The last touch - training near the front

The unloading took place in Ukraine, Lozovaya and Bliznjuk station on April 7, 1943. When the men left Heigelager, there still was a little bit of snow, but in Ukraine it was summer. The battalion stayed in the villages near the railway stations: 1st Company – Miroljubovka (Mironovka); 2nd Company – Korostovka; 3rd Company – Ana Rudajevka; 4th Company and the headquarters – Rudajevo. The trainings on landscape and shooting with battle ammunition began. The men had long hikes. They became stronger and more resistant.

Since the surroundings of the villages had been a battlefield in 1941, there was plenty of deserted and destroyed war equipment: tanks, cannons, shooting nests and trenches. These were all successfully used in special trainings and in shooting with ammunition. In addition, empty gas and oil barrels were brought to the steppe, which were rolled down the hillside. These were excellent targets to machine guns and anti-tank and anti-aircraft cannons. The land where the trainings took place was a wilderness where the grass reached to chest. This type of landscape offered several good options for attacks. Only the crumpled walk and crawling between the burdocks and thistles ruined clothes and footwear, not to mention the skin of faces and hands. The men often had to use bandages at night or rub iodine on the injured places.

Since the trainings took place 3 to 4 kilometers away from the dwelling places, sometimes even 5 or 6 kilometers away, the daytime trainings on the field were long, the men returned normally around 3 or 4 p.m. and the afternoon trainings were cancelled. More emphasis was put on weapons cleaning and maintenance. The men often found deserted ammunition during the training and gathered this into piles. And when the grenade throwers or cannons hit these piles during the training shooting, the hits were signaled by loud explosions and huge fire pillars.

After some extremely rough days, when they had lost tons of sweat under the burning sun, the leaders had some mercy on them – once the everyday procedures (keeping the weapons, equipment and clothing in order) had been taken care of, they got some free time. The men then enjoyed sitting in front of Ukrainian houses, inhaled the cool summer air, listened to the frogs' croaking in the ponds and dreamed. Then was the time to read the mail sent from home, write letters to the loved ones or, as some soldiers did, write letters to some unknown girls. They normally got the address from sisters or brothers or from the packages sent from home. It was nice to admire the completely dark Ukrainian nights. They still had some interest in romance… There was diversity in everyday life too – once the men were sent to hunt for partisans, once they drag the drowning 2nd Company out of the pond… They had seven months to the big battles.

The majority of the battalion's car park was left to Heidelager, they took only the special machines: weapons' workshops, ammunition and equipment machines, kitchen and food cars. But quite soon the men received the full series. The Division Wiking left the Finnish battalion, whose time set in the contract ended. So the men received this battalion's weapons and technology. A group of drivers was sent to Germany, who brought brand new cars with diesel motor to carry the group. The 3rd Company received a Zündap motorcycle from the Finns, which had a beautiful girl's name on the gas tank – Lotte. But this was not favored by company leader Karl Silberleitner. It turned out that his girlfriend was also named Lotte. He didn't order the men to scrape it off and so the motorcycle messenger got to ride on the company leader's girlfriend around the Ukrainian steppe for a long time.

The anti-tank cannons groups returned from the training in Holland. They received three well-working heavy cannons (76,2 mm) from the Finns. The men were armed once again. The Battalion Narva had become one of the battalions of the famous Wiking Division and it presumably was an equal partner to the Division's regiments Germania and Westland. The training continued. The training in Heidelager was performed by group and company leaders:

  • 1st Company leader SS-Hauptsturmführer Jaan Raudsoo, group leaders SS-Untersturmführer Herbert Nugis and SS-Untersturmführer Wilhelm Gelzleichter;
  • 2nd Company leader SS-Obersturmführer Herbert Burgdorf; group leaders SS-Untersturmführer Hans Götze, SS-Untersturmführer Hando Ruus, SS-Hauptscharführer Walter Grubbe and SS-Scharführer Helmuth Frick;
  • 3rd Company leader SS-Obersturmführer Fritz von Böckmann, group leaders SS-Untersturmführer Herbert Fiala and SS-Hauptscharführer Walter Bliedtuer;
  • 4th Company (heavy weapons) leader SS-Obersturmführer Karl Silberleitner, group leaders SS-Untersturmführer Ralf Fiskar (anti-tank cannons (PAK)), SS-Untersturmführer Alfred Ensman (heavy grenade throwers (SGw), SS-Untersturmführer Eduard Kirschbaum (infantry cannons (IG)).

The other leading positions in the battalion were:

  • Headquarters Company leader SS-Untersturmführer Bernhard Langhorst; economy group's leader SS-Untersturmführer Huitfield. The battalion's leading weapons master was SS-Sturmscharführer Alfons Kluba, the main caterer was SS-Sturmschatführer Heinrich Folkerts, the leader of equipment was SS-Obersturmführer Martin Lautern and the clothing master SS-Sturmscharführer Ewald Woitalla.
  • The Sergeant Majors of the companies were the 1st Company …, the 2nd Company Körner, the 3rd Company Brunner, the 4th Company Brütt.
  • And naturally the training was also controlled by the Battalion Commander SS-Sturmbannführer (promoted after the battalion's oath giving) Georg Eberhardt and his adjutant SS-Untersturmführer Schmidt.

