 at 1600hrs
In the direction of Kitilä the enemy kept attacking intensely all day. By eventing their tanks were stopped at Leppäsilta line. Artillery participated mutually heavily in the battle . Considerable enemy casualties. In this sector is deployed the 168.D comprising IR367, IR 402, IR462, Art.R453.
On the 16th Dec 1939 at 10.50hrs:
Of them IR462 is deployed at Hunttila and Haukkaselkä
I/IR402 at the Kitilä Rwy stop
III/IR402 between the Rwy line and Jeksilänmäki where the C.P. Is situated
I/IR367 at Kukkaselkä
II/IIIIF367 2km S of Kitelä
Art.R 453 was supporting II/JR367. 17.12.1939 was quiet at this sector.
At Ruokojärvi the enemy kept attacking all day on the 16th 12. without results.
With limited attacks our troops managed to destroy three tanks with satchel charges.
Here is deployed IR316 of 215.D. 17.12.PM the enemy attacked with superior force making it up to the perimeter of Ruokojärvi village but started retreating at 1530hrs
was quiet at this sector. The enemy had several tanks.
At Syskyjärvi the enemy exerted pressure at several instances on the 16.12. but was repelled. Once a break in our line was effected but was beaten back with counter-attacks.
All day on the 17.12. intense fighting. At 1500hrs intense battle sounds emerging, shelling and MG fire.
At Ruhtinaanmäki where our enveloping attack had been launched, loud sounds of fighting was emerging.
At Kotajärvi quiet on the 16.12.
On the 17.12.the enemy attempted to advance N on the Siira road but was beaten back.
At 1430hrs the enemy opened fire with artillery, mortars, tanks. Enemy inf, had not attacked by 1600hrs. Intercepted enemy message implied that an attack is to be launched on the 18.12.1939 .
(p.49)

18.12.1939
Entry by Chaplain Kohonen
I am collecting data about casualties.
Service for the Field Cannon Battery at Sumeri at 1500hrs.
L Me P chaplain Tauno Laakso visiting me. It happened to be a war-like evening, artillery is thundering and flashing busily and the horizon is red with fires. We are sitting in candlelight upstairs of Shopkeeper Silvennoinen's abandoned house and talking shop.
(…)
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Lotvonen
Member
Posts: 819
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 23 Feb 2022 08:09

Eelis Seppälä

Panic night

Kansa Taisteli , 01, 1963

JR 14 and URR, December 1939.

On the pages of our journal men have told about daring patrol skirmishes, knocking out tanks and many heavy battles. Now I want to tell about the first enemy contact of an inexperienced man. The enemy invader, as we knew, was massively overpowering and armed with the heaviest weapons

It was the 6th December 1939. Our front section on the Carelian Isthmus it was just waiting and many of us did not know what to think about it. Restlessness was increasing as the dusk fell but it did not make sense to ask the others because everyone was equallly beset with ignorance.

I was serving as a Armourer NCO in the III Battalion of JR14. Elements of the Battalion had been posted on the Main defence line between Summa and Muolaanjärvi lake. The Battalion CO was Jaeger Captain Matti Kuiri.

During the day the delaying troops withdrew behind the Main defence line. They had been engaging the enemy from the very first day of the war but in the face of the overpowering enemy they had been forced to retreat. Invading troops had suffered innumerable casualties but also many of our boys had fallen or been wounded. Sappers whose task was to seal off the stone and wire hindrance lines had been sent out. As soon as the last of the delaying outfits had passed the line the roads were blocked by them.

I was restless, expecting something to happen. Later I would find out that when setting off for a task I would feel nervous but as the action started the fear dissipated. Soon the December day was turning into night. Taaperniemi village in front of us was in flames, torched by our Sappers, reflected against the surface of Lake Muolaanjärvi. Every other village beyound it was burning, it was a sombre and ill-boding sight to see.

We were in readiness, weapons loaded and belts pulled tight, expecting the enemy forces steamrolling at our positions. Almost every one of us, with the exception of the Battalion CO and some older officers, were in the firing line for the first time. The men who had been delaying the enemy told us about the incidents and fighting. Something new had started happening the same day: the men housed in tents had hurriedly started to dig pits for their tents or building dugouts.

