“Gate to Leningrad” Porechye Bridge

Siegfried Grabert

Two sketches of the bridge over the Louga River in Porechye [above] and one of the nearby Ivanovskoye Dam [below], objectives assigned to 8. Kompanie de Grabert on July 14, 1941.

On July 13, 1941, the 8. Kompanie of the Lehr-Regiment “Brandenburg” z. b. V. 800, commanded by the Oberleutnant der Reserve Siegfried Grabert, one of the most charismatic figures of the regiment (an officer who was covered with glory by seizing the locks of Nieuwpoort in May 1940 and the Yugoslavian Vardar bridge near Axiopolis in April 1941), receives the order of XXXXI. Armee-Korps to put itself at the disposal of the Kampfgruppe “Raus” of the 6. Panzer-Division.

LEADING WITH A BA-10

The mission of Grabert and his commandos (his assistant Leutnant Renner, 5 non-commissioned officers and 45 soldiers) is to seize, in advance of the tanks of the Oberst Erhard Raus battle group, the bridge at Porechye, located on the Louga River, about fifteen kilometers southeast of Kingisepp and considered to be the “Gate to Leningrad”. Whomever controls it puts himself in good position for advancing to the city of Peter the Great. The nearby Ivanovskoye Dam must be taken also, because – just like the Belgian locks of Nieuport – its destruction by the Soviets could flood the entire sector and stop the advance armored vehicles of XXXXI. Armee-Korps.

To open the road to Raus’s Panzers, Grabert uses a captured Soviet armored car of BA-10 crewed by three of his Russian-speaking “Brandenburgers” dressed like Soviet soldiers. On the evening of the 13th, one of the crew members was mortally wounded in the throat by the Red Army stragglers, who mistook them for Germans.

The next day, July 14, Grabert entrusts the Leutnant Karl Renner the care to take away the Porechye Bridge. Renner “borrows” the Soviet armored car and with a following truck ZIS filled with commandos having donned the Red Army uniforms. This group arrives on the objective shortly before 11 am, the “Brandenburgers” exits the vehicles and kills the bridge sentries, before cutting the wires connected to the explosives attached to the pillars of the structure. Shots from defensive bunkers were thwarted by smoke, that allow attackers to get close enough to throw hand grenades into the embrasures.

In a few minutes, the resistance of the 6th company of the 51st regiment of the 2nd division of the NKVD is silenced. That’s when Grabert appears with the rest of his company mounted on the Panzers. The Brandenburgers then ran at full speed towards the Ivanovskoye dam and took control without difficulty. And it’s not over! Learning from the interview of a prisoner that an aerodrome of VVS is found less than 20 km north, Grabert takes the lead a platoon of five Panzer 35 (t) from the Panzer Regiment 11 from the Kampfgruppe “Raus” and race towards the airfield arriving around 4 pm, putting the Soviet garrison in rout. A bridge, a dam and an airfield at the price of a single injured soldier, this was the exceptional record of the 8. Kompanie that day!

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