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The Commanding Officers of the Australian Volunteer Units

Postby CanKiwi2 on 06 Nov 2012 19:07

The Commanding Officers of the Australian Volunteer Units

Having received notification from various quarters that a number of British Commonwealth units would be arriving in Finland, Paamaja (the General Headquarters) decided that these should be grouped together for ease of administration and command. As the dispatch of these units was at this time largely being coordinated through the Australian High Commission in London, Paamajat (the Finnish General Headquarters) requested that the Commonwealth countries contributing also provide the senior commanders for the Division and the Brigade sized forces that would make up the Division. In a further flurry of telegrams and urgent telephone calls, the Canadians advised that while they could put together the command structure for a Brigade, the small size of the Canadian military precluded any Divisional-level commanding officers being made available. New Zealand and South Africa were in a similar situation. For historical reasons going back to World War One, the Australians and New Zealanders rejected a Divisional Commander from the British Army and instead, mutually agreed on an Australian for the position, to which the Canadians agreed. Lieutenant-General Vernon Ashton Hobart Sturdee was selected and hastily dispatched by air on the lengthy journey from Australia to Finland, together with an equally hastily selected Divisional staff slung together piecemeal from Australian, New Zealand, South African, Rhodesian and Canadian officers. Fortunately, the arrangements worked in action and the Commonwealth Division was in action as a coherent, if inexperienced, unit by mid-June 1940 – in time to be on the receiving end of the Red Army’s summer offensive of July and August 1940.

The Australian Army also dispatched support and headquarters personnel for two Brigades, as well as Commanding Officers (the Polish Government-in-Exile agreed that any gaps in the Brigade and Divisional Table of Organization would be filled by miscellaneous Polish units made up from Polish personnel already in Finland – potential language issues were ignored). The 1st (ANZAC) Brigade would be commanded by Australian Brigadier Stanley Savige, the 2nd (Empire) Brigade would be commanded by Australian Brigadier John Joseph Murray while the 3rd (Canadian) Brigade would be commanded by a Canadian officer, Lieutenant-Colonel E.L.M. Burns, who in 1939, had recently attended the Imperial Defence College in London, England. Of the two Australian Volunteer Battalions, one would be commanded by Major Heathcote Howard (“Tack”) Hammer (Hammer was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel on accepting the command) while the other would be commanded by Acting Lieutenant-Colonel John Gordon Noel Wilton (promotion also confirmed on acceptance of the command). Lieutenant Colonel "Ike" Parkinson of the New Zealand Army would command the Composite ANZAC (Finland Force) Field Regiment for the 1st “ANZAC” Brigade while a South African officer would command the Artillery for the 2nd “Empire” Brigade.

Those selected as commanding officers of the technical arms were all citizen soldiers who had served in WW1 and who had relevant professional qualifications. The senior Engineer Officer was C. S. Steele, a consulting engineer of Melbourne in civilian life, the chief signals officer, J. E. S. Stevens, a senior officer in the Postmaster-General's Department (which in those days was responsible for radio, telephone and telegram communications). N. B. Loveridge, commanding the Divisional Service Units, was a militiaman who had been a subaltern at Gallipoli in 1915. Colonel (Dr) Lewis Windermere Nott would command Divisional Medical assets while the Rev. Kalervo Kurkiala accepted an appointment as Lieutenant-Colonel in the Australian Army and was appointed Finnish Liaison Officer with the concurrence of the Finnish General Headquarters. Instructions to the Australian COs were that the Australian Volunteer units should be modeled on the Finnish Army organizational structure, and in this Lieutenant-Colonel Kurkiala provided invaluable assistance in laying out and explaining the organization and intent of the Finnish Army Divisional structure, “Regimental Combat Groups”, as well as Battalion and supporting unit organization. On arrival in Finland, it was found that the measures taken to structure units as per Lieutenant-Colonel Kurkiala’s guidance would prove highly beneficial.

For the Australians, this was not that unusual. As we have seen, the Australian Citizen Force (or Militia) units were only for home defence and, as in WW1, new formations and tables of organization were created for the Australian Imperial Force intended for Europe or the Middle East. Thus, falling in with Maavoimat organizational guidelines was not unexpected. With regard to the two Infantry Battalions that the Australian volunteers would form, it was decided to resurrect two WW1 Battalions and it was under the colours of these two Battalions, the F/4th and F/12th Light Horse, famous within Australian for their part in the fighting in the Middle East in WW1, that the Australian Finland Force Infantry would fight.


The 4th and 12th Light Horse were famous for their part in the Battle of Beersheba in 1917 – a battle immortalized in Australian folklore, film and song. The Battle of Beersheba took place on 31 October 1917, as part of the Sinai and Palestine campaign during World War I. Notable was the charge of the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade, which covered some 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) to overrun and capture the last remaining Ottoman trenches, and secure the surviving wells at Beersheba, a critical water supply point for the advancing British forces. The men of the Australian Finland Force would more than match the achievements of their predecessors in WW1.

Within the Commonwealth Division, the 1st “ANZAC” Brigade would be made up of the early-arriving ANZAC Battalion, the 28th Maori Battalion and the Australian F/4th Light Horse Battalion with the Composite ANZAC (Finland) Field Regiment of artillery and supporting units. The 2nd “EMPIRE” Brigade would be made up of the Australian F/12th Light Horse Battalion, the South African Volunteer Battalion and the Rhodesian Selous Battalion with a South African volunteer-manned Field Artillery Regiment and supporting units. The 3rd “Canadian” Brigade would be made up of two battalions of Canadian Volunteers together with a small group of French and French-speaking Belgian Volunteers who joined a rather larger number of francophone Quebecois volunteers, the Bataillon Charlemagne (originally formed as the Légion des Volontaires Français contre le Bolchévisme),. We will look at the Canadian / French / Belgian / Quebecois, South African and Rhodesian Volunteers in later posts.

We will now take a quick look at each of the senior Australian and New Zealand Commanding Officers in turn.

Lieutenant-General Sir Vernon Ashton Hobart Sturdee, Commanding Officer, Commonwealth Division

Born in 1890, Vernon Ashton Hobart Sturdee attended Melbourne Grammer School, joined the Militia and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1908. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1911 and married Edith Georgina Robins on 4 February 1913 in Melbourne. Sturdee joined the AIF in August 1914 and was one of the original Anzacs during the First World War, participating in the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. In the campaign that followed, he commanded the 5th Field Company, before going on to lead the 8th Field Company and then the 4th Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front (at which time he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel). In 1918 he was seconded to General Headquarters (GHQ) British Expeditionary Force as a staff officer. (His father incidentally was a Doctor and commanded the 2nd Field Ambulance at Gallipoli following which, as a Colonel, was Assistant Director of Medical Services of the 1st Australian Division on the Western Front). He returned to Australia in late 1918 and remained in the Army, with the substantive rank of Captain.

He was promoted to the brevet rank of Lieutenant-Colonel on 1 January 1920, but this would not become substantive until 1 April 1932. In 1921, he attended the Indian Army Staff College at Quetta in India. Posted to the United Kingdom, he served at the War Office and attended the Imperial Defence College in 1931. From 1 January 1931 to 31 December 1932, he was the military representative at the High Commission of Australia in London. From 14 February 1933 to 1 March 1938 he was Director of Military Operations and Intelligence at Army Headquarters in Melbourne, a period in which “the Army was at rock bottom”. He was given the brevet rank of Colonel on 1 July 1935. This became temporary on 1 July 1936 and finally substantive on 1 July 1937, over twenty years after he had become a Lieutenant Colonel in the 1st AIF. Like his predecessor as Director of Military Operations and Intelligence, Colonel John Lavarack, and many other officers in the Australian Army, Sturdee had little faith in the government's "Singapore strategy", which aimed to deter Japanese aggression through the presence of a powerful British fleet based at Singapore. In 1933, Sturdee told senior officers that the Japanese "would all be regulars, fully trained and equipped for the operation, and fanatics who like dying in battle, whilst our troops would consist mainly of civilians hastily thrown together on mobilisation with very little training, short of artillery and possibly of gun ammunition.”

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Lieutenant General Sir Vernon Ashton Hobart Sturdee KBE, CB, DSO, Order of the White Rose of Finland, (16 April 1890 – 25 May 1966). Sturdee commanded the Commonwealth Division in Finland through the Winter War, after which he would go on to serve two terms as Chief of the Australian General Staff. In Finland, he proved to be as capable a commander on the offensive as on the defensive.

In 1939, the Chief of the General Staff of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General Ernest Squires, implemented a reorganisation of the Australian Army in which the old military districts were replaced by larger commands led by lieutenant generals. On 13 October 1939, Sturdee was promoted from Colonel to Lieutenant General and assumed control of the new Eastern Command, with responsibility got supervising the raising, training and equipping of the new Second Australian Imperial Force units being formed in New South Wales, as well as the now-conscript Militia. On 5th January 1940 he accepted a demotion to Major-General in order to command the Commonwealth Division in battle in Finland. As a commander of the Division in combat in Finland, he proved to be an effective and capable combat leader, fighting a number of large scale engagements with the Red Army on both the Karelian Isthmus and on the Syvari.

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Lieutenant General V.A.H. Sturdee, OC Commonwealth Division, has Red Army positions explained to him on the map by Lt-Col H. H.(“Tack”) Hammer, CO F/4th Light Horse Battalion, during his visit to HQ 1st “ANZAC” Brigade on the Syvari Front. Behind “Tack” Hammer is Lt-Col W. Bridgeford of the Divisional Staff, with Brigadier S.G. Savige, OC 1st “ANZAC” Brigade to the right with hands on hips.

After the Winter War ended, he returned to Australia where he was immediately restored to his rank of lieutenant general and appointed as Chief of the General Staff, replacing the previous Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Brudenell White, who had died in the Canberra air disaster of 13 August 1940. On the entry of Japan into WW2, Sturdee proceeded to conduct a defence of the islands to the north of Australia against the advancing Japanese forces with the limited forces available. In 1942, he advised the government to divert the Second Australian Imperial Force troops returning from the Middle East to Australia, advice which was follwoed. He then became head of the Australian Military Mission to Washington, DC, where he represented Australia before the Combined Chiefs of Staff. As commander of the First Army in New Guinea in 1944–45, Sturdee was charged with destroying the enemy when opportunity presented itself, but had to do so with limited resources, and without committing his troops to battles that were beyond their strength. When the war ended, Sturdee took the surrender of Japanese forces in the Rabaul area. Now one of the Australian Army's most senior officers, he succeeded General Sir Thomas Blamey as Commander in Chief of the Australian Military Forces in December 1945. He became the Chief of the General Staff a second time in 1946, serving in the post until his retirement in 1950. During this term, he had to demobilise the wartime Army while developing a structure for the post-war Army that included regular combat formations. Sturdee was this instrumental for laying the foundations for the Australian Regular Army as it exists today.

Acting Brigadier John Gordon Noel Wilton, 2IC, Commonwealth Division

John Gordon Noel Wilton was born on 22 November 1910 in Sydney and was educated principally at Grafton High School. He chose a military career, despite severe reductions in the strength of the Australian military forces in the 1920s, entering the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1927. After graduating in second place academically on 9 December 1930, Lieutenant Wilton began service with the British Army as an artillery officer. Of the twelve graduates from Duntroon in 1930, four were accepted by the British Army, four entered the Royal Australian Air Force and only four remained in the Australian Army. During the 1930s, Wilton gained wide experience in the British Army, being stationed in the United Kingdom, India and Burma, where he became familiar with the problems of jungle operations in South-East Asia, experience which was to be of great use to him in Finland and later in South East Asia.

After more than nine years of successful service with the British Army, Wilton was offered the post as 2IC of the Commonwealth Division under Sturdee and immediately accepted, joining the volunteers on their ships in Belfast for the short voyage to Petsamo, where they disembarked in late March 1940. He saw the disparate units of the Division through a savagely intense training period conducted by their Finnish instructors, a period in which he spared no-one, least of all himself. In May and June 1940, during the Maavoimat’s advance down the Karelian Isthmus, he played a significant command role in helping stem a strong Red Army counterattack which threatened the communications of the advancing Commonwealth Division. Wilton's quick and cool planning work for the attack which drove the Red Army back were a model of clarity and tactical soundness.

After the Winter War, Wilton was glad to head to the Middle East where he fought in 1940 and 1941. Through 1942 and 1943 he was in New Guinea as senior operations staff officer to Major General Savige, where he played a major role in planning and directing the advance on Salamaua in mid-1943. He completed the 3rd division's part in what Savige described as the "toughest operation problem I ever faced" with high praise for his skill and courage. He then served in the Australian military mission in Washington, gaining insights into the complexities of wartime diplomacy, strategic coordination and logistic planning before returning to the headquarters, Australian military forces, South-West Pacific, as a Colonel on the general staff in 1945. In 1946, he became deputy director of military operations at Army HQ and in 1947 he became director of military operations and plans for the following four years.

In July 1950, he was a member of an Australian military mission to Malaya, following which led a second mission in February 1951. He warned the British that if they did not maintain sufficient forces in Malaya for dealing with internal security problems, Australia would be unlikely to assist with defence against external attack. After attending the Imperial Defence College, London in 1951 and 1952 Wilton was selected for the army's key operational command, the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade in Korea, a composite brigade of Australian, British, Indian and New Zealand units. His divisional commander, Major General West, regarded Wilton as an outstandingly good brigade commander. In the four months of operations after Wilton's arrival, the brigade restored a potentially disastrous situation created by an American force which had relieved it for some two months on the Jamestown line. A determined and skilful patrol policy drove the Chinese back from the allied front line and re-established Commonwealth control over no-man's land. On his return from Korea, Wilton rose steadily through senior positions in army headquarters and, as a Major General, was commandant of Duntroon, from 1957 to 1960, and chief of SEATO military planning office in Bangkok from 1960 to 1963. He was appointed Chief of the General Staff in 1963 and assumed the responsibilities which accompanied Indonesia's confrontation of Malaysia, the development of Papua-New Guinea's defences, the introduction of conscription and the undertaking of a major commitment to the Vietnam war.

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General John Gordon Noel Wilton, photo from 1963

In 1966 he was appointed to the most senior service position of that time as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. In 1968, he became the fourth Australian army officer, after Chauvel, Monash and Blamey to attain the rank of full general. He retired in 1970 and in 1973 was appointed by the Whitlam Government as Australian Consul General in New York for two years. General Wilton was quiet, undemonstrative and even a little shy but with a first class brain, he wrote well, he argued clearly and when he spoke he commanded ready attention for the worth of what he said, rather than the way in which he said it. He died in 1980, at the age of 70.

Brigadier Stanley Savige, Commanding Officer, 1st “ANZAC” Brigade, Commonwealth Division

Stanley Savige was born 26 June 1890, in Morwell, Victoria, the eldest of eight children to Samuel Savige, a butcher, and his wife Ann Nora, née Walmsley. His grandfather had arrived in Australia as a free settler in 1852 from England. Stan Savige left Korumburra State School (where he had been in the school junior cadets) at the age of twelve to work as a blacksmith's striker. The family moved to Melbourne in 1907, where Savige worked in a variety of jobs and also joined the Prahran senior cadets for 18 months from 1907 to 1909. He became a scoutmaster, forming the First Yarra Troop and was an active member of the Baptist Church, where he was a Sunday school teacher. Through his church activities, Savige met Lilian Stockton, to whom he became engaged on New Year's Day, 1914. He enlisted in the First Australian Imperial Force on 6 March 1915, and left for Egypt on the transport Euripides on 8 May 1915. He was promoted to corporal on 30 April and lance sergeant on 8 May. In the Middle East he fought at Gallipoli and became company sergeant major on 20 September, following which he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 9 November 1915. During the evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915, Savige was one of three officers chosen to serve with the battalion rearguard.

He went with the 2nd Division to France in March 1916, where he was given command of the battalion scout platoon, leading a number of night patrols into no man's land. On 12 April, he became battalion intelligence officer and was promoted to Lieutenant on 1 May. His Brigade Commander had him attached to 6th Infantry Brigade headquarters as a trainee brigade intelligence officer. He was promoted to Captain on 15 September and was appointed Adjutant on 3 February 1917. Savige was Mentioned in Despatches and recommended for the Military Cross. His citation read: “For conspicuous gallantry in action at the Hindenburg Line on 3rd May 1917. After assisting to reorganise a party of broken infantry he acted as staff officer to the Senior Officer in the captured position. In this capacity he displayed most commendable coolness, energy and ability, in securing reliable information as to the progress of the action.” He was Mentioned in Despatches a second time for his role in the Battle of Passchendaele, although he was originally recommended for a bar to his Military Cross. He became Assistant Brigade Major of the 6th Infantry Brigade on 10 September and was Acting Brigade Major from 22 November until 11 January 1918.

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Sir Stanley George Savige of the Australian Imperial Force, photographed as a Captain in 1918.

Following the abdication of the Russian Tsar in 1917, the Caucasus Front had collapsed, leaving Central Asia wide open to the Turkish Army. The British War Office responded with a plan to send a force of hand-picked British officers and NCOs deep into the Caucasus to organise any remaining Russian forces or civilians who were ready to fight the Turkish forces. A request for Australian officers resulted in some twenty officers, drawn from "the cream of the cream" of Australian leaders, including Savige. This force was known as Dunsterforce (after its commander, Major General Lionel Charles Dunsterville, the inspiration for the “Stalky” of Rudyard Kipling's novel “Stalky & Co”). Dunsterforce arrived in Baku in August 1918, hoping to raise an army from the Christian Georgian, Armenian and Assyrian people who had supported the Russians and historically feared the Turks, but "the task proved superhuman".

On patrol deep in the Caucasus with a small group of men, Savige came across a column of seventy thousand Assyrian refugees fleeing the Turks. He deployed his small force, along with some armed refugees, to form a rear guard to hold back the Persians, Kurds and Turks who were murdering the refugees and carrying off the young girls as slaves. One of the small group of eight men under Savige’s command was a New Zealander, Captain Robert Kenneth Nicol, a tough little painter from Lower Hutt. Like all other men in the force, he was handpicked for "Dunsterforce", or the "Hush Hush Brigade" as the men from Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand called it. "It was made clear to them ... their duties would be of such a hazardous nature few could come through the experience alive. The unknown risks were cheerfully accepted," the Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade says. In August 1918, a group of Dunsterforce men, led by Captain Stanley Savige, decided to protect the ragged column of Assyrians, 24 kilometres long. The band of nine included two New Zealanders, Captain Nicol and Sergeant Alexander Nimmo from the Otago Battalion. The refugees were trying to walk 1,000 kilometres from Urmia in Persia (Iran) to the plains of the Diala River, near Baghdad. "Large bodies of Turkish troops and Kurdish irregulars were raiding the column, murdering the people and carrying off girls to their harems, together with whatever loot they could lay their hands on," Captain Savige wrote in his dairy.

Outnumbered by more than 100 to one, the men guarded the column from the rear. At the village of Aydisheh on August 5, Captain Nicol moved forward to help control some unruly mules carrying ammunition. His nephew Lindsay Grigg, 82, a retired surgeon from Canberra, researched the story. "Three men were attacked from the rear and sides. Captain Nicol went to give support, and caught up with Nimmo from the Otago Regiment," he said. "He sent Nimmo forward to collect the ammo, said, “Give me your rifle” and gave covering fire. He stood up and was immediately killed. Two sergeants tried to get him. Both had their mounts shot out from under them, but crawled to safety". One of those who made it to safety was almost certainly Nimmo. Nicol’s body was never recovered and is now lost in the earth of modern day Iran – but his sacrifice will never be forgotten. He was 21 years old. Sergeant Nimmo survived the war, and received an award for gallantry for his actions. After a harrowing six-week trek the refugees reached safety.

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Captain Robert Kenneth Nicol, New Zealand Army, who fought under Savige's command (based on an article by Paul Easton in “The Dominion” Newspaper, “Tough little Kiwi fought to the death”)

Historian Charles Bean later wrote that: “The stand made by Savige and his eight companions that evening and during half of the next day against hundred of the enemy thirsting like wolves to get at the defenceless throng was as fine as any episode known to the present writer in the history of this war.” Savige was subsequently decorated with the Distinguished Service Order for his efforts on this occasion. His citation read: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the retirement of refugees from Sain Kelen to Tikkaa Tappah, 26/28th July, 1918; also at Chalkaman, 5/6th August. In command of a small party sent to protect the rear of the column of refugees, he by his resource and able dispositions kept off the enemy, who were in greatly superior numbers. He hung on to position after position until nearly surrounded, and on each occasion extricated his command most skilfully. His cool determination and fine example inspired his men, and put heart into the frightened refugees.”

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Savige later wrote a book about his experiences in Persia, entitled “Stalky's Forlorn Hope”, which was published in 1920. (If you’re interested, this is available as an ebook from www.ozebook.com with some additional material on Dunsterforce. In relation to Finland, it’s also interesting to note that a flotilla of Royal Navy Coastal Motor-Torpedo Boats operated in the Caspian Sea in support of this operation in a somewhat similar manner to those CMB’s of Captain Augustus Agars’ that operated from Finland against the Bolshevik Navy in Krondtstadt. Agar’s books make a brief mention of this Caspian Sea Flotilla, and there is a good article about it in the Naval Review – see here http://www.gwpda.org/naval/caspian.htmand also at http://www.naval-review.co.uk/issues/1920-2.pdf)

In November 1918, Savige was evacuated to a hospital in Bombay, suffering an attack of Malaria. He returned to Australia in January 1919 and finally married Lilian Stockton on 28 June 1919. He had to struggle to re-establish himself in civilian life and was unemployed for a time before finding work with a Melbourne wholesale firm. In 1923 he became sole agent for the Returned Soldiers' Mill in Geelong, eventually he became sole agent for all of Australia. In 1930, he ran unsuccessfully for the Electoral district of Caulfield on the Nationalist Party of Australia ticket. In 1923, Savige founded “Legacy Australia” as an ex-servicemen's club, but it soon became a charitable organisation focusing on war widows and orphans. For the next 26 years, due to his commitment, energy and enthusiasm, Savige's name became inseparable from both the club and the movement. Savige joined the Militia on 19 February 1920, with his AIF rank of Captain. Commanding a Battalion, and then a Brigade, he was promoted to Major on 1 July 1924, Lieutenant Colonel on 1 July 1926, Colonel on 1 June 1935, and Brigadier on 1 May 1938. His promotion, while neither meteoric nor exceptional, was still far faster than that enjoyed by regular officers who had been majors in the AIF but remained at that rank for nearly twenty years, only to find themselves junior to Militia officers like Savige. For his part, Savige was a critic of the regulars.

