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The Battle of Kelja

25 - 27 December 1939

 

 

The Kelja area

 

Kelja is the name of a small village in the eastern part of the Karelian Isthmus, near the major river of Suvanto. The village became famous, after the Finnish troops managed to destroy, after bloody fighting, the bridgehead that the Soviet 4th division had managed to establish on the northern shore of the river near the village.

The location of Kelja on the Isthmus The villages and place-names are marked with the dots

This map shows the location of the area,
in the Karelian Isthmus

Note the short blue line, south of Kirvesmäki, which shows the location of the Finnish main defense line. (Note also that Kekinniemi and Patoniemi are gun forts).

 

Some 7 km SE from the church of Sakkola, was the village of Haaparainen, and the village of Kelja was just next to it. S of the Haaparainen village, near the farm of "Kekkilä" was located one of the Finnish gun forts "Kekinniemi" (Kekinniemi is also the name of the cape) . The fort had*  4 guns (3 * 57 mm "Caponier" and one 57 mm "Nordenfelt" gun) and 2 mg bunkers. Nearly 4 km S of the village of Volossula, was the other Finnish gun fort, the Patoniemi fort. It was also armed*  with 4 guns (3 * 57 mm "Caponier" and one 57 mm "Nordenfelt" gun) , and protected by 2 mg bunkers. Both the gun bunkers and the mg bunkers were built in the 1920s, and especially the mg bunkers were badly placed.

* Although it's sure that the forts had 4 guns, I'm not sure, if they were armed at the time of the Kelja battles with 3 Caponier and one 1*Nordenfelt guns. They were armed with these guns when the war ended, but I can't find any exact info if they had started the war with such composition.

On Dec 22nd the other of the Patoniemi mg bunkers was destroyed by direct fire from a Soviet battery. On the next day, the other mg bunker was also destroyed by Soviet artillery, so the fort had lost both of it's mg's in two days, just before the attack of the Soviet 4th division.

The Suvanto coastline, picture taken in 1942
(The picture on the left is showing the Patoniemi cape from the SE
Picture source: "Talvisodan Historia 2", p.98 )

In the Kelja area, the width of Suvanto varied from 700 to 2000 meters. There were some villages or individual houses on the southern side of the Suvanto, like Lapinlahti, Pajari and Riiska. On both sides of Suvanto, the terrain was mostly forest, only near buildings were the terrain more open. The largest open areas were between the villages of Haaparainen and Kelja.

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The Situation

 

Between Dec 15th and 17th, the Soviet 49th and 150th infantry divisions, supported by the 39th tank brigade had made every day strong attacks in the Taipale sector, which were all repulsed. A big factor in repulsing back the Soviets was the Finnish artillery which, on Dec 17th especially, scattered many Soviet formations, before they even got their attack started.

On Dec 18th, a more quieter phase began, enabling the Finns to switch the front-line troops, while repulsing some attacks. Although the infantry attacks weren't as numerous and strong as before, the Soviet artillery was very active, keeping up constant bombardment.

 

In the few days before 25 Dec, many reports gave hint of the coming Soviet attack. Many Soviet patrols, which tried to cross Suvanto were destroyed. A Finnish recon flight, made on the night between Dec 23rd and 24th reported some 100 camp fires in the woods, S of Riiska. The Finnish side, especially the areas around Kelja and Haaparainen were bombarded frequently, and the Patoniemi fort was constantly bombarded.   On Dec 20th, the Finnish radio intelligence captured a Soviet radio message, proving the increased Soviet interest in the strength of the Suvanto ice-cover. Also some reports came that the new Soviet 4th division had arrived. One Finnish patrol, that returned on Dec 24th at 2330 hrs reported that"...the edge of the wood near the road to Lapinlahti was full of Soviet troops...".

The strengthened Soviet 4th division (hereafter 4.D in the text) was going to launch a major offensive across Suvanto, threatening the flank of the Finnish 10th division (hereafter 10.D in the text) defending the Taipale area.

 

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The Soviet side

 

The attacking, strengthened, 4.D had in it's use 5 infantry regiments, JR 39, JR 101, JR 104, JR 19, JR 220. The division was to attack on a sector some 8-10 km wide. The plan was to cross the ice in the cover of darkness, without a preliminary bombardment in order to achieve surprise.

