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[LAPPOHJA 01.07.1941] [STORKROKAN
01.07.1941] [DRAGSVIK 06.07.1941]
BATTLE OF BENGTSKÄR 26.07.1941
- After capturing the Morgonlandet coastguard station, the Russian eyes were fixed to the Bengtskär lighthouse island. From the island and especially from its lighthouse tower, the Finns could observe the Russian naval movements in the direction of Hanko. Additionally artillery fire could be directed effectively from the lighthouse tower. Russians decided to capture and destroy the Bengtskär lighthouse. The task was assigned to a Separate Hanko Company from the border guards. The detachment included over 60 men, which had been divided into two units. The whole detachment was led by a Senior Lieutenant Kurilov. The detachment also included special squad, which task was to blow up the lighthouse with depth charges, after its capture. Like in Morgonlandet, also in Bengtskär the plan was based to a complete surprise from the Russian side.
- The Russian troops were transported with three patrol boats: PK 238, PK 312 and PK 311 were part of the detachment. The boats were MO-class boats, which top speed was 27 knots and which had been armed with two 45 mm guns and with an anti-aircraft machine gun.
Troops which are in Bengtskär at the beginning of the battle and their weapons and equipment:
Commander: Lieutenant Luther.
Strength: Five non-commissioned officer and thirty men, from which four are lighthouse personnel. Twenty of the men belong to the two shock units sent from the Detachment N.
Armament: Three Swedish Mauser machine guns, shock unit men have a full combat gear and rest of the men have rifles. Additionally there is one 20 mm Madsen-automatic gun in the island, hand grenades and piled-up charges.
- For communication Bengtskär has a two field telephones, DR-38 station and one 50w long-wave station.
- Some field fortifications have been build in the most important areas of the island. Mostly these mean barbed wire obstacles, which are protecting the most important areas.
- During the daytime the temperature is about +18 degrees of celcius. The wind is calm and visibility is about 4 kilometers, which is lowered by fog and smoke.
Bengtskär minute by minute:
- The sentries which are in the lighthouse tower and in the shore, think the closing Russian boats as German mine-sweepers, which has moved around Bengtskär during the several previous nights. Because of this, no alarm is given, until the Russians have landed to the lighthouse island in the south and south-east side of the island.
After noticing the Russian troops, the sentry in the lighthouse tower makes an alarm. The Finnish sentry in the shore is killed by the Russians. After the alarm is given, Lieutenant Luther and his combat messenger Gunner Sandberg run out from the lighthouse building, to investigate the situation. They manage to throw few hand grenades, but receive such a heavy firing against them, that they are forced to pull back inside the lighthouse and its sturdy stone walls to organize the defence. Finnish machine gun from the lighthouse tower opens fire against the Russian boats. The Russians response by firing with machine guns and guns against the lighthouse.
01:05 o'clock: Russians land in Bengtskär.
01:09 o'clock: Bengtskär calls the staff of Hiittinen Section and asks for artillery fire.
01:10 o’clock: Intelligence officer receives a radio message from Bengtskär: “Russians have landed in Bengtskär. Battle has begun.” Intelligence officer gives an order to maintain a constant radio communications with Bengtskär. At the same time Captain Lauramo and Lieutenant Björklof are alarmed, to give fire support to Bengtskär.
01:11 o’clock: The commander of the operational office alarms the artillery commander.
01:13 o’clock: Section commander is alarmed. Salskär sends a radio message: “Heavy automatic gun fire is being heard from the direction of Bengtskär.”
01:15 o’clock: Section commander Major Moring arrives to the operational office, where he is being briefed about the situation and actions already taken regarding the situation in Bengtskär. The Russians most likely have managed to land into Bengtskär without being noticed. At least three boats have landed in three areas of the island. The 41. and 42.Batteries receive an order from the artillery commander to open fire. Help from the air forces is also asked, but no help is promised.
01:20 o'clock: Kuggskär island informs, that there is battle going on in Bengtskär. Commander of the gunboat group Lieutenant-Commander Auvinen receives an order to move out and help Bengtskär.
- Gunboat Hämeenmaa and a patrol boat 13 are located in Högsår island and the gunboat Uusimaa is in the south side of Kråkholm island. The task of the detachment is to defend the channels and to help the forts in repulsing possible landings.
01:30 o'clock: Russian boats retreat towards south-east and cruise fast around the lighthouse island, constantly firing against the lighthouse tower windows. The men in Bengtskär cannot adjust the firing of the batteries, because of the dust rising from the firing.
01:35 o’clock: Two guns from the 42.Battery malfunctions.
01:37 o’clock: Lieutenant Luther informs, that in north there is a Russian boat about 2 kilometers from the island. The boat is firing Bengtskär. Other Russian boats are still cruising around the island. Gunboat Hämeenmaa and patrol boat 13 move out, using the fastest speed as possible. Visibility is about two nautical miles.
01:40 o’clock: 40.Battery receives an order to fire two shots. The purpose of the firing is to hamper the Russian actions.
01:42 o’clock: 40.Battery fires one mine grenade. The second gun of the battery malfunctions, so only one shot is fired. The Russian boats move further away from Bengtskär, after the mine grenade explodes. The firing of the 41. and 42.Batteries is moved to follow the Russian boats. Bengtskär asks for help, as it cannot drive away the Russians from the island with its own forces. Moving away from the lighthouse is in practice impossible. Bengtskär asks for shrapnel fire to the island.
01:50 o’clock: 42.Battery from the Fort of Granholm is again ready to fire with all of its guns. Gunboat Uusimaa moves out.
02:00 o’clock: All of the defenders of Bengtskär are now in the lighthouse building and its tower. The Russians are outside the building. Lieutenant Luther is informed that the 41. of and 43.Batteries will start to fire the island of Bengtskär.
02:05 o’clock: 41.Battery fires 12 groups of shrapnel grenades and 43.Battery fires 6 groups of grenades to Bengtskär. Lieutenant Luther informs several hits in the island.
02:30 o’clock: Bengtskär informs that five Russian boats are approaching from north-east. Distance is about 600 to 1000 meters. The 41.Battery receives an order to fire six groups to the location of the Russian boats. Lieutenant Luther is wounded for a second time. Bengtskär is still asking help to repel the Russian troops.
