British Troops In Finland 1940

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CanKiwi2
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 22 Mar 2012 23:29

Attached is an article from the Halifax Herald (Nova Scotia, Canada) from 1940. At least six Canadians who at the time were serving with the 2nd Manchesters volunteered for this unit. By the time of the German Offensive in May 1940 five of the six had returned to the Manchesters & were serving in France.

Article caption:
Canadian volunteers have had training during the last winter such as would fit them for service in Norway’s mountain areas, especially in winter. Here is a group of the first ski battalion in the history of the British Army. It was taken in the French Alps on the slope of Mount Blanc and included in it are Don Morrison of South Park Street, Halifax, Jack Foster, Halifax and probably other Nova Scotians. The training which also took place in Scotland was to fit the men to fight in the expeditionary force which was to have gone to Finland.

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 24 Mar 2012 15:04

Such fascinating political and diplomatic machinations behind the scenes during the early stages of WW II. There are several relevant documments to be seen if you type "Finland winter war" into the search box on the National Archives website. Here are a few...

Originally Posted by National Archives
THIS DOCUMENT IS THE PROPERTY OF HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY'S GOVERNMENT
TO BE KEPT UNDER LOCK AND KEY.

It is requested that special care may be taken to ensure the secrecy of this document.
SECRET. COPY NO. 22
W.M. (40) 35th CONCLUSIONS, MINUTE 1.
Confidential Annex.
(7th February, 1940.)

THE PRIME MINISTER said that H. Daladier had expounded the French project for a landing at Petsamo, but he had hinted that the idea had originated with the Finns and was clearly not in any way anxious to press the scheme. M. Daladier, however, had emphasised that if we turned down the Petsamo project, we must do something to help the Finns. It was obvious that considerations of internal politics had a good deal to do with M. Daladier's attitude. He had been Prime Minister in France for much longer than the usual term of office of French Premiers, and this factor, combined with the general lack of active operations, had given rise to political intrigues in France on the part of persons who would like to see a change of Prime Minister. M. Daladier was therefore very ready to welcome our proposals for active intervention in Scandinavia.

The Prime Minister said that he had explained the British proposals for the despatch of 3 divisions to Scandinavia in order to give assistance to the Finns in the Spring, before the break-up of the ice in the Baltic opened the way for a possible German expedition. He had emphasised that the administrative difficulties of such an enterprise would be considerable. Special clothing had to be provided for winter conditions, but later on different clothing and equipment would be needed, after the thaw came. Shipping and maintenance would present considerable problems, and there was much work to be done by the Staffs if the expedition was to be ready in time. We had to prepare not only to assist Finland, but also to support Sweden in case of a German attack resulting from our action. The general sequence which we proposed was:

(i) We should make full preparations for the despatch of the expedition.
(ii) It would be arranged that Finland should issue an appeal to the world for assistance against Russia, addressing herself in particular to Norway and Sweden, who were her nearest neighbours and would be the next to he overrun by Russia.
(iii) We should then immediately approach the Scandinavian countries and say that we were ready to answer Finland's appeal, but we required free passage for our troops through their countries. In these circumstances, it would be very hard for Norway and Sweden to refuse. The world would cry shame upon them if, owing to their intransigence, Finland were overrun.
(iv) Our forces would land at Narvik and Trondheim and move up to Finland through Boden. In doing so, they would automatically secure possession of the Galivare ore fields.

M. Daladier had expressed his entire agreement with these proposals, but had pointed out that if Norway and Sweden refused to give us free passage,it would be ridiculous for us to be held up at the very last moment after making all these preparations. In these circumstances, we might have to do something at Petsamo. The Prime Minister said he had expressed the view that a refusal by Norway and Sweden would be most unlikely in the circumstances, though he had agreed that if they went so far as to use force against us, they could stop our getting through by cutting the railways. M. Daladier had seemed satisfied on this point, but had asked that the Chiefs of Staff should nevertheless examine fully the Petsamo project, lest in the worst case we might have to fall back upon it.

The importance of the time factor had been emphasised in the discussions. The 20th March was the critical date by which our first echelon would have to be ready to arrive in Scandinavia if we were to be sure of forestalling the Germans. All preparations would therefore have to be pressed on with the utmost despatch. The French were prepared to contribute a brigade of Chasseurs Alpins, a brigade of the Foreign Legion and possibly 4 battalions of Poles.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY pointed out that, although the expedition should be under British control, it was essential, for political reasons, that the French should be represented in some strength in the forces. The first echelon should certainly include a French contingent.

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS said that it was most important that nothing should prejudice the success of cur approach to Norway and Sweden, The Germans, suspecting our intentions, might possibly offer mediation to the Finnish Government, and if this were accepted, we should be placed in a serious difficulty. He suggested therefore that we should give the Finns immediately an indication that we were prepared to come to their assistance with substantial forces, and thereby give them a chance of beating the Russians rather than of having to accept unfavourable terms of peace.

In the discussion which ensued, the following points were made:

(i) Secrecy in our preparations was essential, if the Finnish appeal was to have its full effect.
(ii) The Finnish Government had been toying witih the idea of negotiating peace terms with Russia, and it would be better to make any approach on the lines suggested by the Foreign Secretary to Field-Marshal Mannerheim himself. Brigadier Ling was returning to Finland very shortly, and could be used as an emissary for this purpose.
(iii) The issue of the Finnish appeal would require careful timing. Our first echelon must he ready to move immediately the call came. There might he some slight delay while the Scandinavian countries argued with us, hut when we demanded the right of passage we must he in a position to say to them that our troops were ready to sail at once not only to assist Finland, but also to support them against Germany if necessary. Some discussion then took place on the details of the preparations to he made.

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR said that the War Office had already received most of the authorities they required, hut consultations would have to take place with the Treasury on various questions, and with the Dominions Office in regard to Newfoundland loggers. He urged that no time should be wasted in these inter-departmental discussions.

THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER undertook that there would be no delay whatsoever on the part of the Treasury.

THE PRIME MINISTER, in reply to a question, said that no decision had been reached as to whether troops sent to Scandinavia would go in the guise of "volunteers" on the Spanish "non-intervention" model. Russia was not yet officially at war with Finland, and we naturally desired to avoid open hostilities with Russia if it were in any way possible. He fully realised, however, that there were great practical difficulties in despatching British forces in formed bodies which were not legally part of the Armed Forces of the Crown.

The War Cabinet:-

(i) Took note:-
(a) That their Conclusions as set out in W.M. (40) 31st Conclusions, Minute 1 (i) to (viii), regarding assistance to Finland and intervention in Scandinavia, had been accepted by the French, subject to the proviso that the project for a landing at Petsamo should be further examined by the Allied Staffs in case the Scandinavian countries refused to give passage to our forces and we were thus compelled to adopt other methods of assisting Finland.
(b) That the French had agreed to the control of operations in Scandinavia being in British hands, but would provide a contingent of French troops.

(ii) Authorised the Service Departments, and other Departments concerned, to carry out immediately the measures detailed in paragraph 24 of W.P. (40) 35, with a view to being ready for military intervention in Scandinavia by the 20th March, 1940, subject to such modifications and additions as might be necessitated by direct intervention in Finland.

(iii) Invited the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for War, in consultant ion, to arrange for an indication of our intentions to be conveyed to Field Marshal Mannerheim by Brigadier Ling, who was shortly leaving for Finland.

(iv) Authorised the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to inform Dominion Prime Ministers of the above Conclusions.

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 24 Mar 2012 15:15

Originally Posted by National Archives
[align=center]SECRET AND CONFIDENTIAL.
MEMORANDUM BY MR. NOEL BAKER , M.P., ON THE ARMAMENT
REQUIREMENTS OF FINLAND, AND THE PROSPECTS OF PEACE.[/align]

I.—FINLAND's ARMY AND REQUIREMENTS.

FINLAND needs increased quantities of armaments and munitions of almost every kind. These needs should, perhaps, be placed in the following order of
urgency :—

(a) Aircraft.
(b) Heavy artillery.
(c) Anti-tank guns.
(d) Lighter field artillery.
(e) Ammunition.

2. Aircraft.—This must be regarded as the most urgent requirement for the following reasons :—

(a) The heavy bombing and machine-gunning of the civilian population will inevitably undermine the national morale, if continued unchecked for several months. At present it frequently happens that the civilian population of the larger towns spend six or seven hours a day in air raid shelters. Almost all the shelters are cold, uncomfortable and overcrowded, and it is impossible to carry on any form of useful employment in them. The raids are also largely reducing the economic output of the country. These results will obviously become more serious as the hours of daylight increase. The only means of effectively reducing the number of raids lies in the increase of the Finnish Air Force of fighter aircraft..
(b) The operations of the Finnish army at the Front are severely handicapped by the lack of aircraft. Here is one example:— General Hegelund has trapped two Russian divisions in the region round Kitela, on the North-East coast of Lake Ladoga. There are, perhaps, 30,000 men who are now surrounded, including two divisional commanders and three regimental commanders and all their staffs. The whole equipment of both divisions is also trapped. These forces have been cut off from all supplies for over a month. Their powerful armament would make it extremely costly to end their resistance by direct attack; but they would have been reduced by hunger long ago, had they not been able to receive regular supplies by air. General Hegelund has not had one single aeroplane to enable him to prevent Russian bombing machines from dropping supplies to the beleaguered forces. Every fighter machine is required by the Finnish High Command for the protection of armament factories in the centre and west of the country. The whole outcome of his great victory is thus imperilled.
(c) Some high authorities believe that the Finnish Army may be defeated in July and August by the wholesale forest fires which the Russian Air Force can start by dropping incendiary bombs. General Hirsch, Chief of Staff of Field-Marshal Manncrheim, believes that this danger can be dealt with, and says that the necessary fire-fighting corps is now being formed. Other members of the Staff think he is too optimistic. In any case, the only certain way of removing the danger is for the Finns to secure command of the air.

3. Heavy artillery.—Field-Marshal Mannerheim told us that he urgently requires large supplies of 6-inch and 8-inch guns. He told us that the Russians are using their long-range guns for breaking up '' fortresses '' in the front line, and for supporting mass infantry attacks. His Generals have almost no guns at their command with which they can do counter-battery work. When they are able to reach the Russian batteries, the accuracy of their fire always compels the Russians to move their position within a very short time, i.e., any counter-battery work that is possible greatly reduces the intensity of the Russian artillery fire. Unfortunately, they have almost no guns with which to do such work.