Shortly after the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced the decision to form a Second Australian Imperial Force. He further directed that all commands in the new 6th Division would go to militiamen.and Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Blamey, newly appointed commander of the 6th Division, selected Savige to command its 17th Infantry Brigade. He and Blamey had worked together when Blamey had commanded the 3rd Division from 1931 to 1937 and Savige was "almost fanatically loyal to Blamey through bad as well as good times". However, the decision to send volunteers to Finland intervened and with Blamey’s strong support, Savige was appointed commanding officer of the 1st Brigade. Considering it’s inexperience in battle, the 1st Brigade did well in its first battles on the Karelian Isthmus, as a result of which Savige was appointed a Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland, with Swords. His citation read: “Brigadier Savige commanded the 1st Commomwealth Div. Inf. Bde in the Battles of Summa, Uusikirkko and the pursuit into the outskirts of Pietari (Leningrad). He showed fine control, organisation and leadership throughout, culminating in an excellent example of initiative and drive which broke the enemy flank west of Terijoki at Raivola, thus accelerating the enemy retreat and final defeat”.

In the tough offensive fighting on the Isthmus and the later defensive and offensive battles on the Syvari, Savige led from the front. He constantly visited forward positions and flew over frontline areas to let his men know that the CO was on the job. In this, he found the Ilmavoimat STOL aircraft provided to each Division to be invaluable and this was something he would constantly press for after he returned to the Australian forces in the Middle East. In the great defensive battles of late July and August 1940 on the Syvari Front, Savige excelled once more, this time in the tactical defensive. For his part in the fighting, he was awarded a bar to his Order of the White Rose. In this instance, his citation read: “Brig. Savige had control of the 1st Brigade, Commonwealth Division during the Battle on the Syvari from 24 July 40 until heavy fighting ceased on 26 Aug. 40. The battle was finally won on 11 Sep. 40 — the credit for the Brigade’s success in defeating what was a significant enemy attack made with large numbers of armour, infantry and artillery must rest with Brig. Savige under whose command the back of the enemy's offensive on his sector was broken. The nature of the country rendered great assistance to the attacker, and careful planning and decisive control of the defensive battle alone enabled the enemy offensive to be defeated. The supplying of our forward troops at this time was also a terrific problem that was overcome”.

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As the “Official History of the Commonwealth Division in the Winter War” puts it, Savige “…was a skilful manager of men, using an easy friendly manner and a slanginess of speech to decrease the distance that separated him from his subordinates. He was a sage leader in battle whose approach to all problems was practical and objective. He could write clearly and interestingly and enjoyed writing, whether it was orders and doctrine for future operations or accounts of past battles; he had a sense of history and the doings of his commands were usually more fully recorded than those of companion formations.”

Following the end of the Winter War, Savige was transferred to the Middle East where Blamey immediately restored him to command of the 17th Infantry Brigade. The combat and command experience Savige had gained in 6 months of battle in Finland stood him in good stead as he led the 1st Brigade in the Battle of Bardia and then in the Battle of Tobruk. The 17th Infantry Brigade would then fight in Greece in April 1941, where Savige was placed in charge of Savige Force, consisting of 4 Infantry Battalions, with armour, artillery, engineer and other support. He then covering the Allied flank in a successful fighting withdrawal, arriving back in Palestine on 1 May 1941 to rebuild his brigade. For the campaign in Greece, Savige received a further Mention in Despatches. After successfully leading a composite Brigade in the fighting in Syria against the Vichy French, Savige was sent back to Australia on a recruiting campaign, arriving on 5 January 1942 to find himself promoted to command of the Australian Army’s 3rd Division. Two days later he was promoted to Major-General. Savige threw himself into the task of preparing his command for the war with Japan, weeding out the physically unfit and incompetent. By May, he had removed some 60 officers. In October, Savige became acting corps commander. In March 1943, Savige departed for Port Moresby (New Guinea) where he commanded in the Salamaua-Wau campaign. Savige was awarded a Companion of the Order of the Bath for his services in the Salamaua campaign.

In February 1944 he was appointed to command I Corps in Queensland and in April 1944 his Corps was renamed II Corps and assumed command of New Guinea Force. After New Guinea Force was disbanded, Savige’s II Corps was ordered to "reduce enemy resistance on Bougainville Island as opportunity offers without committing major forces”. GHQ reckoned that there were no more than 12,000 Japanese left on Bougainville, while LHQ estimated 25,000. There were 40,000. On 8 September 1945, Savige accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces. After co-ordinating demobilization and dispersal, Savige transferred to the Reserve of Officers in June 1946. He went back into business successfully, was a leader in Melbourne's Anzac Day marches, a patron of a number of his former units' associations, and honorary colonel of the 5th Battalion (Victorian Scottish Regiment). Savige was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (Military Division) on 8 June 1950. Savige died on 15 May 1954.[2] He was accorded a funeral with full military honours at St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne. A crowd of 3,000 mourners watched him laid to rest at Kew Cemetery. In August 2006, Australian-Assyrian community leaders from Sydney and Melbourne gathered at Savige's grave site to commemorate his role in saving Assyrian refugees in 1918.

Such was one of the two Australian Army Brigade commanders who fought in Finland with the Commonwealth Division. The other was......

Brigadier John Joseph Murray, Commanding Officer, 2nd “Empire” Brigade, Commonwealth Division

Murray was born on born 26 April 1892 in Sydney, New South Wales the fourth child of John Murray, an Irish immigrant labourer, and his wife Margaret. He was educated at the local Catholic school before being taken on as an apprentice salesman for Sydney firm Anthony Hordern & Sons in 1910. He then joined the Australian Citizens Military Forces where he did two years service, before joining the 33rd Regiment in 1913. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 6 March 1915 and transferred to the first Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF), and set sail for Egypt. The 5th Division, in which he was an Officer, soon moved from Egypt to France where they were thrust into the brutal fighting of the Western Front.

In the horrific battle of Fromelles Murray was cited for his “courage and tenacity” in leading a charge and holding the position he had captured. He was awarded the Military Cross and promoted to Major in June 1917, becoming known for his exceptional leadership and daring night raiding of enemy trenches. In September 1918 during the intense fighting of the Second Battle of the Somme, Murray was again cited for his fine leadership, and was later awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He returned home to Australia in May, 1919. Although he was happy to return to his job at Anthony Hordern & Sons in Sydney, Murray also returned to his former militia role in the Australian Citizens Military Forces, where his experiences as a commander in World War I proved invaluable. On 4 January 1923 John Murray married Mary Madeline Cannon at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. His civilian career prospered when he was appointed Manager of the Delivery Department at Anthony Hordern & Sons.

By 1925 Murray was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the 56th Battalion, which he held until 1930, when he transferred to command of the 53rd Battalion. Murray enjoyed both his civilian roles, and his military life, and continued to further his career in both. In 1932 he was appointed chairman of the New South Wales Transport Advisory Committee, and he was appointed Managing Director of Associated Transport Services Ltd in 1935. From 1934 until 1938 Murray was the Commanding Officer of the Australian Army Service Corps, 1st Division. With War again looming on the horizon, Murray was given the command of the 9th Infantry Brigade but on the announcement of the raising of a Volunteer Force to fight in Finland, he promptly put his name forward. His experience as a battle-hardened leader in WW1, as well as his subsequent command experience in the inter-war years, led to Murray being selected for command of the 2nd Brigade.

Despite their lack of preparedness, equipment and training, on arrival in Finland and after a short weapons and equipment familiarization and unit training period, the Commonwealth Division were thrust into the front on the Karelian Isthmus. Murray's 2nd Brigade met the last Red Army attacks on the Isthmus head-on and then participated in the Maavoimat offensive that drove down the Karelian Isthmus to Leningrad. Unlike the 1st Brigade, the 2nd saw no great battles on the Isthmus, there participation in the offensive was more of a steadily grinding offensive that maintained a constant forward momentum that took them to the outskirts of Leningrad. On the outskirts of Leningrad and again on the Syvari Front after the Commonwealth Division were transferred there, Murray's experiences of trench warfare and night-raiding in WW1 proved invaluable.

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Brigadier John Joseph Murray, CO of the Commonwealth Division’s 2nd Brigade. Photo taken in Finland on the Syvari Front shortly before the fierce Russian offensive of late July 1940.

When the great Red Army offensive of July and August 1940 broke on the Finnish defensive positions, Murray’s 2nd Brigade at first fought fiercely and then fell back slowly into a series of previously prepared defensive positions, inflicting enormous losses on the enemy as they did so. After being relieved in place following two weeks of intensive combat, the 2nd Brigade regrouped and requipped before participating in an offensive action to relieve pressure on the neighbouring Spanish División Azul, which had faced a continuous Red Army attack in strength from the onset of the offensive. This counterattack was highly successful, trapping three Red Army Divisions on the wrong side of the Syvari and cutting them off in a pocket that was eliminated at the same time as a series of counter-attacks drove the Red Army back to their starting point. For his command of the 2nd Brigade in this decisive action, Murray was appointed a Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland, with Swords. Immediately after thus action, under Murray’s command, the 2nd Brigade would take part in the offensive across the Syvari, attacking with the élan that was a mark of the AIF infantry throughout both WW1 and WW2. This would be the last combat that the 2nd Brigade would see in the Winter War.

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Image sourced from: http://neoskosmos.com/news/sites/defaul ... il/5_0.jpg
Australian Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, Commonwealth Division, having a few drinks after the ceasefire was announced with soldiers of the neighbouring División Azul to whose assistance they had come when the Spanish Division was under heavy pressure from the Red Army. The 2nd Brigade made a decisive breakthrough at a point weakly held which enabled them to penetrate into the Red Army rear and throw the attack on the División Azul into confusion. In heavy fighting in early August 1940, the 2nd Brigade, the División Azul and a Finnish Combined Arms Regimental Task Force would trap three Red Army Divisions and two Red Army Tank Regiments that had crossed the Syvari in a pocket and eliminate them (incidentally, capturing large amounts of Red Army equipment intact. The war booty resulting from this failed Soviet offensive would provide the Maavoimat with enormous stockpiles of equipment, much of which would later to be used to help equip firstly, the Polish Home Army and secondly, newly created Infantry Divisions from the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as they were liberated from the Germans. Much of the undamaged armour and artillery would be used to strengthen existing Maavoimat formations.

Immediately after the end of the Winter War, Murray was advised that he had been given command of the Australian Army’s 20th Brigade which had sailed for the Middle East in October 1940 to begin training in Palestine, where he would join them on arrival. In 1941, despite the lack of preparedness, equipment and training, Murray's 20th Brigade were thrust into the front in Libya and on 4 April 1941, they met Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps at Er Rigima head on. Murray’s experiences in Finland in a similar fight against the Red Army enabled the Australians to frustrate Rommel's push, but despite delaying them, Rommel's force was too great to repel, and eventually Murray was forced to conduct a fighting withdrawal of the 20th into Tobruk. On 14 April, Rommel tried to press his advantage and take the city, but the 20th Brigade once more doggedly repelled the Germans, who disastrously suffered heavy casualties. For his leadership that day, Murray was granted a bar to his Distinguished Service Order. In July 1941, Murray had overall command of fortress Tobruk. In November 1941, he was Mentioned in Despatches for his command of the resistance to Rommel. However, at 49 years old and after more than a year of intensive fighting, it proved difficult for Murray to sustain frontline action. Blamey ordered Murray home to Australia where he recommended he be given a recruiting post.

Murray returned to Australia in January 1942, just in time for Japan's major thrust southwards towards New Guinea. Rather than being given the recruiting desk job that Blamey had earmarked him for, the Australian Command immediately promoted him to temporary Major General and command of the 10th Division. In August 1942 he took over command of the 4th Division. In October 1944, he was made General of the Rear Echelon and from March 1945 he commanded the Northern Territory Force. In January 1946, after nearly 31 years of military service, he resigned from the Australian Army. Murray successfully returned to his civilian life after World War II and was made Australian trade commissioner to New Zealand from 1946 until 1949 and then trade commissioner to Ceylon briefly in 1949. However the demands of two world wars and a fulfilling career caught up with him all to soon, and he died in September 1951. He received a funeral with full military honours.

Acting Lieutenant-Colonel Heathcote Howard (“Tack”) Hammer, Commanding Officer, Australian F/4th Light Horse Battalion, 1st “ANZAC” Brigade, Commonwealth Division

Major Heathcote Howard (“Tack”) Hammer of the 17th Light Horse (Machine-Gun) Regiment had been one of the more senior militia officers who had volunteered for service in Finland – selected as Commanding Officer of the F/4th Light Horse Battalion (the F stood for Finland), he had been promoted to the rank of acting-Lieutenant-Colonel and dispatched by General Blamey with a simple “Good luck Tack, you’re on your own from now on. Make whatever decisions you need to and don’t look to any from back here.”

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Image sourced from: http://cas.awm.gov.au/photograph/080834
Lieutentant-Colonel Heathcote Howard (“Tack”) Hammer: Commanding Officer of the Australian F/4th Light Horse Battalion. Photograph taken in his command bunker on the Syvari Front, Finland, Autumn 1940.

Heathcote Howard Hammer (1905-1961) was born on 15 February 1905 at Southern Cross, Western Australia, second son of Victorian-born parents William Hammer, miner, and his wife Ada May, née Williams. Educated at the Ballarat School of Mines, Victoria, he took a local job before becoming a commercial traveller. At St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, Melbourne, on 26 October 1935 he married Mary Frances Morrissey, a clerk; they were to have two children before being divorced in 1955. Having joined the Militia in 1923, he was commissioned in the 8th Battalion in February 1926, transferred to the 17th Light Horse (Machine-Gun) Regiment in 1937 and promoted major in 1939. “Tack” Hammer volunteered for the Finland Force in January 1940 and was appointed Commanding Officer, with the rank of Acting Lieutenant-Colonel. He sailed for Finland with the Volunteer Battalion in February – and the command soon brought him the operational experience he craved. He led the Battalion with distinction in the fighting on the Karelian Isthmus through May and June 1940.

One of the most thoughtful and successful Australian commanders of World War II, Hammer was a “tireless, fiery and colourful leader”, always immaculately dressed whether in the forests and swamps of Finland, the deserts of the Middle East or later in the jungle of the Pacific islands. “Hard as Nails” was the motto he proclaimed at his first inspection of the Volunteers of his 4th Light Horse in Finland and it inspired his training methods throughout the war. He understood and expounded the logistical basis of battle: “Weapons, ammunition and food are treasures in this country”, he told his troops on the way to the front on the Karelian Isthmus, urging them to fight their battles “wisely”. He was also an imaginative tactician, as his night operations against the Red Army on the Isthmus demonstrated. On the Karelian Isthmus he rapidly learned to employ the available artillery, tanks and air power with the aim of limiting casualties among his infantry. His capture in a night assault of a commanding feature strongly held by the Red Army that the Aussies nicknamed Spion Kop outside Uusikirkko on 26 June 1940 was brilliantly planned and executed and resulted in a rapid penetration in depth of the Red Army defensive positions.

After the conclusion of the peace negotiations between Finland and the Soviet Union, he returned to the UK and thence to the Middle East, where he assumed his permanent rank and was posted as brigade major of the 16th Brigade in March 1941. After participating in the disastrous campaign in Greece, his Brigade built defences in Syria. In January 1942 he was appointed to command the 2nd/48th Battalion, 9th Division; Returning to Australia in February 1943, he took command of the 15th Brigade in New Guinea in July. Following strenuous operations which led to the capture of Salamaua in September, Brigadier Hammer was given a brief time to rest and train his men before they joined the 7th Division in the Ramu Valley in January 1944. There they took part in the clearing of the Huon Peninsula and entered Madang on 24 April. Hammer was awarded a Bar to the D.S.O. (for Salamaua) and appointed C.B.E. (for the Ramu). In December 1944 the 15th Brigade moved to Bougainville. Where they went into action in April 1945. When the Japanese surrendered in August, he set up schools and courses to prepare his men for their return to civilian life. Mentioned in dispatches, he transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 29 November 1945.

As controller of demobilization in Victoria (1945-46), and as an assistant-commissioner for repatriation (1946-47) and a member of the Repatriation Commission from July 1947, Hammer remained close to the ex-service community. After resigning from the Army in September 1947 and going into private business, he returned to the Militia as commander, 2nd Armoured Brigade (1953-56), and was an aide-de-camp to Queen Elizabeth II in 1954. Promoted Major-General, he commanded the Australian Army’s 3rd Division from 1956-59 and was appointed honorary Colonel of the 8th-13th Victorian Mounted Rifles in 1959. In the postwar army he threw himself into training with the same creativity and drive that had distinguished his career in the A.I.F. On 14 January 1956 at the College Church, Parkville, Melbourne, Hammer had married Helena Irena Olova, née Vymazal, an Austrian-born interpreter. He died on 10 March 1961 and was buried with full military honours.
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Postby CanKiwi2 on 06 Nov 2012 19:08

Acting Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard James Callinan, Commanding Officer, Australian F/12th Light Horse Battalion, 2nd “Empire” Brigade, Commonwealth Division

Bernard James Callinan AC, CBE, DSO, MC (1913 – 1995) was an Australian soldier, civil engineer, businessman, and sports administrator. Callinan had joined the Citizen Force in 1936 as a Lieutenant in the Engineers. He was promoted to Captain in 1938 and Major in 1939. An outstanding young officer, he had first volunteered for the 2nd AIF but would then volunteer for Finland, where he was given command of the F/12th Light Horse and promoted to Acting Lieutenant-Colonel. He would lead the F/12th decisively and effectively in battle throughout the Winter War, only to be severely wounded in the last days of the fighting on the Syvari – but not before introducing Cricket to Finland. He returned to the UK and then to Australia to recover.

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Acting Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard Callinan, OC F/12th Light Horse, Summer 1940 on the Syvari Front.

After recovering from his injuries, he would return to his Substantive rank of Major and be appointed to command the 2/2 Independent Company commandos who fought as part of Sparrow Force on Timor against the Japanese in 1942. Upon returning to Australia, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and shortly after assumed command of the 26th Battalion, which served in New Guinea and Bougainville. He later commanded the 58th/32nd Battalion and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross for outstanding leadership and gallantry.

Sir Bernard held many positions in the commercial field, including director of CSR Ltd, director of the British Petroleum Company of Australia, chairman of the new Federal Parliament House Construction Authority, commissioner of the Australia Broadcasting Corporation and the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SEC), deputy chancellor of LaTrobe University and president of the Institute of Engineers Australia. From 1963 he served as Commissioner of the SEC Victoria. Sir Bernard joined the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) committee in 1966 and served as president from 1980 to 1985. He fought to retain the Victorian Football League (VFL) grand final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), and was a long-serving Victorian Amateur Football Association(VAFA) Patron-in-Chief. He died in 1995.

The New Zealand/Australian Army’s Composite (Finland) Field Regiment in the Winter War

One further composite Australian and New Zealand Army unit would volunteer and fight in Finland – the New Zealand and Australian Army’s Composite (Finland) Field Regiment, an artillery unit which, as with the ANZAC Battalion, was made up of both New Zealanders and Australians but as with the ANZAC Battalion, was under New Zealand command. Once in Finland, the Field Regiment would be attached to the ANZAC Brigade, formed from the ANZAC Battalion, the 28th Maori Battalion and the Australian F/4th Light HorseBattalion together with other supporting units, largely formed from Australian volunteers. The New Zealanders in the Field Regiment had signed up in response to the call for Volunteers to fight against Germany. Hundreds of youthful volunteers had converged on the Hopu Hopu Camp and joined a small advance party to form the fledgling 4th Field Regiment, New Zealand Artillery. Little did they know at the time that they would end up fighting not in the Middle East or against Germany as they had as first expected, but in the snow, swamp and forests of Finland, a country most of them had barely heard of.

Compulsory military training had been abolished in New Zealand for almost a decade before World War II. The young men who assembled on October 4, 1939, had had precious little, if any, military experience. But they had patriotism and enthusiasm in abundance. Some were impatient that the war might end before they could become involved in it. How many would have dreamed that, five years on, the end would not be in sight and that by then they would have fought in Finland, Greece, the Middle East and then against the Japanese in the Pacific? The task of moulding this motley lot of individuals into a disciplined team of skilled gunners fell to instructors from the tiny regular force (Royal New Zealand Artillery) and former part-timers of the New Zealand Territorial Army. This nucleus of experienced officers and non-commissioned officers was led by the commanding officer and "father of the regiment", Lieutenant Colonel "Ike" Parkinson and his RSM, Warrant Officer Class One, W.J. Fitzgerald, both long-serving regular soldiers and veterans of World War I.

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Image sourced from: http://www.nzetc.org/etexts/WH2Arti/WH2Art133a(h280).jpg
Lieutenant Colonel "Ike" Parkinson, CO, 4 Field Regiment (New Zealand Army)

Over the next three months they trained their fledglings well and the 4th Field Regiment sailed for the Middle East on January 6, 1940, on the Empress of Canada in a convoy with other units of the 1st Echelon. The journey took them via Sydney, Perth, Colombo and the Red Sea to Port Tewfik at the Suez end of the canal, then by rail to what was supposedly their final destination, Maadi Camp near Cairo. Many more contingents were to follow that route in years to come, but no others would follow the route that half the men of 4 Field Regiment took next. Just as they had settled in to Maadi Camp, they were asked for volunteers to step forward to go to Finland to join the men assisting that small country in its life and death struggle against the Soviet Union. To a man they chose to volunteer to fight for a country most of them knew next to nothing about. Names were placed in a bucket and drawn, with half the Regiment going to the new Composite Regiment, together with a similar number of Australians who had likewise volunteered.

In mid-March 1940 the composite Regiment once more embarked, this time on a Finnish ship that had made the long journey across the Mediterranean to Alexandria to pick them up. Under the command of Lt. Col G B “Ike” Parkinson, the 42 Officers and 644 OR’s of the Composite (Finland) Field Regiment were joined at the end of March on the ship in Glasgow by 2 Batteries of the New Zealand Army’s 7 Anti-Tank Regiment which had arrived by then in the UK. The Regiment consisted of the RHQ, 25 Bty, 26 Bty and 27 Bty (12 x 25 pdr guns in total), and 2 attached units – 9 Light Aid Detachment (1 Officer, 13 ORs) and a Signals Section.