02:43 o’clock: Captain Nordenstreng receives an order to send four fully armed shock squads to the standby station in the area of Klovaskär – Ljusskär. The squads must be led by an officer. Contact must be made with a radio to the observation patrol in Ljusskär. Communication boat is ready in the Fort of Granholm in case that the radio will malfunction. Captain Lauramo also receives an order to send an officer and twenty men with an A-boat to Kuggskär standby station.
02:45 o’clock: Artillery commander orders the 41.Battery to fire scattered fire to Bengtskär. The firing of the 43.Battery is stopped. Gunboat Hämeenmaa arrives to the north pier of the Fort of Örö. The gunboat is encouraged to continue immediately towards Bengtskär, as the situation there is critical. Gunboat Uusimaa and patrol boat 13, which are outside of Örö, receive an order to continue immediately towards Bengtskär.
02:55 o’clock: Gunboat Uusimaa and patrol boat 13 passes the southern tip of the island of Örö.
03:00 o’clock: Telephone line in Bengtskär is cut off between the lighthouse tower and the radio room, as the firing has damaged the upper part of the lighthouse tower. The liason officer of Hanko Group Lieutenant Paltila calls to Hyvinkää to the commander of the Squadron 30 Captain Bremer and ask for air force help. The squadron commander doesn't agree to help, without a direct order from a higher command levels. Colonel Lieutenant Sarko from the Staff of the Air Forces, orders the Squadron 30 to help Hanko Group.
03:09 o’clock: Russians try again to land in Bengtskär. The landing is preceded by a heavy firing against the lighthouse building. Artillery commander orders the 41.Battery to fire rapidly to the island. At the same time Corporal Nurmi and Gunner Virtanen ignoring the heavy firing run from the lighthouse to the Madsen-automatic gun. The men open fire with the gun against a Russian boat and its crew.
03:10 o’clock: The quick actions taken by the defenders of the island and the firing from the 41.Battery prevent the Russian attempt to land more troops into the island. The Russian boats move further away from the island.
03:23 o’clock: Defenders of the lighthouse thrown hand grenades from the lighthouse tower towards the Russians which are in the island.
03:30 o’clock: The Russian coastal artillery in Russarö opens fire towards Bengtskär. Finnish artillery commander orders the heavy 40.Battery to fire four shots to Russarö. The impacts will be observed from Salskär. The armoured ships Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen are ordered to move to Högsåra, so that they can support the fighting in Bengtskär, if any bigger Russian ships take part to the fighting.
03:43 o’clock: Gunboat Uusimaa notices two Russian patrol boats within 500 meters from Bengtskär. Fire is opened against the Russian boats. No hits. After firing, the gunboat Uusimaa moves to the east side of Bengtskär.
03:45 o’clock: The 40.Battery fires four shots to Russarö. Salskär is unable to observe towards Russarö, so no information is received about possible hits. 40.Battery is ordered to cease firing. Gunboat Hämeenmaa arrives to the area of Bengtskär. Distance from the island is about one nautical mile. Two Russian patrol boats are noticed in the heading of 140 degrees. Both boats are outside of the firing range.
03:58 o’clock: Defenders of the lighthouse island throw piled-up charges from the windows of the lighthouse towards the Russians.
04:02 o’clock: Bengtskär asks to cease firing the island. Two Russian fighter planes attacks against Bengtskär. Gunboat Uusimaa opens fire against the planes. No hits. Captain of the gunboat orders its crew to prepare for a landing.
04:03 o’clock: Two Russian I-15 fighter planes attacks against the gunboat Hämeenmaa. Bofors-gun fires from a range of 2700 meters. No hits.
04:09 – 04:29 o’clock: Finnish gunboats fire the Russian troops in Bengtskär and the Russian boats, which are close by. Gunboats bombard the west side of Bengtskär and the buildings, which are near of the lighthouse building. The buildings catch fire.
04:10 o'clock: Three Finnish fighter planes take off. The section is led by a 2nd Lieutenant Taina.
04:20 o'clock: Finnish fighter planes arrive to the area of Bengtskär. The fighter planes make several attacks against the Russian boats and Bengtskär.
04:35 o’clock: Bengtskär is asking for a immediate assistance. The Russians have captured one machine gun and are firing through the windows. The Finnish gunboats are ordered to move to the north side of the island and to cover the relieve forces, which are arriving soon to the area. At the same time, the gunboats are ordered to send the two shock squads to the island.
04:40 o’clock: Radio connection to Bengtskär is cut off.
04:54 o’clock: Six Russian fighter planes bombs and attacks with machine guns against the gunboats Hämeenmaa and Uusimaa. The Chief Engineer of Hämeenmaa dies in the attack. After the attack, the gunboat Uusimaa opens gun fire to the north-west area of Bengtskär.
05:04 o’clock: Captain Lauramo orders the gunboats to land the troops into the island.
05:07 o’clock: The boats in Detachment Auvinen open fire against a Russian patrol boat, which is seen in south-east. During the firing, some of the firing pins from the guns of gunboat Hämeenmaa break down. The firing however forces the Russians to pull back. Smoke and fog is making the fire control very difficult.
05:10 o’clock: Detachment Kaikkonen receives an order from the section commander Moring, to move from Klovaskär to Bengtskär. Their task is to relieve Detachment Luther in Bengtskär. The same order is also sent to Detachment Backlund, which is ordered to move from Örö to Bengtskär.
Commander: Lieutenant Kaikkonen.
Strength: Two officers, seven non-commissioned officers and 33 men.
Second in command: 2nd Lieutenant Langhoff.
Armament: Full shock troop equipment and two Swedish Mauser machine guns.
Commander: 2nd Lieutenant Backlund.
Strength: One officer, three non-commissioned officers and 37 men. (Infantry unit: Fifteen men, led by Sergeant Fröberg) (Machine gun unit: Twenty men, led by Corporal Vuorinen)
Armament of the infantry unit: Light machine gun, sub-machine gun, rifles and hand grenades.
Armament of the machine gun unit: Two Swedish Mauser machine guns, rifles and pistols as a personal weapons.
05:15 o’clock: Detachment Backlund is ordered by Captain Lauramo to move to Kuggskär.
05:20 o’clock: Finnish fighters are requested again for assistant.
05:23 o’clock: Detachment Backlund moves out from the big pier of Örö. The mine-sweepers Lahna and Muikku are used as a transport ships.