General Hegelund's action at Kitela provides an example of what this means. Besides maintaining a line round the two beleaguered Russian divisions, General Hegelund must also keep a front against two fresh Russian divisions which are endeavouring to relieve them. This front is subject to continuous and heavy artillery fire. General Flegehmd has not one battery of guns which has sufficient range to do counter-battery work against the Russian artillery. Field-Marshal Mannerheim told us that he needs additional heavy artillery for every division, and for every army corps, together' with a reserve to be at his own disposal. He also needs further supplies for additional Finnish divisions which have not yet been mobilised.

4. Anti-tank guns.

(a) The Finns have invented many methods of disabling and destroying enemy tanks. Many of these methods, however, are only applicable when the tanks are obliged to attack down a road through the forest. When the tanks can operate in open country, the only effective weapon is the anti-tank gun. Even on the roads, the anti-tank gun is an " indispensable factor in their defence. Yet the Finns have a very inadequate supply of such guns. They have captured a considerable number from the Russians and the Russian weapon is simple to use, and highly effective but, even with this addition, they have not nearly enough. On one vital road, where there had been recent and dangerous Russian attacks, I saw three anti-tank guns, and these constituted the complete armament of the division. On another part of the front, a General commanding an army corps told me, as a piece of important news, that he was to receive one more anti-tank gun, which, he said, would replace one that had been knocked out the day before. On the Isthmus, where tank attacks are on the largest scale, and are most dangerous, the Finns have been obliged to use guns which date from the Russo-Turkish War of 1878. These guns only fire one round per minute, but shoot straight, and have scored direct hits on 30-ton tanks.
(b) No less important than the guns themselves are adequate supplies of ammunition, of which, at present, the Finns are extremely short.

5. Field artillery, i.e. 3-inch (75-mm.) guns:—

(a) The held guns of the Finnish Army are of 76.2 calibre, i.e., the same as the Russian guns. This calibre was adopted by the Finnish Command in order to enable them to use captured Russian ammunition. This policy has been extremely successful; a considerable part of the Finnish artillery now consists of captured Russian guns firing their own shells.
(b) The total supply of such guns is, however, inadequate, and so are supplies of ammunition. Moreover, the sources from which the Finns can obtain 76-2 ammunition are restricted. For this reason they are anxious to add to their present armament a considerable number of
3-inch (75-mm.) guns.
(c) The Prime Minister told us that they would like to obtain, at least a hundred new 3-inch (75-mm.) guns, with the least possible delay; provided they were assured, from British and French sources, an adequate supply of ammunition.
(d) If still further supplies of ammunition were also available, the Finns would transform a proportion of their 76-2 guns into 75-mm. guns. But, of course, the decision to do this can only be taken i f adequate supplies of ammunition were ensured.

6. Ammunition.—Generally speaking, it may safely be said that the Finns require expanded supplies of all categories of gun ammunition which they are using. This point was raised by every divisional and army corps commander with whom we spoke.

II. — FINNISH REQUIREMENTS IN MAN-POWER.

1. As is well known, the Finns have mobilised sufficient divisions successfully to hold all their fronts; but they have a very narrow margin of divisions in reserve which can be thrown into any sector that is heavily attacked, or which can be used to relieve troops who have been in the line for a long period of time. As a result, most of the divisions now mobilised have been continuously in the line since the beginning of the war.

2. This does not mean that these divisions have been subject to the kind of strain imposed on troops in the line in France during the last Great War. Even in the sectors where there have been most attacks, e.g., the Isthmus, there have been considerable periods of relative repose.
(a) During such periods the Finnish soldiers sleep in tents which are not only dry, but extremely warm and comfortable. Their rations are admirable. They are not obliged to use communication trenches, but walk or ski freely among the trees, even in the forward zone. Except during offensives the weight of enemy artillery fire is very much less than that to which troops became accustomed during the last war.
(c) Since Christmas a considerable number of troops have been receiving home leave, which varies from eight days to a fortnight.

3. Nevertheless, the fatigue imposed on the Finnish troops is great, and it is desirable that the High Command should have some more divisions at their disposal at the earliest possible date.

4. Field-Marshal Mannerheim told us that he could mobilise a considerable number of new Finnish divisions (he did not say how many) provided:—
(a) Workers were available to replace men taken from the armament and other war industry factories. He can obtain the artillery and equipment necessary for these divisions.

5. Workers for this purpose are, in fact, being found by the Trade Union and Employers' Federations of the other three Scandinavian countries. As a result of a conference held in Copenhagen on the 1st February, these organisations decided to raise 20,000 men (both skilled and unskilled, but including many . engineers) to go to Finland. Rates of pay and other conditions were agreed to. One thousand seven hundred and fifty workers registered for this service on the first day on which the lists were opened, i.e., the 5th February, in Denmark alone.

6. But Field-Marshal Mannerheim will not be able to mobilise his Finnish divisions unless he receives the armament necessary. This makes the provision of this armament, especially artillery, a matter of great urgency.

7. The Prime Minister told us that, in addition to the mobilisation of additional Finnish divisions, he hoped that Finland might also receive man-power from abroad. In particular, he hoped:—
(a) That there would be sufficient Swedish volunteers to make up two full divisions.
(b) That the Norwegian Government might agree to allow their Sixth (or Arctic) Division to come as volunteers to help the Finnish Army in the North. He said that this Arctic Division consists of highly trained troops who would be of inestimable value during the remaining months of winter.

7. The following information with regard to Scandinavian Volunteers was obtained from the Colonel who is organising the Volunteer movement in Sweden :—
(a) Recruits to date are as follows:—'
Swedes 8,000
Danes ... ... ... ... ... ... 500
Norwegians ... ... ... ... ... 450
(b) Of these, 5,600 have been in action.
(c) At the present rate of recruitment, the Swedish contingent will probably reach 15,000 in the next two months. This is regarded as extremely disappointing.
(d) The low number is due to the fact the Government fixed the rate of monthly remuneration too low (150 krone per month, the minimum wage for unskilled labour being 250). But for this, great numbers would have joined in the early stages of the war. This difficulty has now been overcome; the rate of pay is 250 krone per month; the costs of the Volunteer Corps are being paid from the Swedish Employers' Fund for Finland, which amounts to £4,000,000; and the Government have privately given it to be understood that further money will be forthcoming from official sources, if required.
(e) But, unhappily, the first impetus has been lost, and now recruitment is impeded by three further factors :-
(i) The Government only allows 10-15 per cent, of any given unit of the Swedish Army to go as Volunteers. (This, incidentally, means that the men must be retrained as new units in Finland, and so causes further delay.)
(ii) The Government does not allow officers to take any active part in encouraging their men to volunteer. (This is one of the questions on which Hr. Sandier differs from the Government.)
(iii) The Finns do not take untrained men, on the ground that they have no spare N.C.O.S to do the instruction.
(iv) The Volunteer Authorities are now considering the proposal that untrained men should be taken and trained by disabled Swedish speaking N.C.O.S who have been at the front. Training requires five months; but i f this plan is adopted, the Colonel in charge believed that a large additional number of Volunteers could be obtained, and that they would be ready for service by July.
(g) The Colonel also believed that large numbers of Volunteers, and large sums of money, could be obtained from the Scandinavian communities in the United States, provided that the right man to take charge of the propaganda could be found. The Prime Minister of Sweden, on the other hand, doubted whether this was practical politics, or whether good results could be obtained. In any case, nothing has so far been done.

8. Neither Field-Marshal Mannerheim nor the Prime Minister of Finland told us that they wanted British or French land troops to be sent. This does not mean necessarily that they would be opposed to the dispatch of British and French divisions. But that it may mean this is suggested by the fact that the Prime Minister told us categorically that he does not desire to have divisions of Polish troops. His reason for this was that the presence of Polish troops might easily provoke Germany into attacking the South of Finland. The same argument obviously applies (and, indeed, propably applies a fortiori) to the dispatch of British and French divisions. This view was further supported by Hr. Boheman, of the Swedish Foreign Office, who told us, confidentially, that the Germans had given them to understand that nothing like a British or French legion must be allowed to go to Finland.

9. Naturally, a change in the military situation, e.g., the impending collapse of Finnish resistance, or even very heavy losses of Finnish man-power, might remove all doubts and hesitations; but, as things stand at present, it seems doubtful whether the Finnish Government do desire the despatch of British and French troops.

10. Of course, the dispatch of British and French troops to Finland might involve difficulties not only for Finland, but also, and much more, for Sweden and/or Norway. The Swedish Government might be expected to raise objections if the proposal is put forward; but it is not certain that these objections could hot be overcome. Indeed, in the course of our private talks, a member of the Swedish Government used the following words : "If the Western Powers do desire to send troops to Finland, they should discuss with us, at an early stage, how best this can be done, and how complications with Germany and Russia can be avoided."

11. In any case, it seems clear that a large increase in the number of Swedish and other Scandinavian Volunteers is a simpler and safer method of providing reinforcements for Field-Marshal Mannerheim than dispatching British and French divisions. Such an increase could almost certainly be obtained if the Swedish Government would raise the proportion of Volunteers allowed from any given unit in its army, and would permit its officers to exercise the arts of persuasion on their men.

12. The attitude of the Swedish Government in this regard might be improved if they could be guaranteed large-scale support in case they were attacked by Russia and/or Germany. Fear of such attack is a nightmare to them; and they do not at present believe that Britain and France would, or could, send them any effective aid. Specific promises on the matter might, however, produce an effect.

13. The same is true of the Norwegian Government towards the dispatch of their Arctic Division. At present the Norwegians are the most cautious of all the Scandinavians, but they are also the most likely to be influenced by British promises of help.

14. It also deserves to be considered whether an International Brigade of Volunteers would not be of great value to Finland. It is probable that such a brigade could be recruited quite quickly, and that it might attract a considerable number of experienced soldiers. Its formation would not give the Soviet Union or Germany the slightest excuse for attacking any given country; while the fact that help was coming to Finland from all over the world might exercise a real influence on the rulers of Moscow.

