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Ravanmäki as I experienced it
Journal ”Kansa Taisteli” 11, 1961
The battleground N of Säämäjärvi , In Russian “Sjamozero” After the map case incident I and my Platoon were idle for a couple of hours. Sounds of auto fire bursts and rifle shots from various directions told us that action was going on. Then Lt. Törni's Runner arrived. We had to start working. The Platoon stood up and was ready the same instant.
Lt. Törni indicated the bearing with his arm, and the distance thereabouts:
-Vanya is there about to break in our positions. You shall get one LMG with you.
We set out hastily. We advanced in the same direction as in the afternoon on the left wing, just about at the edge of the forest. We set up our line: First squad on the left, Second on the right. Open ground, then a willow thicket, open ground, thicket. This was repeated about ten times. The tension increased. Now? Not yet. Our hasty steps turned into sneaking, our bodies were bent into a crouch in readiness to duck any moment. Our eyes were trying to scan through the willow thicket ahead for anything. Nothing yet. Another meadow. Again, nothing. The bearing was correct for sure. Tension increased the length of the distance. How far are they actually? My Platoon shall definitely do their duty as long as I do mine. I have to take the Platoon in action in a very short range, whatever will happen. Still not yet.
Now, what's that? The terrain behind those bushes is rising. Carefully now. They must be there. Indeed they were. We heard foreign babbling. Did they spot us already? They didn't, else they would have fired. There we shall stop, in front of the bushes. I rose my arm to halt the line, then whispered my command to the right and to the left:
-Not until I order. Then all at once. Kneeling, not to hit the clouds.
I supported my left elbow on my knee and my hand was clutching the magazine. I aimed a bit over the ground through the willow bushes. My right forefinger started squeezing the trigger, slowly and evenly.
It was but a whisper but the effects were terrible. Twenty SMGs, one LMG and a few rifles were mowing down their targets. Opening the fire relaxed our tension and relieved our minds. I fired the first drum magazine almost in one go. Magazine swap. The lethal rattle went on. The surprise had been total and the effect corresponding to it. Behind the willow thicket we could hear loud babbling, grunting, wailing and shouting:
Clunking of metal almost next to me to the right: they are going to aim a MG at us. I turned my body to redirect the burst of my SMG. Clunking ceased. Yet weapons were aimed at us. Bullets were whistling about past our ears, tree branches were snapping and the bushes were cracking.
My finger was ever tighter on the trigger. Now it was all about which side would gain the upper hand. One side must give up. We could not give up. At the corner of my eye I glimpsed how Pvt. Vilkuna on my right dropped down from his knee position, sinking slowly to the ground. Did he die? No, he didn't! Vilkuna got up, even picking up his weapon, turned around and left, clutching his chest. But this sturdy youngster did not utter a sound, except the quiet grunt as he took the hit.
On the left my deputy Sgt. Öhman and a Squad Leader, Cpl. Lahdensuu reported that they had been wounded and withdrew unassisted. Despite these casualties we gained the upper hand. Firing at us ceased. The surviving enemies fled if they were able to. The ground on the far side of the willow thicket was covered with bodies. But it was not possible to go there. The open ground was controlled by enemy MG s farther off.
We, too, stopped and began preparing to pull back. I watched at the terrain to make sure that no one of the men would be left behind. I saw nobody but on the left, in the forest, someone was wailing. MG burst had shattered Jaeger Ahlberg's both legs, one at the knee and the other one at the ankle. He was lying helpless on the ground, in pain, ripping moss with his hands. I stopped two boys: Nokka-Halonen and Kilpiö.
-You two, take Ahlberg along. Anybody else in that forest ?
-None. Everyone is here.
I listened for a while. I heard nothing. To test I fired a couple of brief bursts in the direction of the enemy through the willow bushes. No retaliation. Slowly I left to follow the others, yet I stopped a few times to listen. When I had made it with the Platoon we once more counted our casualties. One man was missing – Saastamoinen. Where is he ? Saastamoinen had been the last man on the extreme left wing in the forest and he was left there. Someone knew that he had fallen in action but was that true? Should we have peeked deeper in the forest before leaving? All we could do was to make believe that Death had been merciful to Saastamoinen.
For the hours of the night my Platoon was posted as the close range reserve on the same sector. The infantrymen were honestly grateful for the help we had provided and made us, young men, engage in too loud chatting. The result was that enemy mortars began to harass us and annoy the infantry officers. Fortunately there were no casualties.
In the small hours the Platoon was returned to the old positions. Lt. Törni had personally led a recon patrol up to the enemy artillery positions and now he sent me with two of my boys to reconnoitre on the left. Silence was reigning supreme and nothing was seen, although the gut feeling was to pay attention to the open left flank. Securing was upgraded by posting on the bog our III Platoon half-platoon led by NCO Asser Tiira.
I had an express shake from my thoughts to the reality. A SMG started chattering in the direction of Tiira's fore-post. I bounced up and ran to the Command Post where Tiira's runner was already panting:
-Enemies are coming all over the bog.
Lt. Törni issued his order without having to pause to think:
-Get your platoon and Asser's half-platoon.
The fighting line was set up in a moment and we were advancing down the slope as I caught sight of Asser's bulky countenance on the left ahead of us. He had disengaged his half-platoon from the bog. I told him about the subordination command. He joined his half-platoon to my line to extend it to the left, then the word was passed:
-Ready ? -Ready. -Forward!
Our line was moving in sparsish coniferous forest to the direction of the bog. Undergrowth covered up prone men so that they could not be seen
We advanced stepping crouched meter by meter. The slope was descending. We had made one hundred meters, then some more. Suddenly something appeared to have moved ahead our us.
-Get down ! Fire !
In the same instant we took a torrent of fire at us. There was whistling in the bushes. There was snapping at the tree branches. The moss was boiling. Our fire was a torrent also: thirty buzzing SMGs. One drum mag in one burst. Magazine swap and again the gun was playing. I let go a few bursts and stopped to listen. -The firing on the enemy side had decreased. If I wanted to make the counterstrike proceed in an effective manner I had to make our fire and movement synchronized. Leaning on my elbows I carefully raised my head to be able to observe the situation and slowly moved my gaze front the right to the left and...
A sudden strike at the right upper arm bone was of such huge force that it threw me in the air and dropped me on my back on the rising slope. Before I had landed there was a searing pain on my right knee.
-Now the Lieut died, I heard Jaeger Lilja on my right side say to Jaeger Kuikka next to him.
-I am not yet died – I managed to think this much before a darkness landed on me and took me in the depths.
As I came to it was silence all over. Sun was shining right at my face and songbirds were twittering somewhere near. My first thought was that the enemy attack had rolled over us and I had been stuck in a territory they controlled. What to do? I found myself in quite a helpless state. My right arm was listless across my chest, bent at the point of fracture. A sharp end of a bone was sticking out of the wound an blood was flowing out. My right knee was bent, bleeding. At my legs I saw my SMG and my cap. I would not stay put. That was my decision and I started thinking how to reach the weapon and how to get in a sitting position against a tree to wait for the chance to make my last stand. Then a crack from the side reached my ears and my instinct told me that I had been dazed only for a moment and the situation was unchanged. Supporting my left elbow and heel to the ground I started dragging myself to the rear, up the slope.
Lilja and Kuikka saw what I was up to and crept to me. Holding me by my belt they dragged me in cover behind a dense fir tree. Asser Tiira also found his way there, assisted by Tuure Virta he placed me on his back in a “bag of salt“ manner, stood up and proceeded carrying me. Of course the enemy saw what was going on. The bushes started boiling. Tiira just asked me if I was hurting, and tried to step as evenly as he could. I told him to go on although my arm was hanging limp, swaying at every touch with a twig, the pain making my brow sweat cold drops. If one is lucky, he just is that way. The journey appeared long to me, over one hundred meters in cover on the top of the hill, we finally made it.
Our MG was being rushed past us to support our defence and our Runner NCO, Cpl. Antero Ruottinen had been ordered to take over the II Platoon. There was a stretcher waiting, and our experienced and calm paramedic NCO Cpl. Lahti was already mounting the needle on his morphine syringe. Our outfit was indeed well equipped in every respect. Alder branches were expertly fashioned into splints to support my arm as immobile as possible. Lt. Törni and I Platoon CO Lt. Holger Pitkänen came to my stretcher and I told them all I knew. Törni and Pitkänen appeared to be very worried: it was a bit questionable whether a horse could get through via the supply road, and they could not afford to assign men to escort us. Yet we had to try.
On the horse cart was hoisted another stretcher: Jaeger Johansson of my Platoon had taken three bullets through his lungs and was unconscious and wheezing. Another man with a light leg wound joined us. The horseman was the only able-bodied one, and what could he have accomplished with the rifle slung on his back. So the last horse from Ravanmäki set out. The distance to the C.C.S. Was long, about ten kilometre. The shaking of the cart overcome the effect of the morphine and even though half unconscious my ear tried to capture sounds from the sides of the road. When would the ambushing enemy open fire? Johansson, by my side, struggled to get some air in his lungs.
We reached our destination successfully and a lorry took us quite soon to Suojärvi. Although the local surgeon had a tremendous workload he took his time for me and did not amputate my arm which finally remained usable.
What about them who stayed at Ravanmäki ?
The enemy attack that I set out to beat back was a part of the simultaneous offensive all over the area. The enemy had pushed an enveloping outfit in our rear to serve as an anvil against which the defender's troops were to be crushed. The enveloping outfit was in place, dug in at the roadside as the last horse from Ravanmäki passed them. Forest assisted Finns to break through or to dodge the enemy in separate formations. Asser Tiira returned with his half-platoon a couple of days later than others, having e.g. swum over a couple of lakes to confound the pursuers.
Our losses were heavy, almost one hundred men which means about one in four fighters at Ravanmäki became casualties. Of the officers of our Jaeger Company only two survived – Lt. Törni himself and Pitkänen. Lt. Pentti Tiitinen and 2nd LT. Viljo Turpeinen fell in action on the bog West of the village. The estimated enemy casualties were several hundred.
As Detachment Törni was again mustered and refitted with new bikes and other lost gear, it was again a formidable strike force to be deployed where needed. On the other hand the brave II/JR33 had lost strength even more, but they kept fighting as a Battalion because it could not be helped.
Lauri Allan Törni was later promoted to Captain and decorated with VR1 (MHR)
The diary of II/JR 33 :
Ravanmäki = Rapavaara (synonymous meaning)
7th Coy sent a Runner with information that in Rapavaara had arrived Jääk.K/1.D having cleared the Kivatsu roadsides. The Coy had returned to their positions and the Jaeger Coy participated in the defence.
Btn CO order: 3 platoons of 5th Coy to march back, Platoon Sarkko shall take the wounded and the fallen to Onkamus village.
5th Coy in their destination in Rapavaara. Liaised with Lt. Törni.
Btn CO order: The elements of Coy Törni that are in defence shall be detached for flank securing duty. 5th Coy shall set up defences on the left flank of 7th Coy. Both Coys are to set aside one platoon in reserve. Jääk.K./1.D shall patrol on the flanks.
Lt. Torniainen's Platoon of 48.Tyk.K. Reported
Btn Mortar Platoon reported.
The platoon strong recon patrol of Jääk.K/1.D returned, they had advanced from East of Rapavaara village to to the isthmuses of Rapajärvi lake. The Eastern side of Rapajärvi is free of enemies, on the Western side there is a vehicle road from SE and artillery positions.
Jääk.K/1.D patrol set out to evict the enemy from the bushes on the left flank and found an enemy outfit advancing there. The patrol took strong fire (MG etc.) and set up defences to secure their flank.
Lt Toiviainen reported: Kivatsu road has been blocked [by enemy] and a company strong enemy outfit is advancing on the right flank.
Jääk.K/1.D sent a patrol to the right flank.
5th Coy Reserve platoon relieved the Jääk.K/1.D outfit securing the left flank.
Jääk.K/1.D sent out a patrol to the direction of the Kivatsu road.
6th Coy CO reported with two rifle platoons and one MG platoon. The CO ordered them to move as reserve to the terrain of the triangular measurements pylon and set up short range securing.
Jaeger Coy sent out a patrol to the Kivatsu road and it was found that the enemy was at the Coy bicycles.
Report by the patrols on the right flank: A company size enemy outfit approaching from the left to the flank and the Btn C.P..
Btn CO order: Every available man (Runners, AT platoon, Sappers etc.) to set up securing on the right flank and 6th Coy shall strike at the flank of the advancing enemy.
Enemy launched a strong fire strike with all weapons at the direction of the road.
Enemy accomplished a breakthrough on the 7rh Coy sector on both sides of the road.
Btn CO order to disengage and withdraw delaying to the direction of Onkamus village. Disengagement happened immediately. Delaying positions were set up immediately behind the village, on the pylon hill and deeper in the rear at the road, the last ones at the perimeter of Onkamus village.
The following units participated in the battle of Rapavaara:
II/JR33: 5.K, 6.K, 7.K, I/8.K, mortar platoon
One Squad of Sappers
17 KIA, 38 WIA, 9 MIA.
The last outfits (of 6th Coy ) crossed the Kivatsujoki river. The Battalion was subordinated to JR33.
(end of day)
Due to the lockout of public libraries it has not been possible to check Pres. Koivisto's memoirs to see what he told about this battle in which he definitely participated.
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Two cases of divine protection
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 10, 1961
Lukkarinen's outfit was another Detached AT Platoon which were set up in a training center in Hämeenlinna during the latter phases of the Winter War as fast as imported or captured AT guns were available. Few war diaries have survived.
War was being fought at Viipuri in the first days of March 1940. We had been assigned to JR15 in the front line for more than a week now and in the dark evenings and nights we had been moving about as if in moonlight because light was reflected from the constant fires raging in the town, caused by enemy bombardment.
I and Einari Sikanen from Sakkola had been in sentry duty at our AT position all day until at dusk another pair of sentries arrived to relieve us. The long stints of duty were practised to avoid unnecessary exposure to shelling since the distance to our shelter was about one kilometre.
We set out for our shelter that was said to been an accommodation for hospital personnel during peacetime. Since the enemy kept on shelling despite darkness we jogged on all the way up the Heinjoki road, Sikanen ahead of me. On the road through the hospital park I slowed down to walking pace and my pal did likewise. Suddenly a shell burst at a large fir of the park which broke like a carrot. Just before this we had spotted three men on their skis under the fir, having a smoke. We run there at once and a third man arrived, too. Actually there was nothing to do for us, because of those three men only one was able to speak his last words to his Lieutenant:
-Send my things in my backpack home and my last regards to my dear old mum, let her know that this was it. There the life third young soldier was finished. We bared our heads for prayer to honour the three men who had made the supreme sacrifice for their Fatherland.
Thinking back on this case I often pondered in what miraculous manner the Providence protected the Undersigned during the days of the Winter War in hundreds of incidents. If we had hurried more during our return that day we would have shared the fate of those three men.
Some days later we were getting ready in the morning dusk for an all-day stint in the front line. I was ordered to join two “leaders”, Corporals H. Hyvönen (from Pöljä) and A. Heikkinen (from Lapinlahti). Our AT gun position consisted of a gun pit by a huge boulder just next to a road. The boulder provided cover from weather and fire, and also a good view to the terrain in front of us. Our AT gun was at hand but nothing special happened at daybreak, just normal roar of artillery fire. Shelling appeared to get more intense the higher the sun climbed over the line of the forest. Then the enemy as if woke up into feverish activity. It was as if all the spirits of Hell would have been let loose, roar and crashing increased into a fever pitch. This of course implied another attack at our sparsely manned line
Soon some men were sneaking about our position and as they told us they were pulling back we three had a problem. What to do, our CO, 2nd Lt. Raunto found himself in our shelter and there was a diabolic steel storm between us and him! Who would take the message to the Lieut in that storm, of course it felt safer to stay next to a big rock than move on the open ground.
Well, it is not hard to guess that a Private runs when ordered by two “leaders”! I explained my designed route to them so that they should be able to follow my track in case they would have to leave before the Lieut arrives. Then I set off. I dashed from one boulder to another, run the distances between them and again dashed.
I had planned to have a rest at a stone that was visible in our position but having reached it I saw that it had been occupied until a moment ago. There was an unmanned MG but I had no time to ponder about the matter, I just left a silent man next to his weapon and kept dashing as fast as a young man is able to. It was a heavy and sweaty journey that appeared to last an eternity while iron was falling on the rocky ground as if dry peas would have been poured. But I felt better as I was approaching our shelter. By dashing and bouncing I arrived happily at my destination, once more having survived a steel storm.
This time we were sheltered in the kitchen of the hospital pig-sty that had appeared to be a safe abode with its meter thick stone walls. I sat down on a stool, panting, while explaining Lieut Raunto the situation. I did not manage to say anything more before a tremendous pressure wave made the doors fly open. I collapsed on the floor. The next second there was an ear—splitting explosion and our allegedly safe shelter was filled with a dense burst of smoke, dirt and pieces of stone. We saw nothing for a while.
Finally the rumbling of stones ended but smoke and dust of dirt still filled the space. Then I heard the voice of our Lieut:
-Anybody alive here?
It was an extreme miracle that all seven of us were alive, but – of our shelter, nothing was left. The meter thick stone wall had been crumbled by an aerial bomb! The walls had vanished in thin air! The first bomb had hit on the yard, opening the doors and the second one had landed just next to the wall. No one had suffered as much as a scratch.
Was this not another proof of divine protection? One whose number is not up was protected. It was one hundred per cent more wonderful than modern rocket tests by humans.
Having survived the bombardment and after shelling had eased down a little our Lieut set out find out about the front line situation. It was not different from the morning, so the deserting men had been talking nonsense. Next night we sought a little better position for our gun and found a new shelter in the cellar of a slaughterhouse.
Last input 2020 spring, gardening takes all my time now until winter.
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Shelling directed with cheese boxes at Someri
Journal Kansa Taisteli, 10, 1961
Stronghold Someri was manned by III/RTR 12.
The rocky island of Someri is situated next to the middle of the Gulf of Finland about 20km SSE from our outermost Finnish WW2 coastal fort of Ulko-Tammio. The distance to the Soviet held Lavansaari was about as much. (60-12-40 N, 27-38-60 S). The island is 900 m long from W to E and in width varying from 100 to 300 m.
After the failed Soviet attempt to capture the island in 1942 the life on the island had become quite monotonous, without any variation or any entertainment. Only the sound of waves breakeing on the rocky coastline and the silhouettes of other islands far away reminded us of the existence of the rest of the world.
However, our enemy kept us in contact with our daily life on earth byh shelling at times our island with their long-range 5” guns [actually 130mm, tr.rem.] and by occasionally airdropping us their actual first hand news, but with too much noise for our liking.
Since our own long range guns were unable to retaliate due to the range, the challenge provided by Lavansaari remained a soliloqy. We had to accept the fact that we could only resort to passive countermeasures, and we did by the by adapt to some kind of co-existence with Lavansaari.
On the rocky soil of Lavansaari an enemy 5” shell had a wide range of effect due to splinters and rocks thrown by the burst, consequently alert to take cover was much necessary. An alert was launched when one of the two sentries kept constant observation to the direction of Fort Lavansaari, and spotting a muzzle flame immediately sent order to take cover. The trajectory time for a shell in a 20 km range was about 62 seconds, enough time to enable taking cover.
To make the alerts better heard, the one-ton fog bell of the destroyed Narvi lighthouse was retrieved from the island that now was no-man's land, the operation was led by the stronghold C/O Capt. Åholm. The bell was hung just behind the sentry post and the cord was placed within the reach of the sentry. Now alerts were issued quickly and effectively. The bell could be heard even in strormy weather despite the noise of the sea at every quaarter of the island.
Soviet fire was mostly accurate and often it happened that the very first shell hit our island. To prevent the enemy observation a smokescreen launching network was constructed on the South shore. Depending on the wind different smoke generators could be fired from the observation tower. Creation of a smokescreen, however, took some time and some wind directions prevented it totally. As soon as a smokescreen was total, Lava.nsaari would stop shellling, restarting as soon as the smokescreen had dissipated.
Our best defence method was however to control the shelling by Lavansaari by ourselves, as odd as this may sound.
Our food rations included daily some processed cheese, supplied to the fort in wooden boxes of four kilos. These boxes were reused when empty. One kgm charge of Amatol was placed in a box topped with dirt dug from the cracks of the rock. When exploded the box created a fairly realistic reproduction of the strike of a shell fired by Lavansaari, even so credible that when testing them a sentry set off a smokescreen believing that it was an enemy shell.
When observing at a range of 20 km from Lavansaari the Russians without hesitation considered these discharges as their own, specially as they were triggered a few seconds before the real shell landed. The box charges were placed in suitable spots on the S slope of the island, visible to the observation from Lavansaari. Someri island is rising fairly high at both ends thus masking from the observers on Lavansaari every too long shot.
As Lavansaari started again their usual harassment shelling, fake hits were discharged by us on the S shore in suitable spots. Being better visible to Lavansaari the resut was that their shelling was adjusted lenght-wise. This went on until the shells fired by Lavansaari were in our opinion hitting at a safe distance, that is about one kilometer N of our island.
Next we discharged the bang-boxes in the terrain of the observation tower and our battery next to it, usually the main target of the Russian fire activities. Now Lavansaari really opened up, firing a strike of dozens of shells – over the island while our men were watching the fireworks at the door of their dugouts, smiling.
Once a sentry by accicent discharged fake hits at the E side of the island while Lavansaari was aiming at our stronghold on the W side. The rsult was that the next volley hit about ½ km W of the island. Casualties by enemy shelling at Someri comprised in two years one KIA and three WIA.
Finally our opponent got wise about our clever assistance to their F.O.O., but still we were constantly able to confuse their observations so that the eagerness of Lavansaari to shell us was considerably diminished. They would fire single brief strikes with haphazard accuracy.
So, the processed cheese, consumed by us in great quantity, created some useful side effects.
Extracts from the Someri war diary:
01.25hrs One green flare bearing 142deg.
