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MORIR EN RUSIA.

LA DIVISIÓN AZUL EN KRASNY BOR

Back ground – To the East Front


When the World War II began, Spain had been proclaimed neutral, and later it was changed to the situation
of "not belligerent". The affections of the Regime of Franco were clearly on the side of the Axis then, not in
vain, the aid of the Italy of Mussolini and the Germany of Hitler had been of great importance to gain the
victory in the Civil War.
When the Operation " Barbarroja" took place (Unternehmen Barbarossa in German, was the code name
given by Hitler for the plan of invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II) the situation gave a radical
turn.
The Phalange received the news with enthusiasm; their leaders launched the idea to send a Spanish
contingent of volunteers to the recently open front, to take part in which was baptized as the “European fight
against the Comunismo". Being this origin of the idea, almost spontaneous the new formation was assigned
the name of “División Azul". The Army did not wish, nevertheless, that the volunteers were recruited only
through the Phalange, its Militias and its youthful organizations for themselves. The solution consisted in
recruiting a unit where the command would come mostly from the Army and the troops would come, to a
large extent, from the Phalange Militias.
The contingents of volunteers were organized very quickly and sent in brief term to Germany. The fear
existed of which the campaign went to finish before they had reached the front. In the case of the Blue
Division, it received a period of instruction and quite brief equipment, in the Training Ground of
Grafenwöhr.
The unit of volunteers was equipped like a horse-drawn Division, as it were mostly of the German
Infantry divisions. The Division started off for Poland in train, but it was disembarked there and it had to
initiate one long walk, of about 1,000 km., towards the central sector of the East Front, to which it was
assigned. Strategic needs advised to direct it, nevertheless, towards the North sector and, on October of 1941,
it entered in line in the sector of Novgorod and the Voljov River, integrated in the German 16 AOK.
On Aug 11 of 1942 the 250 ID (Blue Division) was shifted towards the Leningrad Front (and 18 AOK)
taken there the sector assigned before to the German 121 ID.
On Dec 1942, General Agustín Muñoz Grandes, was decorated with the Knight's Cross and handed over
the Division to a new Commanding Officer, General Emilio Esteban-Infantes.

Deployment
Originally, the Spaniards had deployed from Alexandrowka, to the W, up to the shore of the Ishora, to the E.
But in January, when the 4ª Division SS - Polizei left its lines, the Spanish sector extended up to the
Leningrad-Moscow railroad. The front, of more than 30 kilometers, demanded that the three Regiments, plus
the Reserve battalion 250º would deploy in forward edge, without practically leaving no Battalion acting as
reserve.
The 263º Regiment (Lieutenant Colonel Crescencio Perez de Bolumburu) occupied the western end of
the Spanish front, due north of the city of Pushkin; with some companies of its I. /263 as reserve. To its
right, the 269º Regiment (Colonel Carlos Rubio Lopez-Guijarro), occupied the center of the sector, due north
of the city of Sluzk. The most Eastern segment of the front of the Blue Division was occupied by the 262º
Regiment (Colonel Manuel Sagrado Marchena), with its three Battalions in the trenches and, as it had
extended its sector, it had received as reinforcement the Reserve battalion 250º and the Company of Skiers
250ª.

 
The Spanish artillery had deployed its IIº Group astride the positions of the Regiments 263º and 269º, the
IIIº Group in the line of contact between the 269º and the 262º and the Iº Group directly behind the
positions of this last Regiment. The IVº Group, the heavy one, was located more to rear, having deployed all
its batteries covering with their fires the whole sector of the division. The Artillery regiment 250º,
commanded by Colonel (Oberst) Francisco Bandín Delgado, had its CP in Sluzk. Something more to the
south, in the small population of Pokrovskaia, was the Headquarters of the Division. The bulk of the train
units had settled down in Mestelevo.

Neighboring Units
To the High Command of the German Army Group " North" did not escape the new danger that loomed
over his 18 AOK so several measures it had been taken, among them, it was ordered to return to its primitive
sector in the zone of the Tosna to the 4. SS Division. Exactly on February 08, the first echelons of that
division began to arrive to its previous lines although, significantly, not to the lines that had given to the Blue
Division, but only to that given to the 5 GD. On February 10, when triggering the Soviet attack the Division
SS was in the middle of a delicate situation while taking its new deployment’s line.
The sector of 4 SS - Division was split in three subsectors. The Eastern one, next to ending of the Tosna
River, under Major Dórner, fitted the few men ready for duty of the 2 SS-Police Regiment, reinforced by two
weak Companies added to it (one of the100º Mountain infantry regiment and another one of the 374º
Regiment of Grenadiers). The total strength for duty in forward edge was of around 500 men. In the center,
Major Schümers had in line which was left of the 1º SS-Police Regiment and the division Reconnaissance
group, with other 500 men. The Western sector, which was adjacent to the Spaniards, was under the
command of the Lieutenant Colonel Reifflin, with the remnants of the 3º SS-Police Regiment, which totalized
335 men exactly.
The other neighbor of the Blue Division, on its left flank, was another unit of the Waffen SS, specifically
the 2 SS - Brigade of Infantry. When it had been created, in 1941, did not think about using it as a combat
force, but for antipartisans tasks in the occupied USSR. The Soviet counter-offensive in the winter of 1941-42
had catapulted it to the front, losing one of its two Regiments, shifted to a more threatened sector. In order
to complete it, the Germans subordinated to this brigade several of the Legions of Volunteers who had been
recruited in Europe: the SS - Dutch Legion (equivalent to a Regiment) and the SS - Flemish Legion
(equivalent to a Battalion).

