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Estonian White Cross of the Civil Guard, 3rd Class


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Hi guys,

I am mainly busy in home with our one month old daugther but today I was able to finish initail write-up of Estonian War of Independent hero, who's medal I received to my collection as stated above.

Sad personal story but I still can't believe the courage what he showed in the battle...

Eduard Luha (28.03.1901 – 03.04.1972)

Corporal

8th Company, 2nd Infantry Regiment (Tartu district)

Eduard was born as a son of farmers Jaan and Maaria Luha on the 28th of March 1901 in Haaslava area, County Tartumaa, Estonia. They had seven children; brothers Oskar, Eduard, August and Alfred, sisters Adele, Luise and Helena.

Eduard got 6 class education, after what he probably end up working on his family farm.

During the Estonian War of Independence (28.11.1918-02.02.1920) Eduard enlisted voluntarily on the 18th December 1918 and he served as a Corporal in the 8th Company at 2nd Infantry Regiment (8. rood, 2. jalaväepolk), which was formed mainly from the local man from County Tartumaa.

On the 23rd of April 1919 in the battle near Tõlva village, Southern Estonia, Corporal Eduard Luha showed great combat skills and courage against the Bolsheviks troops, because of this, he was nominated by the battle leader Ensign (Lipnik) Välja for Estonia’s highest bravery award, The Cross of Liberty Grade II/3 Class (Vabadusrist II/3). Recommendation was officially approved on the Government lists on the 5th March 1920 (4). Only 1,672 Estonian soldiers received this high recognition from the State (1).

During the war, Eduard was wounded three times;

- Near Zagorje village. Weapon spike bayonet wound to the hand

- Near Tõlva village. Grenade fragments to the knee

- Near Kõõriküla village. Suffered heavy shock from grenade detonation near by.

After the war, Eduard trained in Tartu to become a baker later he found a job in Riga, Latvia where he met his wife Melli (Melita Niedrins). After returning back to Estonia with Melli, his daughter Ida Luha (Ida Victoria Sambrook - Luha) was born on 27th September 1927.

In the 1930s they lived in Tartu, where Eduard worked first as a Baker and then became Tartu Prison Guard, promoted before the Second World War, to senior Prison Guard. He was also active in the Home Guard (“Kaitseliit”) and Union of Participants in the Estonian War of Independence (“Eesti Vabadussõjalaste Liit“ so called „Vapsid”) (3).

Life became hard when the Red Army forced their military bases to Estonia soil, which ended up as a full occupation and repressions against Estonians.

Eduard was forced to leave his Prison Guard work and Sunday, 22nd June 1941, when the war between Soviet Union and Germany broke out.

He was arrested by the NKVD from 69 Puiestee Street in Tartu and deported to Russia. He was charged by Troika (2) and convicted guilty on the 27th January 1943 in Kirov Oblast (5).

He was convicted based on notorious Article 58 two paragraphs (6):

§58-4. Any kind of help to "international bourgeoisie" which, not recognizing the equality of communist political system, strives to overthrow it: punishment 3 years up to death.

§58-13. Active struggle against revolutionary movement of "counter-revolutionary governments" during the Civil War. Usually this paragraph was used against ex soldiers who fought in the War of Independence, members of Estonia Police, Army, Home Defence, etc.

He was released from the Vjatka labour camp on the 17th August 1943 and returned to Estonia Eduard arrived with the Red Army in September 1944. Tragically Melli had left Estonia with her daughter, going west and ultimately after the war she settled in the United Kingdom.

Eduard was deported back to Siberia and he was released after Stalin’s death in 1954. Upon his return to Estonia and he was unable to find any traces of Melli and their daughter.

He married the widow Endla, widow with 10 year old son Ants in 1956.

But in the 1966 via Sweden Eduard was able to find a contact with Melli. But at this time “Cold War” was on its peek and a visit t each other was impossible.

Eduard Luha died on the 3rd April 1972 and hs final resting place is in County Tartumaa, Luunja graveyard.

His daughter Ida, who he didn’t see after 1941 and never again died in Bradford on the 4th October 2006 and her ashes are buried next to his father in the home ground.