05:31 o’clock: Russian boat which is out of sight, fires gunboat Uusimaa.
05:35 o’clock: Shock Squad Åsvik from the gunboats, lands into Bengtskär. The patrol boat 13 moves the landing troops close to the east shore of the island, from where the troops move to the island using rowing boats. Gunboats are supporting the landing, by firing Bengtskär just before the landing. Men manage to land in Bengtskär, despite of the machine gun fire and several hand grenades thrown from the Russian side.
SHOCK SQUAD ÅSVIK:
Commander: Sub-Lieutenant Åsvik.
Strength: Two officers and ten men.
Armament: Sub-machine guns, automatic rifles and one light machine gun and one machine gun. The squad doesn’t have any hand grenades.
05:43 o’clock: Detachment Backlund arrives to Kuggskär.
05:45 – 05:50 o’clock: Russian patrol boats come so close to the boats of Detachment Auvinen, that a fire is open from the Finnish side. The Russians also open fire. Gunboat Uusimaa scores a hit into one of the Russian boats. Black smoke starts to rise from the boat. The Russians retreat.
05:53 - 05:55 o’clock: Three Finnish fighter planes take off from Turku. Their task is to harass the Russian air activity, so that own relieve forces can reach the island safely.
05:55 o’clock: Russian patrol boat fires red flares near Bengtskär.
06:00 o’clock: Radio connection is again established to Bengtskär. Bengtskär informs that the Russians are in the first floor of the lighthouse building. The upper floors are still in the hands of the Finnish defenders. Gunboats are informed that the the commander of the gunboat shock squad Sub-Lieutenant Åsvik is killed.
06:00 – 06:02 o’clock: Russian patrol boat appears to the south side of Bengtskär. Gunboat Uusimaa opens fire against the boat. Third shot hits to the middle part of the boat. Smoke starts to rise from the Russian boat. The bridge is on fire. The boat which is hit, is the Russian patrol boat PK 238. Distance between gunboat Uusimaa and PK 238 is about 3500 to 4000 meters.
06:10 o’clock: Gunboat Uuusimaa notices a Russian boat in a distance of 13000 meters.
06:13 o’clock: Fort of Örö informs, that Finnish planes are on their way to the battle area.
06:14 o’clock: Detachment Backlund receives an order to move from Kuggskär to Bengtskär and to land into the island. At the same time Russian planes are firing heavily the gunboats and Bengtskär.
06:15 o’clock: Communication boat from Granholm arrives to Klovaskär bringing an order to Detachment Kaikkonen to move to Bengtskär and relieve Detachment Luther.
06:20 o’clock: Finnish fighter planes arrive to the area of Bengtskär.
06:20 - 06:23 o'clock: Two Russian fighter planes attack against gunboat Hämeenmaa. Finnish fighter planes chase off the Russian planes.
06:30 o'clock: Detachment Kaikkonen moves out from Klovaskär towards Bengtskär. Bengtskär informs, that the Russians are in the first floor of the lighthouse building. Additionally there are Russian troops in the southern tip of the island.
06:38 o'clock: Russians open fire with the Madsen-automatic gun and with machine gun against the Finnish defenders in the lighthouse building.
06:41 o'clock: Three Russian fighter planes attack against the gunboat Hämeenmaa. Finnish fighter planes chase off the Russian planes.
06:45 o'clock: Three Finnish and three Russian planes in an air combat above Bengtskär. Russian planes bomb the burning PK 238 patrol boat.
07:10 o'clock: Detachment Kaikkonen arrives near to the Bengtskär. Nearby the island there are now two Finnish gunboats and two A-boats, where the men from Detachment Backlund are located. In the island, the upper floors of the lighthouse building, the lighthouse tower and part of the eastern shore are in the hands of the Finnish troops. Rest of the island is in Russian hands. Gunboats bombard the island in a preparation for the troops to land in. Finnish fighter planes land into the Turku airfield.
07:15 o'clock: Patrol boat 13 moves closer to the Russian PK 238 patrol boat.
07:30 o'clock: The Finnish troops start to land to the eastern shore of the island. The boats are in a following order during the landing: Both A-boats are in the middle, two boats from Detachment Kaikkonen are right from the A-boats. These two boats are led by Lieutenant Kaikkonen. On the left side of the A-boats are two boats from Detachment Kaikkonen, which are led by 2nd Lieutenant Langhoff. Due to the effectiveness of the gunboat bombardment, the troops land without difficulties to the island. The troops however make a mistake in the landing and notice of being in the small scars, which are close to Bengtskär. These scars are separated from Bengtskär by a 18 to 20 meter wide sound.
- The troops move back into the boats and the landing is renewed to the south-east shore of the island. It is not quite clear to the Detachment Kaikkonen and Backlund if there are other own men in the island other than the shock squad sent from the gunboat Hämeenmaa. The machine gun men from gunboat Hämeenmaa, which is within 40 meters from the men of Detachment Kaikkonen and Backlund, confirm that there are no other own men in the island, except the men in the lighthouse building and tower.
- Detachment Kaikkonen starts to advance throwing hand grenades. Russians fire from every direction, behind the rocks and cliffs, causing casualties for the attacker. Private Sten is killed and five men wounded nearly immediately. Russians don't really use hand grenades, as they have spent all of them against the men of Lieutenant Luther and the naval shock squad. Connection to the naval shock squad is re-established. From the position where the naval shock squad is located, Lieutenant Kaikkonen manages to advance with few men, all the way to the lighthouse building. Few men from Detachment Backlund, which has been advancing from the right side of the lighthouse building, have already reached the lighthouse building before Lieutenant Kaikkonen.
07:30 o'clock: Russian patrol boat PK 238 sinks. Finnish patrol boat 13 picks up sixteen prisoners of war from the sea.
07:32 o'clock: Gunboat Uusimaa notices two Russian vessels within a distance of 11200 meters. Fire is opened against the Russian vessels, which alter their course immediately.
07:35 o'clock: Gunboat Uusimaa opens fire against Bengtskär with a 40 mm gun.
08:10 o'clock: Patrol boat 13 transfers the Russian prisoners of war from PK 238 to gunboat Uusimaa. Some of the prisoners are wounded and burned.
08:42 - 08:45 o'clock: Gunboat Uusimaa fires Bengtskär to support the troops, which have landed to the island.
