Battles in Kübassaare

1941. aastal toimunud ulatusliku meredessandiga mandrilt Muhu rannikule maabusid sakslased ka Saaremaa kaguosas.

In 1941, as part of the extensive German naval landing in Muhu, German troops also landed in south-eastern Saaremaa.

This plan was effective: the smaller special forces unit, Benesch, comprised of Brandenburgers from the military intelligence service Abwehr, was to capture the Soviet 43rd Coastal Battery in Kübassaare at the southern end of the Väike Strait in a surprise attack on 14 September and to sabotage the naval guns.

The four 130-mm gun battery was overseen by Senior Lieutenant V. Bukotkin, its firing range covering the whole of the Virtsu-Kuivastu sea route from the mainland to the islands, all the way to the islet of Kessulaid. It was clear that the battery in Kübassaare could thwart the Germans from landing in Muhu and crossing the strait to reach Saaremaa. Therefore the battery had to be captured or destroyed as soon as possible.

The Benesch unit attempted to capture the battery in one blow by concentrating its forces, but the operation, intended as a snap attack, ended in complete failure. Two-thirds of the company-sized unit (116 men) attacked the battery from fishing boats and attack craft at sea.

The boats helmed by Estonian boatmen (among them local Vassili Vikat) which set sail from Vaiste Bay drifted away from the target for a number of reasons. The handful of Germans on the boats were ambushed by the large protection team of the battery along with a rifle company of the 1st Battalion of the 46th Rifle Regiment. The German troops, forced ashore, managed to survive until the next day thanks to the support of their air force. They then fled on inflatable boats dropped from aeroplanes they had called up in distress. They drifted aimlessly for a couple of days on these boats until they were finally rescued.

It has been said that some of the soldiers were captured by the Russians and executed after being tortured. When the German 162nd Infantry Regiment arrived in Kübassaare, they are said to have found bodies of Benesch troops, their arms bound with barbed wire and their eyes gouged out with bayonets. It is known that the Russians killed one of the prisoners, who was a transport glider pilot.

Some of them simply got lost and some were driven off with cannon fire. One-third of the Benesch men (44 men) were to land directly on battery territory at dawn with five DFS 230 transport gliders towed by a Ju 52, but ultimately landed north of the battery, probably due to a navigational error made by the pilots. Most of the well-trained and valuable special troops were rescued, with only 22 lost (12 of them killed, six wounded and four missing in action). Nevertheless, what was likely the only airborne landing operation in Estonia was a complete disaster.

The Germans did not succeed in destroying the battery as part of the landing, with the air force later destroying three of the four guns.

 

Storyteller: Margus Sinimets

Related objects

Kübassaare 130-mm Coastal Defence Battery

This 130-mm battery is situated at the tip of Kübassaare Peninsula.

Unfinished, it comprised four 130-mm 50-calibre B13 Pattern guns with a range of 24 km and a sector of fire of 166°. The crew was meant to consist of 160 men (nine Soviet officers, 39 non-commissioned officers and 112 Red Fleet marines), but historical records state that as at 1 February 1941 there were five officers, 23 non-commissioned officers and 135 Red Fleet marines here.

As the complex was not finished on time, only the concrete emplacements of the naval guns and the incomplete bunkers remain today.