Battle of Tornio


Battle of Tornio

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict = Battle of Tornio


caption = Finnish Panzerschreck group near Tornio
partof = Lapland War (World War II)
place = Kemi-Tornio area, Finnish Lapland
date = October 1October 8, 1944
result = Finnish victory
combatant1 = flag|Germany|Nazi
combatant2 = flag|Finland
commander1 = flagicon|Germany|Nazi Generalmajor Matthias Crautler
commander2 = flagicon|Finland General Siilasvuo
strength1 = 7,000
11 tank, artillery
strength2 = 12,500
casualties1 = 700-900 killed, 1600 wounded and 400 prisoners/lost and 4 tank
casualties2 = 375 killed, 1400 wounded and 23 lost|

The Battle of Tornio October 1October 8 1944 was the first major engagement between Nazi Germany and Finland in the Lapland War; although hostilities had already begun elsewhere (see Tanne Ost).

The Germans had until then been withdrawing steadily towards Norway, ceding their positions to Finnish troops. The German interest was in keeping hold of the Petsamo area and its nickel mines. On the other hand, the German and Finnish troops had been fighting together for three years, and many personal friendships had been forged between the two armies. Thus, until now, there had been very few actual hostilities between the German and Finnish troops.

The Finns, however, were forced by their peace agreement with the USSR to forcibly remove German troops from their territory. Thus the invasion of Tornio was planned and executed to surprise the Germans and open a front behind their backs along the Swedish border. Lieutenant-General Siilasvuo was the officer in charge of the operations in Lapland and planned an amphibious assault near Tornio in time with an overland attack towards Kemi; both operations had Oulu as their base. The Finns used three cargo vessels with an armament of single anti-aircraft machine gun in each ship. There had no air or naval support during the 80 mile sail from Oulu to Tornio. Fortunately for the Finns, because of the stormy weather the German Stukas stayed on ground.

The capture of Tornio took the Germans by surprise. The Finnish 11th infantry division landed unopposed at Röyttä harbour and took the town of Tornio the same day. The German troops in town were surrounded in a few pockets, so-called "motti", until they surrendered. The 15th Jäger brigade advanced to Kemi via Simo, but their progress was slow, because the Germans had laid copious amounts of mines and blown all bridges, with the exception of the Tornio railway bridge that was saved after intervention by the Swedes. Further landings in Tornio the next day came under attack of Stuka bombers of Luftwaffe, but were completed successfully despite of casualties of 60 men. German counter attacks were repulsed with the aid of a battery of field artillery that was part of the second landing and fire support from Finnish gunboats which had arrived to the port. Some of these guns now adorn war memorials all over the Tornio river valley.

The original Finnish plan had been to cut off the German troops around Kemi from all ways of retreat. However, the German troops were able to secure the road to Rovaniemi and retreat in an orderly fashion. On the other hand, the capture of Tornio effectively cut the German troops in Finland into two parts: one fighting in Tornio river valley, the other in Kemijoki river valley. Due to lack of roads, the supplies to the troops around Kemi would have to be routed through Rovaniemi. This forced the Germans withdraw their units from Kemi. By October 8 the whole Kemi-Tornio area had been cleared.

The German commander in the North, General Lothar Rendulic considered the capture of Tornio a betrayal by the Finns. It is said that this was the reason for him to order the scorched earth destruction of Lapland in retaliation. In fact, the plan for using scorched earth tactics in case the German Army had to withdraw from Lapland in hostile situation, was made as early as year 1942 by General Eduard Dietl.

By attacking Tornio the Finnish government had proven to Soviet Union that it was working actively to remove the German troops. In addition, the Finnish army had shown that it was capable and willing to turn its arms against the former cobelligrents.

Trivia

* During the attack on Tornio, Finnish troops liberated a German supply depot containing a large quantity of brandy... as a result the advance was halted for day until the soldiers had sobered up.
* Some Finnish women had left their homes to follow their German boyfriends.

References

*Kaila, T. (1950) "Lapin sota". WSOY


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