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Men of the New Zealand Army’s 7 Anti-Tank Regiment training in the UK shortly before leaving for Finland

They sailed as part of a growing convoy which included the Polish ship MS Batory, carrying the 5th Battalion Scots Guards, the Australians, Rhodesians, South Africans and the “De La Rey Battalion,” a unit of Boer Volunteers who would have nothing to do with the British but who were friendly enough with the New Zealanders and Australians. The convoy arrived in the Finnish port of Petsamo on the 31st of March 1940 and the men of the Artillery Regiment promptly disembarked together with their guns, moving without delay onto trucks which would carry them to Lapua, deep in the heart of Finland. The Regiment would train and then go into action with the rest of the Commonwealth Division, with their actions documented in the Official History.

Two events which did not find their way into the official history were recorded by members of the Regiment and found their way instead into unit folklore: The first took place in the early days of the units participation in the Winter War as they supported the attack that swept down the length of the Karelian Isthmus in spring 1940. A warning had been issued to be particularly wary of Soviet landmines and anything resembling a booby trap. Sure enough, a suspicious looking Red Army helmet was sitting right in the centre of the gun position. Dual leads protruding from its underside were concealed in an adjacent clump of weeds. Everyone gave it a wide berth while plans were made to deal with the problem. Eventually a generous length of signal wire was obtained and laid out with one end looped over the hazard. All hands took cover as the other end was tugged vigorously. The helmet rose sharply, somersaulted several times and came to rest upside down, harmlessly trailing its dual leads-cum-chinstrap.

Later in the war, the unit had a tale to tell that implicated a sizable element of the Composite Field Regiment but it was also a tale that did not find its way into the official histories. The action took place in Viipuri, a Finnish city famous for its old castle. But neither history nor architecture was the focus of a large party of 26th Battery personnel who had exchanged their gun pits and command posts on the Syvari front for a few days of peace and freedom “in the big smoke”. In the main square around noon an uninhibited display of gunner exuberance fuelled by varying degrees of over-indulgence attracted the unwelcomed intervention of the Finnish Military Police. The international incident that followed came to be known unofficially as the "Battle of Viipuri". An influential witness to the action at Viipuri that day was the commander of the Finnish Armed Forces, Marshal Mannerheim. Later that day, after some compelling arguments in the Viipuri Military Headquarters by the officer in charge of the leave party, all the gunners were released from military custody so that they could finish their few days of leave before returning to their posts at the official and rather more important Syvari Front.

They were not released however, until they had been paid a personal visit by the Marshal, who thanked them for coming to fight for Finland but then rather acidly requested them to refrain from destroying one of the cities they had travelled so far to protect – something which, based on what he had seen, they could undoubtedly achieve. Suitably chastened and also somewhat relieved, the men of 26th Battery completed their leave rather more decorously. A sequel to the day was a message from Finnish Military Headquarters complimenting the personnel of the Composite Field Regiment, and in particular the men of the 26th Battery, on their “fighting zeal” and trusting that in future this would be directed at the Russians. The regiment did indeed play vigorously at times, but it also fought with dogged determination at the forefront of the action in the offensive on the Karelian Isthmus and then in the defence of the Syvari in the great battles of July and August 1940.

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British-supplied and New Zealand/Australian Army-volunteer-crewed 25-pounder guns in action at the Crossing of the Syvari, 23rd August 1940: In early August 1940, Stalin rejected peace feelers extended yet again by the Finnish Government and launched a massive attack against the Maavoimat along the entire front, from the White Sea to Pietari (Leningrad). The attack was defeated, with the Red Army suffering massive casualties. The Finnish response was a large-scale attack across the Syvari aiming to demonstrate that the Maavoimat could if they wished isolate and capture Leningrad. An airborne assault to secure a firm bridgehead was accompanied by armoured and infantry formations crossing in strength. The attacking force was supported by 500 field, medium and heavy guns. Their covering fire as the assault crossing began must rank as the largest of the war by the Maavoimat. The barrage commenced at 21.50 hours on 23rd August 1940, while the Red Army was also hammered by ongoing attacks by close support aircraft and extensive special forces attacks deep in their rear areas.

The painting shows 25-pounder guns of the New Zealand/Australian Army’s composite (Finland) Field Regiment in action, covering the Syvari crossing by infantry and armour of the 21st Pansaaridivisoona, which led the attack, strongly supported by the Commonwealth Division. Nearby, Red Army positions are being bombed by Ilmavoimat close support aircraft. To the left is a crashed Parajaegerdivisoona glider. In front of the position is the Syvari, lined by trees. The guns and their ammunition limbers are all packed close together. The Gunners’ rifles and a Suomi submachine-gun (no doubt illicitly acquired) are stacked, while empty brass cartridge cases are flung to the side of each gun. In the rear are stacks of ammunition boxes. The scene is one of disorderly confusion, intense activity, deep mud and huge ruts. The Regiment advanced southwards with the leading formations of the Maavoimat during its epic move on Leningrad, followed by its equally rapid withdrawal. The intransigence of Stalin in ignoring the implications of this attack whilst simultaneously rejecting Finnish overtures to a peace agreement aimed at securing the end of the war would result in the two bomber raids by the Ilmavoimat which would stun the world. The first of these raids have a devastating effect on the Soviet economy, while the second would result in the death of both Stalin and a significant portion of the Politburo.


During the advance on Leningrad, the Regiment would acquire an extra two Batteries of artillery pieces that contrasted markedly with its normal complement of 25 pounders. It comprised eight captured Red Army 152 H 09-30 152mm heavy howitzers presented to the regiment by a Jaeger Company of the 21st Pansaaridivisoona which had overrun the Red Army artillery unit to which they had formerly belonged. The guns, their tractors and a large supply of shells were withdrawn back across the Syvari by the Regiment as the Maavoimat withdrew to their starting point, satisfied that the Red Army had been suitably chastised for their temerity. Six weeks later, the Winter War had come to an abrupt end as the triumvirate that had replaced Stalin in leading the USSR negotiated and concluded a peace agreement that saw the Maavoimat returning to what were largely the pre-war borders, with some adjustments. The Composite Field Regiment withdrew together with the rest of the Commonwealth Division and waited as, unit by unit, they were transported to Petsamo and shipped back to the UK.

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Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... ly1940.jpg
25-Pdr’s of the New Zealand/Australian Composite (Finland) Field Regiment during an inspection by Marshal Mannerheim sometime between the end of the Winter War and their return to the UK in late 1940. The 25-Pdr guns (and the Red Army “souvenirs”) were left with the Maavoimat when the Regiment departed. They remained in service with the Maavoimat through to the end of WW2, at which point, worn out from heavy usage, they were retired and used as museum pieces or put on display as part of monuments and memorials.

By now, the Field Regiment had been in battle almost continuously for some five months, with much heavy fighting. Under the tutelage of the Maavoimat and in a pressure-cooker environment where failure meant death, if not for them, then for the infantry and armour they were supporting, the Regiment had become as expert as the Maavoimat Artillery Regiments – at this time and through the remainder of WW2, the best Artillery in the world thanks to the expertise and leadership over the decades since independence of the Maavoimat artillery commander, General of the Artillery Vilho Petter Nenonen. With unequalled operational experience, now highly trained in combined arms operations and with skills that the British and Commonwealth armies would not acquire until almost the end of WW2, the last chapter in the saga of the Composite Field Regiment was rather more of a disappointment to the members of what had now become a highly-experienced and tightly-knit unit.

On returning to the UK, the (Composite) Field Regiment and their CO, Lieutenant Colonel "Ike" Parkinson made a concerted attempt to remain intact as a unit and to pass their expertise and skills, which they considered to be vastly superior to the practices then in place in the British and Commonwealth artillery, on to the British and ANZAC Artillery. The attempt failed, the men were split up and returned to the various Field Regiments of their respective armies where replacements were needed and an unrivalled pool of expertise and hard-earned practical knowledge was lost for good. It would take the British and Commonwealth Artillery years of combat and many casualties to relearn the hard way the lessons that the (Composite) Field Regiment could have so easily passed on. In the eyes of the disgruntled gunners, it was a case of the “not invented here” syndrome at its worst.

Lieutenant Colonel "Ike" Parkinson returned to the Middle East where he resumed command of 4 Field Regiment of the New Zealand Army. Under his command in North Africa, few other artillery regiments equaled its operational expertise. The special status the regiment enjoyed within the Divisional Artillery often attracted tasks of particular difficulty or importance and by the time the slow hard slog up the Italian peninsula through two bitter winters and across much formidable terrain to final victory at Trieste had been completed, the Regiment was recognized as the best in the New Zealand Army. Thus it was that at the end of the war in the Pacific, the Regiment’s 25th Battery was chosen for the "J" Force component of the army of occupation in Japan. In Japan, the battery would once more find itself alongside Maavoimat artillery units, part of the small Finnish “Task Force Hirose Chusa” that had been dispatched as the Finnish contribution to the Army of Occupation in Japan.

And one last contribution from New Zealand – Railway and Forestry Company’s

After the New Zealand Government had indicated the intention of New Zealand to assist Finland through the dispatch of Volunteers, and indeed after the Volunteers were on their way, the Finnish Government, via the New Zealand High Commission in London, would make one further request for assistance.

The Ambassador of Finland in London to the New Zealand High Commissioner, London, dated 19 January 1940A very pressing need has arisen for the immediate provision of assistance with Transportation and Forestry work in support of the Finnish Army. Should it be possible, the Government of Finland would request assistance in the form of:

One Railway Survey company and Four Railway Construction companies to assist with the continuing construction of the Railway Line from Tornio to Lyngenfjiord in northern Norway. This is a critical rail link for the importation of military supplies and as many of the railway construction workers are now in the Army, it would be of the greatest assistance if the New Zealand Government could provide skilled Railway surveyors and construction workers. No military experience is considered necessary.

Four Forestry companies to assist with the cutting and milling of timber for use in constructing defences and in general support of the Army. While Finland has no fixed war establishment for a Forestry company, it is understood that the 1918 war establishment of a Canadian forestry Company consisted of six officers and 173 other ranks (including 20 log-makers, 30 rollers and chain men, 10 road-cutters, and other specialists such as sawfilers, millwrights, log-setters, &c., and 40 general hands) and 69 draught horses. Again, with most of our men of military age in the Army and fighting on the frontlines, sizable units of this nature can only be raised in Finland with great difficulty and in small numbers, and the suggestion has been made that His Majesty's Government in New Zealand might be prepared to assist in the provision of these units. The New Zealand Government's early observations on this suggestion would be received gratefully by the Government of Finland.


The Governer-General of New Zealand via the New Zealand High Commissioner, London to the Government of Finland, dated 22 January 1940
Your telegram of 19 November. Approval has been given by His Majesty's Government in New Zealand to the provision of the following units for service in Finland in a non-combatant role:

One Railway Survey company, Royal New Zealand Army Engineers
One Railway Construction company, Royal New Zealand Army Engineers
Two Railway Operating companies, Royal New Zealand Army Engineers
Six Forestry companies, Royal New Zealand Army Engineers

The Government of New Zealand has consulted with the Government of Australia on this matter and the Government of Australia has agreed to provide the following units for service in Finland in a non-combatant role:
Four Railway Construction companies, Royal Australian Army Engineers

The proposal is to recruit the personnel for these units by the end of January and it is expected that they will be ready to leave New Zealand and Australia about the middle of February. On the arrival of these units in Finland it will be necessary for the Government of Finland to arrange the provision of the necessary equipment for them.

Regarding financial arrangements, as the units are being provided at the specific request of the Government of Finland it is suggested that the arrangements should be as follows:
(a) That the New Zealand and Australian Governments bear the cost of pay, pensions, dependants' and field allowances.
(b) That the Government of Finland bear the cost of officers' mess allowances and all provisions, including accommodation in Finland, the cost of transport to Finland and back to either the UK or New Zealand or Australia at the end of the war and all other expenses connected with the equipment, work, or maintenance of the units.


The Ambassador of Finland in London to the New Zealand High Commissioner, London, dated 24 January 1940
Your telegram of 22 January 1940. The New Zealand and Australian Government's offer to provide the units mentioned is accepted with gratitude by the Government of Finland. The question of their transport to this country has been reviewed and a Finnish Cargo/Passenger Ship currently in the Pacific is being dispatched to Auckland forthwith.


The New Zealand High Commissioner, London to the Ambassador of Finland in London, dated 2r January 1940
I have been asked by the Prime Minister to inform you that steps have already been taken with a view to recruiting the men and transporting them as soon as possible. The Prime Minister asks me to say that if there is any other form of help which the Government of Finland wants, and which New Zealand is able to give, you have only to ask for it.


The New Zealand Government’s immediate response was to place advertisements in newspapers calling for men with logging, sawmilling and railways surveying and construction experience. More than 6,000 replied, three times the number required. The New Zealand Forest Service was given the task of selecting men for the Forestry companies whilst the New Zealand Railways selected men for the Railways companies – and many of the volunteers were Railways employees. Within the Forestry Service the job of picking out the most suitable personnel was delegated to forester A.P Thomson. Criteria were laid down, with detailed numbers by trades and occupations required (key workers like benchmen, tailers-out, sawdoctors etc); there needed to be wide geographical representation from over New Zealand; the home sawmilling industry was not to be unduly dislocated; and all had to be physically grade 1, single and under 35 years of age. There were still many suitable men left after the occupational and other requirements had been met. The physical requirements were simple: over six feet in height and in sound health.

No wonder there was a very high average height among the 1,165 forestry men who went into camp at Papakura on 13 February, 1940. They received a cursory two weeks of basic military training, largely in drill, before embarking on a Finnish cargo/passenger ship for an unescorted voyage across the Pacific to Vancouver, from where they were to be entrained to Halifax, after which they would be shipped to Finland in an escorted convoy. They arrived in Finland at the end of April 1940 along with the men from the New Zealand and Australian Railway and Construction companies. The New Zealand Forestry contingent was commanded by Major K. O. Tunnicliffe, while Captain J. G. Elliot, Captain J. D. Coogan (of Whakatane), Captain C. Biggs (later Forest Service Conservator of Forests Nelson), Lieutenant A.P. Thomson (a future Director-General of Forests), Captain O. Jones and Captain D.V.Thomas were the Forestry Company commanders. Other officers included Lieutenant H.E. Otley (who was associated with a well-known Christchurch timber firm) and Lieutenant A.L. Poole (who would also later become Director-General of Forests). The experiences of these men, many of whom would go on to senior positions in the New Zealand Forest Service, would be instrumental in the close ties between the New Zealand and Finnish forestry industries in the post-WW2 decades.

On arrival, the Forestry Companies were moved up to Eastern Karelia and put to work cutting and milling timber for use in the construction of fortifications along the Finnish frontlines. With a frontline that by early June 1940 stretched from the White Sea to the Gulf of Finland, the demand for timber for the construction of bunkers, trenches and fortified positions as well as for corduroy roads in general was enormous – and with most of the Finnish forestry workforce in the Maavoimat, there was a distinct shortage of forestry workers to cut and mill timber. The six New Zealand Forestry Companies made a substantial contribution with their industrial-scale New Zealand type mills.

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New Zealand-built sawmill near the White Sea

The New Zealands disparaged the Finnish methods they had encountered which were largely manual: breakdown benches requiring logs to be wound through by hand; no power on the feed or return rollers of the breast benches; no pin fences to size boards sawn; no trolleys to carry flitches from the breast benches or sawn timber to the skids; no water to cool the saws; and sawdust had to be shovelled away from the saws by hand. In contrast the New Zealand type mills built had power feeds for the breaking down benches with water-cooled saws, powered return-feed breast benches, pin fences to size the boards, powered goose saws and sawdust conveyors.

The Finnish Forestry Service found it easy to understand the New Zealanders' insistence on access to water, although one exasperated New Zealand officer was reported as having to convince a skeptical Finnish officer with no forestry experience by saying, "Now look here mate, if you turn 48 inch diameter circular saws at a thousand r.p.m, spindle speed and feed them at two and a half to three inches per revolution and butt one flitch after another so that you are cutting timber all day instead of cutting wind, you are going to have bloody hot saws which will fly to bits unless you run a film of water on the surfaces all the cutting day."

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New Zealand foresters logging Finnish beech, Eastern Karelia

The output of the New Zealanders was claimed to be consistently higher than that of forestry groups from Canada and Sweden. Comparative figures for the 13 weeks for July to September 1940 showed that the average weekly output of the New Zealanders was 951 cubic metres versus 899 for the Canadians and 783 for the Swedes. The norm for each New Zealand mill from an 8 hour shift was 35 cubic metres. One New Zealand mill produced 46 cubic metres in 7 hours 20
minutes cutting time with a crew of six men. The New Zealanders got on well with the Finnish people and, on the whole, were magnificent ambassadors for their country. They even responded to the interests of the Finns by competing with them in chopping and sawing contests, the results of which ran about 50/50.

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Logging competition – New Zealand forester entertaining the Finns

The roles of the New Zealanders in Finland varied a great deal. In addition to logging and milling themselves, they frequently assumed an administrative function, arranging for supplies of timber to be transported to the military fronts where they were most urgently needed. On occasions they stepped in to supervise the Karelian forest and mill workers who the Finns employed for logging operations – one large Karelian mill captured intact from the Soviets employed 500 workers, most of them Karelians who were willing to work for the Finns once the fighting had passed them by. In the forests themselves, they faced a range of problems, not the least of which was the danger from Finnish soldiers on leave shooting deer in the Forest.

After the Winter War ended, the Forestry Companies would move to the UK, where they would perform a similar role, as would the Railway Construction and Operating Companies who had spent most of their time in Finland working on the strategically important double-tracking of the Lyngenfjord line.

The Australian Volunteers – after the Winter War….

After returning from Finland to the UK in late 1940, surviving members of the Australian Volunteers were largely sent to the Middle East to join the Australian formations there as replacements. In this way, and in common with the British, Canadians and New Zealanders who had served as volunteers in the Winter War, an unrivalled pool of military expertise gained at a high prices in lives and courage was dissipated with no institutional lessons learned or passing on of the valuable knowledge and skills acquired. Unlike the Maavoimat, which had long institutionalised the capturing, evaluating and disseminating of lessons learned, the Commonwealth Armies continued to suffer from a bad case of “not developed here-itis”, and indeed, many of the volunteers found themselves behind in the promotional stakes and serving under far less competent and battle-experienced commanders than should have been the case. Their intense combat-experience in Finland was discounted, and indeed, was even looked at as a negative in many cases.

References: Aside from the fictional volunteers, the information on Australian aid to Finland in the Winter War is very loosely based on an article by an Australian historian A R G (Tony) Griffiths entitled, strangely enough, “Australian aid to Finland and the winter war” which can be found in "The Journal of Baltic Studies" Volume 9, Issue 1, 1978. The extent of Australian aid has been somewhat (!) magnified for this alternative history.

Next Post: The South African and Rhodesian Volunteer Battalions
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army
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The South African Volunteers

Postby CanKiwi2 on 12 Nov 2012 21:16

The South African Volunteers

The officially sponsored South African Battalion was, in contrast to the Boer de la Rey Battalion, very much made up of English-speaking South Africans. It was of course an all-volunteer unit, but unlike the De la Rey Battalion, it had firm Government backing from the start. In the section on the Boer de la Rey Battalion we have already covered the political issues that South Africa faced on entry into WW2, with the resignation of the Prime Minister, Hertzog, and the selection of General Jan Smuts as his replacement, at which time war was declared on Germany. At the start of WW2, South Africa was even less prepared for any war than Australia or New Zealand. Out of a total population of 2,400,000 whites, the available pool of men aged between 20 and 40 was around 320,000. As we have seen previously, the declaration of war on Germany had the support of only a narrow majority in the South African parliament and was far from universally popular. Indeed, there was a significant minority actively opposed to the war and under these conditions conscription was never an option. The expansion of the army and its deployment overseas in WW2 thus depended entirely on volunteers.

There was very little foundation to start from. The Permanent Force was 2,032 under strength on an establishment of 5,385. Of its 313 officers, only a handful were fully trained Staff officers. The strength of the Citizen Force for the training year 1938-9 was 14,631 (1,015 under establishment). Registration of Reserves had only recently begun and Brigadier-General George Brink, the Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Army Organization and Training, placed the shortage of trained infantrymen at more than 39,000, for whom no pool of instructors existed, as there were only 104 Other Ranks in the S.A. Instructional Corps. Brigadier-General Len Beyers, appointed Director-General of the Defence Rifle Associations on 21 September 1939, reckoned that of 122,000 men in the Commandos, only about 18,300 were properly armed and equipped. Only 84 trained field artillery officers were available in South Africa. There were 71 field-guns and howitzers in service but only 65 were in field units, as the other six were being used in coast defence batteries. Ammunition available for these guns plus six 2-pounder anti-tank guns and eight 3-inch 20 cwt. anti-aircraft guns was barely enough for a single (moderate) day's shooting. South Africa possessed two obsolete medium tanks and two obsolete Crossley armoured cars imported in 1925. No armoured fighting units had been formed and only two experimental armoured cars had so far been built locally.

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Brigadier-General George Brink, the Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Army Organization and Training. Brink would be promoted to Major-General and appointed General Officer Commanding, 1st S.A. Division, in its successful operations in Southern Abyssinia. Brink would be responsible for the organization and dispatch of the South African Volunteers to Finland.

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A biography of Major General George Brink was written by South African writer Carel Birkby, who would report from Finland during the Winter War and later from the Middle East.

The S.A. Engineer Corps totalled 426 officers and men. The S.A. Corps of Signals was organized in three Divisional Signals Companies and nine Brigade Signals Companies on a peacetime basis, but only 24 out of 50 wireless sets were available. Further such sets were unobtainable. Just before the outbreak of war, the Technical and 'QJ Services had been separated, but the old units had not yet been disbanded and the new Technical Services Corps and 'OJ Services Corps had not taken over. The provision of stores, the processing of indents and the issue of pay were therefore in a confused state. Shortages of kit and equipment were astronomical. In the S.A. Medical Corps', total strength for the training year 1938-9 was 89 officers and 1,141 other ranks, but ambulances, equipment, and the standard of medical training among the other ranks were utterly inadequate for operations in the field.

