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Pertti GrönholmSeppo Koivisto wrote: ↑10 Jun 2012 19:40A plaque in Turku to commemorate the Winter War bombing of "Surprise Monday" on 29 January 1940, when the air alarm was delayed. The plaque was attached on 13 March 1986 and the additional plaque in 2011. 29 people were killed in the region of the Post House shelter, but the total number of victims of the air raid was 38.
60 years ago: the deadliest air raid of the Winter War on Turku
Surprise Monday was an icy hell for firefighters
Turun Sanomat, Published on 29th January 2000
On Monday the 29th January 1940 the Fire Brigade of Turku and the volunteer firemen were facing a nearly hopeless task. Surprise air raid by Soviet bombers on Turku at 0940hrs turned in minutes a part of the city center into a sea of flames.
The block limited by the streets Eerikinkatu, Linnankatu, Eskelinkatu and Kristiinankatu was hit the hardest. Also several houses situated on the streets Humalistonkatu, Yliopistonkatu, Käsityöläiskatu and Jarrumiehenkatu were set alight. Dozens of dead and wounded by the bombs were lying on the streets. The temperature, -30 deg C and the blocks that had turned into flaming infernoes made the work most difficult for firefighters, they were short of equipment and men. On top of it a new raid could be expected any moment.
Questions still unanswered
The day remembered in Turku as the Surprise Monday or Post Office Bombardment has been problematic for the older people. The main unanswered question is why the air raid alert was so badly delayed that the first bombs were actually falling as the alert was launched. Aerial surveillance network had spotted bombers at Hanko before 0900hrs. After 0900hrs reports were coming to Turku from the Sauvo and Karuna observation posts.
There are more questions. One of them is the fate of the people seeking refuge in the Post Office population shelter. The people seeking shelter had to turn away from the shelter door because the gate was closed for some reason. Many of them were killed or wounded as bombs hit the Eerikinkatu and Humalistonkatu street crossing.
The two raids by eleven Soviet bombers killed thirty-nine people. There were forty-four wounded. The Soviet airmen [“Stalin's eagles”] spread 35 HE bombs and some 200 phosphorus-filled fire bombs. The raid was a pure terror bombardment aimed to hit the Finnish home front.
Terrible sight on the street
Mr. Nils Wiren was back then 18 yrs old, a member of the Voluntary fire brigade and working as the chemical graphician of the Swedish-language newspaper Åbo Underrättelser. He is one of the people of Turku who remember the raid all too well.
Mr. Wiren was living on the Ursininkatu street and on the morning of the Surprise Monday he had a fever over 39 deg C so he had not gone to work. Having heard the air raid alert he decided to head for the population shelter situated at the Voluntary fire brigade Hall.
Having made it at the Hall at Eerikinkatu there was a terrible sight: dozens of air raid victims were lying on the street. Almost the entire block between Eskelinkatu and Kristiinankatu was aflame. Exploded and dud firebombs, Mr Wiren remembers, were scattered all over the place.
-It was a nasty sight indeed, Mr. Wiren reminisces. He says that the corpses had frozen fast to the street at once.
The bombs had killed not only people seeking to enter the Post Office shelter but also one taxi driver at the Kaskenkatu taxi station and a tram attendant on Linnankatu. The Post Office facade was scarred forever by bomb splinters [ref. Photo below].
Firefighting went on until late at night, dozens of professional and volunteer firefighters being engaged, among them Mr. Wiren. The Turku Fire Brigade included 70 professionals, the Turku Voluntary fire brigade included 90 men.. The Kaarina and Maaria Volunteers numbered about 150 men. More help arrived from the surrounding communities during the day.
City of Göteborg (in Sweden) had already sent to Turku volunteer firemen and firefighting equipment. Yet Mr. Wiren says the Swedish hose connectors were problematic since the locking springs froze solid as soon as in contact with water.
Yet the number of firefighters and equipment was totally insufficient in view of the destruction. The men were moved around mostly on bikes and often only one truck and two men could be sent to a blaze. The Turku Voluntary Fire Brigade had no more than seven fire trucks at their disposal.
Firefighters sheeted in ice
Mr. Wiren participated in that day fighting the fires of the Gröndal's house, the Swedish Congregation, Suomi Insurance Co. on the Eerikinkatu street and at his place of work, the offices and printing house of Åbo Underrättelser (=ÅU) at the corner of Eerikinkatu and Eskelinkatu.
We stood on ladders and kept spraying through the windows. The hoses were frozen into stiff tubes and every man had a five centimeter coat of ice on their clothes, Mr. Wiren reminisces.
The ÅU offices had been hit by several fire bombs. Mr. Wiren and his father Eric Wiren, the Chief of their Volunteer outfit, managed to put out the fire before it could spread. Yet one week later the 4th February 1940 another air raid destroyed the house totally.
Mr. Wiren remembers the Winter War bombardments not only as a volunteer firefighter but also as a photographer. Despite official ban on photographing air raid damages he would use his camera busily also during firefighting action.
-I used to always carry a cheap pocket camera. Although cheap it remained functional all through the war.
Mr. Wiren participated in the Continuation War as a front fighter.
He has a collection of more than 400 photos of the destruction caused by the air raids in Turku during 1939- 1941, which is historically very significant.
Turku was the most bombed city of the Winter War after Viipuri. At least 52 people were killed and 144 wounded.
The top plaque was purchased by the Turku Society and the Traditions Committee of the Turku Reserve Officer Society.
The plaque was designed by Architect Aarne Ehojoki and it was unveiled the 13th March 1986
(Then no more considered as an anti-Soviet provocation , tr.rem.)
The lower plaque was added after Finland joined the European Union.