What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
Hosted by Juha Tompuri
User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

A few more Polish video clips before the next Post

Post by CanKiwi2 » 13 Mar 2012 11:21

These are a few videoclips of the Polish aircraft covered in the previous post, together with another on General Wladyslaw Anders. Included these as a bit of general background - particularly as the aircraft are little known and there is not a lot of info on them - and certainly not much visual info. Not really relevant to the main story, just background....... Enjoy!

PZL P.37 LOS - in 1939, one of the better medium bombers in service anywhere

PZL P.11 Fighter - in 1935, this was as good as anything in the world. By 1939, it was obsolete but it was the best fighter Poland had available and with these, the Polish Air Force shot down numerous Luftwaffe aircraft. Polish fighter pilots went through some of the toughest training in the world and they were good .... quickly improvising effective tactics to deal with the German fighter and bombers

PZL P.23 Karas light bomber - obsolete and vunerable, almost all were shot down in action against the Germans

Another clip on the Karas

OK, this is a simulation, but a pretty good one

General Wladyslaw Anders - Polish Army
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Assistance from Britain

Post by CanKiwi2 » 18 Mar 2012 05:50

The British Volunteers

We will get into the intricacies of Finland's political relationships with the European powers in later Posts. Suffice it to say that Finland was in the invidious position of being a pawn in the political maneouvering between France, Britain and the USSR with regard to Germany. And a pawn that the UK and France were quite happy to lose if it meant an agreement with the USSR. Finnish Intelligence was well aware of this and this knowledge of the British attitude would play an important part in official and unofficial Finnish decision making throughout WW2. After being a spectator to the fate of Czechoslovakia (and having perhaps a greater understanding of what the loss of the Czechoslovakian arms industry to Germany meant to the balance of industrial power in Europe than did Chamberlain) those who were responsible for the defence of Finland in the period after the Munich Crisis were even more concerned than before. As has been noted, this resulted in Finland moving to a war-footing in late 1938, making it perhaps the first country in Europe to take such drastic steps. The result had been a surge in Finnish defence spending, in military training and in the acquisition of arms, munitions and aircraft as well as other military equipment considered essential.

Following the German attack on Poland, Finland had stepped up its attempts to purchase weapons, aircraft and military material from every available source. While purchases from France and the US had been negotiated and concluded, a number of requests to purchase artillery and aircraft from the UK had been declined. Some, consisting of material consider non-critical by the British, were approved for sale to Finland but despite this, exports to Finland required further approvals to be exported according to British blockade orders. Though the blockade orders were relatively lenient, only one shipload of war material was shipped to Finland from the UK by the beginning of November, and this was from France. The Finnish Ambassador to the UK, Georg Gripenberg, expressed his frustration at the situation, stating that Finland was being blockaded far more effectively by British and French bureaucrats than by German submarines. However, neither of the Allied governments was, during the first weeks of WW2, sufficiently interested in Finland to facilitate its task of preparing for the worst.

Photo sourced from: http://www.finlandun.org/public/downloa ... EF95E2F6E7}
Georg A. Gripenberg on his appointment as Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations on January 16, 1956. Transferred to the Mission from his post as ambassador in Stockholm, Sweden, Mr. Gripenberg began his duties in New York on April 17, 1956. As a diplomat with a notably aristocratic bearing he was a loner who strongly believed in his diplomatic right to make decisions relatively independent from the government he represented.

Photo sourced from: http://www.hanko.fi/files/2928/340/mannerheimtrappa.jpg
A photo of the Dutch Prince Hendrik's visit with General Mannerheim at Stormhällalla in 1929. The persons present: Mrs. Karin Ramsay, an unknown gentleman (who was a companion of Prince Hendrik – perhaps a bodyguard), Baroness Marguerite Gripenberg (Mannerheim's sister), Ambassador Saastamoinen (Finland's Ambassador to the Netherlands), Mayor Arvid Nordenstreng, Ambassador Georg Achates Gripenberg, Ms Saastamoinen, Dutch Prince Hendrik, Baron Johan Cronstedt , Baroness Eva Linder, General Mannerheim and the Baroness Eva Cronstedt (from Hanko Museum photo archive. Georg Achates Gripenberg (b. May 18, 1890 in St Petersburg, d.1975) was a Finnish diplomat, ambassador in South America 1929-1933, London 1933-1941, the Vatican 1942-1943, and ambassador in Stockholm, Sweden from 1943 to 1956. He then represented Finland at the UN. Gripenberg write two memoirs: Memoirs of the Finnish Ambassador and Finland and the Great Powers: Memoirs of a Diplomat. Gripenberg was also married to Mannerheim's sister, Marguerite.

Photo sourced from: http://www.ukir.info/@Bin/118969/Kirja_Gripenbergi.jpeg
Gripenbergs memoirs in Finnish - "Lontoo-Vatikaani-Tukholma" (London-Vatican City-Stockholm) - GA Gripenberg was the Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary, one of the independent Republic of Finlands most important diplomats, whose last role was to act as Finland's first UN ambassador from 1956 to 1958. Gripenberg was not only a professional diplomat, but possessed enormous amounts of information, was capable of elegant sarcasm and was a capable political analyst.

Even the threat of redirecting to Germany Finland's now substantial nickel exports to the UK from Petsamo failed to grab the attention of the British government. Even as late as mid-November 1939, Whitehall had refused to deliver almost all the pre-war orders Finland had placed. Despite information on the Soviet buildup along the Finnish borders provided to the British Embassy in Helsinki, and by Gripenberg to Lord Halifax in London, the belief in a peaceful settlement was strong in London. The tone of the Soviet press and radio eluded London as well as Paris, and its increasingly hostile tone concerning Finland remained unnoticed by all except the Finns. Finnish orders for military equipment were refused and many existing orders (that the British had pressured Mannerheim to buy on his earlier visits to the UK over 1936-1938) had the equipment retained – this included a number of Vickers tanks, forty five Matilda II tanks and thirty Spitfire fighter aircraft – all retained on the grounds that Britain was preparing for war and needed all its production for arming herself and her allies

In desperation, Gripenberg had visited the Foreign Office on 25th October 1939 and made it clear that Finland would accept arms from anywhere that she could get them, and was even negotiating with the Germans in the hope of selling nickel from Petsamo and steel from the Tornio Steel Mill in return for German weapons. Even this however failed to speed up German deliveries – few in Britain believed that the Germans were still interested in Finland. From the Finnish perspective, the situation was far from promising. German power was growing and Hitlers relations with the USSR were at their peak. German neutrality was proving illusory, instead of permitting the transit of war materials to Finland, Germany (according to Finnish Intelligence which had numerous sources in Germany as well as in the UK and France) was volunteering to assist Russian submarines which were to operate against Finnish shipping in the Gulf of Bothnia. This was the situation when the USSR attacked Finland on 30 November 1939.

The British Admiralty and the War Office were not particularly concerned at the outbreak of war in the north. They entertained no illusions about the final outcome of the struggle but considered that it was possible that the Finns might delay the Red Army somewhat and show their Scandinavian neighbours how to defend themselves. France had no comparable interests in the Baltic and the Finnish situation consequently failed to arouse even as much attention in Paris as in London. What finally awoke both the British and French governments was a combination of the successful Finnish resistance through the month of December 1939 and its emotional appeal to public opinion – an emotional appeal in which the skilled work of the Finnish Military Press Relations Office played a large part.

In London, the situation in Finland at first appeared obscure. The French Ambassador in the early days of the conflict expressed his view that the USSR was not actually fighting a war, but was rather trying to exert pressure in Finland in order to gain concessions. The appearance of the Terijoki Government and a statement given in Moscow on 2 December according to which the USSR was not at war with Finland but was merely assisting its democratic forces sufficed to prove the contrary. It was reported in London newspapers on 1 December that the Finnish government was about to surrender. The Evening Standard stated only half-jokingly that on the previous day the Finnish Headquarters had given their first and last communiqué. At the British Foreign Office as well as at the Quai d Orsay, Finland was at first considered virtually lost. The new head of the Finnish Government, Risto Ryti, met with the British Ambassador in Helsinki on his first day in office (the Cajander Government had resigned on the outbreak of the war) and asked urgently for war material from Britain, especially fighter aircraft and artillery. A similar request was made to France.

As with most other countries world-wide outside of the USSR, public sympathy and support for Finland after the outbreak of the Winter War was strong. Britain was no exception to this, and British public opinion reacted spontaneously with much public support for Finland. The Press and Radio, suffering from a lack of war news, greeted the assault of the Red Army and Airforce on Finland with indignation. The Foreign Office argued that Finland should be supported and used against the Soviet Union. In a private letter dated 3 December 1939, Chamberlain observed that "the aggression against Finland had produced more indignation that Hitler's attack on Poland, though it is no worse morally and its development is likely to be less brutal." As well as opinion at home, Britain also had to reckon with that of the Dominions, the US and European neutrals. When the War Cabinet again addressed the question of Finland on 4 December, it was reported that anti-Soviet demonstrations had taken place in Rome the previous day – and in Fascist Italy this could hardly have taken place without government approval. On hearing this, the War Cabinet developed the idea of immediately approaching both Italy and Japan – the Axis friends and allies of Germany – and by appealing to their anti-Soviet feelings perhaps thus alienating them from the Third Reich.

At the same meeting, the War Cabinet was made aware that the Government of New Zealand was in the midst of a flurry of telegrams and long distance calls between a New Zealander in Finland, one Colonel Hunter, the New Zealand High Commission in London and the Prime Minister’s Office in Wellington, New Zealand and the Australian Prime Minister’s Office in Canberra. As of 4 December the British government had not been consulted by either the New Zealanders or the Australians but it was reported that both Governments were leaning towards a more or less unilateral move to intervene, something that was completely unexpected and which was raised as a matter of concern. This was noted and Lord Halifax advised that the matter would be raised with the London representatives of the governments of both Dominions. Lord Halifax then went on to propose that the Government at once agree to the delivery of the thirty Spitfire fighters asked for by Finland. The Minister of Aviation replied that this was impossible and the Chief of Air Staff, who was also attending the meeting, did not hesitate to draw attention to a host of British military installations which were badly in need of fighter protection. Objections were silenced by the Prime Ministers dry remark that the Finns should be helped for "political reasons", and the first consignments of material assistance to Finland were thus agreed upon, at least in principle.

It is easy to see in hindsight why the British high command considered armed assistance to Finland meaningless, not to say unnecessary. Few British or French military experts had any idea of the reality of war in the Arctic conditions of a Finnish winter or that, as the French military representative on the spot put it, that in Finland success depended on quality rather than quantity. Matters were not improved by the fact that senor officers like the French Military Attache in London, General Lelong, British Generals Gough and Lewin and indeed, General Ironsides, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, were all familiar with the arctic conditions of Northern Russia and Karelia, having served there during and after WWI, and even now were considered experts in this field. (In 1919, Gough had been head of the British Military Delegation to Finland, Lewin was Maynard's Chief of Staff in the Murmansk Force and both Ironside and Lelong were in Archangel in 1918-19).

Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... onside.jpg
Field Marshal William Edmund Ironside, 1st Baron Ironside GCB, CMG, DSO, (6 May 1880 - 22 September 1959) served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff during the first year of WW2. Ironside joined the Royal Artillery in 1899, and served throughout the Boer War, followed by a brief period spying on the German colonial forces in South-West Africa. Returning to regular duty, he served on the staff of a Regular Army division during the first two years of WW1 before being appointed as the chief of staff to the newly raised 4th Canadian Division in 1916. In 1918 he was given command of a brigade on the Western Front, but was quickly promoted to command the Allied Intervention Force in northern Russia in 1919, then an Allied force occupying Turkey, and finally a British force in Persia in 1921. He then commanded the Staff College, Camberley, where he became an advocate for the ideas of J. F. C. Fuller, a proponent of mechanisation. He later commanded a division, and military districts in both Britain and India, but his youth and his blunt approach limited his career prospects, and after being passed over for the role of Chief of the Imperial General Staff ('CIGS') in 1937 he became Governor of Gibraltar, a traditional staging post to retirement. He was recalled from "exile" in mid-1939, and appointed as Inspector-General of Overseas Forces, a role which led most observers to expect he would be given the command of the British Expeditionary Force on the outbreak of war. He held the post of Inspector for a few months, visiting Poland in July 1939 to meet with the Polish high command. Whilst his sympathetic manner reassured the Poles, the visit may have unintentionally given the impression that Britain was intending to provide direct military assistance. He returned able to report that the Polish government was unlikely to provoke Germany into war, but warned that the country would be quickly overrun and that no Eastern Front was likely to exist for long. His warnings, however, were broadly ignored.

Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... onside.jpg
Ironside (centre) with Polish Chief of Staff General Waclaw Stachiewicz (left)

However, after some political manoeuvering, Lord Gort was given this command, and Ironside was appointed as the new CIGS. He himself believed that he was temperamentally unsuited to the job, but felt obliged to accept it. In early 1940 he argued heavily for Allied intervention in Scandinavia and in Finland. Norway was the first time major British forces were committed to action during the war and the flaws in the command system quickly began to show. War Cabinet meetings were dragged out at great length to little effect, as did meetings of the Chiefs of Staff, both to Ironside's great frustration. He also found it hard to cope with Churchill's mood swings and insistence on micromanagement of the campaign, and a gulf began to grow between the men. Ironside's main contribution to resolving the campaign was to insist on a withdrawal when the situation worsened, and he pushed through the evacuation of central Norway at the end of April despite ministerial ambivalence.

During the Battle of France he played little part. He was replaced as CIGS at the end of May and appointed Commander-in-Chief Home Forces, responsible for anti-invasion defences and for commanding the Army in the event of German landings. However, he served less than two months in this role before being replaced. After this, Ironside was promoted to field-marshal and given a peerage, as Baron Ironside; he retired to Norfolk to write. In late 1943, he was asked to become the Allied Military Representative to the Finnish Government in the lead up to Finland entering the war on the side of the Allies. He was based in Helsinki from December 1943 to December 1946 and endured a difficult situation, caught between the demands of Churchill and Roosevelt for accommodation of the USSR on the one hand, and the "rather stubborn attitude and outright evasion" regarding these demands by the Finns and the Polish Government-in-Exile on the other.

Despite the fact that the Finnish armed forces had been purchasing aircraft and aircraft designs from the British, including the De Havilland Wihuri and the Miles M.20 Fighter and had advised British Intelligence of the inadequacies of aircraft such as the Swordfish, notions about the Finnish armed forces were not just faulty, they were wildly inaccurate and out of date, being based mostly on the reports of military attaches assigned to Helsinki who were mostly busy on the social circuit, or by professionals temporarily staying in or visiting Helsinki, but not on official information, of which the Finns provided none. The military attachés most recent experience of the Maavoimat had been from manoeuvres at Heinjoki near Viipuri in August 1939, exercises in which 20,000 men had participated. The foreign observers, as reported by the British Military Attaché Lt-Col. C S Vale (Report on Manoeuvres 7-12 August 1939), were impressed by the mens excellent physique and "his definite determination to defend his country", but they did not fail to notice the lack of modern armaments (very few anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns and dated artillery) or that large unit leadership was not impressive. (Due to his lack of command of Finnish and the failure to inform him in detail of the nature of the exercises being conducted, Lt-Col. Vale was unaware that the exercises being watched were in fact those of the graduating year of the High School Cadet Force, exercising with the training equipment they had been issued with, much of it obsolete and now issued to the Cadet Force. Almost all the AA and AT guns were with the reserve units which even then were being prepared for mobilization).

Vale had also had the opportunity in June 1939, together with General Kirke's party, of getting acquainted with the fortifications on the Karelian Isthmus. Vale did not seem too convinced of the effectiveness of the defensive works, but added that they were executed mainly by enthusiastic volunteers, of which many were in evidence. "A very good indication", he observed, "of the national hatred and suspicion of the Soviet Union". Vale had seen only a small part of the defensive preparations, which on the Isthmus were far more extensive and in-depth than he had been led to believe, a reticence that was largely due to security concerns. The conclusions drawn by Vale and by the other military attachés were misleading, information on the Finnish militaries capabilities was almost non-existent and it was due to reports such as this together with the outdated experience of WW1 in northern Russia that the picture of this theatre of war, even among the top military leadership, was both unrealistic and distorted. The British also believed that the winter weather would prove a major hindrance to the Finnish defenders – had not the Russians always proved to be the best winter fighters in the past, and even Nicholas I had observed that Russia had at least two Generals on whom she could always trust – General Janvier and General Février?

The British War Office also had little doubt that the Soviet Union would be able to use its superior manpower and material, regardless of physical impediments. The War Office estimated that at the outbreak of the conflict, the total Soviet strength consisted of some 140 Divisions, well over twenty of which, together with some 2,000 tanks, were posted to the Finnish front. Against this the War Office estimated that the Finns ten infantry divisions, with almost no armour and limited artillery, were far inferior in terms of manpower and equipment. The same assessment had been made of the relative strengths of the Finnish Air Force and Navy vis-à-vis the Soviets. In this, the War Office was as mistaken in their estimates as the Soviets were in there's. Among British and French military experts, and particularly among the press, Finnish news reports of the progress of the war in its first days – the slow fighting withdrawal on the Isthmus and the enormous casualties being inflicted on the attacking Red Army as well as on the Soviet Air Force – were met with skepticism and disbelief. As late as 19 December, Gripenberg noted in his diary that the press refused to believe that the Finnish Army had destroyed over 250 Soviet tanks in the first week of the war, and did not want to publish this news.

In this, the Finns were playing a delicate game. On the one hand, they wished to influence the British and French to provide military equipment and aid by emphasizing the effectiveness of their defensive capabilities. On the other hand, an essential part of their strategy was to keep the Soviet leadership convinced that they were on the verge of victory if only the continued to push harder and more aggressively, whilst using the Soviets own aggressiveness to continue inflicting enormous casualties on the Red Army in particular. On the third day of the war, London was informed that the Swedish General Staff considered the Finns capable of fighting for at least six months, and possibly up to twelve months, if they were promptly supplied with arms and aircraft. The Foreign Office remained doubtful. However C.I.G.S. agreed with the Swedish view and told the War Cabinet that it would indeed, based on a reassessment of Finnish strength and capabilities, take the Soviets a long time to crush Finnish resistance. Gripenberg confirmed this view by transmitting to Lord Halifax on 11 December an estimate from Finnish Headquarters which projected that the Finns, with the resources available at the moment, could hold out from four to six months, "but if ….. certain much-needed supplies could be obtained now and increased in January and February, they could hold out almost indefinitely. "

Once it was realized that the Finns could in fact resist the Red Army and that there was a willingness among the Scandanavians and others (the Italian Division, the flood of Hungarian volunteers and the expressed decision of Franco to send a Spanish Volunteer Division were all mentioned, as was the rumor that the Japanese were preparing to send some sort of assistance) to assist the Finns, attitudes changed. The "quite remarkable" decision by the Australian and New Zealand governments to send a Volunteer Battalion and the flood of public support for the move in the UK was discussed, as were the editorials in the British Press demanding that the British government do more to support "gallant little Finland". The War Cabinet decided that the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion would be officially supported by the Government and by the War Office and instructions were issued to this effect. (The decision to accept Australian and New Zealand volunteers was announced in the London papers on the 6th of December 1939, and on the next day the New Zealand High Commission had been deluged with volunteers, including many British). The War Cabinet also agreed, over the objections of the War Office, to the immediate sale of 60 British 18 pdr Field Gun’s, the Mk II and 240,000 rounds of ammunition for the guns, to the New Zealand and Australian governments which then donated these to Finland. It was intended that these guns and the ammunition be shipped to Finland together with the ANZAC Volunteers.

At the same time, the handling of requests from Finland was speeded up by allowing the Finnish Ambassador to enter into direct contact with the War Office and with other Ministries. The Scandinavian countries were also given the opportunity to forward to Finland materials which they had obtained from Britain, on the promise that these items would be replaced by new British exports. Thus it was possible for them to deliver to Finland large quantities of fuel, especially aviation fuel, as well as other raw materials badly needed for the Finnish war industry. At the same time, the War Cabinet hurried along the direct deliveries of war materials. In addition to ten Gloster Gladiator fighters already agreed to, a further ten were added with the British Government guaranteeing payment to the Gloster Aircraft Company. Simultaneously the South African Government gave up twenty eight Gloster Gauntlet training aircraft which had already been bought from Britain and donated these to Finland. A Finnish cargo ship was loaded with these aircraft within days, together with large quantities of gas masks, hand grenades, both anti-tank mines and naval mines and additional artillery shells for the 18pdr Field Guns, more of which were promised.

As has been mentioned earlier, the Ilmavoimat had purchased a number of Hawker Henleys which had been delivered in August 1938. So enthused was the Ilmavoimat with the performance of the aircraft that a further 20 had been ordered in early 1939. These were produced at the tail-end of the British order for their “target tugs” and were delivered in late summer 1939 – given that the Finns were supplying the engines and weapons, the order had been allowed to go through by the British even as they took over other orders. Within the RAF, the Henley was not proving to be a great success as a target tug. With some 200 in service, it was being discovered that the Merlin engine could not cope with high speed target towing. It was also soon discovered that unless the aircraft were restricted to an unrealistically low tow speed of 220 mph (355 km/h), the rate of engine failures was unacceptably high. This resulted in Henleys being withdrawn from this role and relegated to towing larger drogue targets with anti-aircraft co-operation units. Predictably, the Henley proved to be even more unsuited to this role, and the number of engine failures increased. Several Henley’s were lost after the engine cut-out and the drogue could not be released quickly enough. In September 1939, with war with the USSR looming unmistabably closer, the Finnish government had made an urgent request to the British government to purchase a large number of the Henley “target tugs” – and undertook let the British keep the Merlin engines and to pay for replacement Miles Master target tugs similar to those that had been built for them for glider towing by Phillips and Powis Aircraft Limited.

The Finns already had assurances in hand that Phillips and Powis Aircraft Limited were able to produce the Miles Master tugs rapidly (the Finns also undertook to take the Henley’s minus their engines – they would fit their own) and this taken together with the obvious unsuitability of the Henley for use as a target tug, resulted in the British agreeing to trade 80 Hawker Henley’s to Finland. Approximately half had been crated and shipped in early November 1939 and arrived in Tampere some three weeks later, just prior to the attack on Finland by the USSR on the 30th of November 1939. A small stockpile of Hispano-Suiza 12Y engines had been built up and these were fitted after the shipment arrived. The other half of the order were refitted with Finnish supplied engines in the UK and flown to Finland “as is” in mid-December 1939 (after the Winter War had broken out) by Ilmavoimat Ferry Pilots, some of whom, to the amazement of the RAF and the delight of British newspapers, were women. One of the more memorable images, and one that resulted in a surge in public demand to assist Finland in the UK, the US, Canada and France as well as in Italy, was the photo of an Ilmavoimat Ferry Pilot, Anglo-Argentine Volunteer Maureen Dunlop. And it was this public pressure in the UK that resulted in rather more concrete steps being taken to assist Finland, largely to assuage the demand that something be seen to be done rather than for concrete strategic reasons. Finland was still very much a distraction, although a distraction with possibilities that were being discussed at the highest levels.

Photo sourced from: http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2007/0 ... 68x704.jpg
“She climbed out of the cockpit of her Hawker Henley Dive Bomber and became instantly famous. Wearing a summer uniform of white shirt, dark tie and sleeves rolled above the elbow, she slung a parachute over her shoulder and shook out her long blonde hair. Back-lit by the afternoon sun, Ilmavoimat Ferry Pilot Maureen Dunlop looked unbelievably glamorous. The pilot was actually an Anglo-Argentinian volunteer on her first delivery flight for the Ilmavoima. Maureen Dunlop had travelled from Buenos Aires to the UK where she had approached the Finnish Embassy and volunteered as a pilot. Desperately short of trained pilots and themselves already using women pilots for non-combat flights, the Finnish embassy accepted her after a single flight test. Her first assignment was flying a Hawker Henley to Finland. She went on to fly for the Ilmavoimat for the duration of the Winter War before returning to the UK, where she flew as a ferry pilot for the British Air Transport Auxilary.

This was one of the more memorable photos of the Winter War and achieved widespread publication in the UK, the USA and France as well as in Italy and did much to boost the image of Finland as a courageous democracy fighting an all-out war against the Bolsheviks. The widespread publicity (the photo and accompanying article made the front page of all the UK newspapers including the Picture Post, all the right-wing French papers and the cover of Life in the US) generated a wave of public demand to assist Finland.

