Infantry Regiment 7 in the Battle of Tyrjä
This battle report was published and distributed to the men of infantry regiment 7 on the first anniversary of the battle of Tyrjä. It was written by second lieutenant Matti Kuusi and colonel Armas Kemppi, commander of infantry regiment 7.
The battle of Tyrjä was infantry regiment 7’s first major battle where the Finns punched through the red army’s defensive line and encircled a strong and determined enemy. This battle opened the way for an offensive to the western shores of lake Ladoga, and the retaking of several villages and towns including Lahdenpohja.
Infantry regiment 7 was thereafter known as Tyrjän Rykmentti, “Regiment of Tyrjä”. Infantry Regiment 7 also had its own newspaper which was named Tyrjän rintamalehti, or Tyrjän lehti, “Tyrjä front magazine / Tyrjä magazine”.
Last updated: October 10th, 2017
Organisation of the Regiment before the battle was as follows:
w = Wounded during battle, t = Transferred during battle
The 2nd Division was stationed in the villages of Parikkala and Saari and on June 30th began positioning itself for attack. Infantry Regiment 7’s I and II Battalions consisted of young men, of which about half were fresh conscripts of spring 1941. III Battalion’s average age was 37 and consisted of reservists from Kesälahti and Kitee. The regiment advanced to the south side of lake Huuhtalampi, about 2 kilometers east from Tyrjä village.
Tyrjä is located 15 kilometers north of Elisenvaara, equally far away from the railway tracks leading to Lahdenpohja and Savonlinna. It is not only the largest center of population of this rural area, but also an important intersection point. The village is located along the only road connection from the Parikkala-Saari direction towards Akkaharju and Lahdenpohja. During July, the forces of the Infantry Regiment 7 formed a half-circle shaped defensive line to the north and east of the village to prepare for the offensive.
The enemy was well aware of the strategic importance of Tyrjä. It fortified the northern and eastern edges of the village to an almost impenetrable defensive network with bunkers, trenches, minefields, and dug-in tanks. It was also supported by a formidable amount of artillery and mortars.
In charge of the defense of the village was the highly trained and well-armed Soviet Infantry Regiment 461, as well as elements of IR 450, IR 452, IR 588, IR 701 and IR 708.
II. Before the Attack
The Tyrjä front in its entirety was a “bulge” of a kind in the Finnish lines and was subject to numerous enemy counter attacks and continuous artillery-and mortar harassment throughout July. The enemy knew that the Finnish attack was imminent in the end of July and grew their harassment fire to an almost continuous barrage for the last few nights of the month. The enemy sent platoon and company sized reconnaissance detachments especially to III Battalion’s base “Tarhamäki”, II Battalion’s base “Niemi” and I Battalion’s “Tornikukkula”. The young men of the regiment distinguished themselves in these first battles of the war and grew to become tough frontline soldiers who were not afraid of fire or death.
Preparations for the attack were meticulously being made on the Finnish side as well. Jäger platoons were patrolling actively in front of Tarhamäki and to the east of lake Iilampi.
II Battalion’s reconnaissance patrol, conducted by II Battalion’s Jäger Platoon commander Second Lieutenant Hannes Sihvo and Corporal Laakoli, Privates Hämäläinen, Leskinen and Puurtinen, gave valuable information about enemy positions, which was instrumental in planning the advancing directions for the attack.
I Battalion’s combat outposts were pushed closer to the enemy and II Battalion advanced to the east of Loksakumpu. On July 27th a platoon from the 5th Company, led by Lieutenant Talvitie, performed a reconnaissance by force to the south-east of Loksakumpu, where the main offensive would begin two days later.
On the last week of July large wildfires were seen in the enemy’s defensive lines on the east and south sides of Iilampi. This was fortunate for the Finns, as the fire cleared out some of the enemy’s minefields. On July 30th at 1300 hours the enemy managed to set fire to "Anttosen talo" (Anttonen’s house) with artillery and mortar fire, but the Regimental Headquarters would not need this house any longer, as the long awaited order arrived on the same night; “Tomorrow.”
The last day of July was warm and quiet: It was almost as if the enemy didn’t know what was coming its way after all. Early in the morning the Finnish main defensive line, from Sonneenlahti to Loksakumpu, was turned over to 7th Separate Fortifications Company, and the line from Tornikukkula to the east, was given to the III Battalion of Infantry Regiment 28, which had been attached to Armas Kemppi’s Infantry Regiment 7.
During the morning of July 31st the entire Infantry Regiment 7 positioned itself to a lightly forested area about 600 meters wide between Loksakumpu and Huuhtalampi. The II Battalion formed to the right with the I Battalion to the left and the III Battalion behind the II Battalion to an intersection point of forest roads. Tough determination could be seen on the men’s faces; the battle had to be won whatever the cost. The mission was to defeat the enemy that waited ahead, and if possible, continue the attack towards Akkaharju. Saares village was also a part of the Infantry Regiment 7’s target, but that task was to be given to III Battalion of the Infantry Regiment 28.
I and II Battalion’s were to be the vanguard of the attack and pave the way open all the way to the south of the village. Once the II Battalion would reach Kukkolehdonmäki the III Battalion would then join the attack and take Saviahonmäki, Rokkola, Kauppias - Sonne-crossroads, and Rokkolanlahti beach, so that the entire village Tyrjä would be completely encircled in a Motti.
