British Troops In Finland 1940

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
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Post by janner » 23 Oct 2006 23:38

What has to be considered is the effect on the Soviets of finding British, French and Polish troops in northern Finland?
Bearing in mind that the brave Red Army entered Finland at the request of the Government of the People's democratic Republic of Finland and the time at which these would have arrived then these imperialist invaders would have just led to an impasse on an unimportant flank whilst the rest just cracked on. Even the kindest view of the situation at that stage would show that the game was up for Finland.

As for the Poles - well Stalin had just demonstrated his lack of concern on that front :lol:

Personally I think in retrospect it was good for Finland that the Allies didn't get involved at that late stage - maybe a few months earlier...

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Re: Arttillery man Brown

Post by OldBraggs » 24 Oct 2006 07:54

Tero T wrote: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

None of the Royal Artillery or Royal Army Ordnance Corps men sent to Finland were named Brown. There was one British volunteer. No. 33 Eric Heywood Brown. On the Finnish Medal Roll given to the British Foreign Office for approval (April 1941) he is listed as still "In Finland".

Steve

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Post by Janne » 24 Oct 2006 12:36

The battery in which Unio Hiitonen and gunner Brown served was consisted of reservists from Helsinki. The two photo captions in "Rintamaelämää" mention that Brown spoke excellent Russian (which he used to negotiate the surrender of the Soviet POWs) and that he "seemed to have a personal interest in fighting the Soviets" (but that he could show another side of his character as soon as the enemy had become a prisoner).

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Post by OldBraggs » 29 Oct 2006 10:24

Given that the Allied plan to intervene in Finland was being put into effect, I don't doubt for one moment that Stalin was aware of the situation. The plan included several schemes to hide the true objective (when the go ahead was given for the plan only a few high-ranking officers knew where the force was heading), but I would think that the Soviets were aware of the force.

Whatever the credibility of the plan or the force might be, it's not hard to imagine that Stalin wanted to avoid direct confrontation with the Allies. The fact that he chose to end the war, just as Finland looked to be doomed, is very interesting.

Steve

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Post by Hanski » 29 Oct 2006 18:15

OldBraggs wrote:Whatever the credibility of the plan or the force might be, it's not hard to imagine that Stalin wanted to avoid direct confrontation with the Allies. The fact that he chose to end the war, just as Finland looked to be doomed, is very interesting.

Steve
Steve's point is indeed fully in accordance with the prevailing view of Finnish official historiography. The History of Winter War by the Office of War History of the Institute of Military Science (1991) gives the risk of British and French involvement as Stalin's rationale. Furthermore, it states (Vol. 4, p. 20):

The History of the Soviet Great Patriotic War 1941-45 confirms this in its first volume as follows:

"As a consequence of a real threat from the Western powers arose such a situation that demanded the [Soviet] government to urgently solve the armed conflict with Finland by making peace."

Lieutenant General H. Öhqvist is certainly correct as he states in his book on the Winter War:

"Based on everything we know today, it might be hard to come up with any other rational explanation to Russians giving up their earlier aim than the fact that those 3-4 weeks were too much for them after all. The risk of them, as a result of the Finnish war, being drawn into a great war at such a time and in such a manner that was entirely unsuitable for their plan, seemed to obviously mount quickly, and the removal of that risk must have seemed to them as a benefit valuable enough to make up for the loss of prestige and other disadvantages of failing to achieve the pre-calculated -- and carelessly enough, in advance promised -- goal of the war."

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Post by janner » 31 Oct 2006 08:53

This is not a point of view that I would challenge.

It is a shame that Carl Van Dyke didn't go into the same level of detail on the end of the war as he did on the lead up to the Soviet Invasion. A perspective based mainly on Soviet sources would have been particularly interesting.

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 14 Mar 2012 17:58

Here is the Orbat for the 5th Battalion Scots Guards - the volunteer unit that was to go to Finland to fight against the Russians. The Battalion consisted almost entirely of Officers - those listed are the Officers in command positions.

