2nd Border Guard Reg. (Estnische SS-Grenzschutz Regiment Nr 2)

Formation

The formation of the 2nd Border Guard Regiment began in February 1944 from the men from Tartu, Võru, Valga and Petseri County. The regiment's headquarters was located in Tartu and at first was in the Bank of Estonia building on Vabaduse Street. Lieutenant Colonel Juhan Vermet (Värnik) was appointed to the regiment's leader position, in 1932 he was the Republic of Estonia Military School's 2nd Aspirants' Company leader. Captain Julius Edor became the regiment's adjutant and Lieutenant Karl Robert Vaabel became the headquarters' leader.

The 1st Battalion's company was formed in the elementary schools of Maramaa, Reola, Ropka and Suur-Konguta from Tartu County men. The battalion leader was Captain Meinhard Niinepuu, the former leader of Tartu County Self-Defence's 1st Battalion. The battalion's adjutant was Lieutenant E. Valter, aide-de-camp Leiutenant Julius Liivoja, the economy leader Lieutenant Leopold Kiisla, weapons' officer Lieutenant Richard Freimann.

The 2nd Battalion's 6th, 7th and 8th Company were formed in Võru, the 9th Company in Petseri. Major Friedrich-Martin Sillaots became the battalion's leader.

The 3rd Battalion was formed in Valga and Antsla, the 9th, 10th and 12th Company in Valga and the 11th Company in Antsla. A former Võru Gymnasium teacher, reserve officer Captain Meinhard Leetmaa, was appointed as the regiment's leader. Valga deputy mayor, Lieutenant Jüri Milles, became the battalion's adjutant.

The regiment's battery was formed in Jõgeva and Lieutenant Karl Riismandel became its leader. From the beginning on the regiment's officers had to face great hardships to get proper equipment for their men. The men received German field uniforms but the majority of the uniforms were too small. There were problems with footwear, many wore boots they had put on at home on the front too. Their weapons were various plunder guns, which made supplying the regiment with ammunition quite difficult. The men missed the liaison technology and field phones.

The regiment also lacked trained officers. When officers were found to lead the companies, there weren't enough junior officers and often regular soldiers had to be put on those positions, about a half of the junior officers were actually regular soldiers without necessary training. The regiment was subjected to the 207th Security Division, which's headquarters was on Veski Street in Tartu (the headquarters was this division's only OWN unit).

The formation of the 2nd Border Guard Regiment had not been finished yet, not to mention its training, when Colonel Vermet received an order on February 14 from the Division's headquarters to send one battalion to the security service in Kastre-Melliste area. Since at the same time battles began around Meerapalu to destroy the Russian bridgehead, the leader of the 207th Security Division, Erich Hofmann, was afraid that the Russians would get to Kastre-Melliste area through the swampy woods. Therefore the 1st Battalion was sent there. The 1st Battalion was the only available unit in Tartu area, the 2nd and the 3rd Battalions were in Võru and Valga. The 1st Battalion's headquarters was situated in Kastre manor and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd companies immediately went to security service on Melliste-Sarakuste-Saage-Saba line after they arrived and the 4th Company, which arrived later, went to reserve. Fortunately SS-Hauptsturmführer Harald Riipalu's unit (the 20th Estonian SS Division's 45th Regiment's 1st Battalion) did a great job and the bridgehead was destroyed. As a result, the 2nd Border Guard Regiment received an order at 6.02 p.m. to take defence positions on the south bank of Lake Peipsi. The 3rd Battalion took its positions from Omedu river delta until Kasepää village in the south (according to some other data, from Nina village until Varnja church), from there on from Varnja village until Kalli river the 1st Battalion took its positions. The 2nd Battalion was sent to reserve and began to train the newly recruited men. The 3rd Battalion's headquarters was situated in the community office in Suur-Kolkja village.

March 12 Lieutenant Vaabel's headquarters company, which was strengthened with the 3rd Battalion's 12th Company, was sent to the 207th Security Division's 94th Security Regiment's (Sich. Reg. 94) 3rd Battalion battle group, led by Major Bernhard, to catch and destroy the about 600-men Russian destruction battalion. This battalion had crossed Lake Peipsi ice on March 12 and destroyed villages on its way and killed civilians. At 1.15 p.m. the 12th Company had a battle with the enemy near the Kasepää-Ruskavere highway, about 500 meters north of Meti farm. The enemy retreated. Around 5.15 p.m. Lieutenant Evald Jaakson's group, which led the trackers and included Major Bernhard and some Germans, met Russians' ambush near Tarakvere forest farm in the darkness of the evening. The enemy was equipped with automatic weapons and outnumbered the Germans in human resources, fire force and had better positions. Lieutenant Jaakson, Major Bernhard and 10 other soldiers were killed. The following day the trackers received additional forces and a couple of German tanks for support and the destructive battalion was surrounded around Kangro mill and was almost completely destroyed, about 100 Russians were imprisoned. The remains of the destructive battalion were destroyed during the following week.