The Air Force was in no better shape and nor was the Navy. Service aircraft available in South Africa, after taking over the South African Airways' Junkers 86 airliners, were 4 up-to-date eight-gun Hurricane fighters,1 Blenheim; 6 obsolete Fury fighters; 1 single-engined Fairey Battle bomber; 18 twin-engined Junkers 86's with a 1,160 lb. bomb-load; and 63 obsolete Hartebeest biplane light bombers (a derivative of the Hawker Hart, the majority of which were built in South Africa). There was no Navy. The SA Naval Service had been established on 1 April 1922 and three small ships were acquired (on permanent loan from the Royal Navy)- HMSAS Protea (a hydrographic survey vessel), HMSAS Sonneblom and HMSAS Immortelle (both minesweeping trawlers). However the Great Depression meant the government cut back on defence expenditure and the ships were handed back to the Royal Navy (HMSAS Protea in 1933 and the remaining ships in 1934). When WW2 broke out the South African Naval Service was virtually non-existent, with 3 officers and 3 ratings.

Against all this, morale in existing units was high, the regiments had a fine esprit de corps and by comparison with European and other armies, the standard of physical fitness, education and intelligence of the men in the ranks was exceptional. Within a week of the declaration of war General Smuts placed the Commandos under the Chief of the General Staff, to be administered through normal military channels. Other units began to be mobilized and equipment gathered. Sir Pierre van Ryneveld warned Defence Headquarters that Italy might come into the war any day and try to overrun the Sudan, Egypt and the Suez Canal. After that, or concurrently with such a campaign, it was expected that Italy might advance into Kenya and Tanganyika and even against South Africa. In November, therefore, Colonel P. de Waal, who had become Director-General of Operations on 15 September, flew to East Africa to gather information on the assistance which South Africa could render in the event of an Italian attack. On 20 December 1939 the British Government suggested that a plan for a move of South African troops to Kenya might be worked out, though no immediate action was considered necessary.

The outbreak of the Winter War between the USSR and Finland was at best a peripheral concern and a distraction for the government of General Smuts. This was not the case for the Boers, as we have seen, where feelings of support for the Finns ran high, while antipathy to fighting against Germany on the side of the British was equally high. As we have covered in an earlier Post, the Smuts government saw the war in Finland and the Boer demand to send a volunteer unit as an opportunity to pacify the Boers and get rid of some of the Boer hotheads at one and the same time. What they had not counted on was an equally strong demand from British South Africans to send a unit of volunteers. Opinions in the English-language South African press were freely and hotly expressed. The Smuts government was to an extent supportive of the Finnish fight, certainly supportive enough that 25 (more or less obsolete) Gloster Gauntlet fighters that had been purchased from the RAF for the South African Air Force but which were still in the UK were instead donated to Finland. (Given the small size of the South African Air Force, this was in fact a fairly significant contribution). While this satisfied the South African publics’ desire to assist Finland, it did not assuage the demands of the more militant that volunteers be permitted to fight for Finland. To many, the permission for Boer volunteers to go, but not “British” South Africans, was an insult to their courage.

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Gloster Gauntlet-lentokone (OH-XGT) lentoonlähdössä Selänpään lentonäytöksessä näytösesityksensä Selänpään lentokentällä Kouvolassa / ex-Ilmavoimat Gloster Gauntlet aircraft (OH-XGT) taking off for display at Selänpää Airfield in Kouvola, Finland. In early 1949, the Gloster Gauntlet was more or less obsolete as a fighter and the aircraft were used in Finland for fighter-pilot trainers by the Ilmavoimat.

In South Africa, a very small Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus team of two older men was in place, billeted with the Honorary Finnish Consul in Cape Town (Finland would not establish a diplomatic mission in South Africa until 1949) and these men did much to ensure accurate and up to date information on the war situation and on the help Finland needed was available to the South African news media and to groups supporting Finland. As with the other Dominions, South Africa had no armaments industry to speak of and it was not possible for her to send weapons or munitions to Finland – whatever was manufactured would be needed to equip the South African armed forces as they rapidly expanded – with an eye on the threat posed by the large Italian forces in East Africa which at this stage were not yet at war with the UK – but which might well be all too soon. While the small Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus team largely concentrated on encouraging South African fund raising, they did succeed in closing a number of reciprocal trade agreements with the South African government largely predicated on the shipment of timber from Finland (via Lyngenfjiord) to South Africa in exchange for return shipments of wool, sugar (from the sugarcane plantations of Natal), meat and produce, with cargo to be freighted in Finnish merchant marine hulls. Throughout WW2, sugar would be in demand in Finland (and in Europe) and this regular Finnish barter trade with South Africa would ensure Finnish (and indeed, Swedish – for the Finns would export South African sugar to Sweden thru WW2 – “with a nominal markup of course”) sugar supplies were maintained at an adequate level through the war years.

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Ships at Durban: note the mixture of steam and sail (the sailing ships are likely from the Finnish Åland Island-based Gustaf Erikson Line. These sailing ships would continue to operate through WW2 although some were lost as they were unable generally to sail with the escorted convoys). Nevertheless, they would continue to operate between Australia, South Africa and the UK.

Regardless, demand grew from the South African public for a volunteer unit representing South Africans, and not just the Boers, to be dispatched to Finland. The news that even the tiny self-governing Colony of Southern Rhodesia was planning to dispatch a few hundred intrepid volunteers was fuel to the fire of South African public opinion. The question was raised in Parliament from within the government ranks and, reluctantly, General Smuts acquiesced and gave permission for a small volunteer force (“Ag nie manne, not more than a Battalion of Infantry, and artillery units and some air force personnel, just not too many mind, let them put on a good show for the public and we can get back to the real war” he was afterwards quoted as having said). Regardless, for a country with a mere two and a half million citizens, which would struggle to field three Divisions in WW2, the sending of some 2,500 volunteers would be a major commitment.

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Jan Christiaan Smuts (24 May 1870 – 11 September 1950) served as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and again from 1939 until 1948. He served as a General in the First World War and as a British Field Marshal in the Second World War. His support for sending South African Volunteers to Finland was lukewarm at best – he saw the dispatch of the Boer De La Rey Battalion as an expeditious way to defuse the Boer opposition and sidetrack the hotheads of the Ossewabrandwag. He was rather less keen regarding the dispatch of a second group of Volunteers to Finland, regarding this as a diminution of South Africa’s limited manpower. Nevertheless, he would in the end acquiesce, while at the same time limiting the numbers of the volunteers that were in the end dispatched.

In the end, three units of South African volunteers were raised, two of Army volunteers and the third a small number of Air Force volunteers. The first was an Artillery Unit, which would become the Artillery of the 2nd “Empire” Brigade of the Commonwealth Division in Finland. The second unit was a small Infantry Battalion, with a strength of approximately 800 men. The third would be a small contingent of approximately 120 Air Force volunteers which, when combined with a rather smaller number of Rhodesians, would form distinct southern African volunteer squadron (“The Shaka’s”) within the Ilmavoimat. The surviving pilots and groundcrew would, after the Winter War ended, join the South African forces in the Middle East and most would become founding members of the SAAF’s No. 5 Squadron.

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Major J E "Jack" Frost, Commanding Officer of “The Shaka’s” in Finland, sits between two of his most experienced pilots, Lieutenant R Pare (left) and Captain A Duncan, Eastern Karelia, Summer 1940.

John Everitt "Jack" Frost DFC & Bar (born 16 July 1918; Missing in action 16 June 1942) was a South African fighter ace during the Winter War and WW2. Frost joined the SAAF in 1936, at the age of 18 and by early 1940 was a Captain. Together with a number of other South African air force personnel, he volunteered to fight for Finland in the Winter War and was appointed commanding officer of the joint South African-Rhodesian contingent and promoted to Acting-Major for the duration. Flying Brewster Buffaloes delivered from the US, Frost would become the highest-scoring foreign fighter pilot in Finland in the Winter War with 25 Soviet aircraft shot down. “The Shaka’s” assigned to the Isthmus sector. On 11 May 1940, Frost and his wingman Lieutenant Bob Kershaw shared the destruction of a lone Soviet Tupolev SB-2 bomber attacking a Finnish Fast Minelayer. Kershaw described the action: "I remember our first combat together. While on a patrol we were vectored on to a SB-2. Jack made his favourite three-quarter attack which had would later bring him success in Abyssinia. I attacked from the rear. We each claimed half a share in its destruction. On 16 May, Frost destroyed another SB-2, for his ninth victory, but was hit by cannon fire damaging his port elevator.” On 22 June he destroyed four Soviet I-15 fighters. On 15 August 1940, Frost was shot down by anti-aircraft fire while strafing a Soviet airfield. His wingman, Lieutenant Bob Kershaw landed his aircraft in a nearby field, while other Squadron pilots fired on Russian infantry attempting to capture the pair. Kershaw escaped in his aircraft with Frost sitting on his lap, an action for which he was decorated.


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After the Winter War, Frost returned to the SAAF and was assigned in early 1941 to fly Hurricanes against the Italians in East Africa. Frost was promoted to Major and made CO of No. 5 Squadron flying P-40 Kittyhawks in North Africa and on 31 may 1942 was appointed commander of No. 233 Wing. He was reported missing in action on 16 June, after “one hell of a dogfight.” He was highest scoring fighter pilot of a South African Air Force (SAAF) squadron during WW2. Other South African pilots with higher numbers of kills, such as Pat Pattle and Adolph "Sailor" Malan, were members of the British Royal Air Force.

South African and Rhodesian Pilots of “The Shaka’s in Finland during the Winter War

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South Africa: 2/Lt F.J “Fred” Schofield”. Shot down (probably by ground fire) on 23 June 1940 after having damaged an I-16, was taken PoW and released after the Winter War.

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South Africa: Capt Thomas Albert “Tom” Meek / “Blind Chum”. Winter War Score - 2 confirmed and 1 damaged. From Cape Town. After the Winter War, transferred to North Africa and survived, despite poor eyesight. Seconded to the RAF in 1944 and converted to Typhoons, flying ground attack missions in Germany. Retired in March or April 1945 on medical grounds. After the war he managed a fish factory until retirement to Klein Brakrivier.

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Southern Rhodesia: Lt Douglas George “Doug” Bailey: Credited with 10 kills in the Winter War. Shot down by ground fire while ground strafing in his Brewster Bufflao on 3 June 1940 and crashed into Lake Laatoka just off the coast and was killed.

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South Africa: Lt Johannes Morkel “Hannes” Faure. Winter War Score: 12 ½ victories, 1 probable and 1 damaged. Shot down behind Red Army lines on 4 August 1940 but joined up with an advancing 21st Panssaaridivisoona unit and returned to unit after “2 days of swanning around with the Finns shooting up retreating Russians.” Transferred to the SAAF in North Africa, flew in Italy. After the war, returned to life as a farmer. He died in February 1995.

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South Africa: Capt Schalk Willem “Bill” Rabie. Winter War Score 9 and ½ share confirmed victories. Later flew in North Africa with the SAAF. Air fighting instructor from March 1943, posted to 10 Sqdn as flight commander on 2.5.44. Crashed and died while doing aerobatics at low level on 23 June 1944. An outstanding and popular pilot. Buried in the Aleppo War Cemetery, Syria.

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Southern Rhodesia: Capt. Peter Carel Rex Metelerkamp. Winter War Score: 5 confirmed and 5 damaged. Born 4 December 1918 in London, England. Gained his “wings” in June 1938 in Rhodesia. On 13 September1940 he was chasing an SB-2 when his Buffalo was hit in the coolant system by return fire and he crashed into the Gulf of Finland, being KIA. He was 22. His body was later recovered and lies in the Viipuri War Cemetery.

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South Africa: Capt. Stewart Alexander “Bomb” Finney. Winter War Score 5 victories, 1 probable and one shared damaged. Started work at Modderfontein Dynamite Factory, hence nickname “Bomb.” Went “up North” and flew in the Winter War before transferring to the SAAF in North Africa. Served as an air fighting instructor in Egypt then flew in Italy. Was OC troops on the troopship that took 7 Wing to Ceylon, arriving too late for the war against the Japanese. Retired to the Cape Town area.

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Southern Rhodesia: 2/Lt Wesley Earl Stuart Fulton” Born in Rosedale, Canada. Came to Southern Rhodesia where he gained his “wings”. Known within the Squadron as “our Yank” – probably because of his North American accent. In the early days of the Battle of the Syvari he was shot down by an enemy fighter and taken PoW on 30 July 1940. Repatriated in November 1940 and then transferred to the SAAF in North Africa where he was again shot down and again taken POW. Nothing further known.

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South Africa: Lieutenant Robert Harold Carlisle “Bob” Kershaw. Winter War Score 3 probable and 2 damaged. From Cape Town. While strafing a Soviet airfield he saw Major JE “Jack” Frost (the CO) shot down by Soviet ground fire and force landing on a satellite landing ground to the main airfield. Kershaw landed under Soviet fire, picked up Frost and flew back to base. After the Winter War he flew in North Africa and Italy. On 10 March 19445 while making his second pass at a ground target he was shot down by flak and taken PoW. Returning to South Africa after the war, he served in the SAAF Reserve

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South Africa: 2/Lt Jack Dennis Laing: From Brakpan. On 17 April 1940 he suffered an engine failure in a crowded landing circuit, crashed and was killed. Aged 22. He is buried at the Viipuri War Cemetery. He was NOT “shot down.”

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South Africa: Captain Gerald John “Lemmie” Le Mesurier. Winter War Score: 9 victories, 1 probable and 1 damaged. Born 27 June 1914 and from O’Kiep, Namaqualand and Cape Town, he studied Surveying at the University of Cape Town. After a course at the SA Military College he became a B Grade flying instructor in June 1939 and was acting OC of FTS Baragwanath when he volunteered for the Winter War. He was a Flight Commander and Acting CO when Frost was absent. He led the Squadron in the great “Tupolev Party” of 4 July 1940. He would fly in North Africa with the SAAF, ending his tour there in November 1942 and returning to South Africa where he was acting SFI at Waterkloof Air Force Base. In 1943 he was sent to the UK to attend No.5 Course at the Empire CFS but was KIFA on 8.7.43 while practicing dive-bombing in a Miles Master trainer which collided with an Oxford. He is buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, England.

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South Africa: Captain Malcolm Stephen “Bennie” Osler. Winter War Score: 5 victories, 9 ½ shared confirmed, and 2 damaged. Destroyed one and probably 2 other enemy aircraft on the ground by strafing. Born 7 March 1919 at Benoni and from Potchefstroom. Worked at New Modderfontein Gold Mine. Joined Transvaal Air Training Sqdn (TATS) in November 1937 for flying training. Did the 1938 SA Military College course. Awarded his “wings” in February 1939. Became a C Grade flying instructor 28 November 1939 and volunteered for the Winter War. Led an attack on a Russian petrol train which resulted in 120,000 gallons of fuel being destroyed. After his last two victories he was landing on the Syvari beachhead airstrip under Red Army artillery fire when his Buffalo hit a shell hole and overturned. Transferred to North Africa where he rejoined the SAAF and was appointed OC of 1 Squadron in December 1941. OC of 6 Sqdn from 30 June 1942 until early 1943. Attended the SA Military College Staff course in 1943. Returned “up North” in 1943 on secondment to Italy with 145 Sqdn RAF, but transferred to 601 Sqdn in September and took command of it on 15 October 1943. He left 601 in March 1944 and was attached to 1 MORU (the Desert Air Force’s Mobile Operations Room, i.e. their radar / fighter direction organisation). Left the SAAF after the war and died in Johannesburg 22 September 1971, aged 52.

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Southern Rhodesia: Lt Andrew Fitzgerald Tyrrell. Winter War Score: 3 confirmed and 1 probable. Gained his “wings” in late 1939 and volunteered for Finland prior to completing an O.T.U. course. On 6 June 1940 Captain Osler saw an example of Tyrrell’s shooting, when he watched a “beautiful deflection” shot bring down a Tupolev SB-2. Gave his life to save another pilot on 25 July 1940. His body was only located in 1994 and was interred at Viipuri War Cemetery.

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Lt McClellan Eric Sutton “Robbie” Robinson. Winter War Score 11 victories, 1 shared victory, 1 probable and 1 damaged. Born on 26 January 1917 in Johannesburg. Completed pilot training in 1938 and volunteered for Finland. Highly-strung and imaginative, in the opinion of Vivian Voss, the Squadron’s Intelligence Officer. He shared his first victory with Servaas Viljoen on 11 June 1940. During the evacuation of Tallinn he was shot down by accident by an Ilmavoimat Fokker G1 and was picked up by a Finnish destroyer off the coast of Estonia. He fought with the SAAF in North Africa and in Italy and became an air fighting instructor in 1944, but was KIFA on 14 November 1944 in a collision with one of his pupils (Lt EC Hollick, who baled out successfully). Buried at Voortrekkerhoogte New Military Cemetery, South Africa.

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South Africa: Lt Vivian A “Red” Penberthy. Winter War Score 3 confirmed victories. Later fought with the SAAF in North Africa. Shot down in December 1941 just after he had shot down a Bf.109 (his 6th “kill” – 3 in Finland, 3 in North Africa). Taken PoW where he remained for the rest of the War. After the war was CFI of the Midlands Gliding Club in South Africa in the late 1960’s.

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South Africa: Lt. Kenneth Arthur “Ken” Quirk, Winter War Score: 6 confirmed and 1 damaged. Born in Cape Town 1915 and educated in Pretoria. Completed the SA Military College Course in 1936 and commissioned as 2/Lt. Gained his “wings” in 1937 and then qualified as a flying instructor. Considered “an exceptional pilot,” he also took part in golf, tennis, athletics, swimming, riding and mountaineering. Volunteered for Finland and served as a Flight Commander. On 16 July 1940 he had just shot down two Soviet fighters and damaged another, after which he was shot down himself and baled out, wounded, over the Finnish lines. After recovering from his injuries he served with the SAAF in North Africa, was again wounded and returned to South Africa where he converted to twins and joined 23 Sqdn flying Venturas. KIFA on the night of 13 November 42 when his Ventura collided with a 789 Sqdn FAA Swordfish near Brooklyn at Cape Town. Buried Woltemade Cemetery, Cape Town.

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Southern Rhodesia: Lt. Jack Malloch (left). 4 confirmed victories in the Winter War. Jack Malloch was born in Durban in 1918, his family moved to Umtali, Southern Rhodesia in 1925. He started work as a mechanic in 1935 and then worked for the Railways from 1936. He was accepted into the Air Force in 1938 and received his “Wings” in 1939, shortly after he volunteered for Finland and was the youngest pilot in the Squadron. After the Winter War he transferred to the RAF, fought in North Africa and was shot down behind enemy lines in 1945. He returned to Rhodesia and married Zoe Coventry in 1948. He established Rhodesian Air Services and worked for Tshombe in Katanga in 1960, with one of his DC3’s shot down by the UN in 1962. He would also run guns into Yemen and work for Tshombe again, flying support for Mike Hoare in the Congo He would establish Air Trans Africa (ATA) in 1965, become involved in Rhodesian sanctions busting, run guns into Biafra and fly support for the Rhodesian Air Force through the late 1970’s. He died in a crash while flying is restored Spitfire Mk 22 in March 1982. For more on Jack Mallochs life, see his biography, “[i]Tango Romeo – the life and time of Jack Malloch” at http://www.jackmalloch.com/index.htm[/i]

Non-Flying Staff of “The Shaka’s”

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South Africa: Capt D V “Red” Connor. Engineering Officer. A pre-war member of the Permanent Force he was the Volunteer Squadron’s Engineering Officer. The Sqdn had severe serviceability problems yet he conquered these and kept the Sqdn flying under trying conditions. Later served with the SAAF in North Africa.

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Capt. John Murray, Squadron Armaments Officer

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Lt Steve Hanger, Armaments Officer

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Lt. Tony Bond, Signals Officer

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Captain J B Robertson, Squadron Adjutant. A “cheerful personality”

The timing of the arrival of the South African and Rhodesian air force volunteers in Finland would, fortuitously, coincide with the arrival of the first shipment of Brewster Buffalo fighters from the USA. The Ilmavoimat would assign the Buffalo’s to the newly arrived South African and Rhodesian pilots, who would soon put them to good use. A South African reporter who spent some time in Finland during the later stages of the Winter War would write a humorous article about the Squadron that would see print in South Africa and Rhodesia, where the war experiences of the southern African volunteers were followed closely, although they would be eclipsed by the disaster of the Fall of France, Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain.

Finland Remembers Them: Article written by South African war correspondent Carel Birkby

BILL AND “THE SHAKA’S” SQUADRON SHOOT A LINE

The people of Finland remember with gratitude, affection and admiration “The Shaka’s” volunteer Squadron of the South African Air Force which, with Brewster Bufflaoes, defended this country in 1940. The story of this brilliant fighting formation is told below by Carel Birkby, who has stayed with the Squadron on the frontlines in Finland when they first arrived back in late March 1940 and again in September 1940 just prior to the Winter War coming to an end.

The pilots of “The Shaka’s” sing a ribald parody of the Internationale as they crowd cheerfully around the fireplace built into the wall of their log cabin mess, glasses in hand. Beer has come up the line for the first time in three weeks. The rain is pouring down outside and there’s a biting wind coming down from the Arctic. But the Mess is cheerful. The young Lotta Svard girl who has been impressed as “barman" is filling the glasses with beer as fast as she can pour. They’re “wetting Bill’s third pip”. Lieut. Schalk Willem Rabie, who shot down one of the most recent of the Squadron’s victims, has this day officially been promoted Captain. “Bill” is vividly popular. He is a lean young South African with a large moustache, gay and humorous. “Bill” will always have something amusing to say: “Bill” in fact, will shoot a good “line”.

“Shooting a line” has several connotations in the air force, and not all of them are invidious. To boast, the unforgivable Service sin, is to “shoot a line”. To exaggerate in a tale of some experience is also line-shooting, and to be deprecated. But the burlesqued overstatement and the hyper-cautious understatement all constitute a recognized “line”, and may be justifiably well received in the mess. Most Commonwealth squadrons that cherish tradition keep a “Line Book” handy for the recording of remarks that qualify in terms of the laughter with which they are received. Down in it goes the naïve remarks of the newcomers (“sprogs”, as experienced pilots dismiss them), the naïve questions, the leg-pulls, the Munchausen tales told with never a smile. Here in a few lines by pencil or fountain-pen you find the spirit of the Commonwealth fighting man who can laugh, thank God, even in a war. The “Shaka” Squadron keeps a “wizard” Line Book, and the cream of it is contributed by “Bill” whose third pip we are wetting tonight. Let’s flip over the pages and sample the personality of the “The Shaka’s”.