This was the orbat when they were sent to France for ski training at Chamonix prepatory to being sent to Finland. They were stood down while they were actually loading their ships to embark from Glasgow . The 5th (supplementary reserve) battalion Scots Guards led by the British bobsleigh champion Lt-Col J S Coats with the veteran Polar explorer Martin Lindsay as assistant adjutant. Lindsay would much later marry Loelia Ponsonby (after whom Ian Fleming named James Bonds delectable secretary) and one of the colour sergeants in the 5th would in time lead Ian Flemings Commandoes (Unit 30). He was a stocky fair haired explorer called Quintin Riley, who had been with Lindsay on the British Arctic Air Route expedition of 1930-1 and been the meterologoist on the British Graham Land Expedition to Antarctica of 1933-7 (A British Army regular NCO was puzzled by Rileys Polar Meda with Antarctic Clasp – How can you get a medal for playing Polo? he asked).

Also involved in some way with the setting up of this Battalion was Colin Gubbins . He was the leader of several secret organisations. He signed his orders ‘M’ — he could not use ‘C’ as this had been taken by the leader of the SIS and G was in common use by the Army. Gubbins was a Scot from the Western Isles and an Officer in the Royal Artillery and his middle name was McVeigh so he used ‘M’ - which was later copied by Ian Fleming for the head man in the James Bond books.

Will post more info as I dig it up.

5th (Ski) Battalion Scots Guards

29th February, 1940 - On Embarkation for France

N.B. * Denotes SCOTS GUARDS Officer or Warrant Officer

BATTALION HEADQUARTERS
Lieutenant-Colonel J.S. COATS, M.C., COLDSTREAM GUARDS - Commanding Officer
*Major B. MAYFIELD - Second-in-Command
*Captain W.D.M. RAEBURN - Adjutant
Captain M. LINDSAY, Royal Scots - A/Adjutant and i/c Ski equipment
*Major A.F. PURVIS, M.C. - Liaison Officer

*Lieutenant J. QUINN - Quartermaster
Lieutenant E.H.L. WIGRAM, R.A.M.C. - Medical Officer
Captain C.E.V. ROOKER, M.M., R.A.P.C. - Pay Adviser
*A.K. MADDEN - Regimental Sergeant-Major
*A. WILFORD - Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
*L. PARSONS - Orderly Room Quartermaster Sergeant

RIGHT FLANK
*Major A.D.B. CRABBE
Lieutenant K.R. ASHBURNER, Royal Fusiliers
Lieutenant N.E. MacMULLEN, 10th Royal Hussars
Lieutenant P.M.G. ANLEY, Royal Fusiliers
D.H. STACEY - Company Sergeant-Major


W COMPANY
Captain J.L.M. GAVIN, Royal Engineers
Lieutenant J.P. HALL, Middlesex Regiment
Lieutenant C.W. SUTER, London Rifle Brigade
Lieutenant F.G. GOUGH, London Rifle Brigade
J. ROYLE - Company Sergeant-Major

X COMPANY
Major L.C.D. RYDER, Norfolk Regiment
Lieutenant V.A.P. BUDGE, GRENADIER GUARDS
Lieutenant R.N. CHARRINGTON, Suffolk Regiment
Lieutenant D.C. BAYNES, Queen's Regiment
?. RUSSELL - Company Sergeant-Major

Y COMPANY
*Captain R.D.M. GUROWSKI (Captain Count Richard Dudley Melchior Gurowski)
Lieutenant G.W.E. POTTER, GRENADIER GUARDS
Lieutenant P.S. CHAPLIN, King's Royal Rifle Corps
Lieutenant M.R.G. HOWARD, King's Royal Rifle Corps
J.R. FRASER - Company Sergeant-Major

LEFT FLANK
Captain C.J. STONE, East Surrey Regiment
Lieutenant J.R.G. BIRD, Sherwood Foresters
Lieutenant A.G. DICKSON, Cameron Highlanders
Lieutenant M.R.E. KEALY, Devonshire Regiment
J.A. LINDSAY - Company Sergeant Major