To the Front

March 20 the northern front's commander-in-chief, Feldmarschall Walther Model, inspected the regiment. Model was pleased with what he saw but he wasn't pleased with the men's equipment. Model called the superior officers from Riga to show them their poor work. The marschall also announced that the regiment will be taken to another location. March 21 the regiment was taken to Iisaku and sent to camp in Kurtna. The regiment continued its training there. From that moment on the unit was subjected to the XXVI Corps, led by General Anton Grasser. Several wagons full of equipment and weapons arrived a few days later.

The regiment had to protect the front area near Putk foresters house near Mustajõe. The infamous East Prussian 11th Infantry Division's 2nd Grenadier Regiment was replaced on the front. On the front the regiment was subjected to the 58th Infantry Division (Lieutenant General Curt Siewert). The regiment took over the front area on March 26. From Mustajõe village until the Putk forester's house ruins the 2nd Battalion took its defence positions, led by Major Sillaots. The 1st Battalion, led by Captain Niinepuu, took over the front area next to the 2nd Battalion's area, the line made a slight curve towards east and then headed towards south. From there on, towards east, the 3rd Battalion took its positions and was led by Captain Leetma. The length of the front area was 8 kilometers. At the same time Captain Sooden's battalion left Putk, leaving Leetma's 3rd Battalion a large number of Russian plunder weapons which increased the border guard defence fire strength remarkably.

The regiment had its first battle at the end of March. The enemy tried to break through in the 1st Battalion's 2nd Company area after the artillery unit's fire, but it was beaten back. April 2 another attack was beaten back. The enemy lost 80 men, 10 Estonians were killed. When the prisoners were interrogated it turned out that the Russians were gathering large units in the area and were planning to break through until Jõhvi-Vasknarva highway.

April 17 the enemy fired all regiment's positions. After a 30-minute cannon fire the Russians began attack. The enemy almost managed to break through the merging place of the 1st and the 2nd battalions after several attacks full of victims, but the 8th Company leader, Lieutenant Heino Parts, counterattack was on time and the enemy's plan failed. The 7th Company leader, Lieutenant Artur Hansen, was lethally injured. More than 400 Russians were killed, the regiment lost 18 men and 50 were wounded. In the second half of April and in May the enemy tried to break through the Estonians' positions several times, but was beaten back each time.

But the few months spent in watery bunkers had a negative effect on the men's health. Many fell ill. Many men's feet were festering. The losses of the battles were added to all this. The regiment's lines became sparse. Thus the regiment was replaced on May 20. During two months the unit had lost about 400 men, some killed, some wounded, and this number included 6 officers.

At the end of May the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and the 6th Border Guard Regiments were merged into the 300th Special Division (Division z. b. V. 300). In addition to border guard regiments, the division included the 286th, 287th and 292nd Police Battalions, Battalion Narva anti-tank company (the so-called Fischer's battalion), German 1016th artillery regiment and the 683rd artillery division, German 300th special field battalion, German 13th Pioneer Battalion, German 285th Panzer Company, Estonian penal company, German artillery's alarm company and the Scheer unit. Since the division was rather large, it was structurally divided into two battle groups which were called Nord and Süd. The Nord included the 2nd and 4th Border Guard Regiment and it was led by SS Lieutenant Colonel Engelhart (later SS Colonel Walter Kopp). The Süd included the 3rd and 6th Border Guard Regiment. The brigade's leader at first was Lieutenant Colonel Mart Kaermaa, later Colonel Matuschek. The division leader was General Major Rudolf Höfer.

The regiment's positions were taken over by the 333rd Regiment on April 19 and the Estonians got some time to rest. The 2nd and 3rd battalions were sent to coast guard service on the north bank of Lake Peipsi, from Nina village until Alajõe area. The 1st Battalion was sent to perform securing works near Iisaku, northeast of Karjamaa village, to the fortification zone. At the end of July the 1st Battalion was also sent to perform security works in Alutaguse woods. Afterwards the whole regiment was situated on the front north of Porun river.