Fully equipped I lied down in the tent next to Staff Sgt. Virta. This man we started appreciating mostly due to his calm behaviour. Some time later he was promoted to 2nd Lieut. To our sorrow he met the end of his journey as a Company CO at Summa during the great enemy offensive.

The fires were reflected red in the sky and the forest, too, was illuminated. Artillery muzzle flashes, conflagrations and blood red sky coloured the entire battleground to resemble Hell. Then occasional bursts of MG or LMG, in slow rate of fire, became audible. Finally our main defence line came to life. Innumerable auto weapons started chattering and rifle fire was intense. The enemy learned at once that they would not pass easily.

The phone in the tent rang. The MG of the II Platoon, in position in a wooden bunker on the “Raura” (sic) sector, had malfunctioned. I ordered the Battalion shoemaker (whose namie I forget) to harness a horse as soon as possible – the shoemaker was also a horse driver as his second duty. Armourer, Cpl. Jalonen got his tool kit from the storage. The three of us started driving fast for the rumbling first line. Our process was slow because there were a lot of retreating men in scattered groups. The men were tired, bearded and dirty, marked by the fighting of the previous days.

We took a short cut by the supply road to the “Raura” sector. There was no one coming the opposite direction and also the front line had fallen silent for a mment. I thought it was as if I were not in the front but on a fun ride on some backwoods meadow before Christmas.

Suddenly a minor projectile burst against a tree quite near to us. Our horse, usually a calm one, bolted and then we were going fast. I lost my balance, swayed and fell out of the sleigh, rolling in the thin snow and getting clobbered by the frozen bumpy grond. When I got up the horse was gone, I was standing alone in the middle of the forest. My rifle had been left in the sleigh, but I had my private little pistol.

What was going to happen? The Taaperniemi - Kattilaoja - Leipäsuo road was behind me and loud noise was emerging from there, as if a complete enemy division with all their equipment would be advancing at a terribly fast rate. Did the Sappers fail to block the gaps of the hindrance line or was it an accident?

Hundreds of question marks were flashing in my mind, unanswered. The road was quite far. In the light of the conflagrations I saw black shadows rushing to the rear at a tremendous speed. I was aware that I was alone, I had cold chills. The shadows created by the lights of fire were moving, and I thought I was hearing whispering – am I surrounded?

I was feeling guilty, I had to do something. I should be doing my duty right now. But it was an eror to rush to the road to see what was going on. A flare was fired from the rear, for a moment it was as clear as in daylight. What I saw was a Cavalry Squadron in a furious attack coming on from the direction of the front line. I heard the clanking of scabbards, muffled cries and snorts of horses. A ghost squadron !

As soon as the outfit had passed me there were noises in the rear, sounds of breaking vehicles and shouts? Were those wildly charging beings Cossacks, who had broken through and now attacking our troops ? But why was no one shooting ? Was this the modern Blitzkrieg where everything could be lost in a minute ?

I was frightened and feeling guilt, then started running fast for the “Raura” sector. Fortunately I soon met our driver who had set off to seek me, believing I had hurt myself.

When we made it to the first line on the enemy side there were auto weapons muzzle flames and tracer bullets were flying overhead like fireflies. In the weapons nest Cpl. Jalonen was now playing music for the enemy with the repaired MG.

Here I learned that I was not the only blockhead who had bungled that night. Here in the front line things had happened, the lads told me. As our auto weapons were firing along the axis of the wire, bullets hitting the wire created sparks. The men thought that it was the enemy firing on the near side of the hindrance line, then increased their rate of fire which resulted in increase of enemy fire. The enemy was also using explosibe bullets which burst at trees. The conclusion made of this was that enemies had climbed up into the trees and fring from there withs SMGs.

Having returned to the supply line I learned some details of the recent goings-on. The last outfit engaging the enemy, a fatigued riding light detachment had been scattered in the darkness and panicked. In the darkness they had ridden on the baggage train of a horse artillery battery and the order was re-established not until officers had arrived to the scene.

The next day on the 7th December 1939 action at the main position started, the critical initial stage was past. Heavy shelling, aerial bombardment and infantry attacks supported by tanks increased in their full force.


