British Troops In Finland 1940

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by chris25 » 19 Apr 2012 10:20

Re Harold Gibson
Sorry i dont want to take this of topic ? im very interested in Harold Gibsons work in Istanbul as he worked with my grandfather Arthur Whittall sis and also with my Gt Uncle Wilfred Dunderdale. Im interested in the connections between them all and Grandfathers work in Turkey.
Chris

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 19 Apr 2012 14:42

chris25 wrote:Re Harold Gibson
Sorry i dont want to take this of topic ? im very interested in Harold Gibsons work in Istanbul as he worked with my grandfather Arthur Whittall sis and also with my Gt Uncle Wilfred Dunderdale. Im interested in the connections between them all and Grandfathers work in Turkey.
Chris
"The Secret History of MI6" has a lot of info that may be relevant, I'll dig it out and have a quick read to see if I can find anything for you. With a Great Uncle like Wilfred Dunderdale and a grandfather like Arthur Whittall you certainly have some interesting relatives!
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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Re: Lieutenant Sir Graeme Duncan Power Sinclair-Lockhart

Post by remuera » 26 Apr 2012 10:14

Dear CanKiwi2,

My wife Angela Grace-Jones is a niece of Sir Graeme, and your post below on his life is most illuminating. Much of the detail you include was not known to us. Are you also a relative of Sir Graeme?

Remuera
Auckland, New Zealand
CanKiwi2 wrote:Lieutenant Sir Graeme Duncan Power Sinclair-Lockhart, British Volunteer

Sir Graeme Duncan Power Sinclair-Lockhart (b. 29 Jan 1897 in New Zealand – deceased 15 Feb 1959) was the 12th Baronet of Stevenson (County Haddington, Nova Scotia, Canada), a title that dates back to 18 June 1636and was awarded by King James I of England. Sir Graeme was the son of Sir Robert Duncan Sinclair-Lockhart (b.1859-d.1918), the 11th Baronet and Flora Louisa Jane Beresford Power. Sir Graeme was educated at Wanganui Collegiate New Zealand (1911-1915) and was working on a sheep station on the East Coast of New Zealand on the outbreak of WW1. He enlisted in 1916 in the New Zealand Mounted Rifles as a Trooper #31096. His occupation is listed as Shepherd and he embarked from New Zealand on 5 December 1916 as part of the 20th Reinforcements (First Section), NZMR, leaving Wellington on HMNZT70, the “Waihora” for Suez and joining up with the 11th Squadron of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. He was invalided after the Gaza Battle and an artiucle about him mentions “he again associated himself with station interests” – one surmises that this was in New Zealand.

Sir Graeme’s father, Sir Robert Duncan Sinclair-Lockhart, the 11th Baronet and who was associated with the banking business in New Zealand, died suddenly in 1918 during the time of the influenza outbreak. His obituary from 14 November 1918 states “Died suddenly at his residence, Upland Rd, Remuera, yesterday. Sir Robert, who was 58 years of age, was a son of the late Mr George Duncan Lockhart and on the death of his uncle in 1904 he succeeded to the baronetcy. His estate is at Castle Hill, Lanark, Scotland. He also held the baronetcy of Sinclair of Stevenson. In 1895 he married a daughter of Captain Edward POWER. There is one daughter and five sons, of whom Mr Graeme D P LOCKHART, who recently returned from active service, is heir to the title. At one time Sir Robert was a member of the auctioneering firm of Wakelin and Crane, Whangarei, from which he retired on assuming the title. The deceased was greatly interested in all forms of sport and was a keen yachtsman and polo player. As a member of the Pakuranga Hunt Club he was a regular follower of the hounds. He was a steward of the Auckland Racing Club and also a member of the committee of the Auckland A & P Society. He is survived by Lady Lockhart and their family.

