British Troops In Finland 1940

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
Hosted by Juha Tompuri
User avatar
Steve
Member
Posts: 673
Joined: 03 Aug 2002 01:58
Location: United Kingdom

British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by Steve » 12 Jul 2006 13:54

The following is from the obituarie page of the Guardian newspaper 12/7/06 on the death of Sir Carol Mather.

"He enrolled in Sandhurst but cut short his course to join a special operations unit in Finland in February 1940. He went on to join the Commandos in North Africa"

Can anyone shed any light on these special operations in Finland in 1940.
Last edited by Steve on 12 Jul 2006 20:24, edited 1 time in total.

Mikko H.
Financial supporter
Posts: 1636
Joined: 07 May 2003 10:19
Location: Helsinki, Finland

Post by Mikko H. » 12 Jul 2006 15:53

I have never heard of any British 'special opeartions unit' in Finland in that time frame. Some guesses:

- This man had volunteered to fight in the Finnish Army against the Soviet Union in the Winter War, and 'special operations unit' is a garbled reference to that.
- He was somehow involved in the preparations for the Franco-British expeditionary force that was being formed to help Finns.
- Finnish and British military intelligence, especially radio intelligence, had rather close relations before the breakout of the Continuation War in June 1941. Could he be somehow involved in those activities?

The first guess sounds the most plausible one to me.

User avatar
Steve
Member
Posts: 673
Joined: 03 Aug 2002 01:58
Location: United Kingdom

Post by Steve » 12 Jul 2006 21:03

Thank you Mikko I have now read the obituary in the Telegraph newspaper which says "he went to Sandhurst, although he missed the last six weeks of his course because in February 1940 he volunteered to join a special forces operation in Finland. After the Armistice the mission was aborted".

I expect the purpose of the unit was probably something along the lines you suggested or maybe something to do with the Swedish iron ore mines?

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Post by Hanski » 12 Jul 2006 21:42

The most likely explanation is participation in the British Contingent of the International Volunteer Force for Finland during the Winter War. It was formed just to assist in the defence of Finland, and had nothing to do with the Swedish iron ore. Calling it "a special forces operation in Finland" is misleading. The British volunteers in Finland were in training but never saw combat action before the war ended.

See: viewtopic.php?t=90016

I intend to post more on this topic later, so please stay tuned.

Cheers,
Hanski

Janne
Member
Posts: 473
Joined: 15 Feb 2006 11:53
Location: Helsinki

Post by Janne » 17 Jul 2006 12:40

I believe that Section D of SIS - which was a kind of predecessor of SOE - did plan and quite possibly prepare for some kind of special operations *in connection* with the Winter War, but they were all about the iron ore mines, railroads and ports in Sweden. (Only a sort of nominal presence of Franco-British troops on Finnish soil was actually intended by the British, although the French may have thought otherwise.)

(I find it quite unlikely that anyone would've been picked out from Sandhurst simply to join the British volunteers in Finland and to possibly garther some general intelligence there.)

Tapani K.
Member
Posts: 867
Joined: 09 Jul 2002 11:29
Location: Helsinki, Finland

Post by Tapani K. » 24 Jul 2006 14:05

Hello all,

the book Talvisodan kanarialinnut by Justin Brooke includes a list of the British volunteers in Osasto Sisu. Carol Mather is not in that list and Wikipedia tells us this:

He joined the Welsh Guards at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, and attended Sandhurst. In February 1940, before his officer training was completed, Mather volunteered to join the 5th Special Reserve Battalion, Scots Guards. The battalion was formed in anticipation of supporting the Finland in the Winter War in 1939-1940, but the conflict ended before it left the UK. Mather returned to training with the Welsh Guards and was commissioned in 1940. He volunteered for training at the Irregular Warfare Training Centre in Lochailort in October 1940, joined No.8 Commando, and headed with the unit to North Africa in January 1941 as part of Layforce.


regards,
Tapani K.

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Post by Hanski » 24 Jul 2006 22:36

OK, now after Tapani's post I have to take back what I posted above.

A distinction has to be made between the British volunteers who actually did arrive in Finland and formed the Detachment Sisu, and those Britons who were prepared to join (possibly with the French) the Winter War as a larger expeditionary force but never departed the UK as the peace came.

The former were trained in Finland but never got to the front, they came merely to help Finland; the latter would indeed have been used mainly for taking the Swedish iron ore from the Germans, with the pretext of helping Finland, and might well have included also special operations.

Despite that the latter motive may sound arrogant and chauvinistic, I think Finland has every reason for gratitude for the potential that this expeditionary force represented, and for the deterrent value that it had for Stalin. He never wanted West European great powers to get involved with his arrangements regarding his respective "sphere of interest" as agreed in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The risk of Red Army ending up fighting the British or the French Army was the reason for him to postpone his conquest of Finland to a later time and temporarily settle for the Moscow peace of 13.3.1940 (until the time was right for the next round).

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Post by Hanski » 25 Jul 2006 19:50

The picture of Mr Paul G. Sayler, a British volunteer, with the cloth sleeve badge of Detachment Sisu, and the chest badge.

Collections of the Helsinki War Museum.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Tapani K.
Member
Posts: 867
Joined: 09 Jul 2002 11:29
Location: Helsinki, Finland

Post by Tapani K. » 27 Jul 2006 18:21

I checked for Sayler in Talvisodan kanarialinnut, the book I mentioned earlier in this thread. In that book his name is given as Seyler and the list of volunteers says:
Seyler, Paul Clifford, lammasfarmari, ylikersantti, 1914.
(lammasfarmari = sheep farmer, ylikersantti = senior sergeant or something like that, anyway, one rank above sergeant)

There is also a picture of him with a comrade in the book. Tha caption says: Pitkä ja pätkä, kaivosmies Robert Alexander, 31 v. (vas.) ja lammaspaimen Paul Seyler, 26 v., sai Savonlinnassa lisänimen "Ääriviiva".
In English: Tall and short, miner Rober Alexander, 31 yrs (left) and shepherd Paul Seyler, 26 yrs, got the nickname "Outline" in Savonlinna.

regards,
Tapani K.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Post by Hanski » 27 Jul 2006 19:34

Thank you, Tapani, for the correction: it is Seyler indeed! My typo.

Simon Orchard
Member
Posts: 729
Joined: 01 Jan 2003 22:31
Location: Norway

Post by Simon Orchard » 30 Jul 2006 11:11

Just a note on Mather. He wrote a very interesting book called "Aftermath of war 1945: Everyone must go home" about the chaotic and complicated issues facing the British and what to do with the many non-Germans in the Wehrmacht\SS after the end. In particular the fate of the Cossacks.

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Unfortunate things sometimes happen...

Post by Hanski » 04 Aug 2006 21:05

In the Military Archives of Finland, I have come across a set of documents that tell this detail of human interest which I hope to share without offending anyone. It is an exception to the good reputation of the British in the detachment Sisu, but as a whole the story is quite amusing in my opinion, and representative of unexpected situations to the Finnish authorities in charge. I will not even try to censor the names of the individuals involved, as I am sure they are all forgiven for whatever mischief they may have caused -- after all, far worse things do happen in wars!
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Last edited by Hanski on 04 Aug 2006 21:12, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Post by Hanski » 04 Aug 2006 21:07

And the story goes on...
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Post by Hanski » 04 Aug 2006 21:10

The request:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Post by Hanski » 04 Aug 2006 22:25

Further correspondence...
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Return to “Winter War & Continuation War”