Reinforcing the Defenses


From January 25 of 1943 onwards, the Commanding Officer of the L Army Corps, General Philip Kleffel, as
well the Commander of the Blue Division, General Emilio Esteban-Infantes, began to take certain measures
in order to reinforce the sector of Krasny Bor, because nobody doubted that the enemy would launch an
offensive there. General Lindemann, Commander of the German 18º Army together with Marshal v.
Küchler, Commanding Officer of the Army Group "North" , visited the zone.
After the visits of inspection of all these generals, it was ordered to improve the defenses, to increase the
ammunition stocks (the batteries deployed in the sector of Krasny Bor accumulated up to 1,500 shells) and to
prepare to send to the sector all the available reinforcements. It were taken away from the MLR two units, the
Reconnaissance Group 250º (Captain García-Ciudad), and the Company of Skiers 250ª (Captain Gómez de
Salazar) to use them like a maneuvering force in the sector of the IR 262º. Also it was sent towards there the
entire Combat Engineer Battalion 250 º (Major Bellod) and the Antitank Group 250º (Major La Cruz) whose
manpower had been until then dispersed all along the divisional front.

 
An incorporation, that took place very shortly before the beginning of the battle, was one antitank
Battery (three pieces of 75 mm) which belonged to the Legion SS Norway, integrated within the 2º SS
Brigade as was told before, that marched in the direction of the Spanish sector on February 04. On the other
hand, a Battery of 155 mm of French origin which was located in the southern edge of Krasny Bor. It was
indeed the “2. Battery of Heeres Küstenartillerie Abteilung 289". Although deployed next to the Spaniards,
this unit depended on the Artillery headquarters of the L Army Corps, "Arko 138". Also under orders of this
Artillery headquarters a German Infantry company was located in the population of Krasny Bor, under orders
of Leutnant Loppel, in charge of the tactical defense of the German batteries deployed nearby.
The total front occupied by the 262º Regiment was of around 17 kilometers and its four battalions
covered sectors that stretched from 3 kilometers in the case of Reserve battalion 250º up to 6 kilometers held
by the Iº/262. In any case, as we saw, the front of the 262º IR had been divided in two subsectors. The
subsector of the Ishora under the Lieutenant Colonel Araujo, had two Battalions, the IIIº/262 (Captain
García Calvo) and the Reserve Battalion 250 (Captain Miranda). The former was the one which linked with
the neighbor 269º Regiment. The Eastern subsector, the one of Krasny Bor proper, started from a deep anti-
tank ditch that in North-South direction cut the Spanish lines and ran something to the east of the Leningrad-
Moscow highway.

The Soviets
By 1943 the Red Army was already a formidable war machine. Before Moscow, in 1941, and the Volga River
banks, in 1942, had known to stop and to humiliate to a Wehrmacht that until then did not know the
meaning of the word defeats. By the dates of the battle of Krasny Bor its moral was as high as the clouds: the
victory in Stalingrado had been completed and their troops advanced by very many sectors. Luckyly, neither
Govorov (Commander of the Front) nor Sviridov (Commander of 55º Army), appear between the great
Soviet generals. Straits of minds, Govorov (of whom their staff officers said that he had shopkeeper
mentality) as much as Sviridov, were incapable to assimilate the instructions sent by the Stavka and therefore
in the end they managed to launch something like a powerful local offensive, in spite of the amplitude of
assets given to them.
From September of 1941 to February of 1943, many of the men who would go to attack the Spaniards
had been 16 months in a fixed front, without taking part in nothing of more importance than a nigh raid. It
was the case of the 72ª Rifle Division, under Colonel Iastrebov, which was sent against the Reserve Battalion
250º - to breach its front and, to a lesser extent, against the III./ IR 262 - to fix it in its positions. Composed
by the Rifle Regiments 14º, 133º and 187º, along with the 9º of Artillery, the unit had been recruited originally
in Leningrad.
The Eastern end was for another quite anodyne unit, the 43ª Rifle Division under Colonel Sinkevich,
composed by the Rifle Regiments 65º, 147º and 708º, along with the 162º of Artillery. It had to beat the I./
IR 262, although also it would operate against the Germans. The Rifle Regiments 147º and 65º would take the
task of fixing the 4 SS Division Polizei in their positions, whereas the 708º (reinforced by a Battalion of the
65º) would be the one which mounted the assault against the Spaniards.
Between both Infantry Divisions was deployed the unit which had to assume the weight of the main
strike, the 63ª Guards Division. But in the sake of the truth we must say that it had reached such status
exactly the previous month. Until that date it had been simply 136ª Rifle Division, but since it did an
outstanding work in the operations due south of the Ladoga Lake it was given that prize, that also implied
changes in the number of its subordinate units. The Division originally did not belong to the 55º Army, but it
was one of the shock units maintained as reserve by the Front of Leningrad. Its three Guards Regiments

 
(269º, 270º and 342º), along with the armored force which would stand by its side, had to erase the Spanish
IIº/262 of the Earth’s face.
The other Guards unit which was going to operate, the 45º Division, under General Krasnov, had
reached such status something before, in September of 1942. Even then it had been the 70ª Rifle Division.
The Division did not belong either originally to the 55º Army, but was transferred to it shortly before the
offensive by the 67º Army. In theory, this Division, which counted with the Guards Regiments 129º, 131º
and 134º, plus the 96º of the Guards Artillery, would not take place in the rupture, but to exploit it.
Also would be part of the operation, the Skiers Brigades 34º and 35º, whereas the armored component
would be represented by elements of the 31º Armored Regiment, for the breakthrough and the 222ª Armored
Brigade for the exploitation phase.
The maneuver designed by Sviridov was clear. The famous General Simoniak, supported by heavy tanks,
would attack frontally to make the breach in Krasny Bor. Their flanks would be covered by the Rifle
Divisions 72ª and 43ª. Hardly consolidated that rupture, Krasnov would conduct the battle with his forces to
advance towards the Tosna, while Simoniak continued quickly towards Sablino-Ulianovka and the Divisions
72ª and 43ª extended their attack in flanks.