III. Taking Kukkolehdonmäki and breakthrough to the north of Iilampi
July 31st at 1200 hours the artillery barrage against the Soviet positions commenced and marked the beginning of the attack on Tyrjä. Rougly 6,000 grenades were used in the barrage, and it was widely believed at that time that this never before seen amount of fire would paralyze the enemy to the extent that initial successes would be somewhat easily obtainable.
In addition to the regiment’s regular artillery support (Artillery Batteries III and IV of the Field Artillery Regiment 15), the barrage was also supported by Heavy Artillery Battery Harvila - or Heavy Battery 14, which shells were supposed to devastate the enemy positions.
The fact of the matter was that the effect of the artillery barrage did not meet its expectations. The damage inflicted on the enemy seemed to be minimal and only at Saviahonmäki had there been a direct hit to a dugout shelter, which had killed the inhabitants inside. At 1230 hours the Finnish infantry assault began and was met everywhere by determined enemy defenders with significant firepower.
II Battalion attacked on the south-east side of Loksakumpu on an area about 200 meters wide. First in the attack formation line were II and III Platoons from the 5th Company and I and II Platoon from the 7th company. Second in the line were I, IV from the 5th Company, III, and IV from the 7th Company, behind them Battalion Command Platoon with a Jäeger Platoon, and following them the 6th Company.
As the reconnaissance by force had already shown two days earlier on the July 29th, the enemy defenses were strongest along the road at Loksakumpu and that the enemy mortar support was quick to react in that area. Although the attack at 1230 hours began swiftly and without problems, the enemy mortars delivered a barrage of grenades almost immediately and was shortly joined by the artillery. The first platoons in the attack formation got caught in this barrage and sustained casualties, forcing the majority of the attackers to seek cover thus slowing down the attack.
As the enemy small arms fire at Loksakumpu’s south edge was intense, 5th Company tried to flank the enemy positions from the left only to be stopped by a strongly fortified machine gun bunker. 5th Company was pinned down and forced to dig in to the ground. The enemy took advantage of the situation and ordered in accurate mortar strikes, which caused heavy casualties. Lieutenant Korpiroussi sent out multiple teams to take out the bunker, but none of them were able to get close.
3 squads from the 7th Company’s platoons, who were in the first attack formation managed to get past the artillery barrage early enough without casualties. On the right, Second Lieutenant Helle with two NCO’s and his runner reached the enemy’s outpost positions and managed to drive the enemies away, but only after reaching hand grenade throwing-range. They continued their advance past these positions reaching the obstacle line of felled trees in front of the enemy trenches. Intense small arms fire and a mortar barrage hit precisely in their position killing everyone in the squad.
On the far left an officer of the II Battalion’s 7th Company, Second Lieutenant Laine had been killed immediately as the assault began. The Platoon’s second in command, Sergeant Arvo Tiitta, together with his platoon’s 3rd and 4th Squads advanced quickly and got past the mortar- and artillery fire, but faced an enemy machine gun which opened fire at them from a range of 30 meters causing casualties. A squad led by Corporal Ruusunen managed to destroy the machine gun nest with a satchel charge, which allowed the under-strength platoon to advance through the enemy’s line of defense towards Kukkolehdonmäki and take positions at the first possible elevated, advantageous terrain available.
7th Company Commanding Officer, Second Lieutenant Erkki Tikkanen, together with I Platoon’s 4th squad, led by Corporal Valde Sorsa, and 8th Company’s Second Lieutenant Vääränen, managed to get into the enemy position about 50 meters right of the breakthrough point Sergeant Tiitta had created and advanced to the right side of Tiitta’s positions. This small breakthrough had a major effect on the battle. II Battalion Commander, Captain Arvo Ahola immediately ordered the Jäger Platoon to join the 7th Company men behind the breakthrough point and ordered 5th Company to leave the Loksakumpu bunker and widen the breakthrough at 7th Company’s area.
During these events the enemy’s morale seemed to begin crumbling in the first defensive line and the defenders started abandoning their positions one by one and later by squads. The retreating enemies ran into Second Lieutenant Tikkanen’s and Sergeant Tiitta’s positions and heavy firefights followed. Sergeant Tiitta killed several enemies, took 2 prisoners and getting wounded in the process. 10 enemies that had just abandoned the Loksakumpu bunker ran into Second Lieutenant Tikkanen and his men’s positions. These enemies were killed to the last man.
Captain Ahola with his men, Second Lieutenant Sihvo with his Jägers, Second Lieutenant Salminen with the rest of 7th Company and Second Lieutenant Valkama with two platoons from the 5th Company arrived at the breakthrough point to join up with the brave men of 7th Company. The 7th Company had been the first in the attack formation and broken through. The breakthrough between Point 114.25 and hill Munakukkula had now been secured.
On the next hill and the hill Kukkolehdonmäki the enemy was no longer defending in an organized fashion. The defense was scattered and weak, despite the strong fortifications. As the Jäger Platoon assaulted the hill while 7th Company flanked the enemy from both sides, the Finns had control over Kukkolehdonmäki at 1600 hours.