Captain Mike Calvert of the Royal Engineers also served in the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards (Calvert would go on to fight under Wingate with the Chindits in Burma). Calvert frequently led risky attacks from the front, a practice that earned him the nickname "Mad Mike."
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by Juha Tompuri » 14 Mar 2012 22:38

CanKiwi2 wrote:Will post more info as I dig it up.
If you find out more, please do, very interesting.
Regards, Juha

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by Tero T » 15 Mar 2012 17:45

Great information on the British troops. Here is a small snippet on information that was passed to me through a mutual friend from Barney Danson a former politian and Member of Parliament in Canada. He volunteered to fight in Finland but the war ended ten days before they were to leave Canada. Some of his autobiography is found here where he mentions this letter I have attached a copy of. http://books.google.ca/books?id=8YYoX3d ... nt&f=false

Tero T in Toronto
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 15 Mar 2012 18:34

Dug up this photo of the Canadian Volunteers as well - from Singapore. The Straits Times, 6 March 1940, Page 16

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http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Page/ ... .1.16.aspx
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 15 Mar 2012 18:38

And another article: http://usasuomeksi.wordpress.com/category/kanada/

Finnish Canadian Volunteer receives his 1939 Winter War Medal posthumously:

Private Valter Sillanpää was a Canadian who volunteered in 1939 to fight for Finland’s freedom against the Soviet Unions unprovoked attack. He was born in northern Ontario, Canada, a little place called Copper Cliff on the 9th of December 1914 and 1973 he died in British Columbia. According to his nephew Dr. Lennard Sillanpää, Valter was a very good accordion player and used to play for dances and family get-togethers. Valter was brought up in a typical Finnish Canadian home with strict adherence to what is right and what is wrong. This Soviet Russia’s attack against its small neighbor was definitely wrong. He volunteered with hundreds of other Canadians, Americans and many other nationalities to go help Finlandin its hour of need.

After the winter war was over, there were still over a thousand volunteers in New York City waiting to be shipped to Finland. Close to three hundred served in the front lines and three paid the ultimate price. Valter was discharged from the Finnish army and sailed back to Canada. In the meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, during the year of 1940, the Finnish Defense Department had issued a “Winter War Memorial Medal” to all those soldiers who had served in the war, Canadian and American volunteers included, but pvt. Sillanpää never received his medal.

Twenty-fourth of January 2012, 72 years after the conflict, delegation of family, friends and others arrived at the Canadian Naval Officers Mess in HMCS Bytown in Ottawa, to witness the ceremony of medal presentation to the closest known relative to Valter Sillanpää.

Lennard Sillanpää, PhD. of Orleans,ON. Canada had found the list of Canadian and American volunteers who never received their medals in the Toronto’s Finnish newspaper” Vapaa Sana” and contacted Lieutenant Colonel Dwyer Q. Wedvick NYSRetL, who was the contact person in the paper. Dr. Sillanpää identified himself as nephew of Valter Sillanpää, and as far as he knew Valter had a daughter but the family had lost contact with her long time ago, so he was the closest living relative to pvt. Valter Sillanpää.

The Price of Freedom Museum Inc. of Boynton Beach Florida, which organization has been entrusted by the Finnish War Veterans in America Inc. to organize the presentation of the remaining medals and diplomas to the volunteers or their closest living relatives got colonel Wedvick’s report in the beginning of the year and approval to proceed with the presentation. Finnish embassy in Ottawa was represented by minister-counsellor Petri Kruuti, Canadian Nordic Society by Vice-President Lennart Nylund and Sillanpää family by Dr.Lennard Sillanpää, PhD. and his son Master Bombardier Paul Sillanpää 30th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery and Ms. Paula Hoggett of Timmins Ont. Also in attendance was Mrs. Ritva Manner of Boynton Beach,Florida.

Colonel Harry I. Manner (NYSRetL) curator and president of The Price of Freedom Museum Inc. thanked all those in attendance and brought the best wishes of Hans Nyholm president and Mirja Silvan secretary of the Finnish War Veterans in America Inc. which organization is now located in Lake Worth, Florida.