05.45hrs AA shooting bearing 184 deg
09.00hrs Weather (blank line)
09.29hrs Enemy launched harassment shelling, firing 18 shells, one of which seen from the tower was about 300m short of the coastline, another about 20m over , a third short, about 10m SE of the tower and the rest 15 hits were 50 to 400 m over seen from the tower..
Smokescreen was launched at 0934hrs but due to too strong wind it was not quite uniform. Yet it made the emeny interrupt several times. Smoking was ended at 1122hrs.
Two windows of the turret were broken.
Before midnight enemy patrol boats patrolling at Lavansaari.
Aerial activities: 4 enemy missions. 10 a/c.
(End of day)
13.43hrs Enemy launched harassment shelling from Lavansaari, 12 shells fired, 6 of which hit home. One in front of the tower, 500m short, one in the direction of the turret. Two hits on the N shoreline. 2 hits at Länsijyrkkä (the W tip of the island) , 500 to 600 m over. One hit at the Länsijyrkkä isthmus well, 20 to 30 m S of the tower. One at the Länsijyrkkä ishtmus direction 300m over, one hit at the cellar, one hit in the park, two 50m over in the direction of the tower. Shelling ended at 1425hrs.
13.46hrs Smokescreen launched and maintained unti 1442hrs. Too strong wind hampered smokescreen development.
07.23 to 07.29hrs Lavansaari launched harassment shelling fing 10 shells, of which the first one about 200m short, the rest 100 to 200 m over in the direction of Länsijyrkkä isthmus No damage.
07.25hrs Smokescreen launched at Reuna
08.20hrs Six smoke pods lit by thunderstorm and they burned for 5 min.
19.23hrs to 19.56hrs Lavansaari Ristiniemi battery fired at our island 11 shells of which 3 short, 1 hit and 7 over. No damage. Smokescreen was launched. Three short fake hits were fired, deceiving the enemy to add elevation so the hits were even more over.
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Do not let the devil across
“Kansa Taisteli”, 10/1961
The author was a F.O.O. Team man of I/ KTR16, subordinated to 3.D at Uhtua. The day must have been 14/15th August 1941, and location at Vuoninen village.
It was a stifling hot day in the first half of August 1941 More likely July, tr.rem]. There was no trace of cloud on the sky, no wind whatsoever in the air shimmering with heat. Nature appeared to be still, waiting for a storm, and the soldiers had joined the wait. It was a hard slog through a difficult terrain and the air, thick with smoke sucked the juice out of the toughest men. Struggling up and down on steep rock y slopes the men appeared to be concentrating all their attention in staying up. Soft, sinking bogs and almost impenetrable bushes did not provide any refreshment. This god-forsaken wilderness was being baked by the blood red sun through the smoke created b y forest fires.
A surrounding manoeuvrer was being carried out since the enemy was unwilling to abandon the village of Vuonninen [Voiniza] just like that. They had entrenched themselves well N of the village with an apparent intent to stay there.
A small F.O.O. Squad of KTR16 stopped on a low hill. The visibility was poor in every direction because the low bush was as dense as possible. We had not reached our objective and would not get there since suddenly we heard intense firing breaking out to the left from us. Judging by circumstances a premature firefight was going on there. Ghostly silence had ended. Our tension appeared to have relieved or then our senses were just numbed because we were tired men in any case. Our bread pouches contained just cartridges, nothing else, doing nothing to relieve our pangs of hunger, just adding to it. Our radio operator was desperately trying to establish contact. Sweating he was busy with his apparatus.
Of course we are depending on that damn radio, that cannot reach even our command post!.. The idea came into my mind unexpectedly, and it was obvious that bad luck was haunting us still. Our mission would fail, we could now guess that. A Runner of the infantry battalion confirmed our doubts when he informed us:
-Contact the F.O.O. Position, telephone connection is cut off, there are enemy patrols on our incoming route, our left wing has contacted enemy manning, right wing is not secured, we need help.
-I am afraid there is going to be a panic, 2nd Lt. Varheenmaa commented with some irony while shrugging shoulders.
-We shall report to the Battalion as soon as we have made contact with them. We are doing our best.
-We are in trouble now, brother. Come here, he beckoned to me, we have to find a better place.
He took a slightly doubting glance at the men lying on the ground.
-You heard the situation report, keep your eyes open, I shall probably not return, act on your own, we have to liaise.
A benevolent grin spread on his face, that appeared to cheer the men up a little, because a cold truth garnished with a joke always had a sympathetic reception. I, for one, forgot for a while my empty stomach and hurting heel, but only for a moment. As soon as I took the first step I was aware of them.
We proceeded quietly some distance. Then the Lieutenant stopped, pulled a map out of his pocket and handed it over to me saying:
- You have to take the message to the C.P. Although I am perfectly well aware what that implies taking into account your condition, but I have no choice. I cannot abandon the men.
- I shall make it alone , if the fate wills it.
We went on in silence for a while, then I bumped into the Lieut in front of me. Unnoticed by me he had stopped and was now crouching, as if preparing to jump. Instinctively I copied his example. That what we instinctively had all the time expected and unconsciously feared was now a fact. On the left and ahead there was some cracking and silent talking, maybe commands. Inadvertently I cursed aloud. That reactivated my pal, he turned to me and whispered:
-That is what my dream implied.
-The crude tone of his voice and his pale face surprised me. As far as I remember I had never seen Lieutenant Varheenmaa that serious.
-Head for the bend of the river, then there is a straight line on the map from there to the C.P. Do whatever you think necessary, I have to get back, I still can make it. Hide, for G-d's sake!
His hastily uttered last words were still ringing in my ears even though my pal had disappeared from my view. I stood there for a moment, as if paralysed, listening and watching. In front of me I saw a big boulder, as if thrown by a giant father. It had split in two, providing an excellent cover for a Finnish soldier. I crept in the crack. It was an excellent hideout because a dense juniper bush masked the other end of the crack. I was sure that no one would spot me unless someone had the idea to come in here for their business.
Without blinking an eye I started watching the show unfolding in front of me. From the bush entered men in brown tunics, an endless file. They are heading for this spot, why the heck do they not take a detour past the rock... I started hearing my pulse at my temples strangely loud, I supported my SMG at my left arm and prepared for the worst. I heard rustling behind me and sunk deeper in the grass in the cover of the juniper bush. Soon I realised why they were coming that way: they are short-cutting the bend of the river, they are in the process of manning the river beach.
I knew I was saved now, being left outside of at least this line. I do not think I ever have sighed with more earnest relief than at that moment. I found myself stroking the cold black metal of my SMG and I wondered if any mother ever stroke the cheek of her first baby with more tenderness than I devoted to this inanimate object. I cannot tell how many men passed by me but there were a lot of them. Later Lt. Varheenmaa commented: “almost hell of a lot”, a good estimate in my opinion.
I was waiting patiently until I found that finally the file of enemies had ended. There was no time to waste reconsidering the situation, I just crept out of my hole, flat as a bed-bug. I was the only messenger, everything could depend on my being successful. I forgot my exhaustion, my heel and almost everything else. Soon I felt the typical damp smell of the river and after a while I saw it in front of me, black and menacing. There was no time to look around for anyone. Carefully I waded into the river, my heavy breathing was about bated as the cold water rose up to my waist. I feared to hear a shot any moment, because I was now an ideal target in the middle of the river. Yet nothing happened, not a sound anywhere
I trained my eyes at the covering shadows of the opposite shore, a couple of strides more and I would have passed the deepest spot of the river. Suddenly I felt a void under my heart, my belly appeared to fall down to the bottom. A nastily whining ricochet had passed overhead. I tried to convince myself that I was like a small nervous kid who now had to be calmed down. I managed to calm my mind while crawling up the river embankment. However, the riskiest part of my journey was still ahead, because the line, drawn on the map by the Lieutenant passed damn close to the enemy, almost touching their line.
I attempted to hurry up even though the pain in my heel had become ever more intense, now that I was wet. Moreover, I could not be sure if I was able to stay in course because shadows had grown longer and my eyes were getting dim. I kept stumbling on, falling flat time and again, my knees appeared to be failing, in short, I was totally exhausted and a kind of sleep-walker.
There was a gentle rocky slope ahead. My instinct warned me, but I kept pushing on, my senses numbed. I tread on a loose round stone and fell down. There was a searing pain on my right knee because I had knocked it against a sharp edge of a stone. The same moment I rather sensed than heard or saw a tremendous crack. Angry sparks were flying from the stones next to me. I had run almost in the arms of the enemy. They, too, were totally surprised, I think. I got a hold of my SMG and aimed a long burst at the weapons nest. I jumped up as my weapon quit. I felt I was rolling, my leg was all numb and I was no able to move it. Feeling my knee I got blood in my hand.
It took an eternity before I had made it to the C.P. I cannot recall the final stages of my journey. I just remember the commotion. My story must have been convincing because I remember how a tall clumsy man got up and headed with his hands outstretched at the phone set next to a birch. I heard him say, poetically, in a bass voice:
-Do not let the devil pass!
The words had a solemn tune. I could have sworn that the Battalion CO Capt E. Pasanen enjoyed the situation. The next moments were full of tension as Capt. Pasanen delivered fire commands in person. The first to fire were the 3” split trail guns, all our other guns joined in while the heavy Battalion was banging away some distance off. KTR 16 was now firing a barrage, a wonderful piece of symphonic music.
I closed my eyes and leaned exhausted at a tree trunk and listened. I felt shivers in my back. It was not the wet garments or the strain of the journey but a thrilling feeling of well-being. It was an enjoyment to hear our artillery fire. It encouraged and created trust. The breakthrough was successful without problems.
Extract from I/KTR16 war diary:
Weather: half cloudy, +18 deg C
Enemy artillery harassed us all day, no casualties
All available men of the Battalion were putting out forest fires.
21.00hrs Command post shifted about 1 km N of the Kursmajoki bridge.
23.15hrs 2nd and 3rd Battery F.O.O. Teams reconnoitring for positions.
2nd Battery F.O.O. Team is attached to Det. Raninen and 3rd Battery F.O.O. To Det. Salo.
Fire direction telephone exchange was set up near the c.p..
PFC Niemi MIA during a patrol skirmish. Most likely taken POW.
Weather: half cloudy, +18 deg C
01.30-02.00hrs Battaliion fired for attack preparation at Eastern Vuonninen and at the Vuonnisjoki river line.
02.15.02.30hrs Three Stukas raided enemy line, firing intense MG bursts. In the ensuing aerial battle enemy fighters shot down one Stuka.
Crossing Vuonnisjoki was partly successful on the left flank.
05.00hrs Battaliion shelled an enemy F.O.O. Post destroying it.
12.00hrs Battalion harassed enemy lines.
19.45hrs Battalion fired attack preparation in front of Det. Ylönen
21.10hrs By the order of the Battalion CO barrages were fired at the Vuonnisjoki line to prevent eventual enemy counter-strikes
22.38hrs Enemy launched a counterstrike which was repelled. Our fire was very efficient here.
Gunner Lahdenoja wounded.
76K 574 shells
122H 105 shells
Extract from KTR 16 war diary.
Report on Regimental communications
Rgt CO has had three sorts of radio communications with the Battalions
I/KTR16: Communication by Helvar C- Helvar B RL 10 with Morse code. The first one being lighter was in use for Capt. Pasanen. Communication was hindered, at times prevented, strongly by radio problems in the Helvar C.
Rask.Psto 16 was equipped with old C transceivers. Contact established before Capt. Lepisto started but since the advancing started no contact was made due to the weak power of the transceivers, the terrain and the poor condition of the transceivers.
III/KTR16 was equipped with new Telefunken artillery transceivers. Communication was excellent all the time, excluding the time Capt. Alm was on the move, both spoken and Morse, speaking over microphone or throat mic.
Distance varied from 4 m to 10 km, spoken messages heard all the time.
On the N sector the infantry advance was stalled at the Vuonnisjoki river line in the night 14/15.7.1941. In the small hours the enemy launched a strong counter-attack that forced the infantry to retreat. The counter-attack suppression was participated by I/KTR16. The counter-attack was so strong that our positions at Vuonnisjoki were about to break. The effective action by I/KTR16 saved the day, however.
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Military policeman in Winter War
11._SpK was deployed at Kemijärvi instead of Kuhmo, the info provided by the author must be erroneous. Very few SpK diaries exist, nothing was found to confirm the story.
My experiences of our wars shall remain in my memory maybe to the very end of my life. My war started as I volunteered in the early days of December in 1939 and I took off my field gray garments on 12th November 1944. During the intermediate peace I was granted a two month furlough for joining up as a volunteer. What a lot of incidents happened during these years. Yet my luck was such that I survived with my skin whole from the beginning to the end. My health was perfect, so as an infantryman and a NCO I had to go through all that a man can in his outfit.
I shall recount an incident of the Winter War.
I felt the first smell of death at Suomussalmi in January 1940. My outfit then was the 11th [?] Military Police Company led by Capt. Eino Kaipainen (a police officer who became a successful actor, tr.rem.). The most exciting incident happened in Kuhmo, behind Lammasselkä near Saunalampi.
Saunalampi was a small lake in the middle of a lake, next to it there was a small field, a couple of hectares wide. There had been a forest warden's house there, now only ruins of it were left. A cow shed and a barn next to it had not burned down, and there was a poor small granary huddling in the cover of the forest.
The cow shed was being used now as a kind of storage space. The barn was empty, small and made of hewn logs. There was a small hatch in one of the walls. The door was old and weather-beaten, hanging on wooden hinges. We were using this shack as our temporary quarters. At night-time we had a sentry post at the edge of the forest, and our securing ski track ran to the right from there.
Now it was a clear February day. Enemy air activities went on, bombs kept falling from the sky. There were aircraft diving and pulling up. Their noise was tearing our ears. A supply outfit housed in a nearby patch of forest took heavy casualties, men and horses were killed, even a field kitchen was damaged and became unusable.
There were four of us lads shivering with cold in that shack of a barn, there was no way to warm up and the temperature must have been about -30 deg C. We were trying to keep concealed from the enemy aircraft that kept bombing and strafing.
Suddenly the rumbling was cut off. We were surprised by the silence but at the same moment we started hearing noise of skiing rubbing the snow and squeaking of ski sticks. Peeking from the hatch I saw nothing. I heard just babbling and clattering. I opened the door just a little and to my horror I found that we were in the middle of a group of enemies, actually surrounded by them. They were milling about and some were already nosing in the small barn while more of them were skiing in our way on the open ground.
I pulled my mug out of the door crack and before the door was slammed shut, a burst of fire hit the door already. I got some small splinters in my eyes because they were smarting. I dropped down at the wall and was so scared that I had problems in breathing. I pushed myself lower, pawing the straw below me. With a sigh of relief I found that the enemy bullets and bursts were passing overhead. The rocks supporting the wall and the rising ground outside covered us quite well.
Yet out situation was quite dire. Penttilä, lying prone next to me, whispered:
-We shall not be taken alive.
He pulled his pistol that he had brought from the civilian life. A pull of the slide, switch off the safety – turn off life.
My past life was flashing in front of my eyes, I caught a glimpse of my father and mother, too. I was sure that the death was not far – it would be just a matter of moments when it would take us, at the same time I was bitter: should my life end so soon. Yet I encouraged Penttilä at my side:
-Not yet, we don't have to, actually!
I kept glancing at the hatch in the wall, fearing that soon a hand grenade would be tossed in. I regretted not having blocked it but it was too late now. We fired through the walls a few times but found it useless since we could not see anything. Suddenly the enemy firing stopped and again the wintry ground outside started squeaking. We could hear whispers and sounds of sneaking outside. We decided that whatever would happen, we must soon make an attempt. Nothing was seen through the hatch, the door was ajar and we saw just packed snow and clear air.
Next three, four or more bayonets mounted on rifles approached the door and it was being forced open with them. The door was not totally opened before we gave a volley. The men coming in dropped down . We bounced up and rushed out. While dashing I pushed another cartridge in the chamber, pointed my rifle at the chest of the nearest enemy and he fell limp rearwards. The next one was just ducking behind a pile of manure and aiming at me. I was sure that I did not have time to shoot. It was just a miracle that I did manage to fire first and even hit in a situation where your life was depending on tenths of a second.
There were targets for each of us aplenty. I fired the magazine of my rifle empty and started running to the edge of the forest with wild strides. When dashing I was hoping not to take a hit yet, at least not in my legs. The enemy was firing at us as fast as they could so that snow was flying about around us.
There was a ditch at the edge of the forest – I dived there as fast as I could – I had been saved from the worst. I was puffing like a steam engine. I reloaded my rifle. Cold snow was melting in my hands as if on a hot stove. While loading I thought that now, you devils, are going to get as much as I am able to give you, I am no more within the range of your bayonets.
I crawled from the ditch under a fence in the cover of the forest, behind a hummock and pushed the barrel of my rifle through a crack in the fence. I heard someone next to me say:
-Oh man, did you see him make a somersault! It is a wonder really that I was the faster one -
It was Mikko Välitalo on his knees behind the fence, firing as fast as he could:
I asked him:
-Where are Pietilä and Piirainen, are we all saved ?
I warned Välitalo:
- Put your head down, can't you see that there is a LMG at the corner of the cow shed?
The very same moment a burst swept the snow off from the stakes of the fence
In war it is just an enjoyment when having escaped bayonets one has a chance to look through his sights without haste at the bayonet wielders. This situation provided us the pleasure, because now there were targets so well available that it is seldom possible. We found ourselves in the forest and the enemy on open ground at a range of one hundred meters. Enemy was seeking cover in the ditches and willow bushes growing on the edges of the ditches. We kept banging away and soon there was some movement behind us, we were getting help.
The situation continued by the by until morning. At sunrise we set out to check the barn surroundings. Corpses were lying all over the place. Pietilä pointed at one and said:
-That one did not die at once, but was pointing a pistol just at your back with his last forces but I managed to intervene. Without my help you would not be walking here.
A minor band of enemies surrendered at the dusk of the dawn. The entire enemy outfit had comprised some sixty men.
For our feat Capt. Kaipainen gave us a warm handshake for a job well done. Then he gave each of us a small gift and regretted that he had nothing better to give.
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Sub against sub
Journal "Kansa Taisteli", 11, 1961
The author was a torpedo NCO of a sub.
Finnish navy submarine Iku-Turso was patrolling on Ahvenanmeri (part of Baltic between Sweden and Aland islands) on 26 October 1942. I was sitting in the conning tower of the sub as an order relayer and logbook updater.
At 19.40hrs my attention was alerted by the words spoken in the communication tube:
-Oh heck how big she is – really, oh my, how big she is!
I started getting up from my cramped position in front of the forward periscope, the floor space being some less than a quarter of a square meter. At the same moment I heard clanking as the Madsen gun was cocked and then a command:
-Tower, battle alert!
The Madsen opened up. I already had my hand on the alert button and was able to make the men búsy. There indeed was commotion. Some men climbed past me on the tower deck while others headed for the battle direction space. I found it hard to find a place at all.
The “big one” was an enemy sub that had surfaced some distance in front of us, then passing us at a distance of some 20m. The hull and the conning tower sides were flashing as 20mm shells exploded or the tracer projectiles pierced the plate. The very moment the enemy dived and so escaped the final shootout.
The enemy sub was painted gray, of the newest model and almost 100m in length [sic!]. Her deck armament was at least twice more powerful than ours [sic!]. The Finnish sub was in colour black as the dark autumn night so that the enemy most likely did not see more than the Madsen muzzle flame.
When the enemy sub had dived we followed her on surface run aided by hydrphone. We heard her operate her pumps every now and then, judging by that she had taken some extra holes. Then we were misled to follow another vessel running along the Swedish coast but soon we found our prey again and did not lose her again.
A little before midnight the radio operator reported that now the sub is surfacing since copmressed air is hissing into her tanks. At once we proceeded at maximum speed to the bearing indicated by the radio operator. There we caught sight of that large sub silhouetted against northern horizon which as for our pleasure was clear and free of cloud. We had the sub on a platter.
At that moment, two minutes to 2400hrs at the polite request of our CO both bow torpedoes were launched at the enemy sub. Actually it did not take long to fulfill his request, because at the right moment at the order of the skipper some buttons were pushed and both torpedoes set out each with a 210 kg payload of compressed death. One and a half minutes past midnight one torpedo hit the enemy behind the conning tower.
A handsome flash was seen together with a water column of 40 to 50 m in height – ten seconds later nothing more.
The battle was over. Actually before the torpedo hit our deck gunners had a chance to blast at the enemy with the main gun a few times. Then we were occupied in defining the location of the sinking and observing if more enemies would appear. Hovever, the sky was now totally overcast and the night was darker than black. I had a chance to get on the deck for a moment. I sensed at once that the was a smell of diesel fuel in the air. I informed the officers about it. We tried to see the sea surface nearby for any floating oil but we must have passed the spot because nothing was seen.
I returned to the rear torpedo compartment. In case we would need more torpedoes, I should be there and ready because the rear ones were my responsibility. Senior Torpedo NCO Simo Karvonen was in charge of the bow torpedoes which had performed well.
Having been in the rear the communication tube nest to me squeaked. I answered and received an order:
-Kukkonen on the deck to smell the sea wind!
I did that but my nose was now helpless because we had been running on diesels for some time and there was such a stench of diesel fumes on the stern deck that my sense of smell was blocked out.
It was not until at dawnbreak that we found the spot with a large oil spill visible a long way. In the middle of the spill there was a spot where oil was rising to the surface in a thick funnel like flow. Our sonar indicated 150m depth, that meant that no one would be coming up alive.
Two weeks before the Vesihiisi had torpedoed an enemy sub and taken as many as four POWs. Anothr two weeks from our incident the Vetehinen sunk another enemy sub by ramming her. The bow of the Vetehinen resembled the open mouth of a shark after the attack.
Iku-Turso: 490 brt, 63 m length
Deck armament: 1x76mm, 1x20mm
Cdr.Capt. Eero Pakkala
Victim: Щ-320, 590 brt, 57m length
Deck armament : 2 x 45mm
Above data source: Wikipedia
Extract from the Iku-Turso logbook:
0825hrs Arrived at Maarianhamina.
1200hrs Departure to anti-submarine patrol together with sub Vetehinen on the Åland sea.