15. Apart from land troops, the Finnish Army urgently requires "specialists " of various kinds. Thus: —
(a) General Lundquist urged very strongly that he should be given 80 Polish pilots to fly the 80 Caudron fighter aircraft which the French Government are providing. At present he has been promised twenty. He wants only pilots who have been trained with Caudrons in France, and who have been specially chosen by their French instructors for service in Finland.
(b) Both General Lundquist and the Prime Minister emphasised their desire to have some British pilots. They left the impression that they would want at least 150 foreign pilots by the summer.
(c) They would be glad of heavy artillery-men to work the guns which they hope are coming from abroad.
(d) They insisted that, in particular, the dispatch of an expert instructor, with every new type of gun, would greatly expedite its use by the Finnish Army.

16. General Lundquist would also welcome the dispatch of mechanics with each type of foreign aircraft which he receives. For machines which are assembled in Sweden he would like to see enough mechanics in that country to ensure the minimum possible delay in the work of assembly. He would like mechanics to assist in the work of repair and maintenance of all the foreign aircraft actually in service in Finland.

III. — THE EFFECT OF MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO FINLAND ON THE PROSPECTS OF PEACE.

1. The Finnish Government believe that they are strong enough, militarily, morally and economically, to put up a prolonged resistance to the Russian attacks. But they also desire to have peace at the earliest possible moment at which it can be obtained on acceptable terms.

2. They are ready, as they were in November, to make concessions to Stalin on the Karelian Isthmus, and in the far North. They will not give him the islands which dominate the port of Vipuuri, nor any naval base at Hangb or in any other part of Southern Finland.

3. The Prime Minister told us that they have some reason to believe that Stalin now desires to accept these terms and to make peace, and that he is in open and violent conflict on the matter with Molotov and the Russian General Staff. This also is believed by the Swedish Government, though they are anxious to keep their information as secret as possible.

4. If it be true that there is such a conflict, there are three factors which will help Stalin to overcome Molotov's resistance :—
(a) The heavy losses of the Russian infantry.
(b) The no less heavy losses of Russian aircraft,
(c) The low morale of the Red Army and Air Force.

5. The losses of the Russian infantry have been very great. Field-Marshal Mannerheim said he thought it might be as high as 50:1. We saw the ground near Kitela on which a small action had been fought the day before. In this action over 300 Russians were killed, and 160 were taken prisoner; the attack had been made by 80 Finns, who lost four killed and six wounded. It seems improbable that the Russian dead can number less than 120,000 at the present time. The Finnish losses, up to the 15th January, were 4,500 killed, 11,000 wounded, 900 missing.

6. The Finnish Command only count Russian aircraft the wrecks of which have been found on the ground.
(a) On this basis, the Finns have brought down 340 Russian aircraft, of which the vast majority are the best types of Russian bombers.
(b) This, however, is not the full total of the Russian losses. The Finns say that approximately 100 others have " probably " been brought down, though the wrecks have not been found. If half of this number is counted as destroyed, it will probably be less than the truth.
(c) A further allowance must be made for crashes on Russian aerodromes. There is much evidence from prisoners to show that, in fact, Russian losses from this cause have been very heavy. This is no doubt due to the inadequate training which many Russian pilots have had. (Thirty, forty or fifty hours' flying is quite common among pilots of the Russian bombing aircraft.) Under this heading, it is reasonable to say that at least 150 Russian machines must have been lost.
(d) Thus, the total losses of the Russian Air Force probably amount to as much as 500 at the present time, and of these almost all are bombers of the latest types.
(e) Against this, the Finnish Air Force, up to the 3rd February, had only lost fifteen machines, of which five had been lost by crashes. Only two fighters had been shot down.
(f) Moreover, the Finnish Air Force only numbered 102 machines (including thirty fighters) when the war began. It numbered 104 machines on the 3rd February.
(g) If the aircraft promised to the Finns arrive without abnormal delay, the Air Force will probably be doubled in strength in the course of the next six weeks. The reinforcements will consist of better machines than the Finns have hitherto had. If, therefore, the Russians continue to offer the same number of targets as heretofore, it may well be that, by the end of April, they will have lost at least 1,000 machines, and in each succeeding month the number will proportionately increase. It may well be doubted whether Stalin, with Nazi Germany and militarist Japan as his neighbours, can afford such a great loss of his first-line aircraft as this. It follows that every increase in the strength of the Finnish A i r Force, and every reduction in the time within which that reinforcement takes place, will improve the prospects of peace.

7. If the facts could be brought home to him, the morale of the Soviet Army and Air Force would be an even more powerful factor than the losses of men and aircraft in restraining Stalin, and bringing him to offer peace. Evidence of the letters taken from prisoners and Russian dead, the reports of all Finnish Intelligence officers, who have questioned prisoners, and the results of our own conversations with a considerable number of prisoners, all show that there is grave discontent in the Russian Army; that discipline is maintained by ruthless terrorism; that the work of the military machine is disrupted by the interference of political commissars; and that the rank and file of the Russian Army do not believe that they are engaged in a justifiable war. A memorandum on our own experience with prisoners is attached. We have no doubt that it substantially represents the truth. It is for consideration whether steps could be taken to bring the facts of the morale of his armed forces to Stalin's attention. This may, possibly, be done through the Russian Minister in Stockholm, Madame Kolontai. If it could be represented to Stalin that his generals have brought the army to its present dangerous condition, he might, perhaps, embark on another purge, as a preliminary to making peace!

IV.—BRITISH INTEREST IN THE FINNISH WAR.

1. It may be suggested that, if Stalin can be induced to make peace with Finland on reasonable terms, it would be of the utmost advantage to Great Britain.

2. There are three reasons for this view :-

a) Such a result would be universally interpreted as a victory for Finland,
and would, no doubt, produce a profound effect on German opinion. It would disillusion the German public about the military value of Ribbentrop's Russian " alliance." It would be evidently a victory for democracy against dictatorship, and for those democratic Powers who had helped Finland, i.e., Britain, France and Sweden.
(b) It would still further stimulate the resolution of the Governments of Balkan and other countries to resist any further aggression by Russia and / or Germany.
(c) It would greatly improve the chances that the Scandinavian Powers will ultimately join in resisting further acts of aggression against nations which are now neutral.

3. It would be foolish to expect that this last result would necessarily follow. There are two conditions which must be fulfilled before any Scandinavian country would dream of joining in the war against Germany:-

(a) The Russian danger must be removed by the re-establishment of peace with Finland.
(b) The Scandinavian Powers must be persuaded that we could really help them, if Germany committed an act of aggression. There is no way in which this could be so effectively done, as by sending arms and munitions, together with pilots, mechanics and other specialists to the aid of Finland.

V.—CONCLUSION.

The main conclusion which results from the above considerations is that is it desirable, from the British point of view, to send as much military help as possible to Finland, with the least possible delay? Such assistance must, however, be given in such ways as will:-

(a) Avoid provoking Russia into declaring war on Sweden or ourselves.
(b) Avoid bringing Germany into Southern Finland in order to keep us out.

February 14, 1940.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 24 Mar 2012 15:17

Originally Posted by National Archives
THIS DOCUMENT IS THE PROPERTY OF HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY'S GOVERNMENT
MOST SECRET.
U.S.S.R.
(Previous Reference: ff-.M. (40) 28th Conclusions, Minute 6.)
Probable Development of Policy.

T O B E K E P T U N D E R L O C K A N D K E Y.

It is requested that special care may be taken to ensure the secrecy of this document.

COPY NO. 19
W.M. (40) 50th CONCLUSIONS. MINUTE 2.
Confidential Annex.
(23rd February, 1940.)

In the course of discussion on the preceding item, the SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS said that there was one element in the situation which, although not strictly relevant, the War Cabinet should have in mind. If the fear of invasion by Russia was lifted from Norway and Sweden, this would leave them menaced only by Germany. A conversation which the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had had on the previous evening with the Soviet Ambassador was therefore very relevant, and he proceeded to read a note of this conversation to the War Cabinet. Briefly, M. Maisky, who said that he was speaking on instructions, had indicated that Russia wanted to maintain her neutrality, and that she had no idea of invading Norway or Sweden after the Finnish situation had been liquidated. He had given Mr. Butler the terms on which Russia would be prepared to make peace with the Finns. These were even more severe than the offer which had led to the Finnish war in the first place, but he had said that if these terms were not accepted, the war would go on until Finland was defeated. We should then have lost for ever the goodwill of Russia, but should not have saved Finland, which would be another Abyssinia in our diplomatic history.

The view was generally expressed that it would he most unwise to have anything to do with the Russian proposals. If we communicated them to the Finns, one of two things might happen. Either we should give an impression that we thought the terms should he accepted, or we should give the impression that we wished to encourage the Finns to resist, in which event they would feel that they had a strong moral case for pressing us to give them sufficient help to enable them to put up an effective resistance. The best way of dealing with the matter would be to inform M. Maisky that, if his Government wished to get their proposals considered, they should make them direct to the Finns; but that, if the war continued, Anglo-Soviet relations would undoubtedly become progressively worse.

The War Cabinet:- Agreed that the Foreign Secretary should deal with M. Maisky's proposals on the above lines.

[align=center]__________________________________________________ ________[/align]

THIS DOCUMENT IS THE PROPERTY OF HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTYS GOVERNMENT
SECRET. Copy No, 25
[N 2252/G]
Foreign Office, February 22, 1940.
Viscount Halifax to Mr. Le Rougetel (Moscow).
(No. 73.)

Sir,

THE Soviet Ambassador called to see Mr. Butler this evening at his own request. He said, on entering, that he had not come to talk about the s.s. Selenga. He had more important matters to speak about. Since their last talk he had been in communication with his Government and he was now speaking on instructions from them.

2. M. Maisky recalled that in their last talk they had run over the various questions which interested the two Governments. In the first place he had authority to speak about the Soviet-German Trade Agreement. This certainly was an agreement of considerable scope, but it was of a purely economic character. From the Soviet point of view it was hoped to obtain considerable quantities of machinery, machine tools and military equipment. But there was no intention of entering into a military alliance with Germany. He said that he thought that Mr. Butler might have observed, in studying Soviet statesmen over the past few months, that they were not simpletons. To make a military alliance with a nation like Germany already at war was a far bigger commitment than the Soviet Union would care to undertake. Soviet policy was, in fact, one of neutrality in the world war, as he had told me in September last. The Soviet Union would not move from this neutrality vis-a-vis the main belligerents, Great Britain and France, unless they were attacked by either.