“Bill” is stringing along a “sprog”, one of the junior pilots of the Squadron who gained his wings just before the Winter War broke out and has yet to experience real air combat. Says the Sprog, obviously “buying it” – “Which part of the Russkie kite do you aim at?” Says Bill, his wits about him : “I always chip a bit of the wing off first, just to give the Russkie a chance to bale out …..” Again Bill and the rest of the Squadron have been out in their Buffalo’s acting as escorts during a series of intensive bomber raids on the Red Army on the Isthmus. The gunners in the Finnish bombers have been shooting the Russian fighters without our own fighters’ intervention. Bill grumbles : “I take a poor view of this business of the bombers putting all the Russkie fighters urs (unserviceable)”. In May 1940 the Squadron went out one day and shot down two I15’s and three I16’s. On their return from slaughtering the enemy’s best fighters in this way, Bill exclaims enthusiastically: “It’s the greatest thing to meet unescorted Russkie fighters .......

But Bill reached his greatest heights in April this year when the pilots were hanging about waiting for familiarization flights in the operations tent and yarning to pass the time. Bill told his tale of the Valentia, an obsolete British troop-carrier, still used for lack of other aircraft even though flying men used to libel it by saying that it could not do more than 90 miles an hour in a steep dive. To illustrate the snail-like speed of the old Valentia, Bill said: “The other nine in the Valentia panicked when the pilot wrote of the under-cart”. (Bill means “destroyed the undercarriage, in case you are not familiar with your air force slang). “But I told them not to worry. While the pilot was doing a circuit I kicked holes in the floor and we put our legs through them. As he came in to land we all started running, carrying the Valentia along. It would have been a perfect landing, but one of the blokes got out of step”.

In September 1940, talk in the mess turned to operational flying hours. One pilot remarked that during the Russian advance on Viipuri the Ilmavoimat pilots had flown as much as eight and ten hours daily. A young pilot, unimpressionable but careless in elementary mathematics, returned: “That’s nothing to shoot a line about: I’m sure that when the Luftwaffe was attacking England over the summer, pilots were flying 30 to 40 hours a day”. The “Line Book” records that Lieut. Tyrrell, who had expended all his ammunition without result in a dogfight, explained afterwards: “The SB-2 I attacked had a self-sealing fuselage”. Lt. Osler is credited with the immortal report in the Operations tent “When I saw the I15’s I peeled off onto them. Mind you, I was below the telegraph wires myself at the time”. To a “sprog” who inquired about the intensity of Russkie flak over Leningrad Lt. Quirk replied airily: “The sky is often so black with the bursts that you have to fly through them on instruments”. It was Quirk who also excused himself for losing his way in the air by saying: “I’ve got so much shrapnel in my body that it upsets my compass”. Captain “Lemmie” Le Mesurier was responsible for a bit of terse wit one day when a patrol over the Gulf of Finland was ordered and the pilots discussed the prospects of being forced down in the Baltic. “This Squadron”, he said to the CO “is going to the dogs – all the pilots have hydrophobia”.

The Squadron Leader is another young Springbok, Major “Jack” Frost., who has fifteen enemy fighters to his credit. I remember Jack Frost from before the war as a cricketer with ambitions, which he would have realized, of playing for South Africa in the Tests. He has a sense of fun which sparkles into the Line Book. It was Frost who survived a narrow squeak in eastern Karelia recently: forced to bale out in action after shooting down two I16’s, his parachute harness slipped but caught him by one ankle, and he floated down on earth suspended upside down like a circus-artist on a trapeze, only damaging his face and his shoulder on impact. The Shakas’ also have the unusual distinction of having numbered among its pilots one who has pulled off the dramatic trick of rescuing from enemy territory, in a single seater fighter cockpit, a comrade who had been shot down. Bobby Kershaw rescued the squadron commander, Major Jack Frost, on a Russian aerodrome under fire, was the first pilot ever to achieve this feat. Among the memorable characters who have flown and fought with this Squadron is the one-legged South African pilot, Lieut. Doug Bailey. The Line Book records very simply an involuntary exploit of Bailey’s. He took off in his Buffalo one day without realizing that an air mechanic who had been servicing the machine was still on the tail. He found the reason his aircraft was answering the controls peculiarly when in his rear-view mirror he spotted the petrified “erk” behind him. He did one circuit of the aerodrome and managed to land safely, and though a tyre burst the aircraft came unharmed to a standstill, probably because the weight on the tail kept her steady. The Line Book records that the mechanic afterwards reported laconically: “The slipstream kept me pinned to the tail but I don’t think I could have held out for more than another 100 miles”.

The Squadron as a unit is entitled to “shoot a line” of no mean length, but it is not given to seeking publicity. It was the first fighter squadron to leave the Union for service overseas and has been fighting continually in Finland since May, where it has performed brilliantly. Already some of the pilots are aces, learning in the hard school of kill or be killed against the Russians. When I was with them in September 1940 they had shot down (confirmed) 98 Soviet aircraft for the 6 pilots lost (out of a strength of 20 with which they had arrived in Finland with). Their greatest day was the great “Tupolev Party” of 4 July 1940” over eastern Karelia where they celebrated the destruction of 13 SB-2’s out of a group of 15 intercepted. What made that show particularly outstanding was that it was their first patrol over eastern Karelia. On the very next day they picked off five more SB-2’s, damaged another and shot down an I16 fighter. Such victories could be expected of a Squadron as offensively minded as this: in their first days in action in Finland, during the Soviet offensive on the Karelian Isthmus, for instance, six of them tackled 43 enemy aircraft, and later in the same day 11 of them took on 31 of the enemy’s best fighters, destroying five.

Now this fine Squadron is serving on the Syvari, where it has been ever since it helped to cover the offensive down the Karelian Isthmus back in the Spring. They operate from an old Soviet runway within sight of the enemy’s shell flashes by night. They are doing excellent work in conditions not always idyllic. Unlike in the early days of the war, they meet fewer enemy fighters, but on many missions they now have to face the intensive flak which has now become the Red Army’s main defence against the irresistible Finnish Air Force. They tackle all sorts of tasks in the air with their stout little Brewster Buffalo fighters supplied to the Finns by the Americans. They defend airfields and forward troops. They strafe trains and truck convoys on roads. Not long ago, also, they saved a flying boat of the Finnish Air Force, which had alighted on a Karelian lake behind the Russian lines to pick up a Finnish Army patrol and was then attacked by a Soviet fighter. The Buffalo’s shot the Russian fighter down.

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Image sourced from: http://www.warbirdforum.com/herdbuffs.jpg
Brewster Buffalo’s of “The Shaka’s” on patrol over Eastern Karelia

All these fighter pilots, gay and courageous, are young men. But somehow, here on their Karelian landing-ground with them all, I thought that the spirit of this Squadron was typified not by the young flying officers but by their elderly Intelligence Officer. The I.O. Capt. Vivian Voss celebrated his 48th birthday in the field with them. He is quiet, baldish and wears silver spectacles, and everybody calls him “Pop”. A fighter pilot in WW1, he saw 700 hours of “ops”, mostly in Bristol Fighters. He wrote a book about it called “Flying Minnows”, and a good book it is reckoned too. After the war he studied at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore Md. And for 20 years before this war he lectured placidly in physics in the University in Pretoria. A man like this goes to war again because he is fighting for principles. Somehow, this old fighter pilot, standing amongst his maps and intelligence reports in his small log cabin next to the landing strip, carefully recording rosters of the Squadron’s triumphs, quietly jotting down little tales in the Line Book, stands for the continuity of tradition that makes a Squadron not merely an aggregation of men in a tactical unit known by a number, but a living thing. The spirit of all the fighter pilots who have served in “The Shaka’s” lives on in it.

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"Flying Minnows" by Vivian Voss (writing as Roger Vee, a pilot flying Bristol fighters with 48 and 88 Squadrons in 1917-18. Originally published in 1935, a reprint volume from Arms & Armour Press appeared with added information in 1977).

Note: All the South African Pilots mentioned above existed. With the exception of Jack Malloch, they all flew with 1 Squadron, SAAF. The information is taken from http://www.bombfinney.com/ - and given that yesterday was November 11th, it's a fitting to remember them.



Next Post: South African & Rhodesian Infantry and Artillery Volunteers
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Copying a couple of posts over from Alternate History dot co

Postby CanKiwi2 on 15 Nov 2012 15:52

SenzaCuore
Member Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 2

Hello!

I ran into this site and discussion thread by accident when searching the net for a suitable SM.79 photo.

Quite a co-insidence, because I am from Finland and the basic thought behind this thread has been bothering me for decades. Buth while I have only been dabbling some details, you went boldly much further! I have researched the finnish military aviation history, and history of aircraft manufacture in Finland, spending literally weeks in the archives of Valtion Lentokonetehdas and Ilmavoimat test flight unit. Your background research has been surprisingly thorough, and it generally manages to maintain the "suspense of belief" and create a plausible, though improbable, alternate history.

There are however some little details in Ilmavoimat aircraft acquisition timeline that IMHO could be better, and at same time would give an alternate chance to a rejected but brilliant design. You already did cover the Fokker G.1 as the heavy fighter, and that I fully endorse, in OTL it was SO close of becoming reality. But IMHO Ernst Heinkel and his HE-100 deserve a chance to world fame. Notice, not He-112 but He-100. More of that later if you are intrested. I will prove how the He-100 is a perfect fit. The choice of the high power aero engine to be produced is tied with that.

Generally, either by knowledge or by chance you succeed in portraying one often locally ridiculed characteristic of the Ilmavoimat aircraft acquisition: Indecision and far far too many types of aircraft with only handful of each. Too many aircraft types created a maintenance, spare parts and maintenance personnel training nightmare in the OTL. An Ilmavoimat insider joke from wartime actually claimed that if there was an ilmavoimat formation of at least ten
planes, it was bound to contain at least three types of aircraft.

I do understand your anglo-centric view, and in reality before the Winter war there was a clearly noticeable anglophile and pro USA overtone in finnish populace, and especially in the airforce staff. There were also ties to Germany, but the relations were more on personal base, many higher educated finns having studied in german universities. The anglophile sentiment could have been even stronger had english been the dominant foreign language taught in schools instead of german.

On next posts I will adress some of the improbabilities of your alternate history. They will not alter much the big picture,
just some of the equipment that ends up being used. Don't take this as criticism, but just a parallel possibility with local
insight.

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20mm multi-use autocannon

If there had been better funding for armament, Aimo Lahti would have got far more funding too. In his autobiography
he quite clearly states that funding was the limiting factor in what he could do. You do credit him for even some things he did not invent (but being the genius he was, could as well have invented), but omit one thing he did design and which was produced for twin AA-guns, but would have been easily adaptable to belt fed aircraft use.

I'm talking about the 20mm L-40 autocannon:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20_ITK_40_VKT
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ca...:20_ITK_40_VKT

This is a beefed up full-auto variant of the L-39 "Norsupyssy", typically to Lahti designs, L-40 had a little extra, its rate of fire was adjustable "on fly" between 350 and 700 rpm. With that gun the license production of HS.404 would have been neither necessary nor sensible. Better funded Aimo Lahti could have had both 20mm guns in production at VKT or Tikkakoski already in mid-1938. Being a gas operated gun, the VKT 20mm was better adaptabe to belt feed than the gas/recoil operated Hispano that had severe reliability problems during whole of it's service career. Especially making Hispano belt fed caused headaches, the action did not have enough energy to drive the power hungry belt feed mechanism, so the gun had to be assembled into a cradle where it was allowed to recoil backwards, and that recoil energy was used to drive the belt feed. But this was always a technical kludge,and an added weight to the operational gun installation in an airframe. This belt feed system was in OTL finalized as a working system by Martin-Baker in 1941.

In the pre-1939 timeframe the Hispano was still strictly a drum-fed weapon, which makes it badly suited to aircraft use due to size of the drum causing large bulges for installation into thin wing profiles of 1939 modern aircraft. As it was in late thirties, the Hs.404 was only really usable as the "moteur cannon" firing through the hollow prop shaft of a Hispano-Suiza 12Y, or as armament for larger twin engined fighters.

Still, ammo supply would have been dismal, 60 round drums being the largest really working size, and as Ilmavoimat in OTL found out with it's Moranes, If you wanted to fire more than one shot per flight with the gun, you could only load the drum with around 50 rounds. With disintegrating belt fed 20mm Lkt/38 it would have been possible to arm indigenous Ilmavoimat fighters with all-cannon armament having 200 round ammo supply per gun. BTW, I just coined up that type name, consistent with Ilmavoimat naming standard, 20mm Lkt/38 meaning Lentokonetykki model 1938. Similar to later 12,7mm Lkk/42 that was a real gun. The powerful long Solothurn 20x138B cartridge has admittedly an overkill tone in aircraft use, but it's exellent AP capability gives good ground-attack capabilities, and single-ammo logistical advantages around Maavoimat, Merivoimat and Ilmavoimat would have been similar to US armed forces logistical advantage with their .50 BMG.

The same basic weapon would have been adaptable to AA (land and marine), light AFV and aircraft use, all using compatible ammo of two types, AP/I and HE/I, actual belting ratios depending on usage


I must say I like the idea of the Lahti 20mm aircraft cannon. I can see a rewrite coming on! Also, the He100 fits in nicely. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?
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Re: Copying a couple of posts over from Alternate History do

Postby Juha Tompuri on 15 Nov 2012 16:06

CanKiwi2 wrote:I must say I like the idea of the Lahti 20mm aircraft cannon. I can see a rewrite coming on!
Nice!
Here something related from the past:
viewtopic.php?f=59&t=70091&p=1423905&hilit#p1423511

Regards, Juha
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South African Infantry and Artillery Volunteers

Postby CanKiwi2 on 16 Nov 2012 20:52

South African Infantry and Artillery Volunteers

In determining the numbers of volunteers to be permitted to fight in Finland, the South African Government had consulted with the New Zealand, Australian, Canadian and Rhodesian Governments in a flurry of telegrams. The outcome had been the previously mentioned decision to out together a “Commonwealth Division” with command falling to the Australians who, out of all the Dominions, had the largest force in being. It had been agreed that the South Africans could commit sufficient volunteers for a single Infantry Battalion as well as volunteers for an Artillery unit to support the 2nd Brigade.

It was decided that the Transvaal Horse Artillery, the first Active Citizen Force field artillery unit to be called up for full-time service in WW2, would serve as the foundation for the volunteer Artillery unit to be sent to Finland. A good proportion of the officers and men of the THA, including their commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Marchant Harrison, had volunteered for Finland, and this made for an easy decision. Men who had not volunteered were transferred out, primarily to the Natal Field Artillery and the Cape Field Artillery, whilst other volunteers, largely from the Active Citizen Force artillery units or from the Commandoes, were transferred in.

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Image sourced from: http://www.artefacts.co.za/imgcat/GMHarrison.jpg
Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Marchant Harrison (19 October 1900 – 1985), Officer Commanding, Transvaal Horse Artillery, South African Finland Volunteer Force. Harrison was educated at St. John’s College, Johannesburg and the University of Witwatersrand. A member of the Institute of South African Architects, in 1932 he became partner in the firm of Stucke & Harrison, architects (his father had been one of the partners that established the firm in Bloemfontein in 1891). In 1936 he became a senior partner and would remain with the firm until his death in 1985. A member of the Citizen Force, he was appointed Officer Commanding Transvaal Horse Artillery in 1935; commanded the Transvaal Horse Artillery Brigade from 1937; which then became the Third Field Brigade (T.H.A.) South African Artillery. In WW2 he would command the THA Volunteers in Finland, then command the regiment in Abyssinia. He would also serve on the South African Staff Corps, as Artillery Staff Officer to General Officer Administration, Minor Defence Forces in Cairo 1942. And finally as Assistant Military Adviser to the High Commissioner for South Africa, London, 1943 and 1944. (from Pg 221 of: Kruger, Dr. D F (ed), Wie is Wie in Suid Afrika, Vitae Uitgewers, Johannesburg, 1960)

The long and hard fought Boer war in South Africa, which ended in 1902, and was followed by the withdrawal of the bulk of British forces from the country led eventually to the establishment of volunteer corps in the new Crown Colony of the Transvaal. One of these units was the battery of artillery known as the Lys Volunteer Corps, named after its founder, Maj G Lys. Established on 17 March 1904, the first volunteers were enrolled on 30 March. Six months later the title of the battery was changed and became The Transvaal Horse Artillery Volunteers. In January 1907 it was renamed: The Transvaal Horse Artillery (THA). A second battery was raised in 1905 and a section was later formed in Pretoria but only one battery was accepted into the Active Citizen Force when the latter was established with effect from 1 July 1913. At the outbreak of war in August 1914, the THA volunteered to serve as the THA Battery (S.A.M.R.) and it was in this guise that one section of the battery fought its first war-time action at Sandfontein, in German South West Africa (GSWA), in September 1914. Unfortunately the small force which included the two guns had been led into a trap and was forced to surrender. Reformed as a four-gun battery, the THA returned to GSWA by way of Walvis Bay in late February 1915 and joined Col Coen Brits’ mobile column. The Gunners distinguished themselves at Riet, completely outshooting the six German guns in the foothills of the Langer Heinrich. With 1st Mounted Brigade, the THA took part in the remarkable desert march of 376 miles in 21 days from Usakos to Namutoni which outflanked the German defences. The last 200 miles had been covered in ten days and from Lemputz the battery had moved 52 miles in 52 hours, without water.

There was little training in the years after WW1 due to the economic situation but the battery was mobilised when martial law was declared in March 1922 as a result of an armed strike by miners. The 1930s saw an increase in the establishment of the THA to three batteries. Mobilised for war in 1939 the THA moved to Potchefstroom at the end of October. In January 1940 over half the men and almost all the Officers and NCO’s volunteered for service in Finland and it was decided that the THA would be spent as a complete Unit to Finland, with those not volunteering transferred out temporarily, and volunteers from other artillery units (or of the street for that matter) transferred in. The THA would fight in Finland as part of the 2nd “Empire” Brigade of the Commonwealth Division until the end of the Winter War, after which they would be hastily transferred to the UK and thence to East Africa, where they would be renamed 3rd Field Brigade (T.H.A.).

In Finland, after moving up to the Isthmus front with the Division in May 1940, the THA went into action almost immediately as the Finnish counter-offensive began to push the Red Army back. Following the transfer of the Division to the Syvari front in late June 1940, the THA would be involved in what the 2nd Brigade Official History described as “…. the bloodiest and most heroic encounter of the Winter War” on the 24th of July. Attacked by the Red Army in the last great offensive of the war, the gunners fought over open sights in rising smoke and dust as wave after wave of Red Army infantry and armour attacked without ceasing. Casualties were heavy on both sides. The war diary of the 2nd Brigade recorded that the “….South African gunners had been magnificent”, and a simple soldier said “….. they gave it stick, they never faltered.” They would lose 5 out of 24 guns in the fighting over late July and August 1940 – and by mid September only 575 officers and men answered roll call – the others were either wounded in action, MIA or dead – although a couple of hundred casualties would trickle back over October as they recovered from their injuries.

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Lieutenant Eric Edward Harrison was 2IC of a Battery of the THA in Finland. Born in 1909 in the UK, his family had emigrated to South Africa before WW1. After completing his schooling Eric went to the University of Witwatersrand and studied teaching. He taught at Jeppe Boys for several years and then left South Africa to take up an exchange teacher position in Glasgow, Scotland. After teaching in Scotland and touring Europe, Eric returned to South Africa and joined the Citizen Force in December 1938. He was chosen for Officers Training School and went to Potchefstroom to begin his officer cadet training. After courses at the School of Artillery at Potchefstroom he attended an “All Arms Candidate Officers Course” at the Military College at Voortrekkerhoogte outside Pretoria and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 6 November 1939. He was posted to the THA and volunteered for service in Finland, after which he would fight in Abyssinia, the Middle East and Italy. With Eric having enlisted prior to the war, and having a teaching position waiting for him, he was amongst the first to be sent back to Egypt to begin the journey back to South Africa and civilian life. Eric was discharged on 22 August 1945 in Johannesburg. He returned to teaching and retired from a life in education as the Principal of North View High School in Johannesburg in 1974. Eric had two children; a son Leigh born in 1944 while Eric was abroad and a daughter Ruth born in 1947. His wife Joyce passed away suddenly after a short illness in 1976. Eric passed away in August 2004 in Cape Town.

The brigade left the UK for East Africa in December 1940 with 18-pdr MK II and MK IV guns but in January 1941 9th Field battery were ordered to exchange their guns for the 4.5 inch howitzers of 11th Field Battery. The THA Brigade fought through the rigours of the campaign in support with other South African artillery units of the 1st SA Division and 12th African Division together with 4th and 7th Field Brigades and 1st Field Battery (CFA). Once the campaign was nearing its end, the South African artillery units moved to Egypt in August 1941. The THA handed in its old guns and was issued with 25-pdrs, at the same time undergoing conversion, to become 3 Field Regiment (V) South African Artillery (T.H.A.). They would fight in the Middle East, at Tobruk (where most personnel were taken prisoner when Tobruk fell to the Afrika Korps on 21 June 1942) but some would escape, reaching Alamein in a parlous state. A surviving THA battery fought at Alamein from July to the final battle in October, after which the THA was removed from the Order of Battle, although the surviving battery would serve in the Italian Campaign of 1944/45 as one of three batteries forming 4/22 Field Regiment.

Following WW2, the pre-war brigade was resuscitated on 1 January 1946 as 3rd Field Regiment (T.H.A.) and commenced annual peacetime training camps. The THD would next see action in 1976 followed by several tours of duty on the South West African border where it was equipped with the GV4 155mm gun. The regiment is currently located at Mount Collins, Kelvin, Sandton (Johannesburg) and is now equipped with GV6 155mm Self-Propelled Gun/Howitzers.

The second South African volunteer unit was a light Infantry Battalion of approximately 800 men. The commanding officer was Lieutenant-Colonel J P A Furstenburg. Volunteers were many and selection proceeded rapidly, with most of the volunteers selected coming from the Transvaal or from Natal. Those selected assembled in Johannesburg where they first took part in a pre-departure parade attended by General J.C. Smuts, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister. The volunteers then travelled by rail to Cape Town in mid-January 1940, where they embarked for the voyage to the UK and then onwards to Finland. Despite the inexperience and limited training of the officers and men, the Battalion would fight well on the Karelian Isthmus although the inexperience would lead to some hesitation in offensive actions. On the Syvari, the Battalion would successfully repulse a number of attacks in strength by the Red Army, although heavy casualties were taken in doing so, such that by the end of the Winter War the Battalion was down to half strength.

