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The Foreign Volunteers – an Overview of the Units and their Impact on the War
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 this is warranted by the amount of information available.
Zemsta Za Nóż w Plecy - The Polish Volunteers in Finland
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 a number of Polish Airforce 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.
La Finlandia non Combattere da Soli: The Italian Volunteers – The Alpini Division and the Garibaldi Regiment
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.
Photo Sourced from: http://www.cpmortai115.it/russia/ritirata.jpg
Men of the Alpini moving up to their positions on the Eastern Karelian Front in early Winter snow, November 1939.
In early 1940, a second volunteer unit, the Garibaldi Regiment, made up of some 5,000 Italian volunteers would also arrive and formed a further Regimental Combat Group, making the Italians the second largest contingent of volunteers after the Poles. The Italians would also sell large amounts of military equipment to Finland, as well as sending a further small group of Air Force personnel.
No Pasaran! - The Spanish Volunteers of the Division Azul (Blue Division)
The first large unit (the ANZAC Volunteers were actually the first, but only Battalion sized) of foreign volunteers to arrive in Finland after the actual outbreak of the Winter War were the Spanish Division Azul – and this was in large part due to two factors. First was Franco’s gratitude to the Finnish Volunteer Regiment (“Pohjan Pohjat,” commanded by Eversti Hans Kalm) which had fought long and hard on the Nationalist side of the Spanish Civil War from 1937 through to early 1939. The second reason was the September 1939 German–Soviet attack on Poland, a strongly Catholic country, which had outraged Franco and a large segment of Spanish Nationalist supporters – who were extremely conservative Catholic Nationalists rather than the “fascists” they have often been portrayed as. When the USSR attacked Finland, Franco’s outrage at what he saw as German treachery, first attacking Poland, a staunchly Catholic country and then betraying Finland, a country which had done so much to aid the Spanish Nationalist cause to the Communist enemies of western civilization, was such that he gave serious thought to what assistance Spain could in fact provide to Finland.
With the Spanish Civil War in its final moments and the Republican forces having surrendered and in a state of collapse, Franco had felt confident enough to release volunteers from the Spanish 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 Finland was a popular cause and 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.
Photo sourced from: http://www.ww2incolor.com/d/363397-2/Bluedivision1
General Agustín Munoz Grandes, first commander of the Spanish Blue Division in Finland, addresses a group of his men prior to their deployment on the Eastern Karelian Front, late January 1940. They look cold already ....
In addition, Franco dispatched a small Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force) volunteer unit together with aircraft - the Escuadrillas Azules (Blue Squadron) – whose mission was to provide air support for the Division Azul. At the end of the Spanish Civil War, the Spanish Air Force consisted of over 1,000 aircraft – a not inconsiderable size – and General Franco was generous in his allocation of air support to the Blue Division sent to Finland. All the pilots, aircrew and groundcrew were volunteers. On the positive side, the Spanish air force volunteers were a group of veteran pilots and aircrews with three years of combat experience who had learned and fought alongside Italian and German (and Finnish) aviators. On the negative side, most of the aircraft were worn out after years of combat use and needed ongoing maintenance to keep them operational. In addition to Italian and German aircraft with which the Ejército del Aire were equipped, Franco assigned almost all the Russian aircraft captured from the Republicans to the Escuadrillas Azules. These aircraft would prove very useful in “deception” actions throughout the Winter War.
The Scanadanavian Volunteers – The Viking 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). In addition, there was strong public support for providing assistance to Finland and allowing volunteers to join the Finnish Army – rather different from the Finnish Civil War of some twenty years earlier when Swedish volunteers assisting the Whites had met with hostility from the Swedish Left, which strongly favoured the Bolsheviks and the Reds. This time it was different.
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. This policy well-suited the Swedish government since it enabled Sweden to remain officially neutral whilst at the same time satisfying the general public demand that Sweden should help 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 entered service in January 1940, seeing active combat first on the Northern Front and then later 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. The Norwegian and Danish volunteers formed their own Battalions within the Swedish Division. 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 in the north of Norway. Many of them would rejoin the Maavoimat in the Finnmark – as did many other Norwegian soldiers from the south of Norway).
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... nsvard.png
The Commander of the Swedish Volunteers, General Ernst Linder and his Chief of Staff Carl August Ehrensvärd in Tornio during the Winter War. Ernst Linder (April 25, 1868 Pohja – April 14, 1943) was a Swedish general of Finnish descent who served in the Swedish army from 1887 to 1918, after which be participated in the Finnish Civil War as the commander of the Satakunta and Savo army groups, whose responsibility stretched from Finland's western coast adjoining the Gulf of Bothnia to Näsijärvi. Linder was a friend and a brother-in-law of the White Commander, Marshal Mannerheim. Following the war, he served as Inspector of Cavalry until he retired in 1920. Linder was promoted into the rank of Major General on April 13, 1918, Lieutenant-General in 1938, and General of Cavalry in 1940. In the Winter War, the 71-year-old Linder came out of retirement to lead the Swedish Volunteer Corps (the Viking Division ) from January 6 to October 27, 1940. In addition to his military career, Linder was an accomplished horse rider who competed in the 1924 Summer Olympics, where he and his horse Piccolomino won the gold medal in the individual dressage. Linder is buried at Norra begravningsplatsen in Stockholm.
Sweden also sent Flight Regiment 19 (Lentorykmentti 19, LeR19; 19. Flygflottilj, F19). This unit flew with aircraft “donated” from the Swedish Air Force: 20 Gloster Gladiators as well as a small number of 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. Although generally outclassed by Soviet fighters, these aircraft were able to operate in relative safety after the Finnish Air Force achieved air superiority over the Soviet Air Force in the early days of the war and made a valuable contribution to the war in the air. In addition, after the early successes of the Finnish Armed Forces against the Soviets, the Swedish government gave permission, despite the small size of the Swedish Air Force, for numerous Swedish Air Force personnel to volunteer for service in Finland. Swedish personnel served as ground crew for a number of Ilmavoimat squadrons and large numbers of Swedish volunteers were formed into both Air Field Construction Detachments and Air Force Security Detachments to provide perimeter security for Ilmavoimat Combat Air Detachments scattered across numbers of front line airfields. In doing so, they freed up Finnish troops for service on the frontline facing the Red Army.
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 and in Finnish industry and agriculture as well as driving trucks and working on construction projects such as the Lyngenfjiord railway link and the Petsamo Highway. In the early Summer of 1940, with the Maavoimat holding a line from the outskirts of Leningrad to the Veinanmeri (White Sea), the Swedish Government “sold” Finland two Klas Horn Class Destroyers, the Klas Horn and the Klas Uggla (on the understanding that if Sweden was attacked they would be immediately “sold” back) – and while these were not the best destroyers in the Swedish Navy, they were by no means the worst. Many of their crew also volunteered and would serve in the Merivoimat to the end of the Winter War.
Photo sourced from: http://www.navypedia.org/ships/sweden/sw_dd_18.gif
The Klas Horn was a Swedish Ehrenskold Class destroyer of 1020 tons displacement: Laid down in 1929, she was launched in 1931. The Klas Horn was powered by three Penhoet boilers providing a top speed of 35 knots and a range of 2560 km at 20 knots. She carried a complement of 125 and was armed with three 4.7 inch guns; six 25 mm anti-aircraft guns; two machine-guns and six 21 inch torpedo tubes arranged in two triples. Her crew was 119.
Swedish industry would also go on to assist the Finnish war effort with the supply of guns from Bofors, engines for the Finnish tanks and other armoured vehicles and by giving Finnish military supplies priority on the Swedish rail network (for which Finland was of course charged a steep price – something which caused a good deal of ill-feeling after the war). This was of course somewhat of a two-way street as even during the Winter War, Finland was exporting aircraft engines and even completed aircraft to Sweden, together with Suomi SMG’s, Lahti-Salaranta 7.62mm SLR rifles and both Tampella 81mm and 120mm Mortars – all weapons desperately needed by the Finnish Armed Forces, but with the Swedish Government demanding payment either in cash or kind, there was very little choice. Later in WW2, the Finns would make a point of somewhat magnanimously offering “Finnish military protection in the event of any hostile action from Germany” to the Swedish Government, “..for which of course there will be no charge” they would always add. At the time however, the Finns were more than grateful for any and all help offered, regardless of the price tag attached.
The Danish Volunteers
In addition to the Swedes, some 1,018 Danish volunteers also arrived in Finland with their travel and at least some of their equipment funded by the Danish Finland Volunteers Society. The main financial contributors and the negotiators for the Society who faced a most reluctant Danish government were the Copenhagen businessman H.P.Daehl (Daehls Varehus) and the shipowner, A.P.Møller (now Mærsk).
Photo sourced from: http://img.kb.dk/tidsskriftdk/gif/ho/ho ... 0019_1.jpg
In the first World Wa,r P.M. Daehl (1886-1974) and his brother founded Daehls Lot Hits. It made him wealthy. During the Winter War, Daehl was the driving force behind the Danish Committee for Finland Volunteer, which provided the financial funding for the volunteers' departure for Finland.
As these men were not judged to be ready for front-line service on arrival and while organizationally they were slotted into the Swedish Division, they were initially sent for training in Oulu. They were formed into a Battalion commanded initially by Danish Colonel V. Tretow-Loof and commenced active service in April 1940 on the Eastern Karelian front.
Photo sourced from: http://img.kb.dk/tidsskriftdk/gif/ho/ho ... 0013_1.jpg
Once in combat, Colonel V. Tretow-Loof proved unsuitable for combat leadership. He was replaced almost immediately by another Volunteer Officer, Captain J. H. Skjoldager (1894-1969) who was promoted to Major on taking command. Skjoldager would go on to become the commander of the Maavoimat’s Dansk Division as the Danish Volunteers grew in size over the course of WW2.
Photo sourced from: http://forum.axishistory.com/download/f ... ?id=227841
Captain Christian Frederik von Schalburg (15 April 1906 – 2 June 1942), commander of the 2nd Company, Danish Volunteers Battalion. In the photograph he is wearing the Finnish roundel and the Finnish officer's cap badges, but the insignia on his collar do not certainly look Finnish (i.e. heraldic roses). His rank in Denmark was "Kaptajnløjtnant", i.e. the Navy equivalent of an Army captain.
Von Schalburg was born in 1906 Zmeinogorsk, Tomskaja Gubernija, a part of Tsarist Russia (now Altai Krai, Russia). His father, August Theodor Schalburg, was Danish and his mother, Elena Vasiljevna, came from a Russian noble family and was born Starizki von Siemianowska. As a boy, von Schalburg received a military education in the Tsar's Cadet Corps and lived in Russia until the October Revolution of 1917 when he fled with his family to Denmark. These dramatic events caused him to long for Russia and to feel a burning hate of communists and jews. Von Schalburg entered the Danish Army and served as a Captain in the Royal Danish Life Guards, where he was eventually described as 'unstable and for the army possibly a dangerous man'. In a letter to the King he defended himself as a victim of slander.
From 1939 von Schalburg headed the youth branch (NSU) of the National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark (DNSAP), where he became very popular. That same year he and a group of NSU members called 'bloddrengene' (the blood boys) were among the Danish volunteers for the Finnish Winter War against the USSR in 1939–1940. Von Schalburg was fighting in Eastern Karelia with the Viking Division when Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany on 9 April 1940. Despite his national socialist beliefs he was deeply distressed that Denmark had surrendered almost without fighting. Von Schalburg would remain with the Viking Division until the end of the Winter War after which, like all the Danish Volunteers, he would remain in Finland and transfer to the Maavoimat. On 8 May 1944, Von Schalburg would lead a Danish Maavoimat Regimental Combat Group in the Marine Assault on the Danish Island of Bornholm. He would be killed in action 2 days later on the frontline as he observed an assault on remaining German positions on the Island.
Following the invasion of Denmark in April 1940, the Danish authorities took a remarkably cooperative attitude to the Germans. This was surprising given the size and strength of the Danish military - the Army was, contrary to popular belief, relatively well equipped by 1940-standards and with a higher degree of motorisation than the Germans. The total army strength upon mobilisation was theoretically some 85,000 all ranks with an order of battle of two Divisions plus supporting units, a sizable Navy and both an Army and a Naval Air Service. Despite this size and strength, no real resistance was put up to the German invasion. Following the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, the Danish government had carried out a mobilisation of 30,000 reservists, bringing the Army up to a strength of 55,000 and this force had been kept in service into the winter of 1940, after which the majority had been sent home (most with uniforms).
Despite warnings from Danish Intelligence that the Germans would attack on either April 8 or 9, the Government took no action to mobilise (Colonel Lunding from the Danish army's intelligence office later confirmed that Danish intelligence knew the attack would be coming on either April 8 or 9 and had warned the government accordingly). Thus on the day of the German invasion only some 15,000 troops were available and the Danish Government surrendered some two hours after the attack began. Of these 15,000 soldiers, around half of them had only 6 months of training. The Sjaellandske Division had 7,600 troops and the Jydske Division 7,000 troops available in the morning of the 9 April. These were distributed amongst a number of regiments and no units were fully organised and combat ready. The exception to the rule was the 14th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, which had been fully manned since the mobilisation and managed to down a few German planes in Western Jutland.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... l_1940.jpg
However, unlike the Danish government, some Danes had the moral backbone to resist the invasion: Here, a group of Danish soldiers on the morning of the German invasion, 9 April 1940. Two of these men were killed in action against the German forces later that day.
Many Danes were distressed that no fight against the Germans had been made and from as early as May 1940, numbers of Danes began escaping to Sweden and thence to Finland where they would join the Danish Battalion of the Maavoimat. After the end of the Winter War, these numbers slowly grew and by late 1941 some 10,000 men, including a good proportion of Officers and NCOs, had been added to the Free Danish Forces in Finland. Looking ahead a little further, following the resignation of the Danish protectorate government on August 29 1943 larger numbers of Danes left the country via Sweden and arrived in Denmark where they received Maavoimat military training. By mid-1944, some 15,000 Danes formed a “Dansk Divison” in Finland and were organized in three Maavoimat Regimental Combat Groups.
With regard to the Danish Navy, the officers of the Royal Danish Navy had known that there was a risk that the Germans would try to seize the navy, and had made plans for this eventuality, deciding that if this happened the Danish vessels should try to break through to Finland (which was neutral but maintained a decidedly hostile attitude to Germany) or, as a last resort, Sweden. If this proved impossible, the order was to scuttle the ships. When the German forces decided to take control of the Danish army and navy on August 29th 1943 (due to increasing tension between the Danish government and public and the German occupation forces, and German fears of the Danish armed forces assisting an allied invasion of Jutland) the Danish navy managed to scuttle 32 of its larger ships to prevent their use by Germany. Germany succeeded in seizing 14 of the larger and 50 of the smaller vessels and later to raise and refit 15 of the sunken vessels. During the scuttling of the Danish fleet, a number of vessels were ordered to attempt an escape to Swedish waters, and 13 vessels (the Danish patrol boat Havkatten, three motor minesweepers, and nine small craft) succeeded in this attempt (these would arrive in Finland and be taken into service, together with their crews, by the Merivoimat where they would form a Danish Naval Flotilla in exile was based in Turku.
Photo sourced from: http://steensiebken.dk/Danish-Brigade-U ... l-2010.PNG
July 1943, somewhere in Finland, shows a group of Dansk Division soldiers on a Maavoimat Ground Battle Course. The men are wearing the “DANFORCE” uniform used through to the end of the war in 1945. DANFORCE was legally an army unit in exile, allowed a number of 14.800 Danish officers and men. From April 1944 on the uinit was officially part of Allied Forces Finland (Maavoimat). DANFORCE consisted of three Regimental Combat Grous, a small air-group and a naval squadron in Turku made up of units which had escaped to Finland on Aug. 29 1943, together with Finnish-built Patrol Boats. DANFORCE, under the overall command of Lieutenant-General J H Skjoldager, was the primary Maavoimat unit that dashed down the length of the Baltic to seize the Island of Bornholm in May 1945.
The island's perfect central position in the Baltic Sea meant that it was an important "natural fortress" between Germany and Sweden, effectively keeping submarines and destroyers away from Nazi-occupied waters. Seizing the island would give the Finns a dominating position in the southern Baltic as they moved south down the Baltic peripheral. However, the island’s defences were not inconsequential. Several concrete coastal installations had been built by the Germans during the war, and the guns of the coastal batteries had tremendous range. There were also some 12,000 German troops stationed on the island. Bornholm measures 35 kilometres, from Rønne in the west to Gudhjem in the east and succes depended on detailed reconnaissance, attacking in strength at the right place and sufficient weight of arms to carry the day.