3. Mr. Butler asked the Ambassador whether this definition of Soviet policy applied to the Middle and Near East. He said that it certainly did. He did not anticipate that after their experience in Finland his Government would indulge in further foreign adventure. They were, however, fortifying the Caucasus, since they, on their,side, had apprehensions. The arrival of the Anzac troops and the presence in the Near East of a large French army caused them apprehension. Moreover, His Majesty's Government had recently given a credit to Iran which caused them to be nervous in that quarter of the world. Mr. Butler replied that no doubt we had both of us reason to be nervous of the other.

4. Reverting to the north, the Ambassador said that the Russian objectives in Finland had been of a strategic character in order to safeguard the western approaches to Leningrad and the northern portion of the Union. He did not consider that similar arguments would apply to protecting the southern approaches to the Union through the Bosphorus. Nor did the Soviet intend to invade Northern Norway or North Sweden. There was no question of their aiming at occupying Narvik. Mr. Butler asked him whether assurances of this character had been given to Norway and Sweden, and he said that he thought they had.

5. M. Maisky said that he now came to the most important thing which he wished to tell Mr. Butler. During their previous conversation he had noticed an interest on Mr. Butler's part as to how the Finnish war would be likely to end. He himself had said on that occasion that the Russian troops would have to proceed to the bitter end. He would now, however, alter his answer as a result of an exchange of views with his Government. His Government would be ready to make peace with the Finns on similar terms to those offered before the war broke out. The " military people," as he described them, insisted, however, on making a more extended provision for the defence of Leningrad than had previously been suggested to the Finnish Government. Mr. Butler asked M. Maisky at this stage whether the Soviet Government would negotiate With the Government at Helsinki and not with the puppet Government. His Excellency said that he considered that a peace settlement could be arrived at with the Government at Helsinki on the following terms :—

(a) Retention by the Soviet of the islands in the Gulf of Finland which the already occupied.
(b) The lease of Hango and a few islands round.
(c) The retention by the Soviet of the western half of the Rybachi Peninsula
(d) The cession of the whole of the Karelian Isthmus to the Soviet. The southern frontier of Finland would then run on a line: Vipuri, Sortavala and then curving round the north of Lake Ladoga in the neighbourhood of Kitela to the present frontier of the Soviet Union. This would mean that the whole of Lake Ladoga would be on the side of Russian territory. .
(e) Soviet troops would retire from Petsamo as some quid pro quo for the extra territory to be ceded in the Karelian Isthmus.
(f) No compensation would be offered to the Finns, and in this respect the terms would be different from those offered before the war. Compensation was out of the question after the great expense and trouble of the war.

6. The Ambassador said that in the view of the Soviet military experts, although the Mannerheim Line was not yet destroyed or passed, it was broken. If terms of the type that he had put to Mr. Butler were not accepted now, the War would have to go on. He was most anxious himself for Great Britain and the Soviet Union to improve their relations. If terms such as these were accepted there would be a turning-point. If not, he anticipated that Finland would rank in our diplomatic history with Abyssinia, since, owing to its geographical position and the difficulty of adequate help being sent there, and the obvious reluctance of Sweden and Norway to send armed forces apart from volunteers, the Russians would eventually overrun the country. Then we should have done just enough to excite Russian animosity for many years without doing enough to save Finland.

7. Mr. Butler told the Ambassador that when they had talked together previously they had neither of them been acting on the instructions of their Governments, nor had they been giving official messages to each other on major policy. On this occasion he thought that M. Maisky's message was too important for him to make any observations without consulting me. The Ambassador said that he fully accepted that position and he also accepted the present official position of His Majesty's Government, which was that we should offer help to Finland under cover of the League of Nations resolution. He agreed with Mr. Butler as to the strength of feeling in this country against the Soviet action and also that it was impossible to say whether the Finns would accept such terms as he had suggested. He would, however, be interested to hear, if possible to-morrow, what impression his messages had made upon the mind of His Majesty's Government.

8. Mr. Butler told the Ambassador that he would see that he received some message when His Majesty's Government had had time to consider what the Ambassador had told him. It should be added that M. Maisky told Mr. Butler that he thought that these suggestions had not been put to any other Government

I am,

&c.

HALIFAX.
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Malcolm Munthe - British soldier in Finland....

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 Mar 2012 19:52

Born in 1910 and 29 years of age on the outbreak of WW2, Malcolm Munthe was of Anglo-Swedish origins and had joined the British army as war broke out. He was assigned to the Gordon Highlanders for no other reason than his first name's Scottish roots and was immediately commissioned as an Officer. Almost immediately after thwe Winter War broke out, he was recruited by the War Office for special operations in Scandinavia due to his Swedish background. . This was an irregular operation set up well before the establishment of the Special Operations Executive and Munthe was sent off to Finland to arrange the supply of munitions to the Finnish Army, carrying with him some experimental explosive devices. He was also to act as an advance party for the British volunteers and he was almost certainly the first British soldier to make it to the Finnish front-lines, a story he recounts in his wartime autobiography, “Sweet is War.” In his own words….

“… I was to instruct some Finns under a lieutenant, whose name was Antila, in our anti-tank devices. We went west to Rovanjemi, and for some days to Kemijarvi, and then onwards by sledge. We were near a lake, beyond which were the Russian lines. I never saw a battle while I was there. Antila spoke no English, but we conversed to the best of our ability in Finnish-Swedish. His ski patrol was to be used for special raids to harass the enemy lines.

We slept fourteen in the tent, a circular contraption strung up on a central stovepipe, which carried away the smoke from the wood-burning stove in the middle of the floor. Christmas-tree branches covered the ground; they gave out a delicious smell when the place grew hot. We lay, feet to the middle and heads to the tent wall, with the equipment and rucksack of each man next to his head. I was put between Antila and his second in command, who was a sergeant. It was a tight fit. As I roll around in my sleep, I used to fling out an arm and hit one or other of them, but luckily Antila was just as bad. When we woke at reveille the appalling muddle would have to be straightened out.

Antila was sturdy, with thick dark hair and a permanent grin on his face. I imagine he was only a little older than I and it soon became obvious they had orders to coddle me. I was never allowed to accompany them on raids and was generally protected from even the mildest dangers. I spent my time making “clams” to blow up tanks. “808″ or “plastic” was the explosive used for these charges, with a block of guncotton to hold the detonator and fuse. The whole was then wrapped in a piece of mackintosh, proof against damp, and fitted with magnets so as to make it cling, clam-like, to the tank. The tent was redolent with a smell of almonds and geraniums emanating from the explosives, and I got rather bored with sitting cross-legged on my blankets and gradually covering it with neat little rows of these samples of my handicraft. When I protested, Antila patted my hair and asked with a superior air, “Want to die young?”

One freezing cold day after a particularly severe air raid out of an icy blue sky, I was sent back to Kemi, where a charming, spirited lady of the Swedish Red Cross drove me around in her lorry to some first-aid centres and field hospitals. She spoke excellent English. At one of the posts she introduced me to a Swede who was roaring down the telephone. “You must send them along to us more or less straightened out; otherwise, when they arrive here stiff, we have to spend hours limbering them up again before we can get them to fit into the coffins.”……


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http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/reso ... pe=display
Malcolm Munthe (30 January 1910–24 November 1995) as an Officer in the Gordon Highlanders in 1939: He was sent to Finland with anti-tank munitions by the War Office as an advance party for the British volunteers.

Munthe was a British soldier, writer, and curator, and son of the famous Swedish doctor and writer Axel Munthe (physician to the Swedish royal family and author of “The Story of San Michele”) and his second wife Hilda Pennington-Mellor (an English society lady whom Axel met and married early in the 1900s). Brought up between the Swedish court, Italy, and Britain, where his mother owned two large houses, “Hellens” in Herefordshire and “Southside House” in Wimbledon, Malcolm Munthe became a British citizen at the outbreak of World War II in order to fight, since he expected Sweden to be neutral throughout the war. In his youthful pre-war years, he studied for a Politics degree at the London School of Economics at the same time as he ran a boys' club in a deprived quarter of Southwark, preparing himself for a career in the Conservative Party and taking part in the social round of debutante balls and London clubs. In 1939 he was offered the comparatively safe Tory seat of East Ham South, but the war intervened and he declined a political career to enter the military. He would end WW2 as a Major, winning the MC for bravery in the process.

Later recruited to the Special Operations Executive, he worked behind enemy lines in occupied Scandinavia - both in Norway and Sweden - as a spy and saboteur, famously blowing up a Nazi munitions train only miles from his own family home in Leksand, Dalarna. After a harrowing escape, recounted in his wartime memoir “Sweet is War”, he was put in charge of SOE's activities in Southern Italy, where he participated in the Anzio landings. In Scandinavia, Major Munthe had established a network of “Friends” which he called the "Red Horse", in imitation of the Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel. In Southern Italy, he took the mimicry further, dressing as a (large) old lady to smuggle a radio transmitter past Nazi lines and coordinate SOE activity in the occupied zone. Munthe was also instrumental in the rescue of liberal philosopher Benedetto Croce and his family, held captive in Sorrento, and their flight to Capri where his father Axel Munthe's house Villa San Michele provided shelter.

After the war, Major Munthe continued to work in the military, and became active in social projects (described in his book The Bunty Boys). In 1945, he married the Right Hon. Ann Felicity Rea (born 15 January 1923), whom he met through her father Philip Russell Rea, 2nd Baron Rea, who was personal staff officer to Brigadier Colin Gubbins (the Head of SOE), and later leader of the Liberal party in the British House of Lords. After an abortive attempt at a political career with the Conservative Party, Munthe re-directed his work towards maintaining the family homes in England, Sweden and Italy. He sold his father's remaining properties on Capri (the Villa Materita, inter alia), and bought the Castello di Lunghezza, a 108-room castle outside Rome. He opened Hildashol, the property Axel Munthe had built for his wife Hilda in northern Sweden, to the public, and did the same for Hellens and Southside House in England under the auspices of the Pennington-Mellor-Munthe Charity Trust, now (2007) chaired by his eldest son Adam John Munthe. Munthe dedicated his later years to running those properties, and writing, including a history of Hellens, Hellen's, Much Marcle, Herefordshire and the Special Forces Club.He died at Southside House in November 1995.

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“Malcolm Munthe's Sweet is War is a war memoir that reads like a novel. From a lovelorn London youth we follow Munthe through the banalities of boot camp to the British volunteer battalion sent to Finland to fight the Russians during the Winter War. Caught up in the fall of Norway, the wounded Munthe makes a heroic trek to the safety of neutral Sweden, preparation for his work as 'Red Horse', the ubiquitous director of resistance against the Nazis in Scandinavia. From the headquarters of covert operations in London, the young major moves out to North Africa to prepare the ground for the invasion of Sicily and the long hard struggle to liberate Italy.