Sources (some in English - ENG):

(1) Cross of Liberty (Estonia) ENG

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_of_Liberty_(Estonia)

(2) Troika ENG

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NKVD_troika

(3) Union of Participants in the Estonian War of Independence ENG

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaps_Movement

(4) Estonian President web page

http://www.president.ee/et/vabariik/teenetemargid/kavalerid.php?id=16586

(5) Kirov Oblast ENG

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirov_Oblast

(6) Article 58 ENG

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_58

(7) Museum of Occupation, Memento 2005

http://www.okupatsioon.ee/en/memento-2005/76-l2005

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LUHA, Eduard, Jaan, s. 1901 Tartumaa, 6 kl., talunik, arr. 22.06.41 Tartu, Puiestee 69, erin. 27.01.43 §58-4, 58-13, 10a.; Kirovi obl. Vjatlag, vab. 17.08.43. Kaitseliit. Vaps. [7453-E]

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(8) Haaslava district – photos

http://www.haaslava.ee/?page=7

How Corporal Eduard Luha earned The Cross of Liberty during the War of Independent? Let him told the story himself:

Magazin “Stories from War of Independence” (”Vabadussõja lood”) No. 5 – published February 1937.

Young volunteer act of heroism; Alone against eight Bolsheviks and two machine guns. April 1919.

2nd Infantry regiment, after heavy battles in Petseri area and when they reached to the border of Russia, got some resting time.

The regiment marching with a joyful mood to liberated city Võru. They are all happy because a break after battles is each soldier dream. Many of the soldiers can even go to vacation and visit home.

Meantime the Bolsheviks were planning their counter attack on the city of Võru, in order to get some of the Estonian forces into the battle pocket.

At first Russians had success on their side and they gain some ground. Because of that, the Estonian Army command trying quickly to put together all available forces in the area to stop the enemy and including 2nd Infantry Regiment has to be ready for action again.

The “Good times” lasted only five days and during the Easter they find themselves again in the battles near Võru to push back the enemy.

The Bolsheviks had secured themselves strongly in the village of Tõlva, which became a battleground on the last day in Easter, 23rd April 1919.

From this attack the 8th Company volunteer, 18 years old young man Eduard Luha from Haaslava, who did something extraordinary in this battle but Lets let the hero tell his story himself:

April 1919, morning. There is a little bit of snow on the ground. Because of the frost during the night, the ground was still hard. We got our morning soup when it was still dark outside and because each soldier knew that we have to fight soon with the enemy who was larger in numbers we eat very well.

The Enemy was around 2 kilometres from us in the village Tõlva. This village was surrounded by forest and open area between trees and houses were only 500 meters.

5th and 8th Company started moving. There were only around 60 men because many of the cadre was still in their vacation when the new orders arrived.

We took with us two heavy machine guns “Maxim” and four light machine guns, because we were missing artillery support in this area. Orders received to move close to the enemy as silent as possible but because heavy machine guns metal wheels on the frozen ground, enemy heard us probably a long time before we was able to see their positions. They were ready in the trenches and even sent out scouts before we reach to them.

My 8th company start attacking from the right and 5th company from the left. My company was commanded by Ensign Välja, who wasa new officer in our unit because all the other’s were gone, wounded or killed because of previous encounters.

5th company was commanded by Lieutenant Parts, who had been with the unit from the beginning. Commander of the operation was Capitan Matson, who was great man and an experienced soldier.

When we reached the tree line next to the village, we were able to see the enemy infront of the village in the trenches waiting for us.

Their scouts ran back to their position and we open fire on them. Some of them fell down. Meantime the Bolsheviks opened with well prepared heavy fire from the machine guns. They had around 5-6 machine guns. We had 60 men against around 400 of them, so the balance wasn’t good for us.

When our machine guns started their work, then Russians shooting wasn’t so strong anymore but still was straight at us and the branches on the trees around us were sliced as if with the axes.

At least their line of sight was a little bit high and this gives us opportunity to crawl to the top of tree line. From there we had good positions to start shooting back at them from behind the trees.

Meantime two of our machine guns broke down. At this time enemy focused their fire against our 8th company, I platoon, who had orders to keep enemy down from far right. I platoon, instead of attacking started retreating. There was one coward who gave a bad example when he run back from the battle.

I knew our right wing was moved back but some how I was so sure that we will win this battle. I just refused to believe that our regiment companies lost a battle against Russians near Võru.

The situation worsened because our ammunition supply ran low. At least extra supplies reached to us in time and it helped with the morale.

Then I thought that the enemy was is in the trenches, well protected and if we continue to just shooting at each other this will not lead us to any success. Our company leader was missing at this time and also 2nd officer was wounded, so we didn’t have any leaders around then.

I made quick decision and suggest to the soldiers next to me; Johannes Martinson, Georg Bauman, Roman Vold, Johannes Keerus and Karl Meos to run out from the tree line, to the small hill infront of us. They accepted this plan. I knew they are our IV platoon bravest men.

We load our weapons with five bullets and I stood up, shouting “forward!” and I start running. When I reached to the hill, I looked back and I saw that I am alone. Others, who were positioned right from me, were forced down by enemy machine gun fire. I knew they wanted to follow me but because of the fire they weren’t able to.