Before going on the front the battalion lost its first member – a junior officer who recently returned from a vacation went out to have a pee and met Russian partisans climbing down from the attic who shot him. To give the final evaluation on the battalion's battle-readiness, huge battle trainings took place, which was observed by the Division Commander SS-Obergruppenführer Herbet-Otto Gille. He was extremely pleased with what he saw. Of course Eberhardt was pleased too. He said the memorable words: "I've had the finest European soldiers under my command, but the kind of villains like Estonians I have not seen before." These were approving words for the soldiers and they didn't disappoint their leader.

Each day the men acquired more and more modern battle actions' refinement, the highest art of war. The battalion was trained to be a single attack unit. And then the command to march came but not the one they had been waiting for. On May 20 the battalion began its journey. They drove half of the day and reached the area near the double town Kramatorsk-Slavijansk and stopped in Jasnaja Gorka village. The village was situated on a high hillside, the village streets were wide and properly parallel, almost like an architect had been planning a big city here. When each company was in separate village before, then now they were all gathered together. Each street had one company. And the trainings began. The battalion's car park was often used now. They practiced performing a counterattack straight from "the wheels" or taking the defence positions.

The time of summer rains had begun. The "steppe asphalt" had become a thick and sticky mass. The cars had to be stopped often to chop the stuck clay off with bayonets from the mudguards. But when a strong thunder storm came, it was wiser to stop and wait until the rain was over, because often it was pouring heavily. But after half an hour of sunset the road was dry and passable again. June arrived. The temperature during the day was 35 to 40 degrees in Celsius in Ukraine, the burning sun made trainings and marching difficult. The sweat was flowing from under the men's helmets in streams, the clothes were soaked in sweat from running and playing the battles. But when they got to return to the village again, the men were singing and tiredness vanished from their bones.

"Something for the soul" was included in the soldiers' gray everyday life. Once they were taken to the movies in Slavjansk, the other time to the variety theatre in Kramatorsk. The men were intrigued by the scarcely clothed "Fräulein Nummer" who had a fine figure and before each performance walked gracefully and with a lovely smile passed the stage. The men applauded wildly. And for days after seeing the show the men had a lot to talk about during their smoking breaks, it helped to forget the lips broken because of the weather and stand the crawling under the rain.

The Battalion Narva was prepared for battle. Young boys, volunteers, had been trained to elite soldiers who eagerly waited for their hour. They were trained to Waffen-SS soldiers. The Waffen-SS soldiers advantage besides training was the right to battle – survive or die – in the first lines of the battle… Since these young men were trained to become elite soldiers, there were a lot of questions: what were they searching for from Southern Russia? Why were they there and not in Estonia? In Estonia, protecting the borders of the homeland just like they were promised in the recruiting places. No one knew the answers. Until one day Sergeant Major Brunner from the company said: "At first you were going to be sent to north, but what would have you, a motorized unit with good training, good equipment and weapons, have done there, in the trenches? Just sat there and caught frogs from the puddles? There weren't any battles there in the spring and summer of 1943. But here, in Ukraine, where the future of Germany, and possibly the whole Europe, will be decided – here you are needed today!"

When the battalion arrived to Ukraine 80 men were sent to Division Wiking's cannons and intelligence battalion. Quite soon the men from the Eastern and Police Battalions and Border Guard Regiments were given vacations. Everyone, who had battled on the Eastern Front from 1941 until 1942 could now take a 20-day vacation into account. And groups of men began to go to their homelands. About 150 men had left before the battalion reached the front.

The Battalion's Weapons and Equipment

The battalion was made up of 4 companies. A company consisted of 3 groups, each group had 3 squadrons. So all in all there were 9 squadrons and each squadron had 2 light machine guns. In addition, 1 heavy group, which included 3 squadrons of heavy machine guns and 1 squadron of grenade throwers (2). In total 13 squadrons, 18 light and 6 heavy machine guns, 2 heavy grenade throwers.

The Company's Motorized Technology:

  • 12 trucks for the machine guns squadrons + 2 trucks for grenade trowers
  • 1 Volkswagen for the company leader
  • 1 landrover KF2-15
  • 1 service shop
  • 2 to 3 motorbikes with sidecars for messengers
  • 1 outdoors kitchen
  • 2 food storage cars
  • 2 ammunition cars
  • 1 equipment car (clothes, footwear, etc)
  • 1 gas truck
  • There were 3 light companies in a battalion, each having 200 to 220 men and drivers.

The 4th Company was a heavy company and consisted of:

  • 3 heavy anti-tank cannons (76,2 mm) (PAK)
  • 3 light anti-tank cannons (50,0 mm) (PAK)
  • 6 light infantry cannons (IG)
  • 8 heavy grenade throwers (80,2 mm) (SGrw)
  • 2 four-pipe anti-aircraft cannons (Vierlingflak)

The headquarters company was near the battalion's headquarters which included liaison (phone, radio, messengers), intelligence and pioneer groups and a head bandaging point. It also included the jarvey unit.

Works Cited:

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