Black Wednesday: The Attack


On February 10 of 1943 at 06: 45 hours, the feared artillery attack had begun, one " storm of steel", was
unleashed on the three Spanish Battalions through which it was wanted to breach the front (Iº/262, IIº/262
and Reserve 250º), perfectly comparable to the densities reached in some mythical battles like the one of
Verdún. In some of the Spanish Companies the artillery fire caused until an 80 percent of losses and the
average rate was of the 50 percent.
At 07:15 hours the Soviet aviation made its appearance: 30 bombers and 20 fighters (of a little more than
100 airplanes which the 13º Soviet Aerial Army of General Rybalichenko had sent against the L German
Army Corps that day) attacked the objectives that the artillery had not managed to destroy in the sector of the
Spaniards.
For the breakthrough operations, the Soviets had used throughout 1941 and first half of 1942 a gun each
14 meters. In second half of 1942 increased to a gun each 8 meters. In 1944 it had been reached the number
of a piece each 4 meters. And in the battle of Berlin, in 1945, they had a piece every 2,6 meters.
Therefore around 08:00 hours, General Esteban-Infantes issued the order to the first reserve, which had
been constituted with elements of 263º Regiment (two Companies of its I. Battalion, quartered already in
Federovskoye since Feb 08 of 1943), to move towards the threatened sector, whereas he himself, with the
Ops Officer of his General Staff, Comandante (Major) Manuel Andean García, and the Intelligence Officer,
Comandante (Major) Jose Alemany Vich, started off for the advanced CP which had settled down in
Raikolovo.

Infantry’s Assault
At 08: 40 hours, after two hours of hammering, the Soviet artillery ceased to crush the defense's forward edge
and it lengthened his fire: the assault began. The unit which was going to take the weight of the assault, the
63ª Guards Division, was harangued by its Commander, General Simoniak. From the departure point to
Krasny Bor, the men of Simoniak had to advance 3 km. The day was going to be a long one, since it would be
necessary to advance up to Sablino-Ulianovka and that supposed almost 15 kilometers, but the Russian
soldiers trusted that it would begin of the best way.

 
At 07: 45 hours, the first echelon of assault of General Simoniak’s Division, left its positions in the
second line, in order to occupy its assault positions. With surprise, the Soviet soldiers accused an intense fire
of the Spanish machine guns on their flank, coming from locations on the foot of the slope of the railroad,
which caused an unexpected number of losses to them. But their moral was not altered and they charged with
confidence. The assault of the tanks and the infantry were simultaneous on all the Companies of the
Battalions Iº/262, IIº/262 and Reserve 250º (called Aunt Bernarda).

Annihilating the MLR


For the Soviet, the elimination the I./262 was vital for two reasons: in order to leave open the flank of 4ª SS
Division and to reject it of the positions throughout the embankment of the railroad (here attacked the 708
Rifle Regiment reinforced with one battalion of the 65 Rifle Regiment of the 43º Rifle Division and 25 tanks).
The 2ª/262 of Captain Muñoz was almost immediately split of the rest of the Battalion. The Company of
Skiers 250ª was sent to close the breach and to restore the liaison with Muñoz, but in its movement this unit
was attacked by the enemy aviation, which inflicted serious casualties to them. Its captain, Gómez de Salazar,
was severely wounded (one of his leg had to be amputated) and his soldiers had to fall back in the direction of
the neighbor 4ª SS Division.
The 1ª/262 (Captain Losada) and the 3ª/262 (Captain Huidobro), both deployed on the embankment of
the railroad, suffered still more. Captain Losada, with a really exceptional value and a skill controlled the
battle until he fell dead. The enemy pressure was so strong that its front yielded: it was the first breach
opened in the lines of 1ª/262.
The history of the 3ª/262 was something different; the compact enemy masses which attacked its
position knocked against the disciplined fire of the arms of Huidobro. In the second enemy assault, the
Soviets entered into its lines, and a ferocious hand-to-hand combat ensued. When the captain fell, around
10:00 hours in the morning, the lieutenant Altura, took over the command and still maintained the resistance
sometime more. At this moment, the 3ª/262 had received a new “barrage" of artillery and was attacked from
the E. (rear) by the 43ª Rifle Division, which already had broken the neighboring lines, and from the W. by
the 63ª Guards Division; most of them (the Spaniards) were taken prisoners.
The crew members of the pieces of 75 mm belonging to the 13ª/262 attached to this Battalion destroyed
their pieces when the company ran out of ammunition. The tank destroyer under Captain Diaz Cuñado, of
the 2ª/Antitank 250, little could do with their little guns of 37 mm against the Soviet steel colossuses which
had broken the lines. After fighting hard to avoid that the cannons fell into the hands of the enemy (Diaz
Cuñado himself was seriously wounded) it was decided to destroy them and some survivors fell back towards
the PC of the Iº/262.
As far as the CP of the Battalion hardly it could make another thing that to regroup the men of its
Companies who had arrived there and to withdraw with them while fighting towards the south, following the
railway line, towards the station of Popovka.
The same happened to 1./Pi. 250 of Captain Nadal. Also it was surprised by the Soviet avalanche and the
attempt to restrain it, organizing two pockets of resistance, was very expensive in blood and in the end it was
impossible to hold.
Colonel Sagrado ordered to the 3./AA.250 of Captain Domínguez Manjón that advanced towards the
north along the route to reinforce the I. Battalion. He was useless. The whirlwind of Soviet forces that had
entered through the positions of 1./262 of Losada overwhelmed it. To all the effects, the Iº/262 had ceased
to exist.

