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Interestingly enough, even more so than “death rays”, pilotless or robot aircraft represent a thread in the early development of flight and of air warfare which has barely been recognised by historians and which is very rarely mentioned in most histories of air warfare. Nevertheless, it was there, pre-dating World War I. For example, Page 363 of the Illustrated London News for 6 September 1913 gives an artist's impression of a both a flying aircraft carrier and an airship drone. The idea was that the 'parent dirigible' (which looks very much like a Zeppelin) would carry several of these 40-foot long 'crewless, miniature air-ships' slung underneath it, and then launch them when in range of a target (here a fortification). The smaller airship would then be controlled by radio to fly drop its bombs 'on any desired spot'.
The artist is W. B. Robinson, but it was drawn from 'material supplied by Mr. Raymond Phillips'.
In 1910 Phillips, a consulting engineer from Liverpool, gave a demonstration of a 20-foot version of his 'aerial torpedo' at the London Hippodrome. Here, according to a report in the New York Times, he impressed an audience which included Claude Grahame-White, who only weeks earlier had become famous for undertaking the world's first night flight. Here, too, the purpose of Phillips's airship drone was war: "Now," said he [Phillips], "just imagine that row of seats is a row of houses, and that instead of a model, with paper toys in its hold, in its hold, I am controlling a full-sized airship carrying a cargo of dynamite bombs. Watch!" He pressed another key. There was a faint click from the framework of the airship, and the bottom of the box that hung amidships fell like a trapdoor, releasing, not bombs, but a flight of paper birds, that fluttered gracefully down on the seats beneath. "There!" said the inventor, with a note of finality, and he turned away to answer a shower of questions.
Phillips claimed that 'for £300 I can make, equip, and dispatch to any distance three wirelessly controlled airships carrying huge quantities of explosives' -- and unlike a naval torpedo, his aerial torpedos were reusable, making them very cost effective. "I offer my invention to the British Government, whose official representatives will inspect it in a day or two, because I want England to have command of the air just as she has command of the sea."
Phillips did at least consider the visual feedback problem, though his solution was dubious. From the NYT article above: "How can you tell when your airship is just over the town you purpose to destroy?" asked some one. Mr. Phillips replied replied that he might work with a large scale map in front of him. Or possibly he might fit each airship with a telephotographic lens, which, being en rapport with a reflector placed before the operator, would show him the country over which the airship flew. Although he gave further public demonstrations of his aerial torpedo in 1913 (and despite getting a free plug in the Illustrated News) the government seems to have declined to reward Phillips for his patriotism.
However, after the start of World War I, the British military did look onto the feasibility of such devices. In Britain, practical research and development was was carried during World War I by British inventor Archibald Low, who designed and flew the first British radio-controlled aircraft in 1916. His aim was to develop a weapon to counter German Zeppelin airships and provide rudimentary ground attack capabilities with unmanned aircraft packed with explosives. Low's expertise in wireless had been demonstrated in the development of a crude television system in 1914, some 10 years before John Logie Baird's invention.
When war broke out, Low joined the military and received officer training. After a few months he was promoted to Captain and seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, the precursor of the RAF. Initially, Low was actually working on the very first electronic range finder, based on the principles of radar, for the Artillery Corps but the RFC (Royal Flying Corps) had other things in mind for the good Professor. The RFC wanted Prof. Low to put his knowledge of radar to use in designing and developing remotely controlled pilot-less aircraft. His brief was to use his civilian research with a remit to develop a radio-controlled aircraft able to defend against German attacks from the air. With two other officers (Captain Poole and Lieutenant Bowen) under him, they set to work to see if it were possible. This project was called "Aerial Target" or AT a misnomer to fool the Germans into thinking it was about building a drone plane to test anti-aircraft capabilities. After they built a prototype, General Sir David Henderson (Director-General of Military Aeronatics) ordered that the Royal Flying Corps Experimental Works should be created to build the first proper "Aerial Target" complete with explosive warhead. As head of the Experimental Works, Low was given about 30 picked men, including jewellers, carpenters and aircraftsmen in order to get the pilotless plane built as quickly as possible.
The Experimental Works staff of the Royal Flying Corps, Low is front centre.
Within a year an "aerial torpedo" emerged in the shape of a small monoplane powered by a 50 horsepower Gnome rotary engine. The plane, the Ruston Proctor AT (Aerial Target – named to mislead the Germans as to the true nature of the project) was designed by H P Folland. It had its first trial on 21 March 1917 at Upavon Central Flying School near Salisbury Plain, attended by 30-40 Allied Generals. The aircraft was launched from the back of a lorry using compressed air (another first). Low and his team successfully demonstrated their ability to control the craft before engine failure led to its crash landing. A subsequent full trial on 6 July 1917 was cut short as an aerial had been lost at takeoff. At a later date an electrically driven gyro (yet another first) was added to the plane, but ultimately the "Aerial Target" project was not followed up after the war.
This remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) concept caught the interest of the great Sopwith Co. as well as Ruston Proctor & Co. Ltd who began immediate, parallel development to Low's own at the RFC. Granville Bradshaw of A.B.C. Motors Ltd. who gained fame by designing the well proven 45 hp Gnat engine subsequently designed a throwaway engine specifically for use in the RPV. The engine was a two-cylinder air-cooled engine providing 26 kW (35 HP) and was intended to operate for only two hours, making it one of the first purpose-designed expendable engines ever built. It was this lightweight inexpensive engine that propelled RPV research and development into the next phase. In the mean time Sopwith had developed the 14ft wingspan "Sopwith AT" (AT = air target) which was fitted with the 35 hp ABC engine driving an ordinary wooden propeller. The radio box was further back towards the tail behind the fuel, batteries and of course the explosives.
The sensitive radio equipment was fitted into a wooden box with a glass lid, suspended on rubber supports. The box itself measured about 2ft 3in by 9in. This box contained all of the relays, receiver and the Key system which was an interference filter. An interesting note here, a shaft which was driven by the engine triggered a mechanical relay so that each contact made in the control box caused the engine power to operate the control services. The date was 1916 and the Sopwith AT was completed with full servo control. It never flew because it was subsequently damaged while in hangar and abandoned.
The Sopwith AT. The ironic end result of this project was the creation of the Sopwith Sparrow which was a small, single seat aircraft which did in fact have a pilot after all.
Naturally this is not the end of our story, enter Geoffrey de Havilland. De Havilland built a little mono plane around the lightweight ABC expendable engine. It is believed that it was the de Havilland monoplane which flew on a March 21st, 1917 test flight at Upavon. The rumor is that high ranking officials were invited to attend and were quickly dispersed in a rather comical fashion when the initial test flight went awry as they so often do and, embarrassingly, crashed immediately after launch. No more is known.
Later that year H.P. Folland the designer of the S.E.5 fighter embarked on task to build an aircraft using Low's radio equipment. By July of 1917 he had 5 aircraft ready for flight and on July 6, 1917 the first flight was conducted. The aircraft rolled smoothly along on a 150 ft launch track and became airborne mid way. The craft rose steeply, stalled and plummeted to the ground. Two more tests were conducted on July 25 and 28 but the aircraft were under controlled. At more or less the same time the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough built a monoplane with a wingspan of 6.7 meters (22 feet). The exact number of different types of aerial torpedoes developed by the British during World War I and their details is unclear. What is clear is that little came of the effort and the entire "R/C" program slowed to a trickle until the end of the war.
In 1917 Low and his team also invented the first electrically steered rocket (the world's first wireless, or wire-guided rocket), almost an exact counterpart of the one used by the Germans in 1942 against merchant shipping. Low's inventions during the war were to a large extent before their time and hence were perhaps under-appreciated by the Government of the day, although the Germans were well aware of how dangerous his inventions might be. In 1915 two attempts were made to assassinate him; the first involved shots being fired through his laboratory window in Paul Street; the second attempt was from a visitor with a German accent who came to Low's office and offered him a cigarette, which upon analysis contained enough strychnine chloride to kill.
Work on automated aircraft continued in Britain after the war. In 1920, a standard Bristol F.2B fighter was fitted with radio control and flown successfully, though the aircraft still carried a human pilot as a backup. A radio-guided purpose-built aerial target was also tested in 1921. These efforts led to the interesting "Long-Range Gun With Lynx Engine (LARYNX)" aerial torpedo of 1927. This was a neat little monoplane with a radial engine and a gyroscopic control system, built by the Royal Aeronautical Establishment for the Royal Navy -- one suspects the "Long-Range Gun" label was a way of selling a newfangled idea to conservative admirals. Lows designs were adopted by the Admiralty for the Larynx "Long Range Gun with Lynx Engine", and explosive laden autopiloted aircraft which was developed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment from 1925. “Larynx” was an early British pilotless aircraft, to be used as a guided anti-ship weapon. Started as a project in September 1925, it was an early attempt to design and build a “cruise missile” guided by an autopilot. A small monoplane powered by a 200 hp Armstrong Siddeley Lynx IV engine, it had a top speed of 200 mph (320 km/h) - faster than contemporary fighters at that time.
RAE Larynx on cordite-fired catapult of the Royal Navy’s destroyer HMS Stronghold, July 1927. The man on the box is Dr. George Gardner, later Director of RAE."
A number of test flights of the Larynx took place. The first test took place on July 20, 1927 with a Larynx successfully launched from a cordite-powered catapult fitted to the S class destroyer HMS Stronghold. The aircraft crashed into the Bristol Channel after a 12 minute flight due to engine failure. A second test was carried out on September 1, 1927, with the aircraft thought to have flown 100 miles (160 km) before being lost. A third test occurred on October 15, 1927 with a 112 mile (180 km) flight, hitting five miles from the target. Two more launches occurred in September and October 1928 from HMS Thanet, another S class destroyer. Two additional launches took place in May 1929. Launched from land, one overflew target and the other was successful. The duration of the 10th flight was 39 minutes long. The flight was so successful that the RAE recorded a record 43 separate commands. Once the news of this reached the powers that be the RAE was given the go ahead to do what comes naturally...build it bigger and better with a larger pay load.
The LARYNX was a mid- winged mono plane designed to hold 250lbs of high powered explosives and travel a distance of over 300 miles. The Armstrong Siddeley Lynx - 200 hp engine was enclosed in a low drag cowling at the front end of a light weight tubular fuselage and attained the impressive speed of over 190 mph in the year 1927. This aircraft was years ahead of its kind and was even faster than its contemporary, manned, fighter planes. When it came time to actually replace the empty payload section with the intended explosives and field test the "flying bombs" they decided to forgo the R/C and install gyroscopes. They sent these aircraft to Iran where all of them failed miserably except one. This aircraft sailed off into the distance never to be seen or heard from again. Whether the 113 kilogram (250 pound) warhead exploded or not, no one will ever know and the results of the tests were deemed to be inconclusive.
Archibald M. "Archy" Low: The “Father of Radio Guidance Systems”.
Low was born in 1888 in London. The son of an engineer, he frequently visited his father's workplace while a young child. He attended Colet Court School as a young boy and displayed a strong aptitude for science. In 1899, he attended St. Paul's School and in 1904, was enrolled in the Central Technical College. His technical genius was first apparent in May 1914 when he developed an early forerunner of what was to become television, which he called "TeleVista." He did not pursue this idea, in part, due to the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. Low volunteered for military service and was soon a Captain in the Royal Flying Corps. He helped research ways to remotely control aircraft, with the idea of turning airplanes into guided missiles. As head of Experimental Works, the military organization in charge of the project, Low supervised a hand-picked team and conducted a test flight of an unmanned craft for military dignitaries on March 21, 1917. The vehicle was launched with compressed air (a first), and although it crashed soon into the test, Low and his team were able to control the plane, albeit briefly. He improved the test vehicle by adding an electrically driven gyroscope (another of his innovations), but the project was soon abandoned by the British military.
In 1917, Archibald Low and his team also invented the first electrically-steered rocket, a forerunner of a weapon used by the Germans against merchant ships in World War II. Low's inventions during World War I were, for the most part, too advanced to be appreciated by his own government but he has been called the "Father of radio guidance systems" for his wartime accomplishments. The Germans, however, were well aware of how effective his remote-controlled weapons might be, and in 1915, made two unsuccessful attempts to assassinate him. After World War I, Archibald Low founded Low Engineering Company, and produced several inventions in the 1920's and 1930's. In 1933, Archibald Low was one of the founders of the British Interplanetary Society and served as its president from 1936 to 1951. Although in poor health for most of the rest of his life he wrote a number of prophetic books on the future of astronautics in the 1930's and continued to propose innovative weapon systems, though none came to fruition. Although Low's military inventions were consistently rejected by his own government in World War II, the Germans improved upon Low's 1918 rocket guidance system in their V-1 flying bomb (the first cruise missile), which rained death onto England and Western Europe for months in 1944 and 1945.
Low was also a prolific author of science books, which he wrote for the general public, in an effort to nurture interest in science and engineering. Between 1916 and 1954, he authored forty books, including four works of science fiction for children. Archibald Montgomery Low died in September 1956. Low has been called the "father of radio guidance systems" due to his pioneering work on guided rockets, planes and torpedoes. He was a pioneer in many fields though, often leading the way for others, but his lack of discipline meant he hardly ever saw a project through, being easily distracted by new ideas. If it weren't for this inability to see things to a conclusion, Low could well have been remembered as one of the great men of science. Many of his scientific contemporaries disliked him, due in part to his using the title Professor, which technically he wasn't entitled to do as he didn't occupy an academic chair. His love of the limelight and publicity probably also added to the dislike.
Somewhat prophetic Archibald Low quotes:
"The telephone may develop to a stage where it is unnecessary to enter a special call-box. We shall think no more of telephoning to our office from our cars or railway-carriages than we do today of telephoning from our homes.”
“The second stage in the development of space-ships could be the launching of what have been called space-platforms...The rocket or space-station will travel round the earth in twenty four hours at most. The value of such stations might be very great; they might enable world-wide television broadcasts to be made; they would transmit data about cosmic rays or solar radiation; and they might have incalculable military value.”
"No team ever invents anything, they only develop one man's flash of genius.”
In the 1920s, various radio-controlled ships were used for naval artillery target practice. Perhaps the first was the Fairey IIIF - three IIIFs were modified as a radio-controlled gunnery trainer, and were known as the Fairey Queen (it is thought that the subsequent Queen Bee and Queen Wasp followed the “Queen” naming convetion that originated with the Fairey IIIF’s). In the 1930s Britain also developed the radio controlled Queen Bee, a remotely controlled unmanned Tiger Moth aircraft for fleet gunnery firing practice. A radio-controlled target gunnery target version of Tiger Moth appeared in 1935 called the DH.82 Queen Bee, it used a wooden fuselage based on that of the DH.60 Gipsy Moth (with appropriate structural changes related to cabane strut placement) with the wings of the Tiger Moth II, with nearly 300 in service at the start of the Second World, (it is believed the name "Drone" was derived from "Queen Bee"). These aircraft retained a normal front cockpit for test-flying or ferry flights, but had a radio-control system in the rear cockpit that operated the controls using pneumaticically-driven servos. Four-hundred were built by de Havilland at Hatfield, and a further 70 by Scottish Aviation.
Remote piloting a Queen Bee. Its design remained nearly the same throughout its history, it was well constructed and able to do aerobatics
De Havilland Queen Bee flight
The Queen Bee was superseded by the similarly named Queen Wasp, a later, purpose built, target aircraft of higher performance. The Airspeed AS.30 Queen Wasp was built to meet an Air Ministry Specification Q.32/35 for a pilotless target aircraft to replace the de Havilland Tiger Moth based de Havilland Queen Bee. Two prototypes were ordered in May 1936, one to have a wheeled landing gear for use by the Royal Air Force and the other as a floatplane for Royal Navy use for air-firing practice at sea. Powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah engine, a total of 65 aircraft were ordered, contingent on the success of the flight test programme. The aircraft was a single-engined biplane constructed of wood with sharply-tapered wings and fabric-covered control surfaces. An enclosed cabin with one seat was provided so the Queen Wasp could be flown manually with the radio control system turned off. The radio control system was complex with a number of backup safety devices to ensure radio and battery operation was uninterrupted. A trailing receiver aerial was winched out after takeoff and served as an automatic landing device which was activated when the trailing aerial weight hit the runway. In flight tests, the aircraft was found to be underpowered and water handling difficulties necessitated a redesign of the floats by their builder, Shorts. Although the production run of 10 aircraft was begun, only three more aircraft were completed and delivered to the Royal Air Force.
The Airspeed AS.30 Queen Wasp, a British pilotless radio-controlled target aircraft built by Airspeed Limited.
A further episode in the British development of such weapons was the involvement of the Hungarian inventor, Kálmán Tihanyi. In the beginning of 1930, Tihanyi had moved to London at the invitation of the British Air Ministry to build a prototype of his aerial torpedo, whose plans he had completed in Berlin. Later that same year, he learned of RCA's interest in his television patents. While working on the aerial torpedo and negotiating with RCA, he conducted negotiations regarding various other inventions as well: wide-screen and stereo film, a reflector for submarines, etc. At the end of 1931, Tihanyi was invited by the Italian Navy to develop his torpedo for marine use. During the next three years, he divided his time between the laboratories of the Air Ministry in London and the laboratories of the Italian Navy off the harbor of Genoa, on Isola Castagna.
Kálmán Tihanyi (born 28 April 1897, Üzbég (now Zbehy, Slovakia) – died 26 February 1947, Budapest) was a Hungarian physicist, electrical engineer and inventor.
Tihanyi studied electrical engineering and physics in Pozsony (today Bratislava) and later in Budapest. By age fifteen, he had several small inventions, and was only seventeen years old when he sold his patented remote control for city lights to a Viennese manufacturer. A list of "Future projects" dating from the same year included: device for the prevention of train collision, hydrogen-oxygen motor; scanner with selenium cells against the grounding of ships; automatically guided torpedo; remote controlled submarine boat and submarine mine. Interestingly enough, all these projects were later realized. During World War I, Tihanyi served as artillery engineer, then as radio engineer at the Austro-Hungarian Navy Headquarters in Pola, where his remote controlled submarine mine was developed and successfully used. It was subsequently honored as an outstanding military invention.