08:48 - 08:58 o'clock: Gunboats from the Detachment Auvinen fires the first floor windows of the lighthouse building.
09:00 o'clock: The Russians in the first floor of the lighthouse building are forced to retreat by the Finnish troops using machine guns and hand grenades. Lieutenant Kaikkonen orders his detachment to move from the shore to the lighthouse building. Not all of the men follow the order, but instead stay in the shore near the boats.
09:00 - 09:10 o'clock: Russian dive bombers attack against the boats in Detachment Auvinen. No hits.
09:11 o'clock: Gunboat Uusimaa notices two Russian boats within 13000 meters.
09:15 o'clock: The lighthouse building and tower are occupied by the Finnish troops. Sniper or a machine gun is placed to each of the windows of the lighthouse tower. Due to this, the Russians cannot change their positions in the island, as from the tower every spot of the island can be observed.
- Finnish forces start to clear the southern part of the island from the Russian troops. Corporal Nuppu is wounded deadly in this operation. He had participated courageously and cold bloodedly to the fighting. Russians however are in good positions, so advancing turns into a very difficult thing. Losses are growing constantly.
- To avoid further losses, the troops advance very carefully. The shrapnel effect of the hand grenades with the detachment, is so small, that it doesn't have sufficient effect to the Russians. The hand grenades however seem to be very reliable, but because of the low shrapnel effect, a Russian hand grenade could be thrown back from a pit, to which a hand grenade had been just thrown. The firing pins were also missing from most of the Finnish hand grenades. The effect from these was the same, as if you would have thrown rocks. After the southern part of the island had been cleared from the Russians, the Finnish troops started to move to the northern part of the island under the command of Lieutenant Kaikkonen.
09:16 o'clock: Bengtskär informs, that Finnish troops are most likely controlling the situation now.
09:25 - 09:30 o'clock: Gunboat Uusimaa fires Russian boats from a distance of 10500 meters.
10:33 o'clock: Gunboats are asking from Captain Lauramo, if they are free to leave the area, as they think that their mission is over now. Captain Lauramo asks more clarification to the situation and asks, if all of the Russian troops have been cleared from Bengtskär. Section commander Moring however doesn't grant permission to the gunboats to leave the area, but orders them to stay in the area and to monitor the situation. Additionally wounded and killed men have to be moved away from the island.
10:45 o'clock: Finnish patrol boats 1, 2 and 16 arrive to the area.
10:52 o'clock: Three Russian fighter planes attack with machine guns and with bombs against the gunboat Hämeenmaa. No hits.
10:55 o'clock: One A-boat arrives to the area, which is carrying Lieutenant Commander Willberg. Gunboats Hämeenmaa and Uusimaa are granted permission to leave the area. Patrol boat 13 remains in the area, to help to transport the wounded.
11:00 o'clock: Motorboats start to transport the first wounded and killed away from
11:00 - 11:40 o'clock: As a request from the Staff of the Naval Forces, three Finnish planes perform a reconnaissance flight to Bengtskär. Nothing special is noted during the flight.
11:27 o'clock: Gunboat Uusimaa notices five Russian boats within 13000 meters. One of the vessels is a steamer, most likely a towing boat.
11:30 o'clock: Hospital ship Moana arrives to Örö from Kuggskär as ordered by Captain Lauramo. The ship is carrying a doctor with it.
11:31 o'clock: Gunboat Uusimaa informs, that five Russian boats are visible in the direction of Hanko.
11:35 o'clock: Two Russian fighter planes attacks against the gunboats Hämeenmaa and Uusimaa with machine guns and with bombs. No hits.
11:50 o'clock: Russian air raid in Bengtskär.
12:00 - 12:40 o'clock: Russian dive bombers are making constant attacks against the Finnish vessels in the area. Ammunition for the Bofors anti-aircraft guns in gunboats are almost finished.
12:05 o'clock: Russian aerial bombardment in Bengtskär continues. Russian planes are bombing from an high altitude in a level flight.
12:25 o'clock: Russian coast artillery in Russarö fires the Finnish gunboats. Finnish artillery commander alerts the 40.Battery and orders it to aim towards Russarö.
12:30 o'clock: Six Russian dive bombers attack against the gunboat Hämeenmaa. One of the dive bombers is hit and Fort of Örö confirms that the plane was shot down. During the attack, gunboat Uusimaa is lifting the last men from the shock squad to the gunboat. The body of Sub-Lieutenant Åsvik, commander of the shock squad, is also with the troops.
12:35 o'clock: Russian coast artillery from Russarö is firing gunboats and Bengtskär.
12:50 o'clock: Ammunition for the anti-aircraft guns are almost over on board the gunboats. The gunboats would like to move away from the battle area. Section commander however orders them to stay in the area as long as there is still ammunitions on board.
12:55 o'clock: Three Russians surrender in the northern area of Bengtskär. The prisoners of war inform, that according to their knowledge, there is only three living Russians left in the island. These three soldiers however inform that under no circumstances would they surrender. Finnish troops end their attack to avoid further losses. The remaining Russians are encouraged to surrender, but in vain.
12:55 - 13:05 o'clock: Gunboat Hämeenmaa and Uusimaa are on the east side of Sisan moving towards Örö. Gunboats notices two Russian patrol boats approaching Bengtskär. Fire is opened against the Russians, but the boats move out of range. No hits. Fort of Örö is informed about the Russian boats and the fort opens fire against them.
12:57 o'clock: Thee Russian vessels are located within 2 to 3 kilometers from Bengtskär.
12:59 o'clock: Thee Russian boats arrive from Hanko and open fire against Bengtskär and Finnish vessels.
13:00 o'clock: 41. and 42.Batteries are alerted.
13:05 o'clock: Commander of the 41.Battery Captain Sarlio informs, that Bengtskär had informed that Russian vessels are located within one nautical mile to the south-east from the island. Artillery commander orders 41.Battery to fire six group barrage to the area. Observations will be made from Bengtskär.
13:07 o'clock: Bengtskär informs that Russian boats are 500 meters away from the shore in the south-east side of the island.
13:10 o'clock: 41.Battery fires 17 shots towards the Russian boats. Bengtskär cannot observe the firing, due to the bad visibility.