I understood I can’t run back because of the heavy fire and also my mates where in hard situation – bullets hit the ground very close to them now.

I shout to them to pull more back to the forest, other wise the Russians will make all of us “cold”.

I crawl top to the hill and I was surprised what I saw so close in front of me – just around 50 meters, behind the hill in the ditch there was a group of Bolsheviks with two “Maxim” heavy machine guns what were pointed directly to my location.

One of the enemy, sawing me, shouted to others ”Smatri, belõi, tsort.” (Look, “white” devil!”). One of them jumped behind the machine gun and I understood he will start shooting me any second.

I fired quickly one bullet to this soldier’s direction and as a lightning, I press myself against the ground, pushing face to the mud (the sun had melted the icy ground already by this time). A few second later it feels like a hearth exploding around me when bullets fly over my head and hit the ground in front of me. At least I was behind the hill enough, so the bullets didn’t reached to me. I moved just a little bit more back to be sure.

And now started my fight between eight Bolsheviks who had two machine guns and I had only one gun with a small amount of ammunition.

The others weren’t able to help me, because they were far back in the forest line and they can’t see the enemy position at all in front of me because of the hill.

I got up a few times to my knees and shoot the enemy, each time I get back a of shower of bullets from the machine gun. But luck is with me and each time I am able to get down before the return fire.

I try to think again and I was sure that I can’t stay here a long time because I am almost out of ammunition and I can’t run back to the forest as well because of the heavy fire on the field, so I decide to try to make something supportive here, before our troops have to pulled back.

I move around the edge of hill, so I can move closer to the machine gun without the Russians being able to shoot at me. I load my rifle with the last five bullets and when I stood up, I was only 30 meters from the enemy machine gun. One of the enemy machine guns has been pointed to our 5th company and second one to the place where I was before. The Russians see me immediately and start shouting, the man behind the machine gun moves the gun barrel in my direction. I want to shoot at him; I aim and shoot and I can see he collapses in the ditch. I can see how the next men jumps behind the gun.

I must say that I was very surprised, why didn’t they try to shoot me from their rifles?. I change the position again and get up quickly, aim and shoot but I miss the man. At least I hit the machine gun, so it is not working anymore. The second bullet hit the next gunner. Now I can see that the Bolsheviks wanted to escape with the machine guns. I know we need these machine guns what ever it takes!

Because I have only two bullets left, I must be very careful. Also the enemy is hiding in the ditch now and I can’t shoot them. But soon they jump out and start running to their other position in the direction of the village, pulling machine guns with them. I start running as well. They have six men left.

One of them takes out sword and start running against me. I aim him to the chest and shoot him down. Then one of them tries to shoot me again from machine gun. I hit him as well with my last bullet.

Now there are only four of them but I don’t have any ammunition left. When I start running in their direction they give up and leave the machine guns and start running as fast as they can to the village. I take a bullet from the machine gun bullet belt and I shoot one of them to the leg.

Because I am far from the others, I try to start pulling machine guns back to our position. It’s not the easiest of tasks at all because the sun is up and the ground is very muddy now.

All of this took a few minutes. Meantime my comrades don’t rest as well. Ensign Välja was back and seeing my struggle, run top the hill as well, where I was before. Also Martinson, Baumann, Volt, Keerus and Meos followed.

The Bolsheviks, who were in the village wasn’t able to shoot me, because their escaping men were between us. Basically they were able just to look at what happens to their two machine guns in the positions in front of them.

When I start climbing back from the hill, only then they was able to open fire. Bullets splash mud up to my face around me but didn’t do any harm.

I was so thrilled with what I just did, I was able to save for us two so valuable “death machines”.

Russians were in shock because of what just happened and they weren’t able to fight properly for a second. Our soldiers used this moment as an opportunity and ran quickly to the corner of their trenches and opened fire along side of it, scoring hits with almost every shot because the trench was full of the enemy.

The Russians finally lost their morale and started to run away. 5th company run out too and when we start shooting at them from their own machine guns, they escaped all in panic.

All together we run to the village Tõlva from where we got another machine gun that the enemy had left behind and also we took some prisoners of war.

For this act near Tõlva village on the 23rd April 1919, I got Cross of Liberty II Grade, 3 Class, recommended by Ensign Välja.”

1907934905e84b_o.jpg

Picture of Eduard Luha

19055649cfd63d_o.jpg

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  • 3 months later...

Hello Gentlemen,long time ago I had the opportunity to buy a White Cross of the Civil Guard. I do not use to collect badges,but the seller pointed me that the badge here belonged to the person who sold him the cross.

Actually it's the Unit Badge of the Music Band of the Civil Guard of Estonia.

Long time I seeked where I could share pictures on this forum,now I found the correct place.

Emmanuel

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