The evacuation of Tallinn

Helsingin Sanomat has a really great article about the Soviet evacuation of Tallinn and the resulting 64 or so ships that sunk as they hazarded the airstrikes, minefields, torpedo boats, and coastal artillery.  It interviews one of the last survivors of the incident a then cadet in the Soviet navy.

The first explosion was heard at 17:08, when the 1,500-tonne Estonian freighter Ella struck a mine and sank.  The Luftwaffe, based in airfields in Estonia, harried the ships from the air, with Stuka dive-bombers and Junkers Ju-88s sent into action.
…The greatest losses came from the meticulously-placed mines.  After the sinking of the merchantman Ella, the blasts followed with sickening regularity until late into the night.

The flotilla got jammed up in the darkness in two groups in the midst of the minefield.  Ships collided with one another and exploded in flames. Floating mines kicked up by the efforts of the minesweepers were frantically pushed aside with oars and poles.
The captain of the destroyer Skoryi shot himself on the bridge of his ship as the vessel was going down after hitting a mine, following an incorrect order to the helmsman.

The total death toll of this three day ordeal was more than 12,000 dead.  It’s hard imagine those numbers when, after all, we’re talking about an evacuation, not a battle.

Check out the times that ships were sunk (at the bottom of the page).  At points during the night of the 28th, ships were being hit every 10 minutes or so.  The panic and dread amongst the passengers must have been staggering.

Here’s a German map of the area…

As I understand it, those boxes are minefields…and the fleet sailed right through them.

Here’s a link to the Daily Telegraph’s reporting of the East Front’s war news of that day.

Now I find all this very interesting because my mother-in-law is sending me copies of letters her father wrote her mother while he was a soldier in the Finnish army from 1939-1942.  Translation is difficult since she’s writing in Finnish and I’ve been relying on Google Translate to put it into English but once I can make piece a bit of a narrative together I might post it here.


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