1345hrs Started search by using hydrophones in co-operation with the Vetehinen.
1700hrs Received by short range radio the order by Submarine flotilla: Run by the N limit of the patrol area to Maarianhamina. The Vetehinen stayed according to her previous orders at the strait on the line Tjärnen – Flötjan.
1737hrs Heading N (360º).
1930hrs Arrived at point N=60º04,5' E=19º04') where we turned left (sic!) bearing 100º.
1940hrs Battle alert. We spotted an enemy sub about 100m in front of our bow, running in direction about 320º. She passed us at a range of about 30m to our left. (sic!). Fire was opened with the Madsen auto-cannon. Plenty of hits scored. A total of 50 shots were fired. After the shooting the enemy boat was not seen any more. Probably she had dived. Sonar contact was not immediately established.
2030hrs Enemy was picked up by sonar and we started pursuing her.
2351hrs Enemy sub surfaced in the direction indicated by our sonar. Top speed ahead was ordered and we steered at the enemy bow first.
2355hrs Enemy totallly surfaced, , course E.
23.58hrs A double torpedo shot was fired from the bow tubes. Sight adjustment data: Velocity 12 knots, target ange= 100º. Aiming angle 16º.
Approach was continued.
0000hrs Fire was opened with the Bofors gun, [76mm, tr.rem]. 5 shells fired.
0001.15hrs Torpedo hit observed at the enemy sub midship, at the rear of the conning tower. Enemy sunk rapidly. We kept running to the sinking spot with maximum speed. The sinking spot was not detected immediately.
0130hrs The Vetehinen arrived at the spot.
0240hrs Sinking spot detected: a large oil slick with more oil still rising at the S side.
0315hrs Departed for Maarianhamina. The Vetehinen stayed on the spot.
0544hrs Arrival at Maarianhamina.
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Hanko is retaken
“Kansa Taisteli” 12/1961
The author was serving in JR55
It is the night of 2nd/3rd December 1941, there is no snow and pitch dark at the “motti” of Hanko. The 2nd Coy of Battalion E is on first line duty at Skoby village in the so called Devil's island sector. The field telephone in its hole in the wall of the sentry post buzzes faintly. I pick up the handset and respond:
-Lt. Peura here. I have been informed that the Russians are going to abandon Hanko They shall pull back from their front line probably as soon as tonight. Let me know immediately in case you spot anything implying that.
Many kinds of ideas start racing in my head when closing the lid of the handset. So it is true! The rumour passed yesterday by the horseman hauling food to us and served as dessert is turning into a fact. They are leaving or what? Are we allowed to pursue them? And what about the mines? I wonder if the town is much changed since I last saw it? I remember how I was evacuating the town that was handed over to Russians after the end of the Winter War.
My ten man squad and me had just started our sentry stint in a stretch of trench comprising five LMG nests. We had dug it clandestinely at night-time during the autumn right in front of the enemy nose. The distance to the enemy positions is less than one hundred meters, so we have to use crude “periscopes” fashioned out of pieces of plywood when observing no-man's-land...
On our right flank on top of a high rock behind well camouflaged wall of sand bags the neighbour have placed some snipers. Every now and then they have managed to remove one of our men from the rolls. Right opposite of us there is again a strong concrete pillbox with a MG that emits a burst occasionally, and they did just that just before the CO called. So they are not gone yet.
I shake my head and set out to pass the order to the men in the weapons nests on both wings. The lads just take it as a joke. Ivan is going nowhere just like that, and I tend to share the opinion. True enough the enemy has been shelling like crazy. It was rumoured that they were spending their ammo stockpiles before leaving. Last evening, again, we received a good blasting at our dugout village. Our tent was blasted to shreds, we had been accommodated in it while building a new dugout after the autumn rains had converted the old one into a well. We lost together with the tent a lad hailing from Pyhämaa, his chest pierced by a shell splinter.
Would the enemy really go away, after all. It would be annoying to abandon our just completed dugout. Well, we are likely to spend at the least the next night in it. On the other hand it would be the time to get out of here, we have been digging here all autumn. We have suffered from cold and stared in the darkness with smarting eyes. Down there at the shoreline is the notorious “death weapons nest” where no one would like to do sentry duty. It is said to be haunted. Heikkonen, a Carelian, copped it there, and many others. I remember how he, standing on my side, was hit in the head by a bullet and how I was sick as the smell of blood filled the weapons nest.
I am observing no-man's-land through the embrasure. It seems to be unusually calm. No flares although the enemy has the habit of launching them constantly after the onset of darkness. There is a sound of shot somewhere. I am peering in the darkness and sharpening my sense of hearing. I think I might hear some rustling noise. No, it is just the wind...This appears to be something out of ordinary.
I take my pocket torch and flash with it at the enemy side. No reaction, usually they would respond with a burst … There is a pile of propaganda rockets. I stick one on the ground by its guiding rod and light the fuse. Hissing it flies over to the enemy side, bursting at the treetops, and white paper sheets are raining on the ground. No reaction. Usually they have become angry and opened up furiously. I sent another rocket, then a third one. Nothing happens. The silence is screaming to me.
I make a phone call to the CO and inform him about the silence on the neighbour's side. Then I sit down in our foxhole with my pal, we light up, waiting in silence. Soon we hear quiet footsteps. It is the 2nd and 3rd squads. Also our Platoon CO 2nd Lt. Peltola arrives. He tells us that he has received orders to man the positions. Something special is going on. Finally this continuous waiting will be over. “Nothing new on the Hanko front”. That is what we have been reading in newspapers every day.
Company CO arrives in the trench and starts assembling a volunteer recon patrol. I volunteer to join them. Each of us gets a SMG and we stuff our pockets with hand grenades. The patrol is led by 2nd Lt. Tulonen, a short fast-moving man. He gives us a briefing then we go over the top in a single file. We are creeping in a file, carefully, holding our breath, for the enemy trench.
-Halt! The patrol leader's order passes from man to man: no-man's-land is full of mines and trigger wires. We are ordered to retreat.
The Sapper Company CO arrives with two sappers. They start studying the terrain. We can see them busy in the light of their pocket torches. Suddenly there is a flash and a crash at the light. Someone is moaning and paramedics are called. It was the end for the sappers. A boot, full of something, has landed in our trench...
De-mining is interrupted while we keep the trench manned. As the dawn breaks on the 3rd December 1941 more Sappers arrive and they start opening a path to the enemy positions and past them to the Hanko-Tammisaari main road. Our Company is ordered to start filling up the trenches the Russians had dug across the road. Boys are grumbling. Road work, while everyone is eager to pursue the Russians to Hanko.
Suddenly there is a tremendous crash and pressure wave throws us pell-mell on the ground.
A man without lower body has been flung from a foxhole nearby. The booby traps set up by the Russians start reaping. Another crash, and I see how a bloody lump is flung up to the treetops. There is an officer standing nearby. The blast has ripped off the rear part of his helmet, but the front part stays on his head held by the strap. With a huge hole in the back of his skull he is swaying for a moment until he collapses down on his knees...
There are mines in every spot, devilishly placed. One of the men of my squad spots a projector on the top of a pole. He starts pulling it off. I warn him that the thing may be mined.
- It is coming off! His last words, because the very same moment the mine hidden under it goes off...
There someone opens the door of a dugout and again there is a bang. There someone has trodden on a mine...
Finally we are ordered to return to our lodgings and pack up our gear. Finally we are leaving – where? To Hanko, of course. Feverishly we pack our gear and snack on some dry rations. The Company is set up in a marching column. We take along our tents, tent stoves and packs which are carried on long poles carried by men in pairs.
We set out in a file. We are led by a Sapper Sgt. with two men who are examining the terrain and placing pieces of paper to indicate mines. We are going to take Hanko! There are mines everywhere. There is a greatcoat in the middle of the road, as if inviting to kick it. There is a balalaika, neatly placed at the roadside... All of them are trigger wired to crudely camouflaged mines in road ditches or tree stems. They are either aerial bombs or heavy artillery shells.
-Halt, take cover!
An explosion stuns our ears and all other senses. Stones and gravel is raining on us. Looking behind I see that a couple of men have nosebleed. The road ahead of us has blown up and there is a huge crater left. Our Sapper Sgt. had sensed something and thrown a hand grenade under a Spanish rider placed across the road. There must have been hundreds of kilos of explosives under it.
We scramble over the hole and continue. Our loads start to feel heavy. Our Company CO, like a good officer, keeps going up and down our file, encouraging the men and carrying the burdens of the most tired men. Everyone is trying their best because it would be a great honour to be the first outfit in Hanko.
There are three Jaeger platoon men lying on the road, mown down by a mine. One of the still has a fag between his lips. The top of another man's skull is blown off far on the road and now the wind is combing the hair on it. Instinctively we take off our caps when passing them by.
Our march continues without any break.
-Hanko is seen, we hear shouting in the front.
Indeed, on the horizon we can see the outlines of the highest houses of the town. There is the water tower, blown up, and town houses. What is that, the Finnish flag? Yes, the flag is flying indeed. Hanko is ours on the 4th December 1941. We were not the first outfit to make it to the town then? Another outfit may have been faster than us, coming by boats from the islands
Soon we arrived at the outskirts of the town. No movement could be seen anywhere. The entire town seemed to be shrouded in ghostly silence. A lone dog was seen to run across a street. See that, they had dogs even. There was some merchandise displayed in the shop windows. There is a shoe shop with ladies' shoes.
-My wife could use a pair, someone quipped.
We proceeded through the town with our rifles ready. We were aware that the enemy could have left behind partisans.
We spot in front of us a Russian soldier, waving his arms and shouting, wearing his tree bark coloured overcoat. Our leading patrol arrests him. We find out that he is Estonian who has dropped out of the last evacuation transport. He informs us that the town is free of enemies. Yet we continue our march to the harbour.
Our platoon is ordered to set up a shoreline sentry post near the pilots' hut. We set up tents at the dusk of the night. For the fear of mines we do not dare to move any distance. We rip down the fence of a neighbouring house for firewood to be used in our tent stove. I set up the sentry duty list and we turn in. Yet we do not get any sleep because we have to get up constantly, believing to hear all kinds of noises in the surroundings. Once the sentry alerts. We rush out with rifles in our hands and search in the bushes of the beach, where, the sentry asserts, he had heard speaking in Russian
Finally I must have fallen asleep because I wake up hearing a shout:
- Food is here!
I start fumbling for my field kettle in the innards of my backpack. The same moment a thick sack is flung in the tent followed by Pvt. Rajala's happy face.
-Now let us have a festive dinner for the honour of Hanko being taken, he announces with his maître d'hotel voice. Being an ever resourceful man he managed to make an “evacuation” expedition in the town.
-Did you see any mines? I asked him
-Brother Boris did not have the time to mine every nook and cranny, he was in a hurry, there is food in every place in any quantity, Rajala asserts.
There is indeed food in Rajala's sack. There are loaves of bread, tea, biscuits, butter, tins. Canned foods are found in at least seven varieties as baked goods in Mrs. Anundila's coffee party. Platoon leaders arrives, alerted by our noise.
- For heck's sake do not eat, the stuff may be poisoned.
- Nonsense, even if this would be my last meal I shall eat now. Why don't you block a fish trap instead!
Rajala starts stuffing delicacies in his mouth. At first we sniff at his presents with suspicion but soon a gluttonous feeding frenzy erupts. Months of subsisting on menu comprising punch, porridge or pea soup are now past. Even our Platoon leader abandons his suspicion when given a tin of his favourite delicacy, asparagus . He even gives us a brief lecture of the beneficial health effects of greens.
Next day, however, we all are suffering from serious diarrhoea, because our bellies were protesting against overeating.
I am ordered to check the nearby houses with two men for mines or anything suspicious. In a firewood shed we find a long rope that we use to pull open the front door before entering. We do not find any mine, maybe the enemy was too much in a hurry to plant any. Then we enter a warehouse that appears to have been a garment storage. Uniforms and caps, blankets and bedsheets can be seen in disorder on the floor and shelves. When examining the stuff I suddenly spot a well known treacherous wire at my feet.
- Attention, freeze! I yell
We are all standing still, holding our breath. We spot a frightful still life in the corner of the storehouse: an old grease barrel is full of pieces of TNT surrounded by aerial bombs. Trigger wires lead to them from the floor among the stuff lying there.
Feeling cold shivers we carefully sneak out, then sigh with relief.
Phew! A close shave!
We enter a house that seems to have survived moderately well. Our eyes go wide by surprise, because the occupants must have had a hurried exist because they have abandoned their dinner half-way through. It is odd to look at a tablecloth covered table with a half eaten meal, just the people are missing. There seems to have been some casserole on the menu, half eaten sandwiches and half full glasses. This reminds of a fairytale. In another house we discover Finnish military garments. There is a backpack with initials E.H. The stuff is probably left behind by our men taken POW. Where have they been taken ?
Having accomplished our task we move in the pilots' house and guard the town for another fortnight. In the meanwhile sappers clean and mostly de-mine the town. Then cleaning and labour outfits take over Hanko. We are ordered to move on. Our Battalion is paraded on the town marketplace. In a thick sleet storm we march to Lappohja rwy station where we embark a train for Turku. Near Lappohja we see the Marshal in person. He is standing in front of the Swedish volunteer battalion, the first outfit to enter Hanko, and distributes decorations.
Extract of II/JR55 war diary , original in Swedish language.
Advance goes on very slowly, the reason that extreme care must be exercised to detect every possible trap. Specially the Russian held territory is mined tight and very skilfully. All kinds of mines, placed with diabolic cunning, have been detected . Advancing troops have been aided by some Russian POWs (defectors). They have been willing and very useful in detecting and defusing mines.
Our spirits are pretty high but at the same time there is disappointment since the Russian managed to carry out his evacuation quite undisturbed. But the rank and file are quite happy with the slow pace of advance due to few casualties.
Early in the morning the advance and mopping-up continued. Already in the course of the night had one Company of SFB (Swedish Volunteer Battalion), subordinated to II/JR55, continued Southwards and today at 0805 hrs hauled up the flag in Hanko.
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Cavalrymen strike over Lake Onega
Kansa Taisteli, 12/1961
The author was a Platoon leader of 3./URR (Uusimaa Dragoon Regiment)
Our outfit had in the beginning of the Continuation war advanced after several battles to the Western shore of lake Onega. Having reached Sunku village we were admitted a few days of R&R to patch up our gear and get prepared for new hardship.
On the 8th December 1941 it was another cloudy winter Sunday as our outfit, 3./URR was assigned a mission out of ordinary. Our CO, Lt. Arvo Haanpää summoned his Platoon leaders for briefing. We had already learned that when the CO runner arrived, something would soon happen.
During briefing we were preliminary instructed on the coming mission and orders for preparation during the day, because action would start as soon as darkness had fallen. We were to cross the lake Onega at a spot where the distance to the opposite shore was 17km on ice. The actual target was the Pigmatka village on the Eastern shore of the lake, and a further target the crossroads some 6km more to East. II Platoon Leader, Cornet Koivisto, was given the task to take a patrol to the ice at the dusk of the night to reconnoitre the condition of the ice and the reception that would meet us on the far shore of the lake.
Our dragoons, being enough experienced men, did not need much time to be ready to move on. At dusk we said goodbye to our horses and were ready to ski to the jump-off point at the shoreline.
There our CO gave us the final instructions to the Platoon Leaders and we forwarded them to our men. So we were down to the last man informed on the task ahead of us.
As the day had turned into dusk our outfit led by our CO set out for the Eastern shore of lake Onega. Winter had covered the waters of the lake with a strong shield of ice and the weather was very cold and there was some wind. Thermometer reading at the hour we set out was -42ºC which did not change during the entire mission. Our CO had secured the march of our outfit against eventual motor sled or patrol attacks on the Onega ice and other possible surprises. The cold weather did not allow skiing all the way, instead we had to walk at times to stay warm. Every single one of us knew that the smallest carelessness, a sound, a light etc. could reveal our movement, consequently our advance went on in “silence of death” in the dark winter night.
Our dragoons however did not lose their sense of humour despite the difficult circumstances. After we had passed the half-way post dragoon Närhi hurried to his Platoon leader to remark that “Now our noble steeds are carrying us over the Onega” as we had heard infantrymen joking among themselves.
The march over the open ice had some warlike overtones because to the right from us in the Tuvloja islands fighting had broken out and several fires were burning. To the left, in the North side again tracers were tearing into the dark night . Also Lake Onega was behaving in her normal manner, the ice would break with loud cracking and create open cracks which we had some problems in crossing.
Our CO was already expecting Cornet Koivisto's patrol report on what was going on in the far shore at this time of the day. Cornet Koivisto had indeed sent out a runner with vital information but the Runner never found our outfit. That was our first misfortune.
Yet we still had our main task ahead of us, and unflinchingly our CO was heading for our target. Just as he had scheduled we caught sight of the Eastern shore of Lake Onega just before the dawn on 9th December 1941 at 0800hrs. Every man knew exactly what his task was at the start of the landing and also in case the enemy would open fire against our outfit.
As we had reached a distance of about 100m from the shoreline the enemy opened fire at us. Now everyone knew that there was just one thing to do, that is storming the coastline. We assaulted with loud cheering under fire support. The result was that our foremost men soon had a foothold in the Eastern Onega shore.
Extremely cold weather had punished our outfit so that most boys had frozen skin over their cheekbones . But the enemy, too, suffered from cold, because surrendered enemies admitted that their weapons had frozen up and that is why their fire was less intense than we had expected. Our casualties at landing were small although the enemy had fortified positions and bunkers to receive us. Now we had a foothold on the mainland and our beachhead was soon secured.
The Platoon leaders were summoned for briefing by the CO on future action. Cornet Pärssinen, CO of the I Platoon was ordered to take positions E of the village and then proceed with a patrol to the next target. III Platoon leader Cornet Koivisto was ordered to defend the bridgehead as described in the drawing. II Platoon led by the author, Chief Warrant Officer Keskisaari, was ordered to get ready to attack the Pigmatka village and the bunker zone (A, B, C). Mortar Platoon CO Lt. Parikka was ordered to set the mortars in position in the landing area and be ready to fire when fire support would be needed.
Our CO sent me by Dragoon Hagert the order to launch the attack at the ordered hour, the objective being the said village and the bunker zone. Since bunkers B and C kept our jump-off point under observation, firing as soon as they detected any movement, I at once set two LMGs to fire at the embrasures of the bunkers during our attack.
I ordered the 1st Squad, led by Cpl. Saari to start traversing the open ground. Displaying exceptional bravery Dragoon Nurmenniemi just said in an Osthrobotnian manner “Whoa” and soon the Squad with the Leader was doing their best to follow him. The LMGs providing the fire support kept an accurate fire at the bunker B and C embrasures that were spewing fire. AS soon as Cpl. Saari and his squad were at the tongue of forest on the opposite side I joined the dash with my Runners , Dragoons Jaakkola and Koivula. Our advance was less lucky, because the Dragoon Koivula's journey was ended by enemy fire at my side on the open field.
In a short period of time my Platoon had in small parts dashed across the open ground and then on in the cover of forest into the village and our objective. Bunker A, the existence of which was unknown to us so far, came our way but Cpl. Saari's squad soon managed to silence it. Having attentively observed the progress of our operation our CO and his Runner squad dashed in the village. There I and Squad Saari tried in vain to suppress bunkers B and C. The enemy now intruded with their heavy artillery by shelling our beachhead positions.
The CO ordered us to abandon the attempt to take out the bunkers and issued new orders. The bunkers were stronger and more powerful than the ones we had seen so far. They were built in an octagonal pattern, like a nut, that is, with a doorway and seven embrasures. Attackers from any quarter were received by fire.
The enemy was not idle on the sectors of the other platoons but launched in the course of the day four counter-attacks, three of them from the mainland and one from the ice. Every attack was however repulsed, the enemy suffering casualties.
It was already evening as we were ordered to organise securing of the beachhead and set up tents for accommodation. However, setting up tents did not make much sense because the enemy got interested in our bivouac area, our sentry posts and so on. Ski patrols were constantly nosing around our beachhead but they refrained from any major acts of violence. The strength of our outfit was what the enemy were mostly interested in, because the POWs told that it was thought that there were one or even two Battalions of us. Actually our outfit comprised just an understrength Cavalry Squadron, one mortar platoon, one Sapper platoon, one Radio squad and artillery F.O.O squad. Some of our men had managed to brew some surrogate coffee but there had been no chance to eat or rest, and we did not get any now.
In the meanwhile our CO had been issued by radio an order to pull back. Soon the Platoon leaders were being briefed. So we put out our campfires, took down our tents and our outfit was ready to go on. Disengaging was to take place quietly, unnoticed by the enemy.
Our return march started. Although the cold weather and exhaustion was weighing greatly on our detachment the march went on without major problems up to the mid-way. But then man after man began to drop on the Onega ice. Therefore the march of the tired men was organised in 10 minute stints followed by rest. Yet there were many men who were unable to go on skiing, they had to be loaded on ski sleds. Also a tent was set up in the middle of the open ice where men would be ferried by horse to the mainland. The darkness of night was not enough long to allow us complete our operation, but the rising sun revealed us. The sky was cloudless, causing problems to the evacuation.
Our higher-ups had provided air cover for protect our march and the artillery F.O.O. Team was in the rear to repel motor sleds, patrols and other dangers menacing our exhausted outfit. I must add that two brave airmen of ours made the supreme sacrifice as they were covering our march above Lake Onega.
In this manner our outfit, one man at a time, finally got to get the well merited rest and having rested a couple of days in the houses of a Russian village at the coast we were getting ready for further action. Despite their exhaustion and casualties the Dragoons were proud of their experience, because with the exception of patrols no Finnish soldiers had engaged the enemy on the East shore of lake Onega before the battle at Pigmatka.
Every Dragoon of our small outfit carried out the tasks ordered to him, conscious of his duty, completely. We did not escape casualties, however. We lost 5 men KIA and 7 WIA, whereas the enemy casualties were several times more than ours.
No URR war diaries have survived for this period.
