5th Border Guard Reg.(Estnische SS-Grenzschutz Regiment Nr 5)

The Formation

The formation of the 5th Border Guard Regiment began on February 26, 1944. The regiment's headquarters, the headquarters company and the 2nd Battalion were formed out of the men of Paide town and its surrounding area. The regiment's leader was Lieutenant Colonel Johannes Raudmäe. Johannes Raudmäe (before 1936 last name Eisenberg) was born on April 22, 1891 in Taganõu farm, Kuimetsa district, Harju County. After passing the one-year pedagogical course in 1911, he worked as the elementary school teacher in Kolga and Vaivara from 1911 until 1914. He received military training in Russian army's 282nd reserve regiment. He took part of the First World War in the lines of the 180th Vindav's regiment, from March 1918 he served in the 3rd Estonian infantry regiment until the national unit was dismissed during the German occupation. During the War of Freedom he served as the armored trains division's adjutant and the armored trains division's reserve battalion's 1st company leader. He was awarded the Cross of Freedom second type's 3rd rank. In 1924 he was promoted to Captain and he served in the 2nd armored trains regiment as the adjutant. In 1926 was appointed to Järva defence brigade leader's position. From 1928 was the leader of the National Defence League's Sakala County brigade. In 1930 was promoted to Major, 1938 to Lieutenant Colonel. He was the leader of the Sakala County brigade until the National Defence League was eliminated by the Soviet occupation powers in July 1940. For some time Raudmäe lived in his farm in Valga County from where he went to become the forest brother when the war began. July 14, 1941 the leader of the forest brothers' units in Southern Estonia, Major Friedrich Kurg, promoted Lieutenant Colonel Raudmäe to Valga County forest brothers' leader, later he was the leader of the Self-Defence in Valga County. In September 1941 was appointed to the 38th Police Battalion leader's position, the unit was formed in Viljandi. In the winter of 1941 when the battalion went to Russia, Raudmäe left the service and went to Tallinn's Rotermann factory to work as an accountant. He worked there until the mobilization of 1944.

The regiment's adjutant was Captain Mägi, later replaced by Lieutenant Herm. The headquarters company leader was Lieutenant Sillaots. The 1st Battalion was formed in Türi. The battalion's leader was Major Boris Leeman. The 1st Company's leader was Lieutenant Mardus, the 2nd Company's leader Lieutenant Ründva, the 3rd Company's leader Lieutenant Albert Jõgis, the 4th Company leader Lieutenant Valner. The 2nd Battalion was formed in Paide at first by Captain Made, but at the beginning of March it was taken over by Captain Jakustant. The 3rd Battalion was formed in Põltsamaa. The formation was started by Captain Hartvig Reinvalla and finished by the new battalion leader, Captain Välja, who was later replaced by Lieutenant Tannia.

The regiment's artillery battery was formed in Alatskivi in July when the regiment had already been on coast guard service near Peipsi for several months. The battery's first leader was Captain Määr but in mid-July he was replaced by Lieutenant Kivistik. Simultaneously with the battery, the hunting command was formed, which's main assignment was keeping the regiment's rear clear of Russian parachutists.

Although there were active officers among the regiment's officers, most of them were still the graduates of the Estonian Military School's aspirants' course who had been away from the army for a long time and therefore their qualification had lowered greatly. Thus the situation was not very good among the officers, but it was even worse among the junior officers. There weren't enough junior officers and those who were present, had been away from the army for a long time and hadn't acquired the necessary modern training. This forced Lieutenant Colonel Raudmäe to organize fast month-long junior officers' courses, which were led by Lieutenant Tania.

The regiment's equipment was terrible. They had no field kitchens. Half of the men had thin clothes and their boots were in bad shape. But the worst situation was with weapons. The men received Italian carbines, which had outdated some ten years ago. The situation improved a little after the commission's inspection and at the beginning of April the regiment received new trucks and cars, field kitchens and modern rifles. The new weapons were only meant for the battle units, the headquarters and other units had their old weapons. The regiment's French machine guns were also outdated, they overheated after a score of shots or broke instead. Although the regiment was supposed to be ready by the beginning of April, this date postponed due to the lack of equipment, weapons and training. Thus more than 3,000 men sat aimlessly and this did not have a good effect on their morale.