Captain Ahola was organizing the men quickly for defense. The 5th Company was positioned towards Saviahonmäki and the Jäger Platoon towards the swamp – on the opposite side of the swamp the enemy’s small arms fire was extremely intense. 7th Company, which had lost all of its platoon leaders and their replacements either killed or wounded, formed a second defensive line.
The Regiment’s Commander ordered parts of the Jäger Platoon, 8th Company’s Staff Sergeant Matti Tanninen and Corporal Niilo Hellsten with his squad to destroy enemy dugouts and bunkers that had been left behind, and were slowing down the I Battalion’s advance. These strike teams carried out their mission successfully taking out numerous enemy positions. One of these was a light machine gun nest that had been fighting furiously until it was stormed and destroyed by a fast surprise attack.
Private First Class Elimäki and Jägers Prusi and Sieppi were performing reconnaissance patrol towards lake Iilampi and reported that the enemy had strong positions along the northern edge of the road from Tyrjä to Iijärvenkylä, including a dug-in tank.
Around 1900 hours the 6th Company began advancing with the two Jägers mentioned as their guides from p. 114.25 towards the North-East side Iilampi. After advancing to about 100 meters from the road the enemy opened intense small arms fire towards them. The dug-in tank was firing both its primary weapon and its machinegun in a flat and lightly forested terrain, making the Finnish advance impossible. Staff Sergeant Tanninen performed a magnificent duel with the tank using an antitank rifle, destroying the tank from a range of about 70 meters. On the right a team led by Private Väätänen destroyed a machine gun nest. After this Lieutenant Raassina took two platoons and charged which caused the enemy’s panic-like, full retreat from their positions. About 25 enemies laid dead in their positions.
When the road had been reached the 6th Company continued the attack on the north-east side of lake Iilampi storming the area between the lake and the road, where the enemy had riddled the ground with landmines. The 6th Company took positions between the north-west side of the lake and Kukkolehdonmäki. Elements of the 7th Company were watching towards the airport.
The Finns had now formed a line from lake Iilampi, the west side of Kukkolehdonmäki hill, to the Loksakumpu road. The assault towards the the village had to continue the same night. Reconnaissance patrols on both sides of the road had confirmed that the enemy had extremely strong positions ahead. The I Battalion could not sort out the encircled enemies behind them by nightfall, so the Regiment Commander forbade the II Battalion to continue the attack.
On the same night an enemy medium tank attacked along a small path towards the 6th Company’s positions. It got to about 40 meters from their positions firing both its cannon and machine gun at them. This was followed by an intense infantry attack which was repelled. Private First Class Reponen destroyed the tank with an anti-tank rifle.
August 1st, after midday, a 16-man enemy group armed with automatic weapons attacked the 6th Company in the rear, from the direction of the I Battalion. A firefight took place and the enemies dug themselves in fighting with determination, until a strike team led by Staff Sergeant Tanninen managed to destroy them. Two were taken prisoner, 14 killed. Also on the the next night, the 2nd of August, the enemy attempted numerous counter attacks from the direction of Tyrjä. Enemy artillery and mortar fire was concentrated behind Kukkolehdonmäki hill.
IV. Taking Saviahonmäki
The III Battalion’s 10th Company, which was ordered to act as regiment’s reserve, was taking casualties behind the II Battalion’s positions from the enemy artillery and mortar fire. The 11th Company, which was ordered to follow the 5th Company, got in contact with the enemy positioned along the Loksakumpu road on their left side. At 1330 hours the enemy targeted the 11th Company with their heavy artillery. This barrage caused heavy casualties – I Platoon of the 11th company lost 80% of its strength.
After the II Battalion had successfully seized Kukkolehdonmäki hill the III Battalion attacked towards Saviahonmäki hill at 1600 hours, after a preparatory fire mission targeting the enemy positions in that area. The 9th Company on their left could not advance. Lieutenant Heikkilä’s 11th Company however managed to storm the enemy fortifications on the south edge of Loksakumpu after a difficult and bloody battle. Enemy machine gun nests and bunkers were taken out using satchel charges and hand grenades. The assault was led by Second Lieutenant Pietarinen and his II Platoon and III Battalion’s Second Lieutenant Lahti with his Jäger Platoon.
The attack was carried out through an active wildfire, which was detonating landmines and caused an enemy ammunition storage to catch fire and explode. Private Pennanen from the 11th Company saved his platoon from annihilation by pushing a pile of ammunition crates that had caught fire into a bomb crater. Enemy mortars were continuously shelling the area.
The Jäger Platoon reached the eastern edge of the T-shaped open area at about 1800 hours. Lieutenant Heikkilä stormed the southern edge of the open until the Saviaho house.
Saviahonmäki hill had been taken, but a deep wedge of enemies was left between the hill and the road leading to Loksakumpu. On the south-west side of where the Loksakumpu roads crossed, the enemy had a dug-in tank defending the road making the advance along the road impossible. Corporal Pentti Myntti from the 12th Company together with a couple of his friends managed to crawl near the tank in a daring assault, and destroyed the tank along with its crew.