The distance from Turku to Bornholm was approximately 440 nautical miles – 20 hours at 22 knots and the Maavoimat attacked at first light. Maavoimat special forces units landed from submarines were already in position and launched attacks which were synchronized with drops by Rannikkojääkärit paratroopers and the men of DANFORCE and Rannikkojääkärit swarming ashore from Merivoimat Landing Craft. Close air support was provided both by fighter aircraft and ground-attack gyrocopters operating of the FNS Merikotka and by long-range fighters from forward air strips in Estonia operating with drop tanks. Merivoimat Light Cruisers and Destroyers provided artillery support while Merivoimat submarines lay in wait between Bornholm and German ports, waiting to torpedo any German ships attempting to reinforce the island defences.
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/e ... royers.jpg
The Merivoimat Light Cruiser FNS Ilmarinen providing naval gunfire support during the Invasion of Bornholm, May 1944.
Under pressure from the Americans and British in France, and from the Finns and Russians in the East, the Germans were not in a position to attempt to reinforce the islands defences. A number of S-boats attempted to attack but were sunk or driven off by the Ilmavoimat and by Merivoimat naval gunfire. Surprise was complete and within three days, the last German positions had fallen, albeit at a cost of some 4,800 Danish casualties (both killed and wounded) from a total force of some 15,000. Ilmavoimat airfield construction units put in place a functioning airstrip within days which thereafter enabled the Ilmavoimat to operate from the Island. Strongly held, Bornholm would become an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” and a dagger in the side of the Germans for the remainder of WW2. This action was THE major success for the Danish Armed Forces in WW2, and certainly went a long way to redeeming the inaction in the face of invasion of the earlier years.
Photo sourced from: http://www.navalhistory.dk/images/Episo ... 0-1990.jpg
The Danish Patrol Boat Havkatten was an R Class torpedo boat of 110 tons displacement launched in 1919. The Havkatten had a top speed of 24.3 knots and carried a complement of 26. She was armed with two 6-pdr anti-aircraft guns and two 18-inch torpedo tubes. She would become the flagship of the Danish Navy in Exile. Unfortunately she was more or less worthless in combat and her only role in WW2 other than escaping would be to lead the return of Danish Forces into Copenhagen in May 1945, under the auspices of the Merivoimat. The Maavoimat Dansk Division together with units of the Merivoimat’s Rannikkojääkärit would go on to liberate Denmark, with air cover provided from the Merivoimat’s aircraft carrier, the FNS Merikotka, seeing its first real combat role since the Helsinki Convoy of early 1940.
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While the British and French continued to dither 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 – this was certainly the largest group of volunteers from a minor nation to serve in Finland (Spain and Italy were far larger countries in terms of overall population – and the Polish Divisons were a rather different case). Support for Finland from Hungary and from the Hungarian people was strong for the start – largely due to the affinity the Hungarian people felt for Finland. This affinity was in no way imaginary but in the case of Hungary, a little more detailed explanation is in order so as to permit the reader to understand the exceptionally strong support offered to Finland from this small central European country – this will be provided in a subsequent Post as we examine the volunteer units in greater detail.
After the First World War, Hungary was one of the losers, losing roughly two-thirds of its territory and one third of the Hungarian people, now isolated outside Hungary’s borders, as a result of the Treaty of Trianon. Linguistically distantly related, Finland was one of the very few European countries that felt (and expressed) sympathy towards Hungary. Hungarians in turn now regarded newly independent and democratic Finland as an ideal. Besides this linguistic affinity and mutual regard and sympathy, both countries were more or less liberal states. Both countries were also industrialising although Hungary’s economy had been as hard-hit by the breakup of Austria-Hungary as had Finland’s been by the seperation from Russia. Nationalism also played a strong role in both countries, acting as “glue” holding society toigether – a common factor was that in each country the state strengthened its role within the society, which led, for example, to foreign companies becoming nationalised and transferred into state ownership. Good (and sometimes strange) connections formed between the two countries during the 1920s. An example of “strange” being the Hungarian Bank of Commerce, a private bank based in Budapest which had a unit selling specialty wood from Hungary to Finland; odd, since Finland was covered with forests and Hungary was a more developed agricultural country where the main forests had been cleared centuries earlier. Examples of these ties can be seen in the two following video clips from the 1930’s.
BUDAPEST Hugo Östermann (Finnish military commander) lays a wreath at the Budapest Heroes monument 1933
The Ocassion of the Opening of the Finnish Embassy in Budapest, 1934: The Finnish Prime Minister, Toivo Mikael Kivimäki refers to the common ancestral home of the Fenno-Ugric peoples “from which our Magyar brothers from the Ugric side of the family have travelled an epic journey”. The Hungarian Prime Minister, Gyula Gömbös, replies in a similar vein.
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... 3%A4ki.png
Kivimäki was Prime Minister from 1932-1936, heading Finland’s most long-lived Cabinet (until 1987 anyway). He also achieved a rapprochment of sorts with Sweden, was one of the key politicians who worked closely with Mannerheim, Tanner, Walden and Ryti to piece together the “Defence Consensus” that held through the thirties and in 1940 was appointed Ambassador to Germany (1940-April 1944), a difficult position where he eventually succeeded in reducing Nazi Germany's anti-Finnish stance and muting the mutual hostility created on the one side by Germany’s support for the Soviet Union prior to and during the Winter War and on the other side by Finland’s devastatingly effective defence of the Helsinki Convoy against the Kriegsmarine as well as by the pre-emptive Finnish seizure of northern Norway as the Germans invaded from the South.
In the newly independent Republic of Finland, several books were published from the 1920’s until the Second World War aiming to make the Finnish public more familiar with Hungary, its people, history, culture, and the prevailing state of affairs. In these, the war of liberation against the communists who briefly ruled Hungary in 1919 is logically compared to the Finnish war of liberation, which had taken place one year earlier. The leader of the (Hungarian) White Army who was elected Regent soon after the war, Admiral Miklós Horthy, is praised eloquently. The centuries-old role of the Hungarians as the outpost of Western Christianity and as the defenders of Europe against the Turkish threat is also emphasised, in analogy with Finland’s position as a neighbour of Russia.
The image of Hungary that is transmitted to the Finnish reader by the literature of the inter-war years is an extremely positive one. Hungary is portrayed as the “brave, beloved and mistreated sister nation” and the spirit of kinship is emphasized. This influence appears strongest in the Suomi-Unkari albumi, which —from its patriotic, conservative and militaristic approach as well as from its publisher (Ylioppilaiden työ- ja julkaisutoimisto, The Students’ Work and Publishing Office) might have been backed by the AKS (the Academic Karelia Society we have mentioned earlier in relation to “Greater Finland” and the Heimosodat).
Thus we can see that the peoples of both countries felt an affinity towards one another – and certainly Finland held a special place for Hungarians. Following the Soviet attack, the Hungarian government and the new Hungarian Prime Minister, Count Pál Teleki, almost immediately agreed to allow Hungarian Volunteers to assist Finland. And while the Hungarian government officially did not support Finland, they 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 with which Hungary had built strong ties, and on the other hand by the staunch anti-communist and anti-Soviet attitude of the Hungarian elite.
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/e ... %C5%91.jpg
Pal Teleki speaking at the 1933 World Jamboree held in Godollo, Hungary.
Teleki was Prime Minister of Hungary at the time of the Winter War and an active supporter of Finland. Teleki sympathized with Britain and France, feared the Germans and foresaw clearly the complete defeat of Nazi Germany and the European chaos that would result from the war. Teleki's enduring desire was to keep Hungary non-aligned, yet he knew Hungary could not ignore Nazi Germany's dominant influence. Teleki had two choices. He could continue to resist Germany's demands for their help in the invasion of Yugoslavia, although he knew this would likely mean the immediate invasion of Hungary and the overthrow of its government by Germany, just as they had taken over the Sudentenland, Poland, Austria, and as they were threatening to do to Yugoslavia. Or he could allow passage of the German military across Hungary, betraying Yugoslavia, openly defying the Allies, moving them to declare war on Hungary.
The Hungarian Regent, Admiral Horthy, who until this time had resisted Germany's pressure, agreed to Germany's demands. Before Teleki could chart a course through the political thicket, the decision was taken from him by General Werth, Chief of the Hungarian General Staff. Without the sanction of the Hungarian government, Werth, of German origins, made private arrangements with the German High Command for the transport of German troops across Hungary. Teleki denounced Werth's action as treason and then committed suicide. His suicide note said in part “We have become breakers of our word... I have allowed our nation's honor to be lost. The Yugoslav nation was our friend... But now, out of cowardice, we have allied ourselves with scoundrels. We will become body-snatchers! A nation of trash. I did not hold you back. I am guilty." Winston Churchill later wrote of Teleki, "His suicide was a sacrifice to absolve himself and his people from guilt in the German attack on Yugoslavia.” He is viewed by some Hungarians as a patriot who chose to die rather than collaborate with the Nazis.
However, at the time of the Winter War, this was in the future and as Prime Minister, Teleki would ensure Hungary’s help to Finland was as substantial as a small country could provide.
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. The Hungarian Ministry of the Interior also helped unofficially with recruiting. Around 25,000 Hungarian men initially applied to serve as volunteers. This tremendous show of support signalled the string feelings of Hungarians towards their “northern sister nation.” Somewhat more politically, it also allowed the Hungarian Government to show the world that Hungary could and would act independantly of Germany and would support the battle for a just cause. The selection of the volunteers was rapid but thorough. All the applicants had to meet the selection committee in person. 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. Captain Imre Kemeri Nagy, one of the battalion commanders within the Division, was an interesting exception to these rules. His past was somewhat shady.
Photo sourced from: http://forum.axishistory.com/download/file.php?id=4078
Captain Imre Kémeri Nagy, Hungarian Volunteer and “Szent László” Volunteer Division Battalion Commander. Born 27 March 1903 in Bürgezd (now part of Romania), he would die on 13 April 1942 in Varsó, Lengyelország after being wounded in March fighting partisans on the Eastern Front. In the aftermath of WW1, he served in the Szekely Division, a volunteer unit formed to defend Transylvania against Romanian invaders. With Transylvania ceded to Romania as a result of the Treaty of Trianon, he fled to Hungary in 1922. In 1925 he joined the Army but was discharged a year later. He then studied Law and Humanities at University in Budapest. From 1926 to 1928 he was a University Organizer and Leader for the Magyar Országos Véderő Egyesület (MOVE - Hungarian National Defence Association) as well as for the Association of Turul (this was a Universiry and College Studen far-right fraternal organisation) with approximatel 40,000 members). Over 1928 and 1929 he once more served as a soldier, then studied at the University of Budapest and taught high school diploma courses until 1932. He then lived from casual work, likely as a result of the Great Depression, which hit Hungary hard.
In the summer of 1937, he joined the Magyar Nemzetiszocialista Pártba (Hungarian National Socialist Party) as a Youth Leader. He wrote several right-wing articles and from 1936 he helped organize Arrow Cross para-military formations which regularly fought with members of the social democratic youth movements. He was imprisoned for a short time in 1937 as a result of these activities. Between 1938 and 1939 he fought in the Carpathian foothills as a member of the famous Rongyos Gárda (Ragged Guard) unit commander. The "Rongyos gárda" was a Hungarian paramilitary unit which crossed the Czechosolvak Border in 1938 to put pressure on the Czechoslovak government.
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... _kicsi.jpg
Kémeri Nagy Imre a finn téli háború idején / Kémeri Nagy Imre in the Finnish Winter War. He was one of the first to volunteer to assist Finland and due to his combat experience and training, was appointed a Battalion Commander. He fought in Finland through to the end of the Winter War and was one of the last of the Hungarian Volunteers to depart. The Detachment Sisu badge that all foreign volunteers wore on their uniforms to distinguish them from Finnish troops is clearly visible
The leader of one of the Hungarian Volunteer Division's battalions, Imre Nagy, wearing his Finnish uniform.
The Government allowed serving members of the military leave if they volunteered – and many Officers and NCO’s did so. 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. As volunteers were selected, they were collected together at the Hárshegy Scout Camp and began refresher training and were fitted out with uniforms and personal equipment and weapons. The standards of training and discipline were high and after the arrival of the Hungarian Volunteers in Finland, the Finnish General Headquarters reported back to the Hungarian Armed Forces Headquarters that they were very satisfied with the well-trained and highly-disciplined Hungarian Division – and that even its equipment was better than that of the other volunteer units arriving in Finland.
Travel to Finland was difficult as the German Reich totally 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 with their personal equipment and weapons on special trains, officially classified as “tourists going to ski-camp” (although they were very well-armed skiers). The transporting by train of some 16,000 men was a sizable logistical task and required the extensive cooperation of the Yugoslav, Italian, French, British, Norwegian and Swedish authorities. All of this was however achieved satisfactoriy and trainload after trainload of men steamed across Europe.
Photo sourced from: http://www.ww2incolor.com/d/634759-1/1+ ... _+1942+CRP
Hungarian Volunteers departing – January 1940
The first batch (and subsequent batches as well) were embarked by ship at Edinburgh and thence across the North Sea to Bergen. They finally began to arrive in Finland on 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. The Hungarians had paid attention to detail – with assistance from the Finnish Military Attache in Budapest, the volunteers had been organised on the Maavoimat model into three Regimental Combat Groups plus supporting units prior to leaving Hungary. The Division was also somewhat overstrength as provision was made for casualty replacements – a practice that was followed with many of the other foreign volunteer Divisions as it was anticipated that accessibility to reinforcements would be limited to non-existent).
In Finland the Hungarian Division was quartered in Lapua, where arriving units learned Maavoimat military skiing and winter warfare techniques and then enjoyed refresher training in Maavoimat tactics, weapons and other military skills. 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.
Officers of the Hungarian Volunteer Division at Lapua Boot Camp (April 1940, shortly before moving to the front)
Photo sourced from: http://www.ww2incolor.com/d/490627-2/Ja ... ontBBB1942
At the center of the photo, gazing fiercely at the opposing Soviet lines at the Syvari River front, Hungarian General Jany (Yaa-nee) was the commander of the Hungarian Volunteer Division. He spoke both German and Romanian, was personally brave and led from the front (he was wounded in August 1940) and was adjudged a strong and competent commander by the Maavoimat. Yet when an overwhelmingly strong Red Army attack hit his Division in August 1940, he declined to order a systematic fighting withdrawal, and added insult to the carnage by making a deeply disparaging military statement to his retreating troops. Badly wounded early in the battle, he was evacuated and replaced by Major-General Lajos Veress de Dálnok, commander of one of the three Hungarian Regimental Battle Groups. de Dálnok would go on to reorganize the defense and fight a successful defensive battle until a series of Maavoimat counter-attacks resulted in a return to the original defensive positions. General Jany would recover and go on to fight on the Eastern Front when Hungary fought alongside Germany. He remains a controversial historical figure even today.
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/e ... sLajos.jpg
Lajos Veress de Dálnok (4 October 1889 - 29 March 1976) was a Hungarian military officer who commanded a Regimental Battle Group in the Winter War, suceeding to command of the Hungarian Volunteer Division in August 1940 when the Commander, General Jany, was badly wounded. A highly capable officer, he would go on to serve as Commander of the Hungarian Second Army during the Second World War. de Dálnok was born into a Székely noble family and finished his studies at the Ludovica Military Academy in 1910, serving in the Austo-Hungarian Army through WW1. He served as Chief of Staff of the Cavalry Division between 1933 and 193, then as Military attaché in Vienna from 1935-1938. From 1938 to late 1939 he served as commander of the 15th Infantry Brigade before volunteering to fight in the Winter War.
On his return to Hungary in late 1940 he commanded the 2nd Cavalry Brigade as Major General. He was rapidly promoted to Lieutenant General and fought at the Don Front as commander of the First Armored Division. Between 1942 and 1944 he served as commander of the 9th Corps. He was appointed commander of the Second Army on 1 April 1944. Before the beginning of the surrender negotiations with the Allies Regent Miklós Horthy, who tried to ease Hungary out of the war, appointed him homo regius (the Regent's deputy) if Horthy was “indisposed”. As a result of being betrayed by pro-German officers, the German army arrested Veress and handed him over to the Arrow Cross authorities. A military court sentenced him to fifteen years imprisonment. He was imprisoned from 16 October 1944 in Sopronkőhida but later successfully escaped. He retired in 1946. After false charges of right-wing, anti-state conspiracy, a People's Tribunal sentenced him to death on 16 April 1947, but the National Council of People's Tribunals mitigated and changed the sentence to life imprisonment. He was released during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and left the country on 3 November 1956. From 1958 he served as chairman of the World Federation of Hungarian Freedom Fighters. Veress died in London amd is buried in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.
