Battles in Sharkova - Valk area

The men couldn't rest for long because the enemy attacked west of Kharkov with big forces and the Division Wiking had to battle again a few days after they protected Hadnitsa. The area was protected by Regiment Westland, Battalion Narva and some Division Wiking tanks. It was actually a miracle that after so rough battles as Izium and Hadnitsa the battalion, which's each company had about 30 to 40 men, managed to gather itself with 3 or 4 days, but it was largely thanks to the men's motivation.

The 32nd Guard Shooters' Corps began the Red Army's attack. The villages of Klenovoje, Krõssino and Maksimovka were in the attack zone. Behind the 32nd Corps the 18th and 29th Panzer Corps had to enter the breakthrough place. Three tank corps attacked four battalions and one tank brigade. After the attack of the artillery and "Stalin organs" the German positions were attacked by offensive aircrafts and long-distance bombers. The enemy hoped to destroy all living things in the trenches with these strong land and air attacks. The regiment Westland had to face the most lethal hail. Gille directed the whole division's east wing to the edge of the forest south of Olshana. The Westland withdrew according to the order and suffered great losses in this battle. The Russian shooters' corps attacked with confident belief that they will not encounter any kind of resistance. But the corps was greeted with such heavy fire that the attack had to be stopped and the 29th Panzer Corps had to be sent to the battle. Expecting the Red Army's breakthrough in this area, the German military board sent additional help there from Olshana area. A fierce and bloody battle took place and both side's tank and infantry participated. The Red Army's headquarters received the first report of the situation at 12 o'clock. The commander of the 32nd Guard Shooters Corps announced: "We are on Upland 288,1, arrived to Hadnitsa forest massive, the enemy resists bravely. The corps suffers great losses."

The Soviet units' pressure on the Division Wiking's eastern wing increased daily. SS-Brigadeführer Gille saw through the enemy's plan: "All efforts of the enemy are directed to the Kharkov-Poltava highway. They don't care about the losses at all." At the same time when the Voronezh front units were protecting Bogodukhov and continued the attacks in Olshana area, the Steppe Front units began a battle over Kharkov. By August 21 all railways and highways around Kharkov were cut off, except the Merefa-Krasnograd road. The German units were in danger of being captured in a pocket. The divisions Das Reich and Totenkopf were brought from Bogodukhov area to protect Kharkov. The Soviet colons continued to attack towards southwest where the Waffen-SS units were forced to retreat because of the continuing attack. Despite the Division Das Reich's desperate counterattack they had to give Kharkov away. And this time for good. In the afternoon of August 22 the German units began to retreat from Kharkov to Merefa and under Valk. To tie the enemy's forces one German group began to attack Korotich.

The Russians wanted to take advantage of the success and continued the breakthrough towards south in tank-shaped moving forwards and were hoping to trap the German units in South Ukraine for good. To make the plan work, the bolshevists sent new forces to the front. On August 24 the order came to prepare the battalion for battle and get on the road. Narva's colon (on the photo) was on the road again. August 27 the battalion took its defence positions in front of Silov village. It was situated 12 kilometers north of Valk town. Behind the battalion was a railway line, which's slides and bridges were being blown up by pioneers. The villages were burning around them and the thick smoke crawled towards the sky slowly. The great hotness of the Ukrainian summer lasted and the dead bodies of animals around the battalion were smelling terribly.

The men took a break in a wild apple tree garden. A new defence line had been built near it. The battalion was in a very favorable flat hillside. Behind them was a high steppe grass, which made their moving easier. The pioneers placed several hundreds of infantry and tank mines right into the wheat field straight ahead, which had been previously flattened with the chains between cars. The men prepared to welcome the enemy thoroughly this time. They secured shooting nests and built bunkers. A few hours later they saw the enemy digging trenches on the hillside in front of the German positions.

The next morning the enemy attacked the 2nd Company's right wing. The tanks, which were slowly descending from their hillside, were captured in the range of German packages and were destroyed. The Russian unit gave up its plan to attack as they saw the destiny of the tanks. German and Estonian batteries took the Russian gathering places under blocking fire but got soon punished themselves. The low flying offensive aircrafts attacked them. After a while the silence arrived to the battalion's area, dueling continued only with infantry weapons.