At 2300 hours the 9th Company attacked against the enemy wedge from the direction of Kukkolehdonmäki with no success. At 0200 hours the same night the enemy attempted a counter attack from the wedge which was repelled. Captain Marttinen ordered Lieutenant V. Toivio to clear the Saviahonmäki area from enemies with his men. The Regiment’s Commander ordered the 9th Company’s Commanding Officer to be replaced by Captain P. Kytömaa, who stubbornly began pressing the company towards the enemy wedge destroying machine gun nests with grenades.
The enemy in the wedge defended its positions until late morning of 2nd of August, when the 11th and the 9th Companies flanked it from the north and south. The enemy was pushed back behind the east edge of a swamp. Reconnaissance attempts towards the directions of Rokkola, Kiiski and Kansakoulu proved that the enemy was still unbroken and actively defending Tyrjä village.
V. The Battles at Munakukkula
Main elements of the I Battalion attacked towards Munakukkula along a road starting from the west edge of lake Huuhtalampi. The enemy had transformed this steep hill into a fortress with numerous layers of defense, with multiple machine gun and light machine gun nests which could fire down upon the attackers in open terrain. The Finnish artillery barrage had left Munakukkula almost untouched, but it had set wildfires on both sides of the hill which made the attack more difficult, as the Finns now had to try to control the wildfire under enemy shelling.
In the front of the attack formation, 3rd company sustained heavy casualties while advancing through a vast minefield under enemy mortar- and small arms fire. As the assault from that direction turned out to be an impossible undertaking, major Polón directed the company to attack from the right, where II-battalion had broken through, and continue the advance along Munakukkula hill’s south west ridge. This maneuver turned out to be successful, as from this position strike teams from Second Lieutenant Pekka Vanninen’s Jäger Platoon, led by Private First Class Laakso and Private Pirhonen, destroyed two harmful enemy machine gun nests with satchel charges.
A squad from the 4th Company, led by a 44-year-old Private First Class Hyvönen along with Corporal Malin, Private First Class Havanka and Privates Juuti and Tuomi, had bravely advanced and set up their machine gun on the south-east side of the hill, taking over an enemy machine gun defending a dugout shelter and in intense close combat killing the dugout’s enemy inhabitants. The squad then defended this position for several hours until the south east side of the hill was captured by the Finns completely.
The 3rd Company had lost 70% of its strength and its commanding officer had changed 5 times during the attack on Munakukkula hill on July 31st. At 1600 hours the 1st Company had received an order to assault the hill from the north-east. When the 1st Company was advancing the enemy had opened intense and accurate machine gun fire from the left and majority of the 1st Company was stuck in a firefight with enemy machine gun nests in front of them. Only Second Lieutenant Alftha with 5 men got through the enemy defenses and made contact with 3rd Company on the other side and Private First Class Hyvönen’s isolated defensive position. Around this time the enemy began retreating from its last positions and machine gun nests on Munakukkula.
Major Polón tried to send word to the Regiment Commander that Munakukkula hill had been taken, but the runner quickly came back as he had been fired at from the east side of the hill, from a crossing of two foot paths. The situation was dangerous as the I Battalion on the hill was now "encircled" as it faced fire from enemy machine gun nests and bunkers, cutting off communications and contact with Kukkolehdonmäki, Tornikukkula and Huuhtalampi. In addition to everything else, the enemy heavy artillery concentrated its fire on Munakukkula throughout the night. Several attempts were made during the night to destroy the enemy machine gun nests which were causing casualties but they were unsuccessful.
Especially harmful was the enemy position mentioned earlier on the east side of the hill, next to the crossing of foot paths. It turned out to be a set of 3 heavily fortified machine gun nests, each facing different directions, thus covering a very wide area. Second Lieutenant Vanninen together with 15 Jägers encircled the enemy strongpoint and Corporal Kurki destroyed one of the nests with a satchel charge, after which 9 enemies who survived the blast surrendered at 0600 hours.
It was evident that the enemy had retreated during the night from Kukkolehdonmäki hill. A machine gun nest on south east side of Munakukkula hill was destroyed with a satchel charge by Private Grönqvist from 1st Company’s IV Platoon which led by Second Lieutenant Jokinen.
On August 1 at 1200 hours the I Battalion continued its advance between Munakukkula and Kukkolehdonmäki hills and got to the main road without any resistance. The rear was now cleared of the enemy and the attack towards Tyrjä village could be continued.
VI. Wedge to the South
The reinforced 2nd Company commanded by Captain V. Nissinen began advancing at 1230 hours from the east side of Tornikukkula to the south-west. As soon as the reinforced 2nd Company started moving they got caught in a mortar barrage. The company had to move through an area between lake Iilampi and the airfield, where the ground had been ravaged by wildfires. As they were moving over a minefield and a barbed wire obstacle, they were again targeted by enemy mortars which also detonated some of the 6” shells that were buried to the ground as improvised mines. This caused casualties in the 2nd Company. The Regiment’s engineers cleared the minefield and the advance could continue.
The 2nd Company had now moved to the south of the lake and the airfield. A platoon led by Second Lieutenant Iivanainen continued towards the Tyrjä – Ihala main road. As they cut enemy telephone lines from Tyrjä to Saares the platoon got into a firefight with an enemy patrol which was repelled causing the enemy patrol casualties. A reconnaissance patrol was sent out to the objective, Point 106.