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1939 Winter War Medal

Dr. Sillanpää plans to donate the medal and the accompanying diploma to the Canadian War Museum or to the Finnish War veterans museum in Sudbury. There are 56 American and Canadian veterans still on the list who never received their medals. The Price of Freedom Museum stands ready and willing to arrange presentation to veterans or next of kin when located.
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 15 Mar 2012 19:39

Not quite British, but the cover of Life from Feb 5 1940 - photo of Swedish aviators fighting for Finland in the Winter War.

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 16 Mar 2012 04:43

Here are a series of photos of the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards. Mostly taken at Chamonix while training in 1940. Photos were taken by Oswald Basil Rooney (OBR) and are posted courtesy of his son, Chris Rooney. These photos have not been published online before as far as I know.

Note: some of these photos have the right edge clipped - I did not get the sizing right before I uploaded and attached. The photis are available in higher resolution, in which case I have included the URL below the photo as a link to the larger and higher res photos - suggest you use the URL to view the actual photos themselves.

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http://img835.imageshack.us/img835/1716 ... guards.jpg
5th Battalion Scots Guards training in Chamonix, 1940

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http://img256.imageshack.us/img256/9019 ... uards2.jpg
5th Battalion Scots Guards marching through Chamonix, 1940

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http://img841.imageshack.us/img841/9593 ... uards3.jpg
5th Battalion Scots Guards training in Chamonix: this picture has a few names - Munro was a a well known Skier, it is thought that Cyclops Bradley went to the Small Scale Raiding Force, OBR was Oswald Basil Rooney - later known as Mickey - at this stage he was a Guardsman.

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OBR at Chamonix, 1940

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OBR on the left. Chamonix.

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http://img402.imageshack.us/img402/9229/rcbr008.jpg
OBR front right and his mate Basil O'Brien at the back. OBR and Basil joined up in 1939 and they have consecutive army numbers. Basil O'Brian was a rugby playing mate of OBR's at The Harlequins. Basil could ski so he talked OBR into putting his name down "skiing in Chamonix much better than square bashing in London."

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OBR front right. Basil O'Brien on his left. Looks like London and might have been as Guardsmen before Chamonix

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Playing silly buggers

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Chamonix. OBR, then Basil O'Brien

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London, probably just before going to Chamonix at a guess

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London, probably just before going to Chamonix at a guess

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OBR third from right. Basil O'Brien on his left

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http://img685.imageshack.us/img685/7687/scotsguard.jpg
OBR went to the Scots Guards in Oct 39 so this is between then and Chamonix. Basil O'Brien second from Right in the back row, OBR just above and left of the gentleman in the Bowler hat

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http://img526.imageshack.us/img526/2260 ... eenlee.jpg
This is Stirling and his cousin Maxwell. OBR went to same school as Stirling and Lovat. The Stirlings, the Frasers (Lovat) and the Maxwells are all related, Greenlees was another School friend of OBRs.

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Newspaper or magazine clipping about the 5th Battalion
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 16 Mar 2012 10:05

Here is some more information on the 5th Battalion that Chris Rooney has put together and made available. I have added a couple of additional comments (italicized).

Reading thru the list of names below, its a whos who of the founders of a number of British Special Forces units in WW2. There are all sorts of Interesting Characters in this battalion-- David and Bill Stirling, Bryan Mayfield. Cyril Rofé, Sir Rupery William John Clarke, Sir Ivar Iain Colquhoun, 8th Baronet--LIEUTENANT-COLONEL the 8th Lord Wynford, M ajor Charles Frederick Howard Gough, Earl Jellicoe (SAS / SBS), Brigadier James Michael Calvert (Chindits and SAS), Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser (Shimi Lovat).