Meanwhile, as the Volunteers gathered in Hungary over late December 1939, the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior and the Finnis-Hungarian Association also began fund-raising. The contribitions rapidly piled up, with fund-raising carried out by a broad spectrum of Hungarian society. Within days 500,000 Pengõ (the Hungarian currency of the time) had been collected (and much more would be raised), and fund-raising posters were everywhere. The posters usual slogans were "Brother helps Brother" and "Hungarian Mothers for the Finnish Children". Hungary also helped with substantial shipments of military supplies – in fact, of the so called small countries, Hungary was Finland’s second most important partner when it came to military equipment. Only Belgium contributed more. In the tense international atmosphere of 1939 the supply of military equipment on the international market did not meet Finnish needs. The general demand for military equipment was rising considerably and prices went up quickly. Every European nation was purchasing weaponry and other equipment in order to match the military capacity of their neighbours or enable them to achieve at least some level of self-defence as for the most part their own industries were unable to meet their needs.
While Finland was somewhat ahead of the game thanks to the Defence Program of the 1930’s, war against the Soviet Union still demanded considerable military supplies and with France and Britain now at war with Germany, little could be expected from them. And of all the other major armaments-producing countries, none but Sweden and Italy were willing to sell weaponry to Finland even though they would support Finland politically. The USA maintained their policy of strict neutrality, based on the 1937 Neutralitry Act )which forbade the export of arms, munitions and implements of war to all belligerents) and subsequent legislation which permitted beliigerants to purchase whatever they wanted – with cash – and provided it was carried in their own ships. Direct Loans for the purposes of purchasing arms required Congressional approval. This legisation came into force 26 days before the Winter War – when the Soviet invasion of Finland exposed the glariing weaknesses of the legislation. Finland was sadly unsupported in procuring war materials from the USA early in the war, although this would soon change. France and Britain were focused on equipping and upgrading their own armed forces. Not many other sources were available.
Hungary however did its best. Prior to the war Hungarians had sold to Finland, among other things, shell casings, Kovacs-outboard motors, cannon barrels, explosives and anti-aircraft cannons and was willing to sell what they could produce, even though the Hungarian Government and military leaders were concerned about Hungary’s position in the future, how payments would be made and in what currency (Hungary was willing to help but was by no means a wealthy nation able to donate arms and munitions) and the difficulties in transport – these all set further limitations on deliveries. In early 1939, shortly after the start of the Winter War, Finland implemented Emergency Purchase Orders with Hungarian companies that had been drawn up as a Contingency Measure.
These orders followed earlier Orders which had been placed on the signing of the Molotov-Ribbetrop Act (and Finnish Intelligence becoming aware of the Secret Clauses regarding Finland and the Baltic States). At the time, in early September 1939, Finland had ordered from Hungarian companies:
- 5,000,000 Rifle Bullets
- 300,000 hand grenades
- 100,000 105mm artillery shells
- 150,000 Mortar shells
- 96 Artillery Tractors
- 200 Kovacs-outboard motors
- 24 Gamma M/36 AA Fire Control Directors
The Emergency Purchase Orders placed in early December 1939 added:
- 5,000,000 Rifle Bullets
- 250,000 hand grenades
- 100,000 105mm artillery shells
- 250,000 Mortar shells
- 24 Artillery Tractors
- 75,000 Helmets
- 126,000 cartridge pouches
- 250 field radios
Due to the country’s own growing military needs and the limitations in industrial capacity, Hungary was able to deliver only some of these early orders prior to the Winter War and not even all of them had been delivered by the time France fell and Italy entered WW2, effectively cutting Finland off from Hungary as a source of supply. However, every effort was made to meet Finnish orders and the Hungarian contributions were sunstantial. Helpfully, the Italians would carry Hungarian deliveries on Italian ships heading for Finnish-controlled ports. And in a little know twist to the war, Italian ships would also carry Polish soldiers from Hungary to Finland.
This almost unknown facet of the war had its origins in the friendly relationship between Poland and Hungary. As Poland collapsed in the face of the joint Nazi-Soviet attack, many Polish soldiers and airmen escaped across the borders into Romania and Hungary together with their weapons and equipment. The Polish-government-in-exile had originally wanted these men sent to France, but the Machiavellian machinations of the Germans, who did not want France receiving additional soldiers, resulted in the Hungarians transferring these men through Austria to Italy where they were embarked on Italian passenger ships and sent to Finland as a condition of their release. Their equipment was shipped with them and in this way, Finland would acquire some 20,000 additional Polish troops, some of whom would be used to replace casualties in the two existing Polish Divisions which had been formed in Finland, some of whom would form an additional Regimental Battle Group which would be used in the capture of Murmansk and the clearing of the Kola Peninsula.
Photo sourced from: http://www.polandinexile.com/images/norway2.jpg
Polish Troops transferred from Hungary embarking on an Italian troopship at Trieste and bound for Lyngenfjiord, January 1940
Photo sourced from: http://www.polandinexile.com/images/springpatrol.jpg
Spring Patrol: Polish troops on the move searching for Soviet remnants after the taking of Murmansk, Kola Peninsula, Spring 1940
With the material extracted from Poland to Hungary, Finland would also acquire 52 additional 40mm Bofors Anti-aircraft guns with 10,000 rounds, 30 x 37mm anti-tank guns with 6,000 shells, 32,500 x 81mm mortar shells and 16 x 81mm mortars, 300,000 Polish grenades and 20,000 x 20mm cannon shells.
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... nckell.png
Hungarian volunteers leaving from Finland after the Winter War. This group is commanded by Captain Imre Kémeri Nagy. Seeing him and the men of his Battalion off was Lieutenant General Oscar Enckell. In this parade Imre Kemeri Nagy was promoted to Majuri in the Maavoimat (this promotion was later accepted by the Hungarian General Staff) and was awarded a medal, the Order of the White Rose of Finland - Knight 1st Class. Sixteen other Hungarian officers of his Battalion also received a medal, the Order of the White Rose. Mannerheim also expressed well Finland’s gratitude to the Hungarians, saying that: ”Our blood relatives from the shores of Danube have heard the call of our war horn, and the sword of the Madjar has been drawn to help the Finnish sabre”.
Sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/e ... er_war.PNG
The route travelled by the Hungarian Volunteers
The Finnish steamship ARCTURUS sailed a shuttle service from Turku to Stettin in Germany on a regular basis for some weeks as it ferried the returing Hungarians towards their home. From Stettin, the volunteers travelled across the German Reich by special trains with German guards. The German government gave them special permission to use the German railway lines in order to reach Hungary. Expenses of the homeward travel were paid by the Finnish Ministry of Defence. The arrival at Budapest the returning Volunteers were welcomed by the Prime Minister, Count Pál Teleki .
One of the most long-lived passenger steamers on the Hanko-Copenhagen-Hull route, the SS Arcturus saw extensive use as a troop transport in the Winter War. She started out being used to carry many of the North American Finnish volunteers to Narvik or Lyngenfjiord, with 700 Volunteers crowded into cabin space for less than 200, such was their determination to reach Finland. After the Winter War ended, she was used to carry Hungarian Volunteers from Turku to Stettin (but with not quite the overcrowding). The sizable Finnish merchant fleet was key to the rapid movement of volunteers and military supplies from all over the world to the key ports of Narvik and Lyngenfjiord.
Outside the Hungarian Volunteer Division, other Hungarian volunteers fought in the Winter War as individuals. 2nd Lieutenant Mátyás Pirityi served in the Finnish Air Force and took part in more than 200 sorties. Warrant Officer Vilmos Békássy's plane disappeared over the Gulf of Bothnia. Géza Szepessy, along with four comrades from the Military Technical College of Berlin, went to Finland where he was wounded in action.
Next: Finnish-Americans and the Finnish-American Legion (Amerikansuomalainen Legioona or ASL)
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As this is a what-if, you can let you imagination run wild, but I doubt very much that Spain would have provided aircraft. Sending volunteers was one thing, sending material was a very different story. Spain simply did not have enough to send it. Also, it should be noted that "Escuadrillas Azules" is a plural, as there were five. But they served consecutively, never together, which seems to be the idea you have for your what-if.CanKiwi2 wrote:In addition, Franco dispatched a small Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force) volunteer unit together with aircraft - the Escuadrillas Azules (Blue Squadron) – whose mission was to provide air support for the Division Azul.
By December 1939, the Spanish Air Force had about 200 fighters and 180 bombers plus around 60 attack and 80 reconnaissance aircraft. And those are aircraft in service, the number of operative airplanes was much lower. Given that the idea at the time was to have an Air Force with 5,000 aircraft, I doubt that Spain would have sent any plane. They didn't in OTL when the "Escuadrillas Azules" were formed.CanKiwi2 wrote:At the end of the Spanish Civil War, the Spanish Air Force consisted of over 1,000 aircraft – a not inconsiderable size –
There was indeed an acute shortage of spare parts, and some models were scarcely flown.CanKiwi2 wrote:On the negative side, most of the aircraft were worn out after years of combat use and needed ongoing maintenance to keep them operational.
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Ah-ha. Thx, I will take that into account when I get to the details.Ironmachine wrote:As this is a what-if, you can let you imagination run wild, but I doubt very much that Spain would have provided aircraft. Sending volunteers was one thing, sending material was a very different story. Spain simply did not have enough to send it. Also, it should be noted that "Escuadrillas Azules" is a plural, as there were five. But they served consecutively, never together, which seems to be the idea you have for your what-if.
Thx again, will go back to my source material. As far as aircraft go, I will be writing up an explanation as to what was sent and why - numbers are very small even in relation to the numbers you provided above. Thats useful info for me to start with tho - again, thx, much appreciated.Ironmachine wrote:By December 1939, the Spanish Air Force had about 200 fighters and 180 bombers plus around 60 attack and 80 reconnaissance aircraft. And those are aircraft in service, the number of operative airplanes was much lower. Given that the idea at the time was to have an Air Force with 5,000 aircraft, I doubt that Spain would have sent any plane. They didn't in OTL when the "Escuadrillas Azules" were formed.
Have a couple of books on aircraft in the Civil War that I am using as a starting point. Going to run thru the high level look for the rest of the volunteer units and then its down to the nuts and bolts after that. Fortunately there is a lot of info on the Blue Division, makes it easier than for say the Hungarians....
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Interesting stuff as usual, and I'm overall very impressed with the knowledge and insight you put on display here. However, I should probably object to a few issues regarding the Danish situation.
It is indeed true that Denmark put up less resistance to the German invasion than, say, Norway and Holland, but apart from that the country really wasn't more cooperative than a number of other nations in the same situation. In fact, it's the other way around. While Denmark was unashamedly cooperative, it never became - as a nation - a Nazi collaborator, and hence it doesn't feature as such in the BBC "Nazi Collaborators" series discussed elsewhere.Following the invasion of Denmark in April 1940, the Danish authorities took a remarkably cooperative attitude to the Germans.
He was popular with the small group of Nazi boy scouts he was leading but apart from that he wouldn't have had much chance of winning any popularity contest in Danish society on the whole. Opinions about his qualifications as a military leader are divided.From 1939 von Schalburg headed the youth branch (NSU) of the National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark (DNSAP), where he became very popular.
Sorry, but where did you pick this up? Is it part of the whole fantasy thing we're dealing with here? The Danish army by 1940 had been starved to death completely by the Social Democrat government supported by the Radical Party, whose motto for its military policies for fifty years had been "What's the use?" ("Hvad skal det nytte?"). I would also really like to see the factual numbers for the "motorisation" issue, which seems to ignore that the Danish army didn't have one single vehicle that in all fairness could be seriously described as a tank or even an armoured car. The air force consisted of a couple of dozen biplanes kept at the same airfield outside of Copenhagen. The 85.000, however, isn't particularly "theoretical" - the force kept under arms in WWI had been larger than that. Still, numbers really don't mean anything here. Apart from the lack of modern equipment, the big problem had to do with the country's small size, it's geographical openness, it's complete lack of air raid shelters for the civilian population etc. The German campaign in Poland had shown vividly what the German Panzer and the Luftwaffe was capable of and how little strategic sense there would be in a traditional military defense of Denmark, particularly since Churchill had made it clear that there would be no British support - the opposite of what he had promised a number of other countries.This was surprising given the size and strength of the Danish military - the Army was, contrary to popular belief, relatively well equipped by 1940-standards and with a higher degree of motorisation than the Germans. The total army strength upon mobilisation was theoretically some 85,000 all ranks with an order of battle of two Divisions plus supporting units, a sizable Navy and both an Army and a Naval Air Service. Despite this size and strength, no real resistance was put up to the German invasion.
"Surrendered" is probably not the correct term. The situation was much more unusual and complicated than that.the Danish Government surrendered some two hours after the attack began.
It was a very ambivalent situation. Male instincts would demand you put up a struggle, but no one wanted to see Copenhagen turned into another Warsaw. Probably a bit more should have been done in the way of blowing up railway bridges etc., the purpose being not so much to defend the country - since that was clearly impossible anyway - but to at least make the invasion of Norway harder for the Germans. Otherwise, the discussion really don't exist any more and that has pretty much been the situation ever since the post war years. Instead the big debate has concerned the government's active obstruction of the Resistance Movement, and the largely passive military underground group's tendency to grab all decent weapons they could come across, while the active groups were forced to use often very primitive and unreliable equipment.Many Danes were distressed that no fight against the Germans had been made
Hope this can be of some use to you.
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http://www.armyvehicles.dk/lv180.htmPhilip S. Walker wrote:Sorry, but where did you pick this up? Is it part of the whole fantasy thing we're dealing with here? The Danish army by 1940 had been starved to death completely by the Social Democrat government supported by the Radical Party, whose motto for its military policies for fifty years had been "What's the use?" ("Hvad skal det nytte?"). I would also really like to see the factual numbers for the "motorisation" issue, which seems to ignore that the Danish army didn't have one single vehicle that in all fairness could be seriously described as a tank or even an armoured car.This was surprising given the size and strength of the Danish military - the Army was, contrary to popular belief, relatively well equipped by 1940-standards and with a higher degree of motorisation than the Germans. The total army strength upon mobilisation was theoretically some 85,000 all ranks with an order of battle of two Divisions plus supporting units, a sizable Navy and both an Army and a Naval Air Service. Despite this size and strength, no real resistance was put up to the German invasion.
Also some Fokker D.XXI, similar that were the best fighters Finland had when USSR attacked Finland.Philip S. Walker wrote:The air force consisted of a couple of dozen biplanes kept at the same airfield outside of Copenhagen.
And Danish Navy was reassonably well equipped.
http://www.navalhistory.dk/english/Nava ... 939_45.htm
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Undisputedly.Philip S. Walker wrote:It is indeed true that Denmark put up less resistance to the German invasion than, say, Norway and Holland, but apart from that the country really wasn't more cooperative than a number of other nations in the same situation. In fact, it's the other way around. While Denmark was unashamedly cooperative, it never became - as a nation - a Nazi collaborator, and hence it doesn't feature as such in the BBC "Nazi Collaborators" series discussed elsewhere.
Yes indeed. However, he was from all accounts rather deeply distressed by all accounts by the lack of resistance to the German invasion. In this timeline, he remains distressed and the Maavoimat offers him a path out - he remains in Finland first fighting the Soviets and then setting up a Free Danish force under the aegis of the Maavoimat. DANFORCE sets up in Finland rather than Sweden and participates rather more in the fighting as a result........von Schalburg ......was popular with the small group of Nazi boy scouts he was leading but apart from that he wouldn't have had much chance of winning any popularity contest in Danish society on the whole. Opinions about his qualifications as a military leader are divided.
Some good discussion on this onSorry, but where did you pick this up? Is it part of the whole fantasy thing we're dealing with here? The Danish army by 1940 had been starved to death completely by the Social Democrat government supported by the Radical Party, whose motto for its military policies for fifty years had been "What's the use?" ("Hvad skal det nytte?"). I would also really like to see the factual numbers for the "motorisation" issue, which seems to ignore that the Danish army didn't have one single vehicle that in all fairness could be seriously described as a tank or even an armoured car. The air force consisted of a couple of dozen biplanes kept at the same airfield outside of Copenhagen. The 85.000, however, isn't particularly "theoretical" - the force kept under arms in WWI had been larger than that. Still, numbers really don't mean anything here. Apart from the lack of modern equipment, the big problem had to do with the country's small size, it's geographical openness, it's complete lack of air raid shelters for the civilian population etc. The German campaign in Poland had shown vividly what the German Panzer and the Luftwaffe was capable of and how little strategic sense there would be in a traditional military defense of Denmark, particularly since Churchill had made it clear that there would be no British support - the opposite of what he had promised a number of other countries.