Malcolm Munthe knew well the casual brutality of war, its monstrous waste and random cruelty. He passed through ordeals which tested his sense of humanity to the full. Yet he retained his delight in the irony, comedy, beauty and heroic bravery to be found in this world." This bitter-sweet memoir of the Second World War reads like a real life version of Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy. Mr Munthe, who had been a page in the Swedish court as a boy was one of those few survivors of the way of life of pre-1914 Europe,. His youthful war adventures are consistently farcical, yet take place amidst the horrors of war. The result is a gripping book, sure to appeal even to those who do not usually read war memoirs.
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Captain Hugo Henry Chandor - British Volunteer

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 Mar 2012 19:56

Captain Hugo Chandor, the intended supply and transport officer. Though he had fought in World War One and commanded a bombing school, as a leader Chandor appears to have been out of his depth – a “nice but very weak character”, as one early volunteer described him, and with “quite insufficient military experience or personality to train and organise volunteers”, in the estimation of another.

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Photo sourced from forum.axishistory.com
Captain Hugo Henry Chandor

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Photo sourced from forum.axishistory.com
Captain Hugo Henry Chandor, Atholl Highlanders stands to attention here while a senior Maavoimat Officer extends his hand to greet him.

Captain Chandor was a somewhat adventurous character, an old Etonian who had been a Cadet in the Eton College Cadet Contingent, served in WW1 and reached the rank of Colonel. At some stage prior to 1921, he had been a sheepfarmer in Argentina but had returned to the UK where he married Daphne Rachel Mulholland in 1921 (Daphne had divorced Esme Ivo Bligh, 9th Earl of Darnley in 1920). After Chandor married Daphne, he whisked her and her children from her first marriage away to live in a wooden house with an earth floor at Tres Barras, 600 miles into the interior of Brazil, where he built a sawmill. After five years they returned to England, Daphne having been poisoned by drinking water from the well, which had dead toads in it. They went back to Chandor’s ancestral home at Worlingham Hall, Worlingham, Beccles, Suffolk. After the Winter War, Chandor would return to the UK and farm, also serving as an Officer in the Suffolk Home Guard, for which he received the OBE in 1944 when the Home Guard was finally stood down.
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Brigadier-General Winter - was to have commanded the Volunte

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 Mar 2012 20:00

Initially, the mantel of leadership of the British Volunteers was to have fallen on Kermit Roosevelt, the son of President Roosevelt. By 14 October 1939, when Britain was at war with Germany, Roosevelt had negotiated a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment with the assistance of his friend, Winston Churchill, who was by then First Lord of the Admiralty. He had some military experience from WW1, but was by no means an experienced military man. He also suffered from a lifelong battle with depression and alcoholism and it was a bout with alcoholism at a crucial period that had put paid to his chance to lead the volunteers – one witness described him as “a sick man suffering from uncontrollable tremors”.

The next choice was the serendipitously named but elderly Brigadier-General Winter, who was to have commanded the “Base Depot”. Decided on as Roosevelt’s successor, he immediately fell severely ill. A capable soldier in his day (he had been cited three times in dispatches in WW1), he had at one time been British Intelligence Chief in Dublin but was now elderly and not in the best of health. “The sort of dud who ought never to have been employed …… on an expedition which required a youthful, tough and physically strong leader.”

Brigadier-General Sir Ormonde de l'Épée Winter (KBE CB CMG DSO) (1875–1962) was a British Army officer in the Royal Artillery and an author. After serving through World War I he was appointed as Chief of the British Army intelligence branch and deputy chief of police in Dublin where he was known as "O," and "the holy terror". Prior to his appointment as CIO he was an 'old' Colonel, but then found himself a “young” Brigadier-General. Draconian in outlook, he was reported to have precipitated the suicide of three of his juniors. He was appointed by the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill. Even given Winter's lack of experience in the espionage field, 'O' impressed at the time with his initial reorganisation of heavily centralised departments. Mark Sturgis wrote of the Dublin Castle regime; "O is a marvel - he looks like a wicked white snake and can do everything. He is an Artillery Colonel and commanded a Division of Artillery in France: in India they say he was tried for murder for a little escapade while doing secret service work. He started a race course near Calcutta and made a pot 'o money. He is as clever as paint, probably entirely non moral, a first class horseman, a card genius, knows several languages, is a super sleuth, and a most amazing original. When a soldier who knew him in India heard that he was coming to Ireland he said "God help Sinn Fein, they don't know what they are up against". (Sturgis papers).

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Photo sourced from: http://www.cairogang.com/other-people/b ... winter.jpg
Brigadier-General Winter resembled the comedy Colonel of the theatre, slight, dapper, and monocled.

If nothing else he was innovative, yet his detractors claimed him to be obsessed with cloak and dagger operations. Many members of his exotically named "Cairo Gang" (possibly named after their meeting place the Cairo Cafe or possibly due to many having served in the Middle East) met their end on Bloody Sunday in November 1920. Winter retired from the army in 1924. In the 1920s he joined the directorship of the burgeoning but badly managed British Fascisti, which held several massive rallies (12,000 at one) in the London Parks. Winter may have been an agent provocateur. The director was Brigadier General Robert Byron Drury Blakeney, ex Royal Engineers, who was in part responsible for the birth of the extremist Imperial Fascist League. Through mismanagement and scandal the BF faded into obscurity in the late 1920s and membership was swallowed up by other British fascist movements. In his book (“Winter’s Tale: An Autobiography, Richards Press, London, 1955) Winter makes virtually no mention of this period. After the financial demise of the BF, he apparently took no further part in Fascist politics.

In early 1940, at the age of 65, he offered his services to lead the British Volunteers to Finland to fight in the Winter War (although given his previous connections with British Intelligence, it seems more than likely that he was “volunteered” rather than volunteering). He was a master of five Russo-Slavic languages and was also a chain smoker. He married Marjorie Effie Bowes-Lyon on 3 August 1927, she was the daughter of Hon. Ernest Bowes-Lyon and Isobel Hester Drummond. In retirement, Winter lived in Worthing, Sussex, England. His obituary read that he neither feared God nor man, (Times Obits) and he boasted of having been cleared of manslaughter in his student youth, in an incident when a man was struck on a river with a rowing oar whilst attacking Winter.

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News report on Captain Winter’s manslaughter case

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Obit.: Brigadier-General Sir Ormonde de l'Épée Winter (KBE CB CMG DSO) (1875–1962)
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by Tero T » 30 Mar 2012 20:54

Superb research CanKiwi2. I was wondering if you had any information on three pilots that left Canada to fight in Finland. I met a gentleman in Branford Ontario named Erik Munsterhjelm who was a nephew of a famous Finnish artist. He was a geologist and author in Canada and went to fight in Finland(osasto Sunblod) . He met two Canadian bush pilots on the ship taking him to Europe named McMaster and Walter . I know a little about McMaster as I believe he did get to fly the Brewster Bufffalos in training flights near the end of the war. I know very little of Walter and a third pilot named Taylor,or where in Canada they originated. If you have any information on these gentlemen it would be interesting to know.
There was an erroneous piece of history I came across in a book on the Canadian Airforce. In a book called " The Royal Canadian Air Force at War: 1939-1945 " by Larry Milberry a noted Canadian Aviation author there is a story of a Canadian pilot named D'ostroph. He washed out of training in the Canadian airforce but made statements that he went to Finland to fly and shot down 5 enemy aircraft. I guess at the time people would believe him as there was very little chance someone could verify the truth.
Keep up the good work guys!! Tero T in Toronto

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 Mar 2012 21:56

Hi Tero,

Don't have anything much on Canadians yet. Will be turning my hand to them after I finished with the Brits. Still have quite a bit to go before I finish. Will be posting the genuine information I dig up here and then fictionalising it a bit over in my "What If". Also, I will be trying not to repeat anything that's already posted.....

Cheers...........Nigel
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Harold Gibson - Director of the Finnish Aid Bureau in London

Post by CanKiwi2 » 01 Apr 2012 13:10

Harold Gibson receives a brief mention in a number of books on the Winter War as the Director of the Finnish Aid Bureau, where he is generally referred to as an obscure Civil Servant or as an “employee” of the Cabinet Secretariat.

In an article by one Elizabeth Roberts entitled “The Spanish Precedent: British Volunteers in the Russo-Finnish Winter War” the author comments “The League resolution also seems to have resonated with an employee of the Cabinet Secretariat called Harold Gibson – though whether it prompted his conscience or his ambition is an open question. This enigmatic figure – who had somewhat fantastically worked for the International Board for Non-Intervention during the Spanish Civil War – now lobbied for the creation of a British volunteer contingent to intervene in Finland, suggesting it to Halifax at about the same time it was first raised in Cabinet. Gibson was soon to play the leading role in the Finnish expedition.” When the Finnish Aid Bureau was setup and held its first meeting. Harold Gibson was appointed the Director, and he and fourteen other men comprised the management committee. This management committee included Conservative MP and staunch anti-communist Leo Amery as well as the Finnish Ambassador, Gripenberg, together with a series of aristocratic patrons, including Lord Davies and Lord Phillimore (the erstwhile head of the Finnish Fund) and the Conservative MP and future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

In theory the Finnish Aid Bureau existed both to raise money and to recruit men to fight for Finland, and in accordance with the government’s stipulations this work was to be done without visible connivance. In practice, the Bureau was more or less a front organisation for the British Government and for MI6 (British Intelligence) in particular.

The Director of the Finnish Aid Bureau, Harold Gibson, rather than being an “employee of the Cabinet Secretariat”, was actually a long-time and quite senior member of the British Security Intelligence Service (SIS – otherwise known as MI6) and was responsible for running a network of undercover British agents working inside the Soviet Union both in the inter-war years and during and after WW2. Once his cover was blow by a disgruntled Russian operative in 1945, Gibson was under close surveillance by Soviet intelligence until his death in 1960. In the inter-war years and during WW2, Gibson was also heavily involved in British dealings with the Zionist movement. Harold Gibson was born in either 1885 or 1887 (sources differ) and was Head of Station for the SIS in Constantinople from 1919-21 (military rank of Major), Head of Station in Bucharest (1922-30), Head of Station in Riga (1930-33), Head of Station in Prague (1933-40: he was still there when the Germans marched in on 15 March 1939. Gibson and his staff decamped to London on 30 March 1939), Head of Station in Istanbul from 1941 through WW2, Head of Station in Prague (1945-48), Head of Station in Berlin (1949-50) and finally Head of Station in Rome from 1955. In other words, from 1919 on he was a fairly senior officer with the British Security Intelligence Service and intimately involved with both the USSR and the Zionists.