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Lt.-Col Jan Pieter Albertus Furstenburg (17 November 1910 – 12 December 1948) initially served in the South African Air Force Reserve, where he qualified as a Pilot and was promoted to 2Lt in 1932. In 1933 he transferred to the Special Service Battalion and was promoted to Lieutenant on 01 Jan 1935, to Captain on 01 Jun 1938, Major on 21 Sep 1939 and to Lieutenant Colonel on 5 January 1940 on appointment to command the South African Volunteer (Finland) Battalion. After returning from Finland to South Africa at the end of 1940, he was transferred to the AFV training centre as the commanding officer. On 04 Oct 1941 he left for service in the Middle East as the commander of 3 Recce Battalion. On the 14 May 1942 he was promoted to Brigadier and transferred to command the Armoured Brigade Group of 1st SA Division. On 01 Feb 1943 he was appointed the commander of 11 Armoured Brigade of the 6th SA Armoured Division. He would see service in Finland, the Middle East and Italy.

The Battalion would also contain a section of Sharpshooters - a very small and highly qualified unit of marksman who volunteered and who were selected for their shooting skills. The total complement was 16 men, all of whom were highly skilled shooters. The Battalion’s War Diary accredits the SA Sharpshooters with over 3000 kills in the five months they spent in combat. The SA Sharpshooter casualty rate was also very high, 35% of the unit were Killed in Action or Died of Wounds. Only 6 of the 16 returned to South Africa after the Winter War and were not medically discharged.

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South African Sharpshooter, Finland, Winter War. The Sharpshooters brought their own rifles and ammunition with them.

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South African Sharpshooter Francis Miller, posing with his Enfield Rifle. As the sole survivor of his 4 man sniper section, he was universally known as “Borrowed Time”

The Battalion would take with them a Mascot, who would accompany the South Africans to Finland, serve through the Winter War alongside the men, be decorated for bravery in battle by the Maavoimat and then return safely to South Africa. This was a baboon named “Jackie”, the only baboon ever to serve in Finnish uniform, before or since. Before WW2 he was the beloved pet of the Marr family from Villiera near Pretoria and especially of Albert Marr, the son. When Albert Marr, then a 26 year old plumber from Pretoria, enlisted in the volunteers, he asked permission to bring Jackie along with him. Because Jackie was so well behaved and had an impressive bearing, he was adopted as the Battalion Mascot of the South African Infantry Volunteers and taken on strength as a member of the Battalion. On arrival in Finland, he was provided with a special uniform and a cap, with the badges of his Battalion, Brigade and Division – a uniform he wore with panache. Jackie would always salute officers, light up cigarettes or pipes for comrades and at the mess table he used a knife and fork in the proper manner as well as cleverly use his drinking basin. He would parade with the men, standing at attention and at ease when requested, placing his feet apart and hands behind his back in regimental style, although he would fall out when the men began to march.

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Pte Albert Marr and “Jackie” – the only baboon ever to see active service with the Finnish Army, albeit as a South African Volunteer.

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Pte Albert Marr and “Jackie” en-route to Finland

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Jackie would always salute officers

Jackie drew rations like any other soldier and drilled and marched with them. In the early days of the Commonwealth Division on the Karelian Isthmus, Jackie was allowed in the trenches and was a firm favourite and comrade. On active service, his acute hearing and eyesight were very useful and he would often accompany the men of Albert Marr’s Platoon whilst they were on sentry duty at night, watching and listening with them and on a number of occasions giving early warning of a Russian attack on the South African positions with a series of short, sharp barks and by tugging at the men’s tunics. On attacks, he would go “over the top” with the men and learnt how to throw grenades, often carrying these in a specially adapted breadbag slung over his shoulder. His small size enabled him to scamper up to Russian positions whilst staying hidden from sight and roll grenades in, in which he proved very useful to the Platoon. Both Jackie and Pte Marr survived the fighting on the Isthmus unscathed, but in early July Marr was lightly wounded. Jackie was beside himself and attempted to comfort the prostrate Albert, even licking his wound until the stretcher bearers arrived. Marr and Jackie returned to the Battalion a week later, only to find themselves in the thick of the fighting as the Red Army launched their massive summer offensive in July 1940. In early August 1940, both Jackie and Marr were seriously wounded by the same artillery shell.

At the time, that Battalion was being heavily shelled and were digging in. Jackie was seen to be frantically trying to build a wall of stones and small logs about himself, as shelter from flying shrapnel, while shells were bursting all around. The wall was never completed. A jagged piece of shrapnel wounded him in the arm and another in the leg (also wounding Marr at the same time). At first Jackie refused to be evacuated by the stretcher-bearers; he tried vainly to continue building his wall, hobbling around in excruciating pain, on what had once been a leg. In the words of Captain R N Woodsend of the Battalion Aid Station:

It was a pathetic sight; the little fellow was carried in and lay moaning in pain, the stretcher bearer crying his eyes out in sympathy. “You must do something for him,” he pleaded. The baboon was badly wounded, the left leg hanging by only a shred of muscle, another jagged wound in his right arm. We decided to give the patient chloroform and dress his wounds. If he died under anesthetic we thought perhaps it would be the best thing. As I have never given anesthetic to such a patient before, I thought it would be the most likely result. However, he lapped up the chloroform as if it had been whiskey, and was well under in a remarkably short time. It was a simple matter to amputate the leg with scissors and I cleaned the wounds and dressed them as well as I could. He came round as quickly as he went under. The problem was what to do with him. This was soon settled by the CO: “He is on the strength of the Battalion.” So duly labelled, number, name, ATS injection, nature of injuries, etc, he was taken to the road and sent by ambulance to the Brigade’s Casualty Clearing-Station. It was several days before I could visit the CCS. “Oh yes” said the commanding officer. “He was pretty bad when he arrived, but we put him to bed and that night when I was doing rounds he sat up in the bed to salute me. He was sent down line to the divisional Field Hospital the next day.”

It was the end of Jackie’s active service and with Albert they received much publicity whilst recovering from their wounds in Helsinki. They were sent to Sweden in early October 1940 where Jackie became an instant celebrity, raising tens of thousands of krona to help the Karelian and Ingrian refugees and taking part in a number of events, at one of which it was possible to buy a kiss from Jackie for 2 krona or a handshake for 5. A considerable sum was also raised from postcards depicting Jackie and Private Marr, which were sold all over Sweden. On their last week in Finland before being repatriated to the UK with others of the volunteers recovering from injuries, Jackie was awarded a medal for service in the Winter War and a further medal for bravery in battle. The medals were presented by Marshal Mannerheim to Jackie, who sat at attention in his wheelchair and saluted the Marshal whilst receiving the awards and then shook the Marshal’s hand. Afterwards, Jackie and Pte Marr dined at the Hotel Kamp Restaurant. Sitting on a chair next to Pte Marr, Jackie demolished the excellent fare provided him, “with impeccable table manners”. As a reporter on the spot wrote: “Jackie is endowed with a lot of intelligence. He has an affectionate countenance and seems to understand all Marr says” – “Now shake hands with the gentleman” and there was no hesitation about doing it.

Pte Marr’s wounds were severe enough that he was consider unfit for further service and he and Jackie returned to South Africa, where they were officially discharged at Cape Town on the 26th April 1941. Jackie received the usual parchment discharge paper, military pension, plus a completed and signed Civil Employment Form for discharged soldiers.

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Jackie on the last leg of his homeward trip from Finland – dining at Johannesburg’s Park Station Restaurant

After their arrival home in Pretoria, Jackie was again feted and would continue to help out at fund raising occasions for the South African Red Cross throughout WW2. Jackie died on 22 May 1951 after a farmhouse fire (it was thought that the shock of the fire might have caused him to die) while Albert Marr passed away in Pretoria in August 1973.

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After their arrival home in Pretoria, Jackie would continue to help out at fund raising occasions for the South African Red Cross.

Jackie and Pte Marr were one of a number of the South African volunteers to return home from Finland. Most of the remaining volunteers would end up in the Middle East, transferred to the 1st South African Division along with the men of the Transvaal Horse Artillery which would have the distinction of being the only Commonwealth Division unit which served in Finland in the Winter War to remain intact.

After Finland, the THA was transferred as a unit to the Middle East and saw action against the Italians in Abyssinia, then against the Afrika Korps, notably at the battle of Sidi Rezegh in the Western Desert on 23 November 1941. In the collapse of Tobruk in June 1942, the regiment took heavy losses, including its headquarters unit as well as its 8th and 9th batteries. The remaining (7th) battery of the regiment took part in the fighting at El Alamein in October 1942 and subsequently saw action throughout the Italian Campaign. During the 1970’s, the Regiment saw repeated action during the Border War. (The Transvaal Horse Artillery remains in service today as a Reserve Unit of the South African Army, based in Johannesburg. The main ordnance of the regiment is the G6 Self-propelled 155mm Gun/Howitzer. The THA consists of four batteries: the Regimental Headquarters Battery, 7 Battery, 8 Battery and 9 Battery). It was more than likely that it was through the Transvaal Horse Artillery’s service in Finland during the Winter War that the well-known Finnish song "Balladi Punaisista Bareteista" found its way into South Africa…..


A South African version of the well-known Finnish song "Balladi Punaisista Bareteista" – note the G6 Self-propelled 155mm Gun/Howitzer’s in the clip, more than likely from the THA

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Cap Badge of the Transvaal Horse Artillery

(OTL Note: Jackie and Pte Marr existed, but I have transposed them from WW1 to the Winter War – see http://www.delvillewood.com/Jackie2.htm for the story - there are quite a number of articles on “Jackie”. And to be honest, the thought of Marshal Mannerheim presenting medals to Jackie had me chuckling – but I’m sure the Marshal would have found suitable words for the occasion).

Next: The Rhodesian Selous Volunteer Battalion & the Rhodesian Air Force Volunteers
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The Rhodesian Selous Volunteer Battalion

Postby CanKiwi2 on 16 Nov 2012 21:48

The Rhodesian Selous Volunteer Battalion & the Rhodesian Air Force Volunteers

In 1939, the Colony of Rhodesia and Nyasaland consisted of what are now three countries – Malawi (Nyasaland), Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) and the failed state of Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia). The Rhodesians of that time were proud of their military heritage – Rhodesia had first been colonized only 50 years previously, starting in 1890 when the Pioneer Column, a group of white settlers protected by the British South Africa Police (BSAP) and guided by the big game hunter Frederick Selous, trekked through Matabeleland and into Shona territory to establish Fort Salisbury (now Harere). In 1893-1894, the Rhodesians would defeat the Matabele in the First Matabele War. In 1896-97 the Ndebele would rise against the colonial government in the Second Matabele War which resulted in the extermination of nearly half of the British settlers before the Matabele were defeated. The territory north of the Zambezi was the subject of separate treaties with African chiefs and was administered as Northern Rhodesia from 1911 (now Zambia) while the south became known as Southern Rhodesia and became a self-governing colony in 1923.

Economically, Northern Rhodesia was valued chiefly for the Copperbelt in the north bordered the Belgian Congo and as a result, there was only limited white settlement, with around 15,000 whites in 1939. Southern Rhodesia developed as an economy that was narrowly based on the production of a small number of primary products (notably, chrome and tobacco) and was vulnerable to economic cycles, with the depression of the 1930s having a devastating effect on the economy. Nevertheless, in 1939 the white population of Southern Rhodesia was approximately 67,000 – 10,000 of whom would serve in the military in WW2. In Rhodesia, support for the Empire was strong – Rhodesian society was insular, colonial and highly patriotic. When the Russo-Finnish Winter War broke out, support for Finland was strong but it was felt that Rhodesia could do little or nothing to assist. The news that New Zealand, and then South Africa, followed quickly by Australia and Canada, were all sending volunteer units to fight in Finland stirred public opinion in Rhodesia.

It was generally felt that if the other British Dominions were sending volunteer units, then the Rhodesias’ too should play a part. With the small Rhodesian population however, there was considerable debate on just what part if any should and could be played. The Rhodesian economy was heavily agricultural and with a large black workforce, which made it easier to withdraw white European manpower for the military. Memories of WW1 were still vivid however, and the experience of the Great War had shown that entire battalions could be annihilated in single actions, which argued against the creation of a homogeneous Rhodesian volunteer unit for service in Finland as a military disaster would mean a national catastrophe for the small population. However, the pride and nascent nationalism of Rhodesia were at issue as well, and in the end this would overwhelm fears of a Rhodesian Passchendaele in the Russo-Finnish War.

Selection was straight-forward. The population of Rhodesia was small, the criteria were straight forward – young, single, in good health and familiar with firearms – the last applied to pretty much every Rhodesian. Within a fortnight of the decision having been made, the Volunteers had been selected and had assembled at Bulawayo. On Sunday, 14th January, 1940, a heavy troop-train drew out from the main line platform at Bulawayo. Most of the population of the town had come down to the station to wish luck to the soldiers - luck which would not be shared alike by all. The Prime Minister, Sir Godfrey Huggins, had just given the departing troops a message, "All I wish to say to you is this: we know that you will carry on the traditions that this young Colony established in the last war." Then, as the train drew out, the troops shouted a cheerful chorus as they waved to the silent crowd of relatives and friends. It was easy for those who were en route to adventure to have faith and fire within them; it was more difficult for those who would stay behind and wait.

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The Southern Rhodesian Prime Minister, Sir Godfrey Huggins, chatting to Rhodesian troops preparing to board the train from Bulawayo to Durban, en-route to Finland and the Winter War.


Daddy Went to Fight for the Green and White: An old Rhodesian song written about the small group of Rhodesian Volunteers who went to far-distant Finland

The Volunteer contingent, approximately seven hundred strong, destined for the war then being fought in the ice and snow of Finland, arrived at Durban docks two days later and there had a taste of the kindliness and hospitality of the Durban people, memories of which they were to carry with them in the lean days to come. There was a magnificent lunch in a shed on the quay, and the gift of a parcel containing cigarettes, socks, pyjamas for each soldier. Then the troops embarked on the troopship, the British India liner Karanja, and in the evening Durban gave them a rousing send-off.

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Built by Alexander Stephen in 1930 for the British India Line, KARANJA was powered by steam turbines, single reduction geared to twin screws, which gave her 16 knots on trials. As first commissioned, she had passenger accommodation for 60 first class, 180 second and 75 'intermediate' in addition to which she had a certificate for 1,322 deck passengers on long voyages and no fewer than 2,208 on short voyages - all on a gross tonnage of 10,294! Routes covered by the British India Line were very numerous and formed a network covering the whole of the Indian Ocean which was the main sphere of operations. Some of the services extended to the U.K. via Suez and the Mediterranean, to Japan and New Zealand. Many British India Line ships would be used as troop transports in WW2 and some 50% of the fleet was sunk over the course of the war. Karanja was one of these, being sunk by Soviet air attack outside Petsamo after having disembarked the Rhodesian Volunteers.

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SS Karanja was one of the casualties of war, being sunk in a surprise Soviet air attack as she steamed out of Petsamo after having disembarked the Rhodesian Volunteers.

The voyage was without incident, but hot and sultry through the tropics, especially for those who were accommodated on the troop-decks. The ship's officers were so considerate and untiring in their efforts to assist the Rhodesians that it was resolved that their names be submitted for honorary membership of the Mess of the First Battalion, The Rhodesia Regiment. In late March 1940 the contingent arrived safely at Petsami and was met by several officers from the advance party together with their Finnish Liaison Officer. Within a few hours of landing, the battalion was in trucks and moving southwards to the Army Training Camp at Lapua, where they would be equipped and trained by the Maavoimat. The arrival of the Rhodesian troops in Finland excited interest and curiosity. There was, of course, a certain amount of doubt as to where exactly Rhodesia was and what it was. The Helsingin Sanomat put everybody right. "Rhodesia is a small British Colony in Southern Africa," it said, "distinct and separate from South Africa, it gave its full quota of men to the British armies in the Great War, and there is a fair proportion of veterans in this, the Rhodesian contingent to Finland."

The contingent of Australian Volunteers had arrived at the same time as the Rhodesians, and it was inevitable that there should be comparisons. "The Rhodesians are older and more reserved than the Australians," The Helsingin Sanomat decided. One startling feature worried the Newspaper Reporter, however. It was the sawn-off Rhodesian shorts that they wore indoors where it was warmer, the Folies Bergere-like brevity of which caused grave speculation. "They wear undersized shorts, like football trunks" the press announced in hushed tones……

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]"They wear undersized shorts, like football trunks" the press announced in hushed tones…… Here, Rhodesian soldiers of the Selous Volunteer Battalion on patrol in Eastern Karelia, Summer 1940. The rifles are the Maavoimat-issued Lahti-Salaranta 7.62mm SLR’s that were, by mid-1940, in general use across all front-line infantry formations of the Maavoimat.

To be continued……
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The Rhodesian Selous Volunteer Battalion

Postby CanKiwi2 on 20 Nov 2012 21:12

The Rhodesian Selous Volunteer Battalion

In late 1939, the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Defence Force, as it was then known, was very small – and fell under the overall aegis of the British South Africa Police (BSAP) who were trained as both policemen and soldiers until 1954. Between the World Wars, the Permanent Staff Corps of the small Rhodesian Army consisted of only 47 men. The majority of the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers dating from prior to WW1 were disbanded in 1920 for reasons of cost, the last companies being disbanded in 1926. The Defence Act of 1927 created a Permanent Force (the Rhodesian Staff Corps) and a Territorial Force as well as national compulsory military training. With the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers disbanded in 1927, the Rhodesia Regiment has been reformed in the same year as part of the nation's Territorial Force. The 1st Battalion was formed in Salisbury with a detached "B" company in Umtali and the 2nd Battalion in Bulawayo with a detached "B" Company in Gwelo. The sole permament military unit in the Rhodesias was the Rhodesian African Rifles (made up of black rank-and-filers and warrant officers, led by white officers; abbreviated as “RAR”). From 1936 through to 1945, this small force was commanded by Brigadier John Sidney Morris.

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Brigadier John Sidney Morris (1890-1961) CBE; KPM; CPM; Brigadier - Commissioner 15 February 1933 to 24 April 1945. Born 1890 Didsbury, Lancashire and attended Grammar School in Manchester. He enlisted with the BSA Police in October 1909 and served mostly in the Mashonaland districts. Morris was commissioned in April 1914 and appears to have transferred to the CID in 1915. He served in Bulawayo and Salisbury, achieving the rank of Superintendent in 1926. In November 1929 he became an Assistant Commissioner with the rank of Major. Officers had both military and police ranks at this time. In the lead up to the Second World War, Morris was appointed Commandant of the Southern Rhodesian Forces. John Morris died in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, on 18 November 1961. Awarded CBE 1935; OStJ 1938; CPM 1944; KPM 1945.

It would be Brigadier Morris who would determine the size of the volunteer unit to be sent and who would appoint the CO from the very limited pool of Officers within the Rhodesian defence forces. And a very limited pool it was indeed.
Some 9,187 white Southern Rhodesians (15% of the white population of around 67,000, of whom 6,520 served outside the country) mustered into the British forces during the Second World War, serving in units such as the Long Range Desert Group, No. 237 Squadron RAF and the Special Air Service (SAS) with most scattered across various British units. Pro rata to population, this was the largest contribution of manpower by any territory in the British Empire, far outstripping that of Britain itself. As previously mentioned, outside of Rhodesia, the Rhodesian troops were split up and distributed amongst British and Commonwealth units to afford the infliction of massive casualties and the impact this would have on a small population. Rhodesians would however be disproportionately represented in a range of British Special Forces units (primarily the Long Range Desert Group and the Special Air Service) and Southern Rhodesian pilots would proportionally earn the highest number of decorations and ace appellations in the Empire (this later resulted in the Royal Family paying an unusual state visit to the colony at the end of the war to express their thanks for the efforts of the Rhodesian people).

Thus, the decision to send a single “all-Rhodesian” volunteer unit of some 800 men – more than 10% of the Rhodesian manpower available and eligible for overseas military service) was a significant step to be taken by this small country. That it was taken in full recognition of the risks this entailed, particularly as the war that they were going to was against a major military power, and after a full and frank debate of the possible ramifications for Rhodesia, must be a credit to the Rhodesians of that time. It was not a step taken lightly, and the solemn farewell for the volunteers at the Bulawayo Railway Station was evidence of that, if any more was needed. Despite the solemn mood of the farewell, the volunteers themselves were cheerful enough. Most of them were young and single, most were in their twenties, many were farmers, hunters and trackers, used to life on the veld, almost all were crack shots, fit and tanned from a largely outdoor and very physical lifestyle on the typical Rhodesian farm of that era.

The Rhodesian Defence Forces were small, all the Officers were either Territorial Officers of the Rhodesia Regiment or recently commissioned young Lieutenants given brevet appointments as Company CO’s and both they and the NCOs were mostly young men, their only military experience being the rather cursory training that had been offered by the Rhodesia Regiment in the years before the war, when budgetary constraints significantly restricted training opportunities. Many of the enlisted men and junior NCO’s had no training whatsoever. Nevertheless, despite the small Rhodesian population, selection had been rigorous (There had in fact been many more applications than there were places, with some South Africans making the journey to Rhodesia to apply after having missed out on joining the South African volunteers). All members of the Battalion had passed a stringent two week selection course that the Battalion CO had improvised – and memories of this one-off selection process would later be resurrected for use in the Rhodesian Army of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Volunteers for the Battalion met in Salisbury where they were given a taste of the hardships they would have to endure to get into the ranks of those selected to go to Finland. Their first task was to reaching a temporary Camp in the country (which was a 15 mile run away from central Salisbury where they started) they saw only a few straw huts and the blackened embers of a dying fire. There was no food issued. The objective of the selection process at this point was to narrow the list of potential recruits by starving, exhausting and antagonizing them. This was successful, with 29% of the 1800 volunteers dropping out within the first two days. The selection course had a total duration of 12 days. From dawn to 7 am recruits were put through a strength-sapping fitness program. After they had completed this, they trained in basic combat skills. They were also required to traverse a particularly nasty assault course daily. The course was designed to overcome their fear of heights. When darkness fell, they began night training. No food was issued over the first 5 days, after which the volunteers were fed only on rotten animals. At the end of the 11th day, they had to carry out an endurance march of 100 kilometres. Each volunteer was laden with 30 kilograms of rocks in his packs. These rocks were painted red, to ensure that they could not be discharged and replaced at the end. The final stage of this march was a speed march, and had to be completed in two-and-a-half hours. Those who survived were cleaned up, fed and placed on the train to the final assembly point at Bulawayo. It says a lot for the quality of the Rhodesian volunteers that 800 of the original 1800 applicants lasted through the selection course and were accepted into the ranks of the Battalion.
By acclamation amongst the officers and men of the Volunteers who had been selected, it was decided to name the Battalion the “Selous Battalion, Rhodesian Volunteers”, after the famous African hunter and explorer, Frederick Selous.