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 18&start=0
Good anti-tank capability as well as automatic weapons. Also, as Juha pointed out, the Danish Air Force was not insignificant and the Army actually did have some pretty food equipment overall. As the Netherlands proved, the D.XXI could give a good account for itself against the Luftwaffe. The Netherlands also used the Fokker C.Vs against the Germans. I think overall, this is the contrast one should look at. The Netherlands was equally hard to defend and still fought rather effectively with what they had, vis-a-vis Denmark where the Government lacked any backbone and simply folded to what was inarguably inevitable. But fold they did.
Copied this from the above link
As for the airforce there was no unified airforce before 1950 as each arm (army and navy) had their own air services.
Since 1937 both were undergoing modernization, but this had not been carried out by April 1940 and generally the airplanes were outdated.
Haerens Flyvetropper (Army Air Service)
Organised in two units: Sjællandske (Zealand) and Jydske (Jutland), which were both based on Vaerlose and Kastrup airbases on Zealand, but were planned to operate from field airfields in support of the two army divisions.
1st Sqd (Sjaellandske) 13 Gloster Gauntlet fighters
2nd Sqd (Jydske) 11 Fokker D.XXI fighters (1 more being delivered)
3rd Sqd (Sjaellandske) 9 Fokker C.V M/33, 2 Fokker C.V M/26 recon
5th Sqd (Jydske) 12 Fokker C.V M/33, 2 Fokker C.V M/26 recon
Flyveskolen (Training) 12 Tiger Moth, 1 DeHavilland DH 90, 5 Fokker C.V M/26, 1 Cierva C.30A (autogyro - a pred. to the helicopter), 23 O-Maskinen advanced trainers
Soevaernets Flyvevaesen (Navy Air Service)
12 Hawker Nimrod fighters
2 Hawker Dantorp (Horsley) Torpedo bombers
13 Heinkel He.8 reconnaissance hydroplanes
3 Tiger Moth trainers
2 Avro Tutor trainers
1 Dornior Wal Do DJ III hydroplane
1 DeHavilland DH 89 Dragon Rapide transport/reconnaissance
Note: All numbers are total aircrafts and not necessarily those available at the day of the German invasion
The Navy Fairey P.4/34 reconnaissance/light bombers previously mentioned were not completed by April 1940.
Also, on Danish Artillery:
The danish artillery in service in 1940. As one can see from the below, not insignificant and much of it motorised
Divisional artillery: 75mm repid firing steel canon M.1902, called 75 SK M02. It was the standad german krupp export model, at the time. 2 fieldguns regiments, with 8 batalions in all, with 12 m.1902 guns per batalion, was in active service. at least 48 more m.1902 guns in reserve.
"Corps" artillery: 10.5cm L/48 field gun M.1930, called 10.5cm FK M30. This was the same gun as french 105mm L M1936 Schneider, but an early production model, with out rubber tires as the french army model. 24 M.1930 in active service, forming two batalions. Another 24 M.1930 field gun in reserve.
Heavy"Corps" artillery: 15cm L/27 field howitzer M.1917, called 15cm FH M17. This is the French 155mm C M1917 Schneider, 1 batalion of 12 guns in service.
All the 10.5cm and 15cm guns was pulled by the danish produced Triangel-Kornbeck Half-track. 4 of the 8 fieldgun batalions was also motorized, useing the Ford Thames Model 1939, the rest horse drawn
One can understand the argument, without sympathising with it. And many Danes obviously disagreed with their Government. Later on in this timeline I am going to do a comparison of the Swiss and Finnish and Polish approaches, vis-a-vis what happened in the rest of Western Europe. That should generate an interesting little discussion
Indeed, I had a good read on all the arguments. That said, I think the comparison with the Netherlands is an apt one.the Danish Government surrendered some two hours after the attack began. ...."Surrendered" is probably not the correct term. The situation was much more unusual and complicated than that.
More a question of national honour one would have thought. Just because you are going to lose does not mean you do not fight. But we all know theres differing viewpoints on that one. I can see why the debate would go that way in Denmark, which strikes me as a society that with a few exceptions is rather passive for whatever reason.Many Danes were distressed that no fight against the Germans had been made.....It was a very ambivalent situation. Male instincts would demand you put up a struggle, but no one wanted to see Copenhagen turned into another Warsaw. Probably a bit more should have been done in the way of blowing up railway bridges etc., the purpose being not so much to defend the country - since that was clearly impossible anyway - but to at least make the invasion of Norway harder for the Germans. Otherwise, the discussion really don't exist any more and that has pretty much been the situation ever since the post war years. Instead the big debate has concerned the government's active obstruction of the Resistance Movement, and the largely passive military underground group's tendency to grab all decent weapons they could come across, while the active groups were forced to use often very primitive and unreliable equipment.
Yes indeed, and when we get to the actual events in this timeline some of this will be coming in as the subject gets discussed in more detailHope this can be of some use to you. Regards, Vely
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An exaggeration, perhaps, but the 40 mill DKK defense budget voted through parliament in January 1940 by both government and opposition did not amount to much compared to the amounts the major powers of Europe were spending at the same time.CanKiwi2 wrote:...Philip S. Walker wrote:... The Danish army by 1940 had been starved to death completely by the Social Democrat government supported by the Radical Party
A quote which incidentally originates to the 1880s defense of Copenhagen debate, which in turn lead to the split between 'Venstre' and 'Det radikale Venstre', or Manchester liberals and social liberals. But no matter. What shaped Danish defense policy in the inter-war years was the lack of international partners.*whose motto for its military policies for fifty years had been "What's the use?" ("Hvad skal det nytte?")...
Discussions of potential, mobilized capabilities aside - your figures are seriously off, but I am not going to dispute them - the question is rather one of proportions. The Danes had seven D. XXIs on strength on April 9. 1940, against the Luftwaffe's c. 1,000 single- and twin-engined fighters. The Danish air force could have had F-22s for all we know, it would not have mattered much with such a large force disparity.CanKiwi2 wrote:...
Good anti-tank capability as well as automatic weapons. Also, as Juha pointed out, the Danish Air Force was not insignificant and the Army actually did have some pretty food equipment overall. As the Netherlands proved, the D.XXI could give a good account for itself against the Luftwaffe...
Indisputedly. Otherwise, your analogy is so totally misguided that I wonder if you are able to identify Denmark and the Netherlands on a map.The Netherlands also used the Fokker C.Vs against the Germans. I think overall, this is the contrast one should look at. The Netherlands was equally hard to defend and still fought rather effectively with what they had, vis-a-vis Denmark where the Government lacked any backbone and simply folded to what was inarguably inevitable. But fold they did.
Just to give you an example on how defensible the rest of the world considered Denmark, Churchill in February 1940 said that '...I could not reproach Denmark if she surrendered to Nazi attack...the other two Scandinavian countries, Norway and Sweden, have at least a ditch over which they can feed the tiger, but Denmark is so terribly near Germany that it would be impossible to bring help...'**
I am sure he would have appreciated your ex-post facto moral estimate of the situation
Now you just need to provide numbers for German forces involved in Weserübung, along with potentially available German forces, to get an idea of the basis of Danish politicians' decisions on April 9 1940....(snip inaccurate figures)...
Not really. The Dutch had their potential enemy Germany on one side, potential allies in Belgium and Luxembourg on the other side, and Germany's enemy France just behind Belgium, with no body of water to cross in order to get to grips with the Germans. The Dutch also had the benefit of knowing (from the Polish, Danish and Norwegian examples) just how highly the Germans regarded non-aggression treaties....
Indeed, I had a good read on all the arguments. That said, I think the comparison with the Netherlands is an apt one.
The Danes, on the other hand, had Germany on one side, and water and equally modestly equipped Scandinavian neighbours on the other side. Neighbours who, all other evident sympathies aside, were not prepared to commit themselves by sending troops to Denmark - although I am sure you would make an interesting numbers exercise of it covering the eventuality.
You really should check out a map before making such sweeping comparisons, it would raise the accuracy of your posts immensely.
I am sure such misguided moral judgements are easy to make for internet debaters with martial slogans in their signatures...
More a question of national honour one would have thought. Just because you are going to lose does not mean you do not fight. But we all know theres differing viewpoints on that one. I can see why the debate would go that way in Denmark, which strikes me as a society that with a few exceptions is rather passive for whatever reason...
* After 1945 (arguably, already after April 9 1940) Denmark learned the lesson and decided to deposit its future alliance policy with the Americans, who've remained a generous and trustworthy ally ever since, chiefly because Greenland is a very strong bargaining chip in that regard. A point expounded eloquently and lengthily by historian Paul Villaume, himself the product of a liaison between a Danish doctor (of French Huguenot origins) who volunteered for the Winter War, and a Finnish nurse.
** From Peter Ackermand A force more powerful: a century of nonviolent conflict p. 208
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Juha Tompuri wrote: And Danish Navy was reassonably well equipped.
http://www.navalhistory.dk/english/Nava ... 939_45.htm
And as this what if contains the most remarkable evoultion of Finnlands armed forces
I find it totaly in line with the story that the Danes with Niels Bohr et al. already had developed their own Nuclear weapon and the Danish SSBN HMS ABSALON where ready to wipe out any great powers capital if they treathened the Kingdom of Denmark.
My 2 öre
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I like it!John T wrote:And as this what if contains the most remarkable evoultion of Finnlands armed forces
I find it totaly in line with the story that the Danes with Niels Bohr et al. already had developed their own Nuclear weapon and the Danish SSBN HMS ABSALON where ready to wipe out any great powers capital if they treathened the Kingdom of Denmark.
My 2 öre
The Danish SSBNs would of course be pigeon-guided , and funnily enough I was wondering how I could fit Niels Bohr into this.
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This was about von Schalburg. There was nothing unusual about his opinions in this regard, it was the stated opinion of the Danish Nazi Party that the German invasion should have been resisted. If you think that sounds rather absurd you are indeed correct. Denmark was blessed with a bunch of local Nazis that were so pathetic and idiotic that even the Germans couldn't take them seriously.Yes indeed. However, he was from all accounts rather deeply distressed by all accounts by the lack of resistance to the German invasion.
Convenient for you when picking out pictures for this project, but the DANFORCE you are inventing here would have had very little in common with the DANFORCE of the real world. It's true that they were both set up primarily to fight Communists, even Soviet Communist if it should come to that, and I take it that is your point. However, that was not the motivation of the volunteers in the Real World Danforce. They thought they were to help throwing the Germans out of Denmark. When a few of them discovered the truth, they deserted and went back to Denmark to join the Resistance. Unfortunately, they soon found themselves hunted by both sides.DANFORCE sets up in Finland rather than Sweden and participates rather more in the fighting as a result.
There was a time when the Danes had been naive enough to think in such lines, and that time was in 1864. If you don't understand 1864, you can't even begin to understand Danish mentality.Good anti-tank capability as well as automatic weapons. Also, as Juha pointed out, the Danish Air Force was not insignificant and the Army actually did have some pretty food equipment overall
Actually, Holland is even more hopeless to defend against a German attack than Denmark is, but at least the population is considerably bigger. What the Dutch did also have was a hope of British support, which had been denied in Denmark's case. What the Dutch did NOT have was a war against Germany in 1864 to learn some lessons from. Looking at pictures from the Danish civilian undefended town of Sonderburg in that year is like looking at a prelude to what happened to Rotterdam in 1940. But had least the Germans had given the civilians in Rotterdam a chance to get out first.The Netherlands was equally hard to defend and still fought rather effectively with what they had
I agree. It is apt as an example of how incredibly irresponsible it would have been if the Danish government had tried to resist the German invasion, and what followed afterwards in Holland only emphasizes this. God knows it was bad enough in Denmark.That said, I think the comparison with the Netherlands is an apt one.
You choose the solution that is least costly and has the best chance of winning in the end, and then you shove your patriotism where the sun don't shine. That isn't just Clausewitz, it is also growing up and understanding there is more to this world than satisfying male instincts, such as staying alive and doing what's best for your wife and children. Typically, the discussions over whether or not to resist were held between groups of older and younger men, even in the Danish Council i London during the War.Just because you are going to lose does not mean you do not fight.
In any case, the War was by many Danes seen as a conflict between the Superpowers, as we call them now, partly over the right to rule and exploit a number of colonies in the Third World. These colonial nations, incidentally, included Holland, and Belgium too. The Nordic countries never had many colonies and were always at the forefront of defending native people against this form of exploitative intrusion. So why should the Danish people let themselves annihilate for the sake of the British Empire led by Winston Churchill, who had openly declared in Parliament that he wouldn't come to the rescue of the Danes in case of a German attack? Of course, Churchill was highly aware of this viewpoint, which is why he was so keen to use the phrase "political war". He was, of course, partly right that WWII was just that, and as the Danes grew to understand this aspect, so did their resistance against the Germans grow. I believe the Finns still have a bit of catching up to do in this department, but then they have understood other things that the rest of us have to catch up with, too.
There are different ways of losing. One is to let the enemy in and then fight him with partisans. That worked for Denmark in the Swedish Wars, in the "Cannon boat war" with England 1807-14. Even in the First Schleswig War there were efficient paramilitary groups that worked well, and in 1864 we more or less invented the commando warfare idea with the renowned Aarøes Strejfkorps, made up by two companies, one Danish and one made up by Swedish volunteers. Apart from that, Danish history ever since Lutter am Barenberge has proven that there is no way this country can be a player in the games conducted by the superpowers. They've tried again in recent years and once again they've burned their fingers badly.Just because you are going to lose does not mean you do not fight.
Overall, it's an advantage to have grown up in a certain place if you want to really understand why things are as they are there. If you have grown up in another place, very far away, and you are dealing with historical events from many decades ago, the most absurd and ridiculous ideas can obviously develop (thanks for the pictures, Juha, I had a good laugh at those), often because you drown yourself in irrelevant detail and forget the major issues at stake.
Let that be a lesson to me.
Kind regards, Vely
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I can see how to work this in going forward now, thx for that - and expect a few changes in the detailed writeup to come. As far as DANFORCE, I must admit I was thinking more in initial terms of many Danish national socialists or those in sympathy with Von Schalburgs idea (or at least thinking along the same lines - Denmarks honor etc etc) that Denmark should have fought going to Finland. And yes, DANFORCE in this ATL would be a rather different DANFORCE than in real life.
I will not be getting into real detail on Denmarks situation tho, rewriting Finnish history and turning Finland into a regionally significant power is challenge enough. Also, I am happy to have won you some support
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While the French Government discused aid for Finland, tangible results were slow to eventuate. The first substantial aid to arrive from France was a shipment of thirty Morane-Saulnier fighters. France had promised 50 of these first-rate fighter aircraft but initially only 30 were sent (the remaining 20 were in fact never sent). They were shipped to Sweden and assembled by French mechanics at AB Aerotransport's facilities at Bulltofta airfield at Malmö, Sweden. The aircraft were flown from Sweden to Finland between 4 and 29 Feb, 1940 where they entered service immediately.
Morane-Saulnier MS406 Fighters for Finland
With a rapidly deteriorating international situation, facing ever increasing pressure from the Soviet Union, and shocked by the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 (and aware of the secret clauses regarding Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), the Finnish military procurement program had moved into high gear, with Mannerheim in particular using all his considerable personal leverage with the French, Italians, British and Americans in an attempt to prepare Finland for the european-wide war he was sure was coming. However, the sad fact of life was that all of these countries were busy preparing for war themselves and Mannerheim’s personal relationships held no sway. Still, while Mannerheim could at least console himself with the thought that Finland was considerably more prepared than it might have been, the situation was still perilous and Finland continued to make every possible effort to secure additional military equipment.
Negotiations with France however would prove unavailing. French armaments production was well behind schedule and in any case, Finland had no real expectation that the French would be of much assistance – Finland’s hopes were rather more heavily weighted towards the Americans and their massive industrial capacity. However, when Germany attacked Poland on September 1st, 1939, a further Finnish attempt to place an urgent order for forty Morane-Saulnier MS-406’s was again declined by the French Governmen. Finland was advised that with the declarations of war by France and Britain, all aircraft manufacturing output was going to equip the French Air Force and none were available for sale.