An excerpt that Chris provided

If there was little to excite the martial appetites of Privates Mackay, Gunn and Campbell there was not much more going on in Europe. The months after Poland's flash bang defeat were strangely quiet. This was the surreal period known as the 'phoney war'. In April things changed dramatically; the Germans invaded Denmark and Norway. Denmark capitulated without a struggle. The Norwegians chose to fight. At the outset of war the British had foreseen a possible invasion of Norway. Accordingly, plans had been made to send aid in the form of a special force of skirmishers, trained to ski and fight harassing actions among the harsh Norwegian mountain terrain. These specialist fighters formed the 5th Scots Guards, the first Special Forces battalion of the war. Unfortunately, the British had perceived Russia to be the immediate threat to Norway. Come the end of the Russian - Finnish war, the 5th Scots Guards were disbanded, too late to reform in time to be any use in stalling the German advance into Norway. Nevertheless, 3,000 volunteers from English based TA units did go to Norway where they crossed swords with their German counterparts, the Mountain Division. Despite typical British heroics, it was a lost cause. The Germans had trained for years in the kind of specialist warfare the British were just beginning to learn. By June 10th, the last British troops had been evacuated from Norway. But Norway was now a minor sideshow; a much more serious disaster was in full swing.

Contributed by Major R F "Henry" Hall People in story: Major R.F. Hall Location of story: The world Background to story: Army Article ID: A4543670 Contributed on: 25 July 2005

Both armies withdrew from Norway and so did the BEF at Dunkirk. It was realised then that special troops were needed and so Gubbins ordered that a special battalion to be formed called the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards. In March and April 1940 they went to Chamonix to learn ski training prior to going back to Norway.

Then came ‘Operation Knife’ on 23rd April 1940. The party consisted of Bill Stirling, Bryan Mayfield and Jim Gavin. They went in a submarine called HMS Truant to attack communications in Norway. Unfortunately they hit a magnetic mine on the way there and had to limp back to Rosyth. The three of them went back to Keir, the Stirling home, to recover.
It was Bill Stirling’s idea to start the Irregular Warfare Training Centre to train guerrilla leaders. Lord Lovat requisitioned the whole area from Fort William to Mallaig. Gubbins got on to General Ironside, the GOC in C Home Forces and the formation of the Irregular Warfare Training Centre was authorised on 2nd June 1940.

The first courses were about 30 strong of Officers and Sergeants. They lasted three weeks and anybody who didn’t come up to scratch was returned to unit immediately. David Stirling, who eventually formed the SAS and Fitzroy MacLean, who joined David in the SAS and then went to Yugoslavia to help Tito settle the Balkan problem, both attended the first course. Fitzroy attended it in plain clothes (because he was not yet in the Army, he was still in the Foreign Office).

What were the courses like? First of all the staff, the instructors. The Commanding Officer was Bryan Mayfield of the Scots Guards, the Chief Instructor was Bill Stirling of the Scots Guards, the Assistant Chief Instructor was Freddie Spencer Chapman of the Seaforths, a Polar Explorer who eventually spent two years alone in Malaya helping the Chinese to fight the Japanese. Fieldcraft was taught by ‘Shimi’ Lovat of the Scots Guards and Lovat Scouts. He ended up commanding the Commando Brigade. The Assistant Fieldcraft instructor was Peter Kemp and later David Stirling of the Scots Guards. Bill and David were cousins of ‘Shimi’ Lovat. Demolitions were carried out by the famous Mike Calvert, Royal Engineers, who started off (again under Gubbins) the British Resistance Organisation and made a real name for himself in the Chindit campaign. Jim Gavin assisted him, he was an Everest climber. There was a Royal Naval contingent at the Big House under Commander Geoffrey Congreve DSO. His part of it was called HMS Lochailort.

A 5th Battalion had a brief existence as a Ski battalion, recruited from experienced volunteers, civilian and military, called for in telegrams despatched by the War Office all over the world. It was nicknamed “The Snowballers.” The life of this most odd unit spanned three months - January to March 1940 when it was disbanded. It had been intended for assisting the Finns but before it could be put to any use Finland had concluded an armistice with the USSR. The battalion did, however, get as far as Chamonix in the French Alps for training with a battalion of Chasseurs Alpins. This episode is most amusingly described.

