Erna group and Erna battalions

​In spring-summer 1941, Finnish and German military intelligence organised the voluntary reconnaissance group Erna, which consisted of Estonians who had escaped to Finland and of volunteers in the Winter War against Russia. The group was responsible for monitoring the movement of troops in the Red Army rear in Estonia. The Commander was the German Lieutenant Kurt Reinhardt. The group included over 60 men, who all wore Finnish uniforms and had Finnish weapons.

After the onset of the German-Soviet war, the group was despatched, beginning on 10 July 1941, to Estonia by seaborne landing and parachuting. Their base camp was set up on the Kautla bog island, about 60 km southwest of Tallinn. Several hundred Forest Brothers joined the group. The KGB, which was responsible for Red Army security in the rear, sent five destruction battalions to fight them. The battalions surrounded the Erna group and the Forest Brothers. A major battle took place on 31 July. During the operation the destruction battalions burnt down a dozen farms. The Erna group broke through the siege and crossed the frontline.

Later, the group was turned into Battalion Erna I, which together with the German troops took part in the invasion of Tallinn in late August, eliminating the remaining Red Army troops in the forests of Juminda and on the Pärispea peninsula. The battalion was then reorganised into Battalion Erna II; the new commander was the Estonian Major Raimund Hindpere. The battalion fought on the islands of Muhu and Saaremaa and was disbanded in late September.

The losses of the Erna battalion were 10 men who had come from Finland and 17 who joined in Estonia.

The Estonians regarded joining Erna as repaying their debt of honour, after the Finns had helped them in the War of Independence. For the Finns, and especially for the Germans, Erna was one of the many reconnaissance and diversion units familiar with the local circumstances on the eastern front. Since 1994, the Erna Raid has been organised annually, based on the battles of the Erna group. The raid is one of the longest continuous international military-sporting competitions in the world.

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