French Morane-Saulnier MS 406 aircraft on patrol
However, soon after the actual outbreak of the Winter War on 31 November 1939, the French Government changed its mind and agreed to donate 50 MS 406s to Finland. An initial shipment of 30 aircraft arrived in Sweden in early January 1940, where (as mentioned above) they were assembled by French mechanics at AB Aerotransport's facilities at Bulltofta airfield at Malmö, Sweden. French test pilots Captains Etienne and Henri Sabary flew each plane before they were handed over to the Finns. Finnish Ilmavoimat Ferry pilots (mostly women) flew the planes from Sweden to Finland with the aircraft already painted with Finnish national markings although the planes still had a French paint scheme. Early trials in Finland identified that at high altitude the guns had a tendency to freeze up and heaters were quickly added to the guns to allow high altitude use. The end result was an effective fighter capable of taking on the best of the Soviet fighters. The Finnish nicknames were Murjaani (blackmoor), a twist on its name, and Mätimaha (roe-belly) and Riippuvatsa (hanging belly) for its bulged ventral fuselage. The thirty MS 406’s would enter service in March 1940 and would fight through the Winter War.
The 30 MS 406 fighters that were delivered in early 1940 were allocated to LeLv 28, commanded by Major Jusu. These aircraft received the Finnish designations MS-301 to MS-330. They were used heavily in combat during the Winter War against the USSR and shot down 134 Soviet aircraft for 15 aircraft lost. The top Morane ace in all theatres was W/O Urho Lehtovaara.
Photo sourced from: http://personal.eunet.fi/pp/gdes/images ... linier.jpg
The picture shows an incident along a Soviet rear-area railway line. Ilmavoimat Morane-Saulnier pilots destroyed over 40 railway engines in the Winter War. This impaired transport of military materiel to the Finnish front
The original of this print is a watercolour painting by the artist Sture Gripenberg with a printing limited to 400 copies. Master Sergeants Erkki Alkio and Oskari Jussila, together with the artist Sture Gripenberg have personally signed each numbered print (link to the artists website is http://personal.eunet.fi/pp/gdes/gallery_eng.htm)
Urho Sakari Lehtovaara – the Ilmavoimat’s top-scoring Morane-Saulnier Pilot
Urho Sakari Lehtovaara was born in Pyhäjärvi, northern Finland on 17 October 1917. He lived there until the family moved to Salo in 1934. There he became interested in the activities of the local aero club. The club was building a glider, and soon Urho was the most enthusiastic member of the club. Lehtovaara volunteered for military service in the Air Force in 1937. He liked flying so much that he decided to earn his living at it, remaining in service as an enlisted NCO (Lance Corporal) in LeLv 26, at first flying the old Bristol Bulldog fighters and then the newer Avia B-534’s. With the rapid expansion of the Ilmavoimat in the last half of the 1930’s, he would find himself spending a considerable amount of his time flying with trainee pilots as the Ilmavoimat concentrated on building a large reserve force.
Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/lehto1.jpg
Urho Sakari Lehtovaara
Physically Lehtovaara was a short man, which is why he gained his nickname of "Pikku-Jätti" (Little Giant) or later plain "Jätti" ("Giant") when he had proven his real size. His character was introverted, he did not talk much, and usually he was calm and pensive, but if sufficiently provoked he could suddenly lose his temper. Obviously he disliked the attention when photographed as he always looks sullen in the photos. When he was decorated with the Mannerheim Cross on the 9th of July 1944 he was characterized: "as fighter pilot Sergeant Major Lehtovaara has displayed exemplary courage combined with great calmness and judgment".
When the Winter War broke out in late 1939, Lehtovaara’s squadron still was equipped with the older Avia B-534’s. When the Morane-Saulnier MS-406 fighters donated by the French government became operational in late February 1940 a new squadron, LeLv 28, was created. Sgt. Lehtovaara was one of the pilots transferred to the new unit. The flight in which he served was based on Lake Pyhäjärvi near Turku. Unfortunately the Moranes as delivered were very inefficient interceptors due to a total lack of radio equipment and the weak armament of only three 7.5 mm MG's. (Very few planes had the French-manufactured 20mm Hispano cannon, which was even less reliable than the MAC machine guns). Moreover, the MS-406 was unstable with a tendancy to oscillate vertically after a turn, making accurate longer-range shooting impossible. The Ilmavoimat moved as fast as possible to rectify these problems – the first measure taken being the installation of radios as soon as these could be made available. The second was the installation of Finnish-manufactured HS404 20mm cannon, which were far more reliable than the French-manufactured guns. However, these retrofits would take place over time and in early March 1940 had not yet been started, meaning the Morane’s could not be vectored onto enemy aircraft by Fighter Control.
On 2nd March 1940 Lehtovaara’s flight commander received a report of a lone enemy bomber over the town of Salo. He sent out Lehtovaara with MS-326, an eager volunteer as he knew the "lie of the land". The Morane reached Salo in less than ten minutes but of course the enemy was not there any more. Lehtovaara decided to fly around before returning, and after a minute he saw a two-engine plane. He flew closer and saw that it was an SB-2 with red stars. Lehtovaara decided to play safe, considering that he had a chance of making his first kill and the fact that the guns of his fighter were unreliable. He approached the bomber staying behind the enemy tailplane to prevent the rear gunner from shooting at him, and fired at the enemy's engines at a range of 30m. The bomber crashed to the ground, taking its crew with her. Lehtovaara had scored his first victory, and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on the 23rd of March 1940.
Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/lehto3.jpg
Urho Sakari Lehtovaara in front of his Morane Saulnier 406, MS-327, as it is being reloaded for another mission. Note the MAC gun ammo drum on the wing and the wing guns tilted for reloading. The MS-406 demanded twice more labour for service than any other FAF fighter type.
LeLv (Fighter Squadron) 28 was transferred to Eastern Karelia (Olonets) in mid-March 1940 as part of the preparation for the late-winter offensive. Lehtovaara immediately scored a further victory - a DB-3. He also became an expert in "train-busting" attacks on the enemy freight trains on the Murmansk railway. The steam locomotives were disabled by shooting holes in the boiler, but the pilot had to defy the train's AA guns to do this. In late March the Moranes had been upgraded with radio equipment, a rollover bar and seat armour, but the pilots were still relatively inexperienced as most of the more experienced pilots had been moved to squadrons with newer and more capable fighters. Lehtovaara was the only experienced pilot left, the others were novices. Due to the deficient pilot training the squadron was used mainly to assist the infantry with ground strafing and in train-busting attacks and attacks on enemy transport in the rear areas. Also the tactics of the squadron were not well thought out due to the level of inexperience at the command ranks and victories were few and far between, although there were also no losses to the enemy.
In April as the fighting intensified, Wihuri, Hawk, Fokker DXXI, Fokker G1, Heinkel He112, Miles M20, Hurricane, Avia B.534 and Fiat G.50 fighter pilots of the Ilmavoimat caused heavy losses to enemy bombers trying to attack the Finns, but the Morane pilots failed - the enemy came in low and wherever they were, they were always attacked at lunchtimes – even when they moved the time of lunch - and they never seemed to get into the air on time, even when warned by Fighter Control! But Lehtovaara was successful. He was mostly flying MS-327, with which he intercepted three DB-3's on 3 April 1940 at Ilomantsi. He shot down two and damaged the third. Six days later (on 9 April) he shot down two SB-2’s and after a long dogfight a Soviet fighter. Later he would says that his first real dogfight taught him more than all the training he had been given. Lehtovaara received Senior Sergeant's stripes on 23 April 1940. An air battle on the 9 May1940 (see details in another "Jätti" story) increased his score to 11 and got him promoted to Sergeant Major. On 12 May 1940 Lehtovaara and another Morane pilot were bounced by several Soviet fighters near Segezha. The other Morane pilot managed to retreat, but Lehtovaara (with MS-327) had to fight it out with a Soviet fighter pilot who was determined to take him on. Lehtovaara shot down his adversary while the other inactive enemy fighters were “watching the show". The enemy pilots even allowed the victorious Morane escape. It was surmised that they were inexperienced trainees, who had lost their instructor.
Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/lehto2.jpg
The Morane Ace, Sgt. Urho Sakari Lehtovaara (nick-named by friends "Pikku-Jätti" - "Little Giant") standing by the tail of his Morane Saulnier 406, MS-327, on the 9th of June 1940
On 5 June 1940 Lehtovaara managed to intercept a Soviet bomber on a reconnaissance mission at 7000m - without his oxygen mask. He fired at the photographing bomber from below, the Morane "hanging" on its propeller until the engine stopped. He managed to restart his engine before the two escorting fighters attacked him. In the ensuing dogfight Lehtovaara shot down one of them. Sergeant Major Lehtovaara was transferred to the new LeLv 34 in late June 1940, just as the newly formed squadron began to equip itself with the British-suppled Westland Whirlwind fighters. He belonged to the 3rd Flight commanded by Capt. Puhakka. The first victory that the ex-Morane pilot scored was a Soviet fighter on 19 July 1940. The well-equipped LeLv 34 was involved in heavy air battles against numerically superior enemy but due to the aircraft performance and the skills of the fighter pilots, consistently emerged from the battles unscathed and with numerous enemy aircraft shot down.
For example on 24 July 1940 Lehtovaara fought against unusually large odds. He had taken off at 12.40 hours from Kymi/Juurikorpi air base to test-fly his fighter aircraft after repair. At 12.47 the base was alerted: 15 Soviet bombers escorted by 19 Soviet fighters had been detected approaching Kotka. Major Luukkanen, the Squadron Leader, sent an order to Lehtovaara over the radio: "Attention Giant, fifteen bombers and nineteen fighters approaching Kotka from the South, intercept!" At that very moment Lehtovaara was approaching the runway with gear down. Without hesitation he interrupted the approach and accelerated to full power above the runway until he had picked up enough speed. Then he began to gain altitude to meet the enemy - two more ilmavoimat figherts were frantically being started on the base: Major Luukkanen himself and Sergeant Major Tani were coming to help. The defensive AA opened fire - the enemy bombers dived to attack. The leading bomber was hit by the AA fire and continued her dive into the sea.
Lehtovaara wrote in his battle report: "I attacked the enemy formation but was engaged by enemy fighters that tied me up in a dogfight lasting 20 minutes. I shot at three fighters, each of which shed large pieces and disengaged immediately. A fourth caught fire but the fire was extinghuised soon and the smoking plane was lost from my view before Someri Island. The pilot of the fifth enemy plane that I fired at in a turn was probably hit because enemy half-rolled and nose-dived in the sea about 15 km SE of Someri." The battle ended as the enemy retreated. The ground crews and other personnel of the base were anxiously waiting. They could hardly believe their eyes as all three Ilmavoimat fighters returned. Lehtovaara parked his fighter and climbed out of the cockpit as the responsible mechanic ran to see what the pilot had done to his fine aircraft.
Lehtovaara paced here and there, cursing aloud at the small ammunition magazine capacity of the Whirlwind, trying to calm down. To their surprise, the mechanics did not find a single hole in the aircraft, just the radio antenna had disappeared. Major Luukkanen was grateful that it had been Lehtovaara who had been in the air as the alert was received. The man's courage and sense of duty had no limit: without hesitation he had single-handedly attacked thirty-six enemy aircraft. Lehtovaara was the best pilot in the base to obey that order - and survive. Luukkanen had shot down a fighter himself, but Tani failed to score. However it was not this incident that Lehtovaara himself considered his toughest experience (please check "Jätti's" two combat stories). On 29 July 1940 he was promoted to the rank of Air Master Sergeant (the highest NCO rank).
The Soviet offensive over July and August 1940 was a tough period for the Finnish armed forces, also for the Air Force. The enemy flew often in 100-plane+ formations and despite the constant heavy losses inflicted by the Ilmavoimat, there were always more Soviet fighters and a seemingly unended stream of bombers. There was enough light for flying for 24 hours per day up to mid-July, so the fighter pilots of Squadron 34 often had 19-hour days. In Summer 1940 Lehtovaara's most successful day was the 2nd of August. At 20.00 hours that day 35 Soviet bombers dive-bombed the Lappeenranta Air Base, followed by a strafing attack by 40 bombers covered by dozens of escort fighters. 11 Hawls of LeLv 24, whose base was attacked, managed to scramble. LeLv 34, based at Taipalsaari a dozen km to the north-west, was asked to help, and sixteen Whirlwinds took off at 20.10 hrs, led by Ltn. Myllylä. Lehtovaara, one of the pilots, chased the bombers and managed to shoot down three in succession. The attackers lost fifteen bombers and one escorting fighter. One Whirlwind was found to be battle damaged on landing. On the 25th Augist, Lehtovaara shot down one Soviet fighter - which was his last victory of the Winter War, bringing him to a total of 44 1/2. He had been awarded the Mannerheim Cross on the 9th of August 1940.
Lehtovaara remained in the Ilmavoimat after the Winter War, was promoted and in mid-1944, when Finland declared war on Germany, he was Squadron Commanding Officer of LeLv 34, a command that he held until he retired from Ilmavoimat service in November 1946. He achieved another 31 victories against the Germans, although it was more than rumoured that a number of these were Soviet aircraft. However, Soviet or German, to the Ilmavoimat a kill was a kill and the only victories that were not counted were those against British or American aircraft, of which there were a small number towards the end of WW2 as Allied fighter pilots initially showed a lack of discernment when it came to identifying the Nazi Swastik vis-à-vis the Ilmavoimat’s Hakankreuz.
We can assume that "Jätti" was addicted to flying and in particular to air battles. The thrill a fighter pilot gets when fighting for his life is a stimulant that peacetime service could not offer. After the war, Lehtovaara returned to his home district. He was the owner-operator of a movie theater at Suomusjärvi near Salo when he suddenly died in 1949 at the age of 42.
Battle of the Moranes
It was the 9th of April 1940 in Eastern Karelia, Olonets. Early in the morning about 06.00, four MS-406 fighters of LeLv 28 were covering the advancing Finnish troops. The flight was led by Sr.Sgt. Urho Lehtovaara flying MS-304.
The Finnish pilots saw an approaching formation of 18 Soviet fighters: Lehtovaara gave the order to attack the enemy. A "furball" ensued. The Soviet pilots were disturbed by their own numeric superiority, they were constantly in danger of colliding with each other, thus they had to watch for each other as much as for the Moranes. Also they were tempted to open fire at a long range in competition for targets. The Finnish pilots knew what to do: they kept turning in one direction only and fired upon opportunity at close range. Lehtovaara scored the first victory, but immediately a section of three fighters managed to get behind his tail. But the rigid three-plane formation prevented the enemy wingmen making use of their superiority, the wing fighters fired into thin air as the leader fired at the Morane. After a while Lehtovaara managed to out-turn the three Soviet fighters and he fired into the engine of the leader. The Soviet fighter engine began to smoke, the fighter stalled and dived, the pilot bailed out.
Lehtovaara disengaged from the leaderless wingmen and checked the general situation. The other three Moranes were each fighting three to four enemies, without any apparent problems. Then Lehtovaara saw one Soviet fighter that tried to disengage and dived after him. Lehtovaara fired, but the salvo hit the enemy fighters armour, only alerting the pilot. The two fighters entered into a dogfight, trying to out-turn each other. The Soviet pilot was very skillful, Lehtovaara begin to consider disengaging. None of his hits had had any effect on the rear armour of the enemy. Then the Soviet pilot for some reason pulled a slow vertical roll, exposing the vulnerable belly of his fighter. Lehtovaara was prepared and his salvo hit the enemy's engine. The enemy fighter caught explosively on fire and nose-dived to the ground with its pilot.
Now Lehtovaara called his scattered pilots and ordered a join-up. All three responded. Their total score was seven Soviet fighters, three of which were claimed by Lehtovaara. This battle was exceptionally successful for Moranes, planes often considered inferior due to their weak armament. However, it was a typical result of the air battles of the Winter War in terms of the overall outcome.
A Memorable Battle
In 1946 Jorma Karhunen, a fellow pilot and also a Knight of the Mannerheim Cross, met Urho Lehtovaara and asked him what had been the most memorable of his air battles. Lehtovaara declined to answer at first, but as Karhunen told him that he was collecting history, not looking for personal glorification of anyone, "Jätti" told about the 6th of March 1940 at Kotka. The Kymi air base had been made inoperational because of a heavy snowstorm on the 4th of March and it took two days to clear the snow completely from the runway. The 3rd flight of LeLv (Fighter Squadron) 28 had nine Moranes of which five were airworthy. On the 5th of March a ship convoy carrying war supplies had arrived through the ice in Kotka harbour and it was spotted there early next day by a reconnoitering Soviet bomber before two Moranes chased it away. Next day, in the afternoon of the 6th the enemy sent 27 bombers escorted by 12 fighters to destroy the ships in the harbour. The available Moranes were scrambled at 14.00 hrs. Major Luukkanen took off first, after him Sergeant Major Tani, then Air Master Sergeant Lehtonen. Sergeant Major Lehtovaara and Sgt. Lyly could start-up only a couple of minutes later since their fighters were not prepared for immediate take off.