 
The IIº/262
Against the men of Comandante Payeras' battalion, went to the attack the 63ª Guards Division of general
Simoniak, with a very clear mission: to seize Krasny Bor itself quickly since the effective control of this
locality would allow the Russians to advance towards the south, to Ulianovka, and the East, towards
Nikolskoye.
All the attempts of the Iº/AR 250 to restrain the Soviet infantry before the lines of the IIº/262 were
useless, wave after wave, the three Rifle Regiments of the 63ª Guards Division, continued their assault. The
6ª/262, in center of the deployment of Payeras, underwent serious losses in the artillery attack and its captain,
Iglesia, died soon after beginning the enemy assault. This was the point by where the Soviets secured his first
rupture in the sector of the IIº/262. The very little survivors ended up going towards the positions of the
neighboring unit by the W., the 7ª/262 of Captain Campos.
This Company had had the fortune of not suffering so serious losses in the artillery barrage and was
carrying out an energetic defense. Nevertheless, the breach open in its flank by the destruction of the 6ª/262
sealed the luck of the 7ª/262: Campos was attacked from the N., but also from the E. and the S. Finally also
he and his men had to fall back towards the W. where it was the mass of the 8ª/262 of Captain Arozarena. In
the Eastern end of the dispositive of Payeras still remained alive a very energetic resistance, carried out by the
rest of the 5ª/262 of Captain Palacios.
One hour after of launching the assault of its infantry, the 63ª Guards Division informed to the High
Command that already it had reached Krasny Bor and it was heading towards the southern limit of the town,
although it was a too optimistic official notice. One of the victims of the irruption was Lieutenant Colonel
Ascarza, head of the Spanish artillery in the whole sector of Krasny Bor, who was killed together with almost
all the officers of his Staff.
But, even so, Simoniak had been mistaken when announcing so soon his victory; also in this sector
Colonel Sagrado arranged a counterattack. He ordered to 2º/Explo. 250, of Captain Andújar, that advanced
as quickly as possible towards the Payeras’ CP to help him to seal the breach in his rows. Leaving two of his
Platoons with the Commander, Andújar turned westwards with the rest. He could release a group of Spanish
prisoners just caught, but the enemy pressure blocked further advance; when returning towards the CP of
Payeras he found the commander was seriously wounded. The heroic battalion commander was evacuated
immediately and would be sent to the Spanish Military Hospital of Riga, where he would die a month later as
a result of those wounds.
Captain Andújar, mutilated of the Civil War, was wounded by enemy fire and was laying in the ground. In
order to finish him off, the Soviet attackers attacked him with machete blows. But a group of his men
improvised a counterattack, rescued his captain and evacuated him as best as they could. Together with
Captain Andújar, was necessary to register the loss of Lieutenant Marchesi, due serious wounds, whereas
Lieutenant Durán fell killed in action.
Also the IIº/262 seemed to have ceased to exist. But on its Eastern end, Captain Palacios with a handful
of his men stayed alive, being contiguous to other miraculous survivors, the men of Huidobro. The Soviets
attacked that bend of the Spanish lines with all means: artillery, aviation, etc. But Palacios resisted, around
15:30 hours, Captain Palacios, one of his officers, 14 NCOs and soldiers still unharmed and 21 wounded fell
into the the enemy hands.

The Reserve Battalion 250


The luck of the Reserve Battalion 250º was not going to be less terrible. It was deployed cutting the highway
of Leningrad-Moscow and was evident that the Soviets would try to release that route. This one was the

 
unique sector where the Spanish lines were something more than a tenuous line of infantry, since Captain
Miranda, Commanding Officer of the Battalion, had put in forward edge the 2ª/Res. 250 (Ulzurrun) and the
3ª/Res. 250 (Oroquieta), maintaining the 1ª/Res. 250 (Auba) like maneuvering force and the 4ª/Res. 250
(Anda) in positions to the rear to furnish support with its heavy weapons of infantry.
After the demolishing action of its artillery, the 72ª Soviet Rifle Division, whereas one of its Regiments
fixed the IIIº/262 of Captain García Calvo to its positions, went on to the offensive against the Reserve
Battalion 250º with the mass of its force and with tank support. The attack was repulsed with serious own
losses, but successfully, by the 3ª/Res. 250 of Oroquieta.
However, in the neighboring sector, the Russians broke through the line of the 2ª/Res. 250 of Ulzurrun
in spite of its brave defense (Ulzurrun was wounded from the beginning of the combat). This Company fell
back towards the Ishora, but the Commanding Officer of the Battalion, Miranda, led himself a counterattack
carried out by the 1ª/Res. 250 and the rest of the 2ª/Res. 250. The action was settled with a bloody drain for
the Spaniards. Miranda and Ulzurrun fell during its development, while Auba was wounded. Actually, the
front of the Reserve battalion 250º was broken and only the 3ª/Res. 250 (reinforced by one of the Platoons
of the 1ª/Res. 250) remained in its positions.
Like in both previous cases, the reserves located in the rear of the sector tried to seal the breach. The
1º/Expl. 250 of the Lieutenant Rey launched a counterattack with such aim, but suffering to many losses,
among them the lieutenant himself who was seriously wounded (Lieutenant Gavilán took command, until
Captain Ortega, commander of the unit could reincorporate to his command post) and the death in combat
of the lieutenant García Estepa. Finally the Squadron had to fall back towards the great meander of the
Ishora.
The breakthrough in the front of the Reserve Batalion 250º and the failure of the Spanish counterattack,
allowed the enemy to send its vanguards towards the Ishora. The most favorable points to cross it were in the
great meander where the Factory of Paper was placed and in Stararia-Mysa and Sansonovka, two villages
located one against another on either banks of the river.
The enemy attack was not limited to the sector of the Factory of Paper, where it was trying to take the
IIIº/262 by its rear, but also it was intense more to the south, in Sansonovka, where was located the CP of
the Leader of the Subsector, Araujo, who also sent to the battle his last reserve: the Assault Platoon of the
regiment, which was fitted in the 15ª/262, that was sent against the enemy forces which advanced still further
to the south, towards Podolovo. The sacrifice of this unit reflected in the death in combat of its leader,
Lieutenant Rico, could not stop the offensive either . The rest of the 15ª/262 of Captain Ortíz, on the other
hand, had to engage fully to contain the enemy before the village of Sansonovka.
It seemed that in this sector the Spanish front had been crushed. Nevertheless, with incredible obstinacy,
Oroquieta remained in his positions in the forward edge. This epic defense continued until the night fell. His
sacrifice had not been sterile. On one hand they had restrained the enemy advance much more time of the
imaginable; besides, they had blocked the advance of the enemy whom tried to cross the Ishora.
By comparison, the IIIº/262 escaped relatively undamaged.