The presence of the Italian Alpini Division, Regia Aeronautica squadrons and a small number of Italian naval warships in Finland for the scheduled winter exercise was also discussed. It had already been reported in the newspapers and on radio that Mussolini had grandiosely placed these men at the disposal of the Finnish government and military. Also being extensively covered in the press were the first arrivals by rail of Hungarian Volunteers on their way to Finland, with enthusiastic press coverage. The Spanish decision to send a division of Volunteers was also supported, with the Press demanding that the Government stop prevaricating on allowing the passage of ships carrying Spanish volunteers and permit the Spanish passage to Norway – something that was still being negotiated somewhat reluctantly – as was the passage of Italian ships which had been requested by the Italian Government. In the end, the War Cabinet would permit the passage of ships from Italy and Spain, but not without considerable debate. Meanwhile, the British public continued to demand action in support of Finland, both in sending military equipment and in the dispatch of volunteer units – with the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion being continuously held up as an example by the Press – as was the news that New Zealand was in the process of raising a second Battalion in New Zealand to send.

The news reports also reported on the Scandinavian volunteers flocking to Finland and being formed into a Division, the Poles rescued from Latvia and Lithuania and now fighting with the Finns, the 20,000 additional Polish troops that were on their way from Hungary and Romania – and also that the French were in the process of sending an additional Division of Poles, the Polish Second Infantry Fusiliers Division, to Finland. "The French are sending 50 of their most modern fighter aircraft, the superb Morane Saulnier MS 406s to Finland as well as two modern Destroyers for the Finnish Navy and a squadron of Light Bombers and another 80 Caudron-Renault C.714 fighters ", The Times blared in a 3rd January 1940 headline (the day the French decision was announced). "Even a defeated Poland has sent four precious Divisions of her remaining soldiers to fight in Finland. Britain, the home of democracy has sent a mere twenty obsolete Gloster Gladiators and a few guns. Our Government must Do More!" The news that both South Africa and Rhodesia were also raising volunteers units was like adding petrol to a bonfire for the British Press and the pressure to "do something" became ever more vociferous.

Leaving aside official Government policy and geo-political strategic concerns for the moment, in a Cabinet meeting on 4 January, 1940, the Lord Privy Seal Sir Samuel Hoare raised the possibility of sending volunteers to Finland. From the minutes of previous meetings it is clear that aid to Finland was an ongoing project, notwithstanding Britain’s notional neutrality in the Winter War. Munitions and aircraft had already been sent, for example, as well as ambulances to the cost of £15,000. But Sir Samuel’s comments were a new departure. "Italy and Germany had shown in Spain how the technique of non-intervention could be exploited as a serious military operation", the minutes of that meeting record. "[Sir Samuel] suggested we should examine the possibility of giving assistance on the Spanish precedent, but with the difference that personnel sent to Finland should be true volunteers and not recruited from the serving ranks of the Regular Forces, and as the example of the ANZAC Volunteers shows, this is possible". Unstated was that this would to a certain extent assuage the British Press and remove the pressure that was being placed on the Government. "In light of what the French are doing, we must also give consideration to providing rather more tangible assistance by way of aircraft and possibly even some form of naval assistance" Sir Samuel added.

The growing caution in Scandinavia towards assisting Finland was ignored. Norway had now gone as far as forbidding public fund-raising for Finland and prohibiting its active service officers from enlisting in the Finnish Army as volunteers. Sweden had irritated the British by asking them, out of fear of the Germans as it eventuated, not to give Finland arms for free. The sympathetic attitude of Swedish royalty and of Sweden’s military leaders was not unnoticed in London (even after the rearrangement of Hansson’s Cabinet, where the main change had been the resignation of the actively pro-Finnish Foreign Minister, Rikhard Sandler).

Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... C_1937.jpg
Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Rickard Sandler on his way to meet King George VI in London in 1937. His wife Maja Sandler to the left. Sandler (29 January 1884 – 12 November 1964) was a Swedish Social Democratic politician. He served as Minister without Portfolio in the Swedish government from 10 March 1920 to 30 June 1920, Minister for Finance from 1 July 1920 to 27 October 1920, Minister without Portfolio from 13 October 1921 to 19 April 1923, Minister for Trade from 14 October 1924 to 24 January 1925, Prime Minister from 24 January 1925 to 7 June 1926, and as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 24 September 1932 to 19 June 1936 and again from 28 September 1936 to 13 December 1939. Sandler left the government over a disagreement with the Prime Minister about the Winter War. Sandler wanted Sweden to actively help Finland after the Soviet Union had attacked it on November 30, 1939, a stance the Prime Minister did not hold.

As was soon found out, the enthusiasm which had prevailed in Oslo and Stockholm during the first days of December had been based on the premise that the outbreak of the Winter War had been an unpleasant surprise for the Germans and that they would not prevent the Scandinavians from giving even more assistance to Finland. The reasons for this illusion were vague indications, such as Goering’s stray promise to the Norwegians that Germany would not interfere with the delivery of war material to Finland, as well as the information that Germany might allow the transit of war material through its own territory (as in fact happened with a single shipment of some 30 Fiat G.50 Fighter aircraft that Germany allowed to transit by rail). Such news, and the suspected pro-German sympathies of certain influential Scandinavians such as Norway’s Foreign Minister Koht, caused the British Foreign Office to assume that it all amounted to a campaign led by Berlin aimed at ending the German-Allied war to the detriment of the Soviet Union. While Germany permitted transit to the initial shipment of Italian fighters, as well as the secret export of sizable quantities of German arms and munitions (in what became known as the Veltjens deal) early in the war, the German attitude soon changed. In late December, news of a second shipment of Italian fighters transiting through Germany was published in the French and Dutch Press – in Moscow, Molotov immediately summoned the German Ambassador, Schulenburg and bitterly complained that such transit did not comply with German benevolent neutrality. Ribbentrop arranged that the Italian fighter delivery was returned to Italy and the transit permit withdrawn. In addition, the Kriegsmarine seized two small Finnish merchant ships as they entered the Baltic and confiscated both their cargoes and the ships in what amounted to an act of piracy, as the Finnish Ambassador in Berlin pointedly commented to Ribbentrop.

It would not be the low point of the Finnish-German relationship during the Winter War, even if Finnish Nickel, Steel, Copper, Timber and agricultural exports would continue. As a side note, the first shipment of Fiat fighters through Germany had actually been discovered by a Swedish reporter and had been about to be reported in a Swedish newspaper when the newspaper reporter met with an unfortunate and sadly terminal accident involving a Stockholm tram. On the same day the editor was brutally robbed and ended his day in hospital with both legs and both arms broken together with further fractures to the ribs and numerous contusions. The edition of the paper that was to be published was destroyed in a fire that consumed the entire printing plant. There were strong suspicions within Swedish Intelligence that the secretive Finnish Osasto Nyrkki unit was involved, but there was no proof and the matter was never investigated other than by the Police, with no results.

Photo sourced from: http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6070/608 ... 7801c8.jpg
Trams on Stureplan in Stockholm in 1939: site of the unfortunate accident which befell a misguided Swedish Journalist in December of that year. His last words were unrecorded. A number of further unfortunately fatal accidents would take place in Stockholm before leftwing Swedish journalists began to realize that discretion in reporting on Finnish military activities was, if not career-enhancing, at least life-prolonging.

Some days after the news of the second shipment of Italian fighters transiting through Germany was published in the French and Dutch Press, there were a number of fatal accidents to editors and reporters in both countries, accompanied by a series of catastrophic fires in various newspaper offices. Again, there were some suspicions but no hard evidence and given that in France at least, the papers had been of the leftist persuasion, no real action or interest was expressed by the Police. However, the point was taken by those at whom the action was aimed and there were no more unfortunate revelations in the Press in Sweden, France or the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, in Britain, such was the growing outrage at government inaction that steps were taken to alleviate the pressure in early January 1940. On 5th and 6th January there was a flurry of telegrams between the War Office and Wellington, New Zealand. In the Air Ministry two days of meetings took place during which the ways by which Finland could be assisted without seriously impinging on British war fighting capabilities were discussed. Churchill, once again First Lord of the Admiralty, continued to advocate the pre-emptive occupation of the neutral Norwegian iron-ore port of Narvik and the iron mines in Kiruna, Sweden while supposedly studying ways in which some form of naval assistance could be provided to Finland. The question of naval assistance was resolved in two ways, neither of which originated from Churchill’s activities. In the first of these, the New Zealand Government indicated that HMNZS Achilles, recently involved in the Battle of the River Plate and the sinking of the Graf Spee, could be made available to assist the Finnish Navy (the reflagging of the Polish Destroyers was mentioned as a modus operandi). The New Zealand High Commissioner in London, Mr William J. Jordan, confirmed that this was indeed the case and emphasized that this was a decision that had been made by the New Zealand Government and as such, was final. The Royal Navy was not strongly opposed at this time, and agreed that the Achilles could be quickly repaired and made available. Jordan also advised that the New Zealand Government had instructed that the RNZAF Squadron of Wellington bombers serving with the RAF was to be sent to Finland.

Photo sourced from: http://www.nzetc.org/etexts/Gov14_12Rai ... lP002a.jpg
The New Zealand High Commissioner in London, Mr. William J. Jordan: William Joseph Jordan, widely known as Bill, was born in Ramsgate, Kent, England, on 19 May 1879 and emigrated to New Zealand in 1904. By the time of his death in 1959, he had served nearly 14 years as a Labour member of Parliament, followed by a record 15 years as New Zealand High Commissioner in London. During the First World War he did not follow other prominent Labour politicians along the path of conscientious objection. Instead, in February 1917, at the age of 37, he enlisted in the army, rising to the rank of warrant officer second-class. He was first elected to Parliament in 1922 and in 1935, when Labour won the elections, Jordan might have expected (and perhaps did expect) a cabinet post, but instead he was appointed New Zealand high commissioner in London, a position usually filled – before and since – by former cabinet ministers from the party in office. In 1935 the high commissioner was the country's only diplomatic representative. He also spoke for New Zealand at meetings of the League of Nations, an organisation distrusted and neglected by previous New Zealand governments. The new government, however, was determined to take its own stand on international issues and this independent approach brought New Zealand into conflict with British policy on such issues as Spain and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) - and brought Jordan into corresponding public prominence. Jordan was a complex character who was noted for a ‘volcanic’ temper and clashed regularly with members of his staff, visiting political figures from home, fellow dominions' High Commissioners and even British dignitaries.

So convinced was Jordan that another world war was inconceivable that he reported accordingly to the government and the New Zealand people and was unwilling to follow instructions inconsistent with this view. In September 1938 he wrote to the New Zealand prime minister, M. J. Savage, that, in his opinion, 'we shall not see war involving our Empire in our lifetime'. Just before war broke out he spoke in similar terms in a broadcast to New Zealand. As he said six months later, right up to that date 'I could not believe that the world was so mad as to go to war'. Jordan knew Colonel Hunter in Helsinki but the two men, while they maintained a cordial relationship were not what one would call friendly terms. However, when the Winter War broke out and Colonel Hunter booked a phone call with Jordan, Jordan was quick to support Hunters proposals and facilitated communication with Wellington. Once approval was given, Jordan would throw his heart and soul into the raising of the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion for Finland, expressed his wholehearted support for Finland and offered Gripenberg whatever assistance the New Zealand High Commission could provide. As New Zealand's representative on the League of Nation's council, he became exasperated by the Soviet representatives interminable delaying tactics during the debate on the Winter War and electrified the proceedings by rising from his seat and shouting "Here we sit listening to quack, quack, quack, hour after hour. We are sick of it." The press applauded. It was Jordan who suggested both the dispatch of HMNZS Achilles to Finland and also the dispatch of an RNZAF Squadron from within the RAF. And once approved by the New Zealand Government, it was Jordan who rammed these proposals through against the objections of the British War Office.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Vickers Wellington Mark I Bombers (with the original Vickers turrets) at RAF Stradishall on the 10th of July 1939.

The most modern aircraft of the RNZAF in mid-1939 were 30 recently purchased Vickers Wellington bombers. The New Zealand government had ordered 30 Vickers Wellington Mk1C bombers in 1938. RNZAF aircrew were sent to England to train on the new aircraft based at RAF Marham. It was intended that the crews fly the aircraft to New Zealand in batches of six. RAF official records name this group of airman as "The New Zealand Squadron." In August 1939, anticipating war with Germany, the New Zealand government loaned these aircraft and their (New Zealand) aircrews to the RAF. Shortly after the arrival of the ANZAC Battalion in Finland in early January 1940, the New Zealand Government dispatched the Squadron to Finland where they served with the Ilmavoimat, flying combat missions for the duration of the Winter War.

As flown by the New Zealand Squadron, the Wellington had a Crew of 6, was powered by 2 × Bristol Pegasus Mark XVIII radial engines of 1,050 hp (783 kW) each with a maximum speed of 235mph, a range of 2,550 miles and a service ceiling of 18,000 feet. Defensive armament consisted of 6 to 8 .303 Browning machineguns (2x in nose turret, 2 x in tail turret and 2x in waist positions). A bombload of 4,500lb could be carried. The Squadron would fly to Finland in mid-January 1940, seen of by Jordan, who personally visited the Squadron to wish each man well and thank them for volunteering (for all the men had volunteered, both aircrew and ground personnel).

The New Zealand Squadron’s motto was “Ake Ake Kia Kaha” ("For ever and ever be strong") and this, and the squadron badge, were painted on all aircraft.

Two No.75 (New Zealand) Squadron Wellingtons returning to their forward base in Eastern Karelia from a mission, late January 1940.

The Survivors: Personnel of No.75 (New Zealand) Squadron in front of one of their 18 remaining VickersWellington Bombers – 12 Wellingtons, slightly over a third of the Squadrons strength, were lost in action over the course of the Winter War). Photo taken at Immola Airfield, Finland, late August 1940.

http://img.scoop.co.nz/stories/images/1 ... 95__ac.jpg
HMNZS Achilles en route to Lyngenfjiord, February 1940: HMNZS Achilles was a Leander-class light cruiser commissioned in 1933 and which served with the Royal New Zealand Navy in World War II. She first became famous for her part in the Battle of the River Plate, alongside Ajax and Exeter, then for her part fighting under the Finnish Flag in the Helsinki Convoy and the Battle of Bornholm – a naval encounter than enthralled the world as the Finnish Navy escorted a large convoy of vital war supplies through the Baltic in the face of German and Soviet opposition. Achilles was the second of five ships of the Leander-class light cruisers, designed as effective follow-ons to the York class. Upgraded to Improved Leander class, she could carry an aircraft and was the first ship to carry a Supermarine Walrus, although both Walruses were lost before the Second World War began. At one time she carried the unusual DH.82 Queen Bee which was a radio-controlled unmanned aircraft, normally used as a drone. She would serve with the Merivoimat in the Baltic for the remainder of the Winter War before leaving after the negotiated peace. The Germans would permit her departure under the Finnish flag, together with a small number of other Finnish warships which would proceed to Lyngenfjiord. As always, the Finns would use the supply of Nickel, Steel and Copper to Germany as a means to apply pressure.

Photo sourced from: http://www.bluestarline.org/wallace_tri ... _index.jpg
FNS Achilles (HMNZS Achilles under the Finnish Flag and serving with the Merivoimat) in action with the Helsinki Convoy against the Kriegsmarine force attempting to intercept the large Finnish Convoy entering the southern Baltic in the Spring of 1940. Achilles would take minor damage in the encounter, while news of the battle and the subsequent retreat of the Kriegsmarine from the encounter would enthrall New Zealand (and Britain) with the part played by the Achilles. She had a maximum speed of 32.5 knots, a range of 5,730 miles at 13 knots, a complement of 680 (some 60% of whom were New Zealanders) and her armament consisted of 8 x BL 6 inch MkXXIII naval guns, 4 x 4 in guns, 12 x 0.5in machineguns and 8 x 21in torpedo tubes.

In addition to HMNZS Achilles, the Royal Navy transferred a single (damaged) Destroyer to the Finns. Rather than being directly donated or sold to Finland, the transfer was carried out through the auspices of the Polish Navy. The Destroyer, HMS Garland, was renamed ORP Garland and was a G-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1930s. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939 the ship spent considerable time in Spanish waters, enforcing the arms blockade imposed by Britain and France on both sides of the conflict. Shortly after WW2 began, she was badly damaged by the premature explosion of her own depth charges and required over some months of repairs. In January 1940, as these were being completed, Garland was transferred to the Polish Navy with the implication that she be used to assist the Finns. She accompanied Achilles to Lyngenfjiord and was used continuously on Atlantic Convoy escort duties for the remainder of the Winter War.

Photo sourced from: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v94/m ... arland.jpg
ORP Garland in Lyngenfjiord, July 1940 after escorting a Convoy across the North Atlantic. With a maximum speed of 36 knots, ORP Garland had a range of 5,530 nautical miles (6,360 miles) at 15 knots, a crew of 146 and was armed with 4 x 4.7in (120mm) guns, 2 x 4 barreled Vickers 0.5in machineguns, 2 x 4/21in torpedo tubes and 20 depth charges with 2 throwers. On entering service with the Polish Navy operating with the Merivoimat, she was immediately upgraded. The rear torpedo tubes were replaced by Bofors 40mm AA gun and the ship's short range AA armament was augmented by two Oerlikon 20 mm guns on her searchlight platform and another pair on the wings of the ship's bridge. The 'Y' gun was also removed to allow her depth charge stowage to be increased to 44 depth charges. A Nokia short-range surface search radar was also fitted and she also received a HF/DF radio direction finder mounted on a pole mainmast. All in all, she was a useful addition to the Merivoimats operational capabilities.

As early as its meeting on 11 December 1939 the British War Cabinet has reached the conclusion that it was in Britains interests to help Finland as much as possible. All the same, until January 1940, the practical measures taken, as the Foreign Office pointed out, had amounted to no more than expressions of friendship and some limited support which could not be expected to influence the Wars final outcome. It was also pointed out somewhat sardonically that the Italians, Spanish, Hungarians and even the damned French were doing more to help the Finns than Britain. Certainly the War Cabinet had not acted with decision and speed, nor had they even in that first month of the war decided how extensive that support should be. While the public reaction had been vigorous and decidedly anti-Soviet, the Chamberlain Government adopted a "cool and calculating attitude towards the conflict" (although some at the time commented rather freely on the lack of decisiveness). Only after the first sensational defeats of the Red Army by the Maavoimat did the War Cabinet arrive at the conclusion, influenced strongly in this by the French attitude, that advantage should be taken of the situation by the Allies – that here was an opportunity to seize the initiative, win over world opinion, surround the enemy and win the war. From mid-December, this had been the line promoted in the War Cabinet by Churchill and Halifax. There was a view expressed that Stalin and Hitler could both be drawn in to Scandinavia where the decisive battles could be fought – and given the support for Finland from Italy and even from Japan (and the USA to a lesser extent), it was put forward that these countries could be drawn into a common front for the rescue of Finland and thus into direct conflict with both Germany and the USSR.

Lord Halifax and Churchill however had different views on what should be done. Halifax had concluded that it was best for Swedish and Norwegian neutrality to be supported and he considered that neither was in imminent danger from the USSR as long as Finland continued to fight. Sweden was actively doing whatever it could to assist Finland and Norway was permitting Finland to virtually control the northern port of Lyngenfjiord, through which foreign military aid was beginning to flow. Halifax considered that it was in the Allied interest to prevent a more dangerous situation developing and advised that Finland had to be assisted by all possible means in order to make it an effective barrier between the USSR and the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, Churchill continued to develop his own proposals. "It was no in the interest of the Allies to keep Norway and Sweden outside the conflict, as Halifax had suggested, but to draw them into the war." Churchills strongly worded memo on Scandinavian policy and the Ministry of Economic Warfares report on the iron ore question turned the War Cabinets attention away from Finland and towards the western coast of Norway.

We now know that this eventually led to the Allied intervention in Norway and the preemptive German strike – these are matters for a later Post. At this stage, suffice it to say that Allied attention became focused more on the possibilities of using assistance for Finland as a pretext for the seizure of northern Norway and the Swedish iron ore fields, and less and less on any really decisive intervention in Finland. However, the British War Cabinet decided that something further had to be done to assuage the growing outrage amongst the British public that nothing substantial was being done to assist Finland. The sending of the ANZAC Battalion, a few old aircraft and a couple of small warships had temporarily satisfied the public demand for visible action in December and early January, but as the Finns continued to hold on against the Red Army, with the Winter War dominating the headlines, the British public continued to demand action from their Government. The possibility of sending a Volunteer unit had, as has been mentioned, been discussed at the War Cabinet meeting of 4 January and by mid-January 1940, it was decided that something further must be done.

The first move was to immediately make aircraft available to the Finns. As has been mentioned, twenty Gloster Gladiators and twenty eight (South African) Gloster Gauntlets had already been shipped off to Finland, and the 80 Hawker Henley’s the sale of which had been agreed on before the Winter War broke out went through, with all the Henley’s in Finland by late December 1939, where they would go on to be used with tremendous effect as single seat dive bombers and tank busters. Gripenburg had an extensive list of equipment and aircraft that the Finnish military wanted to augment existing equipment and on 8 January 1940, the first of this series of requests was approved by the Air Ministry. This was for 17 Westland Lysander observation aircraft (of the forty that had been requested). The first 9 were shipped to Gotherburg, Sweden on 24 February 1940. These were assembled at the Gotaverken factory in Torslanda and were flown to Finland between 21 March and 3 May. The rest of the order were supposed to be flown directly from the UK to Finland and 2 arrived on 8 March. The remaining Lysanders from the order left England in early March and arrived in Finland on the 15th of the same month although one crashed in transit. The Lysanders that entered service remained in use until 1945, although some were lost in action.

A destroyed Ilmavoimat Westland Lysander LY-124 on the island of Buoy, close to Stavanger, Norway

Ilmavoimat Westland Lysander in service in the Winter War. Maximum speed was 212 mph, range was 600 miles, service ceiling was 21,500 feet although in Finnish service the top 20,000 feet of this was rarely used, the aircraft usually few with a crew of 2 (Pilot and Observer).

In Ilmavoimat service, the Lysanders would augment the existing Ilmavoimat observation aircraft which were in short supply, and were in fact allocated to the 4 additional Polish Divisions which had to be almost completely equipped from Finnish war reserve material – a large demand on the limited equipment stockpile which meant that in some cases, equipment which had been allocated to the Cadet units for training was brought back into service.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

British Assistance to Finland

Post by CanKiwi2 » 18 Mar 2012 05:51

Bristol Blenheims for Finland

In December 1939 Britain had agreed to sell 12 British-manufactured Blenheims to Finland. These were flown to Finland, arriving on 17th January 1940, with one disappearing in transit and one being badly damaged on landing. In February 1940 Britain agreed to sell a further 12 Blenheims and these arrived on 26 Feb, 1940. Twenty Two Blenheims in all were delivered and made a useful addition to the Ilmavoimat’s bomber squadrons. For the first delivery of Blenheims, the RAFs 21 Squadron was asked for "volunteers for a dangerous mission". There was no lack of brave men stepping forward, although none of them knew what was involved. Their mission was to deliver twelve Blenheim Bombers to Finland for the Finns to use in their struggle against the Russian invaders. The mission was to be kept “top secret” owing to the delicate political situation with Russia at that time. This then is the background against which 36 young men set off for an adventure.

Each man was given leave and told to speak to no one of their task. Civilian clothing was to be worn throughout the operation. “You are all released from the service”. This took the thirty six young men in the 21 Squadron Office at RAF Watton by surprise. There had been no shortage of men stepping forward. However, it would be much later before they learned of the full details. On return to their base they were issued with false passports and they were told “You will be provided with civilian clothing which you will take on leave with you today. In two days time you will travel to RAF Bicester with the provided rail warrants. You will carry nothing; I repeat nothing that will connect you to the RAF. Leave your identity disks here; from now on you are civilians. Are there any questions"? ...“Good”. Then “I’m sorry the details are sketchy, but this is, I stress, top secret and you must not discuss it with anyone, Good Luck.”