On the Front

March 12, 1944 the 1st Battalion, which wasn't fully completed, drove away from Türi to go to Pala. March 25 the 1st Battalion replaced the 4th Border Guard Regiment's one battalion, which had been standing from Praaga village until Kallaste on a 25-kilometer line. March 20 the regiment's headquarters, the headquarters company and the 2nd Battalion were taken from Paide to Tartu on a train and then by foot to Alatskivi where the regiment's command point was set up. The 2nd Battalion replaced the 4th Border Guard Regiment's battalion between Raja village and Kallaste. Battalion's headquarters was set up in Assikvere village.

At the end of May the 3rd Battalion was taken near Peipsi under the command of Captain Välja and situated on the triangle area of Varnja, Praaga and Kavastu, the command point was in Tähema village (the regiment was subjected to the 207th Security Division). The 3rd Battalion's 12th Company was directly on coast guard service under the leading of Lieutenant Perri, the line was 6 kilometers long between Varbja and Praaga. The 9th, 10th and 11th Company made up the regiment's reserve. In mid-June the airplane bomb hit the 12th Company's headquarters, company leader Lieutenant Perri and 4 soldiers were killed. Until the middle of July the regiment's soldiers mostly concentrated on securing the positions and training. The officers mostly spent their time on finding better weapons. These attempts often failed.

June 26 the 1st Battalion was taken to Mehikoorma area and was subjected to Colonel Paul Callas' battle group. The battalion's battle positions were on the coastal line from Jõepera village until Kalli river, running towards north along the west bank of Lake Lämmijärve and Lake Peipsi. Since the line was 25 kilometers long, it was impossible to cover it with the men from one battalion. Thus at the beginning of July the 2nd Battalion with Captain Jakustand was brought there. The regiment's four-piped battery, led by Lieutenant Kivistik, was sent there as support (two to Laaksaar's cordon and two to Meerapalu village).

August 3 the 3rd Battalion left its initial positions and was taken to Melliste area. Although the 207th Security Division leader, General Count von Schwerin, told Lieutenant Colonel Raudmäe that the German counterattack was beginning soon, the actions of the Germans showed that they were planning to abandon Estonia. August 13 Piirisaar was abandoned, the spotlights were removed from coastal guard and the building of the flak battery's concrete base was stopped.

The Landing Operation on August 16

In the early morning of August 16 the soldiers noticed a lot of lights on the eastern bank of Lake Lämmijärve, which were moving. At the same time the Estonians' positions were hit by the enemy's fire. It was obvious that the Russians were trying to perform a landing operation over the lake. At 4 a.m. the Russians tried to land in the 1st Battalion's 3rd Company's area, but were beaten back. The blocking fire was opened by German air and anti-tank cannons, causing destruction among the landing ships, which kept on coming out of the darkness. Finally, having suffered great losses, the Russians managed to run ashore in the 2nd Battalion's area. Now the Estonians' situation became more difficult because the Russians were well equipped and had more soldiers. The battle became fiercer and Major Leeman sent the 4th Company from reserve, led by Captain Rudolf Mägi, to help the 2nd Battalion.

Later when heading towards the battle place, Major Leeman discovered that the 4th Company was lying on the ground a few hundred meters away from the battlefield and hadn't even entered the battle! Major commanded the men to go to the battle again. Captain Mägi reacted unexpectedly to Major Leeman's command to take the company to the battle – he left his weapons behind and ran into the woods! Major Leeman replaced the deserter with Lieutenant Kindosk who then led the company to the battle.

At the same time the Russians had increased their bridgehead and forced the 2nd Battalion straighten its defence line. Since they were running out of ammunition and the 2nd Battalion was threatened to be trapped in a pocket, the 2nd Battalion, the 12th Company and the artillery battery received an order to retreat from the coast and gather to Parapalu where the 1st Battalion's command point was. Around 10 a.m. the Estonians lost their connection with the battle group's headquarters in Järveselja because the Russians had conquered Järveselja. By 2.30 p.m. the Russians had managed to move towards the inland more than 10 kilometers. But the protectors didn't have a coordinated leading, which made the situation even more difficult. Also almost all units were running out of ammunition and there was no place to get supplement.

Since the communication with the board and other battalions was missing, there was no more ammunition and there was a real threat to be trapped in a pocket, the 1st Battalion's leader, Major Leeman, decided around 6.30 p.m. to pull the battalion through Ahunapalu-Tasa-Kikassaare behind Ahja river. Around 10 p.m. the companies managed to get rid of the enemy unnoticeably and by the morning of August 17 the whole battalion had crossed the Ahja river over Kikassaare. Having rough defence battles and suffering great losses, the 2nd Battalion's remains reached burning Rasina. The other remains of German units retreated too.