A Bastion in the Highway


In the zone of contact between the Reserve battalion 250º and the IIº/262 was organized one zone more
fortified than the rest, well-known as " The Bastión", manned by the men of the 8ª/262 of Arozarena and
some antitank elements. On February 08 it had been deployed, connecting with "The Bastión", the 3ª/Zapad.
250 of Captain Aramburu (in fact, two of its Platoons). Surprisingly, during the bombing of day 10, as much
the positions of Arozarena as those of Aramburu received less punishment than those of their neighbors. On

 
the other hand, the heroic sacrifice of the forward edge caused that the Soviets arrived before those Spanish
positions already worn away.
When no longer they waited for more resistance they met head on with the 8ª/262 and the 3ª/Zapad.
250, which disturbed them totally. The first frontal attack against this Spanish group was registered in the
morning around 10:00 hours. This discontinuous attack allowed that Captain Campos, with the rest of his
7ª/262 and some elements of the 6ª/262 and 5ª/262 reached the positions of Arozarena and Aramburu.
Shortly after, the position was also surrounded indeed by the south and all contact with the rest of the Blue
Division was lost. But as the Bastion had resisted, the enemy was forced, actually, to turn aside from one of
his main axes of advance.
When the night fell (that is to say, around 15:30 hours) a handful of soldiers from Oroquieta arrived at
the position; they informed on the extreme situation in which his unit was. As soon as it grew dark it was
tried to connect with the surrounded 3ª/Res. 250, from the positions of Aramburu but without success.
Finally, around 22:00 hours, the three captains present there, Aramburu, Arozarena and Campos, held a
meeting and decided that the assigned mission could be given as fulfilled, so the moment had arrived for
saving the men trying to reach the own lines. At 00:40 hours of the day 11 and the luck accompanied to this
group of almost 200 Spanish soldiers (rest of the Companies 5ª, 7ª and 8ª of the 262, 3ª/Reser. 250 and
3ª/Zapad. 250). The Spaniards had taken advantage of dark and the fact that the Russians had not
consolidated their positions yet, in order to withdraw towards Sablino; after marching aside Krasny Bor, they
could reach their own lines at 06:30 hours of the day 11.

The Soviets Begin to Pay for Their Errors


After beating off the forward edge, the battle of Krasny Bor entered in its second phase, with two “fronts”,
so to speak. One front was to be established along the Ishora. Another was, the new line which the Spaniards
tried to establish in the town of Krasny Bor and the nearby villages due southeast.
The Soviet attack already was lost its tempo. The bloody assault carried out against the first line had been
the first reason for the delay. The Soviets had taken little advantage to their armored vehicles. Their tanks,
even the lightest, had not problems with the Spaniards anti-tanks, whose shots did not affect to them. Only
Cantalapiedra (with his 3ª/Antitanq. 250) could put out of action five of them, shooting at almost to point-
blank, in the acess to Krasny VOR along the highway Leningrad-Moscow. The antitank guns "borrowed" by
the 2ª Brigade SS and manned by personnel of the Legion SS Norway, was not so lucky, because the pieces
were surrounded by the hostile infantry before being able to fight itself against the cars. The Norwegian
officer who led this Antitank Platoon, "SS Untersturmführer" Lundemo fell in the battle.
Spontaneously, between the 11:00 and the 12:00 hours, the officers whom had had their CP in Krasny
Bor began to organize an unexpected line of containment. But the decisive action would be the one
accomplished by two other officers, the Majors Reinlein (CO of Iº/Art. 250) and Bellod (CO of Combat
engineers 250º), who organized improvised battle groups that sent themselves to a desperate counterattack in
order to expel the enemy infantry from Krasny Bor. The Russian were disturbed and withdrew themselves
some hundreds of meters towards the north to reorganize its force.
At 09:50 hours for the first time, Sagrado did a request to Esteban-Infantes; the former asked for
reinforcements urgently. He was answered that he should maintain the calm and did not use all his reserves.
At 10:25 hours Sagrado repeat his urgent request of reinforcements to the divisional command, to which it
was answered that a German Regiment advanced towards Krasny Bor in order to help him. At 10:35 hours
Esteban-Infantes ordered to Sagrado that he tried to recover his forward edge whatever be the cost.

 
Reinlein and Bellod were very effective and organized, so well as they could, given the circumstances, a
new improvised line. However, the Soviet pressure, given its absolute numerical superiority, was exhausting,
but the men of Reinlein and Bellod with their desperated action, denied which the Soviets as much longed
for: the total and effective control on the town of Krasny Bor.

The German Artillery


The "Arko 138" , that is to say, the Commando of Artillery of the Lº Army Corps, once was clear that it was
Krasny Bor and not another one the sector of rupture, effectively directed the fire against the Soviet attackers,
causing serious losses among them.
The units of heavy artillery deployed around Leningrad were diverse. For example the 814. Schwere
Artilleríe Regiment (Heavy artillery regiment), with two Groups, each with 4 howitzers of 240 mm and the
Schwere Artillerie Abteilung (Group of Heavy Artillery) 624º, the 641º (mixed units, equipped each with three
mortar of 210 and four of 305) and the 815º (with six pieces of 305).
Also were there, and is necessary to emphasize them very especially, the troops of the Eisenbahn
Artillerie Regiment z.b.V. (Railway Artillery regiment for special tasks) 679º, a unit that comprised the
Eisenbahn Batterie (Railway Batteries) 693ª and 696ª (with railway howitzers of 400 mm taken to the French),
and 686ª, this one equipped with the most effective Eisenbahn Kanone of 28 cm.
Although the colossuses between the colossuses of that one panoply were four French howitzers of 520
mm on railway assembly, that could shoot projectiles of up to 1,600 kgs and which also were used in the
sector by the Germans.

At the Advanced CP
So soon it was confirmed that the Soviet main strike was triggered against Krasny Bor, as already we saw,
General Esteban-Infantes had moved to the Advanced CP established in Raykolovo, to try to direct the battle
from there. Around 12:00 hours (peculiarly, the same hour in that Simoniak informed to Sviridov that he had
taken the effective control of Krasny Bor, according to the Historical record of the Soviet 55º Army) the
situation, as it was seen from the Divisional CP was the following one:
• The Iº/262 and the Company of Skiers 250º had been beaten and overwhelmed.
• The IIº/262 had been crushed and only “the Bastión" had resisted yet;.
• The Reserve battalion 250º had sustained serious losses and had been beaten also. It was known that
Oroquieta resisted.
• The IIIº/262 had suffered enough with the artillery fire, but it had not faced an strong infantry assault as
the three before mentioned Battalions, hence it stayed in his positions, although with its right flank
threatened.
• The Anti-tank battalion 250º had lost practically all their material in the unequal fights against the Soviet
tanks.
• The Companies of the Engineers Battalion 250º had not been able to contain the rupture, although
Aramburu, with his 3ª Company, had stayed firmly next to "the Bastión".
• The squadrons of the Reconnaissance Detachment 250º had been bled in the counterattacks, without
managing to seal the breaches.
• The Group Iº/ AR 250 and the batteries which had been attached to it had lost, practically, all its pieces
and its ammunition was on the verge of running out.

