The Battle of Honkaniemi
The attack of the strengthened
3rd Jaeger Battalion
26 February 1940
(The only Finnish tank attack in the
||This map shows the location of Naykkijärvi,
and the divisions on both sides in the area.
(the square, 15 km SE from Viipuri)
The situation on 25 February
As the situation on the Honkaniemi-area had developed into a threatening
salient, the C-in-C of the II Corps (Lt. General Öhquist)
attached the JP 3 and the newly arrived 4th tank company with 13 Vickers
tanks to the 23rd division, commanded by Col. Voldemar Oinonen (from
25 February onwards). Also the 3rd battalion of the 67th regiment,
which was "on loan" to the 5th division, was returned.
As the 23rd received these reinforcements, Col. Oinonen decided
to destroy the the small salient east of Naykkijärvi.
The commander of JP 3, Capt. I. Kunnas, and the commander
of the 4. / Pans.P, Lt. O. Heinonen, received the order to
attack at 2215 hrs.
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The original plan was to conduct a counterattack with 6 battalions,
3 artillery battalions and the 4th tank company. After the hurried
preparations were begun, the units eligible for attack decreased to
4 battalions, 2 artillery battalions and the tank company. The plan
was (in short) as follows:
After the JP 3 and the 4. / Pans.P, with the help of I / JR 67
have penetrated the enemy line and reached the 1st objective, two
battalions (II and III / JR 67) would carry the attack on to the
2nd objective and straighten the line.
JR 67 is the 67th infantry regiment
I / JR 67 is the 1st battalion of the JR 67
JP 3 is the 3rd Jaeger battalion
I JK is the 1st Jaeger company
4./ Pans.P is the 4th company of the Tank Battalion
II / JR 14 is the 2nd battalion of JR 14
The map on the left shows the planned attack.
The Jaegers were to cut through the defending Soviet forces, and
two battalions from the JR 67 would advance forward through the
1 - woods, the color represents different
kinds of trees (pine, broadleaf, spruce & mixed), and different
densities of the forest.
2 - open ground, mostly cultivated fields
3 - marshy / swampy forest (see #1)
4 - marshy / swampy ground
5 - marshy / swampy deforested area
6 - deforested area
7 - a building and it's "yard perimeter" i.e. the farmyard
(meaning a main building and possible rear buildings, like barns,
8 - road
9 - the Viipuri (Vyborg) - Leningrad railroad
10 - Finnish tanks (blue), and knocked out Soviet tanks (red)
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On the night between 25th / 26th, the JP 3 was transferred by trucks
to Heponotko (the road on the map leads to it, 3 km NE from the Honkaniemi
depot) and skied to the starting point, arriving at 0400 hrs. The
tank company arrived 30 minutes later, after making a 50 km march.
The march in bad conditions, costed the tank company 5 tanks to various
reasons, mainly engine failures. Capt. Kunnas divided his tanks into
two sections, 6 tanks to support the 2nd and 3rd Jaeger companies
and 2 tanks to support the 1st company securing the left flank.
The attack was decided to begin at 0500 hrs, but as the communication
link to the artillery failed, it was decided to try again at 0615.
As the preliminary bombardment started, some of it fell on the starting
points inflicting a total of 30 casualties (dead + wounded), so the
attack was postponed again by an hour.
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The defending forces were lead elements from the 84th division which,
as usually, were supported by T-26 tanks. It has to be remembered,
that the soviet divisions had very strong antitank capability, even
with attacking formations.
The Soviet forces were preparing an attack on that same day (started
around noon), so the opposition was stronger than expected, since
the units that were ordered to attack had taken their positions along
(The attacks started on schedule regardless of the Finnish attack.)
The Soviet tanks, that the Finnish 4./PansP faced, were tanks of
the 112th tank battalion of the 35th Light Tank Brigade, the brigade
being commanded by Col. V.Kashuba.
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This map shows the maneuvers of the Finnish
and roughly the locations in where the three (confirmed)
Soviet tanks were knocked out.