Sir Graeme succeeded to the title. At this time he apparently proceeded to Scotland to look after the estates to which he had succeeded (which included 6,500 acres of farmland on the Clyde, a coal pit which was leased out and which also included the position of head of the Sinclair of Caithness Clan. A newspaper article dated 22 October 1920 records him as a “Fresher” attending Pembroke College, Cambridge University although how long he attended university is questionable as a further newspaper article dated 5 May 1921 (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bi ... 10505.2.45) records that he “arrived in Sydney recently” on the SS Morea on his way home to New Zealand where his mother and brothers resided after he was forced to sell half the estate to cover British death duties. The article also mentions that he had taken leave from the “Scottish Horse” in which he held the rank of Lieutenant, having been recommended for a commission by the Duke of Atholl (note: actually it would have been the Lovat Scouts - the London Gazette of 1 February 1921 records that Sir Graeme was appointed a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Lovat Scouts, a Territorial Army unit, effective 6th November 1920).

It seems likely that he remained in New Zealand for some time as in 1928, when he was arrested and charged in Auckland for being intoxicated in charge of a motor car and fined fifty pounds, Sir Graeme’s address is recorded as Mountain Road, Remuera, Auckland, New Zealand and his Clubs as the Caledonian and the R.A.C. (Ref: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bi ... --1----2--). Sir Graeme married Jeanne Hamilton FERGUSON, only child of Capt. John Ferguson on 9 May 1932 (they were divorced in 1947). The Glasgow Herald of 8 July 1932 mentions that “Sir Graeme and Lady Sinclair-Lockhart have been spending a few days quietly at Beechlands, Cathcart, the home of Mr. Andrew Mitchell, before setting off for Spain. It is only a few months since Sir Graeme Sinclair-Lockhart married Miss Jeanne Ferguson of Glasgow, and it is unfortunate that their first year of married life should have been made anxious by illness. Sir Graeme is at present recuperating from a rather nasty bout of pneumonia.” In 1936, the couple were recorded in the Miami News (29 March 1936) as attending the spring races at Tropical Park, viewing from the Presidential Suite box with a party of guests including a number of american socialites and three British Naval Officers from HMS Dundee.

Image
Photo sourced from: http://images.npg.org.uk/790_500/2/2/mw60222.jpg
Lieutenant Sir Graeme Duncan Power Sinclair-Lockhart, 12th Baronet from a Photo by Bassano, whole-plate glass negative, 16 June 1920 (National Portrait Gallery, London. Given by Bassano and Vandyk Studios, 1974.

Sir Graeme volunteered to fight in Finland in the Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40 and was in Finland with the British Volunteers when the war ended. On the 15th Feb 1940 the London Gazette mentions that he is transferred from the Scouts (Scottish Horse) retaining rank and seniority. In an article in an Australian newspaper from 3 January 1943, it appears that after the Winter War, Sir Graeme spent 18 months in Sweden before returning to Britain.

HAPLESS FINNS. "Appalling Conditions" Described LONDON, Jan 3.--Sir Graeme Sinclair-Lockhart who is well known in Australia and New Zealand, has returned to Britain to join the army after 18 months in Sweden. In an interview he depicted Finland as goaded by the Nazis to continue the war against Russia and stripped of all available warm clothing to equip Hitler's army. "Over a year ago when I visited Finland conditions were appalling," he said. "Starvation and disease were sweeping the country and a large percentage of its manpower had been destroyed. Civilians were living on black bread. Porridge and meat were unobtainable. The Finns are thoroughly sick of the war but cannot withdraw. What conditions are like in Helsinki today I cannot imagine."

The London Gazette of 16 Feb 1943 records 2nd Lieutenant Sir Graeme D P Sinclair-Lockhart (47418) as transferring from the Royal Artillery to the Intelligence Corps as of 17th February 1943, retaining his present seniority. He served as a Captain in Intelligence from 1943 to 1947. In 1947 his wife divorced him in New Zealand – “AUCKLAND. — The unusual case of the. wife of a Scottish baronet, Lady Jane Hamilton Sinclair Lockhart, obtaining a divorce from her husband, Sir Graeme Duncan Power Sinclair-Lockhart of Lanark, Scotland, in a New Zealand court was heard in Dunedin. A divorce was granted on the ground of desertion. The action was undefended. The reason it was heard in New Zealand was that the respondent was born and spent his youth in the- Dominion, which is his domicile of origin. The wife, who was born in Glasgow, acquired her husband’s nationality.” A last reference to Sir Graeme is found in February 19521, as an author of “The Black Pearls of Fatu-Hiva - A weird story from the South Seas as told by Sir Graeme Sinclair-Lockhart” in The Wide World Magazine.