URR men KIA at Pigmatka on 8.12.1941:
Filppula, Erkki Johannes, Dragoon, b.28.10.1920 4. squadron
Koivula, Arvo Jaakko dragoon b. 13.06.1921 3. squadron
Ollinkoski, Veikko Viljami Cpl. b.15.03.1918 4. squadron
Mäkinen, Aarne Abraham Dragoon b.16.02.1921 3. squadron
Talikainen, Vihtori Dragoon b.06.02.1908 Valkjärvi 3. squadron
1LeLv 16 1.lentue gladiator Äänislinna
LeLv 28 Viitana
FAF losses on the 9th December 1941:
LeLv 42 bomber BL-153
Extract rom LeLv42 war diary:
0550hrs Serviceable a/c: BL-153 and BL-157
Weather at operating area semi clear. Base: 1/10, lower limit 6000 plus
0600hrs Squadron order no. 156/41 (appx no 439/sp). 1st Flight is to carry out recon with two a/c.
08.45hrs a/c BL-157 took off to reconnoitre the Eastern shore of lake Onega.
08.55hrs a/c BL-153 took off to reconnoitre in the direction of Petrovski Jam. Crew: Observer 2nd Lt. Rönnberg, pilot Sgt. Kontiokangas, Gunner 2nd Lt. Saari.
11.10hrs BL-157 returned to base.
12.15hrs Recon results forwarded Kasa 14
12.35hrs the same Lokki 906
13.00hrs Base radio station ordered to enquire on the flying route of BL-153 since the a/c did not return from mission.
14.15hrs Reconnoitring requested from Kar.A. Air commander bureau.
17.40hrs Capt. Hyvönen (Kar.A HQ) reported that ou troops had spotted from Tulvoja that at Poljaki, 10.15hrs, a burning bomber crashed. Since the hour coincides with the BL-153 mission, it is presumed that it was BL-153 which consequently was shot down by enemy AA weapons,
18.50hrs “Oskari” report Lokki 905.
20.25hrs Message from Le.R.4 HQ;
“The Squadron lost their best observer who was lost on his 53rd mission all flown this year. 2nd Lt. Rönnberg, a slowly maturing but constantly impoving observer, left vacant his busy task , a geat loss to the squadron.
At the same time the squadron lost the undisputable best of the gunners. 2nd Lt. Saari met the end of his journey on his 95h mission of which 39 were flown during the Winter War.
[Sgt. Kontiokangas not mentioned at all, due to his low rank ? Tr.rem]
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Tammisuo was held
“Kansa Taisteli”, 01. 1962
The fighting on the central Carelian Isthmus on the line Marjapelto- Suursuo- Leipäsuo started culminating in early February 1940 as the enemy concentrated in support of their infantry divisions ever more artillery formations, stronger tank force and huge aviation formations. Several enemy attacks had been defeated during more than two months but the paucity of reserves and the shortage of war material, specially ammunition, began finally to weaken the stamina of our troops. As the enemy had effected a threatening breakthrough at Lähde and Merkki, the C-in-C decided on the 15th February to give up the main defence line and pull back to the so called intermediate line on the western wing, the line Sommee-Näykkijärvi-Muolaanjärvi N - Äyräpäänjärvi.
Finnish troops started the withdrawal on the 16th February and the strong enemy pressure continued. Massive tank formations were directed right at the roads leading to Viipuri, specially on the sector of the 5.D. The Division was reinforced by the troops of JR23, arriving just then, still lacking fighting experience. The troops had been assigned to Kollaa but diverted to the Isthmus instead. These support troops were ordered to join the battle at the Intermediate position on the line Ylä-Sommee-Näykkijärvi and partly in front of it.
The ensuing delaying action was a constant battle against tanks, destroyed ones were replaced from the SE always with new ones. Brave and strong men were needed to stand up against them, men who did not hesitate to attack the brutes. Destructive blows were delivered at the tanks – with AT guns, satchel charges, Molotov cocktails, hand grenades, even steel bars or wooden stakes or other implements.
Another ten days later on the 27th February the hard fighting at the Intermediate position went on at Näykkijärvi, whereas elsewhere our troops were pulling back in phases. Time had to be won because the line at Viipuri, the Rear line was far from completed. A couple of days our troops defended the line Rouhala (E.) train stop - Vääräkoski . Next on the evening of the 29th February the line Säiniö-Kyrökoski, but the same night it had to be abandoned under the pressure of several dozens of tanks. In the 1st March the front line was at Määttäänjärvi – Kyttälä line and on the 2nd March at the Häyry manor . Now the front line was at the outskirts of Viipuri town. After tenacious delaying action in a distance of about 30km a fortnight for the construction of the T line had been won.
The T positions at Viipuri were to be held. Immediate attention had to be paid to the surroundings of Tammisuo, comprising level pine forest and low ridges, favourable ground for tanks.
Battle at the T line started immediately on the 3rd March as the enemy attacked on the E side of Tammisuo with two battalions supported by 30 tanks at the Cement factory terrain. Tanks attempted also to break through at several other places but they were being fought with all the means available.
The author does not identify his outfit but since in his two other stories he has mentioned JR67 (of 5.D) it is likely to be his Regiment.
We were skiing through forests and devastated villages, direction Viipuri. The “ghost gun” was then shelling the city, the largest of Carelian Isthmus, and bombers did their best to wipe it off the world map. Fires illuminated the horizon in the direction of the city blood-reddish.
-Molotoffs lights, PFC Toppila remarked. He was skiing by my side with a dirty bandage visible under his fur hat. The bandage was dirtier than his snow camo suit, reminding me of General v. Döbeln. [1808-1809 war) The bandage was a result of the violent parting of hair that the PFC had received at Ylä-Sommee a few days ago. He went on grumbling:
-what is is that the Tiltu of Moscow told about the eight hour day? Now we are on overtime, dammit. And to whom are we supposed to surrender to as she is saying ? Whom? Those dead men? Or the hordes of prisoners huddling in Viipuri and elsewhere? Or these lice that I got from that Kirghiz that have set up a kolkhoz in my shirt? Or...
We tended to be down-hearted, it could not be denied. Down-hearted and dispirited. We were indeed not aware of our situation. We just know that we were heading in the direction of Viipuri. Judging by the sound of artillery we knew what would be waiting for us there. War, nothing else. We were tired, too. Oh man, what a pleasure a soft warm bed would have been. My armpits were itching, I tried to poke there with my ski sticks, to scatter the “kolkhozes”. The PFC swore:
-Bacterial warfare. Spreaders of typhus from padded pants. I have certainly before had to leave my shirt not washed for a long time but never was I bothered by such bugs. I got them from the Kirghiz that I had to fight hand to hand.
-They really do emerge spontaneously, I tried to defend the enemy soldier taken POW a week ago by him.
At nightfall we found ourselves near Tammisuo.
Tammisuo is not a bog like Leipäsuo. At least on the sector of our Battalion there was nothing resembling a bog. The place was unknown to me, all I knew was that it was a suburb of Viipuri. There we stayed and the second, last phase of my war started, that is, the Winter war.
Being a scout is the nasties task in a war. You feel you are in quite an exposed position. All you can expect is to get shot at from ahead or flanks. I and my squad found themselves in that kind of mission in the direction of Säiniö. The road under us was ploughed hard. A little while ago it had been under heavily traffic, now we did not meet anyone...and kept moving on, very tense. At times we stopped to listen. This same road we had used when pulling back. Our task was to find out about the enemy movement as they now were approaching our new positions. No one was coming our way, neither friends or foes. Together with my squad we proceeded a couple of kilometres until we stopped at a gravel pit.
We dug foxholes in the snow and began to wait for daybreak. We had left a horse with our tent some two hundred meters behind us. There they were ready to leave in case we would have to hurry up. We relieved our listening post sentry at regular intervals until it was the morning of the 1st March 1940 and we made contact with an approaching enemy outfit.
The Politruk had been the bird of ill omen for my war. Now again because I spotted one. The enemies did not approach on the road but on both sides of it there were a group of men approaching us ...the other group was led by an “Education officer” wearing a cap with red band. One of my men lost his nerve and fired, but I do not think it made our situation any worse even though our task was to find out instead of engaging the enemy, then return to our starting point.
Enemies threw themselves in the snow and opened a summary fire which we retaliated to intensely. This actually was the best way to make the enemy stay put for a while. It would make it easier for us to pull back. I was just about to shout an order to retreat as I spotted a broad face peeping at us behind a thick birch trunk. A duel wit the peeping tom ensued, but it was an uneven one as he was covered by a sturdy birch and I only by a small tree stump. It was there that I took my first scratch. A bullet pierced the tree stump, sweeping my shoulder until stopping in my wallet, breaking the mirror in it. Feeling the thud my first instinct was: The end! Then I was scared and finally I got angry, but I do not understand even today why. Maybe because I had been scared in vain.
The scratch on my shoulder was insignificant, and all in my breast pocket was OK except the mirror. That is something that I found out later. At the moment there was no time for trivialities. I selected a hand grenade from my pocket and threw it at the man behind the tree, who was taking a pot shot at me. It landed near him but just popped in the snow without any effect. Finnish “potato masher” is the best in this kind of situation. Due to the wooden handle it does not sink deep in the snow. I threw one and it did the job. Enemy fire was cut off by the crack and the enemies farther off vanished from my view. I glanced at the dead man lying behind the tree and grabbed his weapon.
During our return journey our horse was doing its best willingly.
At the sector of our Battalion the front line was curving around the Tammisuo cemetery. In makeshift trenches we kept on resisting the onslaught of the enemy. The scratch on my shoulder did not take me further than the Casualty Clearing Post.
Finally the “offensive” of General Winter started to unravel. There were signs of spring but it did not give rise to any major hopes for us. WE scarcely noticed it.
It was another March morning, promising spring. There was crashing all over me. The soil below appeared to be waving, splinters of wood, rocks and snow mixed with dirt was raining all around me. There was whining in the air, steel splinters were flying above. I started feeling minor shell-shock lying there among chunks of earth dug up by aerial bombs. A nasty stench of explosives penetrated my nose. It made me cough, and I tried to filter my breathing air by keeping a woollen mitt in front of my mouth.
Everything had happened suddenly. It was like a nightmare from which one wakes up covered in sweat of pain. I was shaking all over and barely managed to restrain myself from rushing up and escaping somewhere. It would have been the last thing I ever did.
I was in the throes of honest fear approaching to panic. I tried to hide under me two eight kilogram AT mines which detonated by a shell splinter would have atomised me, and I would not have needed any soil to cover my earthly remains.
Aircraft were buzzing overhead. Every veteran of the Winter War nay remember the “canisters” dropped by enemy airmen. I was lying among dud incendiaries scattered by one of those canisters. My blocked ears were picking up the rumble of distant artillery and the sound of a MG on my left emitted rather a nasty sound. Yet everything was just normal. There was the stone fence of the Tammisuo cemetery in front of me, and two live mines under me. My purpose was to haul the mines to the fence, because at times an enemy tank came up to fire at our weak positions. The tank had broken a gap in the fence with its tracks, and it was in that gap that I was to set the mines. I was however held up by the fire strike I described. Now the aircraft appeared to have gone away and I dared to move on. My SMG slung on my back was a nuisance as I kept creeping. Branches of fallen trees, providing me cover, got stuck with the weapon. I was proceeding to the gap in the fence at a snail's pace.
Just as I had reached it a rumbling tank appeared on the cemetery and started rolling to the gap in the fence. I saw it from the side and observed that the beast was pulling a big sled with riflemen on it. There was no time to cover up the mines. I shoved them in a shell hole in front of the gap and started creeping away as fast as it was possible in that situation. I was going backwards, watching the gap to stay aware of the movement of the tank. The tank stopped on its old location. I was disappointed, because the mines were right in front of it. Another couple of meters and it would have been bingo, but it did not move after all. I saw the turret traverse and I threw myself head first in a big shell hole at the moment when there was an explosion behind me. My movement had been spotted in the tank.
Several more explosions followed but being in a dead angle I was the most hopeless target that was useless to shoot at. With a crashing sound the tank started moving, the tracks rolled over rocks and the next second he monster ran over my mines.
I knew I was done for, because the bow of the tank was pointing just at my hideout. I was just about to make a quick dash for a hole behind me as the air was shaken by a big bang. Weapons, peaked caps and pieces of sled were flung up behind the tank. It lurched in an ugly manner and started desperately pulling back. Apparently it had been damaged because its movement was clumsy. It rocked and swayed over the new hole and it just managed to find safety behind an undamaged stretch of the stone-fence. Once there it tried to retaliate by firing its gun but soon found it hopeless and considered it was best to limp away. As to the sled and the men in it, they were just a memory.
Soon we found out what had happened. The shell hole where I had planted the mines had been too narrow. The treads of the tank had been supported by the edges. That is why the mines had not been triggered by the beast crossing the hole. It was only the runners of the sled being towed by the tank that had hit the mines with fatal consequences: the sled with all of its men had been blown up. The crew of the tank must have taken a good fright and I believe they were struck by mine terror.
Having got my chance I ran to my men. I did not have to report on my action, it had been all too visible in our positions.
Thus our outfit kept standing their ground on our sector, with emaciated and tired men. There was rumbling in centre of Viipuri. The Ghost cannon shelled fairly regularly, bomber formations pounded it and fighter planes rattled their MGs . The ranks of men were thinning every day. Many rumours were passed around, credible and incredible. Each man took them in his own manner. Some totally refused to listen while others were using them to create castles in the air.
Pvt. Vanhanen opined:
-Peace negotiations or what? We are engaging in them using machine guns for palm branches.
A farmer from Närpiö [Närpes in Swedish], an ethnic Swede, agreed
-Just det. I do not believe that Kuusinen government ever take Finland.
Battle against infantry attacks and tanks still continued on the T line at Tammisuo on the 12th March . The positions held by the troops of 5.D did not cave in in any significant manner. But on that day the enemy managed to break in at the Karjala suburb in stronghold Rat's Nest, between Tammisuo railway station and the Cement factory with tens of tanks, soon the situation began to turn tricky.
As far as I know it was planned to pull back to the rear T line at Laihalampi. But we kept launching counter-strikes and by evening the Division could report to the AC that all break-ins in the line had been cleared. At the dawn of the 13th March it was found that the enemy had disengaged. The crisis was over.
At 0900hrs we were informed that ceasefire will take effect at 1100hrs. At first we thought that was the mother of all rumours, something not to be taken seriously. Mutual exchange of fire was slack, mortars were barking and artillery, too was in action. Then a serious order was issued: after 1100hrs not a single shot was to be fired. We started believing that and as the hands of watches pointed the hour, firing did cease...on our side.
Yet the neighbour kept firing at full rate. We swore at him :
-That's what he is like, yeah. He does not keep his words. What about some return fife?
-It is not allowed to shoot!
We did not. As far as I remember it was 1300hrs as the opposite side fell silent.
It felt odd to put up one's head as there was no whine in the air. On the opposite side they were waving arms. We were distressed and our spirits remained low. We were asking questions: what peace terms? Other matters, too: demob – when? Any furlough?
Viipuri has to be ceded, Enso too and much more... A rumour again?
PFC Toppila opined:
-Cheap was the price. WE should have kept fighting, at least to Kerava.
March sun was warming me. I removed my neck cover that had served me continuously during the hundred days of the war. I dumped it in the snow. I did not need it any more.
Extract of the 4th Coy of JR67 that was fighting at Tammisuo in March 1940.
(I am not absolutely sure that the author was in the ranks of this very Company but at least the location is the same.)
[The Company had been in fighting at the road to Yli-Sommee until they were issued orders to disengage]
16.35hrs Order to prepare for disengaging received.
18.00hrs Order to disengage at 1900hrs
18.45hrs 3 vehicles from the I Btn arrived to take the tools.
19.00hrs AT gun vehicle arrived to evacuate artillery gear etc.
19.15hrs Arrived Coy ammo, tent and backpack vehicles, the rest of the vehicles had been sent to the rear by the Btn.
We had to leave behind, after all the vehicles had been loaded, extra (including broken) skis and other minor stuff, and also some Labour Coy gear incl. Field forge.
We also evacuated the bodies of the fallen men of 6./II/JR67.
20.30hrs Men of 5./II/JR67 started arriving by squads.
22.00hrs Sr. Sgt. U. Jokinen reported arriving from C.C.S.
22.10hrs Coy set out from Maito following Platoon Jutila while the rest stayed to help the transport column. On the way the Coy Sarge tent was taken along. The march was encumbered by abatis created by Russki shells.
Casualties on the 27th Feb 1940
WIA : 0 NCO, 1 man
KIA : 0
Wastage : 1 man
Consequently fighting at “Maito” cost 2 Officers, 14 NCOs, 60 men of which 3 NCOs returned from C.C:S.
00.00hrs Coy arrived at the Btn CP receiving orders:
Btn shall take over new delaying lines to enable disengagement, 4th Coy on the left wing supported by MG platoon Stack that already is in positions at the terrain of Sotalakangas in the SW tongue of forest.
Left limit: South from Uunisoppi “i” - Patch of forest – Peltola barn
Right limit: From “K” North along the river – Edge of forest and right to North, the tongue of forest there.
Btn CO at the crossing of four roads.
Manning by 0500hrs.
Coy set out to the direction of the crossing of four roads.
I Btn vehicles unloaded extra stuff at the crossing of four roads.
The vehicles following the Coy were left at NW side of the supply road crossing.
Meal on the road that deviates from the main road to Satulakangas.
Armourer NCO Kasurinen and 3 men were left behind to take care of the stuff left by I Btn, ordered to destroy it in case they cannot find transport.
While the Coy was in positions recon an order was received to march immediately to the direction of Ala-Sommee.
Btn order forwarded by Adjutant Heino. Coy marched from the crossing of four roads to SW via Kivisilta to Ala-Säiniö where orders were received to proceed to Tammisuo via Karjala suburb of Viipuri. -Skiing conditions bad, wind blown snow.
Arrival at Tammisuo, orders to get accommodated in tents in forest NE of Mustalahti village.
Allowed to rest.
Scouts set out to find out about the Armourer NCO and the vehicles that had followed the Btn.
Regimental order on defence received.
Terrain recon and test manning.
Started to clear the terrain in front of the line, building obstacles and digging positions.
2nd Lt. Grönholm reported as the artillery F.O.O. For the sector and was stationed at the Gas Factory in Muurainkorpi for now.
Mustanlahti village set on fire.
Enemy shells were constantly dropping at Tammisuo as during the approach march (28.2.), volleys here and there.
Tools requested from the Btn column.
Enemy bomber squadrons were seen to carry their loads somewhere far away.
Fighter a/c more frequent, observing in very low flight. - They may suppose the village has been set on fire by their own bombers ?
Enemy flying at night, too. Bomber squadrons targeting major groups of houses in the rear.
Keeping the Regimental defence line.
The first tank appeared at the I Btn sector at the corner of the cemetery fence on the road.
Positions were being dug deeper whereby it was found that the soil contains a huge quantity of large boulders. TNT was “found” in the stores of a labour company (?). A relatively meagre quantity of tools received from the Btn.
Order to send one Platoon tasked to hold the hill pt. 28 S of Mustanmäki. (Map Viipuri 1: 20000)
Res. 2nd Lt. Ahlfors was able to proceed after from the defence line were detached men from the II, I and II Platoons to create a “Platoon”.
Btn CO moved his CP from the “White house”
Received a report by Res. 2nd Lt. Ahlfors : Hill 28 manned by enemy also the ridge to SE behind the bog. MG and rifle fire.
The Platoon is in positions near Pt.28 at the railway in the deciduous forest and one Squad in the patch of forest to NE.
Forwarded to Btn at once.
“Front order no. 2/40 Supply Commander”
Coy CP at the big boulder was reinforced with a board wall and foxholes against splinters were being dug on the lee side of the boulder. So far stationed in the village houses just as the rest of the Company.
Res. 2nd Lt. Grönroos reported and his 1 MG was placed opposite to the “Leafy alley” behind the road, the first mentioned being the main field of fire. It was also agreed that the MG s disengaging from the front shall be placed at the seam of the 6th and 7th Coys where positions for them are being reconnoitred and dug. They are to be subjected to the 6th Coy CO.
Enemy artillery and mortar fire is increasing in pace by the by. They appear to be registering the same spots in our positions still.
Field fortification work is in process.
Res. 2nd Lt. Ahlfors reported again: Securing from his right wing had withdrawn without reporting him and the enemy opened crossfire and also threatened to cut off his communications to the rear. The Platoon withdrew via an area under enemy infantry arms fire between the Gas Factory hill and Club house to Muurainkorpi.
They have taken their place in our defence line. No casualties, one scratch.
Immediately reported by phone to the Btn CP.
14.00hrs 2nd Lt. Suolahti reported with one AT gun and told that he was subordinated to 4th Coy.
He was tasked to find positions at the right seam in 2nd Lt Ahlfors' stronghold where he must be able to fire from.
-The enemy side edge of the Mustalahti fields.
Sappers reported for field fortification work. Some of them were employed to clear the terrain in front of the line, others to blow up rocks and the rest was setting up wire in front of III Platoon.
It was informed that Muurainkorpi is under the command of 2nd Lt. Korhonen.
Enemy aerial observation increasing, also all through night.
Rgt order on the organization of defence received
Enemy activity in front of us is on the increase, loud tank sounds heard and it is starting to rain shells evenly all over our sector.
III Platoon is digging in and looking for a place for a dugout. II Platoon with the help of II platoon are digging in the rock using explosives, IV Platoon has built their positions and communications trench almost completely due to more favourable soil.
2nd Lt Laitinen on way to Muurainkorpi reported and enquired about the situation.
Artillery F.O.O. Patrol arrived to reconnoitre for a place for an observation post.
MG positions were about ready but the AT gun was not found in the assigned spot. Two runners were sent out to find it. They found that the AT gun is in readiness in firing position at the bottom of the Mustalahti fields where positions were being dug at the seam of 4th and 6th Coys.
Muurainkorpi command shifted to 2nd Lt. Savolainen.
15.00hrs (about) 2nd Lt. Jormalainen passed through the sector whereby it was again discussed on making a mortar fire plan for the sector, but since the person concerned was short of time it was agreed that the Mortar shall draw up the said plan and send it to the Coy for checking and updating for eventual new targets.