13:35 o'clock: Armoured ships Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen start to move out towards Bengtskär. According to the information received from pilots, there is Russian destroyers in the area. Eighteen Russian SB-bomber planes however attacks against the armoured ships and Ilmarinen suffers shrapnel damages. Information about the Russian destroyers is proved to be wrong alarm. Armoured ships move back to Högsåra.
13:40 o'clock: Russian boats move away towards the direction of Hanko.
13:48 o'clock: Bengtskär informs that the Russian boats are within 3 to 4 nautical miles from the island. Artillery commander orders the 40.Battery to fire four mine grenades to the direction.
13:50 o'clock: Finnish gunboats arrive to the north pier of Örö. Nearly all of the ammunitions have been expended. Fort of Örö gives ammunitions for the 40 mm Bofors-guns and moves the wounded men from the gunboats. The gunboats also have 16 prisoners of war, which have been picked up from the sea. Four of the prisoners are wounded, from which one is a officer.
13:50 - 13:58 o'clock: 40.Battery fires four shots.
14:00 - 14:20 o'clock: Four Russian boats approach from the direction of Morgonlandet. As Finnish navy has already left the area and no shots are heard from the island, the Russians most likely assume that the island has been finally captured. The boats move to the shore without hesitating. Finnish defenders have not thought of this possibility and only one machine gun is able to be put to a firing position towards the direction of the Russian boats. When the machine gun suddenly opens fire towards the Russian boats, the Russians retreat quickly to the distance of 150 to 200 meters from the island and start to bombard the island. This lasts about 20 minutes after which the boats move further away from the island towards the direction of Morgonlandet.
14:30 o'clock: The observation is arranged towards the sea and beaches secured if any new landing attempts takes place. The Russians still remaining in Bengtskär, open fire as they hear their own troops shouting to them. Finnish losses keep growing.
16:00 o'clock: Detachments Kaikkonen, Backlund and Luther continue to clear the island from Russian troops.
16:45 o'clock: Bengtskär informs about three new Russian prisoners of war.
16:54 o'clock: Russian coast artillery in Russarö is constantly firing Bengtskär. Russian fire control planes from Hanko appear above Bengtskär. Two shots from Russarö hits the island.
17:02 o'clock: Bengtskär informs that there is still a squad of Russian troops left in the southern area of the island.
17:17 o'clock: Four new Russian prisoners of war captured in Bengtskär.
18:45 o'clock: The lighthouse island of Bengtskär is free from Russian troops.
Communiqué: 25.07.1941 - 26.07.1941:
- So far at least one machine gun has been lost. Four men have fallen and there are several wounded men in the island. The battle still continues.
Communiqué: 26.07.1941 - 27.07.1941:
- The attackers had four patrol boats, which each of them carried about 30 men to be used in the landing. These troops were border guards and belonged to the Separate Hanko Company. The sub-lieutenant who was leading the troops, died during the battle. The Russian patrol boats, which were used in this surprise attack, had two 45 mm guns and two to four machine guns. Additionally the prisoners of war have informed that the boats also had a 20 mm gun. Rifle fire was ineffective against these patrol boats.
- During the next day 27.07.1941 Russian planes attacked against Bengtskär. No anti-aircraft weapons had been brought to the island and so the Russian planes could bomb the island with pleasure. The war diary of Hiittinen Section tells the events during 27.07.1941 in a following way:
16:35 o'clock: Bengtskär informs that two Russian MBR-2 flying boats and two fighter planes are above Bengtskär. The fighter planes are firing heavily with machine guns and the flying boats are flying a circle shaped pattern, dropping a bomb on each round. Direct hits from the bombs right next to the lighthouse tower. One of the direct hits penetrated to the lighthouse building, which suffered extensive damage. Only the radio room remained intact. The connection between different floors of the building was cut off also. The lighthouse tower suffered only superficial damage.
16:42 o'clock: Bengtskär informs about several wounded men.
16:48 o'clock: Bengtskär informs that more Russian planes are arriving from the direction of Hanko. This most likely is a false alert.
17:03 o'clock: Bengtskär informs, that they are unable to extinguish the fire. There is men in the ruins.
17:45 o'clock: Bengtskär informs that they hear engine sounds from planes.
18:06 o'clock: Order to Captain Lauramo. 40 mm Bofors-gun to Bengtskär.
18:45 o'clock: Commander of the Hanko Groups gives a permission to send a second 40 mm Bofors-gun to Bengtskär.
19:08 o'clock: Lieutenant Kaikkonen informs, that the troops has to be changed from Bengtskär. Their nerves cannot take much more.
- Eleven killed was dug up from the ruins of the lighthouse building. Additionally eighteen men were wounded in the air attack.
Communiqué: 27.07.1941 - 28.07.1941:
- Two Russian flying boats and three fighter planes attacked against Bengtskär in the Hiittinen Section at 16:35 o'clock. The planes dropped bombs and hits were scored in everywhere else except in the radio room. At 19:40 Russarö and Uddskatan opened gun fire against Bengtskär. The artillery in the Bromarv Section opened fire against the Russian batteries. At that time a huge explosion was seen in Russarö and there was a fire in the area of the old storage buildings. At 20:10 it was informed, that three Russian boats are heading towards Bengtskär. The communication line between Örö and Bengtskär as well as between Örö and Salskär was cut off. Two gunboats left from Örö to help Bengtskär. The gunboats were carrying one 40 mm anti-aircraft gun and some obstacles to be used in the shore of the island. The fighter patrol, which was alarmed from Turku, noticed at 21:20 o'clock that the Russian boats had turned back and that the own gunboats were very close of Bengtskär. At 22:49 o'clock the anti-aircraft gun was in Bengtskär.
Request for an additional information:
- Staff of the Naval Forces asks to send immediately clarification to the battle report about unexplained details and obvious neglects.
1. How where the machine guns in Bengtskär located and where were they at the beginning of the battle?
2. How was the sentry duty organized during the nights and during low visibility weather?
3. What was the battle readiness of the Madsen-automatic gun and the machine guns during the night?
4. What actions have been taken for the neglect of the man who was in a sentry duty? The result from this neglect was a rather huge losses.
5. How was the alert readiness organized, part from what is obvious from the battle report?
6. Why wasn't the section shock troops alerted until at 02:43 o'clock?
7. Was the Madsen-automatic gun, which was in a firing position and the machine guns left for the Russian hands for them to use?