Photo sourced from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stor ... 2796_1.jpg
Sergeant Albert Williams (Observer) RAF no 580582: one of the RAF volunteers who flew the first 12 Blenheims to Finland

Sergeant Albert Williams from Easton, Bristol was one of the men who volunteered at RAF Watton along with Aircraftsman 1st Class, Ray Trew another volunteer. Both men were puzzled but nevertheless intrigued. Albert was classified as an engineer on his passport. They sat quietly as the train wound itself across the Oxfordshire countryside toward Bicester. As instructed they had left their uniforms behind. They had also left behind tearful parents who thought their offspring were deserting, why else would they suddenly change into civilian clothing and apparently run away? Secrecy was maintained and the crews were not allowed ‘off base’ that night. They spent their time familiarising themselves with the aircraft, which had been stripped of armament and all non-essential equipment. This way they could fly faster and climb higher. Also to make matters worse the RAF roundels had been removed, and replaced by the blue swastika, the insignia of the Finnish Air Force. This had been hurriedly white washed over, but the emblem still showed through and was a concern for them. As one crewmember said, “We will be fair game for any fighter, ours or theirs”.

At 6 am on the 23rd February 1940 all twelve took off for the first hop, from Bodney to Dyce Airport at Aberdeen in Scotland. The rain had removed the white wash off of the signs making them more visible. This made the mission even more dangerous, as the R.A.F. would quite likely suffer an attack in an aircraft displaying a swastika, and then the Germans would also interpret the Blenheim as a hostile aircraft. However, this part of the mission was completed successfully, and without mishap. Following an overnight stop and turn round by engineers they departed from Dyce in Aberdeen on the 23rd February 1940, and flew across the North Sea and arrived at Stavanger, Norway on the 24th February. Here they all had their passports stamped. Then on to Vasteras, Sweden on 25th February. The following day February 26th saw the last leg of the journey, they landed onto the frozen airstrip on Lake Juva in Finland; all twelve aircraft landed safely.

They had been successful, they had managed to elude any sightings from the enemy aircraft or ground units that could have had the flight in deep trouble. Much of Europe was already coming under the Jackboot but, at this stage the Scandinavian countries were free. The reception these young aviators received from the local population was so warm that it more than made up for the arctic conditions they found on arrival on this frozen wasteland. Later, they went by bus to Helsinki, and were treated to a lavish luncheon party where each man was presented with a ceremonial dagger. From Helsinki the men were taken to the nearby Turko Abo airfield and on February 28th a Junkers 52 flew them to Stockholm in Sweden. Here, in this neutral capital they were a political embarrassment to the British Embassy. There were no restrictions; embassy staff only gave them the barest subsistence allowance. These eager young men fretted away the next two weeks until on March the 13th 1940, they were flown back to Perth in Scotland via Oslo, again in a Junkers 52 German built transport aircraft, but one with British markings!

One must remember that many of these were young men, not long out of school, and who probably had not been abroad before, to them it had been a great adventure despite some of the offhand treatment they felt they had received from British Embassy staff. But, now the mission was over and all too soon they would be back in the fray as RAF fighting airmen. Some of the crew, like Aircraftman 1st Class Trew went on to complete many more operational flights, one 21 Squadron member, Leo Lightfoot earned the DFM for his part in downing an ME 109. Others like Sergeant Albert Williams were not so lucky. Not long after this secret mission, he was on another sortie, his aircraft was shot down following a successful bombing mission against a large tank formation at Fort du Gault, some miles to the east of Paris. On the 13th June 1940 all three crewmembers, Pilot Officer Lewis Mervyn Blanckensee, Pilot Sergeant Jack Guest DFM, Air Gunner and Sergeant Albert Williams, Observer, were killed. They are buried and remembered with honour at the St. Hilliers Communal Cemetry, Seine et Marne, France. They were all young men in their early twenties.

Hawker Hurricanes to Finland

(sourced from http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hu-fin-1.htm and a straight copy of an article written by Jussi Räty)

Also in January 1940 the British agreed to sell 12 Hurricane fighters to Finland. The Finnish aircraft were from the first Gloster Hurricane series of 500 aircraft. They had the Merlin III engine and a Hamilton or a Rotol propeller. On the 29th of January 1940 the Finnish pilots selected to fly the fighters to Finland met at the Finnish Air Force HQ in Helsinki. The detachment leader was Lt. Jussi Räty, which led to the detachment being called "Detachment Räty". The other pilots were Ensigns Aarne Alitalo, Heikki Kaukovaara, Eino Mesinen, Erkki Mustonen, Paavo Myllylä, Aarne Nissinen and Tapio Taskinen, Sergeants Paavo Aikala, Uuno Karhumäki, Martti Laitinen and Pekka Vassinen. Lt. Räty was assigned from LeLv 26 (Air Squadron 26), while the other pilots came from the replacement regiment at Parola. The group took a commercial Aero Oy flight to Stockholm and proceeded to London via Copenhagen and Amsterdam. From London they proceeded to the RAF base St. Athan where they arrived on the 5th of February 1940.

The training squadron where the Finns were to be trained was No.11 Group Fighting School commanded by Squadron Leader Tom Pinkham. The squadron was divided into three flights: A Flight commanded by Flight Lieutenant Adye, B Flight commanded by F/L Robinson and C Flight commanded by F/L Cox. Squadron Leader Pinkham told the Finns that he had been ordered to speed up the training and that they would fly a few flights in the Link Trainers and Harvards and then 10 - 12 hrs with the Hurricanes prior to the ferry flight to Finland. The British pilots were required to fly 40 hrs with the Link Trainers and 30 hrs with the Hurricanes and they normally had some 250 hrs solo time before the training. The squadron had a fully equipped Hurricane cockpit for ground training.

Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-08.jpg
Ilmavoimat Hawker Hurricane

Meeting the King and the Queen

On the 9th of February 1940 King George VI and Queen Elisabeth visited St. Athan. The King had expressed his wish to meet the Finnish pilots and so Lt. Räty joined the group in the officers mess for lunch. After the lunch the King asked if the Finns had enjoyed their time in the RAF and if they had already flown. The King expressed the sympathy of Great Britain towards Finland and that it was a pleasure that Great Britain could help Finland in its fight for independence. He wished the pilots luck for the ferry flights.

Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-01.jpg
No 11 Group Air Fighting School, C Flight instructors, students and the maintenance personnel. In the middle Flight Commander F/L Cox and instructors Pilot Officer Dowborn and Wahalmoot. Students on both sides of the propeller: from the left Laitinen, Karhumäki, Mustonen and Mertio.

The weather stayed poor at St. Athan and the flight training was postponed until February 9, 1940. The additional days were used for extra Link Trainer training and studying the Hurricane fighter. Lt. Räty translated the pilots manual and made sure that all the Finns had rehearsed all the procedures in the squadron's Hurricane cockpit. This, combined with Finnish pilot training, resulted in the Finns having no mishaps during the Hurricane conversion training. The flight training in the Harvards started on the 9th of February and the training proceeded so well that already by the 20th the Finnish group had started to plan for the ferry flight to Finland. Squadron Leader Pinkham had been in touch with the Gloster Aviation Company and had received advice that he should send some of the Finns to Gloster's Brockworth factory on 21st of February to receive their aircraft. The first three Hurricanes (HU-451, HU-452 and HU-455) were delivered on the 21st of February at Brockworth. The next three (HU-454, HU-458 and HU-459) were delivered two days later. The Finns flew the Hurricanes to St. Athan, where they were rechecked and prepared for the ferry flight. The radios were tested, the machine guns were aligned and armed. Every Finn flew an acceptance test flight and tested the machine guns over the bay of Bristol. The wire grid covering the engine air intake was removed to prevent icing problems during the ferry flight.

Ferry flights to Finland begin

When it became obvious that it would take more than a week to get all the 12 aircraft into ferry flight configuration, Lt. Räty decided to divide the group into two. The first group would consist of: Lt. Räty (HU-451), Ensigns Nissinen (HU-452), Kaukovaara (HU-455), Mesinen (HU-458), Sergeants Aikala (HU-459) and Vassinen (HU-454). The British Air Ministry sent an escort plane, a long-nosed Blenheim to St. Athan on the 23rd of February with Squadron Leader Bushell as the pilot in command. The ferry flight started on the 25th of February. The first leg took the group over Wales, west of Liverpool and 2.5 hrs later to Grangemouth airfield 10 km (6 mi.) northwest of Edinburgh. After refueling the aircraft headed to Wick in Scotland, where they stayed the night. The base commander, a Group Captain told the Finnish pilots that the weather forecast for Stavanger, Norway looked good for the next day and the plan was to take off at 11.15 hrs local time. There were two Lockheed Hudson bombers and a Sunderland flying boat to escort the Finnish Hurricanes over the North Sea. The Sunderland was to pick up the pilots from the sea, if anyone had to ditch.

The group took of from Wick and flew over the North Sea. At first the weather was according to the forecast, but then it became worse in the middle part of the leg. They had to fly at 15 - 20m (50 - 70 ft) over the waves for 15 - 20 min. The Sunderland wouldn't have been much help in that weather, if someone had ditched. There were problems in keeping in contact with the lead Lockheed Hudson, but the group still maintained formation even though they couldn't see more than the aircraft directly in front of them. When the group approached the coast of Norway the weather improved. The cruising speed was as low as 150 kts (240 km/h) because of the flying boat. After 2.5 hrs they crossed the coast close to Stavanger. It took two hours to cross the North Sea. When the lead Hudson didn't give the disengagement signal (wing rock) and kept flying back and forth south and north of Stavanger, the group disengaged themselves and landed at Sola airfield. They had been ordered to keep strict radio silence when leaving from Wick. The radio was to be used only during emergencies.

The weather got worse at Stavanger and in the mountains so that the Finnish group had to wait until February 29 to continue to Västerås, Sweden. They left before noon, but when they got over Oslo Sgt. Aikala reported that he wouldn't have enough fuel to make it to Västerås. The group made a refueling stop at Forneby and continued on an hour later. After one hour they were over Västerås. The runways were covered with hard ice and landing was no problem. During the taxi Ensign Kaukovaara's Hurricane (HU-455) hit a soft spot and nosed over and as a result the propeller was bent. There were no spare parts and because there were a lot of Finnish pilots and technical personnel at Västerås assembling the Italian Fiat G.50 fighters, the Hurricane group decided to stay there for a week. During that time the Hurricanes were modified with an engine carburetor heater. The group would fly to Finland on the 7th of March and by that time the second Hurricane group would be there with them.

The second group over the North Sea

The second group was now ready at St. Athan. The pilots were: Ensigns Taskinen (HU-461), Alitalo (HU-457), Myllylä (HU-456), Mustonen (HU-453), Sergeants Karhumäki (HU-460) and Laitinen (HU-42). Lt. Räty had ordered Ensign Taskinen to be the leader of the second group and Sergeant Karhumäki to be the backup since he already had years of flying experience. The second group went to Gloster's Brockworth factory on the 26th of February. The fighters were being painted when they arrived. HU-460 was getting the blue Finnish Air Force swastika. Late that day the fighters were flown to St. Athan. During the next two days the aircraft were checked with the RAF maintainers, the machine guns aligned, radios tested and everything prepared for the ferry flight.

Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-02.jpg
Finnish Hurricane HU-460 after acceptance at St. Athan RAF base in the UK. The ferry flight to Finland is about to begin. The pilot is Sergeant Uuno Karhumäki.

The same Blenheim escorted the second group of Finnish Hurricanes from St. Athan on the 29th of February. The group flew to Prestwick in poor weather conditions. From there they flew to Wick via Grangemouth. During landing at Wick the right main gear of ensign Taskinen's HU-461 collapsed and he had to stay at Wick until the aircraft could be repaired, (after which he flew to Finland in company with the RAF Volunteer Squadron that left in early March 1940). The weather was reported to be good on the way to Stavanger on the morning of the 1st of March 1940. Two Lockheed Hudsons with long-range navigation gear were escorting the Hurricanes with the Sunderland flying boat. The weather forecast tuned out to be totally wrong, when the cloud base started to drop after some 30 min flight time. The group descended to 50 - 100 m (170 - 300 ft) over the waves in February rain over the North Sea. Half way to Norway the weather continued to get worse and the aircraft were only a few meters over the waves. The trailing Sunderland had been lost in the rain a while ago together with the other Hudson. The Hurricanes followed the lead Hudson and tightened the formation.

After two hours of flying they spotted some islands and crossed the coastline. The Hudson kept a southerly heading between the islands and then turned north. When it did this twice the Hurricane leader realized that they were lost. Since the Hurricanes were getting low on fuel they disengaged from the Hudson and flew between the islands finally finding Sola airfield. The cloud base was at 30 m (100ft) and the only way to get to Sola was between two mountains. In a couple of minutes the Hurricanes flew through the mountain pass to the airfield and landed almost simultaneously on the crossing runways. During landing they realized that they were missing one Hurricane, Sgt. Laitinen's HU-462.

The lost Hurricane, HU-462

The flight from Wick to Stavanger had taken 3 h 10 min (45 min more than the first group's flight). The cruising speed was slow due to the flying boat. When the innermost aircraft in the formation had to reduce speed even further during turns Sgt. Laitinen had lost contact with the group flying furthest to the right in the extremely poor weather. He had entered the clouds without nobody noticing it. Only two hours after the landing at Stavanger did the group hear that an aircraft had crashed on the island of Eigeroy 60 km (45 mi.) south of Stavanger. The pilot had been taken unconscious to the nearby Egersund hospital.

Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-03.jpg
Sgt. Laitinen's Hurricane, HU-462 at Eigeroy island 60 km south of Stavanger - 1

Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-04.jpg
Sgt. Laitinen's Hurricane, HU-462 at Eigeroy island 60 km south of Stavanger - 2

The rest of the group traveled to Egersund on the next day. The pilot was recovering in the hospital. The Hurricane was destroyed. The group returned to Stavanger, where some RAF pilots were trying to land three Finnish Air Force Westland Lysanders in poor weather. They didn't make it to Sola and landed on rocky fields close to the airfield. One Lysander (LY-124) was destroyed during landing at Buoy Island. The remaining two RAF pilots suggested that they would join the Finnish Hurricane group on their way to Västerås, Sweden. The Lysander pilots preferred to circle the mountains to Oslo, but the Finns planned to cross the mountains and cut the leg by a third. Finally the Lysander pilots agreed and they decided to join the formation.

The combined group took off on the 6th of March and refueled at Oslo. The whole group made it to Västerås the same day and now the Hurricane group was together, only Taskinen and Laitinen were missing. HU-462 was disassembled in Norway and the parts were sent to Finland as spares. When the first group landed at Västerås Hässlö airfield on the 29th of February, three British Hurricane technicians arrived there. They straightened the propeller of HU-455. After this 3/4 of the Hurricanes delivered to the Finnish Air Force were ready at Västerås to be ferried to Finland. The permission for the ferry flight was given only after the spare parts had arrived in Finland. On the 7th of March the green light was given and the first group took off in the morning. They could make it only to north of Stockholm, when the weather turned sour and they had to return to Hässlö airfield. In the afternoon they tried again and this time they succeeded in ferrying the aircraft to the Morane fighter base on a frozen lake at Säkylä.

Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-06.jpg
Ensign Kaukovaara's Hurricane HU-455 at at Säkylä lake base after the ferry flight from Västerås on the 7th of March 1940.

Detachment Räty's later actions

Detachment Räty was initially based at Säkylä with Squadron 28 supporting the air defence of Turku (Åbo) with the Morane fighters. With the arrival of the RAF Volunteer Squadron commanded by Squadron Leader James Bigglesworth later in March, also flying Hawker Hurricanes, the fighters were grouped together into a single Squadron and assigned to provide fighter cover over the Karelian Isthmus from an airbase near Viipuri, from where they saw extensive combat up until the end of the Winter War in September 1940. Three British Hurricane technicians travelled to Finland to assist the Ilmavoimat service and maintain the aircraft. Of those Mr. Galpin (photo at Artukainen airfield outside Turku) and Mr. Martin trained the Finnish groundcrew in maintaining the Hurricanes and the weapons.

Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-05.jpg
Mr. Galpin at at Artukainen airfield outside Turku

Finland bought 12 Hurricane I planes from England. It has occasionally been suggested that they were a gift, but all accounts point to the fact that the Finns paid hard cash for the aircraft, buying them from the Gloster factory. Gloster was a subsidiary of Hawker at the time. Of the 12 Hurricanes, five were lost, three in aerial combat and two to AA fire, with 4 pilots lost. The survivors were taken out of service in May 1944 as lend-lease aircraft flooded into Finland from the United States and Britain. Finnish Air Force Hurricanes did not actually enjoy very much success in combat in Finland, recording only 25.5 kills in action. The Hurricane, one of the heroes of the Battle of Britain, was outshone by the American Brewster Buffalo. Deemed a failure in the U.S., in the hands of Finnish pilots these planes shot down over 450 enemy aircraft for the loss of only fifteen of their own over the last six months of the Winter War.

To give some idea of the support that was given to Finland relative to that later given to the USSR, following the involuntary entry of the Soviet Union into the war fighting the same enemy as the Allies, the Soviet Air Force received a total of 2,952 Hurricanes of various types under lend-lease agreements. The disparity did not go unnoticed by the Finns.

Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... ricane.jpg
Suomen ilmavoimien Hawker Hurricane Helsingissä / A Finnish Hurricane from WWII in Helsinki

Next Post: Assistance from Britain continued…….
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 19 Mar 2012 17:39

A minor amendment to a section of the previous Post on the Hurricanes: should read

"Finland bought 12 Hurricane I planes from England at a cost of 9,750 British pounds each (approximately USD$50-60,000 at the then exchange rates – comparable pricing to the Curtiss Hawk or Bufflao Brewster but twice the cost of the MS-406). It has occasionally been suggested that they were a gift, but all accounts point to the fact that the Finns paid hard cash for the aircraft, buying them from the Gloster factory. Gloster was a subsidiary of Hawker at the time. Finland had wanted to buy 36 Hurricanes but Britain was more intent on production for the RAF and limited the numbers sold to Finland to 12. Of the 12 Hurricanes, five were lost, three in aerial combat and two to AA fire, with 4 pilots lost. The survivors were taken out of service in May 1944 as lend-lease aircraft flooded into Finland from the United States. Finnish Air Force Hurricanes did not actually enjoy very much success in combat in Finland, recording only 25.5 kills in action. The Hurricane, one of the heroes of the Battle of Britain, was outshone by the American Brewster Buffalo. Deemed a failure in the U.S., in the hands of Finnish pilots these planes shot down over 450 enemy aircraft for the loss of only fifteen of their own over the last six months of the Winter War."
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

British Assistance continued.....

Post by CanKiwi2 » 19 Mar 2012 19:26

Assistance from Britain continued…….

The British Volunteer Squadron

Finland would however receive the 36 Hurricanes that had been asked for towards the end of March. In addition to selling Blenheims, Hurricanes, Blackburn Roc’s and Hawker Henley’s to Finland, the Air Ministry (under political pressure it must be said) searched for additional ways by which Finland could be assisted in a way that would not result in any major impact on Britain’s ongoing defence buildup. The action that was settled on was the immediate dispatch of a full Squadron of RAF Volunteers. As a consequence of this decision, in mid-March 1940, the Air Ministry asked a noted Auxiliary Air Force pilot with extensive combat and leadership experience dating back to WW1, Squadron Leader James Bigglesworth, to from and lead this squadron of volunteers to fight in Finland."Biggles", as he was generally known to his friends, was well known in RAF circles and to the UK public as a noted fighter pilot from WW1, largely due to a series of books about his exploits written by his biographer, Capt. W. E. Johns (himself a former RFC Pilot and WW1 veteran). He accepted the request with remarkable enthusiasm.

Photo sourced from: http://www.biggles.info/index_files/image001.jpg
Born in India in May 1899, the son of an administrator in the Indian Civil Service and his wife (née Lacey), James was the younger of two sons. The young James had little contact with British culture, and commenced a lifelong affection for India, befriending the local Indian boys, exploring the countryside and learning to speak fluent Hindi. He retained a lifetime gift for languages, and as an adult spoke French and German fluently, with a "fair command" of various other languages. He had attended Malton Hall School in Hertbury, England but had left school in 1916 and joined the army as a subaltern in the Rifle Regiment (having conveniently “lost” his birth certificate). He transferred to the RFC and learned to fly in the summer of 1916, at No. 17 Flying Training School, which was at Settling, Norfolk, flying solo after two hours of instruction. He then attended No. 4 'School of Fighting' in Frensham, Lincolnshire. Posted to France with just 15 hours solo, he first flew in combat in September 1916 with 169 Squadron, RFC, (commanded by a Major Paynter). In late summer 1917, he was transferred to 266 Squadron RFC, commanded by a Dubliner, Major Mullen. With 266 Squadron, Biggles flew the Sopwith Pup and then the famed Sopwith Camel. He claimed at least 32 kills, and was shot down or crash-landed eight times. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross and bar. Between the wars Biggles, like many other WW1 pilots, worked as a freelance charter pilot and at times as an agent for British Intelligence.

Photo sourced from: http://www.biggles.info/index_files/image018.jpg
While had had first flown in 1916, Biggles was no stranger to modern air warfare, even at the age of 40. Like many of the Ilmavoimat pilots with whom he would fly, Biggles and some members of his Squadron had gained experience fighting in the Spanish Civil War, an episode in his life that was chronicled less than faithfully by his biographer, Capt. W. E. Johns. Working for British Intelligence, Biggles and a number of colleagues had actually flown and fought on the Nationalist side of the Spanish Civil War, in the process gaining much information for the RAF on German, Italian and Russian aircraft and air combat techniques. In doing so, they had also met and socialized at times with the Finnish volunteer pilots alomgside whom they would late fly and fight in the Winter War.

In late March 1940, “Biggles” put together a squadron of pilots and groundcrew from RAF volunteers. The mission was initially kept “top secret” owing to the delicate political situation with Russia at that time. After the men had had the nature of the mission explained to them, they were asked to resign from the RAF after which they were told to report to the RAF base at St. Athan, the same RAF base from which the Finnish pilots had recently flown out from. “You will be provided with civilian clothing which you will take on leave with you today. In two days time you will travel to RAF St. Athan with the provided rail warrants. You will carry nothing, I repeat nothing that will connect you to the RAF. Leave your identity disks here; from now on you are civilians. Are there any questions"? ...“Good”. Then “I’m sorry the details are sketchy, but this is, I stress, top secret and you must not discuss it with anyone…” Meeting up in St. Athan, the 24 Pilots who had been selected (including Biggles himself) were given two days to familiarize themselves with their brand new straight-from-the-factory Hurricanes, after which they flew the Scotland-Norway-Sweden-Finland route over a period of a week.

The ground crew were ferried across the North Sea to Norway in a series of flights by Sunderland flying boat, after which they travelled by Rail in sealed carriages through Norway and Sweden to Finland, eventually linking up with the Hurricanes at Turku, where they would spend four weeks conducting familiarization training and having the Finnish Nokia radios installed in place of the RAF radios. In early May, the British pilots and aircraft were assigned to the airbase outside Viipuri, where they were joined by the Hurricanes flown by Detachment Räty and grouped into a single large Squadron. Under the leadership of Squadron Leader Bigglesworth (“Biggles”), the RAF pilots quickly adapted to the Finnish air combat tactics, as well as to the “Finger Four” formation used by the Ilmavoimat.

The combination of a tightly knit and highly skilled group of RAF pilots, many of whom, such as Biggles himself, already possessed considerable combat experience, together with the adequate performance of the Hurricanes as a fighter led to some spectacular successes against the Soviet Air Force as well as to some incongruous notes. Such as Hurricanes and (Spanish) Me109’s fighting side by side against the Soviet Air Force even as the aircraft fought each other over France. The RAF pilots lost very few of their number, 5 pilots from 24, with 2 of these lost to accidents in the extreme winter weather and only 3 shot down. In return, the 24 RAF pilots accounted for some 120 confirmed kills and a further 50 odd probables. Following the end of the Winter War, the surviving RAF volunteers would returned to fight in the UK.

Photo sourced from: http://www.biggles.info/index_files/image020.jpg
Bigglesworth’s biographer, WE Johns, gives a misleading account of this period in Biggles’ life in “Biggles in the Baltic.” Published as the book was in 1942, the British Government did not desire to broadcast the fact that British forces had actually fought against the USSR – by the time the book was published the USSR was an ally in the war against Nazi Germany.

Half the Hurricanes of the British Volunteer Squadron en-route to Scotland: They were repainted with the Ilmavoimat insignia after arrival in Norway.