Luukkanen and Lehtonen intercepted the first wave of nine bombers and shot down two before the escorting fighters intervened. The defensive AA guns fired indiscriminately at the aircraft, and the Soviet bombers released hastily their loads and turned away. Tani attacked one wave of the returning bombers head-on and fired at each one as he passed. He once was so close that he saw exploding 20 mm shells ripping holes in the fuselage of a bomber. Tani damaged five and shot down one. Lehtovaara chased the bombers that had been scattered by the defence, and shot down two stragglers at Someri Island before returning back to base to avoid contact with fighters. The total score for the five pilots was five bombers and three fighters. Major Luukkanen's Morane had been badly damaged in the fuselage by a Soviet fighter. There were no other losses. No ships were hit.
The enemy made a new surprise attack three hours later with 12 bombers escorted by 17 fighters. The base was alerted by Sr. Sgt. Länsivaara who was on an ice reconnaissance mission. Again four Moranes took off to intercept. This time the escort fighters were doing their duty better and prevented the Morane pilots from getting more than one of the bombers. The Finnish fighters were soon dispersed and each pilot had to fight for himself without help from the others. Lehtovaara was engaged by a good fighter pilot, who kept his altitude and speed advantage by doing high yo-yo attacks at the low-flying Morane. Only the enemy's shooting skill was not equal to his flying skill. The Soviet pilot did not spare ammunition but he fired at too long a range, and Lehtovaara kept evading quite easily. Staying calm and ready for a counterstrike the Finnish pilot noticed that the enemy pilot was losing his temper after ten minutes. Finally the enemy failed to pull up with full speed after a firing pass, allowing Lehtovaara to get behind the Soviet fighter in good range. One salvo from the cannon of the Morane, and the Soviet fighter dived in flames toward the Baltic ice.
Immediately four more Soviet fighters attacked, and all the pilots were equal to the first opponent. Lehtovaara was in great trouble now, because whenever he had dodged one attack, another enemy was already aiming at him. The Finnish pilot could not fly straight long enough to aim and shoot. Slowly the dogfighting fighters gained altitude in the course of the battle. Finally three of the enemies retreated, probably due to fuel shortage, but the fourth was hanging behind the tail of Lehtovaara's Morane. The altitude was now about 3000m. Lehtovaara was getting exhausted and he felt he could not shake the enemy off without doing something unusual. So he half-rolled and nose-dived - the Soviet fighter followed. Lehtovaara turned the Morane with ailerons so that the setting sun shone him in the face and its glare combined with reflection from the ice impaired his vision. He dived as low as he dared at a final speed of nearly 900 km/h, then pulled out of the dive with two hands on the stick, blacking out. As the Finnish pilot regained his vision, he was flying a few meters over the rough Baltic ice. He turned and looked back to see the enemy - but all he could see was a column of smoke over the ice. Lehtovaara flew closer to inspect. His adversary had not pulled out of the dive in time, the Soviet fighter had touched the ice three times before the final impact.
Lehtovaara tested his guns - they were jammed. His radio was dead, and he felt great weariness when taking direction to the base. After landing he felt as if he were on a foreign planet, where he had no right to be. But for the mercy of God he and the Morane would have been a heap of rubble on the Baltic ice. However, this victory was not credited to him because later the wreck of the Soviet fighter could not be found on the ice - it had been snowed over. That day the 3rd Flight had scored thirteen confirmed victories at the cost of two damaged, repairable Moranes. Three dead and two living Soviet airmen were found on the ice. The men taken prisoners were Lt. Seraphin Pimenow, 20 years in age and Sergeant Major Vladimir Varschidskiy, 23 years, both from the 12th Guards' Dive-bombing Regiment (12.Gv.PBAP). A dozen bombs had hit the town, destroying several houses and killing 6 civilians and five soldiers. The ships in the harbour had not been damaged in either attack.
The same action has been described in the official history of the Aviatsiya VMF (Moscow, 1983). We are told that on the 6th of March 1940 Kotka harbour was attacked once by 20 bombers escorted by 18 Fighters. The defence sent six Moranes and four Hawks to intercept. In the ensuing battle the Soviets shot down five Moranes and one Hawk. One Soviet bomber and three fighters were damaged by the defenders. (That is, there were no actual Soviet losses). Several ships were sunk.
You may notice some differences between the Soviet and Finnish stories. The Soviet version of the day might not have been properly researched, and facts from an attack on another harbour on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland may have been introduced into the story.
With the fall of France, the twenty remaining MS 406s of the fifty promised would not be delivered. However, despite the ill-feeling between the two countries that had resulted from the Helsinki Convoy and the seizure of the Finnmark, Germany would go on to trade 45 MS 406’s and 11 MS 410’s between 1941 and 1942 for payment in Nickel, which Finland continued to sell or trade to Germany up until the declaration of war in April 1944. By this point the fighters were hopelessly outdated, but until american lend-lease supplies started to flow in mid-1943, the Finns continued to be desperate for serviceable aircraft. Their own aircraft production remained limited and while the aircraft that were produced in Finland were superbly capable and of high quality, there were limits on Finnish industrial capacity which, simply, could not be exceeded. The Finns continued to acquire what they could – and with the MS 406’s / 410’s, they decided to start a modification program to bring all of their examples to a new standard.
The young Valtion Lentokonetehdas (VL) aircraft designer Aarne Lakomaa turned the almost-obsolete "MS" into a first rate fighter, the Mörkö-Morane (Bogey or Ogre Morane). Powered by the Finnish-manufactured license built Hispano-Suiza HS12Y engines of 1,100 hp (820 kW) with a fully adjustable propeller, the airframe required some local strengthening and also gained a new and more aerodynamic engine cowling. These changes boosted the speed to 326 mph (525 km/h). Other changes included a new oil cooler, the use of four belt-fed machineguns and the excellent license-built HS 20mm cannon in the engine mounting. Work on the modifications had begun almost as soon as the Winter War had ended and the prototype of the modified fighter, the MS-631, made its first flight on 25 January 1941. The results were startling: the aircraft was 40 km/h (25 mph) faster than the original French version, and the service ceiling was increased from 10,000 to 12,000 m (32,800 to 39,360 ft). Conversion work proceeded as quickly as could be achieved and by late 1942, all surviving Morane-Saulnier’s had been converted. They would however be relegated to the Ilmavoimat Reserve by mid-1944 and would not see combat against the Luftwaffe.
Photo sourced from: http://suomenmuseotonline.fi/fi/kuva/Lu ... s_2889.jpg
Aarne Lakomaa (1914–2001) was a Finnish aircraft designer. Born in Finland, Lakomaa graduated from Helsinki Polytechnic. He became famous for fitting Finnish-manufactured Hispano-Suiza 12Y engines to the semi-obsolete French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighters, thereby creating a first rate fighter, the Mörkö-Morane. Lakomaa remained with Valtion Lentokonetehdas after the end of WW2 as an aircraft designer and was involved in the development of the joint-venture between VL and Saab, where he was involved with the design of the VL-Saab 35 Draken and VL-Saab 37 Viggen fighters. He would later move to Saab where he headed R&D, designing a number of prototypes, including a rocket propelled interceptor, nuclear weapon carriers, replacements for the Draken and Viggen, and a supersonic business jet.
The above photo is of an Enso-Gutzeit Savonlinna shooting competition team. From right, accountant Laitaatsillan Aki Haltia, (a very youthful) Aarne Lakomaa, Mikko Kolehmainen, Mauno Laitinen, District Supervisor Eino Pesonen and Office Manager Toivo Huotari. Competitions were held Pankakoski
A bit of background on the MS 406
The M.S.406 had been designed in 1935 by the French aircraft company, Morane-Saulnier. Morane-Saulnier had a long history of producing warplanes dating back to the pre-World War I years but in the inter-war period, they had concentrated on civil designs. The aircraft was a departure for them, their first low-wing monoplane, first enclosed cockpit and their first with retracting gear. The first M.S406-1 prototype flew on 8 August 1935 but development was slow and the second protype didn't fly until 20 January 1937, almost a year and a half later. At this stage the fighter could reach a speed of 275 mph (443 km/h), which was fast enough to secure a French Air Force order for a further 16 pre-production prototypes, each including improvements on the last version. The two main changes were the inclusion of a new wing structure that saved weight, and a retractable radiator under the fuselage. Powered by the production 860 hp (640 kW) HS 12Y-31 engine, the final design achieved 304 mph (489 km/h). Armament consisted of a 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS-9 cannon with 60 rounds, which fired through the piston banks in the engine and two belt-fed 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine guns in the wings with 300 rounds each.
The French Armée de l'Air placed an order for 1,000 airframes in March 1938. Morane-Saulnier was unable to produce anywhere near this number at their own factory, so a second line was set up at the nationalized factories of SNCAO at St. Nazaire converted to produce the type. Production for the Armée de l'Air began in late 1938, and the first production example flew on 29 January 1939. Deliveries were hampered more by the slow deliveries of the engines than airframes. By April 1939, the production lines were delivering six aircraft a day, and when the war opened on 3 September 1939, production was at 11 a day with 535 in service with the French Armée de l'Air (we can see then that the thirty supplied to Finland used around 3 days of manufacturing time). Numerically it was France's most important fighter during the opening stages of World War II but the French version was under-powered, weakly-armed and lacked full armour protection when compared to its contemporaries in the Luftwaffe and the RAF.
The French take further concrete steps to assist Finland
However it was not until late March 1940, when it was apparent that Finland was fighting with tremendous effect against the might of the Soviet Union, that further concrete steps to assist Finland were actually taken. This was however only after the resignation on 20th Match of the French Prime Minister, Édouard Daladier – a resignation that was due (in part) to his failure to aid Finland's defence in anything more than a cursory fashion. Daladier’s successor, Paul Reynaud, was elected Premier by only a single vote with most of his own party abstaining; over half of the votes for Reynaud came from the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) party. With so much support from the left – and the opposition from many parties on the right – Reynaud's government was especially unstable; with many on the Right demanding that Reynaud attack not Germany, but the Soviet Union. To alleviate the pressure from the Right, Reynaud would take immedite steps to assist Finland in her struggle for survival with the Soviet Union – and the increasingly favorable news from Finland would assist him in this – the capture of Murmansk by the Finns and the success of the Finnish Winter Offensive in Eastern Karelia dominated the headlines in Paris and London.
The Finn’s fighting successes were in direct contrast to the “Phoney War” being fought along the border between France and Germany. At the same time as Reynaud used aid to Finland to satisfy the French Right, he also abandoned any notion of a "long war strategy" based on attrition. Reynaud entertained suggestions to expand the war to the Balkans or northern Europe; he was instrumental in launching the allied campaign in Norway, though it would end in failure. Britain's decision to withdraw on 26 April would prompt Reynaud to travel to London to personally lobby the British to stand and fight in Norway and to attempt to persuade the Finnish Ambassador to lobby the Finnish Government to go beyond a pre-emptive seizure of the Finnmark region of Norway and join the fight against Germany in Norway. In both of these he would be unsuccessful. However, in late March 1940, Reynaud was successful in having immediate steps taken to supply material aid to Finland. In almost his first decision to be taken after assuming the reins of power, he acted to send military supplies to Finland, transferred two destroyers of the French Navy to the Finns and arranged the dispatch of a number of aircraft. In addition, he would dispatch Polish airmen and soldiers to Finland – a move which some Poles objected to at the time, as they wished to fight the Germans, but for which they were thankful for after the Fall of France – inadvertently ensuring that they remained able to fight on after France fell, unlike so many of their comrades.
This concrete assistance came in the shape of the transfer of two older L’Adroit Class Destroyers (La Railleuse and Le Fortune) to the Finnish Navy, to be used for trans-atlantic Convoy Escort duties. These were steamed to Lyngenfiord in late March 1940 as escort for two French cargo ships carrying military supplies and three passenger ships packed with Polish troops from the Polish Army in France.
Photo sourced from: http://www.navypedia.org/ships/france/fr_dd_56.gif
La Railleuse pre-WW2: Entering service with the Merivoimat in February 1940, La Railleuse would be sunk by the Luftwaffe in April 1940 after being hit a number of times by bombs as she escorted the Helsinki Convoy through the southern Baltic.
Photo sourced from: http://www.navypedia.org/ships/france/fr_dd_46.jpg
FNS “Le Fortune” in the Baltic, 1945: Le Fortune would serve as an Atlantic Convoy escort for Finnish merchant ships throughout WW2, based from Lyngenfiord. To make her more suitable for Atlatic escort duties, the Finnish Navy removed two gun turrets (#’s 2 and 3) and fitted depth charge launchers together with storage racks. She would first see Finland in August 1945, going on to serve with the Merivoimat in the Baltic until 1950, after which she was handed over to the Estonian Navy. She would serve as the Estonian Navy’s flagship until 1962, when she was scrapped.
The Adroit class destroyers were a group of fourteen French navy destroyers (torpilleur) laid down in 1925-6 and commissioned from 1928 to 1931. They were the successors to the Bourrasque class, with the same armament, but being slightly heavier overall. They dispalced 1,378 tons (2,000 fully laden), had a length of 354 ft, a beam of 32ft 3in and a draught of 14ft 1in, a speed of 33 knows (38mph), a crew of 142 men and were armed with 4 x single-barrelled 130mm gun turrets, 2x37mm guns, 2x13.2mm machineguns and 6 torpedo tubes. They were relatively modern destroyers and there was some obectiom from the French Navy with regard to handing them over to the Finns. Reynaud however would overrule this and the two destroyers would enter service with the Merivoimat in early April 1940. There would be little time for the Merivoimat crews to familiarise themselves with the ships before taking them into action. They were also under-equipped with AA guns and while the Finns had fitted a number of additional machineguns to the La Railleuse, in the event these proved to be insufficient protection against the Luftwaffe.
The Arrival of the Potez 631’s
However, the next tangible aid to arrive in Finland was actually a single squadron of aircraft. Arriving on the 31st of March 1940 after being flown as a unit was a single squadron of some 20 Potez 631’s. They were flown by Polish Air Force personnel serving with the French Air Force on a route from France to the UK, and thence to Norway, then across Sweden to Finland, The Polish ground crew and parts for the aircraft were dispatched by ship, only linking up with the aircraft some 6 weeks later, but the Potez 631’s would enter service immediately with groundcrew patched together from whatever Ilmavoimat personnel could be made available. There were different versions of the Potez 630 – the Potez 631’s delivered to Finland were in fact intended as night-fighters, similarly to the RAF’s Bristol Blenheim or the German Messerschmitt Bf 110.
Photo sourced from: http://www.aviastar.org/pictures/france/potez-630.jpg
The Potez 631’s supplied to Finland had a maximum speed of 264mph, a range of 932 miles and a service ceiling of 27,885 ft. They were armed with 2x fixed, forward-firing 20mm cannon in gondals’s under the fuselage and 1x flexible, rearward-firing 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine gun. They could also carry 4x 50 kg (110 lb) bombs in a small internal bombbay. On bringing the aircraft into service as night fighters, the Ilmavoimat replaced the internal bomb bay with an additional fuel tank, increasing the range and endurance and eliminated the rear gunner and machinegun, instead adding a radio operator/navigator in the middle seat (later, with the new radar, this would become the radar operator position).
The Ilmavoimat at the time had no night-fighters, the Potez 631’s performance was such that it was regarded as unsuitable for use as a day-fighter and its small bombload was such that it was regarded as no use for ground-attack missions. As such it was relegated to use as a night-fighter – and it was the availability of this aircraft that would provide the impetus for the trial use of a nose-mounted active-infrared searchlight (used to illuminate the target) while a Nokia-designed and developed display unit in the cockpit made the target visible. This equipment was based on the Infrared searchlights and viewers used by the Maavoimat’s night-fighting tanks - and as such was readily available, quickly adapted and rapidly installed. By late May 1940, the Ilmavoimat’s first and only infrared equipped night-fighter squadron was up and running – unfortunately only in late May, by which time the long winter nights were fast fading. However, when vectored onto a target by Fighter Control, it occassionally proved possible for the fighters to actually illuminate the target and half a dozen Soviet bombers on night-bombing missions were sucessfully show down by the time the war ended.
Sketch showing the location of the IR Searchlight beneath the nose of the Potez 631 and the IR Viewer location
Photo sourced from: http://www.go2war2.nl/artikel-afb/Do17_00239_2g.jpg
A Nokia-designed and developed Infrared display unit in the cockpit of the Potez-631 made the target visible.