At the end of July, before the Sinimäed Hills battles, the Viru front from Vasknarva to Sirgala was manned in the following way by the 3rd Panzer Corps: from the northeastern part of Lake Peipsi, from Smolnitsa village, until the Estonian Perevoloka village on the west bank of Narva river was the 3rd Border Guard Regiment. Then until Karjati village, Peramisküla village and an island with the same name on Narva river was protected by the 6th Border Guard Regiment. From Karjati to Kuningaküla village Captain Otto Kommussaare's police battalion (No 288) had taken its positions. From Kuningaküla to Gordenkan one German unit had the defence positions. From Gordenkan to Poruni river's area the 4th Border Guard Regiment had taken its positions. From Poruni river (including the south and north banks) until Zasseka village (situated east of Narva river and was conquered by the Russians) parallel one of the 170th Division's battalion took the defence positions in the swamp (on August 8 it was replaced by the 2nd Border Guard Regiment's 1st Battalion). The 2nd Border Guard Regiment's 2nd and 3rd Battalions were standing next to the latter units positions, towards northwest. From there on until the Putk forester's house one German unit (perhaps the 113th Security Regiment?), with a small number of men, had taken its positions. From Putk until Metsaküla village area a unit from German 225th Division was standing. From Metsaküla until Auvere railway station and a few kilometers west of it were the defence area of some units from the 58th Division and East Prussian 11th Infantry Division.

To cut through the Jõhvi-Vasknarva highway in Kurtna-Kuremäe area and surround the invincible units in Sinimäed Hills and on the upper reaches of Narva river into a pocket, the Russian military board decided to perform a wing attack in Krivassoo forest massive. The targets of the attack were the positions of the 2nd Border Guard Regiment and the 225th Division.

The Battle of August 2

On the extremely hot morning of August 2 the Russians began attack, this time they wanted to surprise the Estonians and the attack took place without any kind of preparation. But the Russians were beaten back, the Estonian intelligence had found out about the planned attack and was prepared. Then the target of the cannon fire was turned towards the Estonians and the 170th Division's positions on the left wing. Soon the battery of Lieutenant Riismandel had to stop shooting because they ran out of ammunition. But the parts of the 170th Division unexpectedly retreated from their positions. Thus the 2nd Border Guard Regiment was forced to straighten its defence line and this was curved towards west. At the same time the Russians managed to invade the 3rd Battalion's positions, which were on the same wing. After daylong attacks and counterattacks the regiment leader allowed the 3rd Battalion to retreat to its backup positions. The additional troops arrived at night – the two battalions of the 3rd Border Guard Regiment. August 3 they tried to retake the former positions but didn't have enough strength to fight with the large enemy and the Estonians were beaten back with severe losses. The lacking of the artillery unit's support played its part in the attack being unsuccessful. But the breakthrough in this area was barred. Estonians had to suffer great losses, according to one battle journal, about 50% of the used units were crushed on August 2. The 2nd Border Guard Regiment's 7th Company and the pioneers company were almost completely destroyed.

Although the direct breakthrough was barred, the large enemy pressed slowly, but constantly, the remains of the 113th Security Regiment north of Estonians towards the lakes of Kurtna and Konsu. August 12 the Russian pressure was stopped thanks to SS-Hauptsturmführer Riipalu's units' help. But then some units were taken under Tartu because of the rough situation and thus removed from Puhatu swamp. August 20 the enemy tried to break through the 2nd Border Guard Regiment's positions again but was beaten back.

At the end of August the regiment received about 500 men in addition. The Red Army units performed another breakthrough attempt in the 2nd Border Guard Regiment's area at the beginning of September. The aims of the attack were the 1st Battalion's positions. The rough half an hour firing destroyed all communication lines, thus Major Niinepuu kept leading the battalion with the help of a messenger. The Russians were beaten back. This was the regiment's last battle in Puhatu swamp. September 17 around 2 o'clock the battle group Nord leader announced to the 2nd Border Guard Regiment's battalion leader that the positions will be abandoned without a fight and the men have to retreat to Rakke area during covering battles.