Next: The Blackburn Roc’s
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 20 Mar 2012 20:40

Blackburn Roc’s for Finland

The Blackburn Roc was a development of the Blackburn Skua Fighter/Dive Bomber, with the most major difference being that it was intended as a fighter and fitted with a rotating electrically driven rear turret mounting four .303 Browning machine-guns (but with no forward firing guns). Its role was seen as that of a fighter but the extra weight of the turret made it even slower than the Skua and it could not catch anything but the slowest of German sea planes. The production of the Roc was undertaken for Blackburn by the Boulton-Paul factory on the outskirts of Wolverhampton (Boulton Paul were also the designers and manufacturers of the turret). The gunner did not wear his parachute when manning the guns (unlike in the Defiant where a special slimline "parasuit" with built-in parachute was worn by the gunner) - instead his parachute was stowed on the side of the fuselage from where he would clip it on before exiting through the floor hatch. The first production Roc (there were no specially built prototypes) flew on 23rd December 1938. At the time Boulton Paul were producing the Roc their own turret armed design, the Boulton Paul Defiant, had first flown a year and a half earlier amd was 100 miles per hour faster! Defiant production was underway from July 1939 and Rocs and Defiants were produced from the same factory for a year, with the last Roc being delivered in August 1940 (136 Rocs in all were produced).

In early 1940 it was decided to give a large part of the final production run (33 aircraft was the number decided on) to Finland – and on 27 February 1930 the Finns accepted the offer. By the end of March 1940, the Rocs had been manufactured, painted in Ilmavoimat winter camouflage and with Ilmavoimat insignia and had begun to be collected together in Scotland prepatory for the delivery flight. Ilmavoimat ferry pilots were flown to the UK in the last week of March and after a couple of days familiarization, began to fly the now almost routine ferry flight from Scotland to Norway, then on to Sweden and finally to Finland, with flights of four Roc’s at a time making the trip (the first four were number RO-141 ... 144). The Ilmavoimat took one look at the Roc’s with their poor maximum speed and just as promptly dispatched them to the Karhumäki plant at Tampere for modifications. At the Karhumäki plant, the heavy turret was stripped out, the significantly reduced weight resulting in improved performance, two rear-firing machineguns fitted and six forward firing machineguns retrofitted. Nokia radios were also fitted. The end result was a conversion of the Roc from a poorly performing fighter into a reasonable dive-bomber with performance on a par with that of the Skua.

Entering service with the Ilmavoimat in May 1940, the Roc's performance as a dive bomber was good, comparable to the Skua in fact, and if it made its getaway flying just above the ground or sea it was a difficult target for enemy fighters to engage, as was the Skua. The modified Roc’s outfitted one squadron, with the remainder being used to replace losses sustained in the two existing Skua Dive-Bomber squadrons. With the Ilmavoimat fighter squadrons generally providing local air superiority, the Roc’s, Skuas and other Ilmavoimat dive-bomber and ground attack aircraft were more often than not able to wreak havoc on their objectives.

(As an incidental note, the rear gun turrets from the 33 Roc’s delivered to Finland were fitted to Merivoimat Patrol Boats that were under construction – a number of these boats were equipped with four gun turrets each, giving them additional AA firepower).

Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... rn_Roc.jpg
The Blackburn Roc differed from the Skua in having dihedral on the wings, doing away with the Skua's upturned wing tips. It carried no wing guns. It could be fitted with a "universal carrier" under each wing along with "light series carrier" bomb racks for light or practice bombs. The loads that each universal carrier could carry were listed in the pilots notes as either a 250 lb "B" or Semi-Armour Piercing (S.A.P.) bomb or a 100 lb Anti-submarine (A.S.) bomb or a bomb container. It was cleared for dive-bombing up to angles of 70 degrees.

The thinking behind the Roc's design was heavily influenced by the Royal Navy's belief that the fleet at sea would be able to defend itself from air attack by anti-aircraft (AA) fire. The Royal Navy invested a considerable amount of money and ships in this policy; building and converting a whole range of "anti-aircraft cruisers" that were designed to put up an impenetrable barrage of AA. Foremost amongst the weapons deployed by the navy were the 2 pounder "pom-poms" and heavy calibre Vickers machine guns. Both were usually fitted in multiple mounts - and to be fair to the navy anyone seeing an eight barrelled pom-pom firing would be easily convinced that no aircraft within range could possibly survive. It was considered that defending fighters would simply get in the way of the AA barrage, and that to turn an aircraft carrier into the wind and steer a straight course to launch fighters when enemy bombers were attacking would make the carrier extremely vulnerable. Of course a "fleet shadowing" aircraft could stay outside the range of the AA barrage and radio back the fleet's position to the enemy, and it was to destroy this kind of aircraft that the Roc was designed (and indeed it was for that purpose they were used off Norway in 1940). You could regard it as a kind of flying machine gun post, flying around the fleet to extend the range of the AA barrage and acting as a sort of flying piquet to warn of approaching enemy aircraft. It could also be used to escort a torpedo bomber strike against an enemy fleet, staying alongside the torpedo bombers as they went in for the attack

Late March 1940: Formation of Blackburn Roc’s enroute from the Boulton Paul factory to Scotland, where the RAF roundels were overpainted with Ilmavoimat insignia. Note the wide difference in the type of fuselage and wing roundels. Also note that the second aircraft has a reflector gunsight and there is a gun camera mounted near the wing root. All the aircraft carry bomb racks. It seems to have been common for the front sliding portion of the cockpit to be removed altogether (as in the 4th aircraft and the photo below). The fairing aft of the turret and the section of cockpit "greenhouse" between the pilot and turret were raised and lowered automatically to allow the turret to be rotated without obstruction, hence the difference in profile between some of the aircraft. The wireless aerial also "bent" with the retracting greenhouse section.

There has been some controversy about the range of the Roc. Many books and on-line guides quote a figure of 810 miles, but this is an impossible figure for the standard Roc. The Skua had a range of some 760 miles, this was provided by fuel tanks with a combined capacity of 163 imperial gallons, this was made up of a 39 gallon tank in front of the cockpit and two side-by side tanks of 62 gallons each between the pilot and gunner position. The Roc carried only 117 gallons of fuel, this was provided by the same 39 gallon tank as the Skua in front of the cockpit but only a single, albeit slightly larger, tank of 78 gallons behind the pilot. The extra space between the pilot and gunner was largely taken up by the radio equipment which had to be placed here to keep the balance of the aircraft within acceptable levels (on the Skua the radio equipment was carried just aft of the gunners position). There was just enough room to allow the gunner to use the escape hatch in the floor of the fuselage.

Space inside the Roc was at such a premium that there was apparently nowhere left to fit an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) set, which must have limited it's combat use somewhat! So it is impossible to see how the standard Roc could have had a longer range than the Skua while carrying considerably less fuel and also weighing more and having the extra drag of the turret. However, a bulged "belly tank" of some 70 gallons capacity was fitted to at least one Roc and it would seem likely that it was the fitting of this that gave rise to the often-quoted figure of 810 miles range. However, this belly tank was by no means a standard fitting and it is not mentioned at all in the Roc pilot's notes. It seems likely this belly tank was only produced in prototype form following complaints about endurance from the squadrons using the Roc for defensive patrols around the naval base at Scapa Flow (see combat history below).

Photo sourced from an article by Carl-Fredrik Geust (Miinoja Kronstadtiin – pommeja Turkuun Suomen ilmavoimat välirauhan aikana)
Blackburn Rocs at Dyce, Scotland.The insignia markings were applied at the factory but covered over for the delivery flight. One snippet noted in a late 1950's early 1960's 'Airfix Magazine'letters page from a person who was at Dyce in 1940 notes that the aircrafts markings were covered over by pasted on paper sheet or linen patch through which the Finnish markings could be seen. A close look at the photo reveals that there appears to be two differing colour schemes carried by the Finnish Blackburn Roc. As far as is known, this is the only (OTL) existing photograph of a Finnish Blackburn Roc.

On delivery in Finland, with the removal of the rear gun turret and consequent reduction in weight, the radios were installed aft of the rear gunner as per the Skua, and additional fuel tanks were installed between the pilot and the rear gunner. The Ilmavoimat Roc’s had approximately the same range as the Ilmavoimat Skuas.

OTL Note: In reality, the Blackburn Rocs had been painted, were ready for delivery and had begun to been collected together in Scotland for the flight to Finland in mid-March 1940. The end of the "Winter War" saw delivery stopped.

Next Post: The First British Volunteer Unit: The Atholl Highlanders

Photo sourced from: http://ww2today.com/wp-content/uploads/ ... 00x400.jpg
Men of the Atholl Highlanders on the Karelian Isthmus – Rear Lines – February 1940: By Maavoimat standards, the Atholl Highlanders were not well-trained or well-equipped for winter warfare under Finnish conditions and as a result, they would initially man rear line fallback positions along the Mannerheim Line during the heavy fighting of February 1940. In Spring, both the British Volunteer battalions, the Atholl Highlanders and the later arriving 5th Battalion (Special Reserve), Scots Guards, would take part in the Karelian Isthmus offensive and see heavy fighting in mopping up bypassed Red Army units. They would later fight in Eastern Karelia. Once Maavoimat training had been completed, the men of both Battalions proved to be excellent soldiers, well led, courageous and aggressive. Many of the officers and men from both Battalions would go on to serve in British Special Forces formations (perhaps most notably, Orde Wingate, commander of the Atholl Highlanders who would go on to found the Chindits and David Stirling from the 5th Battalion Scots Guards, who would go on to found the Special Air Service – the SAS).
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

The origins and formation of the Atholl Highlanders

Post by CanKiwi2 » 22 Mar 2012 19:56

The First British Volunteer Unit: The Atholl Highlanders

On 20th February 1940, a group of 250 volunteers left London for Finland in order to take part in a war that embodied all the anomalies brought about by the Soviet-Nazi Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. These men were the first of four parties of roughly equal size sent to Finland under the auspices of the Finnish Aid Bureau, a recruitment agency set up with British government sanction at the end of January to assist the Finns in their war with the Soviet Union. The rationale for this expedition, as expounded in War Cabinet meetings in the first weeks of 1940, tells us much about the problems that confronted British decision-makers in this period known as the “Phoney War”, not least the perplexing question of how to best manage the relationship with the Soviet Union given their alliance with Nazi Germany. The volunteers themselves provide a rare and interesting example of a large and organized group of British citizens volunteering for a foreign war with an explicit government imprimatur.

The Russo-Finnish War, what now generally call the Winter War, began with a broad Soviet attack along the Finnish frontier on 30 November 1939. This had been preceded by weeks of fruitless negotiations as the Soviets sought a number of territorial concessions to ostensibly protect the Gulf of Finland, safeguard Leningrad and secure Murmansk. The attack on Finland by the USSR generated a great deal of animosity towards the USSR world-wide, even among many (but we must admit, not all) of those who had been blind to the true nature of that totalitarian regime. By mid-March 1940, a further three contingents had left London at roughly one week intervals and were at Lapua, the mustering point for international volunteers in the south-west of Finland, where they were formed up into a single Battalion, the “Atholl Highlanders,” and where they had begun an intensive period of Maavoimat training that would last for some six weeks.

The Atholl Highlanders had their origins in a Cabinet meeting on 4 January, 1940, where the Lord Privy Seal Sir Samuel Hoare raised the possibility of sending volunteers to Finland. Sir Samuel’s comments were a new departure. “Italy and Germany had shown in Spain how the technique of non-intervention could be exploited as a serious military operation”, the minutes of that meeting record. “[Sir Samuel] suggested we should examine the possibility of giving assistance on the Spanish precedent, but with the difference that personnel sent to Finland should be true volunteers, even if recruited from the serving ranks of the Regular Forces”. This invocation of the ‘Spanish precedent’ is significant, and a studiedly anodyne tone does not conceal the sophistry at work. The reference to the ‘technique of non-intervention’ encapsulates just how little regard the major powers had for reputed agreements of the international community, League-inspired or otherwise. The blatant foreign interference in the Spanish Civil War had made such agreements contemptible and now, far from being a standard of conduct, non-intervention was a ‘technique’, a tool to be wielded for advantage.

But for the War Cabinet there were broader concerns. The strategic conundrum of the moment was how to take advantage of the USSR’s attack on Finland: Britain could not be sure into whose arms the Scandinavians were going to jump, if they jumped at all. To this end the War Cabinet was considering pre-emptive action in Norway and Sweden to secure British interests, and deliberations on this point occurred almost concurrently with those concerning the recruitment of volunteers for Finland. Indeed, they intersected in the grander of two schemes to neutralise Scandinavia. In one more modest version of the plan, for which Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty was a vociferous if occasionally blinkered advocate, the Navy would move to block access to the Norwegian port of Narvik, and so stem the flow of Swedish iron-ore to Germany. Norwegian waters would be mined, Norwegian shipping chartered, and neutral shipping controlled by charter or convoy. A second, more ambitious plan involved sending an expeditionary force to Finland on the pretext of helping the Finns, but with the ultimate object of occupying the iron ore fields at Kiruna and Gällivare. The British War Cabinet, then, was in no way averse to intervention – it was more a question of what form intervention would take and what advantage Britain could gain in the war against Nazi Germany. Finland itself was incidental.

The War Cabinet agreed in principle with Sir Samuel’s suggestion but despite the strategic situation and the favourable tenor of public opinion, weeks of prevarication followed. To start with, there was no broad agreement on the shape or character of the pondered contingent. When Sir Samuel first raised the question of volunteers, both he and Chamberlain had stressed the need for a clear policy on just who could volunteer. Was the contingent to be comprised of civilians or current members of the armed forces or both? There were concerns that individuals with any connection to the armed forces – reservists, for example – would come ‘dangerously close’ to breaching Britain’s purported non-intervention. Though he supported the dispatch of “small bodies of experts”, the Secretary of State for War, Leslie Hore-Belisha, was ‘reluctant’ to see volunteers recruited on a ‘considerable scale’. The Secretary of State for Air, Kingsley Wood, felt it necessary that Norway and Sweden agree to the passage of volunteers through their territory although the Finns had already advised that volunteers could be shipped through Lyngenfjiord or Petsamo and advised that Norway had already agreed to the discreet use of Lyngenfjiord.

There was also unease about the quality of individuals to be sent; an issue already hinted at when the Chief of Air Service reviewed a list of individuals who had applied to join the Finnish Air Force. The Air Chief had reported to the Finns that one of these men, alarmingly, “had been in closest contact with the Russian Air Attaché”, and a number of other applicants “were of very doubtful quality, who were likely to do no good to the Finnish cause, and in addition bring nothing but discredit upon this country”. Even if it was not baldly stated, this air of irresolution confirmed that the volunteers for Finland would represent little more than a token gesture of solidarity and a move to assuage the strong public demand for visible support for Finland that was being expressed both in the Press and to MP’s and Cabinet Ministers. Indeed, minutes from a meeting on 12 January 1940 speak of the “good moral effect” of British volunteers regardless of their number, and the desirability of sending a “token force”. This was scarcely the language of military success and in fact completely at odds with the situation in Finland and the desires of the Finnish military command, who were asking for a force of a similar size to the Polish contingent (or even only the equivalent in size of the Spanish, Hungarian or Italian units that were either in Finland or on their way – each the equivalent of a single Division).

Brigadier Ling, the British General Staff Officer sent to assess the Finns’ military position, reported to the War Cabinet that the Finns spoke of needing up to 30,000 volunteers to hold the country, and that the Finnish Commander-in-Chief Marshal Mannerheim expressed the hope that any British volunteers, whilst “ostensibly” private individuals acting on their own initiative, would actually be members of the British armed forces. Ling himself thought it pointless to send volunteers, as they would be unaccustomed to the extremes of the Finnish winter and untrained in winter warfare, and so would prove more of a hindrance than an asset. The Military Co-ordination Committee did in fact discuss Mannerheim’s request for a large body of men to be ready at the start of the northern summer, though these discussions should be seen in light of the continuing deliberations over a Scandinavian expedition. It was reasoned that such a large force could not be raised unofficially: it would have to be a ‘properly organised expedition, even though this might involve general hostilities with Russia’. The General Staff was asked to draw up “a complete scheme for effective intervention in Finland, bearing in mind other British concerns in the region”, namely the uncertainty over Swedish sympathies and the fate of Swedish iron ore. This all took place in mid-January 1940.

In the meantime, public opinion in Britain was beginning to roil. Demands for action in the Press became more vocal and more persistent. The dispatch of small numbers of aircraft did nothing to relieve the pressure and meanwhile, the War Cabinet continued to discuss various ways of incorporating military action in support of Finland with wider plans for intervention in Scandinavia. There were constant hindrances: it was reasoned that Britain had to be formally asked for help by the Finns - something that the Finns refused to do. As the Finnish Government consistently advised the British Government, the same agreements and methods of transit which had permitted Spanish, Hungarian and Polish Divisions to arrive in Finland could be used to ensure the safe arrival of British units in Divisional strength. However, for ulterior reasons (the reasons for which we have seen and of which Finnish Intelligence was well aware) the British continued to ask for unfettered and unconditional passage through Norwegian and Swedish territory. Notes prepared for the meeting of the Supreme War Council to take place in early February are very clear: :British War Cabinet [is] very sympathetic with the idea of aid to Finland and of intervention in Scandinavia”. However, political considerations and public expectations meant that Britain HAD to do something.

On the 12th of February 1940, with news of major Finnish defensive victories over the Red Army on the Karelian Isthmus filling the front pages of the Press, the British War Cabinet made what was to be a momentous decision with far-reaching consequences. Brigadier Ling was to lead an Allied Military Mission to Finland, for the purposes of arranging the ongoing supply of military equipment from France and Britain to Finland. In parallel, Lt-Col. Colin Gubbins was summoned from Paris, where he was head of a military mission to the Czech and Polish forces under French command and was assigned the task of raising and organizing a single Battalion of volunteers, selecting and appointing a CO and officers and dispatching the Battalion to Finland.

Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... ubbins.jpg
Lt-Col. Colin Mcveigh Gubbins: Gubbins (b. Tokyo, Japan on July 2nd, 1896 - d. Stornoway, UK, 11 Feb 1976) was the younger son and third child of John Harington Gubbins (1852–1929), Oriental Secretary at the British Legation. He was educated at Cheltenham College and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in 1914 and served as a battery officer on the Western Front, where he was wounded, and was awarded the Military Cross. In 1919 he joined the staff of General Sir Edmund Ironside in the North Russia Campaign. His experiences in the Russian Civil War and his subsequent experience during the Anglo-Irish War stimulated his lifelong interest in irregular warfare. After a period with signals intelligence at GHQ India, Gubbins graduated from the Staff College at Quetta in 1928, and in 1931 was appointed GSO3 in the Russian section of the War Office. Having been promoted to Brevet Major, in 1935 he joined MT1, the policy making branch of the military training directorate.

In October 1938, in the aftermath of the Munich Agreement, he was sent to the Sudetenland as a military member of the International Commission. Promoted to Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, he joined G(R) — later to become MI(R) — in April 1939, where he prepared training manuals on irregular warfare, which were later translated and dropped into occupied Europe. He also made a visit to Warsaw to discuss sabotage and subversion with the Polish General Staff. When British forces were mobilized in August 1939, Gubbins was appointed Chief of Staff to the military mission to Poland led by Adrian Carton de Wiart. He was among the first to report on the effectiveness of the German Panzer tactics. In October 1939, following his return to Britain, Gubbins was sent to Paris as the head of a military mission to the Czech and Polish forces under French command. Gubbins was summoned from France in February 1940 to raise a Volunteer Battalion (the Atholl Highlanders) to serve in Finland, immediately following this he was tasked with raising a further Army Battalion (the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards, Special Reserve) to also fight in Finland. He would then be responsible for the creating of the "Independent Companies" — forerunners of the British Commandos — which he would command in the Norwegian Campaign (April 9 – June 10, 1940). Although criticized in some quarters for having asked too much of untried troops, he showed himself to be a bold and resourceful commander, and was awarded the DSO.

In November 1940 Gubbins became acting Brigadier and, at the request of Hugh Dalton, minister of Economic Warfare, was seconded to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which had recently been established to "coordinate all action by way of sabotage and subversion against the enemy overseas". Besides maintaining his existing connections with the Poles and Czechs, Gubbins was given three tasks: to set up training facilities; to devise operating procedures acceptable to the Admiralty and Air Ministry; and to establish close working relations with the Joint Planning Staff. Despite many frustrations and disappointments, mainly due to shortage of aircraft, he persevered with training organizers and dispatching them into the field. The first liaison flight to Poland took place in February 1941, and during 1942 and 1943 European resistance movements aided by SOE scored notable successes, including a raid on a heavy water production plant in Norway. In September 1943 Gubbins was appointed as head of SOE where he co-ordinated the activities of resistance movements worldwide. It involved consultation at the highest level with the Foreign Office, the Chiefs of Staff, representatives of the resistance organizations, governments-in-exile, and other Allied agencies including particularly the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and from mid-1943 on, the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Suojelupoliisi, usually abbreviated as SUPO, in Swedish: Skyddspolisen). It turned out that the organized resistance was more effective than Whitehall had expected; in northwest Europe, where SOE's activities were under Gubbins's personal control, General Dwight D. Eisenhower later estimated that the contribution of the French Resistance alone had been worth six divisions while in Poland the Polish Home Army had 400,000 members.

In an interesting footnote to the involvement of Colin Gubbins and the 2 British Volunteer Battalions in the Winter War in Finland, it was Gubbins and some of the men from these two Battalions who would be instrumental in the creation of all the now well-known British Special Forces units of WW2. Colin Gubbins was the leader of several secret organisations. He signed his orders “M” — he could not use “C” as this had been taken by the leader of the British SIS and “G” was in common use by the British Army. Gubbins was a Scot from the Western Isles and his middle name was Mcveigh so he used “M”, which was copied by Ian Fleming (Peter Fleming’s brother) for the head man in the James Bond books. In another interesting footnote, the 5th Battalion Scots Guards led assistant adjutant was the veteran Polar explorer Martin Lindsay. Lindsay would much later marry Loelia Ponsonby (after whom Ian Fleming named James Bonds delectable secretary) and one of the colour sergeants in the 5th would in time lead Ian Flemings Commandoes (30 Assault Unit). He was a stocky fair haired explorer called Quintin Riley, who had been with Lindsay on the British Arctic Air Route expedition of 1930-1 and been the meterologoist on the British Graham Land Expedition to Antarctica of 1933-7 (A British Army regular NCO was puzzled by Rileys Polar Meda with Antarctic Clasp – How can you get a medal for playing Polo? he asked).

Officers and NCO’s from the special units Colin Gubbins created – the Atholl Highlanders, 5th Battalion Scots Guards, the Independent Companies and the GHQ Auxilary Units – would go on to found and lead the British Commandoes, the Special Air Service (SAS), the Special Boat Squadron in the Mediterranean, the Chindits (Burma) and the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) as well as smaller and even more specialized units such as Ian Fleming’s 30 Assault Unit. Even the OSS had its early active service origins in these units – after Norway, Gubbins was directed by General Headquarters Home Forces to form the Auxiliary Units, a civilian force to operate behind German lines if Britain were invaded and a special training school was established with its Headquarters at Arisaig House (“the Big House”) in Scotland. The Commandos started their life there before they were transferred to the Training School at Achnacarry and all modern close quarter combat and guerrilla warfare tactics and methods stem from the training that was laid down here. It was actually Bill Stirling’s idea to start the Irregular Warfare Training Centre to train guerrilla leaders. Lord Lovat requisitioned the whole area from Fort William to Mallaig. Gubbins got on to General Ironside, the GOC in C Home Forces and the formation of the Irregular Warfare Training Centre was authorised on 2nd June 1940.

The first courses were about 30 strong and consisted of Officers and Sergeants. They lasted three weeks and anybody who didn’t come up to scratch was returned to unit immediately. Later, the school also ran a 30 day course for assault troops which was a precursor to the Battle Schools that were formed later in the war. David Stirling (who eventually formed the SAS) and Fitzroy MacLean, who joined David in the SAS and then went to Yugoslavia to help Tito in the Balkans, both attended the first course. MacLean attended the course in plain clothes (because he was not yet in the Army, he was still in the Foreign Office). What were the courses like? First of all the staff and the instructors. The Commanding Officer was Bryan Mayfield of the Scots Guards, the Chief Instructor was Bill Stirling of the Scots Guards, the Assistant Chief Instructor was Freddie Spencer Chapman of the Seaforths (Chapman was a note pre-WW2 climber and Polar explorer and would go on to fight a lone guerilla war alongside Chinese guerilla’s in Malaya for two years after the Japanese overran Singapore). Fieldcraft was taught by ‘Shimi’ Lovat of the Scots Guards and by NCO’s and men of the Lovat Scouts. Lord Lovat ended up commanding the Commando Brigade. The Assistant Fieldcraft instructor was Peter Kemp (who had fought as a volunteer for the Nationalist in Spain) and would later be David Stirling of the Scots Guards.

