British Troops In Finland 1940

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
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Hanski
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Post by Hanski » 04 Aug 2006 22:29

...on problems of adjustment...
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Hanski
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Post by Hanski » 04 Aug 2006 22:33

...and the signature.
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janner
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Post by janner » 02 Sep 2006 15:56

From Sir Carol Mather's obituary in The Times dated 050706:
He had a highly individual war. Together with other keen skiers and adventurers, he volunteered for the 5th Scots Guards, who were preparing to help the Finns to resist the onslaught of the Red Army in the Winter War of 1939-40. But an armistice was agreed before the battalion was ready to leave.

This led to his dispatch to the Irregular Warfare Training Centre at Lochailort, then to Number 8 Commando, bound for the Mediterranean theatre. On this unit’s disbandment, he joined David Stirling’s Long Range Desert Group.
To add a little background 5th Scots Guards were actually 5th Special Reserve Battalion, Scots Guards - a special unit formed in anticipation of supporting Finland and including volunteers who could ski well (not a common skill in 1940s Britain). He had already undergone some 6 months basic and special to arm training at Depot Guards prior to being selected for officer training and given the time it would not have been unheard of for him to have been released. I was going through Sandhurst during Operation Granby (Desert Storm) and a number of us were warned off for early graduation should the war have continued.

The Guardian can be a bit woolly on military matters - just isn't their thing don't you know!

OldBraggs
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Post by OldBraggs » 08 Oct 2006 21:10

While researching the British volunteers I made contact with Paul Seyler's son, who has his father's medals and badges.

As for the 5th Scots Guards (nicknamed the "snowballers") they were on a troop ship bound for Norway (phase one of the plan to 'help' Finland) when the Winter War ended. Had the plan been put into effect I dread to think what would have happened.

Of the various groups (F.A.N.Y., R.A.F. instructors, R.A. and R.A.O.C. instructors, R.A.F. pilots, London Fire Volunteers, British Volunteer Company, and the Friends Ambulance Unit, who were involved with Finland during the Winter War only the F.A.U. got near the front line. However, one British Army officer did get to the front and did take part in an action. I am currently researching his story.

Apart from Seyler, the only British Volunteer's medals that I have traced are those of Alexander Butler and they are now in my collection. I have been in touch with Justin Brooke and have both the English and Finnish versions of his book. I also have a lot of research from the British Archives, but if anyone has anything else I would be very interested to hear from them.

The 2 planned attacks during the Continuation War were a commando raid or a 'Bouncing Bomb' attack. I have copies of the plans but both were turned down.

Regards
Steve

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Post by Mikko H. » 08 Oct 2006 21:19

Welcome to list!

And please, don't leave us in suspense, do tell more! :D

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Juha Tompuri
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Post by Juha Tompuri » 11 Oct 2006 23:00

Welcome to the Forum :)
OldBraggs wrote:The 2 planned attacks during the Continuation War were a commando raid or a 'Bouncing Bomb' attack. I have copies of the plans but both were turned down.
Do you mean the planned atacks against the Petsamo nickel mines / mine electrical supply ?

Regards, Juha

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Post by budenmeyer » 18 Oct 2006 14:55

Apparently you are not aware of the full extent of the British and French plans for a Scandinavian theatre of war:

Franco-British plans for a Scandinavian theatre
In February 1940, the Allies offered to help: the Allied plan, approved on February 5 by the Allied High Command, consisted of 100,000 British and 35,000 French troops that were to disembark at the Norwegian port of Narvik and support Finland via Sweden while securing the supply routes along the way. The plan was agreed to be launched on March 20 under the condition that the Finns plead for help. On March 2, transit rights were officially requested from the governments of Norway and Sweden. It was hoped this would eventually bring the two still neutral Nordic countries, Norway and Sweden, to the Allied side by strengthening their positions against Germany — although Hitler had, by December declared to the Swedish government that Western troops on Swedish soil would immediately provoke a German invasion, which in practice meant that Nazi Germany would take the populated southern part of Scandinavia while France and Britain would fight in the furthest North.

However, only a small fraction of the Western troops were intended for Finland. Proposals to enter Finland directly, via the ice-free harbour of Petsamo, had been dismissed. There were suspicions that the objective of the operation was to capture and occupy the Norwegian shipping harbour of Narvik and the vast mountainous areas of the North-Swedish iron ore fields, from which the Third Reich received a large share of its iron ore, critical to war production. If Franco-British troops moved to halt export to Germany, the area could become a battleground for the armies of the Allies and the Third Reich. As a consequence, Norway and Sweden denied transit. Only after the war did it become known that the commander of the Allied expedition force was actually instructed to avoid combat contact with the Soviet troops.

The Franco-British plan initially hoped to capture all of Scandinavia north of a line Stockholm–Göteborg or Stockholm–Oslo, i.e. the British concept of the Lake line following the lakes of Mälaren, Hjälmaren, and Vänern, which would contribute with good natural defence some 1,700–1,900 kilometres south for Narvik. The expected frontier, the Lake line, involved not only Sweden's two largest cities, but its consequence was that the homes of the vast majority of the Swedes would be either Nazi-occupied or in the war zone. Later, the ambition was lowered to only the northern half of Sweden and the rather narrow adjacent Norwegian coast.

The Swedish government, headed by Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson, declined to allow transit of armed troops through Swedish territory. Although Sweden had not declared itself neutral in the Winter War, it was neutral in the war involving France, Britain, and Germany. Granting transit rights to a Franco-British corps was at that time considered too great a departure from international laws on neutrality.