The Retreat

The retreat began in the evening of September 17. The units of battle group Süd began to retreat at the same time. The 2nd and 4th Border Guard Regiments were supposed to retreat through Kamarna-Taga-Varesmetsa-Iisaku-Rostoja-Tudulinna-Avinurme-Paasvere-Simuna and head towards Rakke. By September 18 the regiment had broke loose from the enemy's force. The regiment's mine throwers and heavy machine guns with the ammunition were left near a field railway where the Germans were supposed to pick these up on a train. But the train never came and the valuable weapons were taken by the enemy. Since the roads were filled with escapees, the 2nd Border Guard Regiment's 2nd Battalion was in the area of Taga-Varesmetsa by the morning of September 19, the 1st and the 3rd battalions were 5 kilometers east near Imatu settlement. A part of the regiment reached Rannapungerja by noon where Major Edor managed to stop the German pioneers from blowing up the Rannapungerja bridge and thus secured the way for the Estonian units which were coming from behind. The regiment reached Tudulinn at 5 a.m. on September 20. The same night the 3rd Border Guard Regiment had left Tudulinn and headed towards Avinurme. But thanks to the Germans' slowness they were hopelessly late. The German 111th Regiment, which has in front of them, drove 2 kilometers west of Avinurme to set up an ambush on Pärniku crossroad, the majority of Germans were killed or imprisoned. In the early morning of September 20 the Estonian Shooters' Corps conquered Avinurme. The 2nd Border Guard Regiment was trapped in a pocket (also the 4th, 6th and 3rd Border Guard Regiment, Battalion Narva, Sihver's battalion, ED 45/2 and 46/1 and some other units).

To get out of the pocket, Lieutenant Colonel Vermet gave an order for the regiment to move through Oonurme-Tudu-Palasi-Tõnsu-Roela to Rakke and he personally drove to the battle group Nord headquarters in Koeru. Lieutenant Colonel Vermet never saw his men again. Vermet asked the headquarters' Germans to keep the front near Rakke until the border guard regiments and the 20th Estonian SS Division come over Oonurme after they get out of the Russian reach but for some reason the Germans did not show any serious resistance against the Russians. It also didn't help that Vermet personally screamed at Colonel Matuschek, who was in charge of the 300th Special Division's retreat, and accused him in cowardliness in front of other officers.

It is now known that not all men began to move in the direction the Colonel gave. The 2nd Battalion, led by Major Sillaots, participated in Avinurme battle and led the attack, which began at 11.20 a.m. and nearly ended with a disaster for the Russians if the Russian 120-mm heavy mine throwers battery would not have entered the battle the last minute.

The soldiers' colons moving towards Rakke were constantly attacked by Russian destruction aircrafts from the air and caused the enemy severe losses. When on September 21 it became clear that the Russians had taken over Rakvere too, the regiment disunited to break into freedom through forests and swamps one by one. Many men were killed or imprisoned but a lot of them managed to break out. Colonel Vermet was not that lucky, though. After he was beaten almost to death in Czech hell, he managed to escape to the French zone. But the French gave him to Russians. In 1946 he was sentenced to Siberia for 10 years. Juhan Vermet died on April 5, 1966 in Linnamäe district near Haapsalu.

Regiment's adjutant Captain Julius Edor, who was promoted to Major on September 1, 1944, was later in Germany the 47/I battalion's leader (the 20th Estonian SS Division). Until March 1946 he was in war prison in Belgium. In 1949 he was the leader of the Estonian labor company, or the so-called Edor company in Schwetzingen. In 1951 he emigrated to Canada. In 1961 he wrote a foreword to Hamilkar Mengel's “The Greatest Love II” to the chapter concerning the 2nd Border Guard Regiment. Julius Edor died in 1985 in New York.

The 1st Battalion leader, Major Meinhard Niinepuu, managed to hide himself after the regiment split up and two months later left to Finland with a couple of men on a leaking boat, from Finland he escaped to Sweden. His family, which had been evacuated to Germany, also managed to get to Sweden. Meinhard Niinepuu died in Sweden in 1975. The 2nd Battalion leader, Friedrich-Martin Sillaots, hid until 1948 when he was captured and sent to Siberia 25+5. In 1956 his punishment was decreased by 10 years. In 1960 Sillaots returned to Estonia and lived with his sister in his home farm in Kalju. He later worked as a heater and night-watch in Tallinn Tram and Trolleybus Trust. Meinhard Niinepuu died in 1977 in Koluvere. The 3rd Battalion leader, Captain Meinhard Leetmaa, lived under the name Alfred Sepp in occupied Estonia until 1965 when he managed to escape to Germany and saw his family again. In 1979 Leetmaa gave out a memoirs book “Sõjas ja ikestatud Eestis”. Meinhard Leetmaa died in 1980 in Stuttgart.