Bill and David Stirling were also cousins of ‘Shimi’ Lovat. Demolition training was carried out by Mike Calvert of the Royal Engineers, who started off (again under Gubbins) the British Resistance Organisation and made a real name for himself in the Chindit campaign. Jim Gavin, an Everest climber, assisted him. Two of the key figures at Inverailort were ‘Dan’ Fairbairn and ‘Bill’ Sykes, they were both ex Superintendents in the Shanghai Police and their speciality was close quarter combat, silent killing and dirty tricks and the Fairbairn-design fighting knife became a standard weapon of the Commandoes. Captain P A Walbridge and Cyril Mackworth Praed were both weapons instructors. Also present were arctic explorers Andrew Croft, Jimmy Scott and the veteran explorer George Murrat Levick who had been on the Scott Polar expedition. The climber Sandy Wedderburn taught climbing techniques. The RSM was John Royle who had served with the Highland Light Infantry with David Niven before the War in India. David Niven attended a course (he mentions this in his book “The Moon’s a Balloon’ on page 220) - “They taught us dozens of different ways of killing people without making a noise.” He completed the course before joining the ‘Phantoms.’

The original M/E* of the Special Training Centre consisted of 203 personnel who could cater for the training of approximately 100 officer and 500 other ranks at any one time. There were 55 instructors on establishment - including some civilians who had special experience (mainly some Highland ghillies who taught fieldcraft). By late 1940 another 27 instructors and further admin staff had been added which enabled training at any one time of up to 150 officer and 2,500 other ranks. The Lovat Scouts were very prominent in the ranks of the training establishment. They carried out demonstrations, gave instruction and generally supervised the training. Others joined as instructors — Martin Lindsay from the Gordons (who had also been the Adjutant in the 5th Battalion Scots Guards in Finland and who was also a Polar Explorer). Peter Fleming, Ian’s brother, was there as an Instructor. Gavin Maxwell (author of the book “Ring of Bright Water”), who was a crack shot, also was an Instructor there before moving on to SOE. One of Maxwell’s party tricks was to throw a weighted cigarette packet in the air and shoot it with a revolver before it hit the ground.

Even the CIA had its early origins here - that came about on 6th September 1941 when ‘Camp X’ was formed in Canada. The two chaps concerned, ‘Big’ Bill Donovan, a rich American Industrialist who had formed an organisation called the OSS (the Office of Strategic Studies) to see what America could do in secret warfare, and a wealthy Canadian businessman, ‘Little’ Bill Stephenson, formed ‘Camp X.’ Fairbairn went there from “the Big House” to teach them dirty tricks to the Canadians and Americans while Sykes stayed behind to help SOE. He was the man who trained the Czechs who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich and he also assisted in the training of the Norwegian team who destroyed the heavy water plant in Norway.

The relevance of all the above of course is in relation to the service of the Atholl Highlanders and the 5th Battalion Scots Guards (Special Reserve) in Finland over the course of the Winter War. At the start of WW2, the British had no units of the type that we now call Special Forces – while the Germans had trained for some time in the kind of specialist warfare the British were just beginning to learn. And the Maavoimat had been planning, experimenting and training for years in this type of warfare in preparation for a possible conflict with the USSR. Both the British Volunteer Battalions largely consisted of the sort of men who were drawn towards special forces operations – and with the Maavoimats experience in such matters, as these men went through an abbreviated Finnish combat training school, this was recognised. Although the immediate need was for troops on the battlefront, the Maavoimat assigned a small number of experienced instructors to the two Battalions and continued their training while they manned rear line positions on the Karelian Isthmus. After the last winter offensives of the Red Army were defeated, the two British Battalions were absorbed into the Finnish Osasto Nyrkki (Fist Force) unit. This was the elite of the elite Maavoimat units, tasked with aggressive “behind-the-lines” missions focusing on strategically important targets. It was a mission that men such as Orde Wingate, “Shimi” Lovat, Mike Calvert and David Stirling would take to like Tigers to a raw steak – and the training and subsequent combat they experienced in Finland would have a major flow-on effect in the creation of similar special forces units in the UK and subsequently in the US. In this, the British would benefit from the many years that the Maavoimat had put in to developing such units.

In 1933, following the initial reorganization of the Maavoimat into Combined Arms Regimental Battle Groups loosely aligned within a largely administrative Divisional structure, Marshal Mannerheim and the Military High Command had made a decision to establish a small number of “elite” or specialized units, units which were to be completely separate and clearly differentiated from the existing Jaeger Regiments, who were primarily elite Infantry units. Following a series of planning sessions, the decision was made to establish these “elite” units over late 1933 and 1934. A later Post in a series on the Maavoimat will provide an initial summary of the formation of these units followed by a more detailed look at each Unit in turn. However, in order to better understand the training that the men of the two British Volunteer Battalions received we should first take a quick look at the early origins and formation of the Maavoimat’s Osasto Nyrkki (Fist Force).

“If your enemy is ….. taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” Sun Tzu

Osasto Nyrkki originated in 1931 with a Colonel Jussi Härkönen who, while unofficially (he was on leave at the time) attending training in Germany with the Heer, encountered one Hauptmann (Captain) Theodor von Hippel, an officer who had served under General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, Commander of the German East African Forces in World War I. Von Hippel regaled Colonel Härkönen with tales of the brilliant guerilla war Lettow-Vorbeck had waged against the British in East Africa – as well as comparisons with the successes enjoyed by the British T E Lawrence and the Arabs, who used similar hit-and-run tactics against the Turks. Hauptmann von Hippel was a strong advocate of the tactics pioneered by his former commander and the British Lawrence and forcefully advocated the benefits and advantages of such a force. Indeed, he completely convinced Colonel Härkönen of the military possibilities inherent in a small elite unit trained to operate behind enemy lines. Colonel Härkönen took these thoughts with him on his return to Finland and, in 1933, as the Finnish military reorganisation kicked into high gear, he made a case directly to Marshal Mannerheim for the formation of such a unit within the Armed Forces.

Härkönen’s proposal was for a small, élite unit, highly trained in sabotage and fluent in foreign languages, particularly Russian, which could operate behind enemy lines and wreak havoc with the enemy's command, communication and logistical tails. Mannerheim saw the possibilities inherent in such a unit and, over the opposition of some senior officers within Defence Headquarters, whom he overruled, gave Colonel Härkönen the necessary authority and budget to make his vision a reality. Colonel Härkönen reported directly to Marshal Mannerheim and was given a free hand, with the provisio that the Marshal wanted to see results. With the unit formally established from 1 January 1934, Colonel Härkönen got down to work, with one of his first successes being the recruiting of Hauptman von Hippel, half a dozen German veterans of Lettow-Vorbeck’s force together with another half dozen British officers and NCO’s who had fought with the Arab’s against the Turks under T E Lawrence. Together with a dozen Finnish officers and NCO’s whom Härkönen personally recruited into the unit, it was an unusual start to the formation of a new unit.

The German and British NCO’s and Officers recruited were professionals who, putting aside the historical differences between their respective countries, worked closely with their Finnish colleagues to establish the organisation, objectives and training for the new unit. Recruiting started in May 1934 with small numbers of volunteers. From the start, the training regime was innovative and physically demanding, far in advance of normal Maavoimat training which was already becoming tougher, with a rapidly growing emphasis on combat skills and small unit tactics over square bashing Osasto Nyrkki training instructors staff were all hand picked, with the ability to outperform any of the volunteers. Exercises were conducted using live ammunition and explosives to make training as realistic as possible. Physical fitness was a prerequisite with speed and endurance marches conducted through the hills and forests and over assault courses, all while carrying arms and full equipment. Training continued by day and night with river crossings, climbing, weapons training, unarmed combat, map reading, and small boat operations. Living conditions were primitive in the camp, with trainees housed under canvas in tents or in shelters they constructed for themselves.

Finland was also one of the very few countries in the world in the 1930’s whose Army encouraged the learning of unarmed and armed martial arts combat techniques. From the early 1930’s on, a synthesis of techniques from Savate, Judo, Ju-Jitsu and Karate together with knife and bayonet fighting techniques were taught within the Armed Forces. Osasto Nyrkki volunteers got an advanced course in full measure. The unit also stressed marksmanship, close quarter battle skills, mental agility, orienteering, camouflage and the learning of colloquial Russian. Soldiers were taught to function as individuals as well as small units, to use their initiative, to be aggressive at all times and to never give up. And right from the very first, during training, officers and men collaborated in the development of the units military doctrine and techniques specifically adapted to the units objectives. In this, Osasto Nyrkki was by, virtue of the training and skills passed on to the British Volunteers, the real predecessor of all of today’s special forces units such as the SAS. Men such as David Stirling, “Shimi” Lovat, Earl Jellicoe, F. Spencer Chapman, Mike Calvert and Orde Wingate would be renowned throughout the Engslih-speaking world for their exploits, but they would always be the students of the real masters, Osasto Nyrkki.

Next Post: The First British Volunteer Unit: The Atholl Highlanders
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 28 Mar 2012 16:10

The League resolution also seems to have resonated with an “employee” of the Cabinet Secretariat called Harold Gibson. In an article by one Elizabeth Roberts entitled “The Spanish Precedent: British Volunteers in the Russo-Finnish Winter War” the author comments “The League resolution also seems to have resonated with an employee of the Cabinet Secretariat called Harold Gibson – though whether it prompted his conscience or his ambition is an open question. This enigmatic figure – who had somewhat fantastically worked for the International Board for Non-Intervention during the Spanish Civil War – now lobbied for the creation of a British volunteer contingent to intervene in Finland, suggesting it to Halifax at about the same time it was first raised in Cabinet. Gibson was soon to play the leading role in the Finnish expedition.” When the Finnish Aid Bureau was setup and held its first meeting. Harold Gibson was appointed the Director, and he and fourteen other men comprised the management committee. This management committee included Conservative MP and staunch anti-communist Leo Amery as well as the Finnish Ambassador, Gripenberg, together with a series of aristocratic patrons, including Lord Davies and Lord Phillimore (the erstwhile head of the Finnish Fund) and the Conservative MP and future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. In theory the Finnish Aid Bureau existed both to raise money and to recruit men to fight for Finland, and in accordance with the government’s stipulations this work was to be done without visible connivance. In practice, the Bureau was more or less a front organisation for the British Government.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What we do know is that in late 1939 Harold Gibson, ostensibly a Civil Servant but in reality a senior member of MI6, was soon to play a leading role in the Finnish expedition. Almost immediately after assenting to the scheme and instructing Gubbins to proceed the Cabinet had second thoughts. On 26th January, Chamberlain had voiced concerns over the proposed scope of the new ‘Finnish Aid Bureau’. Meanwhile, the Finnish Minister in London, George Gripenberg, had been in contact with the indefatigable and staunchly anti-Communist Conservative MP Leo Amery, who in turn “suggested” a number of prominent individuals for a Committee to assist with fundraising. Chamberlain worried that if it were given such stature the purpose of the Finnish Aid Bureau – or rather the British government’s role in it – would be misconstrued. It must be made absolutely clear to Amery, “who was enthusiastically in favour of assistance to Finland, and [who] no doubt visualised thousands of volunteers being sent from this country”, that the Government had merely authorised the recruitment of British subjects for an international force. Amery needed to be told of the “strong arguments against attempting to organise a British volunteer force on a large scale”, the Minutes note. But the War Cabinet’s concerns and its attempt to dampen enthusiasm for the Finnish cause appears to have had little effect, and as we will see, the Finnish Aid Bureau’s Committee of Management featured a number of distinguished names.

Photo sourced from: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_d1IheHuWgpc/R ... ry%2B2.jpg
Leo Amery in 1940: Leopold Charles Maurice Stennett Amery (22 November 1873 – 16 September 1955), was a British Conservative Party politician and journalist, noted for his interest in military preparedness, India, and the British Empire.

During the Second Boer War Amery was a correspondent for The Times and in 1901, in his articles on the conduct of the war, he attacked the British commander, Sir Redvers Henry Buller, which contributed to Buller's sacking. Amery was the only correspondent to visit the Boer forces and was nearly captured with Winston Churchill. He turned down the chance to be editor of The Observer in 1908 and The Times in 1912 in order to concentrate on politics and in May 1911 he was elected unopposed as a Liberal Unionist MP for Birmingham South, a seat he would hold until 1945 (the Liberal Unionists were to fully merge with the Conservatives the following year). During WW1 his language skills led to his employment as an Intelligence Officer in the Balkans and later, as an under-secretary in Lloyd George's national government, he helped draft the Balfour Declaration (1917). He also encouraged Se’ev Jabotinsky in the formation of the Jewish Legion for the British Army in Palestine and was somewhat of a supporter of Zionism.

Amery was First Lord of the Admiralty (1922–1924) under Andrew Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin and Colonial Secretary in Baldwin's government from 1924 to 1929. Amery was not invited to join the National Government formed in 1931. He remained in Parliament, but joined the boards of several prominent corporations. This was necessary as he had no independent means and had depleted his savings during WWI and when he was a cabinet minister during the 1920s. Among his directorships were the boards of several German metal fabrication companies (representing British capital invested in the companies), of the British Southern Railway, the Gloucester Wagon Company, Marks and Spencer, the famous shipbuilding firm Cammell Laird, and the Trust and Loan of Canada. He was also chairman of the Iraq Currency Board. In the course of his duties as a director of German metal fabrication companies Amery spent a lot of time in Germany during the 1930s, mostly visiting factories, Amery gained a good understanding of German military potential. Hitler became alarmed at this situation and as a result ordered a halt to non-German directors of German companies. Amery had a lengthy meeting with Hitler on at least one occasion and also met at length with the Czech leader, Benes, the Austrian leaders Dollfuss and Schuschnigg and Benito Mussolini of Italy.

In the debates on the need for an increased effort to rearm British forces, Amery tended to focus on army affairs, with Churchill speaking more about air defence and Roger Keyes talking about naval affairs. While there was no question that Churchill was the most prominent and effective, Amery's work was not insignificant. He was a driving force behind the creation of the Army League, a pressure group designed to keep the needs of the British Army before the public. In the 1930s, Amery, along with Winston Churchill, was a bitter critic of the appeasement of Nazi Germany, often openly attacking his own party. It is commonly believed that, when Neville Chamberlain announced his flight to Munich to the cheers of the House, Amery was one of only four members who remained seated (the others were Churchill, Anthony Eden and Harold Nicolson). Being a former Colonial and Dominions Secretary, he was very aware of the views of the dominions and strongly opposed giving Germany back her colonies, a proposal seriously considered by Neville Chamberlain. When the war came, Amery was one of the few anti-appeasers who was opposed to co-operation with the Soviet Union in order to defeat Nazi Germany. This came from a life-long fear of Communism.

Amery is famous for two moments of high drama in the House of Commons early in World War II. On 2 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain spoke in a Commons debate and said (in effect) that he was not declaring war on Germany immediately for having invaded Poland. This greatly angered Amery and was felt by many present to be out of touch with the temper of the British people. As Labour Party leader Clement Attlee was absent, Arthur Greenwood stood up in his place and announced that he was speaking for Labour. Amery called out to him across the floor, "Speak for England!"—which carried the undeniable implication that Chamberlain was not. The second incident occurred during the notorious Norway Debate in 1940. After a string of military and naval disasters were announced, Amery famously attacked Chamberlain's government, quoting Oliver Cromwell: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” Lloyd George afterwards told Amery that in fifty years he had heard few speeches that matched his in sustained power and none with so dramatic a climax. This debate led to 42 Conservative MPs voting against Chamberlain and 36 abstaining, leading to the downfall of the Conservative government and the formation of a national government under Churchill's premiership. Amery himself noted in his diary that he believed that his speech was one of his best received in the House, and that he had made a difference to the outcome of the debate.

During the war Amery was Secretary of State for India, despite the fact that the fate of India had been a keen issue of dispute between Churchill and Amery for many years. Amery was disappointed not to be given a post in the War Cabinet, but he was determined to do all he could in the position he was offered. He was continually frustrated by Churchill's intransigence, and in his memoirs records that Churchill knew "as much of the Indian problem as George III did of the American colonies." In this context, we can see that Leo Amery’s involvement with the Finnish Air Bureau was no mere token – as an influential Conservative Party MP, he carried considerable weight. It is also worth noting that Amery was somewhat of a Zionist .

On the same day as Chamberlain expressed his concerns around aid to Finland, the Finnish Aid Bureau held its first meeting. Harold Gibson was appointed Director, and he and fourteen other men comprised the management committee. This naturally included Leo Amery and Gripenberg, as well as a series of aristocratic patrons, including Lord Davies and Lord Phillimore (the erstwhile head of the Finnish Fund) and the Conservative MP and future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Gibson however was firmly in charge. In theory the Bureau existed both to raise money and to recruit men to fight for Finland, and in accordance with the government’s stipulations this work was to be done without visible connivance. But this did not preclude assistance in response to advocacy, so long as the pretence of autonomy was maintained. Consequently references to the Finnish Aid Bureau appear in the War Cabinet minutes very soon after its official establishment as though it were a separate entity separately grown, whose entreaties were to be considered with the usual equanimity. On 2 February for example, the Finnish government informed the Bureau that foreign technicians were desired to free Finnish men for military service. Gibson in due course contacted the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the Ministry of Labour and proposed a recruitment scheme – to which the Ministry of Labour agreed on the 27th of February 1940. Among those who were to be sent to Finland were technicians recruited from refugee camps in Britain (some 1,000 technicians, primarily Polish refugees, were enlisted into the scheme and sent to Finland in late March 1940, where they would fill positions in Finnish industry).

One of the Finnish Aid Bureaus first activities was a trip that some of its leaders made to Finland in February 1940. Churchill was closely, if unofficially involved – attested to by the fact that Harold Macmillan, who went on the trip, was in contact with Churchill even while in Finland. After having met Finnish leaders and sensing their growing confidence in Finland’s ability to hold out against the USSR and the Red Army, Macmillan wrote to Churchill advising him of the situation, demanded “urgent action” in support of Finland and hoped that Churchill would “do your best” to encourage the War Cabinet to provide substantial assistance “otherwise our hopes of using the situation to advantage against Germany may be lost.” The oddest thing about this missive was that Macmillan was writing to a minister who was not in charge of any matters related to Finland and who had no power to make decisions on them. However, Macmillan did know that Churchill was an anti-communist whose interest in the Winter War was on a scale entirely different from that of other ministers in the War Cabinet. He had however assumed correctly that Churchill would put more pressure on the Prime Minister so that more aid would be forthcoming for Finland.

And Churchill had and would play a key role in efforts to assist Finland, albeit as part of the Grand Strategy he envisaged for outflanking Germany in Scandinavia. It had been Churchill who, on 22 December 1939, had led the British War Cabinet into its first detailed discussion on the Winter War. It had been Churchill who had proposed that pressure be applied on Sweden and Norway to encourage them to send armies of volunteers to Finland, and it had been Churchill who had first broached the possibilities of British military assistance. And, aside from any of his other initiatives, it had been Churchill who had robustly supported the sending of British Volunteers to Finland under the aegis of the Atholl Highlanders – it was the sort of scheme that appealed to Churchill’s mindset and he had supported it strongly from the start. Throughout December and January Churchill had continued to put pressure on the War Cabinet, stressing that his sources told him that above anything the Finns needed artillery, ammunition and aircraft with which to fight and that it was imperative to speed up British aid. It was Churchill who had pushed strongly for the British Army to support and equip the ANZAC Battalion and to send it off to Finland accompanied by a significant number of artillery pieces and ammunition. As First Lord of the Admiralty (in charge of the Royal Navy) Churchill also decided to forward to Finland some of the aircraft of his Fleet Air Arm – these were the 33 Blackburn Roc’s that would be flown to Finland. He also proposed that some of the heavy air-defence guns that were then protecting British cities against an expected German air attack be sent to Finland.

This kind of shipment would have involved some very real risk to Britain but Churchill still advocated it. Moreover, on the day of his “Light of Freedom” address, VChurchill implored Prime Minister Chamberlain to allow the sending to Finland not only of Royal Air Force planes but also Pilots – something that would eventually occur in March 1940, with the dispatch of a single squadron of Hurricanes that were sold to Finland together with a group of RAF volunteers. No amount of material assistance could, Churchill stressed, equal the moral impact of actual British soldiers going over to help Finland. This was also the opinion of another of the men in the House of Commons who supported sending assistance to Finland – General Alfred Knox, MP, who worked tirelessly to support the sending of men and materials to Finland. In 1919 Knox had been Churchill’s special representative at the headquarters of Admiral Kolchak and he still regarded the anti-communist fight as his special vocation. The plan to send British fighter aircraft and pilots to Finland was risky, both Churchill and Knox were aware of the deficiencies in a gesture typical of his quixotic magnanimity, Churchill decided to donate his own pair of skis to the Finnish Army.

Prime Minister Chamberlain resisted the creation of any volunteer units but he finally changed his mind in January 1940 after pressure from Churchill and the French Prime Minister together with the ever more strident demands from the British Press. The volunteer contingent was supposedly to be created and supported by the Finnish Aid Bureau and was officially independent but, as we have seen, secretly controlled by the British authorities – a secret that did not remain one for long as pro-Soviet MP’s exposed the facts. After the decision was made to establish the volunteer unit, arrangements began to be made for equipment and funding and again, Churchill’s influence was involved. Churchill arrange for the unit to be equipped by the British Army, while Lord Nuffield (a wealthy industrialist) and Max Beaverbrook, the newspaper publisher, key Conservative strategist and a close friend of Churchill’s, promised to personally pay for the transport expenses of the Volunteers.

As mentioned previously, on the 12th of February 1940 the British War Cabinet had appointed Brigadier Christopher Ling to lead an Allied Military Mission to Finland, for the purposes of arranging the ongoing supply of military equipment from France and Britain to Finland. In parallel, Lt-Col. Colin Gubbins was summoned from Paris, where he was head of a military mission to the Czech and Polish forces under French command and was assigned the task of raising and organizing a single Battalion of volunteers, selecting and appointing a CO and officers and dispatching the Battalion to Finland. Gubbins was advised that in sending volunteers, Britain would have to be cautious about appearing to directly intervene. While active members of the military would be permitted to join, they would have to resign from service – and recruitment would be carried out at arms length under the auspices of the Finnish Legation, making it clear that individuals were being recruited for an international volunteer force and not at the sole behest of Britain.

That this international volunteer force was for the best part fictional was less important than the protection such a designation offered. There was to be no formal connection between the recruitment bureau and the British government, though some unofficial contact would be necessary: the War Cabinet wished to ensure that no man with existing service obligations was recruited (although resignations would be permitted), and that no “undesirable characters” made their way on to the expedition. The British government was also protected in part by a resolution of the League of Nations. In one of its last, desultory acts the League had condemned the Soviet invasion and urged “every member of the League to provide Finland with … material and humanitarian assistance … and to refrain from any such act which might weaken Finland’s powers of resistance”. This League resolution proved to be a vital legitimising device for the British volunteers. The other obstacle were the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act – legislation which prevented British subjects from fighting in wars in which Britain was neutral.

Gubbins was no man for indecision. Neither were Gibson nor Amery for that matter. Gubbins first act was, in company with Gibson and Amery, to meet with Ambassador Gripenberg at the Finnish Legation on the 15th of February to determine what action was to be taken. Immediately after which it was announced to the Press in a joint meeting of the Directors of the Finnish Aid Bureau together with the Finnish Ambassador, Gripenberg, that volunteers at a Recruiting Bureau to be opened at the Legation would be accepted commencing on the 17th of February and that existing members of the military would be accepted but would, if accepted need to resign from the services in order to be sent to Finland. It was expected that the first group of Volunteers would leave within days. The provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act were circumvented by announcing that all volunteers would be accepted into the Atholl Highlanders Regiment, a legal private army in the private employ of the Duke of Atholl.