8. Captain Lauramo has received an order at 02:43 o'clock to send the Detachment Backlund to Kuggksär. This order wasn't accomplished until at 05:10 o'clock. Order to move from Kuggskär to Bengtskär hasn't been given until at 06:14 o'clock!
9. Lieutenant Kaikkonen received the order at 05:10 o'clock via radio. Didn't the radio function or why was the order send again with a boat at 06:15 o'clock? Lieutenant Kaikkonen didn't move out until at 06:30 o'clock.
10. How can the bad battle discipline be explained? Order given by Lieutenant Kaikkonen at 09:00 o'clock was followed by only few men?
11. How can it be explained, that there were no firing pins in the Finnish hand grenades?
12. Why didn't the Madsen-automatic gun open fire against the Russian boats at 14:00 o'clock?
13. As constant reinforcements were sent to Bengtskär, wouldn't it have been justified to send a senior officer also to the battle? This way the observation and securing the beaches would have been organized. Now observation and securing the beaches wasn't accomplished until at 14:30 o'clock. The officers in the shock forces sent from the Hiittinen Section to Bengtskär, were young officers without any battle experience.
Answer from Major Moring to the requested clarifications:
- As an answer to the requested clarifications, I inform the following:
1. According to the commander of Bengtskär station Lieutenant Luther, all three Swedish machine guns were located at the basement floor of the lighthouse building. So from the automatic weapons, only the Madsen-automatic gun was ready and loaded in its firing position, in the north-west corner of the island. Lieutenant Luther argued of positioning the machine guns inside, that he had several machine gun positions ready around the island. In order to put the machine guns to a correct position, depending on the Russian attack direction, he wanted to keep all of the machine guns together in a central position, from where the machine guns could be quickly moved to correct firing positions. For such a location, he had chosen the basement floor of the lighthouse.
- Lieutenant Luther also informed that he had planned to use at least one machine gun from the lighthouse tower windows. This kind of solution can be thought to be quite successful. When the surprise attack then happened and Russians were noticed of landed to the island, only one machine gun was able to be positioned in front of the lighthouse building. This machine gun however malfunctioned quite quickly and it was captured by the Russians, when our own forces pulled back into the lighthouse tower. The malfunction must have been quite persistent, as the Russians didn't use the machine gun either, when they captured it. The machine gun was later captured again by our troops. During the battle, other machine guns were used effectively from the lighthouse tower windows.
2. During the nights and low visibility weather, the sentry duty had been organized so, that there was a one sentry in the lighthouse tower. Second sentry, who was armed with a sub-machine gun and with few hand grenades, was moving in the east shore of the island. For performing alarm and for maintaining alert readiness, the commander of the Bengtskär station had instructed, that the sentry in the lighthouse tower when seeing something suspicious will alert the men who were sleeping in the third floor of the lighthouse building. The men were ordered to sleep with their trousers.
3. Like mentioned previously, the Madsen-automatic gun was in its firing positions ready and loaded. The fact that there was no one with the gun during the night has to be put to the fault of a too careless attitude, especially since the gun was located only within 60 meters from the lighthouse building. However it can be reasonably thought that the idea was to use the gun only for anti-aircraft duties. The machine guns were ready and loaded in the basement floor of the lighthouse building, like previously stated. The crew of the machine guns were sleeping in the third floor.
4. During the Russian landings to the island, Gunner Ryhänen was the sentry in the lighthouse tower. Private 1st Class Nystrand was the sentry in the shore of the island. He was killed during the beginning of the battle. Gunner Ryhänen tells, that when he at first noticed a one boat from a distance, he thought it as a German mine-sweeper. German vessels had been moving during the previous nights in the waters of Bengtskär. The boat which was seen by the Gunner had resembled a lot of the German mine-sweepers. As he thought that the boats were German, Gunner Ryhänen didn't alert the other men when seeing the Russians first at a distance. After the first sighting, the boat disappeared into the fog, which was starting to form more and more.
- When he noticed for the next time that something was going on, it was when he noticed a bow wave from a two approaching boats close to the shore. Additionally Gunner Ryhänen heard engine noise. Immediately after this, before Gunner Ryhänen could react, he noticed that the boats were landing troops to the shore. At this moment, he alerted others. Gunner Ryhänen didn't heard Private 1st Class Nystrand of performing alarm before him. Lieutenant Luther is also saying the same. Nystrand was found dead from his sentry post after the battle. No actions have been taken regarding the neglect of Gunner Ryhänen. I keep the opinion, that the reason for his neglect was a rather human, when he didn't perform alarm at first, when thinking the boats as German mine-sweepers.
- It must be remembered, that no information has been received previously by Fort of Örö or Bengtskär, about the movements of German mine-sweepers. During the battle, Gunner Ryhänen fought bravely and quickly. Both Lieutenant Luther and Kaikkonen confirm this. Thus I have seen that the brave and suicidal acts taken by Gunner Ryhänen to defend and to drive the Russians away from the island has dismissed his previous mistakes. During the battle, Gunner Ryhänen was wounded very seriously and is now in the Hospital of Paimio along with Lieutenant Luther.
5. Sentry duty and alerting the island has been already mentioned in the point two.
6. Especially during the start of the battle, the staff of the section was in close contact with Bengtskär via radio. From Bengtskär Corporal Ryyppö constantly gave a very comprehensive report from all of the small details of the battle. Information to Corporal Ryyppö were given by the sentry in the lighthouse tower, commander of the unit and the men who participated to the battle. The information received however were quite conflicting, as the situation in the island due to the darkness and a surprise attack, were rather confusing and the information was partly based to the assessments of individual men.
- The situation in the island looked very promising right after the Russian boats retreated after the Fort of Örö had opened fire. Additionally help was on its way with the Detachment Auvinen. In any case Captain Lempiäinen following my order, ordered the shock company to start preparing to move out and help Bengtskär. This order was given around 01:50 to 02:00 o'clock. The exact time has not been written down, but I estimate it to happen around that time based to the information from Lieutenant Kaikkonen, where he mentioned, that the weapons and equipment of the detachment had been moved to the boats and that the men returned to their quarters, where they had to wait for about 10 to 15 minutes, before the order to move out arrived.
