Thursday 7 May 2009

The Narva Bridgehead (1944)

I have just returned from a few days of field walking on the Estonian: Russian border. The town of Narva is the gateway from Russia into the Baltic States. In the Spring of 1944 Army Group North was forced back from forward positions around Leningrad and, in Estonia, a new defence line was established along the banks of the River Narva. Despite Russian incursions, 18th Army including Steiner's 111 Panzer Corps held the line (including a bridgehead encompassing Invorogod on the East bank) for six months. Following an orderly withdrawal in July, a second defence line called 'Tannenburg' was set up with the Blue Mountains of Eastern Estonia forming the primary strongpoint. Nobody knows more about this battle than an old friend of mine, Paul Errington. Armed with Paul's local contacts and his extensive knowledge of the battle a group of us explored the Narva Defence Line and the killing ground of Sinimaed (Grenadier Hill, Kinderheim and Hill 69.9). The pictures show a T34 at Silvertsi (Top), the German Cemetery at Narva (Middle) and the memorials on Grenadier Hill (Bottom). The battle is primarily remembered for the Dutch, Norwegian, Belgian and Estonian volunteers serving with the Axis forces.