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Frederick Courtney Selous, British explorer, officer, hunter, and conservationist, famous for his exploits in South-East Africa and after whom the Selous Battalion was named. His image remains a classic, romantic portrait of a proper Victorian period English gentleman of the colonies, one whose real life adventures and exploits of almost epic proportions generated successful Lost World and Steampunk genre fictional characters like Allan Quatermain (for whom he was , the inspiration behind Sir H. Rider Haggard’s creation of the character). He was to a large extent an embodiment of the popular "white hunter" concept of the times; yet he remained a modest and stoic pillar in personality all throughout his life. He arrived in Africa in 1872, at the age of 19, and from then until 1890, with a few brief intervals spent in England, he hunted and explored over the then little-known regions north of the Transvaal and south of the Congo Basin, shooting elephants, and collecting specimens of all kinds for museums and private collections. His travels added greatly to the knowledge of the country now known as Zimbabwe. He made valuable ethnological investigations, and throughout his wanderings—often among people who had never previously seen a white man—he maintained cordial relations with the chiefs and tribes, winning their confidence and esteem, notably so in the case of Lobengula. In 1890, Selous acted as guide to the pioneer expedition to Mashonaland. Over 400 miles of road were constructed through a country of forest, mountain and swamp, and in two and a half months Selous took the column safely to its destination.

He returned to Africa to take part in the First Matabele War (1893), after which he returned to England, married, and then in 1896 settled on an estate in Matabeleland. He took a promient part in the fighting after the Second Matabele War broke out and published an account of the campaign entitled “Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia” (1896). It was during this time that he met and fought along side Robert baden-Powell, who was then a Major and newly appointed to the British Army headquarters staff in Matabeleland. In World War I, at the age of 64, Selous participated in the fighting in East Africa, rejoining the British Army. He was promoted Captain in the uniquely composed 25th (Frontiersmen) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers on 23 August 1915. On 4 January 1917, Selous was fighting a bush-war on the banks of the Rufiji River against German colonial Schutztruppen, outnumbered five-to-one. That morning, in combat, during a minor engagement, while creeping forward, he raised his head and binoculars to locate the enemy, and was shot in the head by a German sniper. He was killed instantly. He was widely remembered in real tales of war, exploration and big game hunting as a balanced blend between gentleman officer and epic wild man. Post WW2, another elite Rhodesian military unit, the Selous Scouts, was named in his honour


The Rhodesian Government on the advice of Brigadier Morris appointed Major (T/Lieutenant-Colonel) Graf (Count) Manfred Maria Edmund Ralph Beckett Czernin von und zu Chudenitz to command the Battalion. (referred to hereafter as Lt-Col. Czernin).

Company Officers who passed Selection and were appointed were:

Captain (T/Major) Paul Newton Brietsche, Commanding Officer, Headquarters Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) Sam Putterill Commanding Officer, A Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) Alan Gardiner Redfern, Commanding Officer, B Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) John Richard Olivey, Commanding Officer, C Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) Edgar Walter Dudley Coventry, Commanding Officer, D Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) John (“Jock”) Anderson, Commanding Officer, Heavy Weapons Company:

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Major (T/Lieutenant-Colonel) Graf (Count) Manfred Maria Edmund Ralph Beckett Czernin von und zu Chudenitz, Commanding Officer, the Rhodesian Selous Volunteers: Czernin was born on 18 January 1918 in Berlin, the fourth son of Count Otto von Czernin, an Austrian diplomat, and his English wife, Lucy, daughter of Ernest Beckett, 2nd Baron Grimthorpe. Several years after he was born his parents were divorced and young Manfred moved to Italy with his mother, but was educated in the United Kingdom at Oundle School. In September 1931 he moved to Rhodesia to work on a tobacco plantation. Czernin returned to the United Kingdom in April 1935 to take up appointment as an Acting Pilot Officer on a short service commission. Qualifying as a pilot, he was posted to No. 57 Squadron RAF at RAF Upper Heyford, and enjoyed several more squadron postings until placed on the Class A Reserve. Returning to Southern Rhodesia in September 1937, Czernin joined the Rhodesian Air Force Reserves but transferred to the Rhodesia Regiment some months later, with the rank of Captain.

A keen young Officer, and recognised as highly competent, he was promoted to Major in late 1937 and would complete General Staff training at Quetta in 1938 – one of the very few Rhodesian Officers to have done so. He married Maud Sarah Hamilton on 4 November 1939 – and then immediately volunteered for Finland when it was announced that Rhodesia would be sending a Battalion of volunteers and was selected as the CO, with the Acting Rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. A fluent speaker of German and Italian, he commanded the Battalion throughout the Winter War with distinction. After the Winter War ended, he would return to the UK and transfer into the RAF where he dropped ranks to fly fighters. In late 1941, after 13 victories and 5 shared victories, he was awarded the DFC and promoted to Squadron Leader. In 1942 he was Staff Officer for 224 Group and in 1943 he was transferred to the Air Ministry. In September 1943 he transferred to SOE as “Major Beckett” and was dropped into Italy where he won the Military Cross (1944) and the Distinguished Service Order (1945). He left the RAF in October 1945, became Sales Manager for Fiat in the UK and died suddenly in October 1962 in London.


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Captain (T/Major) Paul Newton Brietsche, Commanding Officer, Headquarters Company. Born 13 July 1910 in the UK and having immigrated to Rhodesia in 1935, Brietsche was a farmer/gold miner in civilian life and an Officer in the Rhodesia Regiment (the Territorial Force of the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Army). A Captain at the time of volunteering, he was given a brevet promotion to Major and appointed to the command of Headquarters Company. After the Winter War, he would return to the Middle East, join the LRDG (Long Range Desert Group) and command R Patrol. He would later transfer to the SOE and fight behind enemy lines in Italy in 1944, where he was awarded the Military Cross.

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Lieutenant (T/Captain) Sam Putterill, Commanding Officer, A Company, Rhodesian Volunteer Battalion (above photo from ): Rodney Ray Jensen Putterill (always known as "Sam") was born in Harrismith, South Africa in January 1917. His family moved to Southern Rhodesia where Sam was educated. After university, he worked for an oil company in Northern Rhodesia but was persuaded to join the Rhodesian Army. Commissioned in 1939, he volunteered for service in Finland and fought with the Selous Battalion in the Winter War. Between 1939-1945 he had a brilliant military career, fighting the Russians in Finland, the Germans in North Africa, the Italians and Germans in Italy, then communists in Greece. As with so many other Rhodesians and South Africans who studied British military tactics against communists in Malaya at the end of the Second World War, Putterill believed he and his men could "hold" the forces of Black Nationalism in Central Africa in the 1960s. As time showed, they couldn't. Appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Rhodesian Army in 1964, he was GOC when Ian Smith declared UDI in November 1965 (succeeding Major-General Jock Anderson, whom Ian Smith had forced into retirement in 1964).

When he warned Prime Minister Smith that he could never go along with Smith's plan to turn Rhodesia into a republic in 1970, he was forced into early retirement in 1968. During the campaign for a Republic in 1969, Sam Putterill came out of retirement and addressed white audiences throughout the country - "With his ringing voice and fierce, far-seeing eyes he inspired great confidence in his deep knowledge of the country's politics and contemporary history." Putterill spent the rest of his life lambasting Ian Smith from the country's political sidelines, becoming in the late 1960s and early1970s a leading light in the small (but annoying to Smith), Centre Party, led by a white commercial farmer called Pat Bashford and supported by the ex-colony's handful of European liberals. He and the Centre Party became irrelevant as Rhodesia turned into Zimbabwe in 1980. Sam Putterill and Ian Smith died within a few days of one another in October 2007 - enemies in life but men who from different positions watched with horror at the way Robert Mugabe went on to turn what was once called the Jewel of Africa into that continent's most shameful basket case.


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Lieutenant (T/Captain) Alan Gardiner Redfern, Commanding Officer, B Company, Rhodesian Volunteer Battalion: Redfern was born in 1906, the son of Arthur William and Margaret A. Redfern,Salisbury,Southern Rhodesia. Married to Agnes Opal Redfern of Salisbury, he was an officer in the Rhodesian African Rifles when WW2 broke out. After fighting in the Winter War, he would join the LRDG (Long Range Desert Patrol) in the Middle East where he could command the LRDG’s B Squadron. Returning to Rhodesia, he would run commando training courses in Gwelo, Southern Rhodesia (for which he was awarded the MBE). He returned to the fighting in the Mediterranean and was KIA on Leros on 12th November 1943. He s buried in the Leros War Cemetery,Greece

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Lieutenant (T/Captain) John Richard Olivey, Commanding Officer, C Company, Rhodesian Volunteer Battalion: from Southern Rhodesia, Olivey would return from the Winter War to the Middle East, where he would join the LRDG in January 1941 and go on to fight in North Africa. He was taken POW on Leros on 18 November 1943 but escaped.

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Lieutenant (T/Captain) Stanley Norman Eastwood, Commanding Officer, C Company, Rhodesian Volunteer Battalion: from Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, Eastwood would go on to join the LRDDG in the Middle East after the Winter War. He would be awarded the Military Cross and a Mention in Despatches for actions in Albania in 1944.

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Lieutenant (T/Captain) Edgar Walter Dudley Coventry, Commanding Officer, D Company, Rhodesian Volunteer Battalion: born 26 March 1915 in India and educated at Bryanston, Coventry was commissioned in 1938 and volunteered for Finland. After the Winter War he would join 5 Commando and Special Raiding Forces Middle East, then serve in 45 R.M. Commando 1944-45 and the East Lancashire Regiment 1946 before transferring to the Parachute Regiment. He would serve in the Independent Parachute Squadron and (the Rhodesian) C Squadron 22 SAS (Malaya) where he was awarded a Mention in Despatches in 1956. He served in the Rhodesian Light Infantry 1960 and was CO, C Squadron Rhodesian SAS in 1963, joined the Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organisation in 1970, was WIA several times in Rhodesia and as a Lt Col was CO of the Zimbabwe SAS. He died on 5 September 1993 in Harare.

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John (“Jock”) Anderson (photo taken when GOC, Rhodesian Army in the early 1960’s). Lieutenant (T/Captain) John (“Jock”) Anderson, Commanding Officer, Heavy Weapons Company: A young Officer in the Rhodesian African Rifles, Anderson would remain in the Army and go on to command the 1st Battalion, Rhodesian African Rifles in Malaya from 1956 to 1958. They were stationed for a brief period at Kluang and then on the Tanemera Rubber estates and had the highest kill rate of any regiment during that time, winning a number of MM's (the Regiment was disbanded in 1980 when Zimbabwe was formed). Lt-Col. Anderson also commanded 48 Gurkha Infantry Brigade for a period of 6 months during the Malayan Emergency. He went on to be promoted to Major-General and became General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Army of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. At the breakup of the Federation, he commanded the Southern Rhodesian Army and controversially, was sacked by Ian Smith due to his refusal to condone UDI. He went on to work for Tiny Rowland of Rhodesia and died in the UK in 1992. Two of his sons went on to serve with 6th QEO Gurkha Rifles.

One of the Battalions more notable young junior Officers was B Company 2IC, 2nd Lieutenant Ken Harvey. The son of a shopkeeper, Kenneth Gordon Harvey was born on December 7 1920 in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia, and educated at Milton Junior and Senior schools, where he was acknowledged to be bright but not academic. On leaving school, he spent nine months with the Rhodesian Railways, then enlisted and was commissioned into the Rhodesia Regiment. Volunteering for Finland, he was appointed 2IC in B Company (with a shortage of qualified young Officers, the Platoons within each Infantry Company were generally commanded by a senior NCO rather than an Officer).

Perhaps the most audacious mission in which the young Lt Harvey took part was the attack upon the a Red Army Corps Headquarters during the defence of the Syvari in August 1940. The primary objective of this operation was to kill or incapacitate as many Red Army staff officers as possible (including the Corps commander) & by so doing hopefully throw the whole command & control structure in that region into disarray. The HQ had been identified as being sited in two houses in a village &, as to be expected, was heavily guarded. The decision was taken to deploy some of the Rhodesians to assist the men of Osasto Nyrkki, who by August 1940 had taken numerous casualties and were significantly under strength. The Rhodesians were to move in as one of the main assault groups. The combined raiding force made a long approach on foot through thickly forested terrain to the target and, during the hours of darkness, positioned themselves for the attack.

The signal to launch the assault was given by a radio signal and the night was soon filled with the sounds of gunfire as the Rhodesians went into the attack. Lt Harvey led one team of soldiers towards the house which he had been tasked to clear, personally killing two Russian sentries on the approach. The front door of the target building was removed by a Rumpali round after which Lt Harvey’s team entered to get to grips with those inside. Several Russians were killed in the ensuing contacts on the ground floor yet when Lt Harvey attempted to lead the assault on the first floor his team came up against desperate resistance from a scratch force of Red Army officers. A particularly vicious close quarters firefight ensued. Leading from the front Lt Harvey attempted to fight his way up the staircase several times only to be beaten back on each occasion by heavy automatic fire and grenades. Knowing that his twenty minute time frame was almost up, Lt Harvey ordered his men to set fire to the ground floor before withdrawing under automatic fire from both the house and several positions in the village back to his start line.

By this time the building was fully ablaze and those inside who realised the need to escape death by fire were cut down by the Rhodesians (who had been keeping a steady fire upon the enemy held portions of the house) as they jumped from the upper storey windows. By now the Red Army response was in full swing and the order was given to withdraw. Under very heavy small arms, machine gun and AA cannon fire the raiding party disengaged taking their two wounded with them. Over the next 36 hours or so they were chased by a vengeful enemy, including NKVD units, who were intent on stopping them. However the Rhodesians and their Osasto Nyrkki guides made good their escape into the forest. It was later learned that the Russians had lost several visiting Red Army and Communist Party VIPs in the attack including three Generals and the Corps Chief of Staff.

After service in Finland, Harvey would serve in the Middle East and join the SAS, where he was awarded the DSO and would see active service behind enemy lines in Italy. He was troubled by the suffering of the SAS wounded who could not be given proper treatment and were often transported on ladders. As a result he raided a German hospital, where he commandeered a Mercedes ambulance and an Opel staff car complete with its driver. He subsequently sold the car in Florence on the black market, and spent the proceeds on a three-day party after his return to England. After the war ended, Harvey was demobilised and returned to Africa, going up to Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, to read Architecture. While in Africa and Italy he had developed a great affection for the bagpipes and Highland dances; while an undergraduate he enrolled in the Transvaal Scottish. Harvey returned to Bulawayo in 1951 as a partner in a firm of architects, but never completely settled into civilian life. He subsequently joined the 2nd Battalion, Royal Rhodesia Regiment, and took command in 1962 with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Harvey saw active service in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in 1959, when he helped to suppress riots which had broken out in protest at the colony being linked to Northern and Southern Rhodesia to form the Central African Federation. He commanded Operation Wetdawn, a sweep of villages known to harbour African nationalists. This nipped a possible rebellion in the bud, and Harvey was awarded an MBE (military) for "loyal and meritorious service". Subsequently he served as honorary colonel of the Rhodesian SAS. A modest, friendly man, Harvey continued working as an architect after Rhodesia gained its independence as Zimbabwe in 1980. He established a large practice and designed many of the office buildings in Harare and Bulawayo. Harvey was deputy chairman of the Central Africa Power Corporation for many years. As chairman of the Zimbabwe Legion, he worked hard to help ex-servicemen, particularly those whose savings were destroyed by hyperinflation. In his spare time he was a keen philatelist. Despite the onset of cancer, he was most reluctant to leave the country, but was eventually persuaded to move to a retirement home in Cape Town. There he struck up a friendship with another resident, Ian Smith, the former Rhodesian prime minister. Ken Harvey died on December 3. He married Luna Klopper in 1951 (she predeceased him). He was survived by their three daughters.

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Image sourced from: http://www.ww2incolor.com/d/600929-4/So ... +the+finns
“There were no Survivors: The Rhodesian Syväri Patrol, August 1940” – A Soviet Propaganda leaflet dropped over Finnish lines shortly after the annihilaton of the Syväri Patrol – the upper text says "You are expected home", the lower says "But Mannerheim’s victims never return". On the reverse, a description of the fate of the Syväri Patrol. Rhodesians collected the leaflets as souvenirs, some can still be found in Zimbabwe even today....

Another notable “behind the lines” action involving the Rhodesian Battalion was the ill-fated Syväri Patrol, a Platoon of 34 Rhodesian soldiers led by young 2nd Lieutenant Allan Wilson. The Patrol had been sent deep behind the Syväri to scout ahead of the main assault group of the Commonwealth Division prepatory to a major crossing of the Syväri in the last weeks of the Winter War. The patrol was dropped deep behind Red Army lines on the 3rd of August 1940 but had the ill-fortune to be spotted by a Red Army patrol almost immediately on disembarking from the Ilmavoimat float-planes that had landed them on a small lake. Aware within hours that they were being tracked, Wilson’s Patrol doubled back and, unable to be extracted by aircraft due to foul weather and low clouds, made for the Syväri. However, with heavy rainfall, they were trapped by flooded rivers and surrounded in the night by 3,000 men of the Red Army who attacked on the morning of the 4th of August. The Patrol, out of range of Finnish artillery and unable to receive close air support due to the weather, made a dramatic last stand against insurmountable odds, fighting to the last round and killing thirty times their number before being annihilated shortly after sending a final radio message. Their fight achieved a prominent place in Finnish and Rhodesian public imagination and, subsequently, in Rhodesian national history. A historical war film depicting the episode, “Syväri Partio”, was produced and released in 1970.


The Syväri Patrol: an old Rhodesian song recording Wilson’s Last Stand in the Winter War

His troopers, they were loyal, his troopers, they were young
They'd follow Allan Wilson to the setting of the sun
They were hands from many lands, and many a distant shore
They would follow Wilson—a soldier to the core

Chorus:
Across the wild Syväri, behind the Russkie side
Across the wild Syväri, where Allan Wilson died

The Bolsheviki army was running to the south
And the Marski he would follow, for all that he was worth
But across the wild Syväri, Syväri River wide
Were Wilson and his men to scout, over the other side

Chorus (Repeat)

Through green Karelian Forest the Russkie soldiers fled
The Finnish tracker Lindorf said 'They can't be far ahead'
But Wilson and his troopers were surrounded in the night
Said Wilson to the volunteers: 'We will stand and fight'

Chorus

With machineguns in a circle, they sang "God Save the Queen"
And thirty-four young troopers would never more be seen
They killed ten times their number; they're on the honour roll
So take your hat off slowly to the Syväri Patrol

Chorusx2


Next Post: Aid from Canada & the Canadian Volunteers
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Postby John Hilly on 21 Nov 2012 13:21

CanKiwi2 wrote:Captain (T/Major) Paul Newton Brietsche, Commanding Officer, Headquarters Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) Sam Putterill Commanding Officer, A Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) Alan Gardiner Redfern, Commanding Officer, B Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) John Richard Olivey, Commanding Officer, C Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) Edgar Walter Dudley Coventry, Commanding Officer, D Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) John (“Jock”) Anderson, Commanding Officer, Heavy Weapons Company:


Sorry, but what does this 'Captain (T/Major)' mean?
BTW, a nice song with your wordings! :D

With best
Juha-Pekka :milwink:
“Die Blechtrommel trommelt noch !!“
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Postby CanKiwi2 on 21 Nov 2012 16:07

John Hilly wrote:
CanKiwi2 wrote:Captain (T/Major) Paul Newton Brietsche, Commanding Officer, Headquarters Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) Sam Putterill Commanding Officer, A Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) Alan Gardiner Redfern, Commanding Officer, B Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) John Richard Olivey, Commanding Officer, C Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) Edgar Walter Dudley Coventry, Commanding Officer, D Company;
Lieutenant (T/Captain) John (“Jock”) Anderson, Commanding Officer, Heavy Weapons Company:


Sorry, but what does this 'Captain (T/Major)' mean?
BTW, a nice song with your wordings! :D

With best
Juha-Pekka :milwink:


Hey, glad you like the "new" lyrics, it was quite a well-known song in the old Rhodesia. There's a huge memorial to the Shangani Patrol in the Matopo's, outside Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, where Cecil Rhodes was also buried. Been there (waaaay back in 1994 when I spent a few years working down there) and its an amazing place. Well worth spending a bit of time looking around.....

Re the ranks, the British and Commonwealth armies had what was called a "Brevet" rank system, where Officers could hold both a Permanent and a Brevet (Temporary) rank. Officially both titles were used, which is why you see them as Lieutenant (T/Captain) - ie, while they are temporarily a Captain for the purposes of their posting, their permanent rank is Lieutenant and they will revert to that once the posting is over. Especially during the war, where large numbers of war-only officers were commissioned, and large numbers of additional units were brought into being with temporary positions to be filled, the difference between permanent and temporary rank could be quite a lot. There was also the British "Regimental" system but that gets really confusing....
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Postby John Hilly on 21 Nov 2012 18:34

CanKiwi2 wrote:Re the ranks, the British and Commonwealth armies had what was called a "Brevet" rank system, where Officers could hold both a Permanent and a Brevet (Temporary) rank. Officially both titles were used, which is why you see them as Lieutenant (T/Captain) - ie, while they are temporarily a Captain for the purposes of their posting, their permanent rank is Lieutenant and they will revert to that once the posting is over.


We had same kind of system when serving in UN forces. E.a. Captains were temporarily Majors etc.
In other ranks almost all reserve NCOs started their UN service as a Jääkäri and capable common Jägers could eventually serve even as temporary Master Sergeants.

Keep up the good work Nigel!

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Aid from Canada & the Canadian Volunteers

Postby CanKiwi2 on 28 Nov 2012 17:03

Aid from Canada & the Canadian Volunteers

A Nation Unwilling and Unprepared – Canada on the verge of WW2

On the outbreak of WW2 in September 1940, Canada had declared war on Germany together with the other Dominions of the British Commonwealth, although in Canada’s case and as a result of Canadian politics, it was seven days after Britain. Up to the outbreak of war, both the government and the public remained reluctant to participate in a European war, in part because of the memories of the Conscription Crisis of 1917 that had divided French and English Canada. Nonetheless, Canadian Prime Minister MacKenzie King had not changed the view that he had held as early as 1923 that Canada would participate in a war by the Empire whether or not the United States did. By August 1939 his cabinet, including French Canadian members, was united for war in a way that it probably would not have been during the Munich Crisis, although both cabinet members and the country based their support in part on expecting that Canada's participation would be "limited".