There was to be 3 separate attacks across the ice. The easternmost one from the vicinity of Riiska to NW of the Patoniemi fort. The next one was to land, near Volossula, some 4 km along the shore to the west from Patoniemi. The third some 2-3 km west of the previous, near Kelja. Also a smaller (diversionary?) attack was launched towards Sakkola (this attack doesn't show on any of the maps, since it failed) . Later on 25 Dec, a new attack was launched that was to pass the Kekinniemi fort from the west, but this attempt was repulsed.

The first wave would consist of one battalion per attack (except the one towards Sakkola, which was made by a considerably smaller force) .

 

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The Finnish side

 

The aerial photograph of the "Koukunniemi" cape in the "Taipale sector", taken from the south, facing north.

The cape, where the Patoniemi fort was located, is shown with the black arrow. The coastline north of it is just barely visible. The cultivated fields, dotted by buildings, are easily visible, as are the dark woods further north. Terenttilä is located behind the bend of the Taipale River, in the upper-right corner of the picture.

The Suvanto changes into the Taipale River, which is on the foreground as it runs towards Ladoga (to the right, in the picture) . The small river that empties into the Taipale river is "Viisjoki".

Taipale.jpg (24680 bytes)
Picture source: "Talvisodan Historia 2", p.84
FAF (the archives of the Finnish Air Forces)

 

 

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Finnish 10.D deployment, 25 December

JR 23 The regiment was deployed on front-line duty from Terenttilä to Linnakangas (from the eastern part of Koukunniemi cape to the coast of Lake Ladoga) .

JR 29

The regiment was defending the shores of Suvanto, on a some 15 km wide front
(The JR 29 had so wide a sector, that the regiment had only two platoons in regimental reserve)
JR 28 The regiment was deployed east of the Kelja area, serving as the divisional reserve
JR 30 I/JR 30 was in reserve behind the front-line behind Kirvesmäki, while the 3rd company (hereafter 3./JR 30) was deployed for defense along the Suvanto shore near Patoniemi fort
II/JR 30 was in general reserve near Vilakkala, while the 6./JR 30 was in guard near Volossula
The III/JR 30 was on front-line duty in Kirvesmäki

The defensive sectors of the Finnish companies, 25 Dec
The defensive sectors of the Finnish companies along the coast of Suvanto, early 25 Dec.

Artillery support

The 10.D had two artillery battalions near Kelja, the 3rd Artillery battalion of the 10th field artillery regiment (hereafter III/KTR 10 in the text) , led by Capt. U.Merenheimo and armed with 8 * 76 K/02 and 4 * 122 H/10 guns, and the 4th heavy artillery battalion (hereafter Rask.Psto 4 in the text) , led by Major E.Ulfsson and armed  with 8 * 152 H/10 guns.

The III/KTR 10 was deployed a few kilometers N and NW of Haaparainen and the Rask.Psto 4 had it's batteries scattered in the woods N and NE of the Patoniemi fort.

 

 

 

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25 December 1939

 

While the ground was covered with only a thin layer of snow, the snowfall that morning was dense. The temperature was -17°C.

The Soviet attacks were launched between 0500 - 0700 hrs. The surprise was achieved, partly due to the dense snowfall (one source says it was a dense morning mist) and partly because the Finnish forward guards, able to use only their hearing,  were posted on the ice a few hundred meters. from the shore. These forward guards made it back to the Finnish positions, to alert the defenders, practically at the same time as the Soviet units came ashore.

The Soviet artillery had fired intensively from 0500 hrs onwards, at Patoniemi fort and the vicinity of Kirvesmäki. This bombardment was to deceive the Finns, that yet another attack would be launched against the Finnish main defense line in Kirvesmäki.

While no preliminary bombardment had been made, right after the lead Soviet units came ashore, the Soviet artillery opened up and started a very intensive bombardment, aimed mostly at the Finnish rear areas.

In the opening stages of the battle, the whole situation was quite unclear to the Finns. The Soviet strengths were badly underestimated (the first estimate was, that the Soviet forces in the bridgeheads would be around 1-2 platoons each, while in truth these attacks were made by a battalion each) .

Of the attacks, three succeeded in surprising the Finns, and the bridgeheads of Patoniemi, Volossula and Kelja were created. Two* were repulsed before achieving a foothold on the northern shore of Suvanto, the small attack near Sakkola, and the attack west of Kekinniemi fort.