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Photo sourced from: http://www.specialforcesroh.com/gallery ... e11214.jpg
Harold Charles Lehr Gibson (1885/87-1960): Gibson was a senior member of the SIS and was Head of Station in various eastern european countries from 1919 on. On 12.6.1947, Harold Gibson, "attached to a department of the Foreign Office", is gazetted a Companion of the Order of the St Michael and St George. He was awarded the US Legion of Merit – this was gazetted in The London Gazette of 23.7.1948, when he was listed as a temporary Major, Army N° 115076. His first wife was one Rachel Kalmanoviecz (died 1947), after which he married Ekaterina Alfimov. His younger brother Archibald, a journalist with “The Times”, was Head of Station in Bucharest towards the end of WW2. Gibson retired in 1958 as a Major, albeit an Acting Major and was found shot dead on 24 August 1960 at 25 Via Antonio Bosio, Rome. The official reason was suicide due to "money problems".

Archibald Gibson was “The Times” correspondent in Rumania from 1928 until 1940. After a further six years in South Eastern Europe and the Middle East as a journalist, he settled in London and drafted a book about Rumania over the years 1935 to 1945, based partly on his dispatches for “The Times”. Archibald McEvoy Gibson was born in Moscow on 3 March 1904 if Anglo-American parentage. His mother, Dagmar Gibson nee Lehers, was an American by borth: his father, Charles John Gibson Jnr, was assistant manager of the Moscow Depot of the Nevsky Stearin soap and candle company, founded by Archie’s great-grandfather James. The Gibson’s were forced by the revolution in Russia to leave the country and in late October 1917 the fanily reached Britain and settled in Surbiton. Both Harold and Archie were fluent speakers of Russian and cultivated the friendship of Russian refugees, who provided information about events in the Soviet Union.

As SIS Station Chief in Prague, Harold Gibson was involved with the Enigma machine. MI6 knew very little about this German cipher machine “…until Major Harold Lehr Gibson, the MI-6 resident at Prague, reported that the Polish secret intelligence service, which worked with MI-6 against the Russians and the Germans, was also interested in Enigma. Department BS4, the cryptographic section of the Polish General Staff, had legally acquired the commercial version of Enigma; and Polish cryptanalysts had managed to resolve some of the mathematical problems involved in deciphering its transmissions. But the Polish penetration of Enigma was not mechanical; and they had experimented only with the commercial model, which, it could be assumed, the Germans had modified and refined for the Wehrmacht's use.” In June of 1938, Gibson in Prague reported that he had just returned from Warsaw where, through the Polish intelligence service, he had encountered a Polish Jew who had offered to sell MI-6 his knowledge of Enigma. The Pole, Richard Lewinski (not his real name), had worked as a mathematician and engineer at the factory in Berlin where Enigma was produced. But he had been expelled from Germany because of his religion. At the interview with Gibson, Lewinski announced his price: 10,000 Pounds, a British passport, and a resident's permit for France for himself and his wife. Lewinski claimed he knew enough about Enigma to build a replica, and to draw diagrams of the heart of the machine -- the complicated wiring system in each of its rotors.

MI6 decided to send two experts to Warsaw to interview Lewinski in person. One was Alfred Dilwyn Knox, England's leading cryptanalyst. [The other] was Alan Mathison Turing, a young man with a reputation as an outstanding mathematical logician. Briefing the men on their mission, Menzies said their task was to go to Warsaw, interview Lewinski and report upon his knowledge. If they were satisfied that it was genuine, they were to arrange with Gibson to take the Pole and his wife to Paris and place him in the charge of Commander Wilfred Dunderdale, the MI-6 resident there, known to the service as "2400." Then, under their supervision, Lewinski was to re-create the Enigma machine. [T]he two men who journeyed to Warsaw to discover how much Richard Lewinski knew about Enigma and after it was clear that Lewinski's knowledge of these questions was considerable they recommended that his bargain be accepted. The necessary arrangements were made, and Lewinski and his wife were taken by Major Gibson and two other men to Paris, traveling on British diplomatic laissez-passez through Gdynia and Stockholm to avoid Germany.

Gibson was also instrumental in whisking the Czechoslovakian Intelligence Service out of Czechoslovakia on the eve of WW2. The background to this operation goes back to 1938 when the British Prime Minister came back from the Munich Conference with an agreement from Adolf Hitler that in return for being given the Sudetenland borderlands of Czechoslovakia, he had made his last territorial claim in Europe, and would respect the independence of Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovak President, Dr Edvard Beneš, was not invited to the conference and resigned after being forced to acquiesce to the loss of territory. Six months later Hitler disregarded his promises, supported the establishment of a fascist regime in Slovakia, and invaded the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. On the eve of invasion, in March 1939, the Czechoslovak intelligence services were whisked from Prague and settled in Rosendale Road, West Dulwich, where they set up the first military radio station in England, which initially established contact with the home resistance. Gibson was the organiser of this move.

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Photo sourced from: http://www.indiannet.eu/home_resistance ... tky/06.jpg
President Beneš meeting with British Intelligence officers. Seated to the left of Eduard Beneš are Harold Gibson, a British SIS officer, Emil Strankmüller and František Moravec.

During the Second World War the Czechoslovak military intelligence services ran independent radio stations from England. At the time they were secret, and today there is practically nothing left of them, and there are very few people left who know anything about them. People can be forgiven for not knowing that they were ever there, but they played an important role in supplying intelligence information to the Allies, and in maintaining contact with the Czechoslovak resistance. Each station was called in Czech “Vojenská Radiová ústředna” (military radio centre) known by its initial letters as the VRÚ.

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Photo sourced from: http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_09_20 ... 188806.jpg
Czechoslovak military intelligence staff group: Left to right: Col Frantisek Moravec, Captain Jaroslav Tauer, Major Harold Gibson, Captain Alois Caslavka, President Benes, Prokop Drtina, Jaromir Smutny (Gibson is third from the left - Photograph courtesy of the family of Jaroslav Bublik)

Post WW2, Gibson is also remembered for what would become known as the Bogomolets Affair. Viktor Bogomolets was Russian who came from an aristocratic Russian family. He had fought against the communists during Russia's 1917 civil war. Col. Harold Gibson met Bogomolets in Istanbul in 1920 and immediately hired him to work for MI6. The two men roamed around Europe, with Bogomolets swiftly assembling his own network of Russian agents inside the Soviet Communist party. Bogomolets stopped working for MI6 in 1934 when Soviet agents tried to lure him back to Moscow. The agents sent meticulous reports home about Bogomolets' lavish lifestyle and his Romanian wife's penchant for expensive haircuts and perfumes. He resumed his spying activities again in 1944, first in Portugal and then Cairo. In 1945, after more than three decades spying for British intelligence, Bogomolets, was curtly informed that he had been stripped of his British citizenship. At this point Bogomolets decided to betray his British masters and he then became one of Moscow's most accomplished double agents. He passed crucial information back to Moscow about British intelligence at the height of the Cold war. Bogomolets' reports were circulated among the top echelons of the Soviet Union's leadership - and were even read by Stalin himself. He betrayed the man who had recruited him to MI6 in the first place, Harold Gibson. Bogomolets then disappears from view as far as the records are concerned. He is believed to have died in Paris.

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Photo sourced from: http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_09_20 ... 081295.jpg
Identity bracelet dating from approximately 1941 when Harold Gibson was SIS Chief of Station in Istanbul. There is no record of Gibson having been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel or Colonel and when he retired, his rank was listed as Major. However, the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel may well have been an acting rank during WW2, after which he returned to his substansive rank – pure conjecture of course.

What we do know is that in late 1939 Harold Gibson, ostensibly a Civil Servant but in reality a senior member of MI6, was soon to play a leading role in the Finnish expedition. He would go on to recruit one or two other ex-Intelligence officers for the Volunteers (notably General Winter).
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 05 Apr 2012 13:41

Tero T wrote:Superb research CanKiwi2. I was wondering if you had any information on three pilots that left Canada to fight in Finland. I met a gentleman in Branford Ontario named Erik Munsterhjelm who was a nephew of a famous Finnish artist. He was a geologist and author in Canada and went to fight in Finland(osasto Sunblod) . He met two Canadian bush pilots on the ship taking him to Europe named McMaster and Walter . I know a little about McMaster as I believe he did get to fly the Brewster Bufffalos in training flights near the end of the war. I know very little of Walter and a third pilot named Taylor,or where in Canada they originated. If you have any information on these gentlemen it would be interesting to know.
There was an erroneous piece of history I came across in a book on the Canadian Airforce. In a book called " The Royal Canadian Air Force at War: 1939-1945 " by Larry Milberry a noted Canadian Aviation author there is a story of a Canadian pilot named D'ostroph. He washed out of training in the Canadian airforce but made statements that he went to Finland to fly and shot down 5 enemy aircraft. I guess at the time people would believe him as there was very little chance someone could verify the truth.
Keep up the good work guys!! Tero T in Toronto
Little bit extra. I know Capt. Edward Waller has been mentioned as a Canadian pilot who was assigned to T-LentoR 4, LLv.42.

His full name was Edward Bloomfield Waller and he was an experienced Bush Pilot with thousands of hours flying time in Northern Ontario. Waller had been granted an Aviators Certificate (#2089) on Nov 9th 1925 in a Curtiss Biplance at the Curtiss School, Toronto as part of what I believe was a Canadian program to train pilots for the RFC in WW1. After WW1 I have found a mention of him as flying for the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, logging 1,538 hours in a Hamilton Metalplane CF-OAJ. He is mentioned also in a list of personnel of 16 Squadron RFC Feb-May 1916 (it's a little known fact that about one third of all RFC pilots in WW1 were actually Canadians....). Given that most RFC pilots only lasted on average about 3 weeks, the fact that he survived thru WW1 probably meant he was a pretty good flyer for the time, however by early 1940 he must have been in his late thirties at the youngest.