Canada in late 1939 was far from prepared for war. Canada had informally continued to follow the British Ten Year Rule that reduced defence spending even after Britain abandoned it in 1932. Having suffered from nearly 20 years of increasing neglect, Canada's armed forces were small, poorly equipped, and, for the most part, unprepared for war in 1939. King's government began increasing spending in 1936, but that increased spending was unpopular. The government had to describe it as primarily for defending Canada, with an overseas war "a secondary responsibility of this country, though possibly one requiring much greater ultimate effort." The Munich Crisis of 1938 caused annual spending to almost double. Nonetheless, in March 1939 the Permanent Active Militia (or Permanent Force (PF), Canada's full-time army) had only 4,169 officers and men while the Non-Permanent Active Militia (Canada's reserve force) numbered 51,418 at the end of 1938, mostly armed with weapons from 1918. In March 1939 the Royal Canadian Navy had 309 officers and 2,967 naval ratings, and the Royal Canadian Air Force had 360 officers and 2,797 airmen. In September 1939 Prime Minister MacKenzie King's cabinet rejected the proposal by the Canadian Chiefs of Staff to create two army divisions for overseas service, in part due to the cost.

At the outbreak of war, Canada's commitment to the war in Europe was limited by the Canadian government to one division, with a further one division in reserve for home defence. King’s "moderate" war strategy won his Liberal Party the largest majority in Canadian history in the elections of March 1940. Despite this, by the end of the war, Canada would possess the fourth largest air force and the third-largest naval surface fleet in the world, as well as a not-inconsiderable Army through which some 730,000 men passed through over the course of the war. Approximately half of Canada's army and three-quarters of its air-force personnel never left the country, compared to the overseas deployment of approximately three-quarters of the forces of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. In part, this reflected Mackenzie King's policy of "limited liability" and the labour requirements of Canada's industrial war effort. But it also reflected the objective circumstances of the war and the internal political situation with Quebec, where opposition to conscription and involvement in the War was greatest. With France defeated and occupied, there was no Second World War equivalent of the Great War's Western Front until the invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

When we come to look at the Canadian Volunteers, we will examine Canada’s military preparedness and the internal political situation in greater detail but for now, as a general introduction, this should suffice.

The Canadian Automobile Industry and pre-War and War-time Finnish Military Orders

Leaving aside military unpreparedness for war, in terms of industrial capacity, Canada had become one of the world's leading automobile manufacturers in the 1920s, owing to the presence of branch-plants of American automakers in Ontario. In 1938, Canada's automotive industry ranked fourth in the world in the output of passenger cars and trucks, even though a large part of its productive capacity remained idle because of the Depression. During WW2 this industry was put to good use, building all manner of war material, and most particularly wheeled vehicles, of which Canada became the second largest (next to the United States) producer during the war. Canada's output of nearly 800,000 trucks, for instance, exceeded the combined total truck production of Germany, Italy, and Japan throughout WW2. Approximately half of the British Army's transport requirements were supplied from Canadian manufacturers. The British Official History argues that the production of soft-skinned trucks was Canada's most important contribution to Allied victory and in this the Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) truck played a crucial part.

What is now little known is that a major part of the design for what was to become the ubiquitous Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) truck originated in Finland at the Ford Manufacturing Plant outside Helsinki. Early in 1937, Ford Suomi Oy and Sisu Oy (the Finnish state-owned heavy vehicle manufacturer) were each invited by the Finnish Ministry of Defence to produce a design for a new and robust 4x4 truck for military use. It was specified that in addition to military use, the trucks should be suitable for a variety of civilian roles including work in the forestry industry, as agricultural/farm transport, as forest fire-fighting trucks and as snow ploughs (the Government’s stated intention was to partially subsidize manufacturing of these trucks and make them available at low cost for Finnish civilian purchase and use, contingent on being listed and available for use by the military in the event of a war). In the end, Ford Suomi and Sisu pressured the Ministry of Defence and the Minister of Finance to allow them to pool their design expertise and submitted a joint design. Manufacturing was to be split between the two companies based on available capacity.

The prototype design of a 15-hundredweight light military truck that had at this time been recently adopted by the British War Office had formed a starting point for the Finnish design. The design that re-emerged in heavily modified form from the joint Ford Suomi / Sisu design team was a standardized vehicle particularly amenable to mass production, with a 239 cu in (3.9L) V8 engine, 4WD, a short, "cab forward" configuration that gave the trucks a distinctive pug-nosed profile and a 3 ton load capacity. The design was accepted as the MSK Truck (Maavoimat Sotilaallinen Kuvio – “Maavoimat Military Pattern”) and in mid-1938, the first production model rolled out of the Ford Helsinki plant (none of the trucks were produced at the Sisu factory, which was then concentrating on other orders). Ford Helsinki’s capacity was limited and with the Munich Crisis the Emergency Defence Expenditure program that was the immediate Finnish reaction to the increasing gravity of the situation in Europe, the Finnish Ministry of Defence gave the acquisition of additional trucks from overseas a high priority. In looking for manufacturers, Finland was also cognizant of the situation that Britain and France might find themselves in if war with Germany broke out (especially given the problems that had already been encountered with orders for military equipment from these countries) and it was decided that as much of the equipment to be purchased as possible should come from North America.

With regard to the trucks, negotiations were entered into with Ford Canada (by Ford Suomi) and in early 1939 a contract was signed for the delivery of 1,000 of the Finnish-designed trucks. Given the involvement of Ford Suomi in the design, the initial order for 1,000 trucks went to Ford Canada and by May 1939, the first MSK 4WD 3 Ton Trucks (MSK=Maavoimat Sotilaallinen Kuvio – “Maavoimat Military Pattern”) were rolling of the Ford production line in Ontario. Under threat from the Soviet Union, Finland increased the overall size of the order to 2,500 trucks in August 1939, and then to 5,000 in December 1939, only days after being attacked. With the increase in the size of the order in August, and taking into consideration the emphasis the Finnish Government was placing on speed of delivery, Ford Canada made the decision to bring in their rival, General Motors of Canada. In August 1939 the two companies pooled their manufacturing teams and at the same time, the Finns licensed manufacturing rights to the trucks to both Ford and General Motors, who threw their engineering design teams into further improving the design – the result of which would go on to become the Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) truck, which served throughout the British Commonwealth for the duration of WW2 – and the improvements were progressively included in the vehicles being manufactured for Finland.

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MSK (Maavoimat Sotilaallinen Kuvio – “Maavoimat Military Pattern”) Truck, 4WD, 3 Ton - this is a long-wheelbase version

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MSK (Maavoimat Sotilaallinen Kuvio – “Maavoimat Military Pattern”) Trucks at a rear area depot, Eastern Karelia, Summer 1940

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Image sourced from: http://www.canadianmilitarypattern.com
The Ford Suomi / Sisu designed Maavoimat Military Trucks (4WD, 3 Ton) would come to form the backbone of the Maavoimat’s logistical transportation by the end of the Winter War. Here, the trucks have been offloaded and assembled at Lyngenfjiord and are en-route to Tornio.

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Maavoimat MSKTrucks (4WD, 3 Ton) – Artillery Tractor version

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Ford Suomi / Sisu designed Maavoimat Military Trucks (4WD, 3 Ton) lined up outside a storage facility in Tampere shortly before the outbreak of the Winter War as the Maavoimat mobilised

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Image sourced from: http://www.canadianmilitarypattern.com
Maavoimat Military Trucks (4WD, 3 Ton) in a convoy moving through Northern Finland

The first shipment of some 500 Trucks had arrived by freighter in Turku in November 1939, shortly before the commencement of the Winter War. They were rapidly uncrated and assembled and issued to military units, initially to Field Artillery Regiments to improve mobility and logistical resupply, later on to Divisions on the Karelian Isthmus and then, as more arrived, to Divisions on other fronts. After the outbreak of WW2 and the Canadian declaration of war in September 1939, the Canadian Government had debated whether to cancel deliveries to Finland and take over the orders for the Canadian military. The debate was still underway when the USSR attacked Finland on the 30th of November 1939. In Canada, as elsewhere, public support for Finland was, as we will see, both widespread and deeply felt and there was public demand to support Finland. The end result was that while Canada did not have any immediate “military” manufacturing capability with which to assist Finland (and in any case weapons were in such short supply that anything that could be produced immediately went to the Canadian military) trucks were another matter. The Finnish truck order was confirmed and at the same time, as has been mentioned, the Finns licensed manufacturing rights to the trucks to both Ford and General Motors for construction for the Canadian, Commonwealth and US militaries.

The trucks for Finland were manufactured by the Chevrolet division of General Motors of Canada Ltd and by the Ford Motor Company of Canada. The Canadian subsidiaries of the two largest American vehicle manufacturers were able to rapidly ramp up their production because of an unusual degree of inter-company collaboration, the use of interchangeable parts, and because of the large amount of idle production capacity that was a lingering result of the Great Depression. Skilled labour was easy to rehire and Canada’s limited mobilization had not impacted the manpower available for industrial expansion in any way. As a result, ramping up was not hindered by personnel bottlenecks as it was in countries where there was a heavy . Various models were built – Heavy Utility Trucks, Artillery Tractors, Fuel Tankers, Armoured Trucks, Command Trucks, Radio Trucks, Ambulances and an innovative Finnish-designed Armoured Personnel Carrier version, of which some 400 were specially ordered, constructed and which arrived in Finland in June 1940 together with a further 200 Armoured Cars, also based on the same chassis.

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MKS Artillery Tractor with Howitzer – Commonwealth Division artillery unit at the Syvari Front, August 1940….

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By the end of the Winter War, thousands of Maavoimat Military Pattern Trucks would be in service with the Finnish military – here, a large logistics Convoy heading for the front takes a break. The close-up column of trucks indicates the level of confidence the Maavoimat soldiers had in the ability of the Ilmavoimat to dominate the air war – in the early weeks of the war, this type of bunching up would not have been in evidence…

In keeping with the rapidly evolving Maavoimat doctrine for front line vehicles, the gasoline engine was replaced in the production model with the proven and easy to procure Cummins I6-170hp diesel engine – and thanks to Neste’s completion of a new and rather innovative diesel fuel plant (essentially a Fischer-Tropsch process) that produced good quality diesel from biomass, diesel fuel for the trucks would not be an issue by the end of the Winter War. The Ford-Sisu Truck and the Sika AFV derivative would be used as gun carriers, mortar carriers, artillery tractors, fuel tankers, command trucks, signals trucks, armoured personnel carriers and ambulances to the end of the war. Sisu and Ford Helsinki would go on to manufacture this vehicle and derivatives of it, including a half-track version, well into the post-WW2 years.

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Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... 029126.jpg
Prototype Finnish-designed “Armoured Truck” version of the Ford/Sisu 4WD/3 ton truck - 400 were ordered from GM Canada, constructed and arrived in Finland in June 1940 where various modifications were made. Almost all of these armoured trucks were allocated to the Maavoimat Pansaaridivisoona’s, of which by June 1940 there were 4 in existence (1 from before the war, 1 formed up with purchased and delivered tanks and 2 formed up using Red Army equipment captured intact in the first two to three months of the war.

The “Sika” AFV

The “Sika” AFV was a locally-designed modification of the original truck design – the same chassis and engine were used but with a one-piece armoured shell (the armour was standard Tornio Steel Works-made armour plate and the glass was also strengthened bullet-proof glass). The vehicle itself was rather top-heavy and the additional weight did not make for good cross-country performance in rugged conditions – but it could cope with moderate terrain. There was a driver and a passenger seat in the front, separated by the gear box cover, while the rear compartment had two bench seats placed back to back in the center which could seat four (or six if squeezed). There was a mounting for a 12.7mm machinegun front-center, and two machinegun mounts on either side of the vehicle to the rear although armament tended to be non-standard, with crews adapting whatever they could lay their hands on as they saw fit.

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Image sourced from: http://i568.photobucket.com/albums/ss12 ... 1240768707
A further version, radically innovative for its time, was the Sisu Armoured Personnel Carrier. In Maavoimat use, this Carrier would be commonly referred to as the “Sika”, largely due to its ungainly looks and its handling. The armour was effective against small arms fire, light machineguns and shrapnel but not against 20mm cannon at close range or against anti-tank guns. In this photo, the armour “shell” has been jacked up off the chassis for routine maintenance. Entry to the “Sika” was through doors at the rear, the armour was standard Tornio Steel Works-made armour plate and the glass was armoured. The vehicle had a tendancy to roll about, caused by the armour making it top-heavy. Visibility for the driver was limited and it took a while to stop as the brakes had not been upgraded. There was a driver and a passenger seat in the front, separated by a gear box cover, while the rear compartment had two bench seats placed back to back in the center which could seat four (or six if squeezed). There was a mounting for a 12.7mm machinegun front-center, and two machinegun mounts on either side of the vehicle to the rear.

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Image sourced from: http://img233.imageshack.us/img233/7705 ... y02hw9.jpg
This version of the “Sika” was equipped with a Finnish-manufactured twin-20mm Lahti cannon and seems to be carrying five soldiers in the rear compartment in addition to the two crew in the front. The armour mods (6-14mm of armour) meant that the chassis was overloaded and this was the cause of structural problems - according to those who drove them “they were a real bitch”. Many a driver also got smashed fingers when, without first shouting a warning, the front passenger crewman dropped the visors (the ten to two steering position was not a good move in a Sika). It had plenty of faults but it also provided good mobility (in summer at least), firepower and protection. Armed with Lahti twin 20mm Cannon on the front mounting and two machineguns mounted on the side mountings, the firepower of the “Sika” could be devastating against enemy infantry and light vehicles caught in the open.

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Image sourced from: unknown
A “Sika” from the 21st Pansaaridivisoona on the move in Eastern Karelia, late summer 1940 as the Division moved to encircle an attacking Red Army Group. The mobility and firepower offered to the Jaeger’s of the 21st Pansaaridivisoona by the “Sika” Armoured Carriers contributed significantly to the decisive outcome of the summer battles. The fast-moving and highly aggressive Maavoimat units, provided with massive artillery support, air superiority and on-call close air support, tied together by a tactical radio net that far surpassed that in service with any other military in the world, completely outclassed a Red Army that was left headless as a result of Maavoimat Special Forces units and Ilmavoimat ground-attack aircraft eliminating many Army Group, Divisional and Regimental Headquarters and interfering significantly with Soviet logistics. Note the three machinegun mounts visible.

Production of the “Kettu” Armoured Car in Canada

As we will see in a subsequent Post in rather more detail, Sisu had in 1938 begun producing what was known as the “Kettu” (Red Fox) Armoured Car in small numbers. The Kettu was intended for use by armoured reconnaissance companies and was light, fast and well armoured for this task – and fitted with the Bofors 37mm, which at this time was the standard Maavoimat anti-tank gun, with secondary armament consisting of a single machinegun. An additional machinegun mount was fitted on the outside of the turret for an external belt-fed Lahti 20mm cannon which could be used by the vehicle commander, albeit from a partially exposed position. The Kettu had a three man crew – the commander, the driver and a gunner. Speed was 50mph and operational range was initially 200 miles, although later versions were fitted with larger fuel tanks to extend the range.

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Image sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... ed_Car.jpg
Maavoimat “Kettu” Armoured Car: June 1940. Brand new and just delivered, a Kettu Armoured Car being tested prior to handing over to the Reconnaissance Company to which it was being assigned.

Production of the Kettu by Sisu was not the highest priority and from the start of production in mid-1938, only one a week rolled off the line. By mid-1939, with the sense of heightened urgency, the introduction of two shifts saw production climb to three per week. Even with this, by the outbreak of the Winter War, a mere 130 “Kettu” Armoured Cars were in service, equipping 5 Reconnaissance Companies (each of the 3 Regimental Battle Groups of the 21st Pansaaridivisoona included 1 Reconnaissance Company, with 4 Platoons of 6 Armoured Cars each), while the remaining 2 Company’s were assigned to the Corps on the Karelian Isthmus. This was far below the intended Table of Organisation, which was for each Division to have an Armoured Car Reconnaissance Company assigned. With a small training establishment, this would have required a further 4-500 Armoured Cars – very much a “nice to have” and not something that was ever envisaged as being achievable.

In designing the “Kettu”, Sisu once again had not tried for an original design. Rather, they had adopted a design which was based very closely on the British Guy Armoured Car that the British Company, Guy Motors, had underway. The Maavoimat had been in discussions with Guy well before the Munich Crisis and had purchased a license for the design together with expert engineering advice from Guy – who had also helped Sisu with improved construction techniques. The “Kettu” superimposed the Guy-designed armoured car hull on an MKS Truck chassis. These were constructed used welding rather than riveting (something Guy Motors had suggested, recommending welding as being more suitable and effective). To that end Guy assisted Sisu in developing the necessary techniques including rotating jigs which meant the bodies and turrets could be produced quicker and cheaper. However, even with the actual outbreak of the Winter War, the Sisu production line was running at full capacity and production could not be scaled up beyond 3 per week – which in the event proved insufficient to replace combat losses.

In August 1939, with the threat of war with the USSR looming, Finland placed an order for 200 “Kettu” Armoured Cars with General Motors Canada. The Maavoimat specified a welded hull based on the Guy Motors design (but with what the Maavoimat considered to be some design flaws rectified). The hull was designed with a sloped glacis plate and a rear mounted engine, with mounts for a Nokia radio set (to be installed following delivery in Finland). The Maavoimat specified a turret mounted Bofors 37mm gun (the gun to be installed in Finland as US/Canadian manufacturing capacity in mid-1939 was not available to meet the demand for manufacturing suitable guns) with secondary armament consisting of a single machinegun. An additional machinegun mount was fitted on the outside of the turret (and more often than not, a Lahti 20mm belt-fed Cannon would be mounted, giving the “Kettu” quite awesome firepower). The armoured car had a three man crew – the commander, the driver and a gunner.

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Image Source unknown
Maavoimat Armoured Car: Late 1940, during the withdrawal from Soviet Karelia after the signing of the Peace Agreement

As mentioned, the first order for 200 Armoured Cars was placed in August 1939 and these were received in Finland as a single shipment in June 1940. In November 1939 a further 200 were ordered, but these were taken over by the Canadian Government in June 1940 and shipped to the UK to help re-equip the British Army after the disastrous losses experienced in France. In service with the Maavoimat in time for the heavy fighting over the summer and autumn of 1940, the Canadian-built “Kettu” Armoured Cars were allocated to the 4 Pansaaridivisoona and were used for short and long distance reconnaissance, forward artillery control vehicles and for rapid securing of tactical features. While also intended for protective duties with logistical column movements, there were never enough of them to carry out this function. With the Bofors 37mm gun, they also had a main armament that was effective against most Soviet tanks – and the belt-fed Lahti 20mm gave them additional protective and offensive firepower if needed. As a consequence and given their ability to move rapidly, they were often used defensively to blunt Soviet tank attacks. Firing from prepared positions or from cover, they often provided significant and effective support in delaying actions although in doing so they did suffer losses – the battles were certainly not one-sided and by the end of the Winter War, some 50% of the armoured car force had been lost in combat.

The MKS Trucks and the Kettu Armoured Cars were the only significant assistance (other than the Brigade of Volunteers and non-combat related supplies such as wheat and winter clothing) that Canada would provide, but even this was of substantial assistance. The large numbers of MKS Trucks would significantly enhance Maavoimat logistical capacity, while the “Kettu” Armoured Cars would enable the Maavoimat to keep strong armoured reconnaissance units in being throughout the duration of the war.

Next Post: Canada and Finland – and the Canadian Volunteer Brigade….
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Postby CanKiwi2 on 30 Nov 2012 21:12

I'm looking for a good phrase that's WW2-era suitable to describe an armoured division thundering down the road towards Leningrad shooting up everything in it's path. Kind of a Finnish Blitzkrieg, take no prisoners, no stopping, hakkapeliitta kind of thing. All set to Sabaton and "Ghost Division?"



How would "Thunder Run" do in Finnish? - “jylinä ajaa"?

To be used in an upcoming Post.
Last edited by CanKiwi2 on 01 Dec 2012 00:31, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Postby Fliegende Untertasse on 30 Nov 2012 21:57

CanKiwi2 wrote:
How would "Thunder Run" do in Finnish?


Ukkosjyrä ~ "(steam)roller of thunder" / "thundering overrunner" ,

Ukkosvyöry ~ "an avalanche of thunder"/" thundering rolling down " / "thunderslide " ( slide like landslide) / "Stosstruppen assault of thundery nature", Donnerwälz

Salamavyörytys = "Blitzstoss", Overrunning of defensive positions by lightning assault

"vyöryä"- to roll down ( by mass )
Military term "vyöryttää" (- to roll down the object )- to attack a trench by infiltration or salient assault and then moving along it - to apply stosstruppen tactics

CanKiwi2 wrote:- “jylinä ajaa"?
.


A general linquistic note : Unstressed "-aa"/"-ää" designates verb infinitive of a stem ending with short "-a"/"-ä" .
ajaa = to drive (, to chase , to shave hair , to mow lawn, to run a computer program ) .

There are several ways to nominalize a verb in Finnish. Depending what aspect of the action or its result is to be expressed.
It also often helps to come up with a translation if you can figure out the term in some other synthetic language like Latin or Classical Greek.
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Postby CanKiwi2 on 01 Dec 2012 12:33

Fliegende Untertasse wrote: Ukkosjyrä ~ "(steam)roller of thunder" / "thundering overrunner" ,

Ukkosvyöry ~ "an avalanche of thunder"/" thundering rolling down " / "thunderslide " ( slide like landslide) / "Stosstruppen assault of thundery nature", Donnerwälz

Salamavyörytys = "Blitzstoss", Overrunning of defensive positions by lightning assault

"vyöryä"- to roll down ( by mass )
Military term "vyöryttää" (- to roll down the object )- to attack a trench by infiltration or salient assault and then moving along it - to apply stosstruppen tactics


Many thanks for that (and the linguistics lesson - I find it far easier to translate from Finnish than into Finnish....)

I think Ukkosvyöry seems the most appropriate title for what I have in mind :D

Kiitos.............Nigel
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