*(I couldn't find exact time when these attempts were made, but it's likely that they happened at least a bit later than the three successful ones, after the Finnish units were on general alert. If someone does know more about these two attempts, like when they were launched and repulsed, I would be thankful for the information).

 

The 4.D tried to send reinforcements towards the bridgeheads, in a second wave, but these attempts were repulsed mainly by the highly effective fire from III/KTR 10 and the batteries of Rask.Psto 4. The gun forts were also effective, and no third wave ever appeared.

 

The HQ's of 10.D and III Corps thought the main Soviet effort in being at Patoniemi and Volossula, concentrating their efforts in reducing these two bridgeheads. The III Corps ordered the 6th separate battalion ( hereafter Er.P 6 in the text) , led by Capt. O.Saarinen (promoted on Jan 14th 1940, to the rank of Major) , at the time attached to the 8.D in the west, to move to Saapru (a village some 10 km N of Kelja) .

In the night between 25 Dec and 26th, the 10.D HQ took direct command over the situation, bypassing the HQ of JR 29.

 

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Patoniemi sector

 

It was 0655 hrs, when the first Soviet soldiers to came ashore, some 600 meters. NW of the Patoniemi fort. The leading sections of the strong Soviet force advanced right next to the positions of the 2nd battery of the Rask.Psto 4 (hereafter 2./Rask.Psto 4) . Before the alarm was spread among the Finns, the attackers were putting up mg's into firing positions on the battery's flank. While the battery had had 2 mg's for close defense, only one was operative when the fighting started. The Finnish mg gunner managed to neutralize the Soviet mg gunners, and to stall the attack. The Finnish 3./JR 30 defending this sector managed to contain the Soviet surprise attack long enough, to get help from the parent battalion, not far away.

The Finnish counteraction was swift. The I/JR 30 (- 3./JR 30, which was already in combat) was on close reserve behind the Mannerheim Line. The battalion, led by Major Jaakko Sohlo, received an order to throw the Soviet troops back. The 1st company was directed towards the Patoniemi fort, while the 2nd company was sent to help the 2./Rask.Psto. Major Sohlo went with the 2nd company, and the plan was that the 3rd company would also take part in encircling the enemy. By 1000 hrs, the Soviet forces had been pushed back to the shores of Suvanto, and it was in these battles when Major Sohlo received a mortal wound.

By noon, the bulk of the Soviet troops had been destroyed or driven back across the ice, but it wasn't until late evening when the area was finally cleared. The casualties of I/JR 30, on 25 Dec, was 19 killed and over 20 wounded.

 

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Volossula sector

 

The 6./JR 30 had in it's sector 4 strongpoints, each having a mg. In the western part, the left wing of the Soviet attack was repulsed with ease, as the mg fire inflicted huge casualties to the Soviet troops still on the ice. The right wing of the attack made it ashore, because the Finnish mg's in had frozen up and didn't work. The first wave of the Soviet attack was made by a battalion sized force.

At 0630 hrs Capt. T.A.Sorri, commander of the II/JR 30, received a telephone call from the regiment commander, Lt.Col. Armas Kemppi, and received information that the Soviet troops had made a landing near Patoniemi, and therefore the battalion had to be put on alert. Capt. Sorri called the 6th company immediately, only to hear that no Soviet troops had been sighted. Sorri received an order to advance towards Patoniemi, and destroy the Soviet troops with the I/JR 30. At 0645 hrs, this order was given in the battalion, but at the same time Sorri received a call that Soviet troops had been sighted in the 6./JR 30 sector. Sorri called Kemppi (at 0647 hrs) and asked permission to clear the beach in his sector first, which was given.

At 0715 the battalion started the march towards Volossula. At 0735 hrs, the battalion was hit by an artillery barrage. The Finnish artillery fired a barrage into the reported Soviet positions. At 0800 hrs, the Soviet force had advanced to the AT-obstacles, between the Finnish 1st and 2nd strongpoint. In some points, the distance to the Finnish positions was only 20-30 meters. There the Soviet force stopped it's advance and dug in, as they were waiting reinforcements. A red flare was shot, by the Soviets, and a heavy pre-planned barrage was fired in the shape of a crescent moon around the Soviet troops.