 
The Spanish general, practically, did not have reserves. The Iº/263 (Comandante/Maj Blanco Linares), it
had begun to move its two Companies which had in Federovskoye towards the Ishora since 08:00 hours,
while it started up towards the sector the other two Companies of the Battalion. The reserves of the neighbor
269º Regiment, given the lack of motorised vehicles, arrived slowly and in addition we cannot forget that it
was the IIº/269 (Capitán Merry), a unit which just finished its reorganization and was incomplete.
The general ordered to make use of the Battalion of Repatriation which was in the rear ready to return to
Spain. But the Battalion had not weapons. Neither there were means of transport to bring it fast from
Vyarlevo. Fearing that he himself could be a casualty at any time, General Esteban-Infantes ordered Colonel
Carlos Rubio, Commander of the 269º Regiment who had came to Raykolovo, to be ready to assume the
command of the division.

The German Reaction


The first German reaction, as already told, was of its artillerymen. Around 11:00 hours the Command of the
18º AOK had no doubts: the danger was in Krasny Bor. On the other hand, Kleffel, CO of the Lº AK, had
to be pending not only of the Spaniards, but also of the neighboring unit, as well under attack, the 4ª Division
SS and he should evaluate whether this initial attack were going to be followed or not by other actions on the
line front.
Also the Headquarters of the L AK ended up concluding that the "schwerpunkt" (main point of effort)
of the Russian offensive was located in the Spanish sector, and at 11:30 General Kleffel was in the CP of
Esteban-Infantes, to try to respond to the Spanish urgent requests for help in the form of infantry troops.
It is necessary to say that Kleffel and Lindemann calculated the danger of the Soviet offensive against
Krasny Bor with more exactitude than Esteban-Infantes, reason why from even before the attack took place,
they tried to prepare reserves.
Already on Feb 09, the German GR 390 and to the I./ AR 215, both units of the 215 Infantry division
which were marching towards Mga, got the order to halt in Ulianovka and then to occupy positions in
Sablino, about 10 km. due south of Krasny Bor. The GR 390 had in Sablino only two of its three Battalions
and altogether its manpower comprised 667 officers, NCOs and soldiers. As complement it was decided to
reinforce the unit with the School of Combat engineers of the 18 AOK (Bataillon 18 Armee Pionier Schule)
which, under orders of Hauptmann Stegemann, had another 333 men. Also it was hoped to be able to count
on a Battery of the 226º battalion of Assault Guns, (Sturmgeschütz Abteilung 226) to restrain the enemy cars.
The GR 390 (Oberst Heckel) and the artillery unit which furnished fire support to it, the Iº/ AR 215,
reinforced by the Battalion of students of the pioneers' school of the 18º AOK, received the orden to
advance from Sablino towards Krasny Bor as soon as the Soviet assault had been launched. As we see,
Oberst Heckel did not act with resolution and daring indeed. The 18º AOK also ordered to move towards
the sector, its very poor armored means, a handful of Tiger tanks of the 502º Heavy Armored Detachment
(Schw Pz Abt), plus its mechanized antitank means, the Marders of the 563º Group of Tank destroyers.
Soon it was seen also that seal the gap which had left in the front the Blue Division and 4ª SS Division
due to the Soviet attack no longer was a task for a unique Regiment, the before mentioned GR 390, hence
other two regiments moving from or towards Mga, the GR 316 and the GR 374, would have to be gotten off
the railroad.
In addition, to reinforce to the very weak 4ª SS Division, it was ordered to move towards its lines to the
"Regimentsgruppe 366, of the 227 ID. General Hellmuth Reymann, who accompanied his GR 316 towards
Mga, got the order to constitute immediately, with the Headquarters of his 212 ID, a Kampfgruppe (Battle
Group) division with the Regiments 390º, 316º and 374º, in order to close the breach opened between the

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Blue Division and 4ª SS Division. Throughout the day 10 the final luck of the battle in Krasny Bor was
doubtful, reason why the Army Group North alarmed the 24 ID, deployed along the Wolchow at those
moments, concretely in Chudovo, so that it was prepared to march towards Krasny Bor.
Colonel Sagrado, was informed about the presence of the 390º Regiment in Sablino. From that moment
onwards his greater preoccupation was to contact with Oberst Heckel, in order he could approach, as quickly
as possible, in his support; but the the Spanish impression was that Heckel did not want to advance.
But Heckel sinned of excess of prudence, for desperation of Colonel Sagrado, who left his men in Krasny
Bor in order to try to force the Germans to advance more quickly. The judgments that have been formulated
on both colonels, as much on Sagrado as on Heckel, have been very hard. On the former it was told that he
really left his men. On the latter, that his delay contributed to enlarge the breach between the lines of the Blue
Division and 4ª SS Division. Perhaps seen the subject with perspective, both would be really scapegoats. In
any case, as much Sagrado as Heckel in the end lost the command of their respective Regiments shortly after
finishing the battle and it is necessary to admit that they did not lack reasons for it.
Meanwhile, Esteban-Infantes was trying to save the saveable thing, that is to say, to avoid that his Blue
Division was surrounded. Since 16:30 hours, by order of the Army Corps, the sector of Krasny Bor - from
the Leningrad-Moscow railroad to the Ishora- no longer was his responsability, but of General Reymann.