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Re: Lieutenant Sir Graeme Duncan Power Sinclair-Lockhart

Post by CanKiwi2 » 26 Apr 2012 17:34

remuera wrote:Dear CanKiwi2,

My wife Angela Grace-Jones is a niece of Sir Graeme, and your post below on his life is most illuminating. Much of the detail you include was not known to us. Are you also a relative of Sir Graeme?

Remuera
Auckland, New Zealand
Hi Remuera,

Have to admit I'm no long-lost relative. Dug up all the information from the Internet, mainly old newspaper articles and odd mentions of Sir Graeme here and there. Amazing what you can piece together from browsing the Web these days. Have to admit I picked researching him for my "What If" alternative history post on the fictional "Atholl Highlanders" British Volunteers in Finland - seeing as he was a "real" volunteer and actually made it to Finland.

There are also a few mentions of him on Justin Brooke's book on the British Volunteers in Finland. He seemed to a "bit of a lad" which is probably why he didn't rise too high. I'll haul the book out tonite and pull the bits and pieces regarding Sir Graeme out and post them for you. If your wife has any photos of him, would it be possible to post them? I only have the one from the Internet that I tracked down, which is from when he was fairly young.

Any more info on his life would be interesting too.

Cheers...........Nigel
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 anthonymcevoy » 02 Nov 2012 18:47

I thought members of the Forum might be interested to see this photograph of British Volunteers that was given to me by the son of an Irish Volunteer to "Osasto Sisu". Maybe someone can find a few recognisable faces. The original photograph is quite small and taken from a distance so this is the best blow up I think I can safely get.
Can anybody tell if the Greatcoats are British issue ?
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Last edited by anthonymcevoy on 02 Nov 2012 18:53, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by anthonymcevoy » 02 Nov 2012 18:51

Another photograph from the Gerald Kuss Collection. The inscription on the back says "Platoon No.4 Machine Gun, Savonlinna 1940"
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by Mangrove » 06 Nov 2012 18:13

I was keen to find Sir Christopher Lee's service records from the Finnish National Archive but I did not found his sheet among the others. Presumable due to him being underage for service, the officials did not even sign him in to the service.

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by SDWL » 29 Nov 2012 11:55

Fantastic to see a new named photo and especially to see "Graham" at last! He had a fascinating career. I have spent 8 years researching the British volunteers, both in Finland and UK archives. I have all of the enlistment forms, medal rolls (both Finnish and UK rolls) for the Winter War Medal. Most of them had very interesting lives.

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SDWL

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by Juha Tompuri » 01 Dec 2012 22:56

Hi SDWL,

And Welcome to the Forum.
SDWL wrote:Fantastic to see a new named photo and especially to see "Graham" at last! He had a fascinating career

A local village history book:
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... lit#p80602
Also mentions about a letter of Michael Anthony McMullin to Finnish count von Pahlen of the volunteer affairs , where he asks about the address of T. Graham.

Regards, Juha

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by SDWL » 14 Dec 2012 18:43

Thanks Juha,
That would probably be Edward (Ted) Graham, whereas this is John Murray Graham. He served in WWI (wearing medals ribbons) but Edward was only born in 1917.
regards,
Steve

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by chris rooney » 30 Mar 2013 02:47

I have some photos of the 5th Battalion of the Scots Guards the ski Battalion
plus a list of left the flank company and a collection of names of some of the weird and wonderful people who crop up later in the war, as some one previously stated in SSRF SOE SAS and various other organisations.