At 0825 hrs, the leading Finnish company, 4./JR 30, started it's attack. The fighting intensified quickly and by 0905, the direction of the Soviet troops was back, instead of forward. The bulk of the Soviet troops was destroyed or driven back. Some scattered small sections huddled in the cover of the bushes and banks of the river. The Finnish mg's mowed down the retreating Soviets and soon the ice was full of dead (or some just pretending to be dead) and wounded Soviet soldiers.

At 0915 hrs, Capt. Sorri informed the regimental HQ; "The area is in Finnish hands". The 5./JR 30 had earlier received an order to continue towards Patoniemi, destroying any Soviet opposition and make contact with Sohlo's battalion (I/JR 30) . But the company was targeted by a heavy barrage, and received an order to wait.
    As this was happening, a forward patrol of officers arrived from the Finnish Os.Metsäpirtti ("Detachment Metsäpirtti", this unit was formed in Metsäpirtti from border guard units, local civic guard members and volunteers, and at the start of the war was consisted of 2 separate companies 8.Er.K. and 9.Er.K. and one separate battery, 2.Er.Ptri armed with 6 * 87 K/95) . The patrol informed Sorri that the detachment was arriving in Volossula. After an hour was passed, a report came in that III/JR 28, led by Capt. K.Lagerlöf, was arriving to Vilakkala. (Late that evening, the III/JR 28 returned back to their billeting area) .

At around 1130 hrs, Capt. Sorri met the commander of Os.Metsäpirtti, Lt.Suurkari on the road between Vilakkala and Volossula. Sorri ordered a patrol to be sent towards Patoniemi, trying to establish contact with I/JR 30.

At 1300 hrs, Capt. Sorri received an order from the regiment commander, to clear the shore of Suvanto all the way up to Patoniemi. This task was given to 5./JR 30, but again the company was hit by a heavy Soviet artillery barrage, losing two men dead and 10 wounded. The company scattered and slowly gathered to the billeting area, where a mixed company was formed from parts of the 5.K and 2nd mg-company (hereafter 2.KK in the text) . This mixed company left the billeting area at 1430 hrs, to carry out the order, which was finished at 1930 hrs, after which the company returned. Before the nightfall, the II/JR 30 was sent into the billeting area, while the Os.Metsäpirtti took up the front-line duty along the shore.

 

The casualties of the II/JR 30, on 25 Dec, was 8 killed and 28 wounded. While the Os.Metsäpirtti wasn't engaged in any fighting, the Soviet artillery inflicted 20 men in casualties (killed + wounded) .

 

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Kelja sector

 

In the Kelja sector, the left wing of the III/JR 29, led by Capt. E.Müller, was guarded by the 8./JR 29.

At 0730 hrs, the battalion commander, Capt. Müller, received a report that a Soviet force had crossed the ice and was attacking the positions of 8./JR 30. Half an hour later, the battalion sent one of it's reserve platoons to help the company. A little after 0800 hrs, the gun fort of Kekinniemi opened fire on the ice, joined by one of the batteries of III/KTR 10. The bombardment was very effective against the Soviet troops on the open ice.

At the same time while the Finnish artillery prevented the left wing of the attack from crossing the ice, the troops already ashore broke through the defenses of the 8./JR 29, and at 1006 hrs, the battalion reserves received the order to stop the Soviet attack, which at the time had reached the edge of the fields near Kelja. The Finns received support from one of the heavy batteries, bombarding the edge of the Kelja village, forcing the Soviet troops to retreat.

The fighting continued throughout the day, and at 1830 hrs, the Soviet troops were reported to dug in at the edge of the wood, at the AT-obstacles.

At 2330 hrs, the III/JR 29 reserves (two platoons) reported to the 8./JR 29 commander, and launched a counterattack without artillery support. By now, the battalion HQ began to get some idea of the strength of the Kelja bridgehead, and at 0300 hrs, a report came in, that the counterattack against the Soviet troops in the AT-ditches had failed, with some casualties. The two platoons were ordered to fall back.

One of the main reasons, that the situation in Kelja developed into a serious one, was that the strength of the Soviet troops was badly underestimated. Even during the afternoon of 25 Dec, the III/JR 29 containing the Kelja bridgehead, considered the situation of being "nothing unusual".