Regiment Leader
Lieutenant Colonel Juhan Vermet (Värnik) Date of Birth: February 24, 1897; Date of Death: April 5, 1966, Linnamäe

Regiment's Adjutant
Captain Julius Edor June 14, 1904 until April 29, 1985, New York

Aide-de-camp
Lieutenant Vello Malmre February 11, 1912 until June 3, 1980, Tallinn

Equipment Leader
Lieutenant Elmar Joonase August 27, 1913 until May 18, 1965, Australia

Doctor
Lieutenant Rein Laube July 29, 1912 buried on September 16, 1981 in Tallinn

Headquarters' Company Leader
Lieutenant Karl Robert Vaabel January 21, 1904 until August 2, 1944, Putki
Captain August Meriloo July 24, 1902 until …

1st Battalion Leader
Captain Meinhard Niinepuu April 5, 1904 until October 7, 1975, Gothenburg, Sweden

Adjutant
Lieutenant E. Valter

Aide-de-camp
Lieutenant Julius Liivoja June 27, 1907 until …

Economy Leader
Lieutenant Leopold Friedrich Kiisla August 5, 1912 until April 9, 1965, Estonia

Weapons' Leader
Lieutenant Richard Freimann April 2, 1914 until March 1, 1997, Tartu

1st Company Leader
Lieutenant Alfred Ra Lauri April 8, 1920 until September 1944, Estonia
Lieutenant Kaljo Paasjärv June 22, 1920 until September 18, 1944

2nd Company Leader
Lieutenant Luts

3rd Company Leader
Lieutenant Viktor Sildnik May 5, 1919 buried on February 16, 1993 in Tallinn

4th Company Leader
Lieutenant Leo Baumann July 26, 1914 until June 17, 1959, Sweden
Lieutenant Elmar Tammark May 1, 1914 until November 10, 1950, Stockholm

2nd Battalion Leader
Major Friedrich-Martin Sillaots Secember 13, 1898 until February 22, 1977, Koluvere

Adjutant
Lieutenant Herbert Haas June 5, 1914 until September 17, 1984, Pärnu

Weapons' Officer
Lieutenant Artur Hint February 9, 1906 until June 29, 1962, Tartu

Doctor
Ensign Harri Soekõrv June 25, 1918 until June 25, 1994, Pärnu

Anti-Tank Unit's Leader
Lieutenant Kalju Haldma October 30, 1918 until …

5th Company Leader
Ensign Arnold Tiivel November 17, 1912 until …

6th Company Leader
Lieutenant Heiti Jaanimägi

7th Company Leader
Lieutenant Arthur (Artur) Hansen December 10, 1908 until April 27, 1944
Lieutenant Alfred Adamka September 10, 1903 until …
Lieutenant Karl Välba
Lieutenant Arnold Kiima March 10, 1906 until July 1970, USA

8th Company Leader
Lieutenant Heino Parts 1904 until February 25, 1953, Karaganda

3rd Battalion Leader
Captain Meinhard Leetmaa November 17, 1903 until October 31, 1980, Germany

Adjutant
Lieutenant Jüri Milles April 25, 1906 until December 2, 1991, Sweden

Aide-de-camp
Junior Lieutenant Endrik Piho March 3, 1912 until August 2, 1944, Putki

9th Company Leader
?

10th Company Leader
Lieutenant Arnold Martins February 20, 1902 until …

11th Company Leader
Lieutenant Teenu

12th Company Leader
Lieutenant Aleksander Perri August 1, 1907 until June 15, 1944, Praaga-Raja

13th Company (Battery) Leader
Lieutenant Karl Riismandel August 19, 1916 until September 21, 1944, Porkuni

Mine Throwers Unit's Leader
Lieutenant Mahkar
Lieutenant Karl Riemann (Riiman) June 8, 1900 until …

Works Cited

  • Jurs, A. Eesti vabadusvõitlejad II maailmasõjas. Toronto, 1987
  • Jõgi, H. and Indrek Zolk. 1941-1945 langenud Eesti ohvitseride nimekiri. Tallinn, 1998
  • Kallas, V. Kahe sõja vahel. Tallinn, 2007
  • Kallion, V. Avinurme lahing. Tartu, 1998
  • Kirs, E. Kord olin ma röövlite päälik… Ühe Mulgimaa hallparuni elukeerud. Tallinn, 1996
  • Kraft, Ü. Eesti piirikaitserügementide ohvitserkond 1944.aastal
  • Estonian War Museum and General Laidoner's Museum yearbook of 2006
  • Laar, M. Emajõgi 1944. Tallinn, 2005
  • Laar, M. Isamaa ilu hoieldes. Stockholm, 1997
  • Laar, M. September 1944. Tallinn, 2007
  • Laar, M. Sinimäed 1994. Tallinn, 2006
  • Tamberg, M. Eesti mehed sõjatules. Saku, 1999
  • Leetmaa, M. Sõjas ja ikestatud Eestis. Stockholm, 1979
  • Villako, K. Ajarännak. Mälestused 1944.aasta sügisest tänapäevani. Volumes I and II. Tartu, 2001
  • Eesti riik ja rahvas II maailmasõjas. Volume IX. Stockholm, 1960