After the Fall of France, significant numbers of Armée de l'Air Potez 630’s had fallen into German hands and many were impressed by the Germans, mostly to be used in liaison and training roles. The Ilmavoimat would go on to purchase some 40 ex- Armée de l'Air Potez 630’s in late 1941, after Finland’s relationship with Germany had improved somewhat from the somewhat glacial post-Helsinki Convoy chill. And again, the Finns used the supply of Nickel to Germany to exert pressure. These additional aircraft would be refurbished, re-engined, re-armed and over 1942 and 1943 would be equipped with Nokia-design and developed night-fighter aircraft radar. With new and more powerful engines, they would remain in use as night-fighters with the Ilmavoimat until the end of WW2, although by then they would not be the primary night-fighter type.
Somewhat incidentally, Finland’s strength and capabilities in the air would be augmented greatly by Polish Volunteers for the Ilmavoimat through the Winter War, especially in the last months of the War from June to September 1940. In part, Finland benefited from the pre-war agreements with Poland whereby each country agreed to act as a refuge for the other’s armed foirces in the event of war and if possible. The rescue by the Finns of many thousands of Polish military personnel from Latvia and Lithuania had strengthened this relationship, and that so many of these Poles volunteered to fight for Finland against the USSR further stregthened the mutual regard and feelings of gratitude and respect.
After the collapse of France in May 1940, a large part of the Polish Air Force contingent in France was withdrawn or escaped to the United Kingdom. However, the RAF Air Staff were not willing to accept the independence and sovereignty of Polish Air Force personnel. Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding later admitted he had been "a little doubtful" at first about the Polish airmen. The British government informed General Sikorski that at the end of the war, Poland would be charged for all costs involved in maintaining Polish forces in Britain. Plans for the airmen greatly disappointed them: they would only be allowed to join the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, wear British uniforms, fly British flags and they would be required to take two oaths, one to the Polish government and the other to King George VI of the United Kingdom; each officer was required to have a British counterpart, and all Polish pilots were to begin with the rank of "pilot officer", the lowest rank for a commissioned officer in the RAF. Only after posting would anyone be promoted to a higher grade. Because of that, the majority of the Polish pilots, much more experienced than their RAF counterparts, had to wait in training centres, learning English Command procedures and language, while the RAF suffered heavy losses due to lack of experienced pilots.
This obviously did not go down well with either the Polish Airmen, General Sikorski or the Polish-government-in-exile. Thus, in discussions that were ongoing between Finland and the Polish-government-in-exile, when Finland asked for help from the Poles to provide personnel for the additional aircraft they were bringing into service, and offering equivalent ranks in the Ilmavoimat, together with the formation of 100% Polish squadrons flying under the Polish Flag, the Polish-government-in-exile was quick to agree. Personnel for four squadrons were formed up and moved to Finland in late June 1940. Equipped with aircraft by the Ilmavoimat that ahd been purchased from the USA, the Polish squadrons quickly became effective. As with their countrymen already in Finland, it was found that there flying skills were well-developed from the Invasion of Poland and their time in France and the Polish pilots were regarded as fearless and sometimes bordering on reckless. In other words, very similar to the Finns. Such was the success of these units that the Finns requested more volunteers, but by this stage the RAF, desperately short of personnel and now impressed by the performance of the Polish airmen they had slowly accepted, refused permission.
However, the RAF would still experience some communications problems.....
Some background on the Potez 631’s
The Potez 630 and its derivatives were a family of twin-engined aircraft developed for the French Armée de l'Air in the late 1930s. The design was a contemporary of the British Bristol Blenheim and the German Messerschmitt Bf 110. The original Potez 630 was built to meet the requirements of a 1934 heavy fighter specification which also resulted in the successful Breguet 690 series of attack aircraft. The prototype first flew in 1936 and proved to have excellent handling qualities. It was a pleasant-looking three-seater aircraft with an all-metal stressed-skin, cantilever monoplane with a retractable landing gear and twin engines, with efficient aerodynamic lines and twin tailplanes. The long glasshouse hosted the pilot, an observer or commander who was only aboard if the mission required it, and a rear gunner who manned a single flexible light machine gun.
Only very minor changes were required before the aircraft was placed in production with an order for 80 placed in 1937. Simultaneously 80 Potez 631 C3 fighters were ordered, these having Gnome-Rhône 14M radial engines rather than the Hispano-Suiza 14AB10/11 of the Potez 630. Fifty additional Potez 631s were ordered in 1938 (of which 20 were diverted to Finland). The Potez 630's engines proved so troublesome that most units had re-equipped with the Potez 631 engines before WW2 began. The Potez 631 was an ineffectual interceptor, slower than some German bombers and 130 km/h slower than the Bf 109E, although it continued in service until the armistice. The Potez 633 exported to Greece and Romania saw more extensive service, in limited numbers. The Romanians used them against the USSR and the Greeks against Italy. A small number of Potez 633’s originally destined for China were commandeered by the French colonial administration in Indo-China and saw limited action in the brief French-Thai War in early 1941.
More than 700 Potez 630’s of various models were delivered by June 1940, with some 220 destroyed or abandoned, despite the addition of extra machine gun armament; the heaviest losses of any French type. Production was resumed under German control and significant numbers were impressed by the Germans, mostly for use in liaison and training roles.All members of the family shared pleasant flying characteristics. They were well designed for easy maintenance and later models had a heavy armament for the time (up to 12 light machine guns for the Potez 63.11). They were also quite attractive aircraft. Although not heavily built they proved capable of absorbing considerable battle damage. Unfortunately the Potez 630 family, like many French aircraft of the time, simply did not have sufficiently powerful engines to endow them with an adequate performance. In the stern test of war they proved easy meat for prowling Messerschmitts, like their British contemporaries, the Fairey Battle and the Bristol Blenheim. Their similarity to the Bf 110 (twin engines, twin tail, long "glasshouse" canopy) was sufficient that some were apparently lost to "friendly fire". Unlike many contemporary French aircraft, production of the Potez aircraft was reasonably prompt and the first deliveries were effected before the end of 1938. The 630 had been designed with mass production in mind and as a result, one Potez 630 was cheaper and faster to manufacture than one Morane-Saulnier MS.406. As production tempo increased, a number of derivatives and experimental models were also developed.
A typical feature of the 630 and 631 was the frontal armament, which originally consisted of two 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS.404 cannons in gondolas under the fuselage, though sometimes one of the cannons was replaced by a MAC 1934. Later in their career, 631s received four similar light machine guns in gondolas under the outer wings, though it was theoretically possible to fit six. In combat, the 630’s proved very vulnerable, despite being protected with some armour and basic self-sealing coating over the fuel tanks. As a secondary light bomber capability was part of the requirement (though it was rarely if ever used), the fuselage accommodated a tiny bomb bay, carrying up to eight 10kg-class bombs. This bomb bay was replaced by an additional fuel tank in late examples. Additionally, two 50kg-class bombs could be carried on hardpoints under the inner wings.
(To be continued....)
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Besides the two cargo ships that were dispatched with their sizable cargo of Caudron-Renault C.714 fighters (more on these below) together with munitions and the artillery pieces that the Maavoimat desperatelt needed, the small convoy also carried the Polish Second Infantry Fusiliers Division (15,830 soldiers) commanded by Brigadier-General Bronisław Prugar-Ketling. The Division had been assigned as part of the French reserves of the XXXXV Corps, but the French were more than happy to get rid of the Poles, whom they regarded as trouble-makers who had brought the Germans down on their heads. For their part, the Poles could not understand why the French did not want to fight. Thus the French were happy to dispatched considerable numbers of Poles, equipped by the French, to Finland.
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... etling.jpg
Brigadier-General Bronisław Prugar-Ketling (2 July 1891, Trześniów, Subcarpathian Voivodeship - 18 February 1948, Warsaw) was a member of the Polish Military Organisation in World War I, he later served in the Polish Blue Army. He went on to fight in the Polish-Soviet War. During the German invasion of Poland he commanded the Polish 11th Infantry Division in the Karpaty Army. Under his command the 11th I.D. defeated the mechanized groups of the SS "Germania" Regiment in the Battle of Jaworów. After escaping from Poland he arrived in France and was appointed to command the Second Infantry Fusiliers Division in “Sikorski's Army” (the Polish Army in France). Eager to fight the Germans, he reluctantly acquiesced to the French decision to send his Division to Finland.
Photo sourced from: http://img.ec24h.pl/allegro/tmp/b/b/4/0 ... 40x480.jpg
In his Biography, Prugar-Ketling was later quoted as saying: “the French decision was the luckiest moment in my life. If the French had not decided to send my Division to Finland, I would have been trapped in France along with my men and we would have gone the way of so many other brave Polish soldiers, fighting and dying for a France that had already surrendered in all but word. With the Finns, were were able to keep on fighting, both to revenge oursevles on the Red Army for stabbing us in the back in 1939 and to defeat the Germans and go on to ensure Poland remained free.”
A group of Polish soldiers from the Second Infantry Fusiliers Division sings Dąbrowski Mazurka, the national anthem of Poland, prior to their departure for Finland.
The Polish Second Infantry Fusiliers Division would arrive in Finland via Lyngenfjiord in early April 1940 and would be moved immediately to the Karelian Isthmus as a Reserve Division for the Maavoimat’s spring offensive. The Division would remain in Finland after the Winter War, taking part in the Maavoimat’s Invasion of Estonia and then fighting their way southwards along the Baltic peripheral to Poland. The most well-known of the Second Infantry Fusiliers Division’s actions would be their move into Wilno (Vilnius) in the immediate aftermath of the successful Operation Ostra Brama (Operation Gate of Dawn), conducted by the Polish Home Army. Operation Ostra Brama had begun on 7 July 1944, as part of the Polish national uprising, Operation Tempest.
On 12 June 1944 General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, Commander-in-Chief of the Home Army, issued an order to prepare a plan of liberating Wilno from German hands. The Home Army districts of Vilnius and Navahrudak planned to take control of the city before the Soviets could reach it and in anticipation of the Maavoimat reaching them before the Red Army. In this, the Tehran Conference of November 1943, where Finnish Intelligence had gather evidence that Britain and the USA had agreed to the manipulation of the border between Poland and the USSR, was a key factor in the decision to laucnh the uprising. Both the Finns and the Polish Government-in-Exile were well aware of the concessions made to the USSR by Roosevelt and Churchill concerning post-war Poland. The USSR’s ruling triumvirate wished for an area in the Eastern part of Poland to be added to the USSR, and for the border to be lengthened elsewhere in the country. And to the shock of the Poles, Roosevelt and Churchill had agreed to this demand, agreeing that Poland’s borders would lie along the Oder and Neisse rivers and the Curzon line. In addition, Churchill and Roosevelt had also consented to the USSR setting up puppet communist governments in Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic states, Romania, and other Eastern European countries. While the Polish government-in-exile in London had protested bitterly, the Finns were, through bitter experience of the duplicity of the Great Powers, rather less inclined to protest and rather more inclined to take matters into their own hands.
And so it was that despite the large Allied presence with the Maavoimat in the Baltic, the Finnish High Command kept the Allied Units at the front fighting the Germans while Finnish and Polish units fought on the left of the offensive, where they could gain their own objectives. Thus, wherever possible German units were simply cutoff and bypassed as the Maavoimat moved to ensure they held the old Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian borders – as indeed they managed to do. And Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian army units werer rapidly raised and equipped from stockpiled lend-lease equipment (intended by the americans for the Finnish Army, but the Finns preferred to keep their own equipment and used the american equipment to fit out the Divisions of new volunteers – and also the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian units that had been fighting with the Germans but who promptly changed sides when their homelands were liberated.
The Commander of the Home Army District in Wilno, General Aleksander Krzyżanowski "Wilk", decided to regroup all the partisan units in the northeastern part of Poland for the assault, both from inside the city and from the outside. The starting date was set for 7 July. Approximately 12,500 Home Army soldiers attacked the German garrison and managed to seize most of the city center. Heavy street fighting in the outskirts lasted until 14 July. In Vilnius' eastern suburbs, the Home Army units initially cooperated with reconnaissance groups of the Soviet 3rd Belorussian Front. General Krzyżanowski wanted to group all of the partisan units into a re-created Polish 19th Infantry Division. However, the advancing Red Army entered the city on 15th July and the NKVD promptly started to intern all Polish soldiers. The internees, almost 5,000 officers, NCOs and soldiers, were sent to a provisional internment camp in Medininkai, a Vilnius suburb.
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... ilnius.jpg
Battle of Vilnius. Soviet Red Army and Polish Armia Krajowa Soldiers patrolling in Vilnius, July 1944. The orthodox church of Vilnius is visible in background. The soldiers of the Second Infantry Fusiliers Division considered the liberation of Wilno and the freeing of their Home Army comrades from the NKVD as the highlight of their war. By this time the Polish and Maavoimat fighting troops were well aware of what had happened in the Soviet-occupied Baltic States during the Soviet occupation and to the Polish Officers in Katyn Forest in April and May 1940. “Allies” or not, no NKVD member could expect to survive a meeting with Maavoimat or Polish units – and as units of the Polish Army moved southwards into the rear of the 3rd Belorussian Front, many did not. And with the constant air cover and close air support provided by the Typhoons and Spitfires of the Polish Air Force and the xxx of the Ilmavoimat, the general attitude towards any Red Army unit that looled askance was “try it”. When accompanied by a flight of Polish Air Force Typhoons or the even more fearsome Ilmavoimat G1’s with their loads of bombs, rockets, napalm and cannon, there were generally no takers.
And Poles still remembered the Soviet stab in the back of September 1939....
Ballada wrześniowa (September Ballad) Lyrics - Jacek Kaczmarski
Długośmy na ten dzień czekali - We have waited for this day
Z nadzieją niecierpliwą w duszy - With impatient hope in our souls
Kiedy bez słów Towarzysz Stalin - For the moment when Comrade Stalin will silently
Na mapie fajką strzałki ruszy. - Move the arrows on a map with his pipe
Krzyk jeden pomknął wzdłuż granicy - One scream sounded along the border
I zanim zmilkł zagrzmiały działa - Before it stopped
To w bój z szybkością nawałnicy - The cannons had roared with the speed of a storm
Armia Czerwona wyruszała.- The Red Army had set off
A cóż to za historia nowa? - What is the story again?
Zdumiona spyta Europa,- A surprised Europe asked.
Jak to? To chłopcy Mołotowa - You do not know? It is Molotovs Boys
I sojusznicy Ribbentropa.- Ribbentrops allies.
Zwycięstw się szlak ich serią znaczy - A series of victories in their wake
Sztandar wolności okrył chwałą - Their flag of freedom covered in glory
Głowami polskich posiadaczy - The heads of the Polish possessors
Brukują Ukrainę całą. - Were used by them to pave the Ukraine
Pada Podole, w hołdach Wołyń - Padolia falls. Volhynia salutes!
Lud pieśnią wita ustrój nowy, - The people greet the new system with song
Płoną majątki i kościoły - The manors and churches are burning
I Chrystus z kulą w tyle głowy. - And the Christ has a bullet in the back of his head
Nad polem bitwy dłonie wzniosą - On the battlefield they will raise their hands
We wspólną pięść co dech zapiera - In a shared fist which takes the breath away
Nieprzeliczone dzieci Soso, - The countless childen of Soso
Niezwyciężony miot Hitlera. - Hitlers invincible litter
Już starty z map wersalski bękart, - Versailles bastard is wiped off the map
Już wolny Żyd i Białorusin - Jew and Byelorussian are set free
Już nigdy więcej polska ręka - Polish hand will nevermore
Ich do niczego nie przymusi. - Force them to do anything
Nową im wolność głosi "Prawda" - Pravda preaches their new freedom to them
Świat cały wieść obiega w lot, - The whole world is quickly informed
Że jeden odtąd łączy sztandar - That from this day there is one banner
Gwiazdę, sierp, hakenkreuz i młot. - Star, Sickle, Hammer and Swastika
Tych dni historia nie zapomni, - History will not forget these days
Gdy stary ląd w zdumieniu zastygł - When the old continent froze in surprise
I święcić będą nam potomni - And our descendants will celebrate
Po pierwszym września - siedemnasty. - After the first of September - the Seventeenth
I święcić będą nam potomni - And our descendants will celebrate
Po pierwszym - siedemnasty. - After the first of September - the Seventeenth
On 16th July the HQ of the 3rd Belorussian Front invited Polish officers to a meeting with the intent of arresting them. The local Home Army HQ had been in communication with the Maavoimat throughout the uprising but despite this, there was still a certain amount of shocked surprise at the betrayal by the Red Army. A secret NKVD/NKGB report dated July 17, 1944, from Lavrenti Beria to Litvonov, Molotov, Antonov and Zhadanov reveals the extent of the Soviet conspiracy against Polish forces. The following is an English translation:
July 17, 1944, Moscow
L. Beria to M. Litvonov, V. Molotov, A. Antonov, A. Zhdanov
Forwarding report(s) of [Ivan] Serov and I. Tcherniakovsky
[Concerning] Arrest of Lt. Col. Aleksander Krzyżanowski, and planned disarming of Polish [Armia Krajowa - Home Army] military formations.