 

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A map of the actions on 25 December

Actions in the Kelja area, 25 Dec
(The Soviet attacks are shown with the red arrows,
and the Finnish by the blue arrows. )

The Finnish actions (from top left down)

III/JR 29 was responsible of the defense along the coast (the eastern edge is marked with the line +'s.)

2j/JR 29 (two reserve platoons of the III/29) attacked on 25 Dec, at 2330 hrs.

9./JR 29 defended on the western side of the bridgehead

II/JR 30 attacked at 0825 hrs

Os.Metsäpirtti (Os.M) arrived to Volossula between 0900-0930 hrs, and relieved II/JR 30 from front-line duty at nightfall

The I/JR 28 was moved into reserve N of Kirvesmäki, so that it could used as needed in either the battles on the shores, or at the main defense line in Kirvesmäki

I/JR 30 attacked around 0800 hrs

The III/JR 30 was deployed on the main defense line

 

 

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26 December 1939

 

As the attempt to break the motti of Kelja, with the two reserve platoons of III/JR 29, failed at 0300 hrs 26 Dec, the Finnish units in the area were deployed according the map below.

The Finnish units near Kelja, morning of 26 Dec III/JR 29 was still containing the Kelja bridgehead (or motti)

I/JR 30 had returned to the reserve billeting area, north of Kirvesmäki

II/JR 30 had two companies deployed in the Patoniemi sector, while the 6.K was held in reserve at Vilakkala

Os.Metsäpirtti was deployed to defend the Volossula sector

III/JR 28 had returned to their billeting area during the night

 

The Soviet side tried to send reinforcements over the ice, but most of the attempts were repulsed, mainly by Finnish artillery strikes and by the fire from the Kekinniemi fort, which on 26 Dec fired some 450 shells. The advances of the Soviet infantry were supported by a few tanks, but they turned back after advancing with the infantry only some 150 meters. from the shore.

 

The 6./JR 30 was attached to III/JR 29 to make an attack in the morning. But the company's attack got underway only at 0730 hrs. After that attempt failed, the task was given to III/JR 28, launching an attack at 1615 hrs. Also this attempt was a failure, and the situation was getting more and more serious as the Kelja bridgehead was tying up Finnish reserves, endangering the rest of the Taipale sector.

 

In the evening of 26 Dec, the situation was unchanged and still threatening. As the Finnish attempts of reducing the Kelja bridgehead were all repulsed, the following decisions were made;

- The commander of the Taipale sector, Lt.Col Martti Nurmi would move to the scene and take personal command over the situation
- The III/JR 29 and Er.P 6 (now under 10.D control) were placed under his direct control
- The regiments in the Taipale sector were placed under the command of the commander of 10.D for as long as Lt.Col Nurmi would be at Kelja
- All artillery, which could be used in Kelja, were placed under the command of Lt.Col Nurmi
- The preparations of a decisive attack was to be started and the attack launched at the first possible moment

 

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The attack of the 6./JR 30

 

The 6./JR 30, which had taken part in the fighting near Volossula on 25 Dec, was late that evening moved to Vilakkala. At 0100 hrs, 26 Dec, the company received an order to move to the vicinity of Kelja, being ready to attack at the given point (east of Kelja) at 0500 hrs. The company set off from Vilakkala at 0420 hrs.

The company received the attack order at 0700 hrs, which was started half an hour later. No artillery support was available as it was dark and the situation still unclear.

The attack started at 0730 hrs, and the company run into heavy small arms fire. As the company had made some gains, a red flare was shot, in the direction of the Finns, by the Soviet defenders. The flare was a sign to the Soviet artillery, which fired a heavy barrage on the Finnish company. The whole attack was gradually slowed and eventually halted by the very heavy mg and rifle fire. The left flank of the company succeeded in making some progress, destroying two lmg positions. But as the company didn't get the promised mortar support, and the reserve company, which was to support the attack was missing, the company halted and waited. The defending Soviet infantry had plenty of mg's and lmg's, and had mortar support making the task impossible for the lone 6./JR 30. At 1254 hrs, the company received the permission, given by Lt.Martens (commander of 8./JR 29), to withdraw to the start line of the attack.

At 1540 hrs, the company returned to their billeting area. The company was exhausted because of the fighting and as hadn't had rest for a long time.