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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by CanKiwi2 » 31 Mar 2013 02:10

chris rooney wrote:I have some photos of the 5th Battalion of the Scots Guards the ski Battalion
plus a list of left the flank company and a collection of names of some of the weird and wonderful people who crop up later in the war, as some one previously stated in SSRF SOE SAS and various other organisations.
Hi Chris

Welcome to the forum, good to see you here :D

I posted some of your pictures earlier in this thread - would be good to see them together with any additional information you have on the volunteers. I had pieced a few bits and pieces together myself and could join you in working through them. They were certainly an interesting bunch.

Cheers............Nigel
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 » 20 Nov 2013 17:57

Donald How Morrison - Manchester Regiment, Scots Guards, Palestine Police Force, Canadian Merchant Navy

Prior to the start of the Second World War (between February 1938 and September 1939) nearly one hundred young men from Nova Scotia were involved in a unique recruitment drive which lead the majority to enlist in the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment (M.G.). Don Morrison from Halifax was one of these men. He went on to volunteer for the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards -a unit specially formed to fight in Finland in the Winter War.

Described by all who knew him as a 'character' Don certainly had a zest for life. By the age of 19, prior to enlistment in the British Army, working as an able seaman on the Lady Boats he had already visited such exotic locations such as Antigua, British Guiana and Port of Spain to name a few.

Returning home from the war so many veterans rarely discussed their experiences with their families. In his later years Don wrote down some of his wartime memories. The story that follows on Don's involvement in the 5th Battalion Scots Guards was written by Don. It offer's a wonderful glimpse not only of the time period featured but more importantly of the man himself. Thank you to the Morrison Family for sharing and for Dave G for making them available to me to repost here.

Born April 28, 1919 in Armdale Nova Scotia, Donald 'Donnie' How Morrison, the youngest of two children of Bernard and Anna Morrison (nee Beckman) grew up in Halifax. After completion of high school Don worked on the Lady Boats for over a year.

In March 1939 Don along with Len Andrews, Jack Foster and Clary Hook left Halifax to enlist in the Manchester Regiment in England. After completing the rigorous six month recruit training at Ashton-under-Lyne, Don joined the regiment in Aldershot, England. Serving in 'D' Company Don went to France when war was declared in September 1939.


The Ghost Battalion

Background: In January 1940 Don and at least six other Canadians serving with the 2nd Manchesters; Arnold Carver, Norm Eisener, Jack Foster, G. Neville, Ric Serrick and Edward Vere-Holloway volunteered for a new unit being created after the call for experienced skiers was circulated to all regiment commands and HQ’s. This unit was to become the 5th (Ski) Battalion Scots Guards. Nicknamed ‘The Snowballers’ its intent was to assist the Finns in their fight against the Russians. Training took place in France and Scotland however following Finland’s armistice with Russia in March 1940, the unit was disbanded. Six of the seven men (including Don) returned to their regiment already stationed in France.

One morning in late 1939 while stationed in France, just on the Belgian border, in our trenches a dispatch rider arrived and posted a notice at every machine gun post. It said: "Men wanted to form the first ski battalion ever raised in the history of the British Army." I was very interested in this, so long waiting, waiting, waiting for the Germans to attack.

I went the following week to Company Headquarters and asked the Adjutant if they had raised the battalion yet. He answered "Not yet" and asked if I would I like to apply.
"Yes Sir!" I responded
"What ski experience have you had?" Well, I had never skied in my life but seven or eight of my buddies had already volunteered and were awaiting dispatch to England to commence training for this unit. So I responded to the Adjutant's question.
"Sir, I was almost born on skis back in Canada where I'm from. My Grandmother had to ski 10 miles to get a loaf of bread at the general store. We had so many skis around the house we used to use them for firewood."
"Oh my God" the Adjutant said to the Company Sergeant Major, "Sign this man up immediately!" Thank goodness I was selected to go with my other comrades from Nova Scotia.