But the surprises did not stop there. August 18 Lieutenant Colonel Raudmäe and Lieutenant Valner went to the 1st Battalion. Major Leeman was ordered to give the leading over to Lieutenant Valner since the latter had to face military court because his battalions had retreated from its positions without an order. And although Leeman had done the only possible thing at that moment, the military court sentenced him to prison for one year. The same court sentenced Captain Rudolf Mäe to death, but the latter was still missing.

After the field court the 1st Battalion was subjected to the battle group Rebane with its new battalion leader, Lieutenant Valner. August 20 the battle group Rebane also received the 2nd Battalion, led by Captain Jakustand. The battalion had been supplemented in the meantime with mobilized men and artillery battery (the 13th Company). The 3rd Battalion with its Lieutenant Tannia went under the 1st Border Guard Regiment. Since temporarily the headquarters company was away too, at the end of August only the headquarters in Koosa was left of the regiment for a while. August 20 the 3rd Battalion with the 1st Border Guard Regiment was sent to Terike-Pakaste line in Uniküla area. The unit's neighbors were the 1st and 2nd Battalion from the Rebane group.

Hammaste – Uniküla Battle

In the early morning of August 21 the Russians began to attack the 1st Border Guard Regiment's positions, the main target was the 5th Border Guard Regiment's 3rd Battalion's 8th Company area. After some firing, during which the 8th Company leader Lieutenant Johannes Iter was wounded, the Russians managed to make the 8th Company retreat a few meters, thus conquering the important Hammaste-Pakaste-Uniküla crossroad. The crossroad was conquered in daytime during a successful counterattack, which was full of victims. After the Hammaste-Uniküla battle, the 3rd Battalion was also sent to battle group Rebane.

At the beginning of September the 1st and 3rd Battalion returned to the regiment. The 2nd Battalion, led by Captain Jakustand, remained under Lieutenant Colonel Rebane's command until the end. The regiment's artillery battery, led by Lieutenant Kivistik, also didn't return, it remained under the command of the 207th Security Division's leader.

The Last Battle

The 5th Border Guard Regiment's two battalions were sent to Ihaste-Luunja area on Emajõgi front. The regiment's leader Raudmäe's command point was set up in Vanamõisa village. Their right neighbor was the German 94th Security Regiment, on their left was Rebane's battle group, which was against the Russians' Tartu bridgehead.

September 17 at 6 a.m. the Red Army began a destructive fire from hundreds of cannons, which's targets were the 1st Border Guard Regiment's positions. At 6.30 a.m. the fire was directed also to the defence lines of the 5th Border Guard Regiment's two battalions. The one-hour firing was followed by the Russian air force's attack to the Estonian positions. The connection with the division's headquarters was disconnected. Also they didn't have connection with the units near them. Then the Russian air force's attack began. At 6.45 a.m. Lieutenant Colonel Raudmäe received a message that the 94th Security Regiment left its positions on the regiment's right wing and the Russian tanks with infantry were breaking in from Luunja manor's park and west from it. Raudmäe immediately sent the headquarters company from reserve behind the right wing of the 94th Security Regiment, east of Tartu-Räpina highway to cover the regiment's left side. Several attempts to connect with the German neighbors failed.

By 10 a.m. the Russian attack units had passed the 5th Border Guard Regiment's left wing and their followers tried to attack, but met the headquarters company's resistance. Around 11 a.m. they managed to get in contact with Lieutenant Colonel Rebane who announced that direct ways to retreat had been cut off and they were trapped in a pocket. By 12.30 p.m. the 1st and 3rd battalions gathered near the command point and began moving towards north to break out of the pocket. The headquarters company watched the other's back since it already was in battle contact with the Russians. The headquarters company was supposed to follow the main forces after 15 minutes, but they couldn't break away from the enemy and the whole company was destroyed while they tried to protect the comrades' retreat.

The Retreat

Raudmäe's battalions moved behind the attacking Russian units and therefore there weren't any real firings. In the evening they managed to kick one Russian unit away from the road near Vesner settlement. But the men lost their way at night and instead of moving towards Vara they moved towards Koosa. The men began to disperse one by one and by groups. Finally both battalions disappeared into the forest like they had never existed.