One of the early pioneers of electronic television, Tihanyi had first started thinking about television broadcasting in 1917, but it wasn’t until 1924 that he finally began his experiments, and 1926 when he applied for his first patent, after which he would go on to make significant contributions to the development of cathode ray tubes (CRTs), which were bought and further developed by the Radio Corporation of America (later RCA), and German companies Loewe and Fernseh AG. Tihanyi called his fully electronic television system "Radioskop", and his application contained 42 pages detailing its design and mass production. Though it bears certain similarities to earlier proposals employing a cathode ray tube (CRT) for both transmitter and receiver, Tihanyi's system represented a radical departure. Like the final, improved version Tihanyi would patent in 1928, it embodied an entirely new concept in design and operation, building upon a technology that would become known as the "storage principle". This technology involves the maintenance of photoemission from the light-sensitive layer of the detector tube between scans. By this means, accumulation of charges would take place and the "latent electric picture" would be stored. Tihanyi filed two separate patent applications in 1928 then extended patent protection beyond Germany, filing in France, England, the United States, and elsewhere.
In 1928, Tihanyi went to Berlin, where the development of mechanical television involving Nipkow disks had already been begun by the German Post Office and the larger manufacturers. The invention was received with enthusiasm by Telefunken and Siemens, but in the end they opted to continue with the development of mechanical television.
Letter from the British Embassy in Berline to Tihanyi dated Nov. 29, 1929.
From 1929, Tihanyi worked on television guidance for defense applications, building prototypes of a camera for an automatic optically-controlled, pilotless aircraft in London for the British Air Ministry, and later adapting it for the Italian Navy. In 1929, he invented the first infrared-sensitive (night vision) electronic television camera for use with anti-aircraft defenses in Britain. In 1936 Tihanyi described the principle of "plasma television" and conceived the first flat-panel television system. Tihanyi's U.S. patents for his display and camera tubes, assigned to RCA, were issued in 1938 and 1939, respectively.
Several articles about this project appeared in Hungarian newspapers, one or two were published in Italy, and two German articles about Tihanyi's television work mention this project as well. In an article, entitled, "Etwas uber das Fernsehen," ("About Television,") written by Tihanyi and published in the journal: “Funk und Fernseh Technik”, Berlin, (undated, but judging from a reference to the invitation by the British Air Ministry to London, probably in early 1930) Tihanyi describes his “Aerial Torpedo” as a device which also possesses "eyes" with the help of which it "sees" and locks onto moving targets deploying one of various weapons it carries for the target's destruction. It should be noted that the patent [K. Tihanyi: Br. Pat. 352,035/December 21, 1929 application, (conv. date December 16, 1929, Hungary), issued June 22, 1931.] describes television guidance through specially constructed light and heat sensitive photocells for other types of weaponry, such as tanks, bombs, etc. as well.
Part of the description of Tihanyi’s Aerial Torpedo optical control mechanism
Tihany’s Patent: Page 1
Tihany’s Patent: Page 2
Despite the fact that this work was carried out in the UK and articles about it were published in the Hungarian, Italian and German press, nothing about this work was ever published in Great Britain, although not for want of trying for Tihanyi did work to publicise himself. A letter from the Daily Mail explains the reason for this.
Letter from the Daily Mail to Dr Nandor Fodor, Jan. 22, 1931. Nothing about Tihanyi’s work on remotely-guided aerialtorpedoes was was published in Great Britain. This letter from the Daily Mail explains the reason for this.
Sometime in early 1933, Tihanyi contacted a Lt. Col. Wesson, asst. military attache to the U.S in the UK. Apparently, Lt. Col. Wesson received a "description and five sketches of the optical self-directing apparatus", which he then forwarded to the War Department and which, per subsequent letters of April-May 1933 by the naval attache, ended up "interesting" the U.S. Navy Department. Tihanyi received a request for detailed plans and a proposal; the letter stated that these would be kept confidential and no use would be made of them without first informing him....The proposal was apparently submitted. By the way, in 1931, Tihanyi had filed a new patent application for the improved version of this invention, which according to a letter home he considered "the really good solution".
In 1935, Tihanyi began to work on applications of hyper-energy ultrasound for rain-inducing irradiation of clouds and the large-scale eradication of harmful insects The completed plan described an ultrasound reflector with a range of 5-8 kilometers in the air and 400 kilometers in water. Both Archibald Low and Kálmán Tihanyi were acquaintances of Eric Tigerstedt in the 1930’s – the scientific world that they moved in was small enough that most of the leading scientists were known to each other and it was certain that Tigerstedt knew of the work that was going on in this field through the 1930’s, particularly given the common areas of research that they worked in. While we cannot confirm whether or nor Low made any contribution (other thans hus published papers) to Tigerstedt’s work, we do know that in early 1938 Tihanyi accepted an offer to work with Tigerstedt at the Nokia R&D Lab in Helsinki, where the two worked closely together over 1938 and 1939, the results of which work will be described shortly as we cover the Finnish Glider-Bomb Project.
In late 1940, after the end of the Winter War, Tihanyi returned to Hungary despite pleas from Tigerstedt, Nokia and the Finnish government for him to continue to work with the Nokia R&D Team in Helsinki. Sadly, Tihanyi declined and returned to his native Hungary where he later became involved with the Resistance and developed an intimate friendship with its leader Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky. In 1941, he was briefly arrested in connection with propaganda material against Hitler and Basch and in 1943 his home was searched. Following Hungary's March 19, 1944 occupation by the Germans, Kalman Tihanyi was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned at the Margit Ring prison. Although he survived five months of solitary confinement, starvation and interrogations, following the failed attempt at armistice on October 15th by Regent Miklós Horthy and the installation of the Szálasi government, like the rest of the Resistance, he went underground. He survived the war but died two years later, in February 1947, leaving behind a large number of inventions.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Tihanyi, try these sites.
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Finland’s Liito-Pommi (Glide-Bomb) Project
As has been mentioned earlier, in 1937 the Pääesikunnan Teknillinen Tutkimusyksikkö (Technical Research Unit of the General Staff) approved the request for research work to be carried out on the design and development of a remote-controlled Liito-Pommi (glide-bomb) and allocated initial funding. The initial R&D project team was composed of a small team from Ammus Oy (the bombs), Valtion (State Aircraft Factory – the “aircraft” part of the project) and a small Nokia/Fenno Radio Team responsible for developing the wireless remote control. Work started quickly, with the initial objective being understood as the development of a “Liito-Pommi” which could be dropped from an aircraft out of range anti-aircraft guns and then guided to the target by a bomb-controller in the bomber aircraft.
As we have seen there were numerous precursors to the remote-controlled glider-bomb prior to WW2, and both the Pääesikunnan Teknillinen Tutkimusyksikkö and the Liiti-Pommi R&D Team had been briefed on what was known on these. While Tigerstedt was not part of the “Liito-Pommi” team, he was involved in the initial briefings and provided the team with guidance, reviews of progress and supervision. Work started quickly – this was not rocket science and the theory and practice of bombs, flying and wireless remote control were well understood. The glider-bombs the “Liito-Pommi” team developed all shared a similar layout/platform and were constructed primarily of plywood (something that the Finnish Forestry Industry and VL were specialists in) and employed elevons attached to swept-back wings.
The initial version developed in mid-1937, the LP-1 was a truly simple weapon. Very basic wings and a tail were fitted to a standard 1,000 Pound bomb. The glider had a 12 foot span, and was constructed with wooden wings and steel tube main spar that was bolted to the fuselage frame that extended aft as twin booms to which a twin tailed wooden empenage was bolted. A complete LP-1 weighted in at 1456 Pounds. Glide speed was approx 370 km/h. Aspect ratio was 4.36 and the lift/drag ratio was 4.97. A range of abouit 32km (20 miles) was achieved after a drop from 15,000 feet, giving a significant stand off capacity. Beside its stand off capacity the glider weapon was found to have another advantage, as the angle of attack made it more likely that it hit the side of the target, while vertically falling bombs were more likely to hit the ground or the target from above and do less damage to structures.
The “pilot” Liito-Pommi Malli 1 (Glide Bomb Model 1). The LP-1, as the photo shows, was a truly simple weapon with a simple auto-pilot which maintained a straight course.
A slightly different version of the Liito-Pommi Malli 1 (Glide Bomb Model 1). The team experimented with a number of different wing versions, as well as bombs. This was an attempt to launch a torpedo version that was trialed in parallel with the LP-1. Using a torpedo instead of a general purpose bomb, it flew on a preset glide path. It was equipped with a paravane which trailed 6 m (20 ft) below it, and which upon entering the water triggered the explosive removal of the airframe components from the torpedo. In the water, the torpedo would continue to travel in a straight line.
Conceptually, the throught was that this would enable Torpedo Bombers to launch their torpedoes from well outside AA-gun fire, albeit at the expense of accuracy as the stand-off distance gave the target a great deal of time to change course. In repeated trials, it was found that the additional time allowed the target to evade in every instance.
Initial aiming of the weapon was done by the bombardier on the bomber by aligning the plane to the target and then compensating for wind drift and trajectory. To compensate for roll, ailerons were provided and attached to a rudimentary automatic pilot. The LP-1 was stable in flight and showed the potential for a stand-off bomb, but without any guidance system it offered little advantage as, once dropped it was on its own and accuracy was non-existent even under perfect conditions. Also, it was found that on detaching from the bomber, the aircraft slip-stream more often that not threw the bomb off its preset course. However, the stand-off potential had been demonstrated, as had the ability to “glide” a bomb considerable distances. Meanwhile, the team had been working on designing and building a radio-controlled version. Again, we should keep in mind that radio-controlled aircraft had been proven as early as World War I and the technology was known and understood.
Liito-Pommi malli 1 loaded beneath Ilmavoimat bomber for early trials
While the LP-1 was still in testing, the LP-2 was constructed. This model carried a radio receiver so that the bombardier could guide it towards its target. It was no super weapon and required the launching bomber to keep slow and level, making sure the bomb was in visual sight of the operator while he was guiding in the bomb to the target. Contrary to several post-war articles, none of these Liito-Pommi had a TRUE tail elevator - rather these gliders were equipped with a small trim-tab to maintain glide-bomb attitude that was in turn controlled by an autopilot. All directional control (climb, dive, bank) was performed by the elevons on the main wing and the bomb was roll-stablised by a gyroscope. The various projections from the airframe on this and later versions have frequently been misconstrued as air-driven generators, but they were in fact either venturi tubes that drove the gyroscopes or were spinner-type/bomb fuses that spun off, thereby arming the bomb in flight. The LP-2 could be guided to the target visually with some difficulty – the main problem identified was the difficulty of visually tracking the bomb and guiding it accurately onto the target. Between the combination of visual tracking of the bomb and judging speed and altitude, accuracy was very low – more or less on a par with medium to high level bombing.
The next version, the LP-3, was both more aerodynamically designed to increase speed and in addition to the radio receiver, incorporated 5 flares mounted behind the wing leading edge, so the bombardier could guide it towards its target. In addition, the Radio receiver equipment on the LP-3 was upgraded and more powerful batteries installed (used to drove the solenoid control actuators for the elevons). In operation, the launch aircraft would send commands using a Nokia radio transmitter, which was received by the Receiver unit on the LP-3 and used to demodulate the signal and generate steering commands for the control actuators. Eighteen preset frequencies in the 48-50 MHz bands were available. This was the first air launched Command to Line Of Sight (CLOS) guidance system ever used. Red coloured flares on the tail of the weapon were used to cue the operator when steering the weapon. With the provision of a telescopic viewer, the bombardier had a better chance of keeping the bomb accurately on target, but the controlling aircraft still had to remain within visual range if the bomb was to be accurately guided onto the target, which meant that the aircraft had to both maintain a gentle flight path consistent with tracking the bomb, and would also be subjected to anti-aircraft fire. Range of the LP-3 obviously varied depending on the height of the release but it was found that from a releaee at 3,500 ft a glide range of up to 11km was possible.
Liito-Pommi LP-3: As well as being radio-controlled, this was equipped with bright flares which allowed the bombardier to visually track the glide-bomb and apply corrective commands on the way to the target (the 5 flares can be seen above the bomb at the rear, just behind the main wing).
The basic limitation that the bomber aircrews involved in the trials flagged as the major issue was that they couldn’t go out of line-of-sight and if subjected to AA fire or enemy fighter attack, counter-measures meants that the bombardier could all to easily loose track of the LP-3, even with the flares assisted with their visual signal. In addition, to actually visually guide the bomb onto the target, they needed to be close enough that they were within AA gun range in any event.
It was at this stage of the project, around the end of 1937, that Tigerstedt suggested that consideration be given to a combination of glide-bomb mounted TV camera’s and radio control. When one wonders why this hadn’t been considered earlier, one should remember that in the late 1930’s, both radio-control and promitove television were very much “Buck Rodgers” technologies and were still very much in their own developmental infancy. And complex autonomous-guidance systems were very much the stuff of pure science-fiction.Recall now that Tigerstedt had a remarkable range of contacts in the specialized field that he worked in – and he was very much aware of the work of Archibald Low and of course, of the work of the Hungarian inventor, Kálmán Tihanyi. Grasping somewhat at straws, Tigerstedt flew to London and contacted both Low and Tihanyi. Low’s work on guidance systems was discussed at length, as was Tihanyi’s work on an “Aerial Torpedo” using an infrared camera to lock onto a moving target.
After some further meetings and discussions on what Tigerstedt was trying to achieve, Tihanyi in early 1938 accepted an offer to work with Tigerstedt at the Nokia R&D Lab in Helsinki on the project. They would continue to work closely together over 1938, 1939 and into 1940, while they made substantial progress, the goal of a remotely-guided or autonomous glider bomb that worked successfully would elude them for some years, with Tigerstedt only really achieving what he was looking for in 1944. Even so, the Nokia radar-guided and infrared-homing Liito-Pommi and rockets of 1944-1945 were substantially ahead of any other country at the time, and they gave the Maavoimat, Merivoimat and Ilmavoimat a decided tactical advantage when they entered the war against Germany in spring 1944. However, that discussion is a little ahead of the current timeline, to which we will now return.
With Tigerstedt and now Tihanyi working feverishly together from early 1038, progress began to be made. In late 1938, the Liito-Pommi LP-4 was trialled. The LP-4 was in many ways similar to the LP-3, basically a 2000 lb general-purpose bomb fitted with a 12 ft wing and twin tails. A primitive TV camera was mounted in the bomb nose, with the transmitter contained in the fuselage behind the bomb. The TV image was transmitted and displayed to the bombardier, who could then send radio commands to correct the glide bomb's course. The LP-4 flew at a speed of 385 km/h (240 mph) and it was found that accuracy under optimal conditions was around 60 m (200 ft).
The Liito-Pommi Malli 4 had a small TV camera in the nose, sending a picture back to the Bombardier. While it was a good idea, the unreliability and lack of sharp image made it a weapon system that only worked in the best weather conditions. The initial trial results were disappointing, not the least because of technical difficulties but also because the TV image was too fuzzy on anything other than a clear day.
Crew members control the Liito-Pommi LP-4 guided bomb in a trial
Liito-Pommi LP-4 mounted beneath the wing of an Ilmavoimat bomber. The early TV cameras used for this bomb were very heavy and very expensive. There were continuing developmental issues with television camera resolution and the strength and range of the transmitted signal.
And it was at this point that the project stalled. The stand-off concept and the ability to fly and control the bombs had been proven. However, the television technology was still at rather too early a stage of development to work successfully, despite the work that Tigerstedt and Tihanyi put in. A second version of the LP-4 using infrared technology was also worked on, but while the infrared components worked to an extent, the autonomous homing described by Tihanyi in his earlier papers proved to be conceptual rather than designed and working – and it was the designing and building that stymied the team over 1938 and into 1939 (and indeed, would continue to do so through to 1942-43 when the first versions began to work somewhat problematically). Simply put, the infrared seeker could be used to home on targets which were significantly hotter than their surroundings but contrast was problematical and designing and building an autonomous control to home on a moving target proved a major challenge. While the LP-1, LP-2, LP-3 and LP-4 Liito-Pommi would have no major impact on the Winter War, they showed the path towards the future, where guidance systems and stand off capacity would take a giant leap forward by the end of WW2, with Nokia at the forefront of guidance system technology.
However, in 1939, as has been mentioned, the team came up with a working Liito-Pommi - the world’s first true “fire and forget” bomb. Once dropped, the Liito-Pommi went solo, guidimg itself to the target with a nose-mounted autonomous homing mechanism that was impervious to electronic countermeasures.
The History of the LLP/-40 Lintu-Liito-Pommi Malli-40 (Bird Glide Bomb Model 40)
Known colloquially to Ilmavoimat ground crew handling the devices as the Linnunpaska Liito-Pommu (Bird-shit Glide Bomb) or even more commonly as “Paskapää” (shithead), the Lintu-Liito-Pommi Malli-40 (Bird Glide Bomb Model 40) had its origins in a strange combination of the aforementioned Glide-Bomb Project and the research work of a junior psychologist at the University of Helsinki, Johannes Nahkuri.
The history of what would become known to history as the Linnunpaska Project is the history of a crackpot idea, born in a bar at midnight, but eventually vindicated by success. It is the story of an innovative proposal that was attempted but which at the time turned out to be in advance of the available technology and faced failure – but which then achieved success by abandoning the technology component that was the cause of the failures and replacing this component with a simple and easily available organic component – to wit, trained Pigeons. The end result was the world’s first highly accurate guided missile and it was a weapon that was used by the Ilmavoimat through the entire duration of the Winter War in attacks on both sea and land targets – attacks that had a high degree of success, with some 85% of bombs dropped hitting dead on target. This was superlative accuracy for the time in question, and that it could be achieved without placing the attacking aircraft in any substantial danger made it even more of a success.