Mortar (platoon) informed that they are not able to send a runner to the C.P. For fire orders.
Btn order received to send the AT detachment cantonned in the village led by Sgt. Lautiala to the right wing of the Btn seam to secure.
At the same time Btn ordered that Coy Wickers be assigned in the same task but since Wickers already was in firing line with a purposeful task, only Lautiala's outfit was sent to the said task.
Report received that at Muurainkorpi on the I Btn sector the enemy had attacked with a force of at least one Platoon. This was relayed to the Btn and Platoon Ahlfors was again ordered to forward securing duty, whereby their fire would clear Muurainkorpi and assist in securing the seam.
It was started to carry out the task.
Artillery F.O.O. Team men started arriving, and they set up a phone connection to the C.P.
Report received that the task had been fulfilled and 2nd Lt. Savolainen had secured the seam. Platoon Ahlfors returned to their positions.
WIA 1NCO, 4 men
KIA 1 man
Wastage 1NCO 5 men.
The day started with the usual ceremony.
As the Coy had found that food distribution was not able to conform to the actual troop strength the Coy Sarge was informed.
A fire plan was being made up with the Artillery observer officer and targets defined. Liaised regularly with the 6th Coy. The seam Coy of I Btn was liaised by Stronghold Ahlfors in the main defence line but manning at the seam at I Btn was deficient.
I Btn wing Coy was informed about this by Runner Väisänen and Stronghold Ahlfors was ordered to pay attention on the I Btn sector.
AT gun Suolahti was forced to seek a position in Stronghold Ahlfors.
It was reported that Russians had made a break-in on the I Btn sector.
An order was issued to Lautiala on securing the seam and to Stronghold Ahlfors to intensify observation.
Report on battle strength.
Res. 2nd Lt. Ahlfors relayed 2nd Lt. Savolainen's report.
I requested permission to visit the C.S.S. Due to my swollen face and arm, during which period 2nd Lt. Ahlfors would be the acting Coy CO.
2nd Lt. Ahlfors Coy CO.
Btn sent a diagram on communications (appx. 33/a).
Enemy bombers are forming a continuous line over the rear. Enemy aerial recon at low altitude.
Enemy artillery now in full earnest action.
Alarming info from Muurainkorpi received, confirmed by 2nd Lt. Savolainen; we managed to get the artillery to support him.
Our mortars fired a strike at the Gas factory with weak effect due to errors. They were requested to check.
Isthmus army HQ order on Swedes received.
WIA 4 men
Wastage 4 men.
From the very morning on the enemy action is getting ever more intense.
Tanks are heard to move around but no definite reports received.
AT artillerymen are as if vanished underground. Therefore a patrol was sent to search for 2nd Lt Suolahti with orders to him to send a runner to liaise with the CP.
Mortar (platoon) was requested to provide a map of targets at our sector.
Shell hit the CP, 3 WIA.
6th Coy CO requested fire support. (appx. 35 a-b)
Cpl. Nikula reported that the Btn seam is blocked.
A runner, returning from liaising, relays a report (appx. 36) from the CO of the seam company.
Report that the enemy had again gained a break-in at Muurainkorpi.
Platoon Ahlfors was again tasked to clear Muurainkorpi and they almost gained the previous line of sentry posts. Then 2nd Lt Savolainen had manned the line.
WIA - NCO, 2 men
KIA - - NCO 2 men
Wastage - NCO 2 men.
Btn order to secure the I Btn seam.
III Platoon in securing mission at the Btn seam led by 2nd Lt. Heiskala.
Coy securing and alert state called off.
Order on weapons maintenance and equipment.
2nd Lt. Fagerlund arrived to replace the previous Observation officer who had lost his hearing during the bombardment yesterday.
The new F.O.O. Just “suggests” and “requests” fire. [Scarcity of shells, higher-ups are allocating them. Tr.rem.]
Btn requesting basic data and tells that the Rgt is requesting about Cpl. Peltonen who on 7.3. had set out for the front line.
Situation report sent.
Enquiry about Peltonen in the front line.
Order to the Coy Sarge on casualty report.
List of suggested promotions sent.
Order to create a sketch of the F.F. Work carried out on the sector and send it.
Report: 2nd Lt. Savolainen wounded at the I Platoon splinter shelter.
Report forwarded to the Btn HQ by phone and the situation report, too.
2nd Lt. Stade ordered to be the CO at Muurainkorpi.
Enemy appears to be keen to observe any movement and is firing avidly at large areas.
Our mortar positions appear to be targeted by the Russkies since shelling is “rotating” about them.
6h Coy CO reports that enemy is moving in front of his line and requests standby for fire support.
2nd Lt. Björkstam reported that he was the MG Coy CO and he would look after 2nd Lt. Stade's MG s on our sector.
WIA 2NCO, 3 men
Wastage 2 NCO 3 men.
Cpl. Tikka and Pvt. Huhtinen reported returning to duty.
List of code names for telephony issued
Replacements reported: 1NCO, 18 men.
Replacement men sent to Platoons.
During the night and the morning 9th Coy had withdrawn from Muurainkorpi to the direction of “Leafy alley”. They were ordered to advance and retake their old positions.
Btn order on passage at the Leafy alley gap.
2nd Lt. Ahlfors informed about this matter.
At Mustanmäki the enemy is moving about.
One Russki tank appears to be securing night and day S of Muurainkorpi and Mustamäki.
Order issued: observe accurately the tank parking spots to enable destroying them.
Password received and forwarded.
Otherwise the day appeared to be calmer.
5th Coy led by 2nd Lt. Sutinen relieved 9th Coy at Muurainkorpi.
5th Coy at Muurainkorpi complains about the shortage of men.
During the night the usual harassment fire.
2nd Lt. Sutinen asking for help.
2nd Lt. Laitinen asking for an escort patrol to Muurainkorpi where the things judging by shooting are livening up.
Advised by Btn CO via F.O.O. That about 250 Russkies and some vehicles ha left the Gas Factory heading SE.
Order to Platoon leaders to rally at C.P.
By Btn order we checked the matter, the result was that a brief mortar strike was given although the F.O.O. Was requested to provide also an artillery strike.
Our purpose was to improve the securing line.
Immediately after this Det. Ahlfors and 5th Coy launched an attack to retake the earlier securing lines.
Cpl. Nikula reports that a tank on the Gas factory sand pit ridge stopped the attack and the E end of the ridge is in our hands. (2 KIA, 4 WIA)
Order to 2nd LT Sutinen and Cpl. Nikula on the manning of Muurainkorpi. (50)
2nd Lt Ahlfors sending Cpl. Nikula's report in writing. (51)
2nd Lt Ahlfors re-reports on the Muurainkorpi case. (52)
List of suggested decorations and promotions. (53. 54, 55)
Since we had received at 1200hrs and order to liaise with the I Btn, it was started at the main defence line and a I Btn patrol “loitered” in front of our positions on the “leafy alley” at least up to this hour because Runners met them.
Report received: Stronghold Ahlfors had left I Squad at the I Btn seam to secure and their positions were situated in the gutter and the Stronghold would relieve them.
WIA 2 NCO, 4 men
KIA - NCO, 2 men
Wastage 2 NCO 5 men.
Regimental order of the day no.5/40.
Cpl. Nikula promoted to Sergeant and Pvt. N Väisänen to PFC.
The day was started with enemy area strikes. Enemy aerial recon weak. Snowing during the whole day. We were observing the goings-on in the direction of Mustamäki.
Stronghold Ahlfors provided situation report.
Btn order: Move the AT gun to the I Btn sector, but during the AM shelling the AT gun at the 4th Coy sector had been damaged and sent to be repaired.
Btn order: the AT gun on 6rh Coy sector to be moved to the I Btn sector.
The gun managed to set out.
2nd Lt Sutinen reporting: A group of Russkies with ahkio sleds heading for Mustamäki.
Btn order received: Clear Muurainkorpi of our troops.
Issued order on withdrawal, at 1900hrs, the order is MG platoon Stade, 5th Coy and Squad Martikainen.
2 Runners returned from mission with 2 Russian LMGs and 2 rifles that they had found.
Stronghold Ahlfors reported: Squad Martikainen had returned and the gap in the wire had been blocked.
WIA 1 NCO, - men
KIA - NCO, - men
Wastage 1 NCO – men.
A MG platoon subordinated to the Coy situation report of 3rd MG Coy leaving having been under the command of 2nd Lt Stade.
2nd Lt Ahlfors arrived at the C.P. So that the Coy CO could leave to the Barn C.P. Where he had been ordered to come during the day.
Coy Co returned to his C.P. And sent Runners to rally the Platoon leaders. As the Platoon leaders had arrived they were briefed on the plan to disengage the Coy. Points in terrain were defined by which the Platoons would retreat to the line Laihalampi - Kunsilampi line, where the Coy sector left limit would comprise: left limit the road between the ponds, incl. The road, right limit Laihalampi, incl the pond.
To the left would be the 6th Coy and to the right I Btn.
The platoons would cover their retreat with a LMG patrol.
Withdrawal would take place unnoticed if possible at the moment to be ordered later.
The Command Squad and the CO would join Stronghold Ahlfors.
Order was issued to Coy supply NCO s and Armourer NCOs to immediately start emptying the strongholds of extra gear and war material.
Coy Sarge ordered to prepare for withdrawal.
11 days roll call report.
The Russki should be in front of 6rh Coy but the action is remarkably lame.
Btn requesting roll call report. (59)
Enemy artillery activity just crazy.
2nd Lt Stade woke up and sent the report. (61)
Stronghold Ahlfors is missing the enemy and asking about the goings-on at 6th Coy since the enemy that came there is not able to kick up any major fuss.
Report on break-in on the I Btn sector. (62)
Enquiry to the Seam Coy CO as everything was relatively quiet.
Report received: “3 Russkies had visited the roof of an I Btn MG dugout” as reported by a Runner. (63)
Stronghold Ahlfors sent a liaison man to the I Btn.
Mortar target drawing received (64)
Promotions suggestion sent to Btn. (65)
WIA - NCO, 1 men
KIA - NCO, - men
Wastage - NCO 1 men.
The day broke and the ground was covered by clean snow. Morning activities in the Coy in the usual manner, The Armourer NCO had been clearing the positions all night, driving alone a horse up to the first line.
Supply NCO and Armourer NCO reported that the last load of extra material was being shipped.
Btn order on preparing for peace.
Runners sent to take the pre-order to the Platoon leaders.
Written order on withdrawal.
Battalion messenger Officer 2nd LT Ritvanen arrived confirming the message on peace.
Coy defence positions inspected, Russkies were already waving their arms at the wire.
Coy passed the ? To Kouvola. The line Laihalampi - Kunsilampi was reached at 14.30hrs
Coy accommodated in the summer houses on the beaches of Laihalampi.
Saunas heated up for the Coy.
WIA - NCO, 1 men
KIA - NCO, - men
Wastage - NCO 1 men.
“At Myllykoski on 15th April 1940”
Coy CO Eero Viita (signed), Res. Lt.
Appendixes not found. Judging by handwriting the CO wrote the war diary personally.
- Posts: 698
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Kansa Taisteli 01, 1962
The author was a Machine Gunner in a Machine gun company of I/JR12.
The I Battalion of JR12 started their campaign in the summer of 1941 at the Salla front. With constant flank attacks we opened the road to or German friends up to Vilmajoki where the offensive stalled.
In October we marched to the Kiestinki front where then big breakthrough battles started. Next spring we were again attacking at Jelettijärvi. In September 1942 we handed over Kiestinki to Germans and marched South. After train transport and marches we arrived at Sungunniemi and finally to Karhumäki and Stalin's Canal. Indeed we had gained a lot of experience. We had attacked, flank attacked, enveloped, even withdrawn. We had fought many a bitter battle and suffered heavy casualties. Now we were facing the Stalin's Canal and new surroundings.
There we took over the line on the 23rd August 1943. I had been serving all the time in the III platoon of the Machine Gun Company and now it was the lot of our Platoon to find themselves, taking the time of the year into account, in a devilish place – Pirunsaari (Devil's Island). It was autumn, the days were getting ever shorter and the enemies were very close to our positions which in turn were almost non-existent. 1s and 2nd MG s were stationed in the middle part of the island and the 3rd and 4th MG to the North end. The men who handed over the positions advised us that this would not be a place for R&R. Soon we found out that it was indeed more than true. But as wilderness warriors we were used to finding safety in the ground and that is what we did now again. We built new weapons nests despite the enemy harassment fire, at times heavy. Our dugouts were quite sturdy and in dead angles for enemy fire. The North end of the island was manned by a F.O.O. Team, three rifle squads and two MG squads. The manning of the middle part was slightly stronger.
For a month there was a relatively calm trench warfare situation until on the 25th September 1943 there was a storm of shelling. The enemy may have attempted some forced reconnoitring. They wanted to get acquainted with their new neighbours to begin with. We found that this first visit would not be the last one, because the enemy kept directing heavy and medium heavy pieces from ever new places at our poor little island and the steep slope behind it. Judging by muzzle flames the neighbour side slope was full of AT guns.
One night the nerves of my fellow sentry gave in. It was a pitch dark night, it was raining and there was a wind. One could see or hear nothing however one strained one's eyes or pricked one's ears. The bushes in front of us were rustling as if there would be an entire platoon charging at our positions I told my pal that let us fear in turns, why don't you duck down in the foxhole and have a smoke, but he told me to do it. I squatted down, pulled my collar and greatcoat sleeves up to my ears, lit up and sat down on the bottom of the foxhole.
I was smoking and thinking as many times before about home, my wife and my old pals many of which had been sacked from the Finnish Army – and a lot of other matters. After a while I whispered in the ear of my pal to have a smoke but he did not respond, just took hold of my hand as if to signal: Quiet! There we feared side by side at the MG without saying one more word. As we had returned to our dugout I stretched myself on the platform bed he asked me to come to his side and told me that he was not able to sleep. He spoke very softly and asked that I should never leave him.
Next morning we headed for the C.P. Following the food transport, to visit the doctor and the chaplain. I escorted my pal to the ambulance for Karhumäki, I could not follow him any farther. It was not in the ambulance that he got his first fit as it started. Thus ended the fear of one quiet man in Pirunsaari.
The predicted enemy visit became reality on the 13th October. I returned from the night shift at 0600hrs that morning. I undressed and got on my platform bed. I don't think I managed to shut my eyes before an ear-hurting banging and rumbling started. It was as if the entire world would be fatting in pieces. I jumped into my boots, pulled on my tunic, then quickly got out of the dugout and headed for the communications trench to get in my weapons nest. The air was full of rocks, sand and splinters.
I ran down the communications trench stumbling on big rocks that had rolled in it.
-Nest, have to get to the nest, was hammering in my head.
There were the daytime sentry, although in the splinter shelter. I yelled him to put up his head to see if the enemies are coming. I kept stumbling and managed to reach the weapons nest before the enemy.
Soon I was holding the familiar MG grips in my hands. Our own share of the no-man's-land was free from enemies, unlike the middle sector. The enemy had just launched an assault at the middle sector positions. Squad after squad was fanning out into a line and then dashing forward. The sector of our MG extended to the middle sector to provide a barrage; the enemy canal crossing point happened to be just on our sector. There was no shortage of targets and I let our good old MG rattle non-stop. We had good steel ammo belts enabling one-man operation, and I did fire indeed. Every now and then I aimed a burst at the bush on the left in front of our positions and then again in front of the middle sector.
I started wondering where my pals were delaying, why no one was coming to help. Suddenly I heard several almost simultaneous thumps of hand grenades and angry long SMG bursts just next to me to the left. I felt an odd movement in my gut and I fired a long burst into the bushes to the left and added a couple of stick grenades for good measure. This soothed my nerves a little. Again I aimed my fire at the middle sector. I trusted my pals and I knew they would be coming if it was humanly possible.
After a while one of our men came and while we were observing he told me what had happened. They had been running after Sgt. Niska in the communications trench while having a look at no-man's-land every now and then. In one bend of the trench Sgt., Niska had spotted odd looking bundles next to the listening post. It was an enemy strike squad taking cover right in front of our trench, the bundles were their backpacks.
Sgt. Niska ordered his men to get more hand grenades. Having received them he had thrown four in succession and completed them with long bursts of SMG. The fate of the enemy strike squad was sealed.
I could for my part tell that I had experienced the longest minutes of my life waiting for them. Niska consoled me: hearing the rattle of my MG they knew that no-man's-land would stay clear.
Soon the other men of our squad came up. Reloading the emptied belts with Sgt. Niska we discussed the fate of the middle sector. It was obvious that the middle sector had been lost. But what would happen next? WE found ourselves the prisoners of the Devil's Island. Enemy shells were constantly beating the surroundings of our weapons nest but as soon as the smallest movement on the enemy side was detected our MG fired. It was like a dog that barks if you throw stones at it. The bridge across the river behind us and the slope beyond were under constant shelling, our communications to the rest of the world were cut off.
Sgt. Niska and his fellow NCOs organised the defence on the middle sector to prepare fort the expected enemy attack. The situation had a nasty taste to it. We tried to soothe our nerves with tobacco. At the same time we were wondering why the enemy strike squad ahead not acted although they had made it so close to us. One single hand grenade would have eliminated me and the MG. Anyone could have placed a hand grenade from a distance of 25 meters having a chance to throw undisturbed from the flank. The enemy may have been discouraged by the noise of the MG.
We were waiting when the neighbour would again start dealing with the N side of the island. I never was an aggressive or brave soldier but at that moment I almost was wishing that something would happen – and soon. There was one alternative, if the enemy would attack from the middle sector, from the front and the left flank. We were expecting that and we were to make use of it up to the last chance. The option to withdraw had been lost together with the middle sector. From the middle sector the enemy was able to fire with all light arms at the bridge behind us, the river and even better at the hillside. We would not retire without fighting and being forced to do so – what are those devils waiting for – when shall the decisive moment be – next night maybe?
Finally the evening started darkening, but our mood was altered at the same time by the increased activity of our artillery. Field guns could be heard firing from ever new locations and the packets were landing on the middle sector. Then we knew that our men ate gong to launch a counterstrike. At that phase of the war we, too, had some reserves. Now the matter was, would it be our turn to be strafed first?
This did not happen, however. As the Western horizon behind us was lit we wanted to yell with joy. It was the muzzle flames of our artillery starting the counterstrike. We were watching from a distance of one hundred meters the show, a mighty well aimed artillery concentration. IT was as if a stone had been rolled away from top of us. It was easier to breathe already. One could see looking at the men's faces what they were thinking. The men had become livelier in movements and tobacco had regained its taste.
The enemy was not granted any chance to defend themselves or flee. Instead the enemy was shelling the hillside behind us with full force to prevent our counterstrike. But it was already game over for them. After strong shelling our outfit supported by the II Battalion retook the middle sector. The enemy left behind about one hundred bodies in the positions. Our casualties included two KIA and two WIA, light cases.
At 2300hrs we received a telegram from the GHQ, the C-in-C thanked his boys for the job of the day.
Now there was time to think of some chow, but none was there. Finally the Company Runner came to inform that the soup cart was overturned and another was on the far side of the hill in our rear, due to the heavy shelling going on the horse was uncontrollable. If we felt like eating we should get the food from there. We had become fed up with shelling in the course of the day and there were no volunteers. I and one Pvt. Nissinaho took the task. It was no plain march, many a time we had to creep on the ground blasted by shells. We took the dry food but we left the soup container there. The distance was about one kilometer and it would have been a hard task to get in cover, especially in the steep slope downhill, while carrying a heavy bread carton under one arm and the soup container between us. It was better to get something instead of nothing.
My story of the Devil's Island has been condensed to what a machine gunner saw in his Squad and Platoon.
Extract from I/JR12 war diary. (No MG Coy war diaries for the period have survived.)
08.00hrs Weather: beautiful, sunny.
X=7649 y=9589 a new MG nest
Infantry arms activity normal.
Of 5611 Pvts Suikki and Latvala wounded in legs by a mine.
08.00hrs Weather: Cloydy
2nd Lt Paasi returned from furlough.
An enemy patrol, strength about 10 men, advanced at the Kuusi stronghold making it up to the farthest obstacles.
After a brief firefight they withdrew.
infrequent infantry arms fire.
Unclear enemy loudspeaker transmission: the subject was the idea of expelling Germans f rom Finland.
Lt. Lehtinen reported in the Battalion and was posted to the 2nd Coy.
08.00hrs Weather sunny but by night rainy.
An enemy outfit of about one Platoon attacked at the middle section of Stronghold Kuusi supported by strong mortar fire, managing to make it in front of the outmost sentry posts.
Alert was launched and afere a 45 min firefight the enemy started withdrawing, yet leaving several men in front of our positions. They, too, withdrew being shelled by their own artillery and mortars.
2nd Lt. Sipi was slightly wounded in one arm.
Of the 2nd Coy one Private was KIA and two WIA.
Lt. Jokela was hospitalized.
Lt. Lilius returned to his unit.
08.00hrs Weather: Cloudy
Enemy launched a mortar strike at Stronghold Pyökki.
An enemy outfit of about one Platoon attacked at the said stronghold, four enemies reached the obstacles. The enemy was immediately beaten back by infantry arms and mortar fire.
An enemy patrol was at the obstacles of Stronghold Tammi, but was immediately spotted and repelled by infantry fire.
4th Coy: 1 NCO and 1 man KIA.
3rd Coy: 1 NCO and 1 man slightly wounded
2nd Coy: 1 Pvt badly wounded.
Enemy losses at least two confirmed cases.
Extract from 2./I/JR12 war diary:
Enemy 81m/m mortar fired 5 rds at the middle part of the island.
Lt. Jukola hospitalized
Enemy mortars and AT guns opened up everywhere at our positions.
At the same time about one pölatoon of enemies attacked the middle part ot the island.
During the situation, duration about one hour, the enemy fired about 500 mortar and sabout 500 AT rounds.
During the situation was killed pvt. Kallio, Martti.