The 6./JR 30 lost 7 men killed and 20 wounded, on 26 Dec.

 

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The attack of the III/JR 28

 

The III/JR 28, led by Capt. Karl Lagerlöf, left their billeting area between 0645 - 0745 hrs. The battalion arrived to their ordered point, east of Kelja village, at 0930 hrs. At 1100 hrs, it received an order to attack with two companies, and it was decided that the attack would had the best chance of success if launched from the north. At 1235 hrs, the battalion was ready to attack, but the final go-order was delayed. Sergeant Penttinen, the leader of the light detachment, was sent to Lt.Martens to ask when the mortars and mg's could give support. He came back at 1302 hrs, and gave Lt.Martens opinion that the attack should be launched from the east between the road and the shore, and that the support could be given at 1320 hrs. This led to the rearranging of the battalion, and this delayed the attack. At 1500 hrs, the battalion received the order to attack from the new positions. The mg support was rearranged, and artillery support was promised at 1550 hrs. The attack was to be launched at 1615 hrs, and the mg's opened fire at 1614 hrs, but the artillery didn't fire a shot.

 

The attacking 9.K and 7.K made some gains, but were halted by the heavy small arms fire. The 7.K was hit hard by a heavy artillery barrage, after the Soviet defenders had again marked their position with a flare. The heavy barrage inflicted heavy casualties, nearly a platoons worth, in just 15 - 20 minutes. The barrage lasted for some 30 minutes, forcing the Finns to withdraw. At 1700 hrs, a runner from the 7.K reported that the company was unable to advance under the heavy fire. It was ordered to hold it's positions, and prevent the enemy of bringing more troops across the Suvanto.

A runner from the 9.K arrived, and reported that the company had made some gains, but it was low on 9 mm smg ammunition and hand grenades. No 9 mm ammunition was available, but the runner got 6 or 7 grenades from the men of the mortar platoon. The company had men in the communication trenches, on the shore of Suvanto.

At 1910 hrs, the 8.K received an order to also engage the enemy, deploying in a line from the road southwards, with the primary task of preventing the enemy of crossing the road.

At 2000 and 2100 hrs, runners from 9.K reported that some Soviet reinforcements had crossed the ice, and that the company was nearly out of 9 mm ammo. The 9.K was given the permission to fall back. The rest of the battalion was ordered to hold their positions and hinder enemy movement over the ice, which they did for the night between 26 Dec and 27th and the following day.

 

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The Soviet attacks over Lake Suvanto during the night between 26 and 27 December

 

The Soviet 4.D tried repeatedly to reinforce it's bridgehead in Kelja during the night between 26th and 27th. The most serious attempt were made at 20.30, 23.14, 04.10 and 08.30.

Virtually all these attacks were repulsed, in the clear moonlight, mainly by the fire of the Finnish artillery (at least 9 batteries took part) and the fire from the Kekinniemi fort and Finnish infantry near the shore of Suvanto. The strength of these attacks indicated that a whole regiment took part. The last attempt at 0830 hrs was made in battalion strength, but it was also repulsed and from 0845 hrs a report from the Finnish observers came;"... the ice is littered with piles of bodies...".

 

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A map of the attacks on 26 December

Actions in Kelja, 26 Dec
The Finnish attacks are shown by the blue arrows

The III/JR 29 was still containing the bridgehead, until in the evening, the III/JR 28 deployed on the eastern side.

- III/JR 28 attacked at 1615 hrs

- 6./JR 30 attacked at 0730 hrs

The III/JR 29, the Kekinniemi fort and the Finnish artillery repulsed nearly all the Soviet attacks across the ice towards the bridgehead.

 

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27 December 1939

 

In the evening of 26 Dec, Lt.Col Nurmi had given orders to the Er.P 6, to clear the bridgehead in the following day. Artillery support was promised to be supporting the attack, and the additional help of 6./JR 30. The 6./JR 30 received the new order at 0100 hrs, and it immediately sent a status report to their regiment HQ. The state of the company was weak. It had only 4 officers, 11 NCO's and 56 men left all which had been fighting and attacking for the previous days with little rest. The regiment commander canceled the order, and so the task was left on the Er.P 6 alone.

The Finnish artillery had bombarded the bridgehead at 0730 hrs, but the battalion didn't even notice it, as it was constantly bombarded by the Soviet artillery.