As we have seen in the preceding post, the basic technology of the glider bomb had originated towards the end of WW1 and the bomb, wings and controls necessary for flight were a fairly straightforward and rapidly achieved engineering problem. The real problems were not with the glide-bomb itself, but in the control and homing mechanism. Tigerstedt and Tihanyi’s work on television and radio remote control and autonomous infrared homing had run into ongoing obstacles which they continued to struggle to overcome. In late 1938, in one of those fortuitous moments which occur, one of the Nokia engineers on the project, Erkki Nahkuri, sat in a Helsinki bar with his younger brother, Johannes Nahkuri, a junior psychologist at the University of Helsinki (who somewhat incidentally had studied at the University of Minnesota in 1937) and after the consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol, poured his woes and the woes of the project out, in the process breaking all the sworn secrecy clauses of his contract, but not before ensuring nobody else could overhear them.
Johannes Nahkuri, photo taken 1939
In his work at the University of Helsinki, young Nahkuri was completing a Doctorate program in Psychology. For his thesis, he was working in the then brand-new field of operant conditioning, studying the relationship of behaviour to experimental conditions using Pigeons as the experimental subjects, influenced in this by his studies at the University of Minnesota.
Operant conditioning is an interesting field and in 1939 it was in its infancy. A simplified explanation is that it has long been known that behavior is affected by its consequences. We reward and punish people, for example, so that they will behave in different ways. A more specific effect of a consequence was first studied experimentally by Edward L. Thorndike in a well-known experiment. A cat enclosed in a box struggled to escape and eventually moved the latch which opened the door. When repeatedly enclosed in a box, the cat gradually ceased to do those things which had proved ineffective ("errors") and eventually made the successful response very quickly.
In operant conditioning, behavior is also affected by its consequences, but the process is not trial-and-error learning. It can best be explained with an example. A hungry rat is placed in a semi-soundproof box. For several days bits of food are occasionally delivered into a tray by an automatic dispenser. The rat soon goes to the tray immediately upon hearing the sound of the dispenser. A small horizontal section of a lever protruding from the wall has been resting in its lowest position, but it is now raised slightly so that when the rat touches it, it moves downward. In doing so it closes an electric circuit and operates the food dispenser. Immediately after eating the delivered food the rat begins to press the lever fairly rapidly. The behavior has been strengthened or reinforced by a single consequence. The rat was not "trying" to do anything when it first touched the lever and it did not learn from "errors."
To a hungry rat, food is a natural reinforcer, but the reinforcer in this example is the sound of the food dispenser, which was conditioned as a reinforcer when it was repeatedly followed by the delivery of food before the lever was pressed. In fact, the sound of that one operation of the dispenser would have had an observable effect even though no food was delivered on that occasion, but when food no longer follows pressing the lever, the rat eventually stops pressing. The behavior is said to have been extinguished. An operant can come under the control of a stimulus. If pressing the lever is reinforced when a light is on but not when it is off, responses continue to be made in the light but seldom, if at all, in the dark. The rat has formed a discrimination between light and dark. When one turns on the light, a response occurs, but that is not a reflex response.
The lever can be pressed with different amounts of force, and if only strong responses are reinforced, the rat presses more and more forcefully. If only weak responses are reinforced, it eventually responds only very weakly. The process is called differentiation. A response must first occur for other reasons before it is reinforced and becomes an operant. It may seem as if a very complex response would never occur to be reinforced, but complex responses can be shaped by reinforcing their component parts separately and putting them together in the final form of the operant. Operant reinforcement not only shapes the topography of behavior, it maintains it in strength long after an operant has been formed. Schedules of reinforcement are important in maintaining behavior.
If a response has been reinforced for some time only once every five minutes, for example, the rat soon stops responding immediately after reinforcement but responds more and more rapidly as the time for the next reinforcement approaches. (That is called a fixed-interval schedule of reinforcement.) If a response has been reinforced n the average every five minutes but unpredictably, the rat responds at a steady rate. (That is a variable-interval schedule of reinforcement.) If the average interval is short, the rate is high; if it is long, the rate is low.
If a response is reinforced when a given number of responses has been emited, the rat responds more and more rapidly as the required number is approached. (That is a fixed-ratio schedule of reinforcement.) The number can be increased by easy stages up to a very high value; the rat will continue to respond even though a response is only very rarely reinforced. "Piece-rate pay" in industry is an example of a fixed-ratio schedule, and employers are sometimes tempted to "stretch" it by increasing the amount of work required for each unit of payment. When reinforcement occurs after an average number of responses but unpredictably, the schedule is called variable-ratio. It is familiar in gambling devices and systems which arrange occasional but unpredictable payoffs. The required number of responses can easily be stretched, and in a gambling enterprise such as a casino the average ratio must be such that the gambler loses in the long run if the casino is to make a profit.
Reinforcers may be positive or negative. A positive reinforcer reinforces when it is presented; a negative reinforcer reinforces when it is withdrawn. Negative reinforcement is not punishment. Reinforcers always strengthen behavior; that is what "reinforced" means. Punishment is used to suppress behavior. It consists of removing a positive reinforcer or presenting a negative one. It often seems to operate by conditioning negative reinforcers. The punished person henceforth acts in ways which reduce the threat of punishment and which are incompatible with, and hence take the place of, the behavior punished.
The human species is distinguished by the fact that its vocal responses can be easily conditioned as operants. There are many kinds of verbal operants because the behavior must be reinforced only through the mediation of other people, and they do many different things. The reinforcing practices of a given culture compose what is called a language. The practices are responsible for most of the extraordinary achievements of the human species. Other species acquire behavior from each other through imitation and modelling (they show each other what to do), but they cannot tell each other what to do. We acquire most of our behavior with that kind of help. We take advice, heed warnings, observe rules, and obey laws, and our behavior then comes under the control of consequences which would otherwise not be effective. Most of our behavior is too complex to have occurred for the first time without such verbal help. By taking advice and following rules we acquire a much more extensive repertoire than would be possible through a solitary contact with the environment.
Responding because behavior has had reinforcing consequences is very different from responding by taking advice, following rules, or obeying laws. We do not take advice because of the particular consequence that will follow; we take it only when taking other advice from similar sources has already had reinforcing consequences. In general, we are much more strongly inclined to do things if they have had immediate reinforcing consequences than if we have been merely advised to do them.
The innate behavior studied by ethologists is shaped and maintained by its contribution to the survival of the individual and species. Operant behavior is shaped and maintained by its consequences for the individual. Both processes have controversial features. Neither one seems to have any place for a prior plan or purposes. In both, selection replaces creation.
Personal freedom also seems threatened. It is only the feeling of freedom, however, which is affected. Those who respond because their behavior has had positively reinforcing consequences usually feel free. They seem to be doing what they want to do. Those who respond because the reinforcement has been negative and who are therefore avoiding or escaping from punishment are doing what they have to do and do not feel free. These distinctions do not involve the fact of freedom.
The experimental analysis of operant behavior has led to a technology often called behavior modification. It usually consists of changing the consequences of behavior, removing consequences which have caused trouble, or arranging new consequences for behavior which has lacked strength. Historically, people have been controlled primarily through negative reinforcement that is, they have been punished when they have not done what is reinforcing to those who could punish them. Positive reinforcement has been less often used, partly because its effect is slightly deferred, but it can be as effective as negative reinforcement and has many fewer unwanted byproducts. For example, students who are punished when they do not study may study, but they may also stay away from school (truancy), vandalize school property, attack teachers, or stubbornly do nothing. Redesigning school systems so that what students do is more often positively reinforced can make a great difference.
Nahkuri was, as has been mentioned, working with Pigeons in this field and had been achieving what he considered to be considerable success using an instrumental conditioning chamber containing one or more levers which a pigeon could press, one or more stimulus lights and one or more places in which reinforcers like food could be delivered. The pigeon’s presses on the levers were detected and recorded and a contingency between these presses, the state of the stimulus lights and the delivery of reinforcement could be set up, all automatically. It was also possible to deliver other reinforcers such as water or to deliver punishers like electric shock through the floor of the chamber. Other types of response could be measured — nose-poking at a moving panel, or hopping on a treadle for example.
Nahkuri’s Pigeons in a Conditioning Box
Nahkuri was working to demonstrate the idea of shaping, or “the method of successive approximations.”… Shaping began by reinforcing a behavior that was vaguely similar to the desired behavior. Once that behavior had been established, when variations occur that were closer to the desired behavior those were rewarded. These were continued until the behavior wanted was being performed. Nahkuri had certainly proved to his own satisfaction that the idea of shaping could create a behavior that would not show up in ordinary life. Nahkuri’s experiments to date as of early 1939 had produced pigeons that could dance, do figure eights, and play table tennis. As Nahkuri would remark after the war: “Too many people think of me as the person who taught pigeons to play Ping-Pong. It turns up in the damnedest places! I did that for a demonstration to the Maavoimat to prove what you could do with these techniques, to show people the product of shaping behavior. I didn’t do it to teach the pigeons to play Ping-Pong. That’s not the science!” Then he added, with comic timing, “Although the pigeons did get pretty good at it…angle shots and so on.”
Nahkuri’s Pigeons playing Table Tennis (Ping Pong)
One Johanne’s older brother had finished pouring out his woes, Johannes began questioning him as to what they were trying to achieve. Chief among these was the whole issue of target detection and homing, the susceptibility of the television and radio mechanisms to jamming and the sheer size and weight of the servo-mechanisms and television equipment. With a better idea of what the issues were, Johannes’ thoughts immediately turned to his Pigeons. Without mentioning his intentions to his older brother (who by the following morning had a splitting headache and very little recollection of the previous evening, let alone of anything he had said), Johannes got down to work. Acquiring a further 24 Pigeons, he proceeded to experiment.
Next Post: The Most Heavily Armed Pigeons in the World, Part IV
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Nahkuri proceeded to test the capacity of the pigeon to steer towards a target with a hoist by the simple expedient of enclosing the pigeon in a jacket (actually, the “jackets” were some old socks) and harnessing this to a block, immobilizing the pigeon except for its head and neck. It could eat grain from a dish and operate a control system by moving its head in appropriate directions. Movement of the head operated the motors of the hoist. The bird could ascend by lifting its head, descend by lowering it, and travel from side to side by moving appropriately. The whole system, mounted on wheels, was pushed across a room toward a bull's-eye on the far wall. During the approach the pigeon raised or lowered itself and moved from side to side in such a way as to reach the wall in position to eat grain from the center of the bull's-eye. The pigeons rapidly learned to reach any target within reach of the hoist, no matter what the starting position and even during fairly rapid approaches.
Thirty-two pigeons, jacketed for testing.
Pigeon harnessed for testing
Nahkuri trained the Pigeons to be comfortable in a harness while they pecked at the target and ate their rewards. When they had learned this, he progressed to training the pigeons to ‘steer’ their bomb. Nahkuri designed a system that reflected the birds movements – when the pigeon lifted or lowered its head, it closed electrical contacts to operate a hoist. When it moved its head from side to side, the hoist moved back and forth. Nahkuri would push the whole thing across the room and the birds learned to guide it straight towards the target, finally receiving its reward at the end. The pecking itself was transmitted as electrical signals. When the image of the target started to move off center, the pigeons would peck frantically to bring the device back on track (and to get their reward!)
With the backing of the Head of the Univesity’s Psychology Department, who had no idea of the real reasons behind Nahkuri’s experiments, Johannes conducted a series of further experiments aimed at reinforcing and improving the earlier results. A simpler harnessing system could be used if the bomb were to rotate slowly during its descent, when the pigeon would need to steer in only one dimension: from side to side. Nahkuri built an apparatus in which a harnessed pigeon was lowered toward a large revolving turntable across which a target was driven according to contacts made by the bird during its descent. It was not difficult to train a pigeon to "hit" small ship models during fairly rapid descents. However, it had been difficult to induce the pigeon to respond to the small angular displacement of a distant target. It would start working dangerously late in the descent. Its natural pursuit behavior was not appropriate to the characteristics of a likely missile. A new system was therefore designed. An image of the target was projected on a translucent screen as in a camera obscura. The pigeon, held near the screen, was reinforced for pecking at the image on the screen. The guiding signal was to be picked up from the point of contact of screen and beak.
Pigeon harnessed and in the early stages of training
In an early arrangement the screen was a translucent plastic plate forming the larger end of a truncated cone bearing a lens at the smaller end. The cone was mounted, lens down, in a gimbal bearing. An object within range threw its image on the translucent screen; and the pigeon, held vertically just above the plate, pecked the image. When a target was moved about within range of the lens, the cone continued to point to it. In another apparatus a translucent disk, free to tilt slightly on gimbal bearings, closed contacts operating motors which altered the position of a large field beneath the apparatus. Small cutouts of ships and other objects were placed on the field. The field was constantly in motion, and a target would go out of range unless the pigeon continued to control it. With this apparatus we began to study the pigeon's reactions to various patterns and to develop sustained steady rates of responding through the use of appropriate schedules of reinforcement, the reinforcement being a few grains occasionally released onto the plate.
By building up large extinction curves a target could be tracked continuously for a matter of minutes without reinforcement. Nahkuri trained pigeons to follow a variety of land and sea targets, to neglect large patches intended to represent clouds or flak, to concentrate on one target while another was in view, and so on. He found that a pigeon could hold the glide-bomb on a particular street intersection in an aerial map of a city. The map which came most easily to hand was of a nearby foreign city which, in the interests of post-war international relations, need not be identified but which was certainly a valid target in the Winter War. Through appropriate schedules of reinforcement it was possible to maintain longer uninterrupted runs than could conceivably be required by a glide-bomb (One Nahkuri-trained Pigeon pecked at an image more than 10,000 times in 45 minutes without any reinforcement being used within the entire test period). He also undertook a more serious study of the pigeon's behavior, with the help of a number of undergraduate students who joined the project at this time. They ascertained optimal conditions of deprivation, investigated other kinds of deprivations, studied the effect of special reinforcements (for example, pigeons were said to find hemp seed particularly delectable and using hemp seed improved performance of the Pigeons), tested the effects of energizing drugs and increased or decreased oxygen pressures, and so on.
They went on to differentially reinforce the force of the pecking response and found that pigeons could be induced to peck so energetically that the base of the beak became inflamed. They investigated the effects of extremes of temperature, of changes in atmospheric pressure, of accelerations produced by an improvised centrifuge, of increased carbon dioxide pressure, of increased and prolonged vibration, and of noises such as pistol shots. (The birds could, of course, have been deafened to eliminate auditory distractions, but Nahkuri found it easy to maintain steady behavior in spite of intense noises and many other distracting conditions using the simple process of adaptation.) They investigated optimal conditions for the quick development of discriminations and began to study the pigeon's reactions to patterns, testing for induction from a test figure to the same figure inverted, to figures of different sizes and colors, and to figures against different grounds.
Johannes Nahkuri in his Lab in the University of Helsinki, late 1938: Early days of working to train Pigeons to guide Glide-Bombs
All of this was achieved in a mere three months and tt was at this point of his research work in late February 1939 that Nahkuri arranged through his brother Erkki to meet with Tigerstedt. The meeting was not hard to arrange, Tigerstedt was a sociable sort of a chap and intensely interested in scientific work even when outside of his specialist fields. As it stood, he met with young Nahkuri and discussed his experiments with him with a great deal of interest. Shortly afterwards, Tigerstedt and Tihanyi jointly visited Nahkuri in his lab, where they were given a demonstration of the pigeons capabilities. Intrigued and also somewhat amused by the possibilities and not particularly concerned that it was not “their” solution, Tigerstedt approached the Pääesikunnan Teknillinen Tutkimusyksikkö (Technical Research Unit of the General Staff) for funding. Tigerstedt advise the PTT that this was a potential homing device capable of reporting with an on-off signal the orientation of a Liito-Pommi toward various visual patterns. The fact that the device used only visible radiation (the same form of information available to the human bombardier) and that once launched it was completely autonomous made it superior to the radio and television controlled Liito-Pommi then under development because it was resistant to jamming.
The PTT sent observers to see a demonstration. Apparantly the pigeons, as usual, behaved flawlessly. One of them held the supposed Liito-Pommi on a particular intersection of streets in the aerial map for five minutes although the target would have been lost if the pigeon had paused even for a second or two. Although highly skeptical, on Tigerstedt and Tihanyi’s insistence on exploring the possibilities, the PTT agreed to contribute 250,000 markka to further research work. Nahkuri’s experimental subjects and equipment were moved to the Nokia R&D Labs and with a great deal of hilarity and many bad jokes at Nahkuri and the Pigeon’s expense, serious design and experimental work began.
The pigeons were to be harnessed inside the nose cones of the bombs and work on electro-mechanical controls and a prototype progressed rapidly. A lens in the nose of the missile threw an image on a translucent plate within reach of the pigeon which was cushioned in a pressure sealed chamber. Four air valves resting against the edges of the plate were jarred open momentarily as the pigeon pecked. The valves at the right and left admitted air to chambers on opposite sides of one tambour, while the valves at the top and bottom admitted air to opposite sides of another. Air on all sides was exhausted by a Venturi cone on the side of the missile. When the Liito-Pommi was on target, the pigeon pecked the center of the plate, all valves admitted equal amounts of air, and the tambours remained in neutral positions. But if the image moved as little as a quarter of an inch off-center, corresponding to a very small angular displacement of the target, more air was admitted by the valves on one side, and the resulting displacement of the tambours sent appropriate correcting orders directly to the servosystem.
The translucent plate upon which the image of the target was thrown had a semiconducting surface (the glass screen was coated with stannic oxide to make it electrically conducting), and the tip of the bird's beak was covered with a gold electrode. A single contact with the plate sent an immediate report of the location of the target to the controlling mechanism. Through circuitry based on the Wheatstone Bridge principle, pecks on the glass were translated into distance right and left and up and down from the center lines.