The existence of the Atholl Highlanders Regiment as a legal private army was somewhat of an anomaly, but under the circumstances a useful one. Dating back to 1777, the Atholl Highlanders had originally been formed as the 77th Regiment of Foot by the 4th Duke of Atholl and had spent most of its existence in Ireland. The Regiment was disbanded in 1783. However, 50 years later, in 1839, the 6th Duke, as Lord Glenlyon, resurrected the regiment as a bodyguard which he took to the Eglinton Tournament at Eglinton Castle, Ayrshire. Three years later, in 1842, the regiment escorted Queen Victoria during her tour of Perthshire and in 1844, when the Queen stayed as a guest of the Duke at Blair Castle, the regiment mounted the guard for the entire duration of her stay. In recognition of the service that the regiment provided during her two visits, the Queen announced that she would present the Atholl Highlanders with Colours, thus giving the regiment official status. The regiment's first stand of Colours was presented by Lady Glenlyon on behalf of the Queen in 1845. Under the 7th Duke, the regiment regularly provided guards for royal visitors to Blair Castle (which was a convenient stopping point on the journey to Balmoral). Following the First World War, parades of the regiment became fewer, although it did provide guards when the Crown Prince of Japan and King Faisal of Iraq visited Blair Castle in 1921 and 1933 respectively. After 1933, there was little activity, and it seemed the regiment would disappear into obscurity until Lt.Col. Gubbins performed is miraculous act of resurrection in February 1940 with the agreement of the John Stewart-Murray, 8th Duke of Atholl.

The link was purely nominal – the Atholl Highlanders Regiment that was sent to Finland was not linked in any way to the ceremonial Regiment in Scotland but it did form a suitable avenue to legally enlist and send volunteers to Finland as an organised unit. And the volunteers flocked to join, perhaps inspired to some degree by the news reports that filled the papers regarding the gallant fight being put up by the Finns and the less frequent news reports from the ANZAC Battalion already in Finland. Whatever the reason, on the morning of 17th February 1940, the queue outside the Finnish Legation was already hundreds of men long and growing by the minute, with the Police being required to ensure order, such was the excitement of the moment. Gubbins had enlisted the aid of a number of experienced NCO’s and Officers from the Coldstream Guards and these were quick to sort the wheat from the chaff, even before medical exams were carried out. Again, no time was to be wasted on training and only fit single men with a good physique and previous experience with firearms were to be accepted. The .303 test (“here’s a stripped down Lee-Enfield .303, reassemble starting NOW!” worked like a charm, as did the more obvious selections based on age (“neither too young or too old”) and apparent health. A mere statement on marital status was accepted.

Photo sourced from: http://www.myplace.edu.au/verve/_resour ... I_page.jpg
Volunteers who had passed the initial firearms knowledge, age and health check filling out forms inside the Finnish Legation on the morning of 17th February 1940.

Photo sourced from: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/iss/archive ... 05pic2.jpg
A Poster for the Finnish Aid Bureau that was widely seen across the UK in February 1940: Support for Finland was at an all-time high through the period December 1939 to April 1940 and huge queues of would-be volunteers formed outside the Finnish Legation. Had the British Government been willing, many more Volunteers could have been sent than were.

Picture sourced from: http://www.onslows.co.uk/catalogues/Ps020503/lot358.jpg
And a Poster from the Finnish Fund (the predecessor of the Finnish Aid Bureau)

On the 18th of February Gubbins interviewed a small number of Officers from the British Army in his search for a Commanding Officer. Most of the officers were nonentities, most were unsuitable for various reasons, but one officer stood out above the rest. This officer was Major Orde Wingate, at the time the unhappy commander of the 56th Light Anti-Aircraft Brigade, Royal Artillery, in Britain. Gubbins, Gibson and Amery were all well aware of Wingate for a number of reasons. Gubbins, with his interest in irregular warfare, was well aware of Wingate’s activities in Palestine, where he had made a reputation for himself as the creator, trainer and leader of the Special Night Squads in Palestine. These were small armed assault groups formed of British and Haganah volunteers who were tasked with combating Palestinian Arab guerillas. Wingate had created, trained, commanded and accompanied them on their patrols. The units frequently ambushed Arab saboteurs who attacked oil pipelines of the Iraq Petroleum Company, raiding border villages the attackers had used as bases. Wingate disliked Arabs, once shouting at Hagana fighters after a June 1938 attack on a village on the border between Mandatory Palestine and Lebanon, "I think you are all totally ignorant in your Ramat Yochanan [the training base for the Hagana] since you do not even know the elementary use of bayonets when attacking dirty Arabs." But the brutal tactics proved effective in quelling the uprising, and Wingate had been awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) in 1938.

Photo sourced from: http://www.wingatekravmaga.com/wp-conte ... ingate.jpg
Wingate in Finland: Summer 1940 (contrary to the myth, he did at time wear a wristwatch)

Major-General Orde Charles Wingate, DSO and two bars (26 February 1903 – 24 March 1944), was a British Army officer and creator and leader of special military units in Palestine in the 1930s, in Finland in 1940, in Ethiopia in 1941 and Burma from 1942-1944. A highly religious Christian, Wingate became a supporter of Zionism, seeing it as his religious and moral duty to help the Jewish community in Palestine form a Jewish state. Assigned to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1936, he set about training members of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization, which became the Israel Defense Forces with the establishment in 1948 of the state of Israel. He went on to lead a volunteer Battalion (the Atholl Highlanders) in Finland in the Winter War as well as irregular forces in Ethiopia against the Italians but is most famous for his creation of the Chindits, airborne deep-penetration troops trained to work behind enemy lines in the Far East campaigns against the Japanese during World War II (although recent historical evidence now points to many of his ideas regarding airborne deep-penetration troops as having originated from fighting alongside Finnish troops tasked with similar missions in the Winter War).

Described by one his officers as “a military genius of a grandeur and stature seen not more than once or twice a century,” Charles Orde Wingate remains to this day a controversial, if not mythic, figure. Raised in the Plymouth Brethren faith, he regarded the old testament as the literal truth, and laced his fiery speeches and official writings with biblical rhetoric. But in the eyes of many, a worse offense was that he hardly looked like a proper British officer. In an army which celebrated impeccable “grooming standards,” he was often poorly turned out with untidy kit, filthy uniform and usually sported a beard. He was certainly different and remained in frequent contest with the regular army establishment over the idea of unconventional warfare. He gained his first experiences in irregular warfare as an Officer with the Sudan Defence Forces from 1928 to 1933. This small British-officered Arab force had been created in the 1920s in response to nationalist uprisings. Defense against a repeat of these and actions against tribes resisting government rule were the major concerns, and actions against criminal gangs operating in the large areas by the Sudanese and Ethiopian border were regular. Wingate was posted to command of an infantry company as part of a battalion near the Ethiopian border to lead patrols against ivory poachers and slave traders, and to show the flag. As at Woolwich, he was admonished by his commanding officer about his non-conservative talk and seemingly unconventional ways. Wingate took this to heart and began to moderate his ways and self-aggrandizing talk. For service in the Sudan presented Wingate with the chance to develop his professional skills.

Command of a self-contained, autonomously operating infantry unit of the Sudanese Defense Forces meant high quality officers were needed. And good junior officers had to be forged. Wingate would be the only European among an all-Sudanese force of Muslim Arabs and African Blacks numbering close to 300 patrolling a large area of the eastern Sudan.11 The commander was required to be both a military officer as well as a colonial administrator. In such a situation there was amply opportunity to develop tactical skills by way of maneuvering in remote areas, by attending to the welfare of the unit, by being responsible for their own military training, and by acting independently of higher authorities in combat. Wingate would learn much about leading men in combat, training and administrating them. Actions against poachers and gangs were maintained through infantry patrols, the tracking of movements, supported by aircraft spotting and patrolling. The area of the Sudan Wingate's company operated in eastern Sudan demanded in itself the development of military and personal skills. The desert, hills and scrubland of eastern Sudan was primitive and remote, with little in the way of roads or mechanical transportation. Patrols were tests of endurance. Wingate soon realized facing the poachers and bandits problems common in counterinsurgency. These included the inability to easily seperate the insurgents from civilians, with the small groups of bandits moving among the civilians and in areas frequented by nomads; the difficulty in achieving tactical surprise against forces operating among civilians and which were highly mobile and unpredictable; and the existence of a safe haven, with the criminals able to move regularly across the Ethiopian border. Wingate noticed the standard practices of mobile and irregularly timed patrols were inefficient and obtained poor results. As he wrote in a note, "The measures taken against poachers are limited to the maintenance of highly mobile patrols operating at irregular intervals and in various directions...such wide toothed and occasional combing has not the smallest chance of success in inhabited country."

Instead of deterring or trying to locate and bring to battle the small poacher gangs by irregular patrols, Wingate found his success by developing other methods. He began to introduce deception, deceiving the enemy about his patrols' ultimate destination and routes. He aimed to supplement such measures with achieving surprise from "using cover and concealment to surround the gangs, then surprise them with attack from all sides."13 Such techniques led to success with one early patrol, from a combination of deception, information from the local population, good tracking, and military skills, all leading to the decimation of one armed criminal gang. Wingate's vigorous writing up of this action brought praise from the Governor-General, stating it was a "very interesting narrative of a most successful expedition conducted with great dash and judgement." Concentrating upon the known infiltration and exfiltration routes of the gangs, Wingate was at times able to successfully lay ambushes of border crossing points and tracks. He would write after one patrol that he chose his patrol march along the frontier across desert along the border to achieve surprise since, "by cutting across long stretches of waterless country each line...would be out of reach by warning by fleeing poachers...Should Abyssinians be poaching on Gallegu-Dindar the patrol would be between them and their base. This has special value in view of possible air cooperation."15 Independence of command, the nature of the threat, and characteristic of the country meant Wingate "developed his skill - and taste - for raising, training and leading forces in his own image' free of intervention from above."

While in the Sudan, the joys of autonomy Wingate experienced was offset by some more unpleasant experiences. With the experiencing of death that came with his profession and fueled by the decent of a sister, Wingate came to the realization of his own mortality and slumped into a temporary existential depression. But another form of depression also began to haunt him at times, which he kept to himself, sharing only in letters to a girlfriend. The attacks of Clinical Depression he would later put it as an 'attacks of the nerves.' Wingate tried to cope with by using them as a fortifying experience, writing "To go through it and come out on the other side still holding on to one's faith and one's reason gives one something of the utmost value. I mean a knowledge of the depths, after that, the ordinary terrors of life are as nothing." In keeping with his character, toward the end of his tour while on leave Wingate set off on a personal expedition of discovery into the Libyan Sand Sea at the eastern end of the Sahara Desert. He was one of several Europeans entranced by exploration and discovery in the unknown North African desert, and like others became romantically drawn into an attempt to find the legendary oasis of Zerzura. After cousin Sir Reginald Wingate helped arrange permission with the SDF, in January of 1933 Orde Wingate set off with small party of Arab guides and camels. Challenging himself and the men with him, he traveled by day under the sun to aid in surveying and lived on a Spartan diet. The party navigated past bleak, rocky landscapes, and journeyed through sand dunes amidst the uncharted western Egyptian desert. While the difficult journey of two months did not produce any evidence of Zerzura (it is thought to have been discovered farther south), Wingate did produce an article for the Geographical Magazine. More importantly he tested and discovered more limits of endurance. Marriage came in 1935, his wife Lorna's quick mind and intelligence a match for him (they had met during Wingate's voyage home in 1933 aboard ship when Lorna was 16 and Orde was 32 – they married just over a year later).

http://www.jpost.com/HttpHandlers/ShowI ... ?ID=189868
Orde Wingate in his and Lorna’s apartment, London, mid-1930’s (Note the trademark Pith helmet on the bookcase)

Posted back to England in 1933, Wingate was now a captain and returned to the artillery for three years, serving in units stationed in England. In September of 1936 orders came assigning captain Wingate to a staff position of intelligence officer in an army division due to be sent to British Palestine. It was here that he first attracted the attention of his superiors over 1937-38, when he formed Jewish “Special Night Squads” to tackle roving bands of Arab troublemakers (somewhat incidentally, Moshe Dayan was one of the young Jewish soldiers Wingate trained).
Last edited by CanKiwi2 on 28 Mar 2012 22:08, edited 1 time in total.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 28 Mar 2012 16:11

In early 1940 he was appointed to command the Atholl Highlanders Volunteer Battalion dispatched to aid the Finns in the Winter War. He led his Battalion of 1,000 men in battle alongside the Finnish Army, volunteering his battalion to fight first with the Finnish Parajaeger Division in their glider landings on the Karelian Isthmus in late Spring 1940, and then fighting in operations with the Finnish Osasto Nyrkki special forces units in lengthy raids deep behind Russian lines. It was in these missions, prior to which his battalion received training from the Finnish Army’s Osasto Nyrkki, that Wingate was exposed to the type of tactics and warfare that he would go on to apply with such success on a large scale in Burma later in WW2.

Picture sourced from: http://www.military-art.com/mall/images ... hm0611.jpg
Atholl Highlanders led by Orde Wingate particpating in the Maavoimat Parajaeger landings behind the Red Army frontlines during the Spring 1940 offensive on the Karelian Isthmus.

Following the end of the Winter War, Wingate would be immediately sent to the Sudan to lead a force of irregulars in Ethiopia, whom he christened “Gideon Force” – after the old Testament hero who defeated 15,000 men with 300. With a strength of never more than 1,700 men, including a thousand spear and rifle-armed Ethiopian warriors, Wingate and “Gideon Force” went after the Italian army. In January 1941, he seized the Ethiopian border town of Ulm Idla, making it the first town to be liberated by his force. Next in March, combining daring with bluff, he drove a 6,000-strong Italian infantry unit, backed by several thousand irregulars along with artillery and mortars from the garrison fort of Bure, guarding the approaches into the Gojjam Province. But this victory proved a mere prelude of what was to come. Now reduced to only 1,000 troops, Wingate then routed a force of 12,000 Italians, plus thousands of Pro-Italian Ethiopian warriors from the key town of Debra Markos. Finally, Wingate a chased after a group of about 10,000 Italians retreating from their last stronghold at Amba Alagi. Both sides ran out of food and their clothes were reduced to rags, but as cold weather set in that May, the Italians surrendered on the 19th. Gideon force had captured some 19,000 enemy troops and kept occupied vastly greater forces. It was a brilliant effort, but for his troubles Wingate was given only a minor staff posting in Egypt. Depressed and suffering from malaria, he tried to kill himself by cutting his throat in a Cairo hotel. Only the influence of his superior, Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, allowed Wingate a further posting – to India, to command what would become the Chindits. It was tragic then that Wingate died at the height of his mortal fame in a plane crash in March 1944, returning from a visit to his forward troops in the field.

Even before his command in Finland, Wingate was establishing a reputation as somewhat of an eccentric commander. Rather than using a wristwatch, he kept a large alarm clock dangling from his belt and ate raw onions which he kept on a string around his neck (although there is little photographic evidence of these), he was recorded as having had a 50lb bag of onions shipped to Finland with his kit “just in case”). He certainly did not follow the model expected of the traditional British officer. He was almost always untidy and poorly dressed. His unruly beard, piercing stare, outsize pith helmet ( which had adopted in Palestine and then took to Finland with him) and constant carrying of the Bible gave him the appearance of a Baptist missionary. He was also widely read and like discussing religion and politics, when most officers preferred discussing sport, horses and hunting. In Palestine, his casual nudity had become somewhat of a legend and in Finland he had added to this with a penchant for giving orders stark-naked in a Maavoimat sauna tent, taking occasional strolls in the snow to cool down.

For all his charm and force of character, Wingate also had an irascible temper and his perpetual impatience with select subordinates and even senior commanders was his greatest Achilles’ Heel. On one typical occasion, in mid 1940, after flying back from Mikkeli to the Syvari following a heated meeting, Wingate was enraged to find that his personal Fiesler Storch was not waiting for him at the airport. He set upon his long-suffering Adjutant and personal friend, Major Derek Tulloch, in the mistaken belief that he had been responsible, kicking him out of the open door of the still taxiing aircraft. When his shocked Finnish liaison officer demanded an apology, Wingate told him brusquely that, “I always used to kick my younger brother off moving buses and quite suddenly the old impulse came over me.” In the end, the recipients of Wingate’s ire were as restricted as those in an exclusive club, primarily the officers of his staff in whom he had little faith.

Yet for all his flaws, Wingate was a man who showed that the impossible could be made possible and by this virtue alone becomes something more than exceptional. He was a great military leader “capable of flashes of genius,” and a man who waged a continuous struggle with himself and the world as part of a lonely devotion to no other object than the categorical defeat of the enemy. Winston Churchill, an admirer who was nevertheless appalled by Wingate’s eccentricities, said of him after his death: “There was a man of genius who might well have become also a man of destiny. He has gone, but his spirit lives on….” But perhaps the best euological words came from his opposition, from the famed Japanese Lt-General Renya Mataguchi, who upon hearing the stunning news of Wingate’s death after the war, said: “I realized what a loss this was to the British Army and said a prayer for the soul of this man in whom I had found my match.” In Finland for the last eight months of the Winter War, the Finnish military command came to recognize Wingate’s military genius, as did almost everyone he fought with through WW2. He was an inspiration to his troops and to the Finnish soldiers with whom he fought. He believed in leading from the front (“follow me” was not just a slogan, it was the way he led, and he expected the same from all his Officers and NCO’s). He was bold, innovative and unconventional. His troops respected him.

In Finland in 1940, leading a lone British Battalion against the Red Army alongside the hugely outnumbered Finnish Army, Lt. Col. Orde Wingate and his unit created positive news headlines showing that the British Army could fight effectively as the Phoney War in France turned to defeat, Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain. It was a ray of sunshine that shone through the gloom of defeat through that long summer of 1940 - and the exploits of “Wingate’s Raiders” and the men of the 5th Battalion Scots Guards would show that the British Army could, given the right leaders, fight with tremendous effect. On his brief return to Britain in October 1940, Wingate would be awarded a bar to his DSO for his exploits, before being sent off to Ethiopia, where he would lead another ragtag force to victory against the Italians. The following article is typical of the coverage given to the Atholl Highlanders in the UK (who became popularly known as “Wingate’s Raiders”in the British Press) over the course of the Winter War. This coverage and the successes of the unit were influential in ensuring continued British and American assistance to Finland through the long summer of 1940, even as France was defeated and Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany just as Finland stood alone against the USSR – something Churchill would juxtapose in a number of his speeches after he became Prime Minister.

Photo sourced from: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~ ... 843/p1.jpg
Cover of Life Magazine from August 1940: Deep in Red Territory over the Soviet Union flies a Finnish Air Force DC-3 Transport with supplies for “Wingate’s Raiders”, its Finnish crew manning machineguns against Russian interceptors. A new type of war is being fought by Finland against the might of the Red Army and the British Army is a part of this magnificent effort, helping win victory against overwhelming odds in the best traditions of the British forces.

Photo sourced from: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~ ... 843/p2.jpg
Lieutenant-Colonel O. C. Wingate commands the British Battalion fighting deep inside the Red Army’s lines.

British Raid deep inside the USSR - Photographs for LIFE by William Vandivert

Red Army headquarters in Leningrad and Moscow had incredible news to chew on this month. "British force," ran the messages, "operating 400 miles inside our lines. Moscow railway cut by British force. Two bridges blown out by a British force." The trouble was that such news came from all over the northern USSR. It moved faster than men could travel. And the Reds could not find anybody. A whole division was assigned to find this ghost army of the Finns. One of the units the Reds were looking for was "Wingate's Raiders" or the Atholl Highlanders volunteer Battalion. In the last two months, 30-year-old Lt.Col. Orde Charles Wingate, a big-headed Scot who reads Plato for fun, took a battalion of British volunteers and led them into the swamps and forests of Finnish Karelia for training. It was his theory that trained Englishmen could beat the Reds at forest infiltration fighting. In July, he took his force of a thousand men across the Syvari River in Eastern Karelia, penetrating the Red Army front with ease.

This Battalion, looking like a gang of hillbilly assassins, is in fact the last word in 20th Century techniques. Wingate commands his companies with a radio carried on a mule. He supplies them by planes that flew in from Finnish-held Karelia regularly. Their job was to destroy the bridges, railways and Read Army supply dumps south of the Syvari, thus delaying an expected Russian offensive across the Syvari River and relieving pressure on the Finnish forces holding the front. New to modern warfare, casualties are evacuated in light Finnish aircraft which can land in small clearings in the forest with ease. In August their job was done and they fought their way back again to Finnish held territory. This Battalion is shown on this page. LIFE photographer William Vandivert flew in with a supply plane that made a hazardous landing 170 miles inside the Soviet Union and brought out 17 sick and wounded men of "Wingate's Raiders." The pictures make clear a point that the Russians will never again forget: ordinary Englishmen and their Finnish allies are very hard characters indeed.

The supply line of Wingate's mysterious British raiders into Russia was entirely across enemy territory. Naturally it was by air transport using Douglas DC-3’s, always escorted by Finnish Air Force fighters. Since Wingate outfoxed the Russian pursuit by cutting back directly toward the Red Army concentrations, his men were often within a few miles of Russian air force fighter bases. The transports dropped their loads from low levels so as not to give away the position of the land forces. The planes brought in boats, outboard motors, mortars, radios, food, rifles, the incredibly effective Finnish Army Suomi submachineguns, ammunition, grenades, gelignite, haversacks, medicine, safety pins, anti-mosquito cream, shoelaces, dobbins of Finnish vodka, magazines and mail. If supplies were short, they ate whatever they could find in the forest.

Photo sourced from: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~ ... 843/p6.jpg
Out the door go the parachute loads. Two men push. A third (left), who has tied himself in, lies and kicks the load out. Static lines trip parachutes open. One crew member almost fell out, too, on this trip. The Finnish Air Force has developed such methods of supplying their troops from the air for weeks at a time – something our own Air Force could well learn from.

Photo sourced from: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~ ... 843/p7.jpg
Loads are dropped near edge of woods, so that men on ground can quickly get them out of sight of Russian reconnaissance planes. A Russian airfield was four minutes' flight away here.

Photo sourced from: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~ ... 43/p13.jpg
On the second trip, the transport plane manages to land on a 700-yard strip marked with white dashes and surrounded by potholes. "What looked like Captain Kidd's buccaneers," reports Vandivert, "streamed out of the woods." The men grabbed ammunition first, then food after which they began to eat at once.

Photo sourced from: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~ ... 43/p12.jpg
The CO of this Company, a nameless British Army Captain, in quilted vest (editors note: actually the secret Maavoimat Body Armour, but this was not disclosed to the photographer), shakes hands with the plane crew.


Two hundred miles behind the Russian lines with a raider force is no place to get sick. But inevitably some men did. Some of Lt. Col. Wingate’s Battalion fell behind and died, if they were not killed by the Russians. Seventeen of them, with unusual determination, staggered along with the column until it reached the point where it would rendezvous with the supply plane. With 170 miles to march across enemy country, most of them were virtually under death sentence unless they could be flown out. There were really 18, but one man argued the Adjutant, Major Derek Tulloch, into agreeing that he was well enough to march on his own feet out of Russia.

The transport was on the ground only twelve minutes. Overloaded with the sick and wounded, it was making only 60 m.p.h. when it lifted off the tiny strip and brushed the tall treetops at the edge of the field. The sweat was streaming off the faces of the pilots, but then the men in the plane began to smile big smiles. In command was Sgt Cooke who had intestinal trouble and bush sores. He told how, chased by NKVD units, the Battalion had camped under a hill between Red Army supply camps before using inflatable boats dropped by the Finnish Air Force to cross the rivers and swamps in their path. Two days later they were on the other side of the swamps and had escaped the NKVD units pursuing them. But the Battalion more than proved Lt. Col. Wingate's theory that the British soldier has plenty of what it takes in the forests and swamps of Karelia against the Red Army: "imagination; the power to give of his best when the audience is smallest; self-reliance and the power of individual action."

Photo sourced from: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~ ... 43/p15.jpg
The sick and wounded are helped into the Finnish Air Force transport plane, after it has been unloaded. Still physically tough after weeks behind the Red Army’s lines, even when sick and weary these men wore their heavy packs as lightly as civilians would wear a coat. There was a lot of laughing and joking by all hands as they said goodbye.

http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~ ... 43/p17.jpg
On the way home with the 17 sick and wounded, the Finnish Air Force plane rigger gives cup of water from captured Red Army water can to Corp. Jimmy Walker of Berwick-on-Tweed, who had dysentery and an infected hip. Left foreground and right, two captured Red Army prisoners with distinctly asian features being taken back for interrogation: the Red Army is beginning to use Siberian and Central Asian units to fight the Finns. More information about these units is essential to the Army Headquarters.