As the main elements of the I Battalion couldn’t advance on the right Major Polón ordered the 2nd Company to take positions in the area between lake Iilampi and lake Tervalampi. At 1900 hours the II Platoon of the 2nd Company was also ordered to fall back to this position from the east side of lake Lampsiinlampi. The 2nd Company still had no contact with the enemy.
At about 2000 hours the Regimental Commander ordered the 2nd Company to detach a part of its strength to secure and take control of a crossroads located about 700 meters to the west of lake Iilampi’s south edge. With its main elements the 2nd Company would then go around lake Iilampi and attack the enemy in the rear, where it was facing the II Battalion.
The small detachment ordered to secure the crossroads was Sergeant Puranen’s Half Platoon. It reached the crossroads without meeting resistance, but was ambushed there and forced to retreat after Sergeant Puranen was killed by enemy fire. Second Lieutenant Iivanainen advanced with two platoons along the western shoreline of lake Iilampi meeting only light resistance from a few enemy patrols and got to a distance of about 150 meters from the main road. An enemy tank moving along the main road together with artillery and mortar fire caused casualties to Iivanainen’s two platoons. At 0130 hours they were ordered by Captain Nissinen to retreat back south to the area between the two lakes. 2nd Company held this area for the next days at the same time controlling a forest fire intentionally set by the enemy. This fire destroyed the minefields in the area.
VII. New Phase in the Offensive
As the battle had raged for 24 hours on August 1st, at noon the situation was the following:
The enemy had been driven about 1 kilometer to the south-west.
Finnish positions were pushed forward in a way that the line now formed a shape of an arc spanning from the north-west edge of lake Iilampi through the west edge of Kukkolehdonmäki to Saviaho.
Only the 9th Company was still attempting to destroy the enemy wedge lodged in the north-east end of the swamp. The enemy defense was active and there were continuous close range firefights throughout the entire line. The enemy reconnaissance patrols defended well, using the terrain and strong fortifications to their advantage and were in no short supply of automatic weapons.
To the left of the Finnish line in a forest area between the marshes of the lake Iilampi line and Saares the enemy seemed to have no proper line of defense. As the wildfires had destroyed large parts of the enemy minefields and the battalions defending Tyrjä were tied elsewhere, the gap between Tyrjä and Saares was left defended only by enemy patrols operating from Saares. For one reason or another, the enemies at Saares were not very active. However, enemy patrols would still try to harass the Finns around the airfield on August 2nd. As Infantry Regiment 28’s III Battalion (under IR 7 command) had moved to positions along the Tyrjä-Saares forest road earlier on July 31st and pushed a platoon-sized detachment south of the main road on August 1st, the “corridor to the South” remained firmly in Finnish hands.
Meanwhile to the east, where Infantry Regiment 48 was attacking towards Simanavaara and Oinaanvaara with less success, commander of the 2nd Division, Colonel A. Blick decided to take advantage of the hole in the enemy defenses which Infantry Regiment 7 had punctured. On August 1st at 1500 hours he ordered the Division’s reserve, Infantry Regiment 28, to attack via the east side of the lake line towards the south. At 1800 hours on the same evening the entire Infantry Regiment 28, led by Lieutenant Colonel Kotilainen, started advancing towards Akkaharju.
Infantry Regiment 7 on the other hand was given orders to reorganize and concentrate all of its strength to defeat the enemy defending Tyrjä village. The Regimental Commander started detaching forces from the temporary defensive line and putting together an assault force for the attack against the village.
On August 1 at 1300 hours the 1st Company received orders to take defensive positions between the north side of lake Iilampi and the airfield. The 3rd Company was pulled back from the line to rest and resupply at Huuhtalampi. On August 2 at 0630 hours the II Battalion was ordered to turn their positions over to the 10th Company and move to Kukkolehdonmäki hill’s north-east side.
The direction towards Saares was secured on August 1st by moving half of 3rd Company’s strength (22 men) to a road next to Multakentänmäki hill. The Regiment’s Jäger Platoon was moved to Jormanmäki hill. On the same evening the rest of the 3rd Company advanced to the south-east side of the airfield reaching the enemy’s obstacle line of felled trees, but had to retreat after facing the enemy defenses and getting caught in mortar fire. Temporary defensive positions were set up further north next to the airfield. Early morning on August 3rd half of the 11th Company was moved to the defense of the Multakentänmäki hill, thus giving Second Lieutenant control of the entire 3rd Company, now checking the forest road from Tyrjä to Saares.
In the morning of 1st of August the III Battalion of the IR 28 had captured an enemy motor vehicle driver on the Tyrjä-Ihala main road. The prisoner gave exact information about the location of the enemy’s heavy artillery and its command post. The Finnish artillery batteries began targeting the enemy artillery at 1830 hours with a strong barrage, causing widespread confusion in the enemy batteries stationed at the Saares – Mäkelä road crossing. The enemy artillery got significantly quieter after this barrage, but was not completely silenced.
The 2nd Company had been guarding the area between the lakes Iilampi and Tervalampi. In the morning of 2nd of August they sent out two patrols to the crossroads and another two patrols west of lake Iilampi. The patrols at the crossroads confirmed that the enemy had set up positions and the patrol west of lake Iilampi got caught in friendly artillery shelling.