The Sector of the Ishora


The Soviet vanguards were in position of crossing the Ishora in the sector of the great meander, where the
Factory of Paper was located and in the zone of Staraia Mysa and Sansonovka, and even threatened the
Spanish PC in Raykolovo. In the most northern zone, where it was deployed the IIIº/262, the enemy infantry
attack against its lines, was moderate and in fact and in the end the forces which tried that ended up moving
towards the East, to infiltrate by the breach open in the Reserve Battalion 250º and to try to attack it by the
flank and the rear. But that demanded to cross the Ishora by the Factory of Paper and around mid-morning
of day 10, the Soviets already had reached that point.
But this maneuver was not successful either because antitank of 14ª/262 of Captain González del Yerro
and the guns of the Batteries 7ª/Art. 250 (Captain Muñoz Aceras) and 8ª/Art. 250 (Captain Castro
Sanmartín) routed the enemy with low shots, whereas the rest of the Squadron 1º/ Recce. 250, to which
joined the commander of the unit, Captain Ortega, were defended with energy in the great meander of the
Ishora.
More due south, in Staraia Mysa, the situation was not less dramatic. Staraia Mysa fell in enemy hands but
the Soviets did not manage to cross the Ishora on day 10 either and Sansonovka stayed under Spanish
control, although with great problems.
The most audacious elements of the vanguard of the 72ª Division, once broken the front of Reserve
Battalion 250º, advanced until Staraia Mysa, therefore the 3ª/263 and elements of the 4ª/263 were sent with
urgency to Podolovo, in the middle of the way between Raikolovo and Staraia Mysa to create a cover screen.
The enemy pressure was very hard and around 11:00 hours it was ordered to the bulk of the 3ª/263, now
under Lieutenant Rosaleny (Captain Marzo, very ill, had remained back with a Platoon, as one small
operational reserve), and to the 4ª/263 to improve its own positions by crossing to the other bank of the
river. The assault to the hostil shore (in Russian hands) implied many losses and caused that the enemy
redoubled his pressure, hence around 12:00 hours fell in combat Captain Castro Cardús and Lieutenant
Martin took over the control of the 4ª/263.
General Esteban-Infantes designated a new Commander for that subsector. Coming from Vyarlevo,
where he was leading the so called Battalion of Repatriation which was going to return to Spain, arrived

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Lieutenant Colonel Robles Pazos. Esteban-Infantes ordered to him to settle down some kind of line between
the lshora and the Leningrad-Moscow highway.
As quickly as possible the rest of Iº/263 and the IIº/269 had been summoned. Therefore Major
(Comandante) Blanco Linares, Commanding Officer of the Iº/263, received the order stating that he should
progress from Podolovo, crossing the Ishora to its Eastern margin, in North direction.
The 2ª/263 would do it close to the river, and the 5ª/269 would advance next to the old antitank ditch
which had been built by the Soviets in 1941. In center it would march the 3ª/263 and, marching behind them
and in support, some elements of the 4ª/263 (machine guns).
When the Spaniards reached Staraia Mysa took place violent shocks, but in the end the Soviets were
expelled from the village and the vanguard continued the advance. Nevertheless, when the Spanish vanguard
progressing towards the north, the Red Army counterattacked on its flank and in a heavy combat expelled the
Spaniards from Staraia Mysa.
In the meanwhile, the 2ª/263, the elements of the 3ª/263, the 4ª/263 and the 5ª/269 (this last one
without never obtain a close contact with its companions), had followed its progression towards the North,
although there were lost contact with Major (Comandante) Blanco Linares. Then they received a strong
Soviet counterattacks by its flank, coming from the lines where had been deployed the 7ª/262. The dark, the
lack of the Major Blanco Linares and the hardness of the enemy attack, finished to dislocate to the Spanish
troops.
The counterattack failed, not only Staraia Mysa seemed lost, but the threat extended to the neighboring
village of Sansonovka, where it was fought hard all night, with many losses. Nevertheless, all these losses
ended up obtaining that the Soviets did not cross the lshora towards the West.

An Unexpected Reinforcement: The Estonian Soldiers


The night had fallen and in Raykolovo, the Spanish Command looked for, with anxiety, more men to cover
the breach stretched to Krasny Bor. But the great surprise for Robles was to see the arrival of Battalion which
seemingly was German. Yes, their uniforms were German, but in fact they were volunteers of the 659º
Estonian Battalion (Captain Mikumägi), that came to protect the 928º Battalion of Coastal Artillery of the
Army (HKAA 928). Without thinking twice, Robles, although perfectly knew where were the German
batteries, instead of sending the estonian in that direction, he "confiscated" those soldiers and sent them to
occupy positions at Podolovo. On the following day arrived more Estonian soldiers, of the 658º Battalion,
under orders of Captain Rebane, who assumed the command of all the Estonian troops in the sector. Not
much after the Estonians also arrived at Podolovo, another unit of foreign volunteers, a flemish SS Company
was deployed near the Spanish sector. For the flemish the name of Krasny Bor would be also ineffaceable in
turn, although it would be several days later.

Another Spanish Bolt: East and South of Krasny Bor


The hard battle of breakthrough and the bloody and chaotic combats by the streets of Krasny Bor (in which
the 63ª Guards Division suffered serious losses and exhausted its capacity of pressing) convinced the Soviets
that the route through Mishkino-Nikolskoye was the one that now offered more possibilities, so after the
breakthrough of the Spanish front, the Division which had remained so far in second echelon and therefore it
had not suffered so many losses, the 45ª Guards Division of Krasnov, started up in that direction, the one
foreseen for its use.
It was not going to be easy for Krasnov. The zone by that they had to cross, in the northern edge of
Krasny Bor, had been bottled since long time by the enthusiastic resistance of the 3ª/262 (Huidobro and later