Photo sourced from: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~ ... 43/p18.jpg
Safe home, at a Finnish air base in Eastern Karelia, the 17 sick raiders get out of the plane to meet the neat men of the Ilmavoimat (left) – the name by which the Finns call their Air Force. The bearded man in the center is Sgt. Tony Aubrey of Birmingham.

Photo sourced from: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~ ... 43/p20.jpg
Four days later the same men have made a complete comeback in the Finnish Army Field Hospital on two bottles of beer a day, two chickens apiece for lunch and all the cigarettes they can smoke. Left, Sgt. Leslie Flowers of Manchester; the two in the center with bottles, Sgt. McElroy and Sgt. Aubrey (with his beard shaved off).

Next Post: The recruitment, organisation and dispatch to Finland of the Atholl Highlanders
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 29 Mar 2012 17:54

Wingate’s deepening political involvement with the Zionist cause and an incident where he spoke publicly in favour of the formation of a Jewish state during his leave in Britain had caused his superiors in Palestine to remove him from command. He was so deeply associated with causes in Palestine that his superiors considered him compromised as an intelligence officer in the country and in May 1939, he had been transferred back to Britain and had been made commander of an anti-aircraft unit. Gibbons was, as a result of his work MI6 and his connections with the Zionist movement, also well aware of Wingate and his reputation from Palestine. And lastly, Leo Amery was also somewhat of a supporter of Zionism and was personally acquainted with both Wingate and his young and vivacious wife, Lorna. Amery in fact would later say of Wingate, that he thought him “…another Lawrence, but more virile and sane.”However, within the Army Wingate was still somewhat of a controversial figure, although well connected – the CIGS at the time, General Ironside, was remarkably sympathetic and supportive of Wingate, as was Wavell later. In his one meeting with Ironside regarding the Atholl Highlanders, Gubbins put forwards Wingate’s name as CO and received immediate agreement. “Very sound choice,” Ironside was quoted as having said. “Remarkably talented young man, able to think on his feet and improvise. If anyone can make a success of working with the Finns, Wingate can.”

Wingate had not however been the original choice. Initially, the mantel was to have fallen on Kermit Roosevelt, the son of President Roosevelt. By 14 October 1939, when Britain was at war with Germany, Roosevelt had negotiated a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment with the assistance of his friend, Winston Churchill, who was by then First Lord of the Admiralty. He had some military experience from WW1, but was by no means an experienced military man. He also suffered from a lifelong battle with depression and alcoholism and it was a bout with alcoholism at a crucial period that had put paid to his chance to lead the volunteers – one witness described him as “a sick man suffering from uncontrollable tremors”. The next choice was the serendipitously named but elderly Brigadier-General Winter, who was to have commanded the “Base Depot”. Decided on as Roosevelt’s successor, he immediately fell severely ill. A capable soldier in his day (he had been cited three times in dispatches in WW1), he had at one time been British Intelligence Chief in Dublin but was now elderly and not in the best of health. “The sort of dud who ought never to have been employed …… on an expedition which required a youthful, tough and physically strong leader.”

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

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

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

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

Article sourced from: http://www.cairogang.com/other-people/b ... ughter.jpg
News report on Captain Winter’s manslaughter case

Article sourced from: http://www.cairogang.com/other-people/b ... winter.jpg
Obit.: Brigadier-General Sir Ormonde de l'Épée Winter (KBE CB CMG DSO) (1875–1962)

Thus, while Wingate’s appointment as CO of the volunteers and his brevet promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel received some attention, there was relief in many quarters at his selection for posting and while there was doubt expressed by many in the Army as to Wingate’s social suitability, none at all was expressed as to his military aptitude for the job and the decision was made. Wingate was promoted and effective immediately, placed in command of the Atholl Highlanders Regiment. Wingate himself had been actively soliciting command of a Jewish Volunteer Unit to fight with the British Army and was initially upset at his selection, viewing himself as having been sidelined. Ironside however, pointed out to him the advantages of such a posting in command of a Battalion acting independently. After a short meeting, Wingate was persuaded and accepted the command of the Battalion. Characteristically, he acted with speed and decision, meeting with the Director and Committee members of the Finnish Aid Bureau, outlining his needs and intentions to Lt. Col. Gubbins and Amery and meeting separately with Harold Macmillan. That done, he turned his attention to the volunteers and then to the selection of Officers.

Meeting initially with the Volunteers who had already been shortlisted, he gave them a short and to the point speech which had the immediate result of a number of the Volunteers deselecting themselves. Following this, he took them on a twenty five mile march around London. “If you can’t hack this, you’re no good to me in Finland,” he told the by now 500 men. He led the march at a rapid pace, before delegating the lead to fall back to the rear and eliminate the stragglers. By the end of the day, a further 150 had gone. “That’s better,” he said to the survivors, “If they’d stayed, you blokes would have ended up carrying them.” He then dispatched them with their NCO’s to be issued uniforms, kit, rifles and ammunition. Following this, he turned to the organisation of the Bureau’s headquarters at Thorney House, commenting acerbically that the place was a “hive of somewhat disorganized activity, with large numbers of volunteer workers scurrying about in all directions, keen but somewhat incoherent. That is something that will change from this moment on.” Thorney House had been provided to the Bureau free of charge by Lord Davies, who occupied a position on the Committee of Management. Peder Cederholm, a Finn who had worked with Gibson in the International Bureau for Non-Intervention in Spain, was appointed Liaison Officer and lived in the premises.

In addition to the volunteers, the Bureau was supported by a large number of staff, many with military connections. One “chief personal assistant” was a Major, as was the Equipment Officer and a Receptionist. Two other receptionists were full Colonels. Their presence at Thorney House rather belied the pretence that the Aid Bureau was an “unofficial and independent” organisation. Despite this “Wingate went through the Bureau like a hurricane,” a Major who was there was quoted as saying. “Gibson followed in his wake and whenever he tried to get a word in, Wingate simply glared maniacally at him.” Within the day, Wingate had reorganized the Bureau to deliver the support he required, the deadwood having been unceremoniously (and in one case, a Colonel who objected, violently enough that he required medical treatment) ejected. Gibson acquiesced in this, and also in the approach Wingate took to recruiting the volunteers. Initially, “five or six hundred men” (Gibson advised Wingate) had given their names to the Finnish Legation before the Bureau began operating. When the Bureau initially became operational, its activities were conceived as covert (as per Chamberlain’s directives) but as news of its mandate spread into the public sphere this changed rapidly. A report in The Times, for example, announced on the 15th of February that a license had been granted under the Foreign Enlistment Act, and that hundreds of men had come forward to fight for Finland. Word, inevitably, got around and within three days, the Bureau had decided to advertise.

Before the Bureau publicly started recruiting, there had been several stages to being accepted as a volunteer. First, the men – and they were all men; (Gibson later claimed he had had to turn away “several thousand” female volunteers, for whom he could find no use – submitted an application form, giving basic personal information, and any special skills suited to the war in Finland, such as skiing, flying experience, or technical expertise. Men between twenty-four and fifty years of age were eligible, though younger or older men might be included if they possessed ‘special qualifications’. Other grounds for exclusion, apart from age, were employment in reserve occupations or the existence of financially dependent relatives. This latter point was dictated by the Bureau’s decision that “it was impossible to pay an allowance to relatives or provide adequate pensions in the event of the volunteer being killed”. It was an admission both of the Bureau’s impecunious position and its reluctance to mimic state sponsored military efforts with guarantees of indemnity. This left the volunteers with few protections, though eventually, following considerable pressure from Amery and then from Churchill, the British military did agree to compensate volunteers’ dependents in the event of death.

But the original stipulation ostensibly excluded any married man, or men with other forms of domestic and family responsibilities. After submitting their forms, the successful applicants were summoned to Thorney House for an interview. If he passed the interview, the prospective volunteer was sent for a medical examination, and he was declared either fit for active duty, fit for ‘non-military’ duty, or unfit for service altogether. Finally, Gibson claimed that he was personally interviewing each volunteer – no mean feat for one man, begging the question of just how probing this interview really was – and, weighing the findings of the interviewing officers and the medical examiners, made a final ruling on the volunteer’s suitability for service in Finland. In his report, Gibson set out to make these procedures seem as watertight as possible. If he was chosen, the volunteer’s details were forwarded to the Home Office, the Ministry of Labour and military intelligence to confirm that he was free from national obligation and altogether suitable for his role.

Wingate threw these procedures out of the window. (Literally in fact – when Gibson showed him his carefully typed up procedures, Wingate read through them, looked Gibson in the eye and apparently told him “I will personally shoot the next man that inflicts this sort of nonsense on me.” He then threw the procedure manual straight through the closed window of Gibson’s office, where it landed on the street in the midst of a shower of glass). Wingate then dictated his own recruiting procedures to a secretary who recorded them in shorthand and typed them up that same day. They were short and sweet, boiling down to an assessment of age and physical condition, prior military experience (the check of this being the Lee-Enfield .303 assembly test) and a simple statement of marital status and military obligations (if any). Security checks were eliminated (“they are to be told,” Wingate instructed, “that if they prove to be traitors to the unit, they will be shot dead on the spot.”). He personally met each of the volunteers short-listed at the end of that and subsequent days and advised them of this, accompanied with a searching look of somewhat maniacal intensity. This did results in a small number of voluntary withdrawals.

A further challenge that Wingate overcame in short order was the selection of Officers for the Battalion. In this, he relied on officers he knew personally, or on short and to the point interviews with officers who approached him for a position in the unit. He had already roughed out a Battalion organisation on the first evening after his appointment. This he based, rather originally, on the 2nd Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry (also sometimes known as the 74th, referring to the merger of the 71st and 74th Regiments in 1881 to create the Highland Light Infantry). The 2nd HLI had been based in the British Middle East prior to the outset of hostilities in 1939, which was probably where Wingate had come across them. They were somewhat of an anomaly in the British Army, being a “Mountain Battalion” similar in some ways to the Lovat Scouts (although in this the War Establishment tables unhelpfully show the 2nd HLI as a Maintenance Battalion, rather than a Mountaineer Battalion, in the National Archive indices). Regardless, it was this Battalion that Wingate used as his model, perhaps on the basis that Winter Warfare in Finland and Mountain Warfare were somewhat similar.

The Atholl Highlanders Battalion, Finland, circa 1940

Battalion Headquarters (5 Officers, 12 men)

Headquarters Company (5 Officers, 169 men), comprised of;
Company HQ (1 Officer, 5 men)
Medical Platoon (1 Officer, 18 men) (plus 4 additional men per Rifle Company in excess of three for 30 men in total)
Signal Platoon (1 Officer, 45 men) (plus 12 men per Rifle Company in excess of three for 81 men in total)
Pioneer Platoon (1 Officer, 18 men)
Administrative Platoon (1 Officer, 35 men)

Heavy Weapons Company (5 Officers, 147 men), comprised of;
Company HQ (1 Officer, 5 men)
Light Machine Gun Platoon (1 Officer, 63 men)
Anti-Tank Gun Platoon (1 Officer, 29 men with Boys Anti-Tank Rifles)
Anti-Aircraft Platoon (1 Officer, 16 men)
Mortar Platoon – 1 Officer, 34 men)

Six Rifle Companies (each of 5 Officers, 109 men), each comprised of;

Company HQ (2 Officers (1 Major, 1 Captain, 10 men including one Sniper Team - every Rifle Company HQ included both a Company Sergeant Major and a Company Quartermaster Sergeant, the latter responsible for messing facilities.)

Three Rifle Platoons, each comprised of;

Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 3 men - Subaltern, Sergeant, batman and signaler – the batman carried the Platoon anti-tank rifle)

Three Rifle Sections, each comprised of 10 men (Corporal, Lance-Corporal, 8 Riflemen)

Total Strength of 1027 all ranks (45 Officers and 982 men), based on six Rifle Companies

The elements of the Battalion

Battalion Headquarters - this was a much slimmed down version of the normal Battalion HQ, but still included the Lieutenant-Colonel, Major, Adjutant, attached Medical Officer and an Intelligence Officer. Wingate’s notes indicate that Battalion Headquarters was to command from three to six Rifle Companies, dependent on the numbers of Volunteers available and accepted.

Medical Platoon - the stretcher-bearers were formed into a separate Medical Platoon under the Medical Sergeant within the Headquarter Company. An additional four bearers were allowed for every Rifle Company above three.

Signal Platoon - this again allowed for an increment of additional personnel, no less than twelve signalers for each Rifle Company above three in the Battalion. Wingate based this on British Army radio and field telephone equipment. In Finland, these numbers were not necessary and the men were reallocated. The Platoon maintained radio, wire and telephone communication between the Battalion and higher and parallel formations.

Administrative Platoon - provided the bulk of the Battalion motor pool, plus the various cooks, fitters and tradesmen required to keep the unit functioning.

Light Machine Gun Platoon - one of the interesting features of the Battalion was the LMG Platoon. As noted below, there were no Bren guns allocated to the Rifle Platoons, instead these weapons were concentrated in a single LMG Platoon. Wingate allowed for thirteen Bren guns, with thirteen Corporals and four Sergeants, the latter all Section leaders. Each Section consisted of a Sergeant, an orderly and three detachments, each of a Corporal and three men, with one Bren per detachment. The balance of personnel at Platoon HQ were a Subaltern, a batman-driver, two orderlies and a 'spare' detachment of a Corporal and three men. This an odd feature, and one that was ignored on arrival in Finland, with a Bren Gun allocated to each section in the Rifle Companies (Wingate had ensured extra Bren Guns were taken along). In Finland, the Light Machine Gun Platoon was converted into a Mortar Platoon using Finnish Army issued 81mm Mortars).

Mortar Platoon – once established, this was commanded by a Platoon Sergeant Major, and operated four 81mm mortars. Each 2 gun detachment was commanded by a Sergeant and provided with a 15-cwt Bedford Truck to transport mortar, ammunition and men.

Anti-tank Gun Platoon - During the early years of the war, the British Army did not issue Anti-tank guns directly to the Infantry Battalion. In France, each Infantry Brigade included an Anti-tank Company of three Platoons, each Platoon equipped with three 25-mm guns provided by the French, and one such Platoon could be attached to each Battalion. Given the isolation of his unit, Wingate made provision for an anti-tank gun platoon within the Battalion from the start.

Anti-aircraft Platoon - the AA Platoon was commanded by a Platoon Sergeant Major, and included four light 4WD trucks, each fitted with a single Bren gun on a 'Motley' mounting and also carrying a Boys anti-tank rifle.

Pioneer Platoon - none of the usual tradesmen, simply sixteen Pioneers, four of them Corporals. Platoon HQ was an Officer, a Sergeant and a batman-driver. It included a motorcycle for the Sergeant and a truck for stores and equipment.

The Rifle Section was ten men strong, and consisted of a Section commander (a Corporal) and a Lance-corporal, and eight men, seven of whom were armed with a rifle. The British Army began the Second World War using much the same rifle it had concluded the First World War with. The Lee-Enfield Mk III was a bolt action weapon with a ten round internal magazine that proved both reliable and accurate. Two men in each Section acted as gunner and loader for the Section’s single Bren light machine gun which had begun to enter service in 1938, replacing the previous Lewis gun, another Great War veteran. Three such Sections served under a Platoon HQ.

As Wingate was setting up his Battalion in early 1940, the British Army had already sent or was in the process of sending the bulk of its recently mobilised units to France following the declaration of war against Germany. They took with them the larger part of the Army's motorised transport, infantry and cruiser tanks, and the heavy guns of the artillery as well as smaller items such as mortars and Bren guns. There was none of this equipment available in quantity to be sent to Finland or even to equip Wingate’s unit. Anti-tank rifles, mortars and even the vital Bren guns were in short supply – the only weapon that was easily available were the ubiquitous Lee-Enfield Rifles and Hand Grenades. Nevertheless, Wingate managed to acquire through various means enough Bren Guns and anti-tank rifles together with ammunition for them to fully equip his Battalion. The means by which he did this were apparently somewhat questionable but were not challenged.

Organisationally, not all Platoon sized units of the British Army were commanded by junior commissioned officers. The rank of Warrant Officer III, also known as a Platoon Sergeant Major (or a Troop Sergeant Major in some arms) was held by two of the three Rifle Platoon commanders in each Rifle Company, as well as some Platoon commanders in Headquarter Company. In Finland, the Battalion was found to be notably lacking both in manpower for its Rifle Sections and firepower, especially in automatic weapons, mortars and anti-tank weapons. For its time though, it was a highly ambitious unit and remarkably well-equipped. Fortunately, the Maavoimat was in a position to provide the Battalion with additional weapons and as he gained experience from fighting alongside the Finns, Wingate rapidly adopted an organisation similar to that used by the Maavoimat.

With six Rifle Companies and a total Strength of 979 all ranks (45 Officers and 934 men), the Atholl Highlanders was a strong Battalion. There were far more suitable volunteers than there were positions and in the end, Wingate would take an additional 200 suitable men as supernumeraries, intended as replacements for casualties. Some of these were younger men whose obvious enthusiasm appealed to Wingate. He agreed to take a number of these youngsters, who obviously had very little in the way of military training on the basis that they could be trained in Finland. One of these young men was Christopher Lee.

Photo sourced from: http://image.blingee.com/images18/conte ... 861719.gif
A young Christopher Lee in Finland (circa 1940, on leave in Helsinki…)

Christopher Lee (b. 27 May 1922) was born in Belgravia, Westminster, the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee, of the 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps, and his wife, Contessa Estelle Marie (née Carandini di Sarzano), a famous Edwardian beauty who was painted by Sir John Lavery as well as by Oswald Birley and Olive Snell, and sculpted by Clare F. Sheridan. Lee attended Wellington College, where he won scholarships in the classics. He was 17 and still at Wellington College when he and a group of school friends decided to volunteer. They travelled to London and were initially turned down as obviously to young. However, they literally bumped into Orde Wingate as he was leaving the Bureau’s offices and appealed to him for a chance. Wingate asked them if they could shoot or ski “we can shoot pretty well,” Lee remembered saying, “but as for skiing…” Wingate told them that if they could keep up with him on his run with the volunteers selected that day, he would take them. Lee and his friends managed to keep up and Wingate kept his word – they were accepted into the Battalion, although none of them saw combat. Wingate kept them at the Battalion’s base depot carrying out administrative tasks, although they would go through the abbreviated Osasto Nyrkki training that the entire battalion completed that summer.

After returning from Finland in October 1940, Lee went on to serve in the Royal Air Force and intelligence services during World War II, including serving as an Intelligence officer with the Long Range Desert Group. He trained in South Africa as a pilot, but eyesight problems forced him to drop out. He eventually ended up in North Africa as Cipher Officer for No. 260 Squadron RAF and was with it through Sicily and Italy. Additionally, he has mentioned (including in his audio commentary on the Lord of the Rings DVD) serving in Special Operations Executive. Lee retired from the RAF after the end of the war with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. His favorite memory from his time in Finland with the Atholl Highlanders – attending a concert in Helsinki given by the Harmony Sisters – Maila, Vera and Elsa Valtonen. “Kodin kynttilät - When it's lamp lighting time in the valley - was for a long time my favorite song,” he remembered.

Next Post: The Atholl Highlanders – continued…….
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 Mar 2012 00:32

“3 real sisters singing in 10 Languages: American Hits – French Chansons – Finnish Folksongs” is the letterhead on their stationery from 1942. In a photo dating back to WWII the three beauties are dressed in white crêpe dresses with golden epaulets on shoulders. The letterhead was designed for a career in the United States and was still used in 1992 by the bandleader, soprano Raija Valtonen, during her last stay in Helsinki in the Hotelli Torni.

However, the American dream about a career in the entertainment business never came through for the Harmony Sisters (1934-54). Making their initial breakthrough on radio (the Finnish Broadcasting Company, Yleisradio), they were the first Finnish vocal group, three sisters from the city of Kotka, Vera, Maire and Raija, were the sensation of their time. They were the first professional female entertainers in Finland singing in a soft tone suitable to the radio microphone. During their formative years the swing music loving girls performed only in English, until they met their new conductor in Vyborg in 1937, an emigrant musician, George de Codzinsky, from St. Petersburg. As a result of this the trio expanded into a versatile program and rocketed to fame with hits like Sataman Valot (Harbour Lights)(1937), Purppurapurjeet (Red Sails in the Sunset) (1939) and the tango number, Pieni Sydän (1939). Mr. Godzinsky’s arrangement skills made the angel-like and skillful vocal group move easily from one language to another and master the whole scale of entertainment from Viennese waltzes to folk songs, from ballads to popular hits.

The tango number, Pieni Sydän (1939)

“A rich gene pool is the best guarantee for success” was Mr. Godzinsky’s opinion about the talented sisters, whose father was Karelian and mother a descendant of Norwegian saw mill workers in Kotka. Vera Enroth-Valtonen (1914-97) was born in Pähkinälinna, by the shores of Lake Ladoga, Maire Ojanen (born Valtonen) (1916-95) in Dubrovka close to St. Petersburg and the youngest Raija Valtonen (1918-1997) in Tornio after the family fled from the Russian revolution. Already at a young age the girls became child-stars of the Salvation Army in Kotka where they performed together with their religious mother Ester Valtonen (born Adolfsen) to the less fortunate. The American talking pictures in 1930s with swing, jazz and Hollywood entertainment of Hollywood introduced the sisters to the world of Cheek to Cheek and Begin the Beguine at the same time as American sister trios like the Andrew Sisters and the Boswell Sisters.

The fame of the charming and talented female trio quickly reached abroad; in 1938 they were offered a concert in China-Varieté in Stockholm. The start of WWII cut their plans short, but the participation on the entertainment tours on the front made the Harmony Sisters a legend; Kodin Kynttilät (When it’s lamp lighting time in the valley) (1940) ja Sulle salaisuuden kertoa mä voisin (1942) lead to the sound of the sisters echoing from the Karelian backwoods to the soldier’s evening programs and to the radio broadcasts on the frontlines and the borders. Their international career started when the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yleisradio) sent the Harmony Sisters on three separate tours to Germany during the years 1942-43; a contract with Telefunken and performances in radio and military hospitals as Geschwister Valtonen took them to Vienna, Bukarest, Warsaw and Riga with colorful and international group of artists. Vera, Maire and Raija had a lot of songs with adaptations made by George de Codzinsky, like swing and music by Jewish composers, the performing of which was officially forbidden.

Also their colleagues were Dutch, Czech and Italian musicians and band leaders, such as Benny de Weille, whose dance orchestra accompanied Geschwister Waltonen on a record recorded in Berlin. Trips to Germany always passed through Sweden, where they had a growing number of radio performances. By 1943 as tensions between Finland and Germany grew again, they left Germany behind and performed in China-varieté and in Liseberg, Gothenburg. In his childhood home in Ingermanland, their father, Adolf, Valtoen, knew Russian and had played the balalaika. Consequently, after Finland re-entered WW2 and fought against Germany, the Harmony Sisters recorded a number of tracks in Russian. The collapse of the Finnish recording industry after the war and the law forbidding dancing until the year 1948 made the Harmony Sisters after years of performing finally to move to Sweden, to the great dance halls’ and big orchestras’ Stockholm in 1947. They quickly became among the best known stars in Sweden and did many recordings, among them a unique track of Mikael Nyberg’s religious song, O, huru ljuvliga (1947). Konvaljens avsked (Kielon jäähyväiset) was their biggest success, a waltz from the beginning of the century with about 100 000 records sold, for which the sisters only received 50 Swedish kronas each, according to the recording contract. A huge success was Kodin kynttilät recorded in Swedish with the name När ljusen tändas därhemma (1947).

Konvaljens avsked (Kielon jäähyväiset)

Over the war years, in the world darkened by the horrors of WWII, the Harmony Sisters brought charm, joy and light to peoples’ lives, wherever they sang. Vera, Maire and Raija Valtonen’s angel like voices, their optimism and professionalism built a bridge towards the future. Finally, in 1948 they received the long awaited offer from the U.S. However, by this time they were mothers of small children and did not want to make the journey anymore. The Harmony Sisters stayed on the old continent, to the benefit of all Finns. Many Allied servicemen who fought alongside the Finns in the Winter War and in the Continuation War against Germany from early 1944 to mid 1945 and wars-end would remember their voices and their songs, evoking nostalgic memories of their time fighting in Finland and south through the Baltic States. Christopher Lee was only one of many who enjoyed their music and their concerts.....
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 Mar 2012 22:05

The next Post or two will provide bio's of a cross-section of the Officers, NCO’s and men of the Atholl Highlanders. It’s not all-inclusive, but it aims to give some idea of the calibre of the men who served under Wingate in the Battalion. They were a real mixture – as will be seen.