Sir Archibald David Stirling, DSO, OBE volunteered to join the 5th Special Reserve Battalion, Scots Guards
also his cousin Maxwell
Cyclops Bradley
W A C Collingwood
Philip Pinckney
Simons
Hodgson
Softly
Hugh Munro
Anthony Hough
Greenlees
Guardsman Basil O'Brien
Gardsman Oswald Basil Micky Rooney
Sir David Carol MacDonnell Mather MC

Sir David Carol MacDonnell Mather MC 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 March 1940. He volunteered for training at the Irregular Warfare Training Centre in Lochailort in October 1940,

WORLD WAR Two, 1939-45

Cyril Rofé: seldom feels strange in strange countries. Born in Cairo on April 11, 1916, he was educated at Clifton and Chillon College, trained for the hotel business at the Swiss Hotel School in Lausanne and, after a period at the May Fair Hotel in London, went to the Bristol, in Vienna, where he acquired a love of opera and skiing. He got out ten days after Hitler marched into Austria, and on the outbreak of war volunteered for aircrew. While waiting for training he joined the Scots Guards special ski battalion, which was intended for Norway, and when this was disbanded went into the Air Force and trained as an observer (navigator and bomb aimer). Short, wiry and always determined, he was in the crew of a Wellington bomber of No.40 Squadron which was shot down into the Maas Estuary on, June 11, 1941.

SIR RUPERT WILLIAM JOHN CLARKE - 1919-205 17/02/2005 12:00:08 AM - where he digressed by volunteering for a ski battalion to fight the Russians. He trained in Chamonix, Mont Blanc with the Chasseurs Alpins as part of 5 Battalion Scots Guards. After a further stint at Sandhurst he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1st Battalion. At home the 5th Battalion was raised in 1940 as a ski battalion to fight against the Russians in Finland, but after training in France it was disbanded.

Sir Ivar Iain Colquhoun, 8th Baronet, When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in November 1939, he was seconded to the 5th (Ski) Battalion Scots Guards.

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL the 8th Lord Wynford Early the next year, he took over as Signal Officer, 1 RWF, at Mouchin, close to the border of France and Belgium; but then in February he answered the request for volunteers to form a ski battalion - the 5th (SR) Battalion, the Scots Guards - to defend Finland against the invading Red Army. This was a unit composed of experienced skiers and mountaineers, all of whom had to resign their commissions in order to join. However, when neutral Sweden refused the British permission to cross their territory into Finland - and after snow-training at Chamonix - the unit was disbanded. (When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in November 1939, he was seconded to the 5th (Ski) Battalion Scots Guards. This was disbanded after Finland was forced to accept Russian terms in March 1940).

Major Charles Frederick Howard Gough - When the Second World War began, Gough was recalled from the Territorial Army Reserve of Officers and as a Captain rejoined the London Rifle Brigade, posted to H Company of the 2nd Battalion. However two months after the Russian invasion of Finland in December 1939, the British government expressed a desire of lending clandestine support to the Finns, and so Gough left the London Rifle Brigade in favour of the 5th (Ski) Battalion of the Scots Guards. This was an experimental unit, a factor which no doubt attracted the adventurous Gough who was not in the least deterred by obligatory loss of rank, and it consisted entirely of volunteers who were experienced in skiing and mountaineering. Needless to say this unit attracted a wide range of characters who went on to achieve distinction with such pioneering units as the Chindits and the SAS; among them was David Stirling, the founder of the Special Air Service. After a period of intense training and a brief spell in the French Alps, it was planned that the force would be posted to Norway in March, from where they would make their way to Finland to help fight the Soviet invasion. However on the eve of setting sail there came the news that the situation in Finland was fast becoming hopeless, and so the operation was cancelled.