We left HQ Company for our trip back to England to join the ski battalion. From Le Havre France to Southampton by ship then by train to Bordon Camp in Hampshire. This was a great joy to us as many Canadians were training there and we met up with others from Nova Scotia. They even had a cinema on the site and of course wet canteens which was a great treat for those of us fresh out of the trenches.

The next morning we were taken into a building and issued skies, ski poles, socks, ski boots, elk skin gloves, white ski coats heavily lined with white fur hoods, tents, sleds, primus stoves and a few days later when we formed up in marching order we also had our rifles, gas masks, big packs, small packs, bayonets, blankets, pots and pans you name it - what a noise we made as we marched to the train station.

We mounted the train 1000 men strong. The military police put down all the window shades so we couldn't see where we were going. We arrived at Southampton and boarded a ship which took us to Cherbourg France then a special train to Chamonix way up in the French Alps.

We were billeted in a hotel at the foot of this beautiful ski resort. I looked at the mountain that night in the moonlight and thought 'I have to ski down that?!'

Training on the slopes on Mont Blanc 1940.

The next morning we had an early breakfast in the lobby of the hotel; sausages, tea, home made french bread and plenty of it - a great treat from our usual meals in the front lines. After breakfast we formed up in threes outside the hotel and marched off to the platforms where these square baskets would come down on cables from atop Mont Blanc.

The CO said twenty men to a basket, no more no less. I was about the last one to get in the one that arrived for the last group. We were all laughing as we squashed in beside each other like a bunch of sardines in a large swinging outhouse. Someone else's rifle muzzle would be banging you on the head, yours sticking up somebody's ass. Anyway, if you looked down, you hoped the cables never let go. It would be the end alright if we fell into the ravines from that height.

On reaching the top the door was opened by an English Lord (Simon Fraser - Lord Lovet) who had joined the battalion and had gone up ahead of us a week earlier to make all arrangements for our arrival at Chamonix. Also there, dressed in their blue uniforms were members of the famous French ski regiment Chasseurs Alpins. We started the serious training now.

One of the Alpins would take a group of the Guards and serve as their instructor and leader. They taught us how to stop, fall correctly, assemble tents quickly, light stoves etc. and for the first week we practiced on the easy slopes. After that more and more of us became a little more accomplished as skiers as a result.

We received word we were to immediately to head to Finland. We were marched out in full marching order led by the band of the Chasseurs Alpins. They wanted to go with us but had to stay behind to guard this magnificent area. We were now on assignment to help the Finnish fight against the Russian attacks taking place.

We reached Le Havre then across to Southampton then to Liverpool where we boarded a Polish passenger ship MS Batory to continue the journey to Finland. I remember arriving at Glasgow, Scotland but nobody was permitted ashore. We must have picked up provisions there overnight. Next morning we started off for Finland.

We were only a couple of days out at sea when Finland and Russia signed a peace treaty. The ship turned around and we headed back to Liverpool. An announcement came over the ship thanking us all for volunteering to help Finland and we were granted 1 £ (about $5 Canadian) for our effort. Also as a gift from His Majesty the King, one weeks leave anywhere in the British Isles.

Well, most of the men were from the Isles and had homes and places to go. We ten Canadians had nowhere to go for a week with $5.00. I suggested we go to Ashton, where we had done our basic training. Surely if we were to go back to France in the front lines, they would put us up for free for a week.

So, at Liverpool we took a train to Ashton and after spending some time in the local pub and meeting up with some girlfriends we had courted as recruits, we assembled as a group and marched up to Ladysmith Barracks -our pots and pans clattering, with us giggling as we were quite merry after the pubs.

There was a sentry on duty at the gate and he asked us who we were. We said "2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment!" "No you're not", he challenged "You're wearing the shoulder flashes and cap badges of the Scots Guards!" We had forgotten about that but I explained our situation and how we were once again Manchesters and that our unit was in France and we had no way to get to them.