Captain Chandor – Admin Platoon CO

The Volunteers themselves were a mixed bunch. The most senior Officer of the Volunteers when Wingate stepped in was a Captain Hugo Chandor, the intended supply and transport officer. Though he had fought in World War One and commanded a bombing school, as a leader Chandor appears to have been out of his depth – a “nice but very weak character”, as one early volunteer described him, and with “quite insufficient military experience or personality to train and organise volunteers”, in the estimation of another. Wingate was not particularly impressed by Chandor, but he was also loathe to sack an experienced officer, and so appointed him to command of the Battalion Administration Platoon, which would remain at the Battalion’s Base Depot for the duration of the units time in Finland. It was a role he filled capably, although Wingate, who was certainly no respecter of rank or seniority, would at times abuse him mercilessly for perceived failures or slowness in carrying out instructions.

Photo sourced from forum.axishistory.com
Captain Hugo Henry Chandor, Atholl Highlanders. Wingate appointed him to command of the Battalion Administration Platoon, which would remain at the Battalion’s Base Depot for the duration of the units time in Finland. It was a role he filled capably, although Wingate would at times abuse him mercilessly for perceived failures or slowness in carrying out instructions.

Photo sourced from forum.axishistory.com
Captain Hugo Henry Chandor, Atholl Highlanders stands to attention here while a senior Maavoimat Officer extends his hand to greet him. Captain Chandor was a somewhat adventurous character, an old Etonian who had been a Cadet in the Eton College Cadet Contingent, served in WW1 and reached the rank of Colonel.

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

Major Peter Kemp – Rifle Company CO

Photo sourced from: http://www.specialforcesroh.com/gallery ... le2785.jpg
Peter Mant MacIntyre Kemp (born Bombay 19 August 1913 - died London 30 October 1993), known as Peter Kemp, was an English soldier and writer. The son of a judge in British India, Kemp was educated at Wellington School and proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied classics and law. He became notable for his participation in the Spanish Civil War and during World War II as a member of the Special Operations Executive.

As a staunch Conservative and Monarchist, Kemp was alarmed by the rise of Communism and in November 1936, shortly after the end of the Siege of Alcazar, broke off from reading for the bar and travelled to Spain where he joined a Carlist unit under the Nationalists. He was given journalistic cover for entry into Spain by Collin Brooks, then editor of the Sunday Dispatch, "to collect news and transmit articles for the Sunday Dispatch from the Spanish Fronts of War.” He later transferred to the Spanish Legion where, in a rare distinction for a non-Spaniard, he commanded a platoon. Kemp was often badgered by his Spanish comrades about whether he was a freemason due to his protestant background. Wounded several times, he continued fighting until he suffered a shattered jaw and badly damaged hands in the summer of 1938 - the result of a mortar bomb, and was repatriated to England. He wrote about his time in Spain in his book, “Mine were of Trouble” (1957). His later book, “The Thorns of Memory,” also has several chapters on his experiences in Spain, although they read as if they were largely taken from the earlier book with a few revisions.

Photo Sourced from: http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G ... f110.L.jpg
“Mine Were of Trouble” by Peter Kemp: A well-written account of an Englishman who decided to fight against the left in Spain's civil war.

Seeking adventure but also as a result of his political convictions, Peter Kemp left the UK at the age of 20 to join Franco's forces in November 1936. Compared to many international volunteers who met with some mistrust, Kemp was generally received with open arms. First, a member of the Carlist Requetes where, assisted by a few OTC certificates, he swiftly became a lieutenant; he then decided to switch to the tougher but rather more elite Spanish Foreign Legion as one of about three or four British officers. Thereon, he recounts a vivid tale of life in Franco's forces, culminating in several battles and engagements, ultimately being wounded. The value of the book is in its non-leftist perspective. Kemp has many interesting things to say, particularly about the bombing of Guernica, which claims Kemp, since the Republicans had bombed Toledo in July 1936, was not the first large-scale bombing of a town, as well as the fact that the Republicans set fire to Guernica, as they had in Irun. He freely admits that the Nationalists were ridiculously naive in their propaganda compared to the more sophisticated and well-supported Republicans. Also an interesting point of view: the involvement of the International Brigades only prolonged a war that the Spaniards could have settled much more quickly and with much less bloodshed if left alone. Food for thought and a bit of a tonic to the usual fairy tale of how “the left were splendid fellows and everyone else was the devil incarnate”. At least we can salvage a bit of historical objectivity instead of being spoon-fed Hemingway, Orwell, Lee, Spender, Koestler, Malraux, Saint-Exupery, et al.

Having barely recovered from his jaw injury, Kemp volunteered for service with the Atholl Highlanders in Finland and was immediately accepted. Wingate spent two hours with him discussing his experiences fighting with the Spanish Foreign Legion in Spain and on the basis of their talk, accepted him and appointed him commander of a Rifle Company with the rank of Major. Kemp would lead his company well over the course of the Winter War, gaining a great deal more experience from working under Wingate and from Maavoimat training.

Photo sourced from: http://www.specialforcesroh.com/gallery ... le2152.jpg
Peter Kemp with the Atholl Highlanders in Finland – late summer 1940. As part of the “image”, Wingate adopted the Australian bush hats his men wore from the men of the ANZAC and Australian Volunteer Battalions who fough with the Finns – Wingate was a master of publicity and he certainly knew how to create an “image” for his unit.

On his return from Finland after the end of the Winter War, Kemp had a chance meeting with Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker, the former head of MIR- which had been a small department of the War Office and a precursor to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He was assigned as a pupil at the Combined Operations Training School and joined SOE. After further parachute and commando training he went on several cross-channel raids into Occupied France and was then posted to Albania, where he spent 10 months in clandestine operations in too close proximity to Enver Hoxha. A mission in Poland resulted in capture by the Red Army and imprisonment by the NKVD. After three weeks in prison, he and Polish Home Army prisoners in the same jail were released by Maavoimat special forces as they and the resurgent Polish Army moved to recover control of Polish territory in the rear of the Red Army from the Soviets. After further two months in Poland working with the Poles and Finns, he was posted to Siam in the summer of 1945, where he ran guns to the French across the border in Laos. Tuberculosis forced his retirement from the Army once the war had ended.

Post-war Kemp sold insurance policies and turned to writing. As a correspondent for the Tablet he travelled to Hungary to report on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and helped some students escape to Austria. He was present in the Belgian Congo during the troubles that led to independence as Zaire, and also covered revolutions in Central and South America as the foreign correspondent for The Spectator. His first book 'Mine Were of Trouble' described his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, 'No Colours or Crest' his wartime experiences in Albania and Poland as a Special Operations Executive agent, and Alms for Oblivion his post-war experiences in Bali and Lombok. Before his death he produced an autobiography in 1990 called 'The Forms of Memory'.

Malcolm Munthe – replacement Rifle Company 2IC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo sourced from: http://ww2today.com/wp-content/uploads/ ... 95x268.jpg
Soviet-T26-tank destroyed by a Finnish satchel charge

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

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

Photo sourced from: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5 ... SS500_.jpg
“Malcolm Munthe's Sweet is War is a war memoir that reads like a novel. From a lovelorn London youth we follow Munthe through the banalities of boot camp to the British volunteer battalion sent to Finland to fight the Russians during the Winter War. Caught up in the fall of Norway, the wounded Munthe makes a heroic trek to the safety of neutral Sweden, preparation for his work as 'Red Horse', the ubiquitous director of resistance against the Nazis in Scandinavia. From the headquarters of covert operations in London, the young major moves out to North Africa to prepare the ground for the invasion of Sicily and the long hard struggle to liberate Italy. Malcolm Munthe knew well the casual brutality of war, its monstrous waste and random cruelty. He passed through ordeals which tested his sense of humanity to the full. Yet he retained his delight in the irony, comedy, beauty and heroic bravery to be found in this world." This bitter-sweet memoir of the Second World War reads like a real life version of Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy. Mr Munthe, who had been a page in the Swedish court as a boy was one of those few survivors of the way of life of pre-1914 Europe. His youthful war adventures are consistently farcical, yet take place amidst the horrors of war. The result is a gripping book, sure to appeal even to those who do not usually read war memoirs.

Munthe had arrived in Finland in December 1939 and would fight with the Finns until March 1940, initially attached to a Finnish unit where he made magnetic anti-tank mines, he was soon attached to a Finnish Army training unit where soldiers were instructed in how to use the new British-supplied explosives. On the arrival of the Atholl Highlanders in Finland, Munth joined the unit where he was initially assigned to training the supernumeraries. After two weeks Wingate assigned him as a Rifle Company 2IC, replacing a casualty, after which he became a Rifle Company CO. After fighting with Wingate’s raiders on the Karelian Isthmus in spring 1940 and being wounded in action himself, he would be evacuated as far as Bergen in Norway where he would be caught up in the German invasion. He would escape from Norway to Sweden and eventually make it back to London, where he would go on to join SOE. After operating in North Africa and Italy, he would participate in the Anzio landing in early 1944, before being transferred back to Finland as SOE Liaison Officer for the Allies, attached to the Finnish Military Headquarters at Mikkeli where he would help coordinate assistance to the Polish Home Army.

More coming……..
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

More on the Atholl Highlanders...

Post by CanKiwi2 » 06 Apr 2012 17:10

These Posts will provide a cross-section of the Officers, NCO’s and men of the Atholl Highlanders. It’s not all-inclusive, but it aims to give some idea of the calibre of the men who served under Wingate in the Battalion. They were a real mixture…….

Major Derek Tulloch – Battalion 2IC

The only Officer that Wingate actually approached and asked to join the Atholl Highlanders was his old school friend, Captain Derek Tulloch. Tulloch had known Wingate from as long ago as their days at Charterhouse School, they had studied at Woolwich (the Royal Artillery School) over the period 1920-1922 together and had fox-hunted together for years. Tulloch was perhaps Wingate’s closest friend and when approached, he immediately agreed to Wingate’s request to become 2IC of the Battalion. War Office approval was immediately forthcoming. Promoted to Major on accepting the position, Tulloch led the first party on the journey to Finland. He would serve as 2IC under Wingate for the remainder of the Winter War and was on his return to the UK awarded the MC (Military Cross) and shortly afterwards (in 1941) promoted to Temporary Lieutenant Colonel. As with Wingate, fighting in Finland with the Maavoimat would give Tulloch many of the ideas and much early experience in operations behind enemy lines and in the logistical necessities inherent in such operations.

Photo sourced from: http://www.haileybury.com/medals/images/tulloch.jpg
Donald Derek Cuthbertson TULLOCH (b. 28 April 1903, died 3 July 1974) was the son of Lieutenant Colonel D. F. Tulloch. He passed out from the RMA Woolwich Royal Artillery in 1923 and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1929, Captain in 1936 and Major in 1940. He was awarded the MC in 1940 and promoted to Temporary Lieutenant Colonel in 1941, Temporary Brigadier 1943 and served with the Chindits over1943 - 1944 (where he would serve as Chief-of-Staff under Wingate). He was awarded the DSO in 1944, promoted to Colonel in 1947, then Temporary Brigadier RA Brigade Southern Command in 1952. He served as ADC to HM the Queen and ended his military career as a Major General and C-in-C Singapore in 1954. He was awarded the CB in 1955. Before he died he wrote a somewhat hagiographical biography of Wingate, “Wingate in Peace and War” (1972).

CSM Charlie Riley - “A” Company – Company Sergeant Major

“A” Company CSM Charlie Riley was a New Zealander – actually a Cockney born in London’s Tower Hamlets in November 1893 who had first arrived in New Zealand in 1913. Although a keen student, Riley had to leave school at 15 to support his family and spent some tedious months in the counting-house of a tea merchant until “an army recruiting sergeant thought I would make a good soldier,” and offered him the traditional King’s shilling to enlist. The next five years were spent with the Royal Field Artillery at Woolwich Arsenal, until “the inside and outside of a fourteen pound gun, down to the last split pin, became as well known as one’s regimental number”. On his discharge at age 21 Riley resumed his childhood passion for ships and the sea. As an ordinary seaman he worked on a succession of tramp steamers, eventually carrying Italian emigrants to New York. Returning from one such voyage in April 1912, his ship encountered the floating wreckage of the Titanic. When “cold voyages across the Atlantic” lost their appeal, he signed on board the SS Tainui for Australia and New Zealand and was paid off in Wellington, New Zealand in April 1913. There he joined the passenger steamer Westralia, “a very happy ship” which shuttled across the Tasman and around the coasts of both countries.

His mother’s illness brought Riley back to the UK at the inauspicious time of July 1914. Upon the outbreak of war his ability to ride a horse saw him enlisted as a trooper in a heavy cavalry regiment, the Prince of Wales 3rd Dragoon Guards. After three months’ training at Canterbury in Kent, the regiment was sent to the first battle of Ypres where Riley would spend the next two years engaged in heavy fighting, eventually attaining the rank of Sergeant. “We had a gruelling time up there because in the winter time, 1914, 1915, [those years] were vile. We only had ordinary trenches about three feet deep and there was often two feet of water in them and we had ten days in and ten days out. ….. ‘We were in St Julian, that the soldiers called Sanctuary Wood, when the first lot of Canadians got the effect of the gas that the Germans had put over in shells. We were in reserve to the Canadians so we brought them out and… they were all as green as grass from the chlorine…. after a while the Germans gave up using gas. It didn’t work always because they quite often got it back.”

“In one attack we were unfortunate. We met up with a regiment of Prussian guards and they were all huge fellows… I remember going over the top, we met them about halfway and I saw one fellow coming at me so I was ready with the rifle and bayonet. I happened to slip just as I got in front of him. He took a lunge at me but he missed too so up I got quickly and into him, but before that his bayonet just nipped me in the arm, in the muscle.” After emergency dressing in the field, this wound became infected with tetanus and after some time in a hospital in France, Riley was invalided to Britain to make room for more urgent cases.

Discharged from the army as unfit, the resilient 23-year-old became a civilian gunner’s mate on an armed merchantman plying between Britain and South Africa. Towards the end of 1917 he sailed from Port Said to New Zealand on the SS Arawa, repatriating some 800 wounded New Zealand troops. There he was paid off, but “in view of the fact that I had a re-examination and my arm was all right, I had to rejoin and carry on. This time I enlisted in the Mounted Rifles. I went into Featherston Camp and I went off overseas with the 35th reinforcement and arrived in time for the final of the battles in Palestine.” After his final discharge in February 1919 Riley studied engineering at Canterbury University but failed to complete his qualification due to illness (perhaps a form of delayed shellshock). Instead he became a goldminer, and found work as a shot-firer in the West Coast Waiuta mine. By 1930 he was married and living in Christchurch but the onset of worldwide depression meant there was, “no work for a skilled gold miner with a licence to use explosives. My savings vanished within a year.”

Riley had by now become politically active on the left, first with the Labour and then the Communist Party. He became an organiser of the huge numbers of his fellow unemployed workers under the aegis of the Christchurch Unemployed Workers’ Movement. “We used to have our meetings outside in Victoria Square, Christchurch, and we built up a nice organisation… We had illegal demonstrations and so on, we fought the police, we had to. We had to take to the streets to make ourselves known. Oh, I’m well known down there (in Christchurch).” Over the next few years Riley took part in the 1932 tramways strike and accumulated 28 criminal convictions. Following the passage of the extraordinarily repressive Public Safety Conservation Act he was classed as a “rogue and a vagabond” and along with several other leaders of the unemployed, sentenced to a year’s prison. “After I’d been there ten and half months, they asked me if I would go out on probation. I said no, you’ve kept me here this long, I might as well see it out – I did.’”

In 1934, divorced and desperate for work, Riley made his way to Sydney, a city he knew from his seafaring days, and returned to gold-mining, first in Cobar, NSW and then Tennant’s Creek, NT, putting his expertise as a skilled miner and expert in explosives to use. In both mines he was lucky, his crew striking rich seams of ore and earning bonuses of 80 pounds a month each. “From poverty to affluence, it was a good feeling.” Isolated in remote mining camps, Riley spent his off-shift hours reading, thus learning of the rise of fascism in Europe, and especially of Hitler’s ruthless suppression of German trade unions along with Jews and other enemies on the left. The Australian miners and other unions raised funds for their support (“even poverty-stricken men gave their sixpences”), and sympathetic German seamen were secretly recruited to carry large sums to the underground resistance movements.

One day, lying on his camp-bed under canvas in the searing heat of Australia’s Northern Territory, Riley heard on his radio that on the far side of the world Franco and his fellow Spanish generals had launched a revolt against their country’s government and were being supported by the world’s fascist leaders. “That Hitler and Mussolini and the Spanish generals had begun attacking Loyalist Spain was about the last straw for us.” Within days he and a mate took the long and risky trek to Darwin, then returned by ship to Sydney, this time with “a small fortune in my pocket”. To save their funds, the two men signed on as firemen with a ship carrying wheat to Britain and after their discharge in Cardiff, the “two wild colonial boys took a first-class carriage to London”. There they made contact with recruiters for the International Brigades and as part of a group of over 100 volunteers, including a number of French Foreign Legion veterans, Riley made the grueling 14-hour trek across snowbound tracks through the Pyrenees, evading French machine-gun posts and searchlights. “Sometimes you had to run and drop down when the searchlights were in the vicinity, but anyhow, we made it and we arrived.”

In Catalonia Riley was enlisted in a mainly British unit of the XV International Brigades, and was soon thrown into action in the battle of Teruel. With characteristic offhandedness, Riley recalls the conditions as “pretty tough. The Germans and the Italians were far better off than we were. One thing we lacked was sufficient artillery and they had more aircraft than we did, although we were supplied from time to time with Russian bombers and they used to do a lot of good work.” Over the next 20 months Riley took part in the battle of Brunete, the later Republican offensive across the Ebro River and the subsequent disastrous withdrawal. In his 200-page memoir of the civil war (held in New Zealand’s Alexander Turnbull Library) he records his fascination at the differences he found between the idealistic Republican army and the British army in WWI. “There were no batmen or officer’s servants in the Republican Army; even the CO cleaned his own boots.” He is full of admiration for the women and children of republican Spain, and for regular Spanish troops such as the very youthful snipers. “Many of them were little taller than their rifles, but this did not prevent them from commanding respect.”

As a trained soldier with a knowledge of explosives and artillery, Riley gained the title of “shock brigader”, awarded to those with qualities of both military and political leadership. Already fluent in French, he acquired a useful knowledge of Spanish and trained the younger troops in the use of weapons and explosives. He also appears to have volunteered for some of the most dangerous actions of a very desperate war. “The night patrols were the more exciting of all night duties and … I must confess I used to enjoy taking part in patrol work near the lines. This was probably a stray heirloom inherited from the Great War period when in various sections of the Western Front, I seemed to enjoy (at the time anyway) creeping across No Man’s Land with other adventurous spirits loaded with hand grenades”. Riley’s memoir records in detail the various types of weapon, command systems and military tactics he observed, most of them new to him since the Spanish Civil War served as an important testing ground for the world war to come. “In the early fighting stages,” he subsequently recalled, “there was less than one rifle between each six defenders and many of the weapons were generations old. In the earlier days of the Rebellion, the antiquated Spanish Mauser held sway and there were many much more antiquated blunderbusses, carbines and flintlock pistols that did sterling work on the barricades, and which… might have found honoured resting places in any museum.” By the time Riley arrived in Spain, however, modern weaponry was arriving from the few foreign countries which officially supported the Republic, and he was issued with a Czech-made light machine gun with which to defend his column of infantry. “If planes came down, you took a potshot at them and got rid of them. They often flew low and you didn’t miss, you hit them somewhere and quite often a few were brought down.”

The Republican forces were generally less well equipped than their opponents and were often forced to improvise their weapons and strategies. Riley’s experience with explosives in the mines meant he was called upon to take part in the exceptionally dangerous work of close-quarter anti-tank warfare. “We carried about eight anti-tank bombs each. We used to get close to (the tanks) and throw them under the tracks and once they went off you’d see that the track had come off. They were immobilised then and all you had to do was find a place where you could throw another bomb in and kill the crew… If you get close to them they can’t shoot you, because their line of fire is beyond you.” No more than a dozen New Zealanders fought with the International Brigades, and Riley appears to have met only one other, a fellow seaman named Bert Bryan, from Timaru. The two met in combat on the River Ebro, the last major action of the International Brigades. “There was one place that was giving the Republican officers a headache and that was the Mora de Ebro bridge, so they sorted out half a dozen miners and I was among them and we mined the middle of the three spans.” Two nights later, the Republican fighters heard the rumbling of Italian tanks massed on the far side of the river. “The fuses were all ready and we just set them off. The bridge was half full of tanks when up she went and the three spans with it…. They never crossed the Ebro River, not while we were there.”

Soon after this success, however, Riley’s unit faced a fierce counter-attack from Italian infantry, and he was hit by machine gun bullets and shrapnel. “After being wounded in the head, face and left jugular artery, both shoulders and arms, I must have presented a pretty sight. One side of my face was a mass of congealed blood, the khaki beret which I held to my neck being saturated with the thick bloody mass... I still remember walking up a hillside to contact the dressing station which lay on the other side of the hill.” The still-conscious Riley was taken to Valls Hospital where his wounds became infected. “Only by long and careful treatment by the American staff and my Spanish nurses, Carmen and Tina, did I manage to retain my right arm.” That treatment included an emergency transfusion of blood donated by one of these nurses. Fortunately for the critically injured Riley, the quality of medical care available to Republican troops was generally very high. Volunteer doctors and nurses as well as combatants had arrived from around the world to support the Republicans, and together with native Spanish staff they pioneered battlefield medical techniques, such as the use of emergency blood transfusions, that would soon become routine. This treatment was provided under the worst imaginable wartime conditions and as Riley was transferred to a succession of hospitals, he witnessed a number of bombing raids on medical facilities. “Some time after I had left Valls, the hospital was bombed by insurgent air squadrons. Nevertheless it had remained untouched until almost the very end (of the war) for the reason that Franco had a country estate there.” At the time of this bombing, Riley notes, the hospital had a full complement of 400 patients.

After a month at Valls, with his right arm slowly recovering, Riley applied to rejoin his brigade but the hospital’s medical officer transferred him to the International Brigade’s Base Hospital at Mataro. There he met a number of Australian and New Zealand nurses, probably including Rene Shadbolt and Isobel Dodds who had been sent by New Zealand’s Spanish Medical Aid Committee. In late 1938, shortly before all International Brigaders were formally withdrawn from the front, he and other seriously wounded men were repatriated on board a Red Cross train to Paris. Still with his right arm in a sling, Riley arrived at London’s Victoria Station where he promptly weighed himself and noted the rigors of the past 20 months’ fighting. “The pointer registered at 8 st 7 lbs, which showed a loss of 2 st 7 lb.”

Photo sourced from: http://www.lhp.org.nz/LHP/Articles/Entr ... -04-09.jpg
Riley (3rd from left) and Australian members of the International Brigades arriving home from the Spanish Civil War.

Photo sourced from: http://www.lhp.org.nz/LHP/Articles/Entr ... -04-10.jpg
Charlie Riley circa 1938: Riley must have seen more battlefield experience than almost any other New Zealand soldier, was several times wounded and decorated, and was also a notoriously militant organiser of the unemployed during the 1930s.

Riley was still in Britain when WW2 broke out and was preparing to return to New Zealand where he intended to rejoin the New Zealand Army. He, like many other left-wingers who were not out and out communists who toed the Soviet Party line regardless, was outraged by the Soviet attack on Finland. He had attempted to join the ANZAC Battalion in December 1939 but had been turned down as “unsuitable”, probably due to his political beliefs which would not have gone down well with the more conservative New Zealand volunteers in the UK, who came from rather more middle-class backgrounds. Undeterred and still in the UK in February 1940, he immediately applied to join the Atholl Highlanders at the age of 46 (while claiming to be 39). He somehow made it through the medical inspection and Wingate, on hearing of his experience in WW1 and the Spanish Civil War, immediately