7. The situation for the machine gun which was left outside of the lighthouse building and which had malfunctioned has been already described previously. Madsen-automatic gun was left to the Russian hands for a short period of time, but the Russians couldn't use it due to the lack of ammunitions. The lack of ammunitions was because during the most intense fighting, Coporal Nurmi and Gunner Virtanen run to the Madsen-automatic gun from the besieged lighthouse building. After reaching the gun, they opened devastating fire against a Russian boat, which was closing the shore. After firing all the ammunitions, they run to the shore, took off clothes and swim to the Dömmaskar, which is located nearly 2,5 kilometers away from Bengtskär. From Dömmaskar, they returned to Bengtskär with own forces, continuing again the fighting.
8. What comes to the order that I gave to Captain Lauramo, to send relieve forces from Örö to Bengtskär, this order was given immediately after the shock troops had been instructed. The order was quite doubtful, that was recognized by the staff for the following reasons. The Örö forces didn't have anymore senior men, who would have combat experience. This was because most of the experienced men were moved to the shock companies. The artillery, fire control and communication units from the fort were tied to the battle. The same thing concerned anti-aircraft units, because it was most likely, that there would be a Russian air activity. Already during the morning hours, I had started to acquire help from our own air forces. The machine guns were in positions, to defend against landings to the fort. The situation regarding motorboats in the fort was quite bad and thus most of the boats had to be borrowed from the mine-sweeping squadron of the navy, which was located at the fort.
- I however decided to move a platoon to Kuggskär just in case. There was a good phone line into and out from Kuggskär. If the situation didn't warrant the use of this platoon, it would be a good practise situation. This kind of action proved to be quite successful, as Detachment Backlund and Detachment Kaikkonen supported each others significantly during the landings and distracted the Russian attention and divided their strength. This without a doubt decreased our losses.
- According to the commander of Fort of Örö Captain Lauramo, there was no significant delay of carrying out the orders, when thinking about the situation. The men were accommodated 2 kilometers away from the pier. Additionally the troops had to be armed and equipped for the mission in hand. Helmets had to be borrowed from the anti-aircraft men, as not all of the men had helmets. Additionally some men needed to be changed, life jackets to be acquired from several different boats and the machine guns had to be brought from the positions and put to the transport boats.
9. Even when the situation at first was very confusing, I immediately decided to move relieve forces as forward as possible. However I had to be sure, that these troops would remain under my command at all times. To support the landings, I wanted to use naval and air forces, because the boats that were in my use, were unsuitable for this kind of action. Due to this, I moved Detachment Backlund to Kuggskär, which had a phone line. Detachment Kaikkonen was moved to the area of Klovaskär - Ljusskär, which had a radio in the coastguard station. The radio however had been now and then broken, so I ensured the communications, by moving a communication boat to Granholm, where the closest phone was located.
- Movement of the Detachment Kaikkonen was slow, because he constantly needed to tow some boat, which had suffered an engine failure, despite of the fact, that best of the boats were given to the shock troops. During movement, the radio in Ljusskär broke down completely, so the order to move to Bengtskär, was sent via phone line to Granholm, from where it was dispatched with a boat to Klovaskär.
10. What comes to the note that the detachment led by Lieutenant Kaikkonen had a bad combat discipline, the following account give by Lieutenant Kaikkonen regarding the situation at the lading site, most likely clarifies this issue:
- “We landed to the south-west shore in a place, which was the only one to, which the Russians couldn’t fire. When we after landing started to advance along the shore line towards the machine gun men from gunboat Hämeenmaa, I and Corporal Nupnau managed to move so quickly to a dead angle, that we survived intact. However from the men that followed us, one was killed immediately and three were badly wounded, when Russian light-machine gun opened fire from a position, that we didn’t see. This stopped the advance of our detachment. I ordered Sergeant Wikman to reconnoiter possibilities to advance on the south shore. Sergeant Wikman managed to crawl forward in the water line about 15 meters, but he noticed that the shore line ended to the tip of the cape, from which advancing was impossible.
- He tried to crawl back to us, but Russian light machine gun had already spotted him and was firing so accurately, that it was impossible for Sergeant Wikman to crawl back to his men. When he moved his helmet on top of a rifle a bit forward, several bullets from a light machine gun hit the helmet immediately.
- When I managed to link up with the machine gun men from gunboat Hämeenmaa, the squad leader informed me the location of the Russian positions near the shore line. With hand grenades we pushed the Russians away from these positions. As we were mostly using French egg hand grenades, which had a unfortunately low shrapnel effect, we could not be sure when the Russians in their positions were killed and if there still remained Russians, which were capable of fighting”.
- Like Lieutenant Kaikkonen describes above, the Russian resistance was stiff and its fire against our troops very heavy. The battle from the start turned out to be a man against man fight, where the cohesion of the forces was impossible to keep up. Even when the combat report states, that part of the men did not follow the order from Lieutenant Kaikkonen, to advance at 09:00 o’clock from the shore line to the lighthouse building, it was not because the combat discipline would have been weak.
- The Russian firing was still very heavy that it was completely impossible for some of the men to advance and follow Lieutenant Kaikkonen. I have also asked about this issue from Lieutenant Kaikkonen after the battle and he states, that his remark in combat report meant, that the heavy firing prevented part of the men to follow him forward. According to Lieutenant Kaikkonen, some obviously were not advancing because this was their first combat and their courage failed in this unbelievable tense and bitter fight, which resembled a grapple.
11. What comes to the Finnish hand grenades, that did not have detonating caps, both Lieutenant Luther and Kaikkonen and several other men have said, that all of the hand grenades did have the detonating caps. However during the battle and after it, some hand grenades have been found, which were without the detonating caps, so this proves that there really were few hand grenades that did not have the detonating caps.
12. At 14:00 o’clock the Madsen-automatic gun could not fire the Russian boats because at that time it was on the Russian side of the island and without ammunition. The Finnish forces captured the gun again at 18:00 o’clock, when the last Russians near the gun surrendered.