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Altura) and the 5ª/262 (Palacios). The German artillery, on the other hand, conscious of the enemy
movement, crushed the men of Krasnov. The Commanders Reinlein and Bellod had taken over the defense
of Krasny Bor. Bellod assured the control in the East sector. His "front" stretched from the location of the
Battery 2ª/Art. 250 and towards the East until Stepanovka.
The fight immediately focused on two key points: the area Stepanovka-Chernisovo and the station of
Popovka: both opened the routes to the East, towards Nikolskoye. The Soviets fought to open the road
which ran from Stepanovka and ended up dislodging the Spanish. Next the Soviet met a battle group which
was improvised on the march, led by the SS Obersturmbannführer Bock, of the artillery of the 4th SS
Division, which unsuccessfully tried to contain the Russians between Stepanovka and Chernisovo, although
ultimately delayed so much the Russian advance that Bock earned for it the Knight Cross. Upon reaching
Chernisovo, the Russians overran the position of the Spanish 9th/Art 250, there was seriously injured
Captain Andrada.
With the same emphasis the Soviets pushed against Popovka, the small village whose station, a narrow
gauge railway, was also vital for them. The Russian finally occupied it after a fierce defense. Krasnov
eventually finding their way and his advanced elements reached Mishkino by the end of the day. But Krasnov
had a narrow corridor which was pressed on his flank by Bellod (in Stepanovka) and Bock (in Porkusi), letting
him only a narrow bottleneck to progress.
Around 18:30 Bellod by then a commander increasingly overwhelmed at last received a pleasant surprise:
the arrival of the vanguard of the 374 German Infantry Regiment-of Oberst Paul Gerd von Below. This
speed surprised when it was compared with the timid progress of Heckel’s 390th Infantry Regiment. But
while the 390th had remained months in the trenches and neither Heckel nor his men were accustomed to a
war of movement, the 374th Regiment was employed in a partisan fight, therefore it had become accustomed
to rapid movements within wooded areas and also it had participated in the very fluid fighting north of
Sinyavino.
Just landed in Sablino, it had marched hastily due north along the railway lines. Without many formalities
Bellod handed over to the Germans the control of the area and marched with his men to Sablino, except for
the survivors of the 2º/ Expl. 250 º, they were so exhausted that they preferred the risk a involvement in new
clashes that the night march. They would leave to Sablino next day.
Reinlein seemed to be determined that the Soviet 63rd Guards Division, which was exhausted, could not
get some rest; the night came and the Soviet division could not dominate effectively even the center of
Krasny Bor. Luckily for Reinlein and his men, the stubborn resistance of Aramburu and Arozarena kept
pretty busy the Soviets in the western sector of Krasny Bor, so, together with Comandante (Maj) La Cruz,
Reinlein was able to organize a sufficient number of defensive cores to deny the enemy control of the area.
Reinlein got a fleeting contact with the divisional Advanced CP at 15:00 hours, from where he was
informed that the 390th Regiment was in march to help them. Reinlein launched himself down the road until
he could reach Oberst Heckel, finding him very unwilling to move, so he returned to Krasny Bor to continue
managing their own "guerrilla warfare." His only joy was to see appear at last at 15:30 hours, the "Luftwaffe",
which sent its squadrons of "Stukas" to crush the enemy's rear.
The enemy came to the southern edge of the population, where it was located the evacuation station. The
wounded Captain Andújar, took over the less serious injured to repel the attack. But the enemy was
advancing with the support of a monstrous KV-1. A simple sapper, Antonio Ponte Anido, seeing that the
giant was going to slaughter their comrades, and the "Molotov cocktails" did nothing against it, like the other
more sophisticated means such as magnetic charges that had been glued to its thick armor , rushed to the

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combat vehicle with two anti-tank mines, which he placed before its chains. The explosion finally stopped the
tank, but also swept away the life of the heroic soldier.
Around 19:30, Bellod and Reinlein had decided to send the Assault Platoon available in the HQ of the
250th Anti-Tank Battalion to liaise with the encircled men. It was not possible. Without the urgent arrival of
the German 390th Regiment, nothing could save those brave. Reinlein finally received the order to abandon
the sector, which was the responsibility of the Germans since 16:30. But as the Germans did not appear, he
refused to leave the area without waiting for the men of Aramburu and Arozarena. Around 20:00 the German
artillery shortened its shots. Finally, at 24:00, Reinlein and La Cruz decided to obey the order of Esteban-
Infantes which stated to leave the area and withdraw towards the positions where the German 390th
Regiment remained static. However, in the southernmost part of Krasny Bor they found face to face with the
German battery located there (the 2nd of the Coastal Group 289 º - HKAA 289) and its leader implored
them to help him to protect these pieces. La Cruz insisted in accomplishing the orders, so he followed the
march, but Reinlein, Captain De Andrés and a handful of Spanish gunners returned to take up their weapons
to protect those barrels.

The wrath of the Russian Generals


It had finished the day 10th, and the Soviet commands were blazing. Nothing had gone according to the plan.
The 72nd Rifle Division had not cleared the Leningrad-Moscow highway because after breaking the front
had not been able to cross the Ishora, either by the Paper factory nor Staraia Mysa.
The 43rd Rifle Division had opened the flank of the 4th SS Division after breaking the front of the I°/
262, but so slowly allowing the Germans to articulate new defenses.
The 63rd Guards Division had bled itself in breaking the front of the I°/ 262 and was also involved in
numerous skirmishes against the tenacious Spanish soldiers.
On the 45th Guards Division, its only regiment in action, the 129th, along with the 250th Brigade, still
were fighting to stay in Popovka. The 222nd Armored Brigade, as well the 123rd Motorized and the 35th of
skiers also under Krasnov’s orders, had progressed to the east, but slowly and chaotically and his Commander
had lost all control over these units which had been added.
So the furious General Govorov, Commander of the Front, ordered his withering dismissal and was
relieved by General Liubovtsev, then 2nd in Command of the 55th Army.
Within hours, Russian commanders had gone from euphoria to anger just contained. Whether Govorov,
Commander of the Front, and Sviridov, Commander of the 55th Army reproached his subordinates the
dismal level of coordination shown the units so far, which had not taken advantage of the waste of firepower
that had been used. What was clear was that the deadlines set for "Operation North Star" began to be of
problematic compliance.
It was the fear of criticism they would receive from Moscow, and further the explosions of Zhukov’s
anger, that fueling the anger of Govorov and Sviridov against their subordinates. But the anger had also
another source. Govorov and Sviridov simply never imagined that the Blue Division were to resist as it was
resisting, the Soviet propaganda presented the division as a mixture of mercenaries and adventurers and their
ranks were filled "with criminals especially released from jails" (sic).

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