One of the more challenging tasks for the project team was to determine the electronic inputs/voltages required for control of the gyroscopes amd servomechanisms in the Liito-Pommi but again, “this was mere engineering” and the engineering team soon solved this problem. Another early problem was soon rectified. Trials revealed a possible data inconsistency with repect to phase lag, which was traced to a specific nonlinearity in the system. In pecking an image near the edge of the plate, the pigeon struck a more glancing blow; hence the air admitted at the valves was not linearly proportional to the displacement of the target. This could be corrected in several ways: for example, by using a lens to distort radial distances and this was soon done. After examining the early simulation tests, Tigerstedt exclaimed gleefully "This is better than television control!"
The device required no materials in short supply, was relatively foolproof, and delivered a graded signal. It had another advantage. By this time Nahkuri had begun to realize that a pigeon was more easily controlled than a physical scientist serving on a committee. It was very difficult to convince the latter that the former was an orderly system. Nahkuri therefore multiplied the probability of success by designing a multiple bird unit. There was adequate space in the nose of the Liito-Pommi for three pigeons each with its own lens and plate. A net signal could easily be generated. The majority vote of three pigeons offered an excellent guarantee against momentary pauses and aberrations. (The team later worked out a system in which the majority took on a more characteristically democratic function. When a Liiot-Pommi was falling toward two ships at sea, for example, there was no guarantee that all three pigeons will steer toward the same ship. But at least two must agree, and the third can then be punished for his minority opinion. Under proper contingencies of reinforcement a punished bird will shift immediately to the majority view. When all three are working on one ship, any defection ws immediately punished and corrected). To cater for circumstances where there were more tha two ships in visual range, one Pigeon was designated as the Primary Target Selector and if necessary, the other two Pigeons would be punished into achieving target compliance.
The arrangement in the nose of the Lintu-Liito-Pommi is shown above. Three systems of lenses and mirrors, shown at the left, throw images of the target area on the three translucent plates shown in the center. The ballistic valves resting against the edges of these plates and the tubes connecting them with the manifolds leading to the controlling tambours may be seen. A pigeon is being placed in the pressurized chamber at the right.
View of the Lintu-Liito-Pommi nose cone with the cover removed
The Project engineers also built a simulator as a training device for pigeons — designed to have the steering characteristics of the Liito-Pommi. The training simulator tilted and turned from side to side. When the three-bird nose was attached to the simulator, the pigeons could be put in full control - the "loop could be closed" - and the adequacy of the signal tested under pursuit conditions. Targets were moved back and forth across the far wall of a room at prescribed speeds and in given patterns of oscillation, and the tracking response of the whole unit was studied quantitatively. At the same time a thorough and detailed training regime for the pigeons was devised. Nahkuri’s team of students, who had now also joined the project team, continued their intensive study of the behavior of the pigeon.
Looking ahead to combat use they designed methods for the mass production of trained birds and for handling large groups of trained subjects. Nahkuri and the students proposed to train groups of birds for certain classes of targets, such as ships at sea or tanks, bridges or buildings on land, while smaller “special” squads of Pigeons were to be trained on specific targets, photographs of which were to be obtained through reconnaissance. A large crew of pigeons would then be waiting for assignment. It was thought that the Pigeons would require ongoing training in order to maintain their targeting skills, but tests made with the birds showed that even after a period of months of inactivity a pigeon would immediately and correctly strike a target to which it has been conditioned and will continue to respond for some time without further reinforcement.
A multiple unit trainer is shown above. Each box contains a jacketed pigeon held at an angle of 45° to the horizontal and perpendicularto an 8" X 8" translucent screen. A target area is projected on each screen. Two beams of light intersect at the point to be struck. All on-target responses of the pigeon are reported by the interruption of the crossed beams and by contact with the translucent screen. Only a four-inch, disk shaped portion of the field is visible to the pigeon at any time, but the boxes move slowly about the field, giving the pigeon an opportunity to respond to the target in all positions. The positions of all reinforcements are recorded to reveal any weak areas. A variable-ratio schedule is used to build sustained, rapid responding.
The Pigeons were fairly smart birds in some ways. They found early on in their training that it was not actually necessary to peck on the target to receive grain. This early rebellion against their training was rectified through the use of two beams of light which intersected at the target (the point to be struck). Only on-target responses of the pigeon were rewarded. As it turned out, Pigeon training to standard could be carried out in 30 days. Trainee pigeons were started out in the primary trainer pecking at slowly moving targets. The target was moved by a small mirror controlled by a servo. The control circuits were such that if the pigeon stopped tracking, the target image would drift rapidly away from the center of the screen. This forced the pigeon to correct not only his own pecking errors, but those introduced by the yawing of the glide-bomb. The pigeons were trained with slides of aerial photographs of the target, and if they kept the crosshairs on the target, they were rewarded by a grain deposited in a tray in front of them. They quickly learned that good pecking meant more food. Eventually pigeons were able to track a target jumping back and forth at five inches per second for 80 seconds, without a break. Peck frequency turned out to be four per second, and more than 80 percent of the pecks were within a quarter inch of the target.
The training conditions simulated glide-bomb-flight speeds of between 250 and 400 miles per hour. Average peck rate, average error rate, average hit rate, and so on were recorded under various conditions. The tracking behavior of the pigeon was analyzed with methods similar to those employed with human operator. Pattern perception was studied, including generalization from one pattern to another. Simulators were constructed in which the pigeon controlled an image projected by a moving-picture film of an actual target: for example, a ship at sea as seen from an aircraft approaching at up to 600 miles per hour. Although in simulated tests a single pigeon was found to able to keep the target image on their screens for the duration of more than half their flights (55.3% to be precise), a three-bird unit was found to yield a signal with a reliability of almost 90% and it was a three-bird targeting unit controlling the bomb’s direction by majority rule that the Project Team settled on.
Frames from a simulated approach
The physical control system finally settled on for the Liito-Pommi incorporated a lens at the front of the Liito-Pommi projecting an image of the target to three screens inside, where three suitably trained pigeons pecked at the image of the target that was displayed. As long as the pecks remained in the center of the screen, the missile would fly straight, but pecks off-center would cause the screen to tilt, which would then, via a connection to the missile's flight controls, cause the missile to change course. In the live trials that were carried out over the summer of 1939, the pigeons produced excellent results and proved highly reliable under stressful conditions including extremes in cold, vibration, acceleration, pressure, and noise, with some 85% of the trial glide-bombs hitting the target. Somewhat incidentally, Nahkuri found that the accuracy of the pigeons was improved by some 5-10% and they were less easily disturbed under confusing circumstances if they were fed hemp (marijuana) seeds before a targeting run. At the time of the Winter War, Standard Operating Procedures were to ensure the Pigeons had been well fed with hemp for some hours prior to the mission being flown.
A further problem was the the targeting system was optically based since the Pigeons had to see the targets they were pecking at. The bomber launching the bomb also needed to ensure that the Pigeon was visually cued and had visually “acquired” the target befpre launching. Also, if the Liito-Pommi went too far of course on launching due to the bombers slipstream, target reacquisition was problematical, with the Pigeon’s “acquiring” whatever was in view that looked like a target. Ways and means also needed to be found to keep the Pigeon alive within its harness in the freezing cold of a winter mission of at high altitude. However, for all of these limitations, solutions were found. Appropriately aligned sights could be used to ensure the Liito-Pommi was on target, a “wakeup call” could be generated, alerting the Pigeon that the mission was about to begin (this step was included in the Pigeon Training Program), optimal launch profiles which minimized the risk of throwing the glide-bomb of it’s initial course and thereby risking a complete miss were determined. The size of the Pigeons viewing screen was increased to give a larger picture, thus allowing greater corrective action to be applied. Battery powered “Pigeon Warmers” were included within the Liito-Pommi.
And in mid-1939, the Lintu-Liito-Pommi Malli-40 (Bird Glide Bomb Model 40) was ordered into limited production. The military hierarchy was still bemused and sceptical, but the test results looked good. A number of aircraft were adapted to carry the Liito-Pommi and limited numbers of the bombs were ordered to be constructed, and Pigeons trained. On the outbreak of the Winter War, the Ilmavoimat and Merivoimat Air Arm had approximately 200 of the 2,000lb LLP/m-40 and some 500 of the 1,000lb LLP/m-40 in stock together with around 3,000 trained Pigeons. (A 1,000lb version was ordered as many of the Merivoimat and Ilmavoimat aircraft were restricted in the bomb-weight they could carry).
“They Were Expendable”
On the outbreak of the Winter War, the LLP/m-40’s were used almost immediately in strikes against Soviet naval targets. Success was immediate, and at far lower risk to the aircraft and aircrew than conventional bombing attacks on naval targets. One of the first missions carred out was on the 14th of December 1939 when two Soviet destroyers (the Gnevny and Grozyashtchi) attacked the Finnish lighthouse and fortifications at Utö on 14 December. The Finnish coastal artillery battery at Utö opened fire and called for air support as soon as the Soviet destoyers were sighted and identified.
The Soviet Destroyer Gnevny (Wrathful): In the early 1930s the Soviets felt able to re-start construction of fleet destroyers and forty eight ships were ordered under the second Five year Plan and the Gnevny class were the result. The design was produced with Italian assistance despite ideological differences between the Soviets and Fascist Italy. They resembled contemporary destroyers built in Italy for the Greek and Turkish Navies. They suffered from some of the weaknesses of contemporary Italian ships with structural weakness and limited seaworthiness. There were also significant machinery problems in the earliest ships. Armament consisted of 4 × single barrelled 130 mm (5.1 in) B-13 guns, 2 × single barrelled 76.2 mm (3.00 in) 34-K AA guns, 2 × single barrelled 45 mm (1.8 in) 21-K AA guns, 2 × 12.7 mm (0.50 in) DK or DShK machine guns, 3 × twin-tubed 533 mm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes, 60-95 mines and 25 depth charges.
Finnish artillery fire was seen hitting one of the Destroyers, both of which then withdrew with the help of smoke screen. Shortly afterwards, four Merivoimat Vindicators arrived, each carrying a single 1000lb LLP/m-40’s. The Soviet destroyers were spotted immediately the Merivoimat aircraft arrived and all four aircraft dropped their LLP/m-40’s from a distance of approximately 8 miles. The Pigeons performed flawlessly, although three of the bombs targeted one destroyer while the sourth targeted the second. The first Destroyer was hit by two of the three 1,000lb Lintu-Liito-Pommi Malli-40 which targedt it and sank almost immediately. The second destroyer was crippled with a near miss and then sunk by a second flight of four Vindicators armed with 500lb bombs.
Results early in the Winter War spoke for themselves: An Ilmavoimat Divebomber dropping a Lintu-Liito-Pommi Malli-40 (Bird Glide Bomb Model 40) against a Soviet naval target during the Winter War. These autonomous homing glide-bombs were highly accurate and used with devastating effect. In this particular instance the LLP/m-40 was dropped almost 8 miles away from the target, a Soviet Destroyer in the Gulf of Finland in early December 1939.
The Soviet Destroyer Gnevny, hit by two 1,000lb LLP/m-40’s, she sank almost immediately.
The Soviet Destroyer Grozyashtchi, damaged by a near miss from a single 1,000lb LLP/m-40, she was then hit by four of eight 500lb bombs and sank. There were no reported survivors from either ship.
Initial successes with the Lintu-Liito-Pommi Malli-40 (Bird Glide Bomb Model 40) against naval targets were such that a second series of 500lb Pigeon-guided bombs were ordered for use against Soviet tanks. As mentioned, these types of targets had been envisaged and limited numbers of appropriately-trained Pigeons were available. On receiving the order for production, Pigeon’s were press-ganged in from all available sources (young boys made a considerable amount of money from catching Pigeons over the next few months) and a training regime instituted while the bombs, fuselages and control mechanisms manufactured. As has been mentioned, approximately 30 days was needed to fully train a Pigeon and by the end of February 1940, stockpiles of 500lb bombs and trained anti-tank Pigeons to control them were available. These were used to assist inbreaking the back of the Red Army’s last major attack on the Mannerheim Line in early March 1940. The surprise engendered by waves of winged bombs swooping down at 300kph and accurately targeting moving formations of Red Army tanks and decimating them was impressive, not least to the Red Army troops who witnessed the attacks.
The new Glide-Bombs gave the Ilmavoimat an additional weapon in the battle against the Red Army. Hitherto, the Ilmavoimat had been effective performing in a Close Air Support role, carrying out dive-bombing and low-level strafing and bombing attacks. However, CAS aircraft were exposed to fire from the ground and numbers were lost to enemy AA fire. With the first successful use of the Glide-Bomb against land targets and the ability of the Pigeons to carry out target-specific aiming, the future of the Lintu-Liito-Pommi Malli-40 (Bird Glide Bomb Model 40) was assured. The future of Pigeons perhaps less so, but after all, they were expendable!
The contribution made by Johannes Nahkuri to the war effort was recognised some years after WW2, when the extreme secrecy that surrounded the project was finally dropped as the Pigeons came to be superceded by electronic guidance systems. Here, a painting of Johannes Nahkuri loading a Pigeon into the nose-cone of a Lintu-Liito-Pommi Malli-40 (from the Helsinki Museum of Modern Art)
Following early successes, a variety of schemes were tossed around in which two Glider Bombs would be carried beneath the wings of a larger aircraft. Other combinations of Glider-Bombs were investigated wherein one of the new Merivoimat Catalina’s could be outfitted with 2 bombs in the bomb-bay and two beneath the wings. This huge load would obviously make long-range patrol activity challenging, but one might consider the impact of a sortie wherein a single aircraft could drop four devices against a convoy. In the event, this was what actually happened during the Battle of Bornholm between warships of the Kriegsmarine and Merivoimat warships escorting the Helsinki Convoy of Spring 1940. Four Merivoimat PBY Catalina’s and twenty Merivoimat Junkers Ju 88’s operating at extreme range and each carrying two LLP/m-40’s dropped out of the cloud base at 5,000 feet and from a distance of 5 miles launched a wave of 48 Lintu-Liito-Pommi 2,000lb bombs. The effect of bomb after bomb striking or achieving near misses on the Kriegsmarine warships turned the tide of the Battle, as we will see at a later date when we cover the Helsinki Convoy in detail.
LLP/m-40 mounted beneath a Merivoimat PBY Catalina Wing. Following initial successes, Merivoimat long range patrol aircraft carried two LLP/m-40’s as standard. One was usually fitted with Pigeons trained to target surface vessels, while the second was crewed with Pigeons trained on profiles for surfaced Submarines. At least six Soviet submarines were confirmed destroyed using the LLP/m-40.
Next Post: Waterbombers for the Forest Service
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Thanks for the new angles of the interesting alternative history and the surprises you bring us.
Here are some Finnish publications from the same subject:
Parempi Jatkosota (Better Continuation War)
Entäs jos (What if)
http://kalaksikukko.blogspot.com/2010/1 ... oriaa.html
P.S. when posting photos, please mention also the sources
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As we have seen, the Finnish Forest Service increasingly emphasized the importance of fighting forest fires, largely for economic reasons. This led to the early use of aircraft for fire-spotting and later, for the parachuting of fire-fighting teams into the forest to fight forest fires quickly, before they spread. The same reasoning drove the Forest Service’s experimentation with “water-bombing.” Aerial firefighting in Finland began around 1920 with the first attempts at dropping water from aircraft onto a fire. Most of these attempts were from small civilian aircraft and were unsuccessful during this era, largely due to the very limited amounts of water that could be carried and dropped, but they provided a platform for future initiatives. The first experiments were with actual water bombs -- five gallon waterproof bags of water were dumped out of the cockpit by the observer but without any observed success. A later experiment saw a 50 gallon barrel fitted into the Observers cockpit with a large hose piping the water out through a hole cut in the fuselage floor, this time achieving an observable, if limited, impact on the fire.
Perhaps the first recorded successful use of an aircraft for fire suppression in Finland. Summer 1931, a civilian aircraft leased by the Forest Service makes an aerial drop. Flying close to the ground at low speed, the plane carries out precision water bombing on a fire. It carries a 50 gallon pay load.
In 1938, things began to change very rapidly indeed. In July 1937, as has been mentioned, the Noorduyn Norseman was first introduced into Finland by Veljekset Karhumäki. Impressed by the aircraft, the State Forest Service’s Aerial Surveillance and Fire Fighting Unit purchased eight Norseman aircraft from Noorduyn towards the tail end of 1937, taking delivery in 1938 in time for the start of the Fire Season. Originally designed and constructed to handle the harsh flying conditions of the Canadian bush, the Norseman was not intended to be a detection plane but was to be used as a reliable, all-purpose utility machine, a “half-ton truck with wings”. The Norseman had phenomenal STOL short take-off and landing capabilities and this capability made all the difference on loaded fire patrols carrying firefighters and equipment. Even on a small lake, or in a tight spot, a heavily loaded Norseman needed very little room to land, or to take off.
State Forest Service Noorduyn Norseman flying through mountains on the Norwegian Border – near the Finnmark
In 1935, the Aerial Fire Control Experimental Project was created. At this point, aircraft became important for fire detection, but were still somewhat incapable of successfully extinguishing rapidly-spreading fires with water and fire retardant. A number of Ilmavoimat pilots were seconded to the Forest Service to fly Veljekset Karhumäki aircraft through the 1937 season. One of these men, a pilot-engineer named Karl Koivisto, was an inveterate tinkerer (as so many engineers are) and began his own experiments with aerial fire-fighting. His initial trials used water tanks inside the aircraft cabin, and he created an elaborate system of metal tubes, elbows and nipples to get the water from the source into the barrel, while the aircraft was moving along the surface of a lake. These efforts proved less than satisfactory until a firefighter suggested using a fire power pump and hose. While this was an efficient way to get the water into the barrel, dumping it from the air with any degree of accuracy proved disappointing more times than not.