The regiment's 2nd Battalion, which belonged under the battle group Rebane, had more luck since they were led by a man who was infamous for his ability to break out of the pocket – Lieutenant Colonel Alfons Rebane. Rebane's groups began the breakout simultaneously with the 5th Border Guard Regiment. Near the Kilgi-Luunja highway, close to Vesner's settlement, the soldiers were crossing a clearing and were right under one Russian battery's fire. They quickly retreated and Lieutenant Colonel Rebane sent one battle group to destroy it. When the men ran out of the forest, the Russians escaped from their cannons. But then the battle group men made a fatal mistake – they turned back to their own unit without making the cannons unusable.

As soon as the battle group returned, the men began to cross the clearing again. But the Russians returned to their cannons the same time and the men crossing the clearing had to face the cannon fire again. Many soldiers were killed and wounded, one of these men was the 2nd Battalion leader, Captain Jakustant. In order to cross the Kilgi-Luunja highway, a Russian equipment colon was crushed and before the Russians managed to recover from it, the men disappeared into the woods. They made a longer break in the woods and waited for darkness in order to move on. When the darkness came Rebane's group managed to unnoticeably pass the Russian unit's positions near Vesner. It was the same unit which later met Raudmäe's 1st and 3rd Battalion.

They kept moving towards Vara. Rebane's group's advantage in front of Raudmäe's group was that it had more local men who knew these woods like the back of their hands. Near Vara village Rebane's group happened to meet the Estonian Shooters' Corps' 354th Regiment's 2nd and 3rd battalions who were staying there for the night. But the meeting between the Estonians was peaceful. Both sides asked the other side to switch and both sides refused the offer. After a short break they said their good-byes and Rebane's group moved towards west. They crossed Amme river by swimming and near Maarja-Magdaleena reached the retreating German units. On the evening of September 18, Rebane's group broke through the Russian forefront without losing a single man and joined the Germans.

Colonel Raudmäe and one of his fellows changed their uniforms with civilian clothes in one farm and moved to north using the pseudonym Jüri Uluots. He passed about 100 kilometers on one Red Army truck. On the northern coast he even managed to get some documents from the police and for some time lived in Tallinn with his friends and sister. On October 25, 1944 he escaped from Estonia to Finland and then to Sweden. Lieutenant Colonel Johannes Raudmäe died in Stockholm on December 29, 1973. In 1996 Raudmäe's urn was brought from Stockholm to Tallinn and was buried on August 12, 1996 in Metsakalmistu cemetery to the burial place of the men who battled in the Estonian freedom wars. Regiment leader's adjutant Ensign Ilmar Ant was arrested in October 1944 in Paide and in the spring of 1945 received 15+5 years punishment. He probably died in prison.

1st Battalion leader Boris Jakob Leeman went to Sweden in 1944, worked in one archive for a while and in 1949 went to Canada. He was a civil servant, participated actively in the work of Toronto Estonian Fighters' Association after it was formed in 1953 and was its chairman. Leeman died on April 9, 1986. 1st Battalion second leader Ferdinand Valner was arrested in 1950 and sentenced to prison camp for 25 years. He was released after Stalin died. Valner died on March 7, 1965 in Nõmme.

2nd Battalion's first leader Captain Julius Made organized the resistance in Western Estonia after the regiment was dismissed and established an operative headquarters in Kullamaa to gather the retreating soldiers. His aim was to win time so that those who wanted to leave the country could get to Virtsu harbor. By the evening of September 23 the unit had about 1,200 men and bigger armed conflicts happened in Märjamaa, Nissi, Keila and Harudevahe village. In the evening of September 24 Made decided to end the resistance operations because of the overweight of the enemy and wanted to take the unit to Saaremaa. Around 400 men got there. In Saaremaa the unit was shaped into the new so-called Made's regiment, which included a few thousand men. From there he finally reached Germany, served in the reserve regiment of the 20th Estonian SS Division in Denmark and was the commandant of the Estonian war prison established on the bank of Lake Uklei, in Schleswig-Holstein, by the British. The later 2nd Battalion leader, Captain Arnold-Albert Jakustant, was killed on September 17, 1944 in Vesner, Tartu County.