Ilmar Ainsaar: "While our tanks were being fired at, the enemy had discovered the location of our 'Tasuja'. They rolled one of their heavy protection cannons on the hillside and a unique duel began: two Russian 'razz-bombs' against one another. The Russian PAKs had very good weapons, the out shooting speed of their missile was very fast: once they were aiming a tank, it couldn't get away!

Fire, dirt and metal were flying all over both cannons. But our men – Corporal Promen, Värv and Tõniste – were faster and more accurate so the Russian cannon was blown into pieces."

One Russian tank had driven on a mine at the beginning of the attack. The tank stood quietly in the valley in front of the German positions but in the night the battalion heard banging inside the tank: its crew was probably trying to make it work again. Two German machine guns were moved forward and then took some shots on the repair work men. The men began swearing at first but then everything was silent. The outposts of the 2nd Company announced that one of the enemy's attack group had passed the swamp at night. They decided to trap the group. The attack group with two attacking cannons came from the battalion's headquarters at dawn. They were sent to attack the group, since the 2nd Company men had to cut it off from its base. The surprise attack was successful. A few bursts and it all ended. The German attack was a total surprise to Russians and they were unable to resist. The Germans' plunder: some ten dazed prisoners.

After the first attack had failed, the Narva positions were left alone. The fails of the infantry were tried to make up with the air force attacks but the Russians weren't much successful in that either: during three days the battalion didn't lost a single man, only a few were mildly injured. The evenings and completely dark nights were unusually silent on the German side. On one morning the battalion was withdrawn. The men reached under Valk. They knew that the Red Army's aim was to reach Dnepr from west of Kharkov and surround the German army in a gigantic pocket. The divisions Wiking and Totenkopf were engaged in fierce battles near Sharovka and Valk. Hitler gave a negative answer to SS-Obergruppenführer Gille's request to send his division to reorganizing. The Division's battle staff had decreased to a few thousand men by that time, many heavy weapons and motorized technology were not working any more. But the battle morale of the Vikings was high and made miracles during several months ahead.

The battles lasted until August 28. Despite being more equipped with weapons and having more human resource, the Red Army was unsuccessful. The 5th Guard Tank Army and the 53rd Army from the Red Army took part in these battles. The two armies had to face the 3rd and 6th German Panzer Divisions and the Wehrmacht's 198th Infantry Division in battles. One corps against two armies! The Russian 5th Guard Tank Army suffered great loss in these battles: only 50 fire units remained out of 543. It was reorganized to a tank corps, which was supplemented with an artillery unit and gathered to the Starõi Mertshik area to fight against the Wiking. From there the tank corps began its attack on Valk along with the 53rd Army. The Division Wiking operated in the Bogodukhov-Olshana area during the battles in the Kharkov area and eliminated breakthroughs and barred attacks. The battles under Krõssino, Klenovoje, Maksimovka, Hadnitsa, Olshana, Gavrish, Aleksandrovka, Starõi Mertshik, Kovjag and Valk – the Battalion Narva participated in almost all of these. After the divisions Das Reich and Totenkopf left to protect Kharkov, the whole weight of the front was left on Wiking's shoulders and some smaller Wehrmacht units were left to assist the Wiking.

The Red Army immediately increased pressure. They brought additional armored technology and fresh units. But when the Wiking retreated, Battalion Narva, regiment Westland and the division's intelligence battalion, which included a lot of Estonians, got to experience the roughness of the front. These three units were the last ones to hold the attacking Red Army back and make sure that all military units and the whole rear could retreat. It wasn't pleasant or easy to stand against the tanks with light weapons. The battalion suffered great losses during the retreat. From August 12 to 28 they had battles every day and often at night too. The changes of the positions happened also at nights. They retreated under Ogultshõ-Kovjag-Valk with the other units.

Works Cited:

  • The first part of the Battalion Narva history book Minu au on truudus (My Honor Is Loyalty). Tartu: Publishing House Greif, 1995
  • The second part of the Battalion Narva history book Minu au on truudus. Tartu: Publishing house Greif, 1997
  • The third part of the Battalion Narva history book Minu au on truudus. Tartu: Publishing House Greif, 1999