Koivisto didn't give up however. He got the idea of taking water directly into the floats. The problem here was that the floats of the day were not baffled or compartmentalized. A pilot attempting this manouevre ran the risk of filling the floats too full, and this would spell disaster for a floatplane. The two main problems were that the pilot had no way of knowing how much water was going into the floats, and had no way of dumping the load quickly. There were no hydraulic bomb doors for water load release. Koivisto figured out what had to be done and a set of floats were converted based on his detailed drawings. Fitted to the rugged Noorduyn Norseman aircraft, complete with water pickup and bombing controls installed in the cockpit, Koivisto was successful in attacking a fire in August 1937. While only carring about 100 gallons of water, which took nine seconds to jettison, Koivisto was able to knock the fire down and give fire crews a chance to get in on the ground and put it out.
However, 100 gallons was not really sufficient to attack a large forest fire and through the winter of 1937-38, Koivisto continued to think through possible solutions. The idea of carrying a water-filled tank in the cabin of the aircraft, with the water load exiting through the side doors was quickly scrapped. Then, a fellow Ilmavoimat pilot suggested they try open-top tanks mounted on each float. These roll tanks could be easily filled by simply moving the aircraft rapidly along the surface of the water. A series of cables and pulleys allowed the pilot to dump the load and the tanks, weighted at the bottom, would automatically right themselves, ready for the next pick-up. In Spring 1938, Koivisto gained permission from the Forest Service for a trial and immediately outfitted a Norseman with two rollover tanks, each of which held 100 gallons. A further 100 gallon belly tank was fitted after it was proven that the float tanks worked successfully.
Koivisto got his chance early in the Summer of 1938. Using a lone Norseman equipped with roll tanks, he was able to hold down a strip of fire about one mile long until the fire fighting teams could get in and get their firefighting equipment set up. It was later conceded that without the aerial waterbombing, the fire would have quickly grown into unmanageable proportions. The success of this and a number of other fire-fighting sorties led to the fitting of three more Forest Service Norseman for aerial fire fighting. At the end of the fire-fighting season, an evaluation of the program declared it a complete success and recommended that the Forest Service look into acquiring a larger aircraft capable of carrying a much larger quantity of water.
Now, you may recall that many Posts ago, the purchase by the Merivoimat of ten Consolidated PBY Catalina’s in December 1936 was mentioned, with the aircraft delivered in mid-1937. The Forest Service spent considerable time in late 1938 examining a Merivoimat Catalina and looking at ways the aircraft could be converted for use as a water bomber. In January 1939, the Forest Service was encouraged by the Government to buy ten of the Catalinas, with partial funding from the Government provided on the understanding that the aircraft along with their aircrews and maintenance personnel would form a Merivoimat Air Arm Reserve unit.
Forest Service PBY Catalina modified to carry 1,000 US gallons (3,800 L) of water for air-dropping on forest fires. Purchased in early 1939 and delivered in the summer of the same year, only one of the ten Catalina’s purchased by the Forest Service was actually converted for use as a water-bomber. Two months later it was hastily converted over to a military configuration for use by the Merivoimat Air Arm, bringing the Merivoimat’s Catalina strength as of November 1939 up to a total of twenty.
Aerial fire-fighting using water bombers would not resume in Finland until after the end of WW2, but the Merivoimat’s Catalina strength would grow considerably over the course of WW2. Many of these aircraft would remain in service after the war, used for both waterbombing of forest fores and for forest spraying programs. In the meantime however, the Forest Service’s waterbombers would lead to a further weapon which the Ilmavoimat would use with great success over the course of the Winter War. This was the Fire-Bomb.
Next Post: Fire-bombing
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......To this mix were later added the 28th Māori Battalion of the New Zealand Army and a single Battalion of British volunteers, the 5th Battalion (Special Reserve), Scots Guards. We will cover each of these two “special” units in turn.
Once Were Warriors – the 28th Maori Battalion of the New Zealand Army
(photo sourced from
Cap Badge of the 28th Māori Battalion of the New Zealand Army
The 28th (Māori) Battalion of the New Zealand Army was formed immediately after the dispatch of the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion to Finland following pressure on the Labour government by some Māori Members of Parliament (MPs) and Māori organisations throughout the country who wanted a full Māori unit to be raised for voluntary service to assist Finland. The unit had its early origins in mid-1939 when Sir Apirana Ngata started to discuss proposals for the formation of a military unit made up of Māori volunteers similar to the Māori Pioneer Battalion that had served during the First World War. This proposal was furthered by two Māori MPs, Eruera Tirikatene and Paraire Paikea, and from this support within the Māori community for the idea began to grow as it was seen as an opportunity for Māoris to participate and raise their profile as citizens of the British Empire, serving alongside their “Pākehā” (New Zealand european) compatriots and to also give a new generation of people with a well-noted military ancestry the opportunity to test their own warrior skills.
At first the New Zealand government was hesitant, but on 4 October 1939, the decision was announced that the proposal would be accepted and that the battalion would be raised in addition to the nine battalions and support units that had already been formed into three brigades of the 2nd New Zealand Division. Nevertheless, it was decided that the battalion's key positions, including its officers and non commissioned officers (NCOs), would initially be filled largely by New Zealanders of European descent. This decision was met with some consternation, so assurances were made that over time suitable Māori candidates would take over these positions. In this regard, it was decided that the battalion's first commanding officer would be a regular officer, Major George Dittmer—later promoted to lieutenant colonel in January 1940—and that his second in command would be a Reserve officer, Lieutenant Colonel George Bertrand, a part-Māori who would take up the position with the rank of Major. Both men were veterans of the First World War and had considerable experience
(photo sourced from muse.aucklandmuseum.com)
Lt. Col George Dittmer, CBE, DSO, MBE, MC, MID. Born Maharahara (New Zealand), 4th June, 1893, 1st Commanding Officer, the Maori Battalion from November 1939 to February 1942.
(photo sourced from muse.aucklandmuseum.com)
Major George Bertrand: photographed as part of a group of New Zealand and Allied officers at Katerini in Greece in 1941. Left to right: Major George Bertrand, a Greek officer, Captain Tiwi Love, Captain George Weir, 2nd Lieutenant Charles Bennett, and an unidentified Soviet officer
Almost immediately effort was focused upon selecting and identifying the officers and NCOs. To this end volunteers were called for amongst units that had already formed as part of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF) and from new recruits. At the end of November 1939, 146 trainees reported to the Army School at Trentham, where even serving officers and NCOs were required to prove their suitability for positions in the new battalion. Concurrently, recruiting of men to fill the other ranks positions began in early October and within three weeks nearly 900 men had enlisted. The process was carried out by recruiting officers who worked closely with tribal authorities, and the recruits were restricted to single men aged between 21 and 35, although later married men were allowed to join, but only if they did not have more than two children of similar ages. The outbreak of the Winter War, the dispatch of the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion in December 1939 and the pressure on the Government from Māori Members of Parliament (MPs) and Māori organisations throughout the country who wanted a full Māori unit to be raised for voluntary service to assist Finland led to rapid progress in the formation and training of the Battalion. With the full agreement of Māori Members of Parliament (MPs) and Māori organisations, the Battalion was dispatched to Finland in late January 1940.
On 6 January 1940 the battalion came together for the first time, marking its official raising at the Palmerston North Show Grounds. The Battalion consisted of a Headquarters Company, four Rifle Companies designated 'A' through 'D', a Heavy Weapons Company and a Logistics Company. In addition, a further two Rifle Companies were designated as reserve and training companies in the expectation that the casualties to be expected would need to be replaced whilst for all intents and purposes being unsupportable by the New Zealand Army. Upon formation it was decided that the battalion would be organised upon tribal lines, with ‘A' Company was recruited from North Auckland; 'B' Company from Rotorua, the Bay of Plenty and Thames–Coromandel; 'C' Company from the East Coast from Gisborne to East Cape and 'D' Company from Waikato, Maniapoto, Hawkes Bay, Wellington and the South Island, as well as some Pacific Islands and the Chatham and Stewart Islands).
Mid-January saw the issuing of equipment and the commencement of training. A lack of previous experience in technical trades also hampered the training of the battalion, as the unit was short of men who were able to serve in roles such as clerks, drivers and signallers because the majority of personnel were drawn from mainly rural backgrounds. Consequently men for these roles had to be trained from scratch. The organisation of the battalion was completed in mid-January, with the men allocated to their respective companies, and on 23 January 1940 the 28th (Māori) Battalion was declared on active service. The battalion conducted three weeks of training before embarking on 14 February 1940 on the SS Awatea, a well known New Zealand passenger ship. The battalion's strength at this time was 80 officers and 1242 other ranks.
(photo sourced from cruiselinehistory.com)
The 28th Maori Battalion of the New Zealand Army left New Zealand on the SS Awatea (Union Steamship Company), travelling to Lyngenfjiord via Perth, Cape Town and Belfast. From Cape Town, she was accompanied by the SS Mariposa (Matson Lines) carrying the Suid Afrikaanse Boer Volunteers, the De La Rey Battalion. In her day, the Awatea was regarded as one of the fastest and most luxurious liners of the period and the Maori Battalion certainly enjoyed the trip. Here shown in a painting by W.W. Stewart, the SS Awatea racing through the Atlantic in company with the SS Mariposa in 13th February 1940. The Awatea was later bombed and sunk in the Mediterranean in World War 2, like so many other wonderful liners.
After a short stop in Perth, the SS Awatea steamed for Cape Town, where she anchored at the Simonstown Naval Base. The Pākehā troops were given shore leave, but due to South Africa's policies of racial segregation, the Māori men of the Battalion were restricted to the ship. The Pākehā troops, primarily Officers and NCO’s, refused to take shore leave that was not permitted to their fellow soldiers, publicly declining a number of invitations to official engagements and resulting in a somewhat embarrassing situation for the South African Government. As frustration mounted, a compromise of sorts was reached and the men of the Māori Battalion were eventually taken to a luncheon hosted by the Mayoress of Cape Town and then given less than an hour to see the city. They were warned to be on their best behaviour, but were in fact warmly welcomed by the local population.
(photo sourced from 28bn.homestead.com)
Māori Officers of the Māori Battalion photographed in Cape Town, early February 1940.
Four days after their arrival, the SS Awatea in company with the SS Mariposa (with her cargo of Boer volunteers) steamed towards Britain, escorted by HMNZS Achilles, whose return to New Zealand after the Battle of the River Plate had been interrupted by orders to proceed instead to Cape Town and escort the SS Awatea to the UK and thence to Norway, after which her Captain was ordered to place himself at the disposal of the Finnish Navy until further orders were received.
(photo sourced from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMNZS_Achilles_(70) )
Built by Cammell Laird of Birkenhead and laid down in June 1931, HMNZS Achilles was the second of five ships of the Leander light cruiser class and served with the New Zealand Navy through WW2. She was perhaps most famous for her part in the Battle of the River Plate, alongside HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter. Powered by four Parsons geared steam turbines with six Yarrow boilers, she had a speed of 32.5 knots, a ramge of 5,730 nautical miles at 13 knots and a wartime crew of 680 men, 60% of whom were New Zealanders. Her armament consisted of 8 x six inch naval guns, 4 x 4 inch guns, 12 x 0.5 inch machineguns and 8 x 21 inch torpedo tubes.
The small convoy arrived in Belfast in late February 1940 where the ships were joined by one further passenger ship carrying the sole British Volunteer Unit of the Winter War, the 5th Battalion (Special Reserve), Scots Guards, together with four Finnish cargo ships carrying military supplies for Finland. After steaming from Belfast escorted by two Royal Navy Destroyers and HMNZS Achilles, the convoy was joined by two passenger ships from Dublin carrying O’Duffy’s Irish Volunteers. The ever larger convoy steamed north towards Iceland and then turned in towards Norway, bucketing through the icy North Atantic to finally arrive safely in Petsamo (the Norwegian authorities, suspicious of British intentions, refused to permit the British troops to land in Lyngenfjiord or Narvik and as a result, the troopships were redirected to the Finnish port of Petsamo where they eventually disembarked in late March 1940.
To say the cold was a considerable shock to the men of the Māori Battalion was something of an understatement. It was with some relief that they clambered onto the Maavoimat Trucks for the long drive south. However, after two months on ship they welcomed anything to do with land and within days they were undergoing the rigors of Maavoimat training – an experience they found rather more demanding than the New Zealand Army training they had been subjected too – but it was training they took in their stride. Itching to get into combat and at the enemy, the Battalions opportunity came in May 1940, as the Red Army attempted a series of counter-attacks on the Karelian Isthmus in response to the Maavoimat’s spring offensive which had retaken the Isthmus and brought the war to the outskirts of Leningrad. At the same time, the German attack on Norway had resulted in a number of Finnish units being diverted to that front.
((photo sourced from eng.kiamau.tki.org.nz)
The men of the 28th Maori Battalion moving up to the front-line on the Karelian Isthmus, May 1940.
Maori Battalion Marching Song
While the Finns considered the Māori Battalion under-trained, the men of the Battalion themselves were eager to enter the fray and it was with a great deal of high spirits that they moved south towards the front. Entering combat in May 1940, the Battalion went on to fight with distinction in the Karelian Isthmus through the remaining months of the Winter War. Specialists in close quarter combat and bayonet fighting, they soon began to be utilised as a reserve force taking the lead in counter attacks to drive back Red Army attacks and in night fighting – and continued to fight in these roles to the end of the Winter War with a ferocity and an obvious enjoyment of fighting that was both welcome to the Maavoimat and terrifying to the Red Army units they faced.
(Photo sourced from kiwiveterans.co.nz)
Men of the Māori Battalion on the attack the way they preferred: bayonets fixed and chasing down the enemy - Karelian Isthmus, July 1949: counter-attacking Red Army units are retreating with the Māori in pursuit.
Subsequent to service in Finland in the Winter War, the Battalion was later attached to the 2nd New Zealand Division in the Middle East as an extra battalion that was moved between the division's three infantry brigades. The battalion fought during the Greek and North African campaigns during which it further earned its formidable reputation as a fighting force – a reputation which has subsequently been acknowledged by both Allied and German commanders.
And one of the reasons why the Maori Battalion was a rather terrifying opponent - the Haka! Ther periods a little off but the spirit is the same - Utu!
In early 1944, when the 2nd New Zealand Division was transferred to Finland as part of the Allied Expeditionary Force designated to assist the Maavoimat in the invasion of Estonia, the 28th (Māori) Battalion again returned to Finland where they continued to fight with distinction, this time against the Germans. The 28th (Māori) Battalion would end the war as the most decorated battalion of the New Zealand Army, receiving more individual bravery decorations than any other New Zealand battalion.
(photo sourced from 28bn.homestead.com)
Lieutenant Colonel Arapeta Awatere, Commanding Officer of the 28th (Māori) Battalion from 27 July 1944 – 29 August 1944 (succeeding to command after the previous CO, Lt. Col Young, was hospitalised with jaundice). Lt-Col Awatere commanded the Battalion through the thick of the fighting southwards through Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and into Germany. The Battalion’s losses in this campaign were 230 men killed and 887 wounded.
Lieutenant Colonel Arapata Marukitepua Pitapitanuiaranga AWATERE - a brief biography: Arapeta Marukitepua Pitapitanuiarangi Awatere (whose name is also recorded as Te Arapeta Pitameirangi Marukitepua Awatere) was born on 25 April 1910 at Tuparoa, on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand, to Petuere Wi Hekopa Awatere, a farmer of Te Whanau-a-Hinetapora hapu of Ngati Porou, and his wife, Heni Hautao, also known as Heni Pratt (Parata). The family name was taken from the Awatere River, where Arapeta's great-grandfather, Te Whetukamokamo, had died in battle against a Nga Puhi force. Later, Ngati Hine of Nga Puhi sent young rangatira (Maori aristocrat) women and men to intermarry with Ngati Porou to ensure a lasting peace. Awatere's maternal grandfather, Wiremu Parata Moihi Ka of Ngati Hine, was accepted into Ngati Porou in the same spirit of reconciliation.
While Arapeta was still an infant his mother took him by boat to Whangaruru to her marae, Pipiwai, to be raised by a relative, Heni Maahanga. As they were being transported to shore, waves swamped the rowing boat. The sleeping infant's head was submerged several times, but he did not wake up. This was interpreted as a sign that he would one day play an important role for his people. Awatere's pito (umbilical cord) was buried in the wahi tapu (sacred ground) in front of the hall on the marae: it was symbolic of the return of a long lost family to the north. Awatere returned to the East Coast at the age of six and spent the rest of his childhood under the guidance and tuition of his Ngati Porou relations. He learned Maori lore from respected tohunga, including Pineamine Tamahori. At the whare wananga (houses of learning) Umuariki and Ruataupare at Tuparoa, Awatere was trained in karakia, whaikorero (oratory) and whakapapa, and the history and use of ancient weapons. He won the Taiaha named "Tuwhakairiora" for his prowess with weaponry. When he attended the native schools at Tuparoa and Tokomaru Bay it always struck him as odd that pupils were not allowed to speak Maori. He eventually spoke fluently in many languages and could quote poetry in Latin, Greek and English.
After Awatere's parents died he left Tuparoa to work as a sailor to pay his way through high school. He attended Te Aute College in Hawke's Bay, and during school holidays went back to the ships to earn money. He passed the interpreters' first grade examination in Maori in 1925. After leaving school he joined the Native Department in 1928 and was stationed at Rotorua, Wellington and, from 1933, Gisborne. While there he was a member of the Kaiti School Committee, organiser and secretary of the Maori Voluntary Welfare Workers at Kaiti and a physical instructor at the Gisborne YMCA. Awatere married Elsie Bella Rogers of Ngati Whakaue at Ohinemutu on 17 January 1931; they were to have five daughters.
In 1928 he joined the New Zealand Army Territorial Force (the Active Reserve Force) and studied the great figures of European military history. Awatere was successfully able to combine the Maori and European military traditions during the Second World War. He enlisted in November 1939, and received a field commission as a second lieutenant in March 1940 shortly before the Battalion arrived in Finland. He fought with one of the Rifle Companies through the Winter War. After the return of the Maori Battalion to the UK and then the Middle East and the campaigns in Greece and Crete, he served as an intelligence officer, first with the battalion and then with the 6th New Zealand Infantry Brigade. With the rank of Captain (temporary major), he commanded C Company in the fighting at Tebaga Gap in 1943 and was awarded the Military Cross. He was awarded the DSO after the fighting in the Relief of Warsaw in September 1944 after having been promoted to lieutenant colonel and placed in command of the 28th Maori Battalion in July 1944.