The establisher of the 3rd Battalion, Captain Hartvig Reinvalla, went to Germany in 1944, to Augsburg, where he began work in Hochfeldt-Haunstatten district on his own field (he had graduated mathematics-natural sciences in Tartu University and before war was the principal of Põltsamaa Gymnasium). The IRO (International Refugee Organization) appointed him to the head principal's position of the Baltic national schools in the camp. In 1949 Reinvalla went to New York. He retired in 1962 and dedicated a lot of his time on the Pauluse congregation and was the member of its board. Captain Hartvig Reinvalla died on May 27, 1991 in Long Island. The 3rd Battalion's leader after Reinvalla until July 1944 was Captain Arnold Välja who was arrested in November the same year and sent to Karaganda region's special camp no 4, he was released in 1955 but died in 1958 in Russia. The 3rd Battalion's last leader from the end of August until the regiment's dismissal was Lieutenant Aleksander Tannia, the former Estonian Military School lecturer. By the beginning of October he reached his home in Kahala village, Kolga district in Harju County and spent two weeks there. When the registration of inhabitants began, he had to leave home, worked in Aegviidu farms for a week and then tried to escape to Finland. He went to the secret passing place in Juminda peninsula where several of his acquaintances were waiting to be transported (Captain Rudolf Piibe, Lieutenant Edgar Niider from the 4th Border Guard Regiment). October 31 the men were caught in the Gulf of Finland on a motorboat and were arrested. Aleksander Tannia was sentencedto death, which was later replaced with imprisonment. He died in prison in 1947.

Regiment Leader
Lieutenant Colonel Johannes Raudmäe April 22, 1891 until December 29, 1973, Sweden

Adjutant
Captain Rudolf Mägi July 24, 1905 until October 13, 1972, Sweden
Ensign Ilmar Ant December 10, 1901 until …

Aide-de-camp
Lieutenant Raimond Kikkerpuu February 25, 1915 until February 11, 1996, Tallinn

Economy Leader
Ensign Karl Freimuth November 28, 1905 until …

Court Officer
Lieutenant Endel Kaskema September 19, 1913 until September 5, 1946, Võru County (while being a forest brother)

Veterinarian
Major Arnold Rünk January 21, 1909, buried in July 19, 1980 in Tallinn

Headquarters Company Leader
Lieutenant Elmar-Johannes Sillaots June 2, 1907 until December 25, 1977, Ilmjärve

1st Battalion Leader
Major Boris Jakob Leeman April 3, 1893 until April 9, 1986, Canada
Lieutenant Ferdinand Valner June 17, 1905 until March 7, 1965, Nõmme

Adjutant
Lieutenant Ottomar Nõgu October 14, 1909 until September 17, 1944, near Tartu

1st Company Leader
Lieutenant Jakob Mardus May 19, 1899 until …

2nd Company Leader
Lieutenant Henn Ründva August 9, 1912 until April 25, 1991

3rd Company Leader
Lieutenant Albert Jõgis 1914 until August 16, 1944, near Emajõgi river

4th Company Leader
Lieutenant Ferdinand Valner (check the Battalion Leader)
Captain Rudolf Mägi (check the regiment's adjutant)
Lieutenant Hugo Kiudosk January 8, 1919 until January 4, 1992, New York

2nd Battalion Leader
Captain Julius Made April 26, 1894 until …
Captain Arnold-Albert Jakustant November 8, 1905 until September 17, 1944, Vesneri

5th Company Leader
Lieutenant Rätsep

6th Company Leader
?

7th Company Leader
?

8th Company Leader
Lieutenant Johannes Iter October 5, 1910 until …

3rd Battalion Leader
Captain Arnold Välja April 24, 1900 until February 13, 1958, Karaganda region
Lieutenant Aleksander Tannia February 6, 1908 until February 24, 1947, prison camp in Russia

Adjutant
Lieutenant Karl Kogerma 1920 until …

Economy Leader
Lieutenant Aleksander Klaar August 3, 1906 until 1978, Stockholm

9th Company Leader
Lieutenant Aleksander Vaher November 17, 1898 until February 21, 1944, Palupõhja

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

11th Company Leader
?

12th Company Leader
Lieutenant Aleksander Perri August 1, 1907 until June 1944, the mouth of Emajõgi river
Lieutenant Endel-Lembit Vahesalu

13th Company (Battery) Leader
Captain Juhan Määr January 20, 1903 until July 27, 1969, England
Lieutenant Kivistik

Works Cited

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  • The yearbook of Estonian War Museum and General Laidoner Museum of 2006
  • Laar, M. Emajõgi 1944. Tallinn, 2005
  • Laar, M. Isamaa ilu hoieldes. Stockholm, 1997
  • Laar, M. September 1944. Tallinn, 2007
  • Laar, M. Sinimäed 1944. 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. Taru, 2001
  • Eesti riik ja rahvas II maailmasõjas. Volume IX. Stockholm, 1960