After a short artillery bombardment by I / KTR 21* and I / KTR 5**
the attack began. The Finns encountered problems right from the start.
Only 6 tanks managed to join the attackers, as 2 tanks suffered technical
- The I / JR 67 managed to advance 200 meters before halting in a murderous
- The 1st Jaeger company, covering the left flank, advanced to the railroad,
but was unable to cross it.
- The main attacking force, 2nd and 3rd Jaeger companies managed to
advance 200 meters SW from the railroad until it too had to stop.
* = the 1st artillery battalion of the 21st artillery regiment
** = the 1st artillery battalion of the 5th artillery regiment
During the battle, the lack of radios was painfully realized (the tanks
were purchased from the UK without guns, optics and radios, and some
even without the driver's seat, in order to save money). As communications
between the individual tanks was impossible, all tanks were acting with
their own initiative, according to the original plan.
The 4th tank company had a sad day. One of the tanks (# 644) got stuck
in a ditch, and the turret was damaged, later returning back to the
starting point of the attack. All the other tanks were lost in the concentrated
fire of T-26's and T-28's and numerous 45 mm AT-guns. Only 3 tanks managed
to break into soviet positions before they too were destroyed.
The command tank of 1st tank platoon, commanded
by Lt.V.Mikkola, Vickers Nr. 648, advanced farthest, some 500
meters. While the exact number of Soviet tanks knocked out isn't known,
some kills by individual tanks were recorded, e.g. the tank Nr. 670,
led by 2nd Lt. J.Virniö, which managed to knock out one
Soviet tank before it was damaged. Tank Nr. 667, led by Corporal
E.Seppälä, kept fighting after being immobilized. It destroyed
2 Soviet tanks, but after the enemy scored a few more hits, the crew
abandoned their vehicle.
Source: "Suomalaiset Panssarivaunut
1918 - 1997"
The attacking 3rd Jaeger battalion had also an AT-gun
platoon as it's disposal, but no Soviet tanks were destroyed by it's
guns in the attack.
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This map shows with more detail, the attacks of the Finnish
infantry, and how far they advanced
The attack came slowly into a halt by 0900 hrs and on 1000 hrs, Capt.
Kunnas received an order to abort the attack and withdraw. The first
Finnish tank action, fought by inexperienced crews had been unsuccessful.
The tank company lost one NCO killed, two officers were wounded and
two NCO's and three privates were reported missing. Among the reasons
for failure (in addition to the lack of experience of the crews and
the lack of radios), the absolute superiority of numbers, that the enemy
had, was definitely one of the main reasons, and one can say that the
pre-attack reconnaissance was insufficient. But as the tankers, even
while acknowledging these shortages, mounted their tanks and started
the attacks, one can say that while the Finns lacked nearly everything,
courage wasn't on short supply.
The next day, on Feb 27th, the remaining 8 tanks of 4./PansP were ordered
to move to the Rautalampi area for AT-duties.
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The individual Finnish
||I found from the Armour Museum (in Hämeenlinna,
Finland) a map, where the individual ID-numbers and the rough locations,
in where they were destroyed.
There was also more information of what happened to the individual
tanks, and I've included most of the information to the table below.
Note that there were some other small ditches present in the area,
but I've included, in all the maps on this site, only the one ditch
in where the Vickers #644 got stuck.
Tank ID #
||The tank gets stuck in a ditch. The turret is
damaged, and the tank returns to the jump-off area in Jukkala.
(Comdr. of the 1st tank platoon)
|This tank was the platoon commander managed to
advance the furthest into the enemy positions. The crew bailed out,
but Lt.Mikkola was the sole survivor of the crew.
|| Was destroyed.
||The tank fought stubbornly. Makes one effort to
get the Jaegers to follow the tank. Knocks out 2 Soviet tanks, before
the crew bails out.
||The tank gets bogged down, the crew bails out,
of whom one survived.
||2nd Lt. J.Virniö
||The tank made two efforts to get the Jaegers advance
with the tanks. Knocks out one tank before it got knocked out. The
crew retreated back to friendly lines.