Earl Jellicoe - suddenly found that there was a chance of joining the 5th Scots Guards, which was a skiing battalion, aiming eventually at Finland, to support the Fins against the Germans. Crazy idea, you know, we were going to send… well you can check on that, I don’t know, but it was the best part of a brigade, including a ski battalion, and I was a keen skier so I joined the ski battalion. We had a marvellous time. Two or three weeks in Chamonix. And I’ll always remember going out in Chamonix as a guardsman, had a lot of people in who were Lieutenants and things and a lot of people keen to join and they were quite prepared to go down to a non-commissioned, in the ranks.

J: But you were commissioned were you, straight away?

EJ: No, no. I was a guardsman. I joined straight from Sandhurst as it were. Never finished my time at Sandhurst. I remember the trip out to Chamonix very well. And I think that people who had been interested in that would easily have known where we were because the champagne bottles were strewn along the railway line. Rather like the Russian fleet going out in 1905 round the cape to take on Kyoto in 1905, the sea was full of champagne bottles then. In any case I then joined the training battalion, Coldstream. Then [?] myself, which I didn’t like one little bit, in the holding battalion at Regent’s Park when the battle of France was going on. And I found that extremely…

J: Why, because you wanted to be in France?

EJ: Yes. It was rather ghastly what was going on there I was pootling along in a holding battalion. And one tended to go out later and later at night to the Bag of Nails and that sort of thing. And eventually I got confined to barracks and that coincided with the formation of the commandos and the possibility of joining the commandos. I’ll always remember going for my interview with that with Bob Laycock who commanded…

Brigadier James Michael Calvert (1913-98) -and the Chindits: In 1938 he returned to London and resigned his commission in 1939 in order to join the 5th Ski Battalion of the Scots Guards, due to fight the Russians in Finland. After six weeks hectic training, they embarked on a troopship in Glasgow but before sailing the Finns surrendered and the mission was abandoned.............. On recovery, he did not return to India but in January 1945 took over command of the Special Air Service (SAS) Brigade, then based near Colchester. This force included a number of French and Belgians, many of whom had been in the French Foreign legion. They were individualists, albeit good soldiers and it took all of Calvert's skill to bring order and discipline into a very diverse force.

Following the end of the war in Europe on 8th May 1945, the French and Belgian units within the SAS returned to their own countries and Calvert led a small force to Norway to help supervise the German surrender in that country. During the Malayan war against the Communist insurgents, Calvert would create the Malaya Scouts and more or less resurrect the SAS before being invalided back to the UK.

Brigadier Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat DSO, MC, TD (9 July 1911 - 16 March 1995) was the 25th Chief of the Clan Fraser and a prominent British Commando during the Second World War. His friends called him "Shimi" Lovat, an anglicised version of his name in the Scottish Gaelic language. His clan referred to him as MacShimidh, his Gaelic patronym, meaning Son of Simon. Simon is the favoured family name for the Chiefs of Clan Fraser. He is commonly known as the 15th Lord Lovat.

Shimi. "Shimi Lovat, Churchill explained, on taking charge of Combined Operations, had at once got rid of Evelyn. This abrupt liquidation, arising from some ...

Captain Frank A L Waldron was called up for the Scots Guards 5th Ski battalion which existed Jan - Mar 1940. He then was in the 2nd battalion and sent to the middle east. Apparently wayward unconventional officers ended up in the 2nd. On March 6 1943 he was involved in the Battle of Medenine. He returned to Scotland before joining the Amoured division in Jan 1945.

The 7th Marquess Townshend: Lord Townshend joined the Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry in 1936, and was an ADC to General Sir Edmund Ironside as GOC Eastern Command. In 1940 he transferred to the Scots Guards and volunteered for its ski battalion, which was formed to fight the Russians in Finland, after training at Chamonix; but neutral Sweden refused permission for British troops to cross its territory, and the unit was swiftly disbanded.

William Fox (William Hubert Fox), actor, born January 26 1911; died September 20 2008 Versatile actor and connoisseur of the civilised life His war began with a ski battalion earmarked for Finland and its "winter war" against the Soviet Union. He enjoyed ski training at Chamonix in France but, following the March 1940 Finnish-Soviet armistice, he was sent to northern France with the British Expeditionary Force, only to be evacuated from Dunkirk that May.