The Swedish Cabinet also decided to reject repeated pleas from the Finns for regular Swedish troops to be deployed in Finland, and in the end the Swedes also made it clear that their support in arms and munitions could not be maintained for much longer. Diplomatically, Finland was squeezed between Allied hopes for a prolonged war and Scandinavian fears of a continued war spreading to neighbouring countries (or of the surge of refugees that might result from a Finnish defeat). Also, Hermann Göring was through his private channels in Sweden offering distinct advice for peace and concessions — Göring suggested that concessions "could always later be mended."

While Berlin and Stockholm pressured Helsinki to accept peace on bad conditions, Paris and London had the opposite objective. From time to time, different plans and figures were presented for the Finns. To start with, France and Britain promised to send 20,000 men to arrive by the end of February, although under the implicit condition that on their way to Finland they were given opportunity to occupy North-Scandinavia.

By the end of February, Finland's Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Mannerheim, was pessimistic about the military situation. Therefore, on February 29 the government decided to start peace negotiations. That same day, the Soviets commenced an attack against Viipuri.

When France and Britain realized that Finland was seriously considering a peace treaty, they gave a new offer for help: 50,000 men were to be sent, if Finland asked for help before March 12. Only 6,000 of these would have actually been destined for Finland. The rest were intended to secure harbours, roads and iron ore fields on the way.

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janner
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Post by janner » 20 Oct 2006 21:44

Budenmeyer,

Thank you for your post but I would be surprised if this were news to anyone on this site. It was all about securing the Swedish ore fields rather than defending plucky Finland anyway!

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Post by OldBraggs » 23 Oct 2006 12:37

Juha Tompuri wrote:Welcome to the Forum :)
OldBraggs wrote:The 2 planned attacks during the Continuation War were a commando raid or a 'Bouncing Bomb' attack. I have copies of the plans but both were turned down.
Do you mean the planned atacks against the Petsamo nickel mines / mine electrical supply ?

Regards, Juha
Juha,

Yes. A commando raid against the mines and a bouncing-bomb raid against the dam that supplied power for the mines.

Regards,
Steve

OldBraggs
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Post by OldBraggs » 23 Oct 2006 13:04

You should not get the wrong impression about the Allied plan to help Finland. The initial plan included securing ports and mines in nothern Sweden that is true. But the first phase ended with British troops relieving Finnish units in northern Finland. It would have been irresponsible not to have secured supply lines from the Norwegian coast through to northern Finland.

The opinion was that once the Russians realised who was in front of them they might not undertake offensive operations, not wishing to have a war with Britain and France.

The second phase of the plan (which had not been finalised) included withdrawing a part of the B.E.F. from France and sending them to Finland. Add to that the R.A.F. aircrews that were going to enlist into the Finnish Air Force to undertake offensive bombing operations; and it is easy to see that the Allies commitment to Finland would have drawn them into the war with the Soviets.

It is also interesting to see the original plans that were shelved. The French wanted a landing at Petsamo or even straight into Russia, but the British were against it.

Steve

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janner
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Post by janner » 23 Oct 2006 15:27

Steve,

Don't you find it strange that the British Army would relieve Finnish troops in the harshest climatic area and the one in which they were least equipped and trained to operate. What I suggest the Finns needed was air, armour, artillery and anti-tank crews to support the Mannerheim Line - not Tommy Atkins esq flapping along on planks of wood in the frozen north!

Stephen

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Hanski
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Post by Hanski » 23 Oct 2006 18:52

OldBraggs wrote:The opinion was that once the Russians realised who was in front of them they might not undertake offensive operations, not wishing to have a war with Britain and France.
The deterrent effect of a possible British and French involvement probably contributed to Stalin making peace in March 1940 instead of pursuing his aim to completion yet.
The second phase of the plan (which had not been finalised) included withdrawing a part of the B.E.F. from France and sending them to Finland. Add to that the R.A.F. aircrews that were going to enlist into the Finnish Air Force to undertake offensive bombing operations; and it is easy to see that the Allies commitment to Finland would have drawn them into the war with the Soviets.
Both defensive and offensive air power would certainly have been more than welcome, but enlistment alone without accompanying aircraft might not have made much of a difference with Finland's shortage of a/c.

The problem was that Britain and France were already formally at war with Germany, and all available military hardware was badly needed for the day when the "phoney war" was to turn into real fighting.

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Post by OldBraggs » 23 Oct 2006 18:59

Sorry, should have made it clearer. The RAF aircrews would have flown 50 RAF Blenheims painted in Finnish Air Force colours and wearing Finnish uniforms. This was part of the attempt to avoid having to declare war. Had a crew been shot down and captured they were to claim to be volunteers.

Steve

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Post by OldBraggs » 23 Oct 2006 19:31

janner wrote:Steve,

Don't you find it strange that the British Army would relieve Finnish troops in the harshest climatic area and the one in which they were least equipped and trained to operate. What I suggest the Finns needed was air, armour, artillery and anti-tank crews to support the Mannerheim Line - not Tommy Atkins esq flapping along on planks of wood in the frozen north!

Stephen
The reasoning appeared to be that by this time the northern area was 'quieter'. It was hoped that the British troops would not be engaged in serious fighting. What has to be considered is the effect on the Soviets of finding British, French and Polish troops in northern Finland?

Steve

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Tero T
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Arttillery man Brown

Post by Tero T » 23 Oct 2006 19:49

In the Rintamaa Elamaa book by Unio Hiitonenen there are many pictures of an artillery man 'Brown' who is wearing a slighty different tunic. Any info on this soldier, is he a Brit that missed the boat ? or just a Finn with an anglo saxon name and poorly fitted tunic? Tero T

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