DSO: New Zealand Gazette, 2 May 1946. Citation: "Relief of Warsaw: Lieutenant Colonel Awatere's Battalion had a very difficult assault in the attack on the night 4/5 September (1944). From a short start line it had to take two objectives on a wide front. By skillful handling all objectives were captured before first light. Unfortunately it was found impossible to get armour to support the leading companies owing to the wet nature of the ground. The enemy promptly counter attacked with tanks and infantry and despite hard fighting the forward localities had to be abandoned. Lt Col Awatere withdrew his troops skillfully and handled his support weapons so well that the enemy suffered many casualties. He then reorganised his position and held firm still on a difficult line where armour could only support one flank. Throughout the day he was so aggressive that the enemy, fearing further advances on an open flank again counter attacked at dusk. This was also smashed and the enemy started a general withdrawal. Lt Col Awatere's handling of his Battalion and inspiring leadership were responsible for causing the enemy over one hundred casualties, while his personal bravery and calmness under fire was an example to all ranks."
Sir Apirana Ngata, the New Zealand Maori political leader, had opposed Awatere's taking command of the Maori Battalion on the grounds of a supposed inherited stubborn streak that would not be in the battalion's interests. In fact Awatere was not at all reckless about the lives of his comrades, and it pained him deeply that so many were killed. He later wrote numerous poems in remembrance of his fallen comrades. He was a determined commander who led from the front and gave no quarter: there were persistent rumours about the mistreatment and even killing, of prisoners from as far back as the Winter War. Awatere was both feared and admired by his men, not least or his prowess with the Taiaha, a combat skill which he insisted all the men of the Battalion should learn and in which he instructed. During the Winter War, he had begun to study the Finnish military martial art, KKT and had resumed this on the Battalions return to Finland in late 1943 as part of the Allied Expeditionary Force. He would go on to incorporate Taiaha techniques into KKT and ensure the Maori Battalion men also studied and practiced KKT.
(photo sourced from historum.com)
The Taiaha is a traditional weapon of the Māori of New Zealand. An image of the weapon is incorporated into the official badge of the New Zealand Army. The Taiaha is a wooden staff about 5 to 6 feet in length with three main parts: The Arero (tongue)- a sharpened end, sometimes made from jade, used for stabbing the opponent. The Upoko (head)- the base from which the tongue protrudes. The Ate (liver)- the flattened wooden end which is used for striking and parrying.
Awatere was quick to see the advantages that the Maavoimat's weapons and body armour gave the Finnish soldiers and did his best to acquire these for his soldiers - somewhat successfully it would seem given the number of Suomi submachineguns and Lahti-Salaranta 7.62mm SLR's that would surface in New Zealand after the return home of the Battalion at wars end. In battle, he was an inspired and aggressive leader with a sound grasp of tactics and an unwillngness to take casualties needlessly. On his instructions his men communicated in Maori, and in Maori code when they were on the front line or during reconnaisance to avoid eavesdropping by the enemy.
After his return to New Zealand in August 1945, Awatere spent two years on the road with Eruera Stirling, honouring the fallen soldiers of the Maori Battalion at hundreds of marae around the country. After this he rarely spoke of the war. He participated in two separate rituals of purification to release himself from the effects of warfare. In 1948-49 Awatere established a short-lived seafood business before rejoining the Department of Maori Affairs. He took university courses in anthropology, philosophy and Maori in 1952 and in philosophy in 1955, and did extensive research into Maori history and ethnography. He served as a Maori district welfare officer in Wanganui (from 1953), Rotorua (from 1958) and Auckland (from 1959). Awatere was known to spend his own salary on this welfare work and to give clothes or money to those in need. In Auckland he led a haka team, Maranga, and a choral group, the Aotearoa Folklore Society. They participated in competitions, toured the country and travelled to Samoa and the Cook Islands.
He was elected to the Auckland City Council in 1962, serving until 1969. In 1963 he was chosen to perform in the ceremonial challenge in front of Queen Elizabeth II at Waitangi, an honour that overwhelmed him. He used his taiaha, Tuwhakairiora, which was made to fit a man over six feet tall. Awatere was not tall, but stocky and extremely strong and had practised constantly in order to master the use of the weapon.
Awatere did not sleep much, and when he did he preferred the floor. He seemed to his family to be up all night, composing choral pieces on the piano or writing pages of poetry in Maori, which he then translated into English. He was passionate about everything that pertained to the Maori world, including the language. He immersed himself in whakapapa and tribal history, and composed numerous waiata. During long car journeys to the many hui he attended, he would chant these in a droning monotone. Awatere's health deteriorated in the 1960s. He suffered a stroke and developed diabetes, which was not diagnosed until severe physical damage had been done. In 1965 he began an extramarital relationship with Tuini Hakaraia. In 1969 Hakaraia took up with a Hendrik Vunderink. On 2 August Awatere experienced several rehu (premonitions) that Hakaraia was in danger. Early on the morning of 3 August he went to her home in Te Atatu, and during an altercation stabbed Vunderink with a knife he was carrying in his overcoat. Awatere was charged with murder. His defence was that his diabetes had created a psychosis, but there was conflicting evidence as to whether he had been fully conscious of his actions. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In prison, Awatere continued to write and compose and to keep abreast of Maori political and social events, and he produced an extensive collection of writings on Maoritanga. He had a constant stream of visitors and taught and mentored students from university, or anyone who had a thirst for Maori knowledge. Awatere began haka groups in prison, and taught Maori to other prisoners. He involved himself in many other intellectual pursuits, including teaching himself Japanese. His death, on 6 March 1976, was completely unexpected. He had reached a point of excellent health and fitness and was looking forward to his imminent parole. He was intending to return to Tuparoa and to rebuild the wharenui, Tangihaere. He was survived by his wife and children.
Arapeta Awatere's tangihanga was enormous. It took the funeral cortège several days to travel between Auckland and Tuparoa. Circuitous routes were taken in a vain effort to avoid the many marae that wanted to farewell him, but they simply set up road-blocks. His final poroporoaki (farewell) was at Mangahanea, in Ngati Porou territory, although a contingent from Ngati Hine came to claim him also. His old war comrades were his pallbearers, but on his final journey up the hill to Waitetoki he was borne by his grandsons. He was buried beside his mother.
And think of this more or less as a parting concert given by the Maori Battalion for their comrades in arms....
Following the end of hostilities, the battalion contributed a contingent of personnel to serve in Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, before being disbanded in January 1946.
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So it begins!
You know, I think I'm onto your long term plan. It is pretty clear that CanKiwi is looking to master that most difficult of timelines, that being the Finnish + NZ forestry industry-wank. Many have tried, few have succeeded.
I submit the following:
Item 1 - The author is a Kiwi
Item 2 - He has spent some time developing the forestry industry of Finland, for economic reasons amongst others
Item 3 - He has created relations between Finland and NZ, back up by NZ troop deployments to Finland
Item 4 - The Maori Battalion are specifically deployed to Finland
Item 5 - Maori at this time were still principally rural, based in large numbers around the central North Island
Item 6 - the NZ forestry industry grew massively after WW2, principally in the central North Island
Item 7- It is reasonable to assume that post war, there will remain personal, military, political and economic relations between the two countries
After the War many Finns will migrate to NZ (see OTL Dutch and the dairy industry) to help kick start the forestry industry in a new land. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawerau
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Well written and most interesting
Please also remember this:
Juha wrote:P.S. when posting photos, please mention also the sources
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Juha Tompuri wrote:Hi Nigel,
Well written and most interesting
Please also remember this:Juha wrote:P.S. when posting photos, please mention also the sources
Hi Juha, I shall include sources for photos going forward - previous post has been edited to include these.
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As any student of the history of the Winter War knows, foreign volunteer units in the Winter War played an increasingly important role in the ongoing fighting as time passed. When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in late 1939, the unprovoked attack on a small country was condemned widely around the world and in the League of Nations. In almost every country around the world, general opinion was very favourable to the Finnish cause and the attempts of many on the Left to justify the Soviet invasion met with a hostile reaction. In most countries, particularly those major powers already embroiled in war with Germany, the governments concerned had little appetite initially to send regular troops to assist Finland. However, there were four countries whose governments reacted immediately and decisively and more were to follow. In addition, in a number of other countries, spontaneous volunteer movements started organizing volunteers to help the Finnish David fight the Soviet Goliath. The successful and well-publicized Finnish fight against the Soviet invader through December 1939 also had its effect, with the ongoing Finnish successes generating increased public demands for help to be provided to this plucky little country fighting against the Soviet Union.
Overall, these volunteer units made a strong contribution to the war effort – by the Summer of 1940 the equivalent of 24 Regimental Combat Groups (or 8 Divisions) of foreign volunteers were fighting alongside the Maavoimat. Some of these units were more effective than others, but in addition to the contribution they made in fighting strength, they would make a huge psychological contribution to the war, demonstrating to the Finnish people that Finland did not fight alone. And the heroic battles that some of these units fought against the Red Army would do much to inspire the world to continue to support Finland in its struggle for survival as the Winter War dragged on into the Summer and Autumn of 1940.
We will cover these volunteer contingents on a country by country basis and in summary form first, and then in more detail where warranted.
The Polish Volunteers
In November 1939, there were already two foreign contingents in Finland and in both cases their governments committed these contingents to assist the Finns in their fight. The first of these were the two Polish Divisions that had been formed in Finland from Polish soldiers evacuated by the Merivoimat from Lithuania and Latvia in late September and early October after the fall of Poland. This evacuation had been carried out in force and in direct opposition to threats from both Germany and the USSR. Some 30,000 Poles had been evacuated by ship as we have seen and in addition, Polish warships, submarines and aircraft had found safety and refuge in Finland. With the agreement of the Polish Government-in-Exile in London, these men and their warships and aircraft had been incorporated into the Finnish military until such time as they could be transferred to the UK and France to resume the fight. Under the circumstances of the Soviet attack however, the Polish Government-in-Exile agreed that all Poles in Finland who volunteered to fight could stay. Almost to a man, the Poles had volunteered. Later in the Winter War, additional Polish units who had been formed up in France and the UK would travel to Finland where they would join the fight.
Italian Volunteers and Aid and the Winter War
The Italian Alpini Division
The second contingent already in Finland was an Italian Alpini Division From 1937 on, more or less in conjunction with the participation of Finnish volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, an Italian Alpini Division had conducted annual winter training exercises in Finland in conjunction with the Finnish Army. There had been some muted political opposition to this from the Left and from within the SDP, but the difficulties in building any sort of defensive alliance with Sweden which might have supported Finnish neutrality had led to a desire to acquire whatever friends were available – and Italy was a considerable friend indeed. And so, practicalities had outweighed an objection to any links with the Fascist regime in Italy and the exercises had gone ahead, low-key and unpublicised to be sure, but nevertheless they were held. It had been a popular exercise with the Italian Alpini soldiers from the first and the Winter 1939 exercise had been eagerly looked forward to.
The Alpini Division had arrived in Finland in August 1939, travelling by ship to Turku together with a number of squadrons of Italian Air Force aircraft, Regia Aeronautica personnel and two Italian destroyers. Winter Training was scheduled to commence in September 1939 and run through to December, with the main winter warfare exercise taking place through January and February 1940. In the event, the training got underway in September 1939 as scheduled but, with the looming threat of war, the training exercises were cancelled in late October and Mussolini commited all Italian forces in Finland to assist the Finnish government as volunteers. The Alpini Division would go on to fight gallantly on the Eastern Karelian Front, taking part in the initial defensive actions and then in the offensive which took the Maavoimat to the Syvari River line on the right flank, and to the Vienanmeri (White Sea) on the left. Italian Air Force units ably supported the Alpini Division throughout the fighting while two Italian Navy destroyers operated in conjunction with the Finnish Navy, seeing combat on a number of occassions and losing one destroyer to Soviet air attacks early in the war.
Italy and Finland before and during the Winter War
It must be noted that Finland, at the time of the outbreak of the Winter War, was certainly not terra incognita to Italy. Military relations between the countries had begun simultaneously with state relations, as about twenty Finnish officers had received higher military education in Italy between the years 1919 and 1930. From the late 1920’s on, despite the Great Depression, trade between Finland and Italy had grown steadily. Mussolini’s rise to power had, if anything, lead to closer political and economic ties between the two countries despite the contrast between Mussolini’s Fascism, his anti-democratic policies, and the centre-left coalitions that generally held power in Finland over the 1930’s.
One of the central reasons to this continuing development of closer political and economic ties was that while Mussolini was generally anti-democratic, he was also strongly anti-bolshevist, which in fact united him with the views of the majority of Finns, including the Tanner wing of the Social Democrats. To the Italians, Finland was seen as the ultimate fortress of Western civilization in the North of Europe – guarding the border between East and West (to somewhat paraphrase the famous Winter War poem by Yrjö Jylhä) and Mussolini’s “imperial” visions encouraged him to build ties with those countries with which he could. And certainly while Finland strongly opposed Italy’s invasion of Abyssina, this was done diplomatically, and did nothing to chill the links between the two countries.
Another factor in the rather strange relationship between Italy and Finland was the IKL party within Finland. The IKL were modelled on Mussolini’s Fascist movement and while they had only gained the support of some 10-12% of voters, they were a strident and vocal minority group on the far right of the Finnish political spectrum. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936, the IKL in particular were vocal and active in their support for the Nationalist side. When, in December 1936, Mussolini decided to send volunteers to fight alongside the Nationalists in Spain, the IKL had moved to organise and dispatch Finnish volunteers to do the same. The IKL raised some 1,000 volunteers in December and these left by ship for Germany and thence to Spain on German ships at the end of the month. It was at this stage that the leftist Finnish Government decided to involve itself in the Civil War discretely. The Suojeluskunta by this stage of the mid-1930’s was politically neutral, with many SDP supporters as active members, and there were mixed feelings towards the Spanish Civil War. Many on the left saw the War as a fight against Fascism, while many of the center and the right saw it in similar terms to the Finnish Civil War of not so many years previously.
The Armed Forces High Command looked at the growing Soviet, German and Italian involvement and saw the war from two points of view – the first being as a prelude to the European-wide War that some saw as being inevitable, the second as an opportunity for the Finnish military to observe the “enemy” in action and to benefit from practical combat experience. To this end, the leftist Government and the Armed Forces used the IKL as an unwitting front organisation as well as a “safety valve”. The leftist government saw the sending of IKL volunteers to Spain as a way of ridding themselves of a difficult and vocal minority. The military saw it as a way to gain some experience to combat and to try out aspects of tactical doctrine that had been developed. Members of the Armed Forces were granted leave of absence if they wished to volunteer (although this was never stated in writing or even openly articulated. Rather, it was hinted at, and permissions were freely granted for “extended overseas travel”). Likewise, Suojeluskunta members of the “right” political (or apolitical) persuasion were discretely encouraged to volunteer. At this stage, the IKL was short of funds and there were discrete conversations (never openly acknowledged or reported on) by the Government with the Italian Ambassador whereby it was indicated highly indirectly to the Italians that if they should happen to fund the IKL’s efforts to raise and transport volunteers under the table, the Finnish Government would make no objection. This the Italians did, and the end result was, as covered earlier, that a Regimental sized volunteer unit (nicknamed Pohjat Pojan – the “Boys from the North” by its Finnish volunteer members) financed and equipped by the Italians formed a part of the Italian Volunteer Corps that fought in Spain.
Again, as covered earlier, Pohjan Pojat volunteers fought with increasing effectiveness for the duration of the Civil War, and in fact saved the Italians from military defeat or indeed, disaster, on a number of occasions. In the process, the Finnish Volunteers gained a considerable amount of practical experience and learnt many lessons, which were promptly fed back to the Finnish Army for review and incorporation into tactical and doctrinal training. Not the least of these lessons were the use the Germans made of their 88mm AA Gun in an anti-tank role, the effective use of combined arms in battle, the valuable contribution of close air support and artillery support and the overarching need to always always always have good communications. Alongside them fought half a dozen squadrons of Finnish Air Force volunteers, again largely flying Italian-supplied fighters, ground attack aircraft and bombers, with which they put into practice the air combat tactics that had been in the early stages of development prior to the war.
A number of agreements had been concluded for the purchase of military equipment, partially as a result of the Spanish experience. Four MAS motor torpedo boats built by Cantieri Baglietto in Genoa were shipped to Finland and had entered service on 5 May 1939, two Sella Class Destroyers, the Bettino Ricasoli and Giovanni Nicotera, were sold to Finland and transferred in July 1939 and also in mid 1939, 25 Fiat G.50 fighters had been ordered. A further 25 Fiat G.50 Fighters were ordered immediately prior to the outbreak of the Winter War (when it was known that War was more or less inevitable) and all 50 Fighters were delivered to Narvik in a Finnish fast cargo ship (which also carried Italian-supplied weapons and munitions) accompanying the two hastily purchased Italian Light Cruisers, (the Alberico Da Barbiano and Alberto di Giussano which had been purchased on very favorable terms in August 1939).
According to the calculations of Finland’s State Accounting Office after the Winter War, the war material sold and handed over to Finland by various countries was in total worth about 4.6 billion (4,600,000,000) Finnish marks of which aid from Italy amounted to790 million marks, ranking second after Sweden – somewhat surprisingly, aid from Italy ranked ahead of aid from France and Britain (and this amount was from AFTER the Winter War broke out, and did not include any of the pre-war sales). To put these numbers into perspective, the amount budgeted for the Army’s 1939 Acquisition Program had been 2 billion Finnish Marks, with a further 600 million Marks raised from Defence Bonds.