Also found this titbit:

Andrew Croft, a noted Polar Explorer, had been sent with Malcolm Munthe to liaise with the Finnish army and co-ordinate the supply of British equipment. He was based in the Norwegian port of Bergen for most of the time, arranging the onward shipment of munitions by rail to Finland:

Britain’s supplies to Finland in weapons and war material included one hundred and forty-four aircraft, of which twenty-four were bombers; some Lysanders which could land on a flat area about forty yards long, as well as aircraft such as the Gloucester Gladiator to which skis could easily be attached. There was a large quantity of hand-grenades, anti-tank rifles and machine-guns, as well as a considerable number of howitzers and field guns. Altogether ten ships, most of them Finnish, passed through my hands in Bergen; there may have been additional ships when I was recalled to England for a month. The very large number of rifles which we supplied were all of .303 calibre, equivalent to 7-7 mm. The German calibre of rifle which the Finns had adopted was 7-6 mm. The Finns filed down much of our ammunition to fit their own rifles; many of them were specialists in squirrel shooting and during the war they shot to kill as usual. They were also expert In forest warfare and in due course were to train the Germans, but without the success expected since the Germans were never attuned to such an individual role.

See Andrew Croft: A Talent for Adventure
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Colonel Noel Andrew Cotton Croft DSO OBE (30 November 1906 — 26 June 1998), was a member of the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War, with operations in Norway and Corsica, as well as Military attaché to Sweden, an explorer, holding the longest self-sustaining journey in the Guinness Book of Records for more than 60 years (across Greenland), and Commandant of the Cadet Corps of the Metropolitan Police Service. He also stepped down with his leader, Eric Shipton, from the 1953 Everest Expedition which summitted the mountain that year. He was a recipient of the Polar Medal.

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Last edited by CanKiwi2 on 05 Apr 2012 20:56, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by Tero T » 05 Apr 2012 16:11

Thanks Nigel! We still need to go out for a coffee and discuss history a bit more. Have a good easter to everyone!
Best Regards Tero T

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 05 Apr 2012 21:05

Tero T wrote:Thanks Nigel! We still need to go out for a coffee and discuss history a bit more. Have a good easter to everyone!
Best Regards Tero T
Yo, we gotta do that coffee soon :D

Cheers............Nigel
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 05 Apr 2012 21:22

Now this is a bit out of context for this thread but nevertheless interesting. Wonder if any of you have ever come across this piece of Finnish history before. I strayed into this as I was researching links between south africa and Finland for my What If - I was looking for some jutsifification for some Boer volunteers coming to assist Finland in the Winter War and I think I found a bit more than I bargained for. Anyhow, slightly off topic but fascinating indeed......

Magersfontein & Boer Foreign Volunteers - The Battle of Magersfontein, 11 December 1899

The Battle of Magersfontein was the second of the three battles included in the Black Week of the Second Boer War. It was fought on 11 December 1899 at Magersfontein near Kimberley on the borders of the Cape Colony and the independent republic of the Orange Free State. General Piet Cronje and General De la Rey's Boer troops defeated the British troops under Lieutenant General Lord Methuen, who had been sent to relieve the Siege of Kimberley.

Although there was a lot of sympathy for the Boer cause outside of the Commonwealth, there was little overt government support as few countries were willing to upset Britain, in fact no other government actively supported the Boer cause. There were, however, individuals from several countries who volunteered and formed Foreign Volunteer Units. These volunteers primarily came from Europe, particularly Germany, Ireland, France, Holland and Poland.

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photo sourced from: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_M53mijjnb3w/T ... inavia.jpg
Boer War volunteers from Finland & Scandinavia

In the early stages of the war the majority of the foreign volunteers were obliged to join a Boer commando. Later they formed their own foreign legions with a high degree of independence, including the: Scandinavian Corps, Italian Legion, two Irish Brigades, German Corps, Dutch Corps, Legion of France, American Scouts and Russian Scouts. While the vast majority of people involved from British Empire countries fought with the British Army, a few Australians fought on the Boer side. The most famous of these was Colonel Arthur Lynch, formerly of Ballarat, who raised the Second Irish Brigade. Lynch, charged with treason was sentenced to death, by the British, for his service with the Boers. After mass petitioning and intervention by King Edward VII he was released a year later and pardoned in 1907. However the free rein given to the foreign legions was eventually curtailed after Villebois-Mareuil and his small band of Frenchmen met with disaster at Boshof, and thereafter all the foreigners were placed under the direct command of General De la Rey.

After the war, a special Scandinavian monument was constructed on the battlefield. The monument consisted of four cornerstones, representing the four Nordic countries, each decorated with the Scandinavian valkyrie and national symbols of each country. The verse is from Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s March of the Pori Regiment, these days the ofificial Finnish presidential march: “On valiant men the faces of their fathers smile.”
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And this from: http://noelmaurer.typepad.com/aab/2009/ ... -11th.html
Eighty-five years and one-day ago, on December 11th, 1924, the Republic of Finland celebrated a very special anniversary. The state and the military establishment hosted it at the Officers’ Casino Building in the Katajanokka neighborhood of Helsinki. The celebration commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Magersfontein, part of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.

The conservative newspaper Uusi Suomi (New Finland) advertised the event on its front page, and the periodicals of the Finnish Civil Guard published articles on the conflict between the Boer republics and the British Empire. The celebration opened with the the Finnish Naval Orchestra’s performance of “Kent gij dat volk,” the South African anthem. Among the guests of honor were Lauri Malmberg, the minister of defense, and Per Zilliacus, the chief of staff of the Civil Guard. The Finnish Civil Guard also sent a wreath tied with blue-white ribbons to South Africa, where it was laid at the monument on the battlefield of Magersfontein.

Why did independent Finland celebrate a battle fought in a British colonial conflict in South Africa? Simple: Finnish volunteers had fought in the battle as soldiers of the Scandinavian Corps of the Boer forces. The Scandinavian Corps was founded in Pretoria on September 23rd, 1899, supposedly as a testimony of loyalty felt by the Scandinavian immigrants towards the South African Republic. It included 118 men; 48 Swedes, 24 Danes, 19 Finns, 13 Norwegians and 14 other miscellaneous nationalities, mainly Germans and Dutch. In addition, three Swedish women served as nurses in a separate ambulance unit. The Scandinavians fought in the siege of Mafeking and the battles of Magersfontein and Paardeberg; of these, Magersfontein was the most significant.

After the war, a special Scandinavian monument was constructed on the battlefield. The monument consisted of four cornerstones, representing the four Nordic countries, each decorated with the Scandinavian valkyrie and national symbols of each country. The verse is from Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s March of the Pori Regiment, these days the ofificial Finnish presidential march: “On valiant men the faces of their fathers smile.”

The names of the fallen soldiers are engraved on the shield. Emil Mattsson died in Magersfontein; he’s buried in the field. The British captured Henrik Hägglöf, who died from his wounds at an infirmary near the Orange River. Johan Jakob Johansson — whose name is mistakenly written “Jakobsson” — died at the prison camp on St. Helena and is buried in grave number 18 at the Knollcombe cemetery. The name of Matts Laggnäs, another Finnish volunteer who died in captivity on St. Helena, is missing.

My very first peer-reviewed academic article concerned this very topic, and it was published in the Finnish Journal of History a few years ago. Afterwards, I was delighted to note that an Afrikaner fluent in Finnish had read my article and discussed it in his own blog. Reading my own text translated in Afrikaans was an interesting experience. The term “Boer War” was translated as Tweede Vryheidsoorlog, the “Second War for Freedom.” The official term in the Afrikaner historiography for the wars against the British Empire in 1880-1881 and 1899-1901 were the First and Second War for Freedom, and the terms seem to still be in use. Non-Afrikaner South Africans do not seem to use the phrase, understandably enough.

The history leaves us with three obvious questions. What significance does the Anglo-Boer War have today, eleven decades after the war broke out? What is the significance of the Finnish Republic’s 1924 commemoration of its citizens’ participation in that war? And what are we to make of the fact that an event considered highly significant in 1924 has been almost forgotten in 2009?

The first one is the impact of migration on war, both civil and interstate. Those Finns who volunteered to fight in the Boer forces were, of course, immigrants, people who had come to the gold fields of Witwatersrand in search of wealth and a better life. Some had arrived directly from Finland, others came via United States. The uptick in immigration to the Transvaal had been one of the proximate causes of the war, and the British guest-workers and settlers — the so-called “uitlanders” — formed a fifth column through which the British Empire sought to strengthen its grip over the Boer republic.

As a military strategy, the British attempt to control the Transvaal via migration failed utterly. After the outbreak of the war, most of the British immigrants were either deported or decided to leave on their own, rather than fight the Boer governments. Worse yet (from London’s perspective) but the non-British immigrants — Germans, Dutch, Italians, Irish, Russians, and obviously Scandinavians, including Finns — decided to stay and support the Boer war effort.

On the other hand, as a pretext to subvert the South African republics and bring them under the ambit of the British Empire, the ploy succeeded brilliantly. Britain could claim that it went to war to “protect the rights of her citizens,” a classic measure used also by the United States (unsuccessfully) against Canada in 1812 and (rather more successfully) Mexico in 1848. The strategem is by no means dead today: as we all know, Russia has recently started to insist that it has the legal right to use military force to “protect her citizens also abroad,” a doctrine demonstrated in the South Ossetian war a year ago.

This brings up another factor: the behavior of the great powers, which appears little different today from what it was back in 1899-1902. The Boer War triggered an international anti-war movement, not all that different from the movement that emerged after the American invasion of Iraq. Many labelled the invasion of Iraq an “oil war;” likewise, British actions in South Africa were considered by many to have been motivated by the region’s extensive deposits of gold. And as in Iraq, a quick invasion and occupation was followed by a long and bitter guerrilla war. The outcry over Abu Ghraib was a feint echo of the howls generated by the British concentration camps; and as noted, the British had their own Guantánamo in the island prisons of Ceylon and St. Helena, the latter of which housed Finnish prisoners for nineteen long months.

The third factor is the position of the small nations. The Boer resistance against the British Empire set an example for national movements of the time. Both Sun Yat-Sen and Arthur Griffith paid special attention to the Boer struggle. This explains the Finnish fascination with the Boers. At the time of the war, the Grand-Duchy of Finland had become a target of Russian imperial reaction. The February Manifesto of 1899 began a Russian attempt to abrogate Finnish autonomous institutions and integrate it into the Russian Empire. The Boer resistance to Britain aroused sympathy in beleaguered Finland, and the participation of the Finnish volunteers in the battle on the Boer side became as a source of pride. Arvid Neovius, one of the organizers of the underground opposition to Russia, wrote an article where he spoke of the “intellectual guerrilla warfare” and argued for modelling Finnish passive resistance to Russia on Boer hit-and-run-tactics. The South African national anthem became a popular protest song that eventually found its way into Finnish schoolbooks. Finnish participation in another country’s war of national liberation was very much alive in 1924, only seven years after independence, and long before recognition of the sins of apartheid clouded the European view of the Afrikaner “liberation struggle.”

