Operation Tichwin

Tikhvin

This was a German offensive toward Tikhvin, some 125 miles (200 km) to the east of Leningrad (16 October/8 November 1941).

As Generaloberst Ernst Busch’s 16th Army of Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb’s Heeresgruppe ‘Nord’ approached Leningrad in the later stages of 'Barbarossa', the army group commander intended that his forces should make use of any periods of good weather during the autumn to extend the German position on the southern bank of Lake Ladoga. Adolf Hitler refused to allow this, however, and instead ordered an advance from Chudovo to secure the bauxite producing area of Tikhvin, and to link with the Finnish forces of Kenraaliluutnantti Erik Heinrichs’s Army of Karelia on the Svir river.

Tikhvin had been taken on 8 November by the 16th Army using General Rudolf Schmidt’s XXXIX Corps (mot.) and General Johannes Blaskowitz’s I Corps, the brunt of the attack falling on General Leytenant Kirill A. Meretskov’s 4th Army, which then started to disintegrate. General Georgi K. Zhukov’s (from October General Major Ivan I. Fedyuninsky’s) Leningrad Front, of which the 4th Army was a part, now lost touch with the situation on this flank. The German wedge was already threatening the rear of General Leytenant Filipp D. Gorelenko’s 7th Army deployed against the Finns on the Svir river, as Meretskov informed Stalin by telephone. This dangerous situation was met by a typically Soviet command reorganisation. Meretskov, who was well known to Premier Iosif Stalin as he had for a time been a member of the Stavka, was ordered to transfer command of the 7th Army to his deputy and take personal command of the dispersed 4th Army. In addition he was to be responsible to the Stavka for the control and co-ordination of the 4th, 7th and General Leytenant Nikolai K. Klykov’s 52nd Armies, the last being the only other Soviet army in the area. No other immediate reinforcements were available to Meretskov, who therefore created a reserve from a tank brigade, a rifle regiment and engineer and mortar units.

The Soviets counterattacked on 11 November, and made some small gains into Tikhvin. On 25 November the Germans went over to the defensive and on the following day the reorganised 4th Army began a series of counterattacks, which were taken up by 52nd Army in the south and Fedyuninsky’s own 54th Army from the Leningrad Front in the north, on the German salient round Tikhvin, which stretched for a distance of 230 miles (370 km) from Mga to Novgorod. By this time von Leeb’s forces were exhausted and could manage no further advance. As the Finns would not advance past the Svir river, moreover, it was apparent that the exposed salient could not survive.

Besieged Leningrad was already on a near-starvation diet and the great stocks of meal collecting at Voybokalo railway station could not be ferried across Lake Ladoga by boat because of the gradual icing, but on 18 November the lake’s surface finally froze completely, and four days later the first convoys of trucks moved across the ice into the city. For this reason it was unlikely that Leningrad would succumb to starvation during the winter.