The role of Italy in the Winter War cannot be understood without first looking at what her situation was in the late summer of 1939. The relationship between Italy and Germany had reached a crisis at Salzburg in August 1939, when the Italians had become aware that Hitler was acting on his threats and was about to attack Poland. Italy’s Foreign Minister (and Mussolini’s son-in-law), Ciano interpreted the attack on Poland as a material breach of the Pact of Steel agreed upon in May 1939. From the Italian side, a prerequisite for the Pact had been that no risk of war would be taken in Europe during at least three, and according to some notes, even 4-5 years. As a result, Mussolini had moved apart from Hitler and did not attack the “cunning and treacherous” Yugoslavia, which had been the share of the booty reserved for Italy by Germany.
Thereafter, Il Duce did his best to preserve European peace. One of his initiatives was turned down by the British, another initiative was turned down by the Germans. Later in autumn Germany accused Italy of being responsible for the declarations of war by Britain and France, claiming that Britain and France had fulfilled their guarantee to the Poles primarily because they knew in advance that Italy would remain outside the war. And in point of fact, when Germany had attacked Poland, Italy had proclaimed herself to be a non belligerante, a country not involved in the war. This left the door for future decision making open to Mussolini: either for absolute neutrality of for intervention, either side by side with Germany or in theory perhaos even on the Allied side. In other words, when the Winter War broke out, Italy was the only one of the European great powers to remain outside the major war. And on the fronts of that major war, still life prevailed: the Phony War, as the British called it.
The new setting meant that the ties between Italy and Germany came loose and the relations towards Britain and France underwent détente. Italy nearly returned to the scales mark position (= to determine the balance between the parties) of Europe, which had been considered ideal in her foreign policy still in the mid-1930’s. The Allied began according to Ciano “a seirene song under the Italian balcony”. It is clear that Italy moving to the camp of the West would have meant an enormous loss of prestige to Hitler. An entirely different matter is, what it would have meant to his plans of war.
Italian relations towards Germany and the Soviet Union during the Winter War
When the Winter War broke out, Italy at once sided with Finland and condemned the Soviet attack. The Alpini Division, the Regia Aeronautica Squadrons and personnel and the two Italian Destroyers in Finland were placed at the immediate disposal of the Finnish Military High Command and in the Italian Foreign Minister Ciano’s first meeting with the Finish Ambassador to Italy, Mr Eero Järnefelt, Ciano declared in a statement that was almost immediately made public, that Italy was always against bolshevism, although she could not place herself in the lead of an anti-Soviet crusade. In an unpublicised part of the conversation, Ciano also advised that while the German attitude was unclear, the Nazi-Soviet pact made it unlikely that Germany would provide any assistance to Finland (something the Finns were already aware of through there own German contacts) and that Hitler might take measure to prevent assistance reaching Finland through Germany (something the Finns were unaware of).
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... nefelt.jpg
Eero Järnefelt, Finnish diplomat and Ambassador to Italy
Feelings in Italy ran high. Thousands of Italians turned out as volunteers. Students demonstrated their sympathy in Rome in front of the Finnish Embassy, while there were huge hostile demonstrations in front of the Soviet Embassy. The new Soviet Ambassador, who had just arrived in Rome, had to return to Moscow, unable to leave his credentials. Italy also called her own Ambassador home from Moscow. Italian reporters who had been in Finland covering the Alpini exercise were instead reporting direct from the front in Eastern Karelia, providing highly emotional news reports of the gallant Italian and Finnish soldiers fighting the Bolshevik hordes, serving to inflame and arouse the Italian public even further.
And already, during the first days of the war, Finland had placed emergency orders with Italy for military equipment, primarily munitions, anti-aircraft guns and aircraft and had also passed an official request to Italy to allow pilots and trained airforce personnel offering themselves as volunteers to leave with their aircraft and come to the aid of Finland. In light of the huge public outcry and intense public pressure to come to the aid of Finland, as well as his own feelings on the matter and his gratitude to the Finnish Volunteers of the Spanish Civil War (the “brothers-in-arms” of his Italian Volunteers) Mussolini overrode what objections there were and agreed to sell Finland whatever they requested that Italy was in a position to supply. Always prey to the grandiose gesture, Mussolini grandly announced that means and method of payment could be determined after the war, and that Italy would not begrudge Finland any assistance in her hour of need. The response from the Italian public was one of overwhelming support and Mussolini found himself at perhaps the pinnacle of his popularity as a leader.
In mid-December 1939, two fast Finnish Cargo Ships left Italy for Narvik, escorted by an Italian Destroyer, carrying a cargo of 35 Fiat G.50 Fighters (and 600,000 rounds of 12.7,, ammunition), 50 Breda BA.65 ground attack aircraft and 25 Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero Bombers as well as 100 Artillery Pieces with 200,000 rounds of ammunition, 60 anti-aircraft guns with ammunition, 200,000 Grenades, Sea Mines, Torpedoes, Flamethrowers and enormous amounts of rifle ammunition as well as 94,500 new M1938 7.35 mm rifles together with 18 million rounds of 7.35mm ammunition. All these were shipped straight from Regia Aeronatica units or straight from Army Depots to Livorno. The ships also carried a complete Italian Field Hospital unit made up of volunteers, additional medical equipment and stores and additional spare parts, engines, guns and ammunition for the aircraft already sold to Finland. Running at their maximum speed of 23 knots, the ships were escorted around the west coast of the UK and then across the North Sea by British and French naval vessels (Finland had by this time already made arrangements to repay Italy by barter, exporting wood and paper products and shipments of industrial metals, shipments which commenced almost immediately through to the Swedish port of Gothenburg, from where the aircraft were taken to the factories of Svenska Fiat at Malmö to be assembled).
The British and French press made much of the Italian Aid, comparing it rather critically to the parsimonious assistance offered to date by the French and British Governments. The Allied Press was also making much of the news (later found to be false) that Italy was preparing to ship a second division of trained Alpini Volunteers to assist Finland and that Franco was also in the process of organzing a Division of Volunteers to travel to Finland. “If Italy and Spain see fit to assist Finland with magnificent amounts of Weapons and Divisions of Volunteers, can we British, ever the Champions of Freedom, do no less to aid this Gallant Little Country in her Fight to Remain Free” trumpeted The Times in an editorial dated the 16th of December 1939. The French Press was similarly vociferous in its support for Finland and in criticism of the dithering of French politicians.
Missione Maggiore Anchisi in Finlandia 4 December 1939–13 January 1940
In addition to the Italian military contribution, Mussolini almost immediately after the outbreak of the War sent Alpini Major Anchisi from the Italian Embassy in Berlin to Finland as his personal representative. Anchisi arrived in Finland via Stockholm and then by rail through Tornio to Helsinki and on to Mannerheim’s Headquarters at Mikkeli where he met with Mannerheim twice before moving on to visit the Alpini Divison and Regia Aeronautica units in Eastern Karelia.
On Anchisi’s first meeting with Mannerheim, the Marshal praised the homeland of his guest. “We and I above all admire the power of Italy, the discipline and order of her people, and her armed forces. In Abyssinia you gave clear evidence of your military might.” Thereafter Mannerheim spoke flatteringly of Italy and of Mussolini. “If Il Duce would wish to send help to Finland, Finland would be eternally grateful to him and to Italy”. During the second meeting Mannerheim presented a detailed list of the war material that Finland hoped for. It included among others artillery pieces and howitzers of various calibres, anti-aircraft guns and ammunition, aircraft and communication equipment. It was much of this equipment list that was shipped out in mid-December.
Ongoing Italian Assistance
Finland received military equipment from many countries, some of it donated but most actually paid for. And in fact Finland paid for everything received from Italy – and much of it was paid for at a considerably high price. So if there were political grounds for Italian aid – to counter the aims of Germany and the Soviet Union in Europe and to cultivate the huge groundswell of public opinion within Italy – the commercial side of the aid transaction – in particular the barter trade and obtaining foreign currency - tipped the scales. At the time, Italian assistance was interpreted as aid and Finland was profuse in her thanks to Mussolini and to the Italian people. It is also creditable that the Italian leader himself was personally involved in every shipment of assistance to Finland, for example Italy supplied Finland with 900 tons of trotyl (TNT) on Mussolini’s direct order – and one which stripped Italy bare of all stocks of trotyl untilmore could be manufactured.
The German Attitude to Italian Assistance to Finland
The German attitude to Finland was all to soon clarified to the Italians. Less than a week had passed after the outbreak of the Winter War when the leader of the German Labour Front, Dr Robert Ley, arrived in Rome. His task was to put the Italians in order in respect to the Winter War. Ley announced that the future of Finland did not interest the Third Reich. Finland’s attitude towards Germany had not been friendly, she had never related well with Germany, and neither had she ever been grateful for the great help she received while the independence of the country was being created. Ley advised Mussolini that the Führer had stated that neither should Italy have reasons for sympathy towards the Nordic Countries and reminded him about the sanctions of the League of Nations against Italy during the Abyssinian War. These were the arguments that Hitler and Ribbentrop later offered to the Italians. The importance of Ley’s visit is illustrated by the fact that when he returned from Rome, Hitler’s adjutant met him at the Berlin railway station, taking him straight to the Reich Chancery to report personally on the outcome of his visit. The Italians, however, did not heed Ley’s advice but continued supporting Finland. A serious conflict on the attitude towards the Soviet Union had emerged between the two Axis countries.
Mussolini’s response to Hitler
After a break of nearly a month Mussolini write Hitler a long letter, dated 5 January 1940. The letter was without doubt an appeal for Finland and in Berlin, the Finnish Ambassador, Mr Aarne Wuorimaa, was advised also in January by the Italian Ambassador that Italy had presented herself to Hitler as the defender of Finland. In the letter Mussolini extensively covered Italy’s relations with various countries in Europe and specifically criticized the German orientation towards the Soviet Union. He write that the Germans should not be surprised at how painful an effect the German-Russian alliance had had for example in Spain - the Spain whose soil was covered with the dead bodies of Germans, Italians, Spaniards and of Finns who had fought together against Communism. He announced that any further steps leading to closer German relations with Moscow would have catastrophic effects for the German relationship with Italy. Russia was Slavic and Asian, and Germany had the duty of defending Europe from Asia.
Four months earlier Russia had been regarded as the enemy number one of the world- and Russia suddenly becoming the friend number one of Germany had been deeply upsetting among the Italian Fascists and perhaps also among many German national socialists. Mussolini wrote about Fascist Italy being, despite the sanctions of the League of Nations, favourable towards Finland, “this small gallant nation”. He referred to the IKL (the extreme rightist political party of the time; translator’s remark) as he continued that “the best part of the Finnish people” had nevertheless not accepted the sanctions. He also advised Hitler that Italy had given considerable aid to Finland, would continue to do so and that it was likely that the Alpini Division already in Finland and fighting besides the Finns “as the Finns fought besides us in Spain” would be joined by further volunteers from Italy, such were the strong feelings amongst all Italians. Thousands of Italian volunteers had already reported at the Finnish Embassy and Consular Offices in Italy, and the Finns had indicated that these offers ould be accepted, wrote Il Duce.
When the Italian Ambassador took Mussolini’s letter to Hitler, Finland was the only issue discussed. Hitler expressed his surprise, and questioned whether all this great sympathy towards Finland was really felt in Italy. He stated that the demands of the Soviet Union – a great power – were not at all unreasonable and that true friends of Finland should have advised the Finns to comply with them. As soon as the Ambassador had left, Hitler called Göring and Ribbentrop in to see him and five hours of heated discussion followed, with Goring expressing support for Finland. The Italian diplomats in Berlin also assessed the effect of Mussolini’s letter on the German political and military leaders. Ribbentrop somewhat icily stayed true to the official line of Germany. The military leadership were more open in their views and comments. Admiral Canaris said that it was not in German interests that Finland should cease to exist. Göring let it be understood that a peaceful solution in the North would be beneficial for Germany and he would do what he could to support Finland (as indeed he did, permitting his friend Josef “Seppl” Veltjens to large quantities of arms and ammunition from various countries as well as from Germany to Finland at extremely short notice – we will touch on these shipments in detail in a later post).
Photo sourced from: http://www.frontflieger.de/fflgfoto/3veljo0p2.jpg
Josef "Seppl" Veltjens (2 June 1894 - 6 October 1943) Pour le Mérite, Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Iron Cross was a World War I fighter ace credited with 35 victories and was a friend of Goring’s. Following WW1 he drifted into arms dealing and during the Winter War, he was approached by the Finns in the hope that he could help with the supply of arms. With the backing of his old friend Goring and with Himmler turning a blind eye for his own reasons, Veltjens successfully supplied Finland with large amounts of arms, ammunition and equipment, dealing personally with Prime Minister Ryti and Marshal Mannerheim, After the Winter War, he received the highest Finnish decoration given to foreigners: the Commander Cross First Class with Swords of the Order of the White Rose of Finland.
The Secretary of the Italian Embassy, Magistrati, who discussed the issue with Göring, proceeded to ask why Berlin would not utilize the opportunity to act as a mediator between Moscow and Helsinki to save Finland. From Göring’s answer it could be deduced that he himself personally would have had nothing against such a move, but that the proposal would run into difficulties with Hitler. Hitler replied to Mussonlini’s letter two months later in non-commital generalisations expressing much the same views as had been communicated in January to the Italian Ambassador. Italy would continue to express support and to ship arms, ammunition, equipment and aircraft to Finland up until May 1940 and the dramatic events in France. Still embroiled in a desperate war for survival, Finland paid little attention to the “Phoney War” going on along the French-German border and it was with consternation and dismay that the Finnish Government heard on 10 June 1940 that Italy had declared war on France and Britain and that an important source of military equipment would no longer be available.
Marshal Mannerheim advised the Italian Ambassador in Helsinki, “Italy must still live beside France after this war is over, and the French will now see Italy as the neighbour that struck it in the back with a dagger.”
More Italian Volunteers
Mussolini permitted a further 5,000 Italian volunteers to travel to Finland over January-February 1940, ignoring German opposition and pressure. Only men with military experience were permitted to volunteer and they travelled on ships takking military cargos for Finland. These men were formed in the Regimental Combat Group “Garibaldi” and were moved up to the front in July 1940 after a period of training in Finland. They were moved to a quiet sector of the front and saw little combat, in contrast to their comrades in the Alpini Division.
Italian Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Artillery Instructors
With the consent of Mussolini, two groups of mechanics and instructors served in Finland: one for the Fiat G.50 Fighters and another one for the anti-aircraft guns that Italy supplied. The original total strength had been planned as sixty men, but the final number was about one third greater. The instructors for the guns came from the Italian equivalent of the Suojeluskuntas and were commanded by Captain (Engineer) Luigi Pigna, who had the military rank of Centurione, a rank corresponding to a Company Commander. Igna even studied the Finnish language during his downtime to try and improve communication between Finnish and Italian mechanics.
For the Fiats, the mechanic instructors came from the Italian Air Force and from arms factories, commanded by Captain Pelli. Both groups were under the overall command of Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Giuseppe Casero, who also acted as the liaison officer with the Finnish government. The aim was to strengthen the political and commercial relations between the countries. However, ties were already strong and Casero concentrated on improving the operational effectiveness of the Fiat Fighters. The Italian mechanics remained in Finland until after the Peace was signed with Moscow, returning to their homeland in November 1940.
(More to be added...)
The ANZAC Volunteer Battalion
The first foreign volunteers to arrive were the men of the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion, an ad-hoc group of primarily New Zealanders and Australians resident in the UK and with previous military experience. Their early arrival was in large part due to the presence in Finland of Colonel Hunter (whom we have mentioned previously in association with the setting up of the School Dental Nurse program within Finland) in Helsinki. On Colonel Hunter’s urging, the New Zealand and Australian Governments had agreed that an officially endorsed Battalion of ANZAC volunteers would be dispatched to assist Finland. Commanded by New Zealand Territorial Army Lieutenant-Colonel Howard Karl Kippenberger, the ANZAC Battalion arrived in Narvik on December 30th 1939 and had reached Oulu in Finland early in the New Year.
The Spanish Blue Division
The second organized unit of foreign volunteers to arrive in Finland were the Spanish – and this was in large part due to Franco’s gratitude to the Finnish Volunteer Regiment which had fought long and hard on the Nationalist side of the Spanish Civil War from 1937 through to early 1939, winning a reputation as a highly capable fighting unit but without inflicting the political economic and publicity pressure on the Spanish Nationalists that was exerted by the Germans. Both Mussolini and Franco had reason to be greatful to the Finnish “White Wolves” Division – on more than one occasion, the hard-fighting, hard-drinking Finns had pulled the Italian chestnuts from the fire and won victory from defeat – and without making any demands for publicity for their own reasons. While the Finnish volunteers were at best tolerated by the SDP at home, a great deal of publicity would have resulted to pressure to withdraw the volunteers. At the same time, Mussolini was using the Italian “volunteers” to publicise the successes of the Fascist regime and Franco preferred the whole war to be protrayed as being won by the Spanish Nationalists without any foreign involvement.
The September 1939 German – Soviet attack on Poland, a strongly Catholic country, had outraged Franco and a large segment of the Nationalist supporters – who were extremely conservative Catholic Nationalists rather than the “fascists” they have often been portrayed as. Shortly after the outbreak of WW2 with the German attack on Poland, the Finnish Government and Military Command had become aware of the secret addendum to the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement concerning Finland. Highly concerned, the Finnish Government had divulged in confidence to Franco as well as to Mussolini and the British and French Goverments, together with requests for assistance by way of equipment and volunteers to serve with the Finnish Armed Forces in the event of a conflict with the Soviet Union. Mussolini, a strong opponent of Communism and also grateful for the Finnish contribution and assitance to the Italians in the Spanish Civil War, had agreed at once that the Alpini Division in Finland for winter exercises would be immediately placed at the disposal of the Finnish Government if the Soviet Union should attack Finland. Franco, ever cautious, had merely responded with an expression of Spanish support and an acknowledgement that Spain would do whatever it could to help Finland.