Despite this it was decided that it would be best to begin the attack through the area between the lakes and to strike the enemy’s main force in its flank and its rear.
On August 2nd at 1600 hours the newly organized assault force was ready: the II Battalion and the 1st Company on the south side of lake Iilampi would advance in the shape of an arc to the north, north-west and west. The 2nd Company would advance towards the crossroads from Lampsiinlampi lake’s west side.
VIII. Taking Tyrjä Crossroads and Closing the Motti from the South
The 2nd Company left a platoon of men to guard the area of Point 99 where an enemy truck had driven into a Finnish mine. The main elements of the 2nd Company advanced to the crossroads and secured the area without meeting resistance. It then started advancing north-west along a road reaching the area near Hiekkamäki hill. When an intense firefight erupted on the east side of the crossroads Captain Nissinen ordered the 2nd Company to take defensive positions on its south-east side and sent out Second Lieutenant Sipari with his platoon to reinforce the 1st Company. Major Polón in turn sent the Jäger Platoon to reinforce the 2nd Company along with an order to hold the crossroads at all costs.
The 1st Company and the I Battalion’s commanding officers had begun advancing west along the Saares - Tyrjä forest road at 1710 hours. When they reached a distance of about 200 meters from the crossroads, the enemy opened fire at them from an unseen fortified position on the north side of the road, inflicting casualties.
Sergeant Jokinen and Corporal Ojansivu were ordered to recon the area; Jokinen was killed but Ojansivu returned to report that the enemy strongpoint was a dug-in tank, which had several machine gun nests on its flanks and rear defending it. Major Polón sent out strike teams to take out the strongpoint but they managed to destroy only one of the machine gun nests.
At 1830 hours Corporal Moilanen brought his anti-tank gun to position and from a range of 100 meters hit the tank directly in the turret, neutralizing it. This unnerved the enemies at the strongpoint and the some of the defenders started abandoning the machine gun nests. The ones that stayed were killed and four were taken prisoner.
The 1st Company could now continue the advance towards its objective, the Sonné crossroads. As the sun was setting the advance halted in front of the steep Hiekkamäki hill, where about 20 enemies was putting up a formidable fight to defend their position. On August 3rd at 0700 hours Second Lieutenant Sillanpää with his platoon stormed the hill killing the enemies in their positions. The advance then continued over a steep gorge to the south west side of Mäntymäki hill where they made contact on the same evening with the II Battalion, which was advancing on the right.
The 2nd Company’s III and IV Platoons were patrolling towards Rokkolanlahti on August 2nd without meeting resistance. During the night a patrol from the I Battalion’s Jäger Platoon, led by Corporal Kurki, established contact with the Infantry Regiment 7’s neighbour to the west, a Border Jäger Battalion which was in position in a forest west of the Personmäki hill. On this patrol they also encountered several enemies and took 3 prisoners.
By the morning of August 3rd a continuous defensive perimeter was set up along the main road’s south side all the way to the forested hills south of the crossroads. From there machine guns could fire to every direction on the Tyrjä-Syväoro main road. Tyrjä was thereafter completely encircled in a Motti.
IX. Storming the Enemy Positions Along Tyrjä - Iijärvenkylä Road
On August 2nd at 1710 hours the II Battalion began its attack from the south of lake Iilampi towards Iijärvenkylä main road, the enemy’s rear. Second Lieutenant Sihvo’s Jäger Platoon was advancing along the western shore of the lake. To the left of them was the 7th Company and to their left the 5th and the 6th Companies.
When the II Battalion had advanced about 300 meters the enemy opened fire from the north and heavy artillery from the direction of Saares started shelling the area. Despite this, the 5th and the 6th Companies managed to reach the main road with considerably little effort. Second Lieutenant Valkama with his Platoon destroyed an enemy machine gun position in a ditch next to the road. This allowed the II Platoon of the 5th Company to cross the road and advance about 300 meters northwest of Iilampi under the cover fire of Second Lieutenant Väisänen’s machine gun half platoon. The II Platoon then started storming the enemy positions on a ridge on the north side of the main road. At the same time the 6th Company advanced along the main road to the west. Second Lieutenant Piiroinen’s Platoon easily broke the enemy’s defenses until about 300 meters from the Rokkola field where on a small hill the enemy had set up strong defenses. The 5th and the 6th Companies halted their advance for the night and set up position on the east side of the hill.
II Battalion’s Jäger Platoon and the 7th Company, which were advancing on the lake’s north-western side, encountered a heavily fortified enemy base with numerous machine gun positions, dugouts and nests. They encircled the enemy with a pincer movement from the east and west but destroying the strongpoint turned out to be a very difficult task. Second Lieutenant Sihvo was wounded while trying to advance with his Platoon to closer range in order to reach the dugouts and nests with hand grenades. Despite being wounded Sihvo continued his advance and was fatally wounded on his second attempt. After this the Jäger Platoon was not able to take the strongpoint.
Second Lieutenant Tikkanen together with Private First Class Sorsa, Private Pietarinen and a coupe others managed to take over an enemy machine gun, which was pointed to the west of the strongpoint. This allowed a strike team to get past the defenses and start storming the enemy positions. The team destroyed 5 enemy dugouts using submachine guns and satchel charges. At the same time Staff Sergeant Kuronen with Private First Class Tarkiainen destroyed the sixth dugout. Second Lieutenant Salminen with his strike team destroyed the rest. On August 3rd at 0300 hours the enemy base was completely destroyed and all of its defenders killed.
On the night of the 3rd of August the II Battalion’s situation was dangerous. Each detachment had to look to their defenses towards all directions. On the same night two intense firefights had erupted at the Battalion’s Command Post where enemy patrols had attacked them in the rear. The men were exhausted. The enemy positions on the hill where the 5th and the 6th Companies had halted their advance turned out to be even stronger than expected. Numerous attempts to destroy the enemy positions were carried out throughout August 3rd with no success. Staff Sergeant Matti Tanninen was killed during these attempts and the NCO’s were pessimistic about continuing the assault on the hill.
Captain Ahola however decided to continue the attack and by his order eight strike teams were formed consisting of 1 + 5 men, two from each company. Second Lieutenant Tikkanen and Staff Sergeant Kuronen as his Second-in-Command were ordered to lead these strike teams. The 7th Company was on the right, the 6th Company in the middle and the 5th Company on the left, ready to take the enemy positions after the strike teams had stormed the way through. Corporal Mykkänen’s anti-tank gun, working together with a strike team with a satchel charge managed to destroy a heavily fortified machine gun dugout on the north side of the road, which had been previously attempted with an anti-tank gun with no result.
On August 3rd, following a strong fire mission against the enemy positions Staff Sergeant Kuronen attacked on the south side of the road with two squads and Second Lieutenant Tikkanen, with the majority of the strike team, on the north side. The strike teams conducted the assault brilliantly destroying numerous machine gun nests and dugouts one after the other at a very quick pace. Private Väätänen, leading the 6th company’s strike team, stormed the entire ridge from the road to the south edge of the swamp. At the same time Corporal Sorsa, with Privates Leppänen, Silvasti, Kaminen, Hakkarainen and Heikura from the 7th Company, destroyed several machine gun nests. After that they defended the newly gained positions against enemy counter attacks as the rest of the companies could not yet reach them, being pinned down under heavy fire.
A large number of volunteers joined the strike teams’ attack. Especially on the right where the enemy had its strongest fortifications in the entire Tyrjä offensive the strike teams overwhelmed the enemy with their speed, skill and tactics, causing the enemy to retreat in panic. Second Lieutenant Valkama’s platoon was able to advance as far as the east corner of the Rokkola field.
The enemy had shown unwavering tenacity and activity and fought relentlessly throughout the entire battle. At a crucial moment it launched a furious counter attack on the south side of the main road. As the 6th Company was advancing towards the field it ran straight into the enemy counter attack. The enemy was using all of its firepower against the 6th Company. Especially the I Platoon sustained heavy casualties. An enemy company supported by light tanks attacked against the 6th Company’s positions but was repelled. The II Battalion had to hold its advance again on the evening of August 3rd and stay in position, about 100 meters from the Rokkola field, until the next morning when the attack would continue.
However a second attack was not needed. The enemy no longer believed that defending Tyrjä was possible, largely thanks to the strike teams of the II Battalion.
X. The Destruction of Infantry Regiment 461
On August 3rd at 1900 hours an enemy strike team managed to take back Hiekkamäki hill which had very few infantrymen defending it, in addition to the artillery and mortar observers.
The Tyrjä crossroads was relentlessly shelled by the encircled enemy by both mortars and direct fire. Especially a dug-in tank at Silmäoja bridge was actively harassing the Finns with its fire. The enemy seemed to never run out of ammunition.
On the evening of the August 3rd sounds of tank engines and tracks were heard from Tyrjä which meant that another enemy counter attack was imminent. Despite utter exhaustion the men of the Infantry Regiment 7 did their utmost to strengthen their defenses at the south side of the encirclement ring.
After 2000 hours the Division’s Chemical Protection Company relieved the men of 10th Company at lake Iilampi – Kukkolehdonmäki – line and 10th Company was moved to the Regiment’s reserve at lake Iilampi’s south side.
By midnight there was complete silence on the battlefield. At 0200 the enemy opened fire with all of its weapons and started charging down the Hiekkamäki hill while shouting their war cry. At the worst possible moment the anti-tank gun at the Tyrjä crossroads malfunctioned and even the anti-tank rifle was not working, as an enemy light tank drove through the Finnish defense line - only to immediately return the encirclement. Moments later 3 light tanks followed by a column of enemy vehicles was driving towards the crossroads at full speed, and platoon-sized enemy detachments were attacking 2nd Company’s positions.
At this point it seemed impossible to stop the enemy’s breakthrough attempt, but in the nick of time Sergeant Malinen’s anti-tank gun started shooting. It inflicted horrible damage on the enemy column which had now created its own traffic jam on the road. Corporal Nykänen, Privates Kärkkäinen, Heino and Tuomisto joined in with their anti-tank guns from the direction of lake Iilampi. The enemy’s light tanks were destroyed and 1st Company’s intense small arms fire to the enemy infantry’s flank forced them to advance to the west side of the road and attack 2nd Company’s positions.
The 2nd Company and the I Battalion’s Command Post on the south-west side of the Tyrjä crossroads were now in serious danger. 2nd Company’s defenses were partly failing in the intense enemy attack, but the Jäger Platoon was determined to hold the crossroads at whatever the cost.
The battle culminated into its most dramatic phase when an enemy company had broken through in the Tienhaara direction. The enemy flanked the Finnish positions through the marshes and was now attacking the Finns defending the crossroads in the rear. An enemy Captain leading the flanking operation was waving to the attackers on the road: The way through was allegedly clear.
The 10th company had been called back from the reserve and arrived to the south side of the crossroads under the lead of Captain Hämäläinen. Commander of the Machine Gun Platoon Second Lieutenant Jääskeläinen had jumped ontop of a dugout and yelled “Zdawaites” – "Surrender”, when the enemy Captain shot him and attacked the men of 10th Company with a pistol in hand and a bayonet in the other. Private Ronkanen from the 12th Company charged the Captain and in a rare close-quarters combat situation killed the enemy captain with his knife. A 12th Company machine gun opened fire with devastating accuracy inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy formation.
This extremely confusing battle, in which it was almost impossible to tell own troops apart from the enemies because of the darkness, was now turning into a massacre. The men of the I Battalion took the initiative without a separate order performing a counter attack and were now killing enemies in large numbers. 1st Company’s Martti Oinonen and his Half Platoon took back Hiekkamäki hill killing and capturing its defenders. The enemy force was now a scattered and disorganized herd frantically trying to escape death in desperation. Only in the direction of Tienhaara did small enemy groups manage to break through the encirclement to the south.
The battle’s outcome had seemed uncertain at 0400 hours but by 0500 hours had concluded in the utter destruction of the enemy. Reconnaissance patrols reported that Tyrjä village was clear of enemies. Only fleeing enemies were now wandering and hiding in the woods. At the road, which was now being called “Raatteen tie” after the famous motti battle of the winter war, the enemy had lost 250 men dead. About 200 prisoners were taken of which half were wounded. 30 horses had died and 20 had survived. Among the spoils were 6 partially destroyed light tanks, 8 anti-tank guns, 5 mortars, 2 cars and hundreds of infantry weapons. Finnish casualties on the night of August 4 had been minimal.
XI. The Aftermath
The victory at Tyrjä on the morning of August 4th was the result of the hard work and cooperation of every unit in the Regiment. The infantrymen had carried the heaviest burden and taken the worst casualties, while penetrating three heavy fortification lines on July 31st, August 2nd and August 3rd. It would have been impossible to win the battle without artillery and mortar support. The engineers and signallers were operating beyond human capability throughout the entire battle. Supplies kept coming and were always available, and especially the medics and the drivers of the ammunition, food and supply vehicles ensured the successful outcome of the battle..
Although the Regiment had suffered heavy casualties – most due to minor wounds – they were not suffered in vain. The enemy’s defenses in Ladoga Karelia had now been broken. The “brother” regiment, IR 28’s I Battalion under the leadership of Major Muller had reached the railroad at Mikrinkylä village and secured the area at Akkaharju. IR 28’s II Battalion, led by Captain Kuvaja encircled the enemy’s heavy artillery battery which had been hammering the attackers at Tyrjä from July 31st to August 2nd virtually nonstop. II Battalion took over the enemy artillery positions on the morning of August 4th. They were located west of Mäkelä crossing.
Captain Sutela’s III Battalion of IR 28 destroyed a battalion-sized enemy force on the marshes north of Haukkavaara. These were probably enemies that had managed to escape the Tyrjä encirclement ring on the night of August 3rd and were headed towards Syväoro, where they had been intercepted by the Border Jäger Battalion. After this they had been forced to take the same miserable forest road which IR 28 had used earlier in their advance.
From August 3rd to August 4rd Second Lieutenant Rajas’ machine guns mowed down enemy forces trying to escape the encirclement. One wave after the other was intercepted with machine gun fire. The final wave of attackers was intercepted on the morning of August 4th on Haukkavaara road and shared the same fate as the others. At 0900 the battle was now over and several hundred enemies and 70 horses laid dead along the forest road. IR 28 had sealed IR 7’s work with a massacre.
During the time the battle was reaching its conclusion on August 4th, 3rd Company’s reconnaissance patrol leader Officer Candidate Hyvärinen returned from Saares village to report that the area was clear of enemies. After this report the 3rd Company took the village under orders from the Regimental Headquarters. On the same evening at 1900 all of the I Battalion arrived at the village.
The way to Ladoga was now clear. On August 6th the Infantry Regiment 7 marched to Ihala, where the enemy defending against the IR 48’s assault now realized it was surrounded by the Finns. On the evening of August 7th IR 7 took Jaakkima and on the next day Lahdenpohja and the barracks at Huuhanmäki. All of these were captured virtually intact.
This glorious path to victory was celebrated all over the country. Tyrjä was rarely mentioned, but those who were there know, that Saares, Hotee, Ihala, Jaakkima, Lahdenpohja and Huuhanmäki were only the reward for the sacrifices given by thousands of unknown soldiers in the forests of Tyrjä.
On the anniversary of the Battle of Tyrjä, August 4 1942.
Commander of Infantry Regiment 7, Colonel Armas Kemppi
Second Lieutenant Matti Kuusi
Translation by Julius Hyppönen