War dead database:
Virta, Johan Oskar ;Vänrikki ;23.06.1901 Kaarina ;25.02.1940 Honkaniemi, Viipurin mlk ;Age 38 yrs; JR14, II Btn, 6. Coy ;KIA, disappeared ; Gravestone in Turku ; occupation . Officer ; 1 child.

The only 2nd Lt. Virta who was KIA during the Winter War.
Most likely he is the man mentioned here, he must have been a cadre NCO promoted to Officer. 2nd Lt. would have been an odd rank for a Cadet School man, specially considering his age. Also the Regiment number is matching.

III/JR14 war diary extract:

6.12.1939
01.15hrs
URR withdrawing through our sector.
01.35hrs
Sissi detachment led by 2nd Lt. Jalonen returned, reporting that the mission has been carried out.
03.00hrs
I/PPP5 withdrawing through our sector.
08.00hrs
2 ½ Platoon of 8.K returning from Taaperniemi.
08.35hrs
Friendly a/c overhead.
12.00hrs
Btn alerted into AT readiness.
Our artillery harassing.
12.10hrs
Air raid alert, but no a/c seen.
13.55hrs
Lively inf fire at the Ahlas sector.
15.50hrs
Sotarauta reporting: Tank moving
16.35hrs
Rgt order: Btn Coys to be moved to the first line.
16.55hrs
Briefing: 8.K + MG Platooon to I Btn
7.K to II Btn
19.05hrs
All Coys sent to new positions.
Firefight at the front line going on.
21.45hrs
Order on ammunition resupplying and use of …?
23.10hrs
Liaising with Sotarauta: Strongpoint 1 in a difficult spot.
23.45hrs
Sotarauta reporting: Situation now Ok.

7.12.1939
00.35hrs
Liaising with Sotarauta: Enemy beaten
00.37hrs
Hindrance building detachment organized.
03.30hrs
Our artillery firing occasionally.
Weather mild, sleet rain.
10.00hrs
Btn CO liaising with the Rgt HQ.
13.10hrs
7.K returned from subordination to II Btn.
14.15hrs
7.K posted in the rear of the Main defence line.
Btn CO inspectong the front line.
15.00hrs
Enemy shelling made casualties for the artillery.
16.40hrs
The patrol setting wire returned.
16.55hrs
CO returned, reporting his observations to the Rgt HQ.
18.40hrs
Rgt orders on reconnoitring received.
Quiet night.
( End of day)

7./URR war diary extract:

5.12.1939
(…)
16.30hrs
III Platoon on the brook line was engaged by the enemy. Acting according to the orders they withdrew N to the direction of Perkjärvi rwy station, then took positions.
17.00hrs
I and II Platoons manned the terrain at Koivikko. Ordered to defend.
18.35hrs
I and II engaged by the enemy.
20.00hrs
Baggage train moved from the Leipäsuo road to Kämärä rwy station.
22.30hrs
Order to retreat. The Squadron shall withdraw in the direction Perkjärvi-Leipäsuo.
23.50hrs
I and II Platoons set off on the Leipäsuo road for Kämärä rwy station.
During the battle at Perkjärvi no casualties. Losses include one LMG (broken) and one flare pistol.

6.12.1939
00.45hrs
III Platoon, as rear guard securing, started withdrawing at a slow riding pace on the same road as the rest of the Squadron.
01.30hrs
At ca. 3Km from Perkjärvi to the direction of Leipäsuo a lively auto fire was opened up at the Platoon.
Later it was found that it was our Sapper troops that were firing.
03.00hrs
Arrived at Leipäsuo rwy station. Lottas served coffee for the Platoon.
03.30hrs
March went on along the rwy line for Kämärä rwy station
06.00hrs
Arrived at Kämärä rwy station, marched on to Kämärä village.
07.00hrs
Platoon dismounted, led the horses for some 4 km.
07.30hrs
Arrival at the HRR bivouack area where one tent was given to the Platoon for their disposal.
Cadet Valtonen set off to liaise with the Squadron.
07.45hrs
Turned in.
09.30hrs
Horses were watered and fed. The Platoon was provided with hay and oats by HRR.
10.00hrs
E/HRR provided dry rations.
11.00hrs
Soup was provided.
11.30-1600hrs
Rest.
(...)

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