13. The last question presented to me, I am enquired, why I did not order a senior and more high ranking officers to lead the detachments, which are mentioned above. Instead I am accused of putting “officers without combat experience and that were young” to lead the detachments. What comes to Lieutenant Kaikkonen, during the last war he served on the north side of Lake Ladoga being in the front line from the start of the war to its end and thus has more combat experience than many of us have. Second Lieutenant Langhoff on the other hand was not in the front line during the last war and do not have no real combat experience. However both Langhoff and Kaikkonen satisfy the moral and physical qualities that are required by the Naval Staff in its order, how to choose men and officers to the newly established shock companies. Like stated previously, thinking these qualities, I chose both of these young and agile officers to platoon leaders in the 4.Coastal Shock Company. The courage and resourcefulness shown in the Battle of Bengtskär by both of these officers, show that my decision was correct.
- Finally I would like to express the following as my personal opinion:
- Of course it is the fault of Lieutenant Luther, that the sentry duty and the battle readiness of the island was not as effectively arranged as it should have been on such a important place which was also very close to the Russians. The biggest mistake is that the Madsen-automatic gun was without a sentry. The Russians managed to land to the island before an alarm was given. This however is not just because the sentry duty would have been poorly arranged. If the sentry who was in the lighthouse tower, would have given an alarm when he saw the boats in the sea for the first time, the positions and guns could have been manned before the Russians were in shore.
- However the fatal mistake done by the sentry must be thought of happening, because the sentries did not have specific, detailed and strict orders about the sentry duty. Guarding the island was sufficient, but more detailed instructions were missing. However if we start to think, that the Russians have managed to surprise our men, there is nothing but good things to say about the men in Bengtskär, after the battle had started. Courageously and determined the men started to fight with their leader against the Russians in a very difficult conditions. If one looks at the Battle of Bengtskär hour by hour and its different phases and if these are judged without prejudice against the facts, on which the battle was fought, I would think that there is no other resolution, than a full and absolute appreciation for the men that fought in the island.
- If we want to include the fact, that the island is a small rocky island in the middle of the sea, from where to the closest Finnish base is 14 kilometers and to such an island the Russian troops covered by fog and darkness have managed to land in surprise. After this the attackers have forced the defenders to pull back first to the lighthouse building and after this a bitter and heavy battle, which has lasted several hours in the island, has been fought man against man. I would think that that only admiration would be found when thinking these facts. Acts of heroism, such as acts by Lieutenant Luther, Lieutenant Kaikkonen, 2nd Lieutenant Langhoff, Corporal Nurmi and acts by other men require admiration.
- After being wounded for three times, Lieutenant Luther still tried to lead his men and correct the firing of the Finnish artillery. Lieutenant Kaikkonen and 2nd Lieutenant Langhoff cleared step by step with pistols and hand grenades a way towards the lighthouse building, thus enabling their men to follow them in a difficult and rocky terrain. Corporal Nurmi along with the Gunner Virtanen run from the lighthouse building to the Madsen-automatic gun.
- All of these are so beautiful acts that previous mistakes should be forgiven because of these. As a section commander, I can reassure that each officer, non-commissioned officer and man who participated to the Battle of Bengtskär, fulfilled his duty excellently.
- The great result of the battle, which of course was achieved with a high price, raised the spirits and moral of the section as well as belief to our own forces. The belief, that this battle has been recognized and praised also in other places, has so far encouraged every man to try their best. The investigations that are now started and examinations about the mistakes that has been done, have really lowered the minds of the men and in few cases this depression has been very extreme.
- Additionally one can find examination records of individual men. The records concern the malfunction in the signal equipment of the lighthouse before the battle. The malfunction wasn't noticed until after the battle. For that reason enquiry was started. Note from Major Moring about the enquiries and investigations started, most likely also point to these examinations regarding the malfunction of the signal equipment and why wasn't it reported to a higher command levels. If the Battle of Bengtskär wasn't valued too high right after the battle, the later generations certainly have recognized the meaning and value of the battle.
- The losses for the Finnish troops in the Battle of Bengtskär were 32 dead and 45 wounded. This figure includes those who died in the island as well as in the boats. If the losses suffered on 27.07.1941 are included, the total losses are 43 dead and 63 wounded.
- The Russian forces lost about 36 to 60 men dead. Bodies of 36 Russian soldiers were found from the island after the battle, but the Russians have also lost men in the boats, which participated to the battle. Additionally at least one Russian plane was shot down. Additionally 28 Russians were captured in the island and in the sea. From these 17 were wounded. The Senior Lieutenant, who led the Russian detachment, was killed during the battle.
- The Russians, who fell during the combat, were buried to the island of Örö and to the cemetery of Dragsfjärd. From the orthodox side of the Dragsfjärd cemetery one can still find a grave, where lies two unknown Russian soldiers. They have been buried to Dragsfjärd after the battle. The tombstone has been erected in the 1950's.
- This presentation of the Battle of Bengtskär is most based to the combat report and to the war diaries. I have compared the information to a several published books and to the dissertation of Senior Lieutenant Peltonen, which he has made to his Captain course. Additionally I have used the communiqués a bit, but I have not started to copy all of the communiqués here, as they just repeat the text, which is previously presented.
- A lot has been written about the Battle of Bengtskär and all of the writings alter from each others. This presentation in that sense is no exception, but I have tried to combine nearly all of the information available from different sources to this presentation. The differences mainly are in the time of what happened and when and with other certain small details.
- This presentation also contains some contradictions. For example the combat report indicates that the Russians opened fire towards the lighthouse, with the Madsen-automatic gun and with the Finnish machine gun, which was left outside of the lighthouse building. The report made by Major Moring however denies this, stating that the machine gun had malfunctioned so badly, that the Russians couldn't use it. Additionally according to Moring, the Madsen-automatic gun was out of ammo.
- Sources also contain some strange contradictions. For example the reason why part of the men of Detachment Kaikkonen didn't follow the order to move from the shore to the lighthouse building vary from source to source. Lieutenant Kaikkonen has stated in his report, that the situation was such, that not all of the men had a chance of advancing. Some sources however indicate, that part of the men of the detachment were "unreliable" material and simply as convinced communists refused to advance.
- Personally after reading this presentation from the Battle of Bengtskär, I would be ready to believe Lieutenant Kaikkonen, that the situation was so chaotic, that it was impossible for part of the men to follow the order. If some of the men were unreliable, why in the first place they would have been included to this mission, to which most of the men were volunteers? One could assume that these "unreliable" men would have refused before the actual battle itself. Same kind of distrust has been also connected to the men in the Fort of Örö.
Copyright © 2006, 2007 Kimmo Nummela