The sentry called out the Orderly Sergeant to speak to us. We repeated our story but he informed us the depot was brimming with new recruits and we could not enter. I inquired to the Sergeant if RSM Allen was still at the depot. He responded in the positive so I asked him, if he would be so kind, to telephone the RSM and tell him ten Canadians of the 2nd Battalion would like to speak with him.

About twenty minutes passed before RSM Allen arrived. He almost cried shaking our hands and even knew us all by name. He brought us up as recruits and stood by the barracks gate with tears in his eyes the night we marched to the rail station to go to France. He had to stay behind to train the new recruits.

He told the sergeant to call the cooks to prepare some eggs, toast and tea for us then have us bunk in the mess hall for the night and in the morning we would be found a place somewhere, somehow.

The next day they placed us altogether in a building over near the married quarters. We also met some of our former drill sergeants - still there - who entertained us with free beer on the nights we didn't go in town.

After about 10 days, Major Green (we called him 'Lantern Jaw') called us together and told us he had a dispatch from France. Apparently they were looking for the ten Canadians who had joined the Ski Battalion now disbanded.

The next day we packed up our kit and a truck arrived to take us to the railway station. We arrived at Southampton then another huge tour of France before arriving at our trenches near the Belgium border that we had vacated a couple of months previous.
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More on the Scots Guards 5th Battalion

Post by CanKiwi2 » 29 Nov 2013 20:55

The following is quoted from the book “Scots Guards 1919-1955” by David Erskine – Pages 22-26 (missing Page 21 unfortunately) and is almost the entire section on this unit in this very detailed history of the Scots Guards.

......Colonel Coats was told to have is battalion ready and equipped for service overseas by 1st March. This, from the outset, no more than twenty three days were available for the assembly, organization, military training, equipment, inoculation and general preparation of a force of men collected at the shortest notice not only from all ranks and branches of the Army throughout the world, but from civilian life as well.

One thousand volunteers had responded to the appeal sent out in January, and when they arrived at Bordon on February 6th or in small parties during the following three weeks, each was interviewed by Colonel Coats or by one of his senior officers and closely cross-examined as to his qualifications. During these interviews several were found to have only the unwanted experience of lumbering, or of snow-shoe work, or of mountaineering, and therefore could not be accepted; many more had only negligible experience of skiing, and these, with a few undesirables, had also to be rejected. From the remainder, the Battalion had now to be formed, and the choosing of the officers proved to be the most difficult problem.

Six hundred commissioned officers hasd come forward as volunteers from all arms of the Service, including many Majors and Captains, some of whom had been commanding Companies in the BEF and from all of these only four Company Commanders, an Assistant Adjutant and fifteen Subalterns were required. Once the final choice had been made, those who had not been selected were asked to relinquish their commissions and to remain with the Battalion in the ranks. The process was known as “de-gazetting” and those who agreed to the proposal were to continue to receive their existing pay as officers and be eligible for time promotion in the normal way, although absent from commissioned rank; at the end of their period of special service they would be free to resume their commissions. There were many who declined to accept these terms, but one hundred and sixty seven officers, including three from the Regimentr, agreed to serve in the ranks as non-commissioned officers or guardsmen, a further seventy two Officer Cadets transferred from their various Training Units under similar arrangements to become Guardsmen.

The majority of the non-commissioned officers were drawn from this commissioned source and, in the main, de-gazetted officers carried out their new duties as Sergeants and Corporals with success. The same applied to the Company Sergeant-Majors and Company Quartermaster Sergeants of the Ski Companies, although the latter, who were assisted throughout the first weeks at Bordon by regular non-commissioned officers, later proved to be one of the Battalion’s weaknesses. Of the remainder, one hundred and eighty came direct from Civil Life; the Battalion roll contained the names of men from all parts of the Empire, Regulars, Territorials, veterans of the Spanish Civil War, soldiers of fortuine, undergraduates, in fact any man who could ski with a modicum of competence – provided he was aged more than twenty, and less than forty.