The planned attack was postponed by 30 minutes and it was scheduled to begin at 0930 hrs. At 0929 hrs, the Finnish 1st heavy battery (Rask.Ptri 1) and the 4. and 5./KTR 10 (4th and 5th batteries) fired a short 1-2 minute barrage on the bridgehead, firing a total of 105 shells.
    The attack didn't succeed in the heavy mg fire, and the battalion had to withdraw after sustaining considerable casualties.

At 1140 hrs, the same artillery units renewed their bombardment, this time lasting for 5 minutes. The Er.P 6 launched their attack at 1143 hrs, and managed to get into the Soviet positions. The battalion continued it's advance in the bloody fighting, using mainly smg's and hand grenades. The fighting went on until at 1800 hrs the last considerable Soviet position was destroyed in an assault, resulting in heavy Finnish casualties.

After completing it's task, the battalion was sent back, and the elements of the III/JR 29 could man their old positions. Some scattered small groups and individual Soviet soldiers continued to fight in the area, in barns, shelters, foxholes etc. and the thorough clearing of the area wasn't completed until the morning of 28 Dec.

 

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A map of the attacks on December 27th

The attack of the Er.P 6 in Kelja, 27 Dec
(Note that the Haaparainen village is long in it's shape, nearly touching the edge of the Kelja village)

The 9. and 8./JR 29 contained the bridgehead in the west and north

The Er.P 6 attacked from the east with the 1st company at point, followed by the 3rd and 2nd companies. The Pst.Os (AT-detachment) made a support attack from the SE.

 

 

Map details

- buildings (homes, barns, sheds etc.) are presented by black dots
- open areas (fields etc.) are shown in white
- wooded area is shown in green
- the company order, of the Er.P 6, is shown with the boxes

 

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Conclusion

 

The Finnish 10.D, or should we say the whole III Corps was lucky that no serious attack was made in the rest of the Taipale sector between 25 Dec and 28th.

The attacks across Suvanto efficiently drained the Taipale sector from it's reserves, and the situation was so threatening, that the Cavalry brigade, led by Major General Palmroth, was transported from the western Isthmus to the Taipale area, having no effect in the fighting, but giving the III Corps even some reserves that could be used if a strong attack was to be launched in other parts of the Taipale sector.

In other parts of the Taipale area, two attacks were made on 25 Dec, the first one with 5 lone tanks in Kirvesmäki, and the second one with 1,5 companies supported by 6 tanks in Terenttilä. The tanks in the first attack returned after a short advance, and the second attack was repulsed by infantry and artillery fire. On 26 Dec an attack by a Soviet battalion was launched near Terenttilä, but this was repulsed mainly by Finnish mortar and artillery fire. These attacks were probably launched in order to tie up Finnish forces, and the fear of a major attack, elsewhere in the Taipale sector, during the Kelja battle never materialized.

The Soviet artillery, on the other hand, was very active in the whole Taipale sector, during the Kelja battles. The Soviet side used captive balloons in directing the fire, and also the Red Air Force took part in supporting the Kelja bridgehead.

 

The Finnish artillery, which was plagued by the constant shortage of shells, was forced to restrict it's barrages in few certain key moments during the enemy's attack. The best moments were, when the enemy infantry started their advance, or when it was concentrating it's troops for the attack. The timing of the barrages was constantly excellent, and when helped by the open terrain of Taipale and the enemy tactic of repeated attacks in the same point, the Finnish artillery managed to give invaluable support for the infantry.

 

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Casualties

 

The Finnish 10.D losses between 25 and 27 December

  Killed Badly wounded Slightly wounded Total
25 December 73 42 89 204
26 - 27 December 68 71 173 312

(Note that these figures include also the losses in the other parts of the Taipale sector, not related to this battle, which for instance on 25 Dec were some 40 men dead and wounded.)

 

The Soviet 4.D suffered heavily in the Kelja battles. The Finnish estimates of the number of Soviet dead bodies, in the destroyed bridgeheads and on the ice, is around 2 000. The number of wounded isn't even guessed.

 

 

War Booty

 

The captured war booty was big and it took days for the Finnish troops to gather it all.
It included:

AT-guns mg's lmg's rifles
12 some 140 nearly 200 some 1 500

 


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