Frederick Spencer Chapman 1907-71. Return to school, now at Gordonstoun, did not last for long. With the war, Freddy was commissioned in the Seaforth Highlanders and was attached to the Ski Battalion of the Scots Guards. This led to training at Chamonix. After a spell as instructor at the S.O.E. training centre at Arisaig he was posted to a Commando School in Australia, then in 1941 to Singapore. (Chapman was a famous mountaineer, In Singapore, he escaped and fought a guerilla war in Malaya for years - after the war he wrote a well-known book on guerilla warfare, The Jungle is Neutral - bit of a textbook on the subject)

After being disbanded in March 1940, many of the men that had been in the 5th would go on to serve in the Independent Companies that Gubbins raised for Norway, as well as in the early Special Forces - see below

The Special Training Centre at Lochailort in the Scotish Highlands was set up by MI(R) in 1940 almost by accident. A six-man team that should have deployed to Norway was forced to return to Scotland when their submarine HMS Truant was damaged by enemy action and their mission overtaken by events in Norway (Operation KNIFE).

The team consisted of the fiollowing personnel:
Lt Col Bryan Mayfield - Scots Guards
Peter Kemp
Bill Stirling - Scots Guards
Jim Gavin -RE
Ralph Farrant
David Stacey

Mayfield and Stirling suggested that a training school be set up to enable the team's experise to be passed on to others, this plan was given immediate approval by MI(R). Initially the team set up shop at the Stirling Estate of Keir, but Bill Stirling decided that a more remote location was necessary and settled on Lochailort.

Other staff were collected from the 5th Bn Scots Guards a strange hybrid unit designed for operations in Finland consisting mainly of officers, NCOs and civilians with mountain or ski-ing experience, from here came Martin Lindsay and Freddy Spencer Chapman pre-war Arctic explorers. Lord Lovat was recruited as an instructor, and tradition locally states that Shimie Lovat selected Inverailort as a base in May 1940.

The original M/E* of the Special Training Centre consisted of 203 personnel which could cater for the training of 100 officer and 500 other ranks at any one time, in the establishment there were 55 instructors - including some civilians who had special experience including some Highland ghillies who taught fieldcraft, there was also a mule and pony section with staff to look after them, by June the scheme had been increased by adding another 27 instructors and futher
admin staff which enabled training numers of 150 officer and 2,500 other ranks.

Among the names who passed through either as trainees or instructors were David Niven of the Rifle Brigade, David Sutherland, Fitzroy Maclean, Arthur Kellas, Hugh Stockwell, Anthony Quayle and Mike Calvert. Captain P A Walbridge and Cyril Mackworth Praed were both weapons instructors. Also present were arctic explorers Andrew Croft, Jimmy Scott and the veteran explorer George Murrat Levick who had been on the Scott Polar expedition. In June David Stirling became an
instructor in the fieldcraft wing. The climber Sandy Wedderburn taught climbing techniques. Mike Calvert was a demolitions instructor. Fairbairn and Sykes were also on the roster as CQB instructors who while at Lochailort designed the F/S fighting knife, the famed Commando dagger an emblem of the Commandos to this day.

The Signals Wing at Lochailort included Peter Fleming and a trio of Sergeants, Bryant, Beriff, and Austen the first two had deployed to Norway as the signals element of Operation KNIFE with Fleming in command.

Later a Special Wing was added for the training of foreign troops including Poles, French, and Dutchmen.

Lochailort also ran a 30 day course for assault troops a precusor to the Battle Schools that were formed later in the war.

The names mentioned above went on to impart Lochailort's lessons and philosophy to such units as the Commandos, Parachute Regiment, SAS, Chindits, Auxiliary Units and SOE - Lochailort can truely be considered the birthplace of many of Britain's SF during WWII.

*M/E - Military Establishment - the number of troops allowed to a unit split down into specialities - with the M/E number a commanding officer could have people, equipment and pay allocated to him.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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