Amongst this strange assortment were several whose pre-war experience on Arctic or Himalayan expeditions were to prove invaluable. Four of these, all of whom had been members of Greenland expeditions led by Gino Watkins (whose brother also served in the Battalion) were given charge of the special Arctic Equipment as Instructors. Captain M. Lindsay, Royal Scots Fusiliers, commanded this section and was appointed Assistant Adjutant, under him F. Spencer Chapman (who had earlier helped to design much of the equipment at the War officer earlier in the year), J M Cott and Q T P M Riley, all served as non-commissioned officers. The Medical Officer, Lieutenant E H L Wigram, R A M C, had also been a member of the 1936 Everest Expedition; fost-bite and snow blindness were not new to him.

The volunteers were organized into four ski companies, Right Flank, W, X and left Flank; there was a small Battalion Headquarters, the meagre equipment of which lacked even a wireless. Soon the Battalion was increased to five companies by the arrivak from the Training Company at Pirbright of a company of trained Scots Guardsmen; these became Y Company, commanded by Captain R D M Gurowski; none of them had ever seen a ski before. The loan of a company from the First Battalion to the the fatigues about the camp allowed the new Battalion to concentrate on its worries, undistracted by the cares of housekeeping. Euqally valuable to Colonel Coats was the loan of Captain C Rooker, R.A.P.C., to help solve the pay puzzles of the bizarre Battalion; not surprisingly, there was a multitude of such problems.

Life at Bordon during the second half of February was hectic. Volunteers were continually arriving and requiring to be interviewed and kitted out, while the rest of the Battalion sent its time in suitable Physical Training, watching demonstrations and listening to a comprehensive course of lectures on such subjects as sledge loading, snow camping and the avoidance of frostbite. It was not until the last days of the month that their sole armament, the new Number 4 Lee-Enfield rifle, arrived, and it was then that the alarming fact emerged that many of thre rank and file had never handles, let alone fired, a service rifle. There were no Brens.

On the 29th February Lieutenant-General Sir Bertram Sergison-Brook, Major-General Commanding the Brigade of Guards, and Colonel E W S Balfour, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding the Regiment, visited Bordon. In his address to the Battalion, the Major-General bade them “God-speed and a victorious return.” On the 2nd March in deepest secrecy, their destination known to the Commanding Officer alone, the Battalion embarked at Southampton and landed in France the next day, somewhat to the confusion of those who had predicted a voyage to Scandinavia or even to the North Pole, though to the satisfaction of those who favoured the Caucasus. The riddle was solved, after a non-stop journey across France, by the sight of Mont Blanc as the trained arrived at Chamonix, an event which was immediately broadcast by “Lord Haw-Haw” of the German wireless, reported in the French Press the next day and even quoted in the London Daily Telegraph. But, as usual, the troops themselves were expressly forbidden to mention there whereabouts in their letters home; one Guardsman was taken before his Company Commander for writing “I must not tell you where we are for fear of endangering the Fleet”.

The companies were billeted in great comfort on the many hotels; the heavy baggage meandered across France for two days in a goods train, and it was not until the third day after their arrival that the ski equipment could be issued. This short period of inactivity revealed an unforeseen defect. Cooks, trained or natural, are rarely to be found among parties of volunteer skiers; it turned out that hardly a man had been inside a kitchen for a useful purpose in his life. In consequence, the first meals prepared were mostly uneatable. To the joy of the local patrons, the majority of the Battalion forsook their cooks and fed in the nearby restaurants and cafes.

The advanced season of the year made for many difficulties in ski training. Not the least of these was the fact that the Commanding Officer of the 199th Battalion of Chasseurs Alpins (a reserve and not particularly energetic unit stationed in Chamonix) to whom Colonel Coats looked for guidance, had forbidden his men to leave the valley for fear of avalanches. This seemed over-cautious, as the local civilians had no such qualms and were still enjoying their winter sports. As a result, the only demonstration which the Battalion were able to see during their stay was one of a small and exceedingly simple attack by two French platoons against a third, carried out on the flat at the bottom of the valley. In other ways, however, the Chasseurs were most hospitable. They lent ski instructors, which enabled the Battalion to organize its own training programme, which was blessed by glorious weather. They also lent cooks.

