Night Battle of Tehumardi

8. oktoobri õhtul pimedas kohtusid Tehumardi küla juures edasiliikunud Nõukogude ja taganevad Saksa väeosad.

After nightfall on 8 October 1944, retreating German units encountered advancing Red Army troops.

The advance party, led by Major Vladimir Miller, had set up camp on both sides of the road shortly before the arrival of the grenadier battalion from Kuressaare, led by Captain Klaus Ritter, accompanied by antitank units, moving towards Salme.

Captain Ritter recalls:

 "I had a hunch that the enemy were ensconced in the section of road up ahead. Taking this into account, I gave the column specific orders and guidance. The goal was to get past them as quietly and invisibly as possible so as to get to the other side of the Salme River. Our own troops were already in defensive positions there. I specified that they were only to open fire if I did so first. So we moved on until, just before reaching the river, we found ourselves right in the middle of an enemy encampment."

Local resident Hermiine Saar recalls:

"At 8 o’clock that night, everyone here in Tehumardi was suddenly deafened by the ringing of gunfire, which was accompanied by loud cries and yelling. White and green flares were being shot up into the air."

Captain Klaus Ritter continues: “Moving through the centre of the encampment, we noticed four enemy T-34 tanks rumbling along on the left-hand side of the road. The tank engineers, having spotted the little American trophy tank in front of our column with the crosses painted on it, began ramming it. The driver immediately put the tank in reverse gear. It drove over and crushed the unit behind it, to terrible cries and shrieks. I opened fire. Then the whole column started shooting at the enemy, left and right. We started running. We just tried to get through the camp as quickly as possible."

Fjodor Paulmann recalls in his memoirs Fire and Manoeuvre that: "Our men rammed the tank at the front of the column. It turned sideways, stalled and then ignited. Military trucks drove straight into the flaming tank. Complete chaos ensued. The road was blocked. Our light tanks and self-propelled artillery fired at the column, their projectiles detonating throughout their formation. A lot of the machinery went up in flames… The battlefield in Tehumardi quaked under the chaotic echoes of inhumane sounds."

Captain Hermann Ulrichs recalls: "Horses were galloping, men were running... Everyone wanted to get out of there and cross the bridge over the channel from Saaremaa to Sõrve Peninsula."

By morning, Tehumardi presented a gruesome sight. Hundreds of dead Soviet and German soldiers were scattered all around. The exact chain of events and the number of casualties are unknown to this day.

It is estimated that the enemy lost up to 500 men.

Storyteller: Fred Vendel
Used sources and references:

1. Muinsuskaitseameti kultuurimälestiste register. Militaarpärand. https://www.register.muinas.ee

2. Vendel, Fred. Sügis 1944. Lahingud Lääne-Eesti saartel ja Sõrves. Tallinn, 2020.

 

Related objects

Monument to the Night Battle of Tehumardi

At 8 o'clock on the evening of 8 October 1944 during WWII, the Red Army clashed with retreating German troops in the village of Tehumardi in Sõrve. The battle took place at the 18 km mark on the Kuressaare-Sääre road.

A monument was unveiled nearby in 1966, when a Red Army cemetery was also opened in memory of the confrontation. The 21-metre monument depicts a concrete sword, its cross-guard adorned with the faces of soldiers. The cross-guard bears an inscription reading: „1941-1945. To the Soviet soldiers and defenders and liberators of Saaremaa" in Estonian and Russian. The cemetery in Tehumardi features 90 dolomite tablets engraved with the names of the Red Army soldiers who fell.

A couple of hundred metres from the cemetery along the road towards Sõrve, a large granite monument appears on the right-hand side of the road. It was unveiled on 15 July 2012 and placed at the approximate site of the battle. The monument bears a tablet reading: "Here, on 8 October 1944, the Night Battle of Tehumardi broke out."