Following information was received today from Comrade Tcherniakowsky:
The so-called Major-General “Wilk” / “Kulczycki” was summoned today. Wilk was told that we are interested in the locations of Polish formations, and that it would be prudent that our officers were familiar with them. Wilk agreed, and gave us 6 such locations, where his regiments and brigades are stationed. Additionally, we expressed our interest in his officers’ core, and proposed that he gathers all regimental and brigade commanders, their second in command, and chiefs of staff. “Wilk” also agreed to that, issued the necessary orders, and gave them to his communications officer, who immediately left for his headquarters.
After that, “Wilk” was disarmed [and arrested]; present at the time was a captain – the Chief of Staff who represents [the Polish] Government in London, who attempted to draw his side arm in order to resist, he cocked his gun, but was disarmed [and arrested as well]. Taking under consideration, that we received locations of Polish [Home Army] formations, the following operations’ plan was established
1) Experienced generals and People’s Commisars for the State Security of NKVD were dispatched in order to approach the Poles and to investigate [further].
2) At the same time, units of the 3rd Belarusian Front were dispatched to disarm the Poles.
3) Today, at 1900-hours, a Border Security unit, as well as the leadership cadre of men and women of the NKVD were dispatched to disarm the [Polish] officers’ cadre.
4) Tomorrow, on 18th July, at 4 o’clock in the morning, units designated to disarm the Poles will be move to their deployment positions, will receive orders, and will begin the operation. They will report about the results of the operation
The Maavoimat reacted with an aggressiveness that brought the Soviet moves to an abrupt halt. The Second Infantry Fusiliers Division, supported by a Polish Armoured Regiment and squadrons of the Polish Air Force broke through the thin German screening force they faced and moved rapidly towards Wilno, aggressively eliminating any Red Army units that attempted to resist them and seizing and disarming those that did not. Detachments of the Division headed straight for the provisional internment camp in Medininkai. The NKVD’s Battalion 32, which had been guarding the Poles and interrogating them to determine which were to be sent to the USSR, had begun executing Officers and NCO’s on news of the Polish Division’s approach. However, they had only just begun when Polish armoured and mechanized units roared into the camp and began their own extermination program. General Krzyżanowski was freed, together with most of his senior commanders.
In the subsequent fighting in and around Wilno, some 6,000 Red Army soldiers and NKVD personnel were killed, while some 12,000 Red Army soldiers were wounded and subsequently handed over to the Red Army after fighting ended. No NKVD wounded were available to be handed over. Remnants of the Red Army units in Wilno retreated into the nearby Rūdininkai Forest. They were soon discovered by Ilmavoimat air reconnaissance and surrounded by the Polish Home Army. Red Army Commanders decided to split their units and try to break through to the Red Army but most were caught and interned. The Second Infantry Fusiliers Division and the newly formed Polish 19th Infantry Division under General Krzyżanowski would hold the Polish areas around Wilno in strength until the end of WW2, eventually moving up to the pre-war Polish border. Other units of the Polish Army would move southwards into the rear of the 3rd Belorussian Front in strength while their advance towards East Prussia was cut off by Maavoimat Divisions surging south.
The Soviet High Command would reluctantly acqueisce to the Maavoimat’s seizure of north-eastern Poland and move their Divisions southwards in a move to seize southern Poland rather than enter into open conflict with the Finnish Army. This would lead to some post-war difficulties.
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... nowski.jpg
General Aleksander Krzyżanowski (known as "Wilk", "Wesołowski", "Dziemido", "Jan Kulczycki"), was born in Bryansk and was conscripted into the Russian Army during the First World War, where he first started to specialize in artillery. After Poland regained independence in 1918 he joined the Polish military, and fought in the Polish-Soviet War where he distinguished himself in 1919 receiving the Krzyż Walecznych medal, and in January 1920 he took part in the heavy fighting at the Battle of Daugavpils. During the interwar period in the Second Polish Republic he further continued his military career. At the time of the Nazi invasion of Poland (September 1, 1939) he was commanding the 26th Regiment of Light Artillery, attached to the Polish 26th Infantry Division, part of the Army Poznań under General Tadeusz Kutrzeba. His unit was destroyed during the battle of Bzura.
Soon afterward he organized a partisan unit at Świętokrzyskie Mountains, but after this unit was defeated by the Germans he arrived in Warsaw by late October, and joined the first Polish resistance organizations, the Służba Zwycięstwu Polski. By November he was assigned to Wilno (now known as Vilnius, Lithuania), at the same time occupied by the Soviet Union which divided Poland with the Nazi Germany according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The SZP soon transformed into the Związek Walki Zbrojnej. When in April 1941 the Soviet NKVD arrested the commander of the ZWP in the Vilnius region, General Nikodem Sulik, it was Krzyżanowski who de facto replaced him, and his position was officially confirmed by General Stefan Rowecki in August. In 1942 ZWP was transformed into Armia Krajowa (AK).
Krzyżanowski attempted to build a larger anti-German coalition and issued explicit orders that no ethnic group, including Jews, should be mistreated. He also opened negotiations with the representatives of the Lithuanian and Belorussian resistance but these proved fruitless. The negotiations with the Soviets initially lead nowhere as well. The Soviet Union aimed to ultimately regain control from Germany over the territories the USSR had annexed from Poland in 1939 and the Politburo’s aim was to ensure that an independent Poland would never reemerge in the postwar period. The relationship between the Soviets and the Sikorski Polish government in exile, formally a commanding force of the AK, was strained at best, especially in the wake of the evidence of the mass execution of the Polish POW officers by the Soviets that were in 1943 widely publicized by the Nazis.
With Soviet partisans increasingly engaged in terror against the local population and attacking Polish Home Army units, local AK commanders considered the Soviets just another enemy. As ordered by Moscow on June 22, 1943 the Soviet partisans started an open fight against both the German forces and the local Polish Home Army partisans. In January and February 1944, in the wake of growing hostilities between the Soviet partisans and the AK forces, Krzyzanowski conducted a series of negotiations with Germans. Following negotiations with the Nazi German Security Service and Julian Christiansen, the Chief of the Vilnius Abwehr, cooperation between the Germans and the AK was established in the area of Krzyżanowski's units' operation. While Krzyzanowski refused to sign an explicit agreement on cooperation, a secret arrangement was made that the AK would "capture" the armaments and provisions left to them by Germans.
However any such arrangements were purely tactical and did not evidenced a type of ideological collaboration as shown by the Vichy regime in France, the Quisling regime in Norway or closer to the region, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. The Poles' main motivation was to gain intelligence on German morale and preparedness and to acquire some badly needed weapons. There are no known joint Polish-German actions, and the Germans were unsuccessful in their attempt to turn the Poles toward fighting exclusively against Soviet partisans. Such collaboration of local commanders with the Germans was generally atypical and usually occurred due to local circumstances - such incidents were condemned by the AK High Command.
In May 1944 Polish resistance units in the Wilno area were attacked by the Local Lithuanian Detachment under General Povilas Plechavičius. Krzyżanowski attempted to negotiate, but Plechavičius demanded that AK and all Polish partisans retreat from the Wilno region and accept Lithuanian sovereignty over that territory. Krzyżanowski would not agree to such a withdrawal and the fighting escalated, eventually culminating in the Polish victory over the Lithuanian collaborationist forces in the battle of Muravanaya Ashmyanka of May 13-May 14. After that battle Krzyżanowski attempted to resume negotiations but was ignored by the Lithuanian side. The increasing hostilities culminated in June 1944, when pro-NaziLithuanian Security Police forces, which had recently suffered a loss of several members in a skirmish with the AK, massacred 37 Polish civilians in Glinciszki, a village known to support the Polish partisans. Later accusations of widespread massacres made by the Lithuanians against the AK are false and were intended to counteract accusations of widespread German-Lithuanian collaboration and crimes committed by units such as the Lithuanian Secret Police .
Beginning in the spring of 1944 the Polish underground was preparing for the major Operation Tempest, which was designed to cause a large scale uprising behind the German lines to prevent a Soviet takeover of the territory by establishing a local Polish administration before the arrival of the Red Army, as a sign to the entire world that the Polish government in exile commanded significant Polish forces. Operation Tempest would also support of the Soviet Eastern Front offensive. By this time Finland had made a decision to enter the War against Germany and a new and secret Branch of the Finnish Security Service (Suojelupoliisi / Skyddspolisen, abbreviated as SUPO) had been established to support the underground movements in the Baltic States in Poland. Ilmavoimat aircraft began to fly regular supply missions as contacts were established, providing arms, ammunition, radios and training (special teams from the Maavoimat’s Osasto Nyrkki “Fist Force” were inserted to train Polish Home Army members for example. Immediately prior to Operation Tempest commencing, large supply drops had been made and additional Osasto Nyrkki troopers flown in to support and liase with AK units.
After the Poles and Soviets defeated the Germans and captured Wilno on July 17, 1944, Polish officers, including Krzyżanowski, who had been invited to a debriefing with the Soviets, were arrested and briefly imprisoned before being liberated. He would go on to command the 19th Infantry Division (Polish Army) which was formed immediately from Home Army units and equipped from Finnish stockpiles of lend-lease equipment. The 19th Division, the Second Infantry Fusiliers Division and a further newly-formed Division, the 23rd Infantry, would secure the Wilno Region through to the end of WW2. Krzyżanowski health collapsed in 1951 and he died on September 29 of that year from tuberculosis.
Polish Wilno in 1936....
And finally, the Caudron-Renault C.714 fighters
The two cargo ships that made up part of the small convoy in addition to artillery pieces and a sizable shipment of artillery shells also carried some forty Caudron-Renault CR714 fighters, in both cases together with Polish pilots and Polish ground crew together with a small team of French engineers to manage the re-assembly of the aircraft on arrival. That these aircraft were actually shipped was again in large part due to the marked emphasis that the French Premier, Paul Reynaud, had placed on visible aid to Finland. Much was made in the French Press of the shipments of aircraft and artillery to Finland – an astute move by Reynaud to at least alleviate some of the pressure from the Right. Even if the move didn’t succeed in bringing them onside, it at least satisfied them to a certain extent. There was no mention of the dispatch of the Polish Division however – it was feared that this might cause problems with the Soviet Union and this was something that caused some trepidation in both Britain and France, even if there were circles in both countries that advocated attacking the USSR as an open ally and source off critical war materials for Germany.
Finland won the propaganda war from the start - and public sympathy in France was strongly on the side of Finland. With the Finnish military successes of early 1940, this added to the pressure on Reynaud to do more than make token gestures.
The C.710 were a series of fighter aircraft developed by Caudron-Renault for the French Armée de l'Air just prior to the start of World War II. The original specification that led to the C.710 series was offered in 1936 in order to quickly raise the number of modern aircraft in French service, by supplying a "light fighter" of wooden construction that could be built rapidly in large numbers without upsetting the production of existing types. The contract resulted in three designs, the Arsenal VG-30, the Bloch MB-700, and the C.710. Prototypes of all three were ordered. The original C.710 model was an angular design developed from an earlier series of air racers. One common feature of the Caudron line was an extremely long nose that set the cockpit far back on the fuselage. The profile was the result of using the 450 hp (336 kW) Renault 12R-01 12-cylinder inline engine, which had a small cross section and was fairly easy to streamline, but very long. The landing gear was fixed and spatted, and the vertical stabilizer was a seemingly World War I-era semicircle instead of a more common trapezoidal or triangular design.
The C.710 prototype first flew on 18 July 1936. Despite its small size, it showed good potential and was able to reach a level speed of 470 km/h (292 mph) during flight testing. Further development continued with the C.711 and C.712 with more powerful engines, while the C.713 which flew on 15 December 1937 introduced retractable landing gear and a more conventional triangular vertical stabilizer. The final evolution of the 710 series was the C.714 Cyclone , a variation on the C.713 which first flew in April 1938, as the C.714.01 prototype. The primary changes were a new wing airfoil profile, a strengthened fuselage, and instead of two cannons the fighter had four 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine guns in wing gondolas. It was powered by the newer 12R-03 version of the engine, which introduced a new carburettor that could operate in negative g.
The Armée de l'Air had ordered 20 C.714s on 5 November 1938, with options for a further 180. Production started at a Renault factory in the Paris suburbs in 1939. After a series of tests with the first production examples, it became apparent that the design was seriously flawed. Although light and fast, its wooden construction did not permit a more powerful engine to be fitted. The original engine seriously limited its climb rate and manoeuvrability with the result that the initial production order was reduced to 90, as the performance was not considered good enough to warrant further production contracts. After the fall of Poland in 1939, delivered C.714’s were assigned to Polish pilots flying in France (the Polish Warsaw Squadron – the Groupe de Chasse polonais I/145, stationed at the Mions airfield). After just 23 sorties, an adverse opinion of the fighter was confirmed by front-line pilots who expressed concerns that it was seriously under-powered and was no match for contemporary German fighters.
The Caudron fighter was also used by the Polish training squadron based in Bron near Lyon. Although the pilots managed to disperse several bombing raids, they did not score any kills although they also did not lose any machines. French Minister of War Guy la Chambre ordered all C714s to be withdrawn from active service. However, since the French authorities had no other aircraft to offer, the Polish pilots ignored the order and continued to fly the Caudrons. Despite flying a fighter hopelessly outdated compared to the Messerschmitt Me 109E, the Polish pilots scored 12 confirmed and three unconfirmed victories in three battles, losing nine Caudrons in the air and nine more on the ground. Interestingly, among the planes shot down were four Dornier Do 17 bombers, but also three Messerschmitt Bf 109 and five Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters.
In total, 98 C714’s were delivered, with 18 lost in combat. The French government decided to divert the remaining eighty to Finland within days of Reynaud taking office – a decision made easier by the decision that these aircraft should be withdrawn from combat. Reynaud was firm on making a visible commitment and in this way, the commitment could be made very publicly – eighty aircraft was a sizable number indeed – and at the same time the Armée de l'Air could rid itself of aircraft that would otherwise just have been scrapped. They could also get rid of some of those annoying Poles, thus killing three birds with one stone. It was a very French solution. Forty of the aircraft were crated for shipment and moved to Le Havre together with the Polish personnel, from where they were loaded and shipped almost immediately.
The Ilmavoimat pilots who test flew the aircraft after their delivery found that they were difficult to start. The aircraft was found to be both unreliable and dangerous to use in Finnish winter conditions and landing the aircraft at front-line air bases was a hazardous undertaking.
The Caudron-Renault C.R. 714 was a single-seat cantilever low-wing monoplane with a wooden structure and retractable main undercarriage. Armament consisted of four 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine guns in the wing gondolas. They had a maximum speed of 286 mph, a range of 560 miles and were powered by a single Renault 12R 03 inverted V-12 500hp inline piston engine).
Photo sourced from: http://img.wp.scn.ru/camms/ar/378/pics/21_7.jpg
Following the demand from the Polish Pilots to be permitted to fly the Caudron-Renault C.R. 714’s in combat, the Ilmavoimat agreed that the two squadrons be flagged as Polish.
However, the Polish Pilots had other ideas. They had flown and fought the Luftwaffe successfully in France and they demanded to stay and fight with the Finns, even if it meant they would be flying the CR714’s. There case was that they were fighter aircraft, they had guns and they could be flown – and they knew what they were doing. The Ilmavoimat agreed and the Poles would man two squadrons of the aircraft, flying them throughout the Winter War together with some French volunteers who were permitted to remain by the French government – and who stayed on after the fall of France. Thus despite their unsuitability they were used in combat and inflicted significant losses on the Soviet Air Force. A small number were lost to Soviet fighters, more were lost in accidents on landing and takeoff than were lost in combat. The CR.714 aircraft were permanently grounded on September 10 1940, and were taken out of service completely in 1941, with combat flights prohibited. The aircraft were maintained on the roster until they were retired and scrapped on 30 December 1949.
(To be Continued....)