In the Ski Companies all sections were organized both as ski and sledge troops, an unsatisfactory arrangement which necessitated every man being trained both as a scout and as a member of a sledge-hauling team, for on patrol both jobs would be expected of him. This was asking a lot, especially of the men of Y Company, none of whom had ever before been on skiis. However, under the able instruction of two well-known amateur skiers, Sergeant W R Bracken and Corporal E W A Richardson, they picked up the technique so rapidly that some Fremch officers who saw them after four days training found it hard to believe that these young Regular soldiers were beginners. The more proficient companies went off on cross-country treks with full equipment, or were instructed in the difficult arets of sledge-loading and the use of man-hauling harness.

On the 9th March, as they were about to embark on their more advanced training in tactics and movement, a telephone message was received by Major A F Purvis, Scots Guards, the Battalion’s Liaison Officer, asking him to find someone who could speak Hindustani, as orders would be passed in that language later in the evening. The Battalion had no difficulty in finding such an interpreter, but this ruse must have put the Germans to some inconvenience ti get a Hindustani monitor on to the line with such speed. On the following day the news went out from Berlin that “the Fifth Battalion Scots Guards will leave Chamonix by train at seven o’clock on the morning of Monday , March 11th.” The prediction was only ten minutes out; that was the fault of the French train. This hurried departure was the result of the desperate military situation of the Finns. The Red Army had planned its spring attack with overwhelming force, and their troops were now making decisive headway. On 2nd March the French decided to send a force of fifty thousand “volunteers”; the British were to land on the Norwegian coast to assist them in their passage. The first landing was to be on the 20th.

Throughout the long train journey across France rumors improved; they were off to Greenland, to Murmansk, to Bordon for disbandment. No-one really knew. The gloom of this period of uncertainty was deepened by lengthy waits of many hours duration in drafty warehouses at each end of the Channel crossing. Once in England, hopes were renewed. Those who had failed to come up to standard in France were shipped back to their units and the remainder entrained for the north. Thursday March 14th found them crossing the border; on the same day they embarked on a Polish liner at Glasgow Docks. Here they found themselves no longer Britain’s only Arctic troops, for all around them was a complete Division, said to be suitably equipped for winter warfare. But the Russians forestalled the expedition. In the train on the journey north the Adjutant had heard over the wireless that the Finnish Prime Minister had gone to Moscow to seek terms. While loading was still in progress at Glasgow, the order cancelling the venture was received. An armistice had been concluded, the Fifth Battalion was no longer required. They returned to Boron, and, in less than a week, had been dispersed in all directions.

The history of this Battalion is an example of the amateurish improvisation to which British Governments are forced to resort ay the outbreak of our wars. It was truly a unique battalion, the value of which was never tested in battle in a terrain and climate for which it was intended. It is perhaps ironical to observe that when, later in the war, the 52nd (Lowland) Division was thoroughly trained for mountain and winter warfare, that formation first entered the line in – Holland! And it cannot be judged wise to have concentrated in one poorly equipped and untrained unit so many leaders and potential leaders. It was indeed fortunate that these men were not flung away in an altruistic and ill-prepared side-show, but were saved to go forward to many and varied exploits in decisive theaters of war.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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Juha Tompuri
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Re: British Troops In Finland 1940

Post by Juha Tompuri » 05 Feb 2015 21:34

OldBraggs wrote:...Of the various groups (F.A.N.Y., R.A.F. instructors, R.A. and R.A.O.C. instructors, R.A.F. pilots, London Fire Volunteers, British Volunteer Company, and the Friends Ambulance Unit, who were involved with Finland during the Winter War only the F.A.U. got near the front line...
Seems to be an ex-First Aid Nursing Yeomanry ambulance, now at Finnish service during Continuation War:
SA-photo 87679
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Last edited by Juha Tompuri on 05 Feb 2015 21:36, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: adding info

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