Wounded: 2nd Lt. Sipi in his arm, PFC Kahari in head and Pvt Huhtala V. in head.
Pvt Aro, Heikki wounded badly as he was assembling an alert device consisting of a piece of explosive and hand grenade fuze.
Extract from 3./I/JR12 war diary:
Visit by Col.Lt. Hannula and Maj. Suurkari to inspect the cartridge storage facilities on the sector of the Company.
About 40 shells at [stronghold] Pyökki
Russki fired about 150 shells at Pyökki.
4 Russkies were spotted at the hindrance and they were repelled by inf. arms fire. The Russkies were seen to carry one of their pals across the Canal.
Wounded in shelling: Cpl. Lehtinen and PFC Savolainen.
2 men of the MG Coy were killed in a MG nest.
Russki patrol detected at [stronghold] Tammi at the hindrance. The patrol was repelled.
The day was else calm.
Extract from 4./I/JR12 war diary:
The enemy approached, supported by heavy mortar fire, Stronghold “Puisto” but was repelled with infantry arms, mortar and artillery fire. Enemy strength was about one platoon. In the battle KIA one rifle Coy man and one WIA.
Enemy patrol spotted at the hindrances of Stronghold “Tammi” and was repelled with inf. arms fire. Nights are totally dark, so the enemy losses could not be verified.
The enemy (1 Pl.) tried, supported by heavy mortar fire, approach Stronghold “Pyökki”. The enemy was repelled by our artillery , mortar and inf. fire.
In the battle were killed of our company:
Cpl. Jaranko Antti
Pvt. Kärnä, Pentti
Weather: Cloudy and rainy.
Capt. Claudelin on furlough. Deputized by Lt. Vuorialho.
The following men are listed as KIA on 25th to 26th September 1943 at “Viena Canal”
Jaranko, Antti Konrad Rafael, Cpl., (16.11.1916 Hausjärvi 26.09.1943 Vienan kanava) JR 12 1.KKK
Kallio, Martti Iisakki, Pvt. (23.07.1923 Paavola 25.09.1943 Vienan kanava ) JR 12, 2. K
Pentti Juhani Officer trainee (17.03.1922 Kaarina 26.09.1943 Vienan kanava) JR12, 1.KKK
Kansa Taisteli 01, 1962
Extract from I/JR12 war diary. (No MG Coy war diaries for the period have survived.)
08.00hrs Weather cloudy and coldish.
Enemy launched a heavy artillery and mortar concentration at the island and soon thereafter attacked with a force of about 200 men at the middle and Northern parts of the island, making a breakthrough in our positions in the middle, up to the Western shoreline.
A 10 man outfit launched a counterstrike that managed to clear the Western part of the island of enemies. At the same time the Southern stronghold was liaised.
Reserve Coy arrived at the island.
Our artillery preparation started.
Counter-attack started, and all our positions on the island were retaken under lively enemy resistance.
Actual firefight ended, yet the enemy tried to attack a couple of times in our positions, apparently to evacuate their KIA.
Every attempt was beaten back by the brave resistance of the defenders of the island.
Casualties: (Appx 5)
Lt. Jokela wounded.
1st Coy 2 Privates WIA
2nd Coy KIA 2+4, WIA 1+1+10, 1 private MIA
3rd Coy WIA 1 private
4th Coy KIA 2, WIA 3, MIA 2
HQ Coy 1 NCO WIA
Mortar Det. 1 NCO WIA
War Diary Appendix no.5
Report on the battle at Pirunsaari on the 17th October 1943
Commander: Maj. Suursaari
Troops: I/JR12. Kev.Psto 13. Rask. Psto 4. I/Krh.K./JR12. TykkiK./JR12
Weather conditions: Cloudy. Cool. About +7ºC
Enemy troops found: 9/III/1072 and about a platoon from 6/III/1072.
Total enemy strength about 200 – 250 men.
The course of the battle:
Pirunsaari stronghold CO Maj. Sarva made a telephone call informing that the enemy had launched a heavy artillery and mortar shelling at the island and the mainland behind it, about 100 projectiles a minute of every size. Simultaneously the Aavikko stronghold CO Lt. Jalkanen reported that the enemy had taken also Aavikko under heavy artillery and mortar fire. About 5 min before a twenty man enemy outfit had been spotted moving around at the Southern gate of the 5th lock. At Pirunsaari, however, no enemy movement had been detected. The strongholds were manned.
Enemy attacked at Stronghold Aavikko from the N and S gates, with about 20 men in the former spot and with about 15 men at the latter spot. Infantry and artillery fire stopped the attacking enemy causing them at least 10 casualties KIA, whereafter the enemy retreated out of sight.
Our light and heavy mortars fired every targeted barrage at Pirunsaari and simultaneously our artillery fired at Pirunsaari barrages 1., 11., and 31. The enemy was found to be bringing more troops to Pirunsaari.
Enemy ended their artillery and mortar fire at Stronghold Aavikko having poured there by estimate
I issued orders to the 5th Coy to man the Western wall which was immediately executed.
Enemy launched an intense attack at the stronghold in the island with a force of about 160 men and simultaneously at the Northern stronghold with about 40 men. In the middle stronghold they managed to break into our positions but at the Northern stronghold the attack stalled just in front of our trenches.
The island CO Lt. Jokela reported that the enemy was about 50m from his dugout and he requested artillery fire at the spot.
Our artillery and mortars started bombarding the said area and also the targets in front of the Southern stronghold. By 0715hrs the enemy had managed to penetrate in the immediate vicinity of the CO's dugout and the men of the stronghold had to retreat, some to the mainland, some to the Southern stronghold. By this hour the enemy had taken the CO's dugout and set it to fire. At the same moment the telephone connection to the island was cut off. Our artillery and mortars kept the enemy on the island under continuous shelling.
Coy CO Capt. Sarva headed for the island via Stronghold Silmä taking with him two AT squads from the said stronghold. He started preparing for a counterstrike to evict the enemy from the island and to create liaison between the Northern, middle and Southern strongholds.
Capt. Sarva launched a counterstrike which included 2 AT squads of 4./JR12 and he managed to recreate connections between the strongholds but he did not manage to evict the enemy from the island Having been reported this I requested from the Rgt CO permission to use 5./JR12 for a counterstrike which permission was granted.
I issued orders to Capt. Heikkilä to launch a counterstrike in co-operation with Capt. Sarva and clear the island of enemies.
Capt. Sarva's counterstrike had stalled and at my orders he took defensive positions to wait for Capt. Heikkilä's Company to arrive.
Capt. Heikkilä's Company arrived at the island immediately grouping for counterstrike, grouping being completed by 10.30hrs. The artillery F.O.O. Reported that the Russki was bringing more troops to the island.
Artillery and mortars launched a preparation at the trenches of the Middle stronghold. Shelling lasted until 11.25hrs whereafter our counter-attack was launched immediately, resulting in retaking our positions despite the extremely strong enemy resistance.
The last enemies withdrew from Pirunsaari.
I granted Capt. Heikkilä permission to rally his Company and march to their cantonment with the exception of one Platoon that was left behind to bolster the manning of Pirunsaari.
A 20 man enemy patrol tried to advance at our positions but our mortar fire repelled them.
During the entire battle the co-operation between infantry and artillery was good and the artillery was able to participate in the fighting despite the fact that the telephone connections to Pirunsaari were cut off at the very beginning of the battle. Also the mortar fire was effective and well directed. Russian shelling was at times very intense and during the battle they fired by estimate about 6000 shells at Pirunsaari.
KIA 3 NCO, 9 men
WIA 1 Officer, 8 NCO, 20 men
MIA 3 men
Of the wounded, at the C.C.S. Died one and another one in the Field hospital.
Ammunition and arms consumption:
Rifle cartridges 43127 pcs
SMG cartridges 64000pcs
Hand grenades 535
Rifles lost 5
SMG lost 3
LMG lost 3
Confirmed enemy casualties 81 KIA. 20 KIA seen in the canal and the enemy evacuated 30 KIA.
Another battle report:
War Diary Appendix no.5
Account on the battle at Pirunsaari on the 17th October 1943
By: 2./JR12 CO Capt. K.Sarva
Commander: Capt. K.Sarva
Troops: 2./JR12 comprising at the outset of the battle 4+20+98 and
1 MG platoon + 2 AT squads of 4./JR12 comprising 2+5+49 and 1+0+10.
Southern stronghold 1+4+25 and 0+2+8
Middle stronghold 0+4+23 and 1+0+11
Northern stronghold 1+5+22 and 0+2+10
Stronghold Silmä 1+0+14
Stronghold Kaisa 0+1+10 and 0+1+6
Weather conditions: Cloudy. Cool. About +7ºC
Enemy troops found: 9./III/1072 and about a platoon from 8./III/1072.
Total enemy strength about 200 men.
The course of the battle:
Enemy launched an intense artillery and mortar shelling at a rate of about 10 a minute with various calibres at the island and the mainland behind it.
Our light and heavy mortars fired every targeted barrage in front of Pirunsaari barrages 1., 11., and 31.
Enemy shifted their shelling at the two bridges to the island and beyond them .
Enemy launched an intense attack at the Middle stronghold in the island with a force of about 160 men and at the Northern stronghold with about 40 men. In the middle stronghold they immediately managed to break into our positions but at the Northern stronghold the attack stalled just in front of our trenches.
The island CO Lt. Jokela (Jolula?) reported by phone from Dugout no.2 that the enemy was about 50m from his dugout and he requested artillery fire at the spot.
I called the mortar positions and the artillery F.O.O. Requesting fire at the said location.
Artillery and mortar strike at the stronghold started.
Lt. Jokela (Jolula?) phoned again and reported that the enemy was just at his dugout and requested immediate shelling E of his dugout. Immediately after this the phone connection to the island was severed.
Cpl. Välimaa escorted Lt. Lt. Jokela (Jolula?), WIA, to the mainland and reported that the enemy had set dugout no. 2 in fire with flame thrower and some of the stronghold men had withdrawn to the mainland and some to the Southern stronghold, and there were enemies in the vicinity of dugouts nos. 1, 2, and 3.
I headed for Stronghold Silmä and taking along 2 AT squads proceeded to the island where I at first familiarized myself with the situation in the Northern Stronghold and found that the stronghold was fully in the hands of our men, although the enemy had attacked intensely at the stronghold. I also found that Southern stronghold is fighting but in “motti” [surrounded].
I selected dugout no.4 as my C.P. And ordered the CO of the AT detachment that had followed me to secure to the direction of the Middle stronghold to suppress any enemy attempt to roll. Then I started planning for a counterstrike.
I ordered the artillery to keep shelling the Middle stronghold.
I reported to the Btn CO that the Northern stronghold is in our hands and the Southern Stronghold is fighting surrounded and in the middle the enemy has managed a total breakthrough .
I also informed that I am going to launch a counterstrike.
The counterstrike started, by 2 AT squads of 4./JR 12 resulting in regaining dugouts no:s 1, 2, and 3 and liaising with the Southern stronghold.
The counterstrike was continued at dugout no. 2 to East and from the Southern stronghold in the direction of dugout no. 5.
Counterstrike stalled in the face of strong enemy resistance. I ordered to stop in defence and to wait for the arrival of the Reserve Company.
Capt. Heikkilä's Company arrived at dugout no.4.
Capt. Heikkilä grouped his Company so that 2nd Lt. Hakanen's platoon moved in the Southern stronghold tasked to launch a counterstrike in the direction of dugout no.5 and the other platoons in the terrain of dugouts 1, 2, and 3 tasked to attack to East with two platoons, one in reserve.
I placed my men between them.
Artillery F.O.O. Reported that the enemy is sending more troops to the island.
Our artillery and mortar preparation at the middle stronghold trenches started.
Shelling ended and the counter-attack started, resulting in retaking the positions under very intense enemy resistance.
The middle stronghold forward terrain was cleared and the men were grouped in the retaken trenches while the enemy concentrated very intense heavy arms fire at them .
Enemy retreated from the Pirunsaari stronghold.
Capt. Heikkilä's Company left the island, except one Platoon.
A 20 man enemy patrol tried to advance in front of our positions but they were repelled by mortar fire.
Ammunition and arms consumption:
Rifle cartridges 40000 pcs
SMG cartridges 40000pcs
Hand grenades 350 pcs
Rifles lost 5
SMG lost 3
LMG lost 3
Confirmed enemy casualties 81 KIA. 20 KIA seen in the canal and the enemy evacuated 30 KIA.
Our men who fell:
Sgt. Teppo, Svante Henrik. Born 20.7.-16 in Tapionkylä, Rovaniemi. Civil servant. Next to kin wife Milka. Rovaniemi, Ounasjoki. ID no. 737163. CG district Pohjola.
Sgt. Leino, Eino. Born 10.7.-20 in Rovaniemi. Farmer. Next to kin father Jaakko. Rovaniemi. ID no 738153. CG district Pohjola.
Pvt. Huhtala, Taube. Born 16.12.-16 in Salla. Farmer. Next to kin father Juho. Salla, Tuutikylä. ID no. 614613. CG district Pohjola.
Pvt. Vähäsarja, Pauli. Born 21.4.-20 in Rovaniemi. Chauffeur. Next to kin father Antti, Rovaniemi, Sinettä. IC no. 738127. CG district Pohjola.
Pvt. Siivola, Risto. Born 1.3.-14 in Salla. Labourer. Next to kin father Erkki. Salla, Lampela. ID no. 049925. CG district Pohjola.
Pvt. Paakkonen, Tauno Verneri. Born 12.4.-23, Paavola. Farmer. Next to kin father Yrjö. Paavola, Hartaanselkä. ID no. 021939. CG district Raahe.
- Posts: 698
- Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
- Location: Finland
Fighting at the Western Lemetti “motti”
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 02, 1962
The author was an armourer, rank Staff Sergeant in the III Artillery Battalion of KTR13. He is telling the story in third person, referred to as the Sarge.
In the Winter War the enemy troops that had been advancing NE of lake Ladoga had been stopped pm the roads where they then had been surrounded in several separate “mottis”. The enemy was short of bivouacking material and their supply had been cut off. The troops were badly suffering from cold and hunger .
Also our troops had been decimated by hard battles and cold weather. There was a shortage of war material but supply chain was working. There was no hunger yet and tents provided the minimum for rest and recuperation. Our morale was high and we had retained our mobility.
There was a large surrounded Russian cantonment area on both sides of Koirinjoki river at the Uomaa road in the terrain of the Lemetti villages, comprising the main parts of the 34th Moscow tank brigade, parts of the 18th Yaroslav division and some other outfits In the course of battles this Lemetti area was broken into three parts. The largest one was the couple of kilometre wide well armed Western Lemetti including the tank brigade HQ , about one hundred tanks, about 250 lorries and the C.P. Plus a great quantity of weaponry. The “motti” was inhabited by more than 1200 people.
Half a kilometre NW at the East end of Länsi-Lemetti was situated the Mylly stronghold comprising one horse drawn howitzer battery, one motorized regimental gun battery, two tanks, several AT guns, an infantry outfit with their LMGs and MG s, divisional supply base, field telephone exchange, field hospital, lorries etc. The second stronghold was situated in the West end of the “motti”, including a 28 tank outfit alias the Tank Parking Lot at the Tenhamo hill; it was destroyed tank by tank in hard battles.
Next we shall deal with the battles at the said stronghold Mylly. There was fighting a decimated but tough outfit of III/JR 37 led by Capt. Hannu Väänänen. The main parts of his Battalion were guarding the ”motti”. He had retained as his reserve or strike force a 20 man Jaeger platoon and four MGs of the MG Coy. Väänänen led the Jaeger platoon personally in battle and called them his “mobsters”. The Jaegers had succeeded in snatching enemy airdropped supplies from no-man's -land, that is the origin of the nickname.
January 24th 1940 Capt. Väänänen attacked along the ridge on the E side of Koirinjoki river to the direction of Lemetti mill to shrink the “motti” but encountered a howitzer battery firing positions. SW of the battery there was an AT gun position and to the S two tanks. A cantonment area was also situated SW of the battery with several MG and LMG weapons nests. On the other side of the river there was at a distance of 200 to 300m an ammunition dump covered by at least four Regimental Cannons. At first sight it was a hopeless task to engage such a wasps' nest with a small force but after a careful terrain recon Väänänen out-flanked during dusk in the cover of the river bank to the West end of the battery position. He destroyed with hand grenades and satchel charges the battery CO dugout and the crew dugouts of one gun section with the crews inside. Our MGs were keeping the other gun nests of the stronghold silent while our artillery was harassing the farther sections.
Finns gained a strong foothold in the enemy battery fire position and the no.1 gun on the right, a 122mm “Schneider” howitzer [122H 10/30] was already in their hands. On the enemy side of the slope the guns were placed at 20m intervals and the crew dugouts were close by but it was useless to try to get them in daytime because they were covered from the far side of the open ground by obstinate enemy MG, LMG and rifle fire. Also the tanks by the road appeared to have a free field of fire in that direction. Our local F.O.O. also had used up the ammunition allocated to him that day. The Captain was much annoyed. But he did not remain inactive, he scraped up some men and a F.O.O. team led by Lt. Suomalainen of the 13.D Detached heavy battery. He ordered the taken gun be directed at the enemy.
In the cover of the gun shield, aiming along the gun barrel some ten shots were fired. Capt. Väänänen personally pulled the lanyard. Soon the gun malfunctioned and due to lack of spares it could not be fixed. From the HQ Battery of III/KTR13, the supporting Artillery battalion, were sent Staff sergeant Master Armourer K.A. Hepouro and Gunners Turunen and Keinänen to repair the gun and assist in firing it.
-Mobsters, get on your skis, the Captain ordered. There was a briefing and the men took the positions that had been scouted in daytime.
Having arrived at the gun the Armourer Sarge stated that the panoramic gun laying scope was missing, a shell was stuck in the barrel and the striker pin was broken.
-There might be some gun laying scopes at the other guns or their spare part boxes, the Sarge suggested.
-All right, let us get them the Captain said with a chuckle.
The Sarge took a glance at the Captain and again suggested:
-Could we not use the other guns, they could be in usable condition.
The Captain said:
-On the slope behind them there are a couple of dugouts, the Vanyas in them are very much alive and we do not have the means to take them out just now. But you just go and take the spares, we shall keep the Russkies low in their trench should there be any ruckus.
Battle fore-posts were set up and the Sarge crawled on all fours up the path between the guns to the nearest gun, pocketed a gun laying scope and a striker pin and carried under his arms one shell and two propellant charges. The badly fed enemy appeared to offer sluggish resistance. Some sentries just started firing tracers at our gunners. Fortunately the fire was inaccurate due to darkness. A few bullets hit the gun shield, ricocheting with a typical sound into the wintry forest.
As soon as the firing pin had been replaced and the scope mounted, the Captain ordered the gun to be loaded. The shell was already in the barrel. The Sarge checked the charge but before loading he said:
-Let us have an extra long lanyard, there might be something inappropriate in the barrel to create a premature explosion.
The Captain pointed out the target: on the enemy side there was a black object with some dim light emerging. It was a large dugout, and there had been firing from its side all day.
-I think they fired from there just a while ago, the Captain opined and grabbed the lanyard. The Sarge jumped to the side a few steps to observe. The same moment the gun went off. It seemed to work well still, and the burst of the hit was seen just at the target. After a while sounds were emerging from the direction of the target. The Sarge hurried to re-aim while the Captain and the gunners reloaded. The second shot was fired at the same point. In the pale twilight of the rising moon they saw that pieces of logs and splinters of the dugout roof were flung around. The third shot was fired with a slight change of aim but the effect of the hit remained unknown.
Ammunition was now spent but also the scene was safe no more for a while. Enemy LMGs, MG s and a tank gun retaliated, even some Regimental cannons. The cannons were fortunately behind the ridge so their fire did not make any damage.
After firing ceased Capt. Väänänen headed for his C.P. tent with the Sarge. There he noticed that the Sarge was carrying an autoloading Russian rifle, and said:
-I saw you shoot with that autoloader when we were in the positions, where did you get it? It must have been stolen from some outfit we destroyed.
-I do not admit it is stolen, because there were men from two of our batteries in the same battle, they also participated in the chase. They collected these from the men killed in that skirmish.
-I strongly doubt that but anyway I want that rifle. Now we have taken a field gun, I am handing it over to you. You, in turn, kindly hand over that rifle to me.
Finally we agreed that Captain Väänänen would organize fire support that night to enable the Sarge to capture the no.2 gun . As soon as the guns would haven been brought to the C.P. The Sarge would hand over his rifle to the Captain. In that manner each Service branch would get their arms. The Artillery Battalion CO was informed of the plan and he was asked to send more Gunners, two gun horse teams, gun sleds, sled runners, ropes, spades, axes.
The Sarge and one Gunner set out to plan the hauling of the gun. The Captain ordered one NCO to join them for the placing of sentries. At the SW end of the ridge was situated a dugout for the enemy AT men, at the old mill next to the shore road. Since sounds were heard there, a double sentry post was set up, directed at the mill. In the terrain of the partly taken howitzer battery two enemy dugouts remained, one between guns no. 1 and 4 and another between gun no.4 and the field kitchen E of it. Occasional sound of sawing firewood was heard at this dugout, maybe they were making tea. As to the tanks, one was on the road and another next to the road, and they could not see the two guns nearest to us. Cloud cover was still thin and occasionally the moon peeked between clouds.
As soon as guarding was organized the Sarge and his assistant went to gun no.2. He found a couple of more shells and was about to start working with the gun but he reconsidered and thought it wise to check gun no.3 first, he told his assistant to watch the dugout surroundings. The Sarge started crouching at gun no.3 but in mid-way the moon emerged and lit the scene clearly. A rifle shot rang out somewhere. On the opposite slope the enemy may have spotted movement and fired a long burst with a MG, mixed with some tracer. The Sarge dashed forwards three to four meters. He glanced at the high snow wall ahead and decided to dash over it to gun no.3 as soon as the MG fire would cease. Also a cloud covered the moon.