Author Antero Manninen later described the view of the Boer War with the following words: “Over forty years ago, as the 19th century was drawing to a close, two small nations became targets of unjustified pressure and attack by their greater and more powerful neighbors. One of these was our own nation, whose special political status was singled out for elimination in the so-called February Manifesto; the other one were the Boers, living on the other side of the globe. This common experience between our nations was the reason why the people of Finland, like the entire civilized world, followed the Boers and their struggle for independence with special sympathy, and rejoiced for the successes they gained in the early stages of the war.”

The situation was paradoxical, because Russian popular opinion in 1899-1902 was also very sympathetic towards the Boers. Consequently, the Russian press could write with official state endorsement articles espousing a pro-Boer and anti-British postion ... while at the same time, the Governor-General would censor similar articles in Finnish newspapers.

The foreign volunteers who fought with the Boer forces — John MacBride perhaps as the most famous example — utilized their talents in later conflicts in their own homelands. The “flying columns” invented by Boer commandos became a standard tactic in the Irish Republican Army, and the terrorists of our own times have inherited these same practices. In Finland, the Boers were an example to both the Civil Guards, which formed the White forces in the Civil War of 1918, and their Red Guard opponents. Lennart Lindgren, the commander of the Oulu Red Guard in 1918, was a veteran of the Boer War, and even Väinö Linna’s Under the North Star — something of a modern national epic in Finland, recently made into a movie for the second time — includes a reference to Finnish Red guardsmen “reminiscing the stories about the Boers, which they had heard from their parents as small boys.”

There is a further irony in the fact that most of the Finns who \left for South Africa were Swedish-speaking, from coastal Ostrobothnia. This was an era of a bitter language strife in Finland, when the rural Swedish population sought to present itself as a separate ethnicity of “Finland Swedes.” Nevertheless, the immigrants to South Africa identified closely with their former homeland, and set up a separate Finnish platoon rather than merging with the Swedish nationals who made up the majority of the Scandinavian Corps. Of the eighteen men who served in the Finnish platoon, only three spoke Finnish as their first language, but it appears that all of them regarded themselves as Finns. Matts Gustafsson, one of the volunteers who wrote poems, later noted, “Och wi voro finnar hwarendaste man,” which translates to, “And we were Finns, every single man.”

Incidentally, language relations in Finland have recently become somewhat strained again.

Immigration, great power politics, questions of natural resources, relations with Russia, and even minority relations are themes which are, of course, very relevant today. But the 25th Finnish anniversary of the Battle of Magersfontein was the first and the last of its kind. These days, no one in Finland remembers the importance that the South African war once had, and one would have to be either very well-versed in history or extremely nostalgic to remember the Finnish participation in the conflict. No one in Finland is going to light a candle today and recite the words “De God onzer voorvaden heeft ons heden een schitterende overwinning gegeven,” and few remember how the clash between a few amateur Finnish riflemen and elite Scottish soldiers gained national symbolic importance for a very brief moment. The significance of that forgetting is left as an exercise for another time, and a question for our readers.


Noel's handy map tells us that we have a South African reader. Welcome!

Bernard, the question of why the participation of the Finnish volunteers in the South African War was eventually so completely forgotten is difficult to answer. I can just as well mention some of the data points here, because I can't really explain it any better even if I wrote a detailed analysis.

During the inter-war era, the memory of the war was invoked in Finland on many occasions. As I mentioned, Kent gij dat volk was translated in Finnish and included in elementary school songbooks. The festivities of 1924 were followed by a Scandinavian shooting contest named "Memory of Magersfontein" in Helsinki in the summer of 1925. I have an encyclopedia from 1938 which contains a page-length article on the Finnish volunteers in South Africa, as a prologue to the history of the Finnish independence struggle. It was definitely considered as an important historical event.

Sometimes, the memory of the Boer War was even used in Finnish political rhetoric. Perhaps the most famous example is Juho Kusti Paasikivi, who was the chairman of the conservative National Coalition party in the 1930s, and became the President of the Republic after the war. At the height of the extreme right-wing reaction and the activities of the Lapua movement, Paasikivi sought to actively distance the right-wing conservatives from the extremist elements and established himself as the right-wing champion of parliamentary democracy. On June 21st 1936, he traveled to the town of Lapua in Ostrobothnia, to the very cradle of the right-wing extremism, and he held a speech titled "Freedom", defending parliamentary democracy and civil liberties, urging the locals to abandon the extreme right-wing radicalism.

As a historical example to be followed, he invoked the memory of South Africa, and made a reference to a speech where Jan Smuts had also defended parliamentary form of government:

"As I was thinking my presentation, I re-read one speech, held two years ago by a freedom fighter who, even though he lives and operates far away from our country, is a Western man by his opinions and character - the leading general and statesman of the Boer nation in South Africa, his name is Jan Smuts. As we all know, those Boer farmers, who served their God and fought for their freedom far away in the southern lands, share the same mentality with the people of Ostrobothnia..."

The Union of South Africa, a model that was invoked by the inter-war Finnish champions of democracy. It's one of those sublime historical ironies, involving two nations on separate hemispheres.

As for why it was forgotten, I honestly don't know. My best guess is that with the two wars against the USSR in 1939-1940 and 1941-1944, the Finnish involvement in this distant colonial conflict simply lost its actuality and relevance. I don't think there were any deliberate "memory politics" involved, even though it's not impossible that the apartheid may have also had something to do with it. The young people who lived in the inter-war era sang the Finnish translation of Kent gij dat volk in schools. In contrast, my generation was singing the Finnish translation of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, which also became hymn number 501 in the choral book of the Finnish Lutheran Church.

I still remember memorizing it as a child. I'm not a member of the Church anymore, but it's still a good song.

And, as I said, there are several other reasons why the South African War should be remembered, still today. The times that we're living have many, many similarities to the Age of Imperialism, in good and in bad.

Tzin, the Finnish press did express also some criticism towards the Boers. The one newspaper which stood out was the venerable conservative-fennoman Uusi Suometar (approx. "New Finlandia", Suometar translates as the feminine embodiment of Finland), at the time the leading national newspaper with the widest circulation.

Already during the autumn of 1899, Uusi Suometar adopted a critical tone towards president Krüger's confrontational policy, and criticized the government of Transvaal for a lack of realism. As far as I know, they were also the only newspaper which criticized the Boer actions towards the native African peoples in any way. The newspaper also expressed understanding for the British interests, attempted to portray the war in a "fair and balanced" fashion, and expressed a hope that Britain would be willing to grant tolerable peace terms to the Boer republics.

This position was essentially a reflection of those same arguments which the newspaper had advanced in the question of the Finnish autonomy and relations with Russia. As conservatives, they advocated Finnish acquiescence and compliance towards the Russian imperial interests, in order to avoid excessive imperial reaction; and at the same time, they were also reluctant to criticize Britain, because they considered the British goodwill and sympathy important in the international campaign for the Finnish autonomy.

(For details on the internation campaign on behalf of Finland, you may check the address Pro Finlandia. Signed by Florence Nightingale, Émile Zola and Anatole France. The year 1899 was an important year for many small nations, and Finland was a small cause célèbre for European intellectuals for a short while.)

Uusi Suometar was the largest newspaper, but it was probably an exception in its moderate approach to the conflict. Other Finnish newspapers were more openly pro-Boer. The constitutional Päivälehti ("Daily Newspaper", direct predecessor of today's Helsingin Sanomat, "Helsinki News") was very pro-Boer, although they also remembered to mention how Britain should be considered as the "supporter and guardian of Finland in Europe". Not surprisingly, the newspaper was also the favourite target of the Russian censorship. The socialist Työmies ("Worker"), which was censored by the Russian and Finnish authorities, was overtly pro-Boer, and regarded the conflict as an imperialist war initiated by the British capitalists.

Swedish-language Finnish newspapers were in the class of their own, because they were the only ones which mentioned the race factor openly. Nya Pressen, which advocated constitutional resistance towards Russia, condemned the British actions in South Africa precisely because of their nature as actions against another white nation. The newspaper made it specifically clear that they wholeheartedly approved colonial rule over "inferior" people, but the Boers were "representatives of the European culture". This was a clear reflection of the newspaper's own view of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland as the "bulwark of Scandinavian civilization" against the Russian influence.

The other Scandinavian newspapers were equally divided in their opinions. The conservative Svenska Dagbladet was pro-British, but the liberal and social democratic Swedish newspapers were pro-Boer. The Norwegian Aftonbladet and Verdens Gang were pro-Boer, but also tried to avoid excessive criticism of Britain. The Norwegian reasons for this moderation were a bit similar to the Finnish motives; they were reluctant to jeopardize British support for Norway at the time when the termination of the personal union with Sweden was becoming topical.

So, the Finnish newspapers were more or less part of the Scandinavian mainstream in their opinions and in their differences of opinion. The Russian opinion, however, was adamantly and absolutely pro-Boer and anti-British all across the political spectrum, from Tolstoy to Lenin.

As the war continued, even Uusi Suometar gradually adopted a more pro-Boer stance. The decisive thrust was given by the British actions at the end of the war, the scorched-earth tactics and the concentration camps, which aroused absolute horror even in Finland. The reason was simple. The British Empire was regarded as a liberal, responsible and humane great power, and if they could resort to such methods, what was going to prevent the other, more callous great powers from taking equally harsh actions on other small nations? Because of the censorship, the Finnish newspapers could not openly mention that the British actions had ignited their fear of Russia, but the message was clear from between the lines.

Once again, this is something which has importance still today. These days, the United States is in the same position, and enjoys more or less the same international standing which the British Empire had a century ago. And for the same reason, when the United States acts in breach of international justice, or when the American military forces commit atrocities, the response is exactly similar. The reason behind it "If the Americans can do this, what's going to prevent the others?"
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by Juha Tompuri » 07 Apr 2012 12:51

Thank You Nigel very much.

Intersting reading, and a lot of new, at least to me.

Regards, Juha

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