When the USSR did in fact attack Finland, Franco’s outrage at what he saw as German treachery, first attacking Poland, a staunchly Catholic country and then Finland, a country which had done so much to aid the Spanish Nationalist cause, was such that he gave serious thought to what assistance Spain could in fact provide. With the Spanish Civil War in its final moments and the Republican forces in a state of collapse, Franco had felt confident enough to release volunteers from the Nationalist Forces for service in Finland. Volunteers flocked to recruiting offices in all the metropolitan areas in Spain. Cadets from the officer training school in Zaragoza volunteered in particularly large numbers. Initially, Franco was prepared to send about 4,000 men, but soon understood that there were more than enough volunteers to fill an entire division: 18,104 men in all, 2,612 officers and 15,492 soldiers. Fifty percent of the officers and non-commissioned officers were professional soldiers, all of them veterans of the Spanish Civil War. Many others were members of the Falange (the Spanish fascist party). General Agustín Muñoz Grandes was assigned to lead the volunteers, who took ship in mid January 1940 after protracted negotiations with the British Government.
In December 1939, the Finnish government had decided that volunteers would be accepted only from countries definitely friendly to the Finnish cause. This included Estonians, Scandinavians, Hungarians, British, French, South African, Rhodesian, Canadian and American volunteers in addition to the New Zealanders, Australians, Poles and Spanish. German and Russian volunteers (including Russian émigrés) and Jewish refugees were specifically and emphatically not permitted whilst volunteers of other nationalities would be considered on a case by case basis – and in January 1940, after heavy losses among Finnish troops, this decision was modified so that basically all able-bodied men were to be accepted at the discretion of Finnish embassies. Since the Maavoimat was limited in arms and infantry equipment, volunteers were to accepted only if they came with their own arms and basic military gear and were to come as organized, trained units with their own officers and NCO’s.
The Scandanavian Division
Having a somewhat more accurate picture of the strength of the Finnish Armed Forces than the Soviet Union, largely as a result of participating in negotiations with the Finnish government for the construction of aircraft, naval vessels and assorted weapons for the Finnish military, the Swedish Government was rather more open to the participation of Swedish volunteers in the Winter War (than had been the case in reality). The Swedish Government, quietly and without any public announcements, permitted members of the Swedish Army to take leave of absence to serve in the Finnish Military. In addition, the Swedish government made it easy for active service Officers and NCO’s to volunteer to assist Finland. Some 13,000 Swedish soldiers volunteered over the month of December, and together with 1,000 Danish and 700 Norwegian volunteers, were formed into three Regimental Combat Groups who went into service in January 1940, seeing active combat first on the Northern Front and then in Karelia. The overall commander of the Swedish contingent was was Lieutenant-General Linder, a Swedish general originally born in Finland. General Linder, all three Regimental Commanders of the Swedish Division and some of the other senior officers had experience from war in Finland after having fought as volunteers in 1918 in the Finnish Civil War.
This policy well-suited the Swedish government since it enable Sweden to remain officially neutral whilst at the same time satisfying the general public demand that Sweden should help Finland. Sweden also sent Flight Regiment 19 (Lentorykmentti 19, LeR19; 19. Flygflottilj, F19). This unit flew with aircraft “donated” from the Swedish Air Force: Gladiators, Harts, Bulldogs and others. Altogether there were 25 planes. The unit was stationed in the north of Finland with the task of protecting the largest towns and communications network in the area. There were also volunteer Swedish anti-aircraft units in the same area as well as a second volunteer anti-aircraft unit defending the city of Turku, coastal artillery units, navy, field artillery and a construction unit with the task of building fortifications. Swedish doctors and nurses also volunteered to serve in Finnish medical units and a large number of civilian workers volunteered to take over jobs in the defence industries as well as driving trucks and working on construction projects such as the Lyngenfjiord railway link and the Petsamo Highway.
There was also a sizable contingent of 700 Norwegian volunteers who formed their own Battalion within the Swedish Division (as did the Danish volunteers). The Norwegian government would not release any senior officers and so the Norwegians were commanded by Swedish Volunteer officers. When the Germans attacked Norway, the Norwegian Battalion returned home and most of these men would see action against the invading Germans. Many of them would rejoin the Maavoimat in the Finnmark – as did many other Norwegian soldiers from the south of Norway.
Approximately 1,000 Danish volunteers also arrived in Finland. As these men were not judged to be ready for front-line service on arrival, they were initially sent to training in Oulu. They were formed into a Battalion commanded by Danish Colonel V. Tretow-Loof and commenced active service in April 1940 on the Eastern Karelian front.
The Hungarian Division
While the British and French dithered over providing tangible assistance by way of actual military units, other countries acted more decisively. Hungary for example dispatched an entire Division of volunteers in early January 1940. At the end of the 19th century the Finno-Ugric linguistic affinity had become widely accepted after extensive public debate. At this time the Finnish people, then living in Tsarist Russia, were receptive to the idea of Finno-Ugric affinity and regarded the proud and freedom-loving Hungarian nation as an ideal. After the First World War, Hungary was one of the losers, losing roughly two-thirds of its territory and one third of Hungarians, now isolated outside Hungary’s borders, as a result of the Treaty of Trianon. Linguistically distantly related, Finland was one of the few European countries that felt sympathy towards Hungary. Hungarians in turn, then regarded newly independent and democratic Finland as an ideal. Because of this, good connections formed between the two countries during the 1920s. Finland held a special place for Hungarians and following the Soviet attack, the Hungarian government and the Hungarian Prime Minister, Count Pál Teleki, agreed to allow volunteers, although not military assistance given the financial constraints of the times.
The Hungarian government officially did not support Finland, but secretly started to search for ways of helping. The acts of Teleki’s government were motivated on the one hand by helping a related nation, and on the other hand by the staunch anti-communist and anti-Soviet attitude of the Hungarian elite. In addition, non-governmental organisations such as the Hungarian-Finnish Association began to quietly organize support for Finland, organizing nationwide collections and printing recruitment leaflets to assist with the recruiting of volunteers for service in the Finnish Army, which started on the 16th of December 1939. Around 25,000 Hungarian men applied to serve as volunteers. The applicants underwent very a strenuous selection process: the only applications accepted were from unmarried men who had already completed their obligatory military service, had no criminal record, and were not communist sympathizers. Of the 25,000 volunteers, approximately 16,000 were accepted, mostly between 18 and 30 years old. Detachments began traveling to Finland in early January 1940, with the first batch of recruits departing on the 10th of January.
Travel to Finland was difficult as the German Reich forbade transit of armaments and war equipment across its territory (including the former Czechoslovakia). This was in one respect a simple honoring of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Because of this, volunteers had to travel across Yugoslavia, Italy and France by Rail, then on to the United Kingdom from where they were shipped to Norway and Sweden to make their ways to Finland. They travelled without any weapons on special trains, officially classified as “tourists going to ski-camp”. The first batch (and subsequent batches as well) were embarked by ship at Edinburgh and thence across the North Sea to Bergen. They finally arrived in Finland at 2nd of February after 3 weeks traveling. Further batches of recruits departed on a daily basis thereafter until the Hungarian Volunteer Division was brought up to a full strength of three Regimental Combat Groups organised on the Maavoimat model after arrival in Finland (In actuality, the Division was overstrength as provision was made for casualty replacements – a practice that was followed with the other foreign volunteer Divisions as it was anticipated that accessibility to reinforcements would be cut-off when war broke out).
In Finland the Hungarian Division was quartered in Lapua, where early arrivals learned Maavoimat military skiing and winter warfare techniques and then refresher training in Maavoimat tactics, weapons and other military skill. The 16,000 volunteers arrived over a 2 month period, with the last arrivals coming in over the month of March – and in the eventuality, completing their two months of refresher training just as the Red Army commenced a series of major attacks in May 1940. In the last days before they joined the fighting, Marshal Mannerheim visited Lapua where he personally met the Hungarian Division both on parade and later, over the course of 3 or 4 days, informally in Company and Platoon groups, and expressed his thanks to the volunteers for coming to Finland.. As was the case with all foreign volunteer units, soldiers wore the Finnish Army field gray uniform with a shield on the upper right sleeve bearing the word "Magyar" and the Hungarian national colors.
The Finnish-American Legion (Amerikansuomalainen Legioona or ASL) a Regimental-sized unit of volunteers from the Finnish communities of the USA and Canada
Detail to be added...
The Estonian Volunteers
Detail to be added...
The British Commonwealth Units (in order of arrival)
The South African Volunteer Battalion
The Rhodesian Volunteer Battalion
The 5th Battalion (Special Reserve), Scots Guards
Details to be added for all of the above
“Other” Volunteer Units
There were also two rather unusual groups of volunteers who both fought well over the course of the Winter War.
The De La Rey Battalion
The De La Rey Battalion was an oddball unit from within the British Commonwealth, but it was a unit which refused pointblank to fight alongside any of the British units or under any British officers or British Commonwealth commanders at any level. This was the De La Rey Battalion, a unit of South African Boer volunteers who were all members of the Ossewabrandwag. The Ossewabrandwag had started out as an organisation dedicated to the preservation of Afrikaans culture but had rapidly evolved into a highly motivated politically militant organisation, with a membership in the hundreds of thousands.
The Boer militants of the Ossebrandwag were hostile to Britain, opposed South African participation in WW2, even after the Union of South Africa declared war in support of Britain in September 1939 – but they were strongly sympathetic to Finland, seeing many parallels to their own situation (where the Republiek van Transvaal and the Oranje Vrijstaat had been attacked, conquored and annexed to South Africa by the British) in the attack on Finland by the USSR. Staunchly religious, the Boerevolke had much in common with the congregations of more conservative Lutheran churches in Finland such as the Pietists and were strongly anti-communist.
Photo Source: http://v1.sahistory.org.za/pages/librar ... gevaar.jpg
The Ossebrandwag was strongly anti-communist and this, together with their seeing many parallels to their own situation at the hands of the British in the plight of Finland let to the dispatch of a sizable volunteer contingent to fight for Finland.
Over December of 1939, the Ossebrandwag organised a group of some 1,100 volunteers, almost all of whom were already members of the Stormjaers (the paramilitary wing of the OB). After heated negotiations with the government of Jan Smuts, whom the members of the Ossebrandwag regarded as a traitor to the Afrikaaner cause, it was agreed that the South African government would provide a ship to transport the volunteers to Finland together with individual military equipment (uniforms, webbing, basic kit, Rifles, machineguns and ammunition along with basic military training). Commanded by the 24 year old Stormjaer “General”, Balthazar Johannes Vorster (who would go on to become Prime Minister of South Africa in 1966), the De La Rey Battalion embarked on the SS Mariposa (Matson Lines) and sailed for Belfast in early March 1940 after two months of hard training, in company with the New Zealand ship SS Awatea and their escort, the light cruiser HMNZS Achilles.
The nature of the Stormjaers of the De La Rey Battalion was evidenced by the oath sworn by the volunteers as they signed on: “As ek omdraai, skiet my. As ek val, wreek my. As ek storm, volg my” ("If I retreat, kill me. If I die, avenge me. If I advance, follow me"). Named after a famous Boer general of the Boer War, the De La Rey Battalion would go on to distinguish themselves in battle in Eastern Karelia.
The Irish Volunteer Battalions
In the Irish Free State, support for Finland was also widespread. While the Irish Government, preoccupied with internal matters, did nothing to assist Finland, Eoin O’Duffy (who had led the Irish Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War) took matters into his own hands and called for Irish Volunteers to assist Finland. O’Duffy’s political career had effectively ended in late 1937 when the Irish Volunteers returned from Spain, but his call for assistance to Finland was a popular one and over 7,000 men responded, among them many who had served in Spain. Irish opinion was overwhelmingly pro-Finnish and, as with the support for the Spanish Nationalists some years earlier, Clergy, politicians and the provincial and Catholic press all forecefully expressed concerns about the Soviert Union and communism. Meetings in support of Finland swept the country and the Volunteer Movement soon took on a life of its own. In mid-December 1939 Cardinal MacRory, primate of all Ireland, unambiguously declared the church’s support for Finland: “There is no room any longer for any doubts as to the issue at stake in the Finnish conflict...It is a question of whether Finland will remain as she has been so long, a Christian and god-fearing land, or a Bolshevist and anti-God one.”
The Irish Christian Front was resurrected amd organised a series of public meetings at which local priests, politicians and trade unionists declared their support for Finland. Over 40,000 people attended a Cork meeting in late December 1939 which typified the fervent response to the Soviet attack on Finland. Monsignor Sexton, Dean of Cork, blamed the Russo-Finnish was on ‘a gang of murderous Jews in Moscow’. The academic, Alfred O’Rahilly, criticised the Irish government’s neutrality. The crowd crossed their hands above their hands to pledge loyalty to the ICF and to Finland. Violence between the crowd and a few hecklers broke out; several were beaten or thrown in the River Lee. The intensity of this response is best understood in the context of the militant Catholicism of the Irish Free State where ‘faith and fatherland’ were often seen as synonymous – and Finland, while not Catholic, was seen as a Christian country – and the Irish Christian Front’s declared aims were to oppose communism, support Finland and raise funds.
Photo sourced from http://www.historyireland.com///images/ ... crowd1.jpg
Irish Christian Front demonstrators in Cork make the sign of the cross above their heads. (Cork Examiner, 21 December 1939)
Within the movement, O’Duffy rapidly found himself superceded by one of his former officers from Spain, Fitzpatrick (a former British Army Officer and who also considered O'Duffy to be "a shit") who assumed leadership of the movement by popular acclaim. After the unfit, incapable, unsuitable and dreamers were weeded out, Fitzpatrick was left with some 3,500 men. While fund-raising was carried out, the government of the Irish leader Éamon de Valera was in disarray on the question of assistance for Finland. There was in any case little that Ireland could do and in the end, de Valera came down on the side of helping the Volunteers. “We can ship the Blueshirts off to Finland and get rid of them, we shall therefore encourage as many of them as possible to volunteer and help them on their way” he was later quoted as saying in private. Publicly, he stated “Since this war began our sympathy has gone out to all the suffering people of Finland who are the victims of an unjust attack. I shall strive not to be guilty of adding any fuel to the flames of hatred and passion which have arisen but we hope that our Volunteers who go to assist Finland will fight with calm courage and the confidence that their country supports them in this selfless act.”
Some of the volunteers sought adventure or, as one priest put it, a change from ‘standing around staring at the pump’ but the great majority were genuinely motivated by the belief that the Russo-Finnish war was a religious crusade against communism and the Soviet Union. They were predominantly young men from rural Ireland and few of them would have been exposed to any other analysis of the conflict. As one young man later wrote to his mother: “I didn’t want to tell you I was coming here that day because I was afraid you wouldn’t like it...I have a feeling you hate me for it, but after all, what I have done is for Our Lord, and if I die it will be only for the best.” The Army of the Irish Free State provided military training to the Volunteers, also allowing Officers and NCO’s to serve in the Volunteers should they desire but no further assistance from the government was forthcoming. Public fund-raising allowed for the charter of two passenger ships to transport the Volunteers to Finland and in March 1940, they were transorted to Finland in company with the 28th Maori Battalion, the De La Rey Battalion and the 5th Scots Guards.
Photo sourced from http://st.louis.irish.tripod.com/sitebu ... twenty.jpg
Men of the Irish Volunteers march to their Ship led by a Pipe Band. Early March, 1940
Newspaper accounts of the day convey the atmosphere of militant Catholicism as the volunteers left Ireland. Large crowds gathered to sing ‘Faith of Our Fathers’ as the volunteers were blessed by priests and handed Sacred Heart badges, miraculous medals and prayer books. The Irish Volunteers organisers told the volunteers they were ‘part of a crusade prepared to fight under the banner of the Cross to help deliver Finland’. Most were to find the war a very different kind of crusade from what they had imagined. In Finland, the men of the Irish Volunteers would be formed into a Regimental Combat Group of two infantry Battalions together with the De La Rey Battalion, with supporting elements and senior officers assigned from the Maavoimat. They would wear standard Maavoimat uniforms with a unit patch consisting of a silver harp and “Éire”.
Fitzpatrick would command one of the Irish Battalions while a fellow Irishman and also an ex-British Army Officer, Nagle (who had been trained at Sandhurst and who served with the British Army in India as well as with the French Foreign Legion), would command the other. Over the course of the Winter War, the Irish Volunteers saw a fatality rate of nearly 27%, with some 945 dead overall, and as many again seriously injured. Unlike their predecessors in the Spanish Civil War, the men of the Irish Volunteers in Finland were ably led, well trained, well equipped and supported and fought bravely and well for the duration of the Winter War.
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And the Song of the Divisiona Azul - the Spanish Blue Division shipping out from Spain en route to fighting in Finland...
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It's going to be a bit outside the current timeline for this ATL and it will give more than a few bits of info on the actual progress of the Winter War when it happens so after I finish there will be a bit of backtracking to pick up where I left off.
In the meantime, suggestions, comments and criticism regarding the Volunteer Units are all welcome.
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Nice army Haka here :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rDoV0EB ... re=related
exellent work, BTW
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Bernaschek wrote:pardon the OT, but was that Haka from a film ? In this case I'd like to know which one.
Nice army Haka here :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rDoV0EB ... re=related
exellent work, BTW
The Haka was from a 1983 New Zealand movie called "Utu" - directed by Geoff Murphy and starring Anzac Wallace. When it was made it was supposed to have had the largest budget ever for a New Zealand film. It's set in the 1870's and is loosely based on events from Te Kooti's War (the last phase of the Māori Wars between a number of Māori tribes and the colonial New Zealand government). The film is the story of a Māori warrior who had at first fought with the British soldiers - but then turned on them out of a desire for "utu", or vengeance, after the British army destroys his home village and kills his uncle. Great movie if you can lay your hands on a copy.
Also a bit off-topic, but another great New Zealand movie is "Once Were Warriors" - a bit on the intense side and also a bit more current, but also a good insight into a subset of Māori culture. Both movies will give you an idea of why Māori were (and are) so effective as soldiers. Today, somewhere around 60-70% of the New Zealand Army are Māori - while they make up only 15% of the overall population. That stuff about being keen on using the bayonet was all factual - as was the 28th battalion being the most decorated Battalion in the NZ Army in WW2.
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