The Sarge dashed for a couple of steps and jumped over the snow wall – but he slid in the foxhole of a Russian sentry, pushing the man on his right shoulder so that the man stumbled on his knees on the bottom of his foxhole. It was a case of mutual surprise. The Sarge was about to jump out of the foxhole but now the enemy was standing up. The man tried to whack with his rifle or maybe to use the mounted bayonet. However, the foxhole was crowded and only the band of the bayonet hit the Sarge in his knee without serious damage. The same second the Sarge managed to hit the enemy with the butt of his rifle, the man fell on the bottom of the foxhole. The Sarge grabbed the rifle the enemy had dropped and threw it far in the snow. Then he jumped out, next to gun no.3, took a look at the quiet man in the foxhole, checked his rifle and sat down on the carriage of the gun because the release of tension had softened up the sinews of his knees.
He observed his surroundings , especially the entrance of the nearby dugout and gun no.4. He did not spot any movement, just some smell of smoke from the field kitchen at a distance of some 50 m. Silently he removed the gun laying scope and the firing pin, put them under his belt and headed back. When he had returned to the taken gun the MG nest sentry came up to the Sarge and told that he had seen at gun no.3 a dark enemy shape at which he had fired just a second before the enemy MG opened up.
-I don't know if I hit him but then both of you ducked and I did not have a chance to warn you due to the shooting, the sentry said.
The Sarge had not noticed this, he had believed all the firing was by the enemy.
-Thanks to you. That one would certainly have taken me out if he would not have something else to think of.
The Sarge's assistant had left gun no.2 and now the Sarge briefed him on how to remove the gun. They borrowed a spade and an ahkio sled from the Machine gunners. Next he asked one of the nearest sentries to join him to keep an eye at the gun no.3 dugout before heading for gun no.2
The enemy had shovelled high snow walls around their field guns, higher at the sides. It was due to the side walls that the Sarge's assistant had not seen the enemy at gun no.3 although he had been observing the direction. They started shovelling snow to the direction of the enemy. Having created a gap big enough for the gun and also some roadbed they turned the gun carriage to the removal direction and set the ahkio under the carriage. Then they started moving the gun. The assistant would push at one wheel alternately while the Sarge kept the carriage leg up and pushed it to side. The gun moved inches at each time. The cold snow under the wheels would squeak at every twist . The enemy was alerted and opened up with a LMG, but only at gun no.1. Finns returned fire. Soon firing died down and the gun transport attempt interrupted. This manner of transport would have been a tedious, if not overwhelming task.
Having withdrawn behind the ridge with his assistant to rest the Sarge thought up a new scheme to retrieve the gun:
-As no.1 gun is taken behind the it will be at the edge of a steep slope. There we shall fix a stout rope from no.2 gun and we shall set up a road parallel with the rope for both guns . As no.1gun is sliding downhill it shall pull no.2 gun with its mass. As long as we have enough rope, the Sarge explained.
The matter was discussed and the Sarge asked whether there had been some Russian horse teams in the forest behind the second section. A sentry was able confirm hat some horses had been left there during the first attack. The Sarge and his assistant set out to explore E of the fourth MG position and found fir branch huts with dead horses in all of them. In the two nearest huts the carcasses were whole but closer to the firing position all were just skeletons and bare bones. There seemed to be caissons closer to the road but the Sarge turned back soon because the dark side of a tank was seen between the trees and he did not want to get involved with it, having other task at hand. Now they had five pairs of ropes, enough for one set between the guns.
As the men returned to gun no.1 the Team NCO was there with a guide, waiting. The gunners and teams sent by 8./KTR13 had been left at the C.P. Tent to wait. The Sarge explained his plan toe the Team NCO and ordered to take the gunners and the teams as close as the enemy direct fire allowed them. The men were divided in two outfits, one led by the Sarge with his assistant and the other one by the Team NCO.
Timber was cut from the forest for the road and the road course was cleared of snow. The runners were taken to gun no.2 and placed under the wheels. Two men were tying ropes and pulling lines between the guns. The gun was enough protected by the snow wall so that it was not visible to the enemy side. The work was carried out with a minimum of sound. The enemy appeared to be at least this night very neglectful, maybe due to starvation and cold. It seemed that the enemy outfits were not liaised. Decent guarding was probably not carried out. Enemy battle sentries, seen to be awake in a couple of LMG nests, did not care about minor sounds. The AT gun sentries at the mill seemed to observe only to West although there was a Finnish double sentry peeking at a distance of 100m all night higher on the ridge.
The Sarge and his assistant had been observing these details while being occupied with their main task. As the gun hauling preparations had been completed, the guns were man-handled so far that horses could be harnessed in front of gun no.1, Then the guns were hauled with manpower assistance behind the ridge in one go. During the last phase of the haul enough noise was created to provoke the enemy LMG sentries to open fire. A Regimental Cannon on the far side of the river joined in but the shells landed in the river valley so far as to do no harm.
Once behind the ridge the guns were taken to the Captain's C.P. Tent and by now it was dawning. AT the tent the Sarge wanted to hand over his rifle to the Captain in a proper manner. The Captain was lying in his tent but heard how the Sarge was enquiring a Runner about him outside. The Captain was heard to grumble:
-All night those blasted gunners have been there disturbing the well earned sleep of decent people. He told his Communications officer to find out what they wanted out there.
The Captain heard the Sarge's response:
-Handing over and receiving weapons, Captain, Sir.
The Captain was heard to say:
-Well, take the rifle from them. They nicked the rifle from us just like those guns over there but let them get away with it.
Panting horses were soon hauling two howitzers through frosty forest into new positions following a tired skier.
(to be continued)
No KTR13 war diaries have survived.
III/JR37 war diary extract:
During the day Detachment Tuomainen tied down the enemy with fire at the N and E perimeter of the Lemetti villages and carried out reconnoitring from E and S to prepare for taking the villages.
Briefing by Task Force “Keihäs” CO where Capt. H. Väänänen was ordered to lead the attack in the Lemetti village from E and S. the following troops were subordinated to him:
III/JR39 (Nuoli 2), strength 2+40,
1./JR39 (Tattari), strength 2+7+44,
AT platoon 2nd Lt Palosuo 1+15,
Heavy artillery F.O.O., two light artillery F.O.O.s
1 platoon of Krh/JR 39
Briefing by Btn CO:
Lt. Patojärvi, to whom Det. Tattari is subordinated, is to attack from S, objective Kuikka.
Det. Nuoli is to attack from E, S of the road.
Det. Vuori is to attack from E, N of the road.
H-hour 0800hrs .
The attack is to be prepared by shelling starting H-hour -10min., assisted by mortar if necessary.
Det. Vuori had reached their objective N of the road.
Det. Vuori was rallied S of the road to support Det Nuoli in their attack.
The attack had advanced and the following line was reached:
Kuikka, Southern “k” - unnamed open ground 250m SE of the road where the attack stalled, and the line was secured.
Securing was improved to South and West. R&R must be organized for the troops.
“Keihäs” CO order: Det. Nuoli was to be pulled back to their cantonment area. Det. Tattari and Vuori shall man the positions held by Nuoli.
During the night several enemy dugouts were destroyed using hand grenades in the vicinity of the road and ([enemy]) patrols South of Kuikka.
We fired with a howitzer taken in the evening of 23.1.40 m./122H10 ten shots at enemy dugouts with direct fire. 6 bullseyes. The gun-layer was the CO of the 3.Er.Rask.Ptri Lt. Tigerstedt and as gunners 3.KKK/JR 37 men (Capt. L.H. Väänänen fired the gun) [The remark added with different handwriting, underlined].
One more shot fired, bullseye.
III/KTR13 visited to retrieve two howitzers from the positions.
[End of day]
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Fighting at the Western Lemetti “motti”
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 02, 1962
The battles of the Winter War had continued for two months now and our field guns were almost worn out. The chambers were expanded, barrel rifling cracked and the performance of the guns had decreased so much that using them inflicted casualties to our own troops, too. They were also dangerous to the gunners. They were using their weapons already with equal suspicion as a ticking time bomb in their hands. The guns could have been used in a training camp for training purposes and firing blanks but not in war.
The previous night, 29/30.1.1940, we had taken as war booty a couple of enemy guns (122H10/30) which were now being eagerly examined and they would have been taken in use – but we had only a couple of complete sets of ammunition. The meagre booty gave rise to hopeful expectation to get some more! 8./KTR 13 Battery Officer Lt. Lauri Liljavirta reported to the Artillery Battalion CO Maj. A. Väinämö that he volunteered for a mission to try to get more such weapons and ammunition. I had said in the morning that I had checked one enemy caisson where the ammunition we had used came from. I considered it was possible that there could be more in other caissons. Moreover, in the enemy field horse stable position there were several vehicles were ammunition might be found.
Capt. H. Väänänen, III/JR 37 CO, had opined that the actual ammunition dump would be SW of the Lemetti mill, but there was no other way of getting the ammunition but taking the dump. The enemy was not yet softened enough to allow us make use of their stores. Also the remaining guns were still on the enemy side and part of the gun crews still appeared to stick to their dugouts at the guns or near them.
Liljavirta managed to inspire me with his activity and faith, although I was tired. I knew he would be an energetic and resourceful leader and brother in arms. He also knew that a couple of reliable men, a gun-layer and a gunner, would volunteer to help us. My previous assistants, PFC. Keinänen and Gunner Turunen would join us.
Our plan consisted of three tasks:
-How to get hold of the remaining guns before the enemy would destroy them
-Is it possible to get more ammunition and other vital accessories from the enemy positions
-Detect such targets for artillery as not to destroy valuable material but which would assist the infantry in their attack to defeat the surrounded enemy.
At evening dusk we arrived at the C.P. Of III/JR 37 N of the Mylly stronghold. The CO, Capt. Hannu Väänänen, however, was in the battle positions on the ridge of the battery station. We found him throwing hand grenades at the enemy II section dugout embrasures, range 50 to 60m. Having seen us he initially appeared to be in a bad mood but having heard what we were up to he accepted our plan and issued instructions on fire support and other protective measures. The weather was more dark than last night but due to the phase of the moon still fairly good visibility.
Basing on our observations during the previous night it was deduced hat the enemy was most active at dusk but at the same time least observant. In the crowded “kettle” the daily chores- making tea, having meals, going to the latrine had to be delayed until darkness because in daylight they could have been badly harassed by us. Starvation and exhaustion also seemed to already effect the spirit of the encircled men. So far plentiful weaponry and ammunition had guaranteed their safety. Underestimation of their opponent and promises of assured help had also lulled the Russians into carelessness. Therefore small skirmishes were not paid much attention to any more.
We observed no-man's-land from different locations of our line and agreed with machine gunners and other sentries on our route in the gun position Then we crept along the path we had used the night before to the old 2nd gun position where we left four men to guard the 3rd and 4th gun crew dugout embrasures. I and Liljavirta continued to gun no.3. Seeing black explosion craters we could state that the gun no.3 crew dugout had been destroyed or the men had abandoned it. In any case it was silent now.
At the gun we found a Nagant pistol and a crate of spare parts. They must have been brought there later. The soldier who had been killed yesterday was still in his foxhole. I returned to get our assistants to the no.3 gun position, two to guard the gun no.4 crew dugout and the field kitchen directions while the others would haul the material we had found to the horse transport behind the ridge.
I sneaked to the gun no.4 crew dugout, but as I listened at a distance of a few meters I heard low murmuring and felt smoke smell I returned to the others and told what I had observed. Then I and Liljavirta headed for the enemy field stable behind the gun no.3 crew dugout. There was between some horse huts behind the gun no.4 dugout a caisson. I tired to open the rear lid noiselessly but it was stuck. After the latch had opened I gave it a jerk whereby the lid opened with a clearly audible crash. We dropped down behind the caisson to listen what the noise would bring about but we heard nothing. We found in the caisson six shells and the same number of propellant charges. We tread a bypass in the snow and hauled the ammunition at it to be forwarded by our men.
We decided to check no.4 gun and its position We could not use the communications path because it passed the entrance of the gun no.4 crew dugout entrance, and there we would have been in their field of vision. That is why we headed from the caisson to the direction of a tank looming next to the road. In the mid-way there was a third caisson, unchecked so far. Its rear lid was open and there we found two shells. I dragged them using our incoming path to our men while Liljavirta stayed to guard.
After I had returned we went to the path between the gun no.4 crew dugout and the field kitchen,
suddenly we heard a brief LMG burst fired behind the kitchen. We ducked and pointed our weapons at the firing, but next there were a couple of single shots and we saw tracers flying at a ridge where our assistants must have been moving carelessly. We proceeded for the gun. Liljavirta stayed to guard at the path until I reached the gun. Then he followed me.
There was no lack of thrill because we knew we had entered a busily frequented spot. The field kitchen would be visited by men fetching food and tea water, and there must have been a sentry post in the bush. The gun was surrounded by high snow walls. I pulled my pistol and turned the safety off because I suspected there would be a sentry behind the snow wall. Yet the position was unguarded. The inhabitants of the dugout were observed by our men at a distance of twenty meters. One of us was watching alternately the dugout and the kitchen while the other one was examining the gun. Three shells were found but only two charges. I removed the firing pin from the breech block and pocketed it. Each of us took one shell and one charge. Te 20 kilo load was as much as one was able to carry while holding a rifle in one hand. We spotted some movement at the kitchen and ducked for a while to observe who was coming. Liljavirta told us to get up and walk confidently because no one could suspect that such quiet men as we were could be enemies. We hurried away from the path to the rear of gun no.4 and then to our men.
We had a counsel on how to transport the guns to our side but decided that we could not use enough men to haul the guns up the ridge. The surroundings would have to be cleared of enemies and that would be a totally different matter.
Liljavirta was now interested in reconnoitring the ammunition dump. At first we went on the ridge for a while to rest and have a counsel. It was decided to set two men at the S tip of the ridge as close to the (enemy) AT gun sentries as they would allow. I and Liljavirta sneaked on and managed to get at the edge of the bush growing on the ridge, the slope started there. We peeked downwards and saw faintly the gun at the roadside and a sentry. PFC Keinänen with one man was left at the edge of the bush to guard. The rest of us proceeded to the valley of the river.
We pushed through the alder bushes on the river bank up to the old road bridge where the bush ended. No one had visited the ruins of the bridge and the mill, since the snow was pristine. We we went up the road closer to the AT gun at the tip of the ridge, and as it seemed to us that at the bridge the river valley would be in dead angle seen from the gun, we left Gunner Turunen and an assistant in the shadow of the slope to guard. Their task was to cover our return from the other side in case we would make it.
Now Liljavirta started trudging through the snow ahead of me because I felt quite tired already. We crossed the river past an old water canal over a broken dam and remains of the bridge. The opposite side at the bridge was fairly open terrain but on the SW side of the road in the glen of a brook there was some bush, the shadow ow which we made use of.
We climbed up to the edge of a field at the W bend of the brook glen but at the very moment we stood up an AT gun muzzle flame flashed in front of us at a distance of 120 to 150m. I cannot tell if it was the gum muzzle blast or plain scare but we found ourselves in the snow on the slope of the glen. We jumped up to run but another shot rang out. It had an opposite effect because I could hear the sound of shell explosion in the forest at the N bend of the river.
So it was plain chance that we found ourselves on the firing line of the AT gun at the very moment. Liljavirta, always correct in his speech, hardly ever cursing now opened his mouth: “Perk* what a scare” while wiping snow off his face. I, too, felt despondent, mu entire body appeared to have turned into jelly. We recovered however, hearing loud speech and laughing by the AT gun crew. That perked us and dispelled our listlessness.
We proceeded in the shadow of the bank close to the river and went on. We felt as if we would have been on a dimly lit theatre scene because the cloud layer was again getting thinner. As the river valley became ever more steep we moved closer to the edge of the field. The sparse willow and alder bushes were now behind us but Liljavirta kept obstinately pressing on. Lumps of snow loosened from the crust started sliding downhill making quite a hissing noise. Liljavirta, too, noticed that and climbed higher. By now we were about at the flank of the AT gun that had recently fired. Close by there was behind a snow wall either a storage or accommodation hut for men. The snow wall appeared to extend up to the river valley edge and we caught the smell of smoke. So they were awake there, quite carelessly, yet we might have been spotted soon by someone. Standing at the edge of the bivouac area we tried to find any open gaps but did not spot any. There were several dark spots on the river bank that could have been dugouts or weapons nests, The snow wall ended in a bush on the river bank,and a sentry could have been behind it. That is why we kept our distance.
On the far side of the river we saw something dark the whereabouts we were able to define but could not make out what it was. Lights were flashing at times indicating that something was going on there. Later it was found d that it was a Russian hospital tent and other supply structures.
A firefight broke out between our men at the Tenhamo hill and the so called Tank Park, soon a AT gun muzzle flame flashed in the “motti” part in front of us. Sounds of fighting increased and soon the AT gun that had scared us joined in and a third one, too. We thought that now there could be a chance to drop in behind the snow wall but at the same moment we realised that soon we might get our share of any shelling called on these AT guns by our F.O.O. On the Tenhamo hill. That is why we started plodding for home. At the mill we saw some movement at the AT gun behind it. WE were not completely sure, however. We crossed the river following the river bank at the new temporary bridge.
It was again morning as we returned to our bivouac. We had with us only some ten good shells with propellant charges and some other gear. The data provided by our observation was already known, mostly. However we managed to provide some additional information.
Unfortunately the constant lack of ammunition and the bad condition of our worn out artillery pieces did not enable us to employ our weapons with the effect and accuracy that our training would have allowed. Three or four days later we would experience it bitterly. As the infantry was breaking up the “motti” with a limited quantity of hand grenades and satchel charges, we artillerymen were forced by the circumstances to sit on the sidelines
III/JR37 war diary extract:
Lt . Patojärvi reporting: A strong enemy patrol attempting to advance from Eastern Lemetti on the supply road to Western Lemetti.
The enemy had been destroyed the strength of which was 3 officers and 83 other ranks.
During the day the enemy was being tied down by fire.
From the taken enemy territory the following war booty has been retrieved, about
73 inf.rifles, 1 L-S LMG [Finnish], one Russian LMG , rifle cartridges some 1500, 40 hand grenades and other material.
Platoon Pursiainen's subordination ended.
Capt. Kauppinen of “Vaaka” was liaising and agreeing on guarding between Eastern and Western Lemetti.
One squad of Sappers reported for abatis and mining work and they were subordinated to Lt. Patojärvi.
Mortar half platoon reported, subordinated to Muurikka.
One LK field piece arrived [short-barrel 3” gun] and was directed to its position to fire at tanks over open sights.
Order issued by phone:
CO s of Kupari and Muurikka as well as Muurain CO or his well informed deputy to arrive for counsel at Sysi on 27.1.40 at 10.00hrs. Teräs.
LK fired 20 shots of which 4 bullseyes.
4 squads of sappers reported, assigned to the S side of the road. Two squads to clear bush from fields of fire, one to build MG positions and one to set up abatis.
Kupari order: 7th Coy to reconnoitre S of Kuikka West to find out the placement of enemy dugouts and weapons for the attack to be launched on 28.1.40 in the morning.
30 shells, 5 shrapnels were fired with the LK , result 7 bullseyes
Briefing by Kupari CO for the attack at Lemetti village by Muurikka and Hiipijä, supported by the Heavy battery and mortar.
During AM CO in briefing by the AC CO.
Lt. Silve? Wounded in leg.
Btn CO briefing for the attack.
All outfits in positions ready for attack.
Attack launched and it progressed as to Vuori3 100 to 150m on the hill in front of them.
Patojärvi's outfit also progressed about 100m and they held the line they had gained.
LK firing over open sights with good success.
Agitation speech and surrender conditions presented, without results.
Agitation speech and surrender conditions,
LK firing at tanks and dugouts over open sights.
During the day the enemy was harassed with mortar and MG fire.
Enemy airdropped proviant, landing on our lines, including e.g. sugar, butter, cubes of pea soup, salt, matches, dried bread, canned meat, cigarette paper.
Agitation carried out, without result.
During the day the enemy was harassed.
One enemy dugout destroyed with hand grenades.
According to information gained the enemy is going to break out of Lemetti at 0800hrs.
All units ordered to stand by.
Two POWs brought from “Suksi” who had crossed the securing line from the North in the river valley.
Enemy AC dropped proviant, two packets landed on Lt. Patojärvi's area and 5 packets on Lt. Tuominen's area.
Agitation by a POW and an interpreter.
Agitation carried out, without result.
Enemy airdropped proviant S and N of Lemetti village.
Agitation speech and surrender conditions presented. One parliamentarian came and returned to exhort the others to come but Kaunissaari prevented surrendering after the parliamentarian had returned to our lines.
W end of Lemetti village taken, there were e.g. 25 tanks and 8 lorries.
Agitation without result.
One POW came, who had in the night left from the W side of Lemetti.
Agitation without result.
Agitation without result.
Briefing for taking over the E side of the Lemetti open ground. Hiipijä shall join in.
Lt Patojärvi is to attack from South with three strike squads
Lt Tuomainen from North with two strike squads
Hiipijä from East with two strike squads.
Strong artillery, mortar preparation.
The men managed to get at the dugouts .
Enemy abandoned their positions and fled East but was annihilated scattered in the terrain.
Stronghold Kuikka taken.
Entire stronghold taken, war booty includes e.g.
2 pcs 6” howitzers, 1 pc 3” cannon, 1 pc 45mm inf.cannon, 6 tanks, 30 lorries, one complete field bakery, medical gear and drugs, plenty of rifle grenades and a considerable quantity of various artillery ammunition.
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The last look of my brother
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 02, 1962
The author was a Squad Leader NCO in JR27 which was initially a Reserve outfit, poorly equipped. No MG Coy, no Mortar Coy, no AT Coy. Some companies were even short of rifles.
I and my brother Paul had received in autumn 1939 summons to extra repetition exercise in JR 27, I Battalion, Lt. Hyvönen's Company. I, as per training, a squad leader and my brother as a paramedic. Waiting for the course of events rolling out we had a play war in the day and in the night we were on the blacked out streets with local girls. At the end of November the mood changed. We were hoping for the best but that did not happen, the storm broke out on the 30th November 1939.
Now we were just waiting when it would be our turn to head for unknown fate, and we definitely were tense. True enough there were among us itinerant life-long forest workers who apparently did not care what the future held in store for them and under which tree they would fall to their last sleep. My SMG gunner, one of those Northern lifers, even said that he will not leave behind any relatives, only authorities, and no one is going to miss him very much. He did do his duty courageously as he had fulfilled it in civilian life, he did not fear to face the music, he may have been reckless. In any case I have good memories of him, be his rest in the military grave of Ranua be calm. Even though he used to say that not everyone is going to die in war whereas everyone in civilian life is certainly going to die sooner or later, for him it was the war that ended his life.
December 7th we were ordered to pack up our gear for departure and the same night we were marched to the railway station at about 2200hrs, and we embarked the train immediately. We tried to peek at the door of the cattle wagon where the train would take us, but the train kept changing tracks and confused everyone trying to detect the course. At Hyrynsalmi railway station everyone was aware where they found themselves. There we were loaded on open lorries that took us next to some hay sheds. We were told that they cannot take us any farther which we readily believed, because sound of shooting were very clear.
Since it was late at night and we were not yet assigned to front line duty we were ordered to bivouac in tents left behind by another outfit and get some sleep. Our Lieutenant assured us that from now on it is best to learn to sleep always when getting the smallest chance because regular night sleep might not be available from now on, which turned out to be true. The lorry ride had been cold, and as soon as one got into a warm tent one was greeted by sleep at once. This could have been the last night, however, because an enemy patrol appeared nearby and destroyed a tent of another outfit and the men in it with hand grenades. Next day it was rumoured that this enemy outfit had been served the last meal later that night.
Next morning we were woken up at a human hour while the stars were still shining clear. We were served tea with breakfast and dry food in our bread bags. We opined that we may be going to find out how cutting down is done in this kind of a logging camp. The field kitchen would follow us, we were told, so we needed dry food for one day only because we would get hot food in the evening. The field kitchen did not turn up that night, nor the next ones. If I remember right it was five or six days that we survived on one day's dry food. We had been tasked to cut an enemy supply road in their rear which we set out to do with the force of the entire battalion, how could the field kitchen have followed us there. There was some grumbling initially when hunger was felt in the stomach but as soon as we had learned the law of the war we accepted it without protesting.
After a few hours of brisk skiing we arrived at the adversary supply road where our scouts already had taken out some horse drivers with their beasts, and advancing toward Suomussalmi along the supply road went on. The purpose appeared to be to test how strong the enemy rear was. After a while the scouts had intercepted a convoy of 6 lorries, the platforms full of wounded men. Our platoon was ordered to guard the lorries and the Russians on them.
Night fell and the neighbour started their lullaby concert but it did not comfort us newcomers. Bullets hitting frozen wood made such a noise comparable to SMG fire and that is what some of us believed at first. Some kind of panic was about to rise but it was quelled. My LMG gunner was so agitated that he started firing at our line. In the darkness of the night he did not manage to hurt anyone, fortunately.
Next afternoon we set out, this time as one Company only while the rest of the Battalion was led elsewhere. Our task was to strike the enemy in their rear any point there was some shooting going on, and that kept us on the move. Our food was gone by now, hunger was plaguing us but we did not complain. There were no decked tables for us, because war is war.
We kept skiing some days and at times we were fired upon. We caught some sleep in a ravine at campfires. I slept so soundly that my socks burned on my feet and I was not aware of this before I was shaken awake by a sentry.
On the evening of 14th December we reached the edge of the ruins of Suomussalmi village. While waiting for order to attack we searched our pockets and backpacks through and through hoping to find a piece of bread. As our Platoon leader 2nd Lt. Ekman saw that my search was fruitless he came to me and said that there could be some dirty pieces of sugar in the bottom of his pockets that he could share. I said that I do not mind dirt but he might want to use them himself. He dug up half a dozen pieces of sugar from his pocket and gave me three of them. In civilian life such ones would have been dumped into a bin but here where brotherhood in arms reigned in its full glory even those pieces were pure. Our Platoon leader soon found the end of his journey in the bloody battlefield of Suomussalmi a few days later...Peace upon your memory and flowers on your grave situated in Tornio.
After nightfall we attacked across the open ground at the ruins where our adversary was waiting for us in cover. The terrain over which we attacked was smooth and hard trodden, so we were quite exposed but to our fortune the bursts of bullets the neighbours fired were aimed a little too high, making overhead a roof no one wanted to stick their head through. We kept creeping on, dashing even, but our bullets may not have a great effect on the enemy in the cover of the ruins.
Finally we made it to the first ruins and I kept crawling on on all fours, enthused. I bumped on a man who seemed to disregard me totally. I shook him and as he appeared to be very quiet I turned on the pocket torch I just had found. I turned him over and recognised him: a Squad leader of our Platoon. Cpl. Kelahaara. A burst through the body had taken him away from the commotion of war. I peeked around to see the others. They were some 20m behind me. Some boys of the Platoon had discovered in our rear a cellar full of enemies. Sgt. Kylmäluoma went to the door and exhorted the occupants to come out but as a response he was hit in the chest by a bullet. He survived, however´, and later was wearing rosettes on his lapels,
Next the boys started lobbing hand grenades by bunches in the cellar where the occupants hardly had a good time in there, yet neither had we nothing to boast of. We were being fired at lively, but only four of us were wounded. Finally we retreated in the cover of the forest. We set up fires, made tea and dried our socks for the rest of the night. At daybreak we were ordered to relaunch the attack and now started the phase that I shall remember for ever.
We started advancing in a line. The neighbour must have spotted that something was going on because we were soon taking a tremendous amount of fire of various calibres. At times I suspected if thee was any space for me. Yet we pushed on, dashing and running. I dashed at the root of a small pine because my instinct was prodding me to find some cover. My SMG Gunner was standing next to me, holding his gun under his arm and firing, commenting:
-Ay master, now the ruckus really has started. [Implying he was a Roma,tr.rem.]
I told him to get even a little lower but he claimed the enemies did not know how to shoot. Yet they did, the SMG gunner was KIA after a couple of days.
The enemy did get me, too. There was an angry swish, a whack on my left shoulder and blood started flowing down my side. The bullet had passed my ear so close that I felt it flushing, carved its path up to the shoulder-bone where it stopped. Someone shouted for a paramedic who was not far. It was my brother who had followed the platoon at their heels and he was soon there. He loaded me in his ahkio sled and started hauling me in the rear to be bandaged. In a glen my wound was then bandaged.
Again a medic was called for and my brother prepared to return there, whereas I was to go to the opposite direction. However, before leaving for the front line he grabbed my hand, shook it hard while handing over to me with his left hand his wallet, saying:
-Since you are now getting out of here, take this and everything in it as a memento and take my greetings to our friends. I shall not return. We shall never see each other again.
The look he gave me when we said our goodbyes shall never be forgotten.
It told me that this indeed was our final goodbye although I tried to convince him, with tears in my eyes, that it must not be so. He whispered his goodbyes quietly and calmly before returning to his duties.
A couple of days lager a bullet found its target and my brother's war was over. I was informed of his death at Christmas as I was lying in the military hospital in Kajaani.
I soon returned to the front but on the 27th January 1940 I was wounded again, more seriously. The bones of my right arm were shattered, and since then I have struggled with the damage. As late as in 1957 two bone transplants were carried out and the elbow bone is still broken. Database extract:
Aikio, Paavali Johannes. Private, born 25.1.1912 Ranua, KIA on 17.12.1939 Suomussalmi .1./I/JR27. Farm worker. Buried at Ranua.
Ekman, Matti Kalevi. 2nd Lt. Born 9.10.1917 Tornio, KIA 20.12.1939 Suomussalmi,1./I/JR27. Law student. Buried at Tornio.
1./I/JR27 war diary extract: [A bit long but worth reading.]
December 7th 1939.
The outfit arrived at their billets in “Keminpirtti” hall from the terrain of Tervaharju where they had spent the Independence day.
All day skis and gear were being distributed. Everything implied that something special was going to happen.
Embarking on trains started. Everything went on without trouble and a meal was eaten at the railway yard while working.
Train left for Kontiomäki as the first objective
December 8th 1939.
At Vaala station a minor accident happened. As the train was just stopping at the station Pvt. Illikainen Antti started getting out of the wagon but slipped – the result was that his leg was broken at ankle. After the train had arrived at Kontiomäki I. Was left there to be treated.
Stop at Nuojua station. Since the train preceding us had had an accident we had to remain there all day. It was not until at 19.00hrs that we could continue our journey.
We arrived at Kontiomäki, and continued on the new Kontiomäki – Taivalkoski rail line.
Arrived at Hyrynsalmi.
(in the margin: In air cover 1000-1020hrs)
Having arrived at the station disembarking started immediately and about 1130hrs the Coy was ready to leave on skis for Hyrynsalmi village where the officers were cantoned in the CG hall.
The outfit CO Lt. Hyvönen carried out reconnoitring on how to accommodate the entire Battalion. He was accompanied by two NCOs of every unit of the Btn. The bivouac area they selected was situated was the surroundings of Alanteenjärvi lake some 3 km S of Suomussalmi village. Res. Lt. Lohijoki led the Coy to the said terrain, the transport was carried out by lorries and buses.
Arrived at the destination and immediately the tents were set up.
Completed setting up of tents. Fire (tent stove) and tent guarding was set up and so the Company was ready for some rest. It is worth mentioning that the night was dark and a cold wind was biting at the sweated backs. All of this was accompanied by the rumble of Russian cannons and brief bursts of our MG s every now and then. - So we were there.
Reveille behind the firing line. Since only five of the nine tents of the Coy were equipped with stove, sleep had been minimal, limiting to 2 to 3 hours. During the day the counterstrike directions across Alanteenjärvi lake in case the enemy would attack over the lake at Haukiperä. The day was spent in equipment maintenance.
In PM 2nd Lt. Kummonen and 20 men of our Coy went to Isovaara farm house where the Rgt CO Col. Mäkiniemi with his staff arrived at 1400hrs.
Nothing special happened this day.
December 11th .
Monday. Last night a Russki patrol had managed to stealthily cross Haukiperä and had managed to liquidate with SMGs one tent with occupants at the front line. “Hip” Company had received orders to catch the patrol, but they had left already.
Reveille. Morning tea was delayed and we did not get it until at
04.00hrs so the departure planned for 0500hrs was about to be delayed.
Tents were taken down and packed in the transport column sleds.
The first day of fighting was about to start. We had been briefed the day before: our task was to be in the front line the spearhead company on the direction of the attack on the left wing of the Regiment encircling the enemy N of Haukiperä, direction Kuikankylä. Jump-off positions at Kuivasalmi, distance from the bivouac 9 to 10 km where we were to be at 9 o'clock in the morning. The route was across Alanteenjärvi lake. As four Battalions were to use the same jump-off position, all using the same route, they were in one queue almost all the way and since the darkness was hampering, from the very beginning it was found out that the attack is going to be late. En route at Alanteenjärvi lake the 3rd and 4th Platoons swerved to the right and got lost. They were subsequently searched at various directions but in vain. A little before arriving at the jump-off positions they however caught up with the rest of the Coy.
The terrain to the jump-off positions was very hard to traverse which consumed the energy of the troops.
The operation from the jump-off positions across Kuivasalmi was launched about 1300-1400hrs.
The Coy had been issued new orders to attack in the direction of the road on second wave after the III Btn. Yet it happened that the “Lku” Company did not arrive to the road leading to E from Suomussalmi. Hek Coy proceeded to advance as the spearhead company along the road to the village. In the very beginning a Russian driving a horse came in our direction, both the horse and the man lost their lives. A small stretch later the spearhead intercepted a column comprising four lorries heading for the border, whereby a battle broke out, ending in death for the Russkies. Our Btn had caught their firs war booty.
Then we proceeded peacefully until 4 km from the village where a firefight broke out between our spearhead and Russkies at the edge of a bog. “Ham” was following on the second line after “Hek”. There was no info about the other troops. For the attack “Hek” fanned out on the right side of the road, Hormisto and the I Platoon on the left side. Soon the I Platoon received orders to move to the right side of the road as the “Jan” Battalion reached the road and they were to advance together with the Light Battalion between the road and Haukiperä.
Low-intensity fighting went on until the evening.
Russkies had a MG that was firing along the road. Thanks to Lt. Kaitiainen the Btn CO Maj. Lassila modified the plan and ordered the “Han” Company as the spearhead to advance in the direction of the road. The Coy was brought to marching readiness. The spearhead was just about to start but then the Russki opened fire along the road. It was a miracle that there were no killed in our Company standing on the road in quadruple file. 2nd Lt. Kummu was leading the spearhead and 4 men of his Platoon were wounded. Of the “Hek” Coy so far had lost 2 men KIA and some WIA.
In the night “Hek” Company and a detachment of the “A” Coy continued fighting and forced the Russkies to retreat
In the evening a Russki patrol much disturbed our action and our Coy was under heavy fire. A couple of our men were again WIA.
Tuesday. In the night we were not able to sleep at all as our baggage train had not arrive and fires could not be made. Many of the men were very fatigued; their shoes and clothing were quite wet. We had eaten last time the previous day at 0400hrs in the morning, oats broth. As to me rheumatism was aching my shoulders and I was quite exhausted. In the morning I ate my iron rations that gave me energy. In the morning we started to attack on the right side of the road : spearhead “Kis” Coy, then a detachment of “A” Coy, then “Hip” and after them “Hom”.
As we were waiting in the jump-off position at the side of the road to proceed we waited for Detachment “A” to pass us. As this outfit started to traverse the bog a Russki tank opened a lively fire from the road at them. My Platoon, too, got under fire. I pulled the Platoon deeper in the forest and we passed by the bog far to the right. One man of “A” was left behind on the bog, KIA.
We proceeded in a slow pace after “Hip” Coy for the village and the crossroads leading E of he village. Every now and then “Kis” and “Kar” Coys cleared the way and forced the Russkies to retreat.
On the left side of the road between Haukiperä and and the road “Jan” and “Kar” Battalions were attacking. In the morning the men had been given pea soup to eat but in the day there was no meal provided.
It was late in the evening before we reached the crossroads. The men were almost totally exhausted. Some slept leaning on their ski sticks. Our eyes were hallucinating. We received orders to bivouac at the crossroads, about 1 km N in a patch of forest. Coy CO Lt. Hyvönen, suffering from jaundice, did not see anything more. He handed over the command of the Coy to me and by handshakes said goodbye to this Company.
We arrived at the assigned bivouac area. I issued an order to the Platoon leaders on bivouacking. All Platoon leaders were also confused. They were no more able to comprehend decently any orders given to them. It was a slow process to rally the men in the camp area. Yet firewood was very well available and soon lively big camp fires were set up. Having inspected the campfires of each Platoon and having set up sentries I headed for the campfire of my Platoon. There I met the “Kis” Coy CO Lt. Segerstråle, staring dementedly at the fire. At once I saw that he was not all right. I had some hot water made and fed him and Lt. Hyvönen what little I had. As we opened their mouths we finally made them turn in to sleep. Here we had two really tired men. In my opinion their state was:
Lt. Hyvönen had regressed to the level of a child.
Lt. Segerstråle was “idiot”.
Kalle had been afflicted by gas fired by the enemy [sic] and as he did not have a gas mask the gas combined with sleepless nights and lack of food broken his stamina.
The night was calm.
Wednesday. We got our morning tea at 0800hrs and immediately after that the Coy started skiing NW tasked to cut the enemy retreat road at Karttee road. On our way there we met “Hip” Coy and Lt. Laulujärvi to whom we were subordinated. He had arrived already the day before and was setting up defensive positions. In the afternoon, however, we found that we were not at the road where we had been ordered to. Therefore we hurriedly went on with our journey and at
16.00hrs arrived at our objective. We set up defences and made fires at the two houses situated 4 km from the village. The night was cold, as the other nights, too, and we slept only 3 to 4 hrs. The baggage train was not seen so everyone was very hungry.
Thursday. In the morning the boys started looking into the farmhouse to find something to eat. The farmer with his son turned up at his house to take care of his cattle and he promised that the boys could take anything they could find. The farmer's family had moved out. The boys milked the cows, found potatoes and some cured meat and with that we were able to stay somewhat alert. During the day we kept building our positions. In the evening we received orders to head for the village. At the cemetery stone fence we were subjected to tank MG fire.
The Coy fled in the forest but a little later it was announced that the situation was over. Now we grouped for attack in the Karttaa road direction. We left behind our skis and started approaching the enemy. We did not make it farther than 300 to 400m before the Coy was ordered to rally on the road in quadruple files. Lt. Laulajainen was now the Btn CO. He issued orders to “Hum” to advance from the Karttaa crossroads along the road to NW and to “Hip” to advance on their right side. We were ordered to “clean” every house, cellar etc. We were under the impression that the village was ours now. Therefore we advanced quite freely, fortunately grouped up.
Hardly had we advanced some two hundred meters as the Russkies opened a heavy MG and LMG fire . We were lying in line on the ruins of burned down houses on totally open ground. Even though the incoming fire was uncommonly heavy, the Russki firing at us from the front and the left, only one man was wounded.
On the right wing of our Coy Russkies opened MG fire from a stone cellar. We tried to fire in the cellar with pistols. First we threw 3 hand grenades there but due to wrong fuse they did not go off. The ones in the cellar had now managed to close the internal door so the hand grenades thrown there did not destroy the weapons nest. A bunch of hand grenades dropped on the roof failed to effect the stone roof vault.
There was a Finn in the cellar who kept responding to our shouts. Those in the cellar managed to shoot at four of us, 2 of “Ham” and 2 of “Hip” Coy. Also the man who started writing this memoir, Sgt. Kylmäluoma, got shot through his chest.
-To continue the attack without hand grenades was considered hopeless. The CO however ordered that the attack be continued as soon as more hand grenades would be available. Hand grenades were waited for but none came. The men were hungry and almost fell asleep standing up. Our men were admirable calm although sleepiness and hunger had rendered them almost confused.
-Finally late, as the clock was past midnight, we were allowed to set up fires deeper in the forest.
(End of day)
Friday. During a cold December night at about 0300hrs we were given permission to make fires. Firewood was not found enough to warm us up decently. Some of the men managed to melt snow into hot water to warm themselves. Men had to be woken up from the snow where one and another had fallen asleep.
In the morning our cooks brought us dry food but that was not enough to still our hunger.
At daybreak we received orders to attack in the same direction as last night but this time the order was, counting from the road, “Kar”, “Hip”, “Hom”, “Kat”, “Kis”. We advanced under heavy tank MG and artillery fire to the edge of the open ground N of the Village.
There the attack stalled for the day. Russkies had in the basements of burnt houses and other places well built MG positions enabling them to direct destructive point fire. Specially “Hip” Coy and our IV Platoon suffered heavy casualties as they had got into a bad spot. The day went on in lively firefight action. Many a good man sacrificed his life for the fatherland among them Lt. Kalliomäki from Kittilä. Exhaustion, hunger and hatred were on the increase as the day turned into night. The men started showing some signs of impatience, and not without reason. Men kept falling asleep in the snow under a rain of bullets. I, too, was waken up once by an enemy aircraft, another time by the Platoon deputy leader.
Night was approaching. We did not know anything about the coming night, Lt. Hyvönen was finding out about it at the C.P.
Finally at about 2000hrs we heard the refreshing piece of news that we would get to spend the night at campfires and we also might get something to eat.
We pulled back some 300m behind our line, set up campfires and soon our baggage train was there with our tents. We set up our tents. Finally the field kitchen served us food. As to me, pea soup never had such a wonderful taste as then after three days of fasting. It felt as if it were Christmas. I ate two big bowls and it was wonderful to lie down with one's belly full.
The night was again cold and we were not allowed to sleep but a few hours, but the good meal had refreshed the men.
Saturday. Having been fed with oats broth we received orders to be subordinated to Capt. Sivonen CO of “Jan” Btn. WE were tasked to attack on the left flank of Lt. Kahila in the direction of Lake Kiantajärvi shore to West, for the road to Roinila. Lt. Kahila had not yet received his attack order so we started on our own. I was in the front line with 2nd Lt. Ekman. We successfully had traversed an open bog as we began to take MG and LMG fire from our front. We found ourselves almost among Russkies. Coy CO issued orders to pull back a little in the direction of the shore. We retreated some 200m South and found at the lake shore a wonderful summer house. We set up the main defence line and battle fore-posts in good order. We managed to get in the summer house, made a flaming fire in the fireplace despite the proximity of the enemy and the life started to feel nice. Every man's socks and shoes were totally soggy but due to the proximity of the enemy we could not start drying our gear before the defence line was completed. For the night we set up a battle fore-post about 200m ahead of the main line and there one Platoon at a time was awake and dug positions. Late in the evening we again got the field kitchen in our bivouac area and the hungry man found the pea soup tasty again.
Tents were set up near the summer house, some of the men were accommodated in tents and some in the summer house. The night was calm and we could get some sleep at last.
Sunday. In the morning we received orders to attack North to the direction of the ferry. Having reached the open bog in front of the battle fore-post we were subjected to enemy MG crossfire. We did not manage to advance. Coy CO ordered to dig in. Russki fired accurately. We lost 4 KIA and 2 WIA. After the firefight had continued for some time the Coy CO ordered to pull back some. We left there just an observation line and returned to the summer house area to improve our main defence line.
We spent the day in our tents, having a decent rest the first time for a long time. Finally we had a chance to eat as much as we wanted and the men kept recovering.
In the evening I had one of my yearnings fulfilled. We heated up the summer house sauna and I enjoyed thoroughly the refreshing and cleaning effect of the heat of the sauna with Hyvönen and Cpl. Haarahiltunen.
There was a heavy enemy MG and artillery fire going on around us but it did not disturb our bath. We were able to remove the soot accumulated on us for more than a week. We could not shave, however, and the stubble was left to grow until we possibly later might have a chance to remove it.
-In this kind of tent life one keeps getting all kinds of occurrences and desires. The boys are suffering from shortage of tobacco. Fortunately the Government donates them time to time some fags. I have a great craving for coffee, but there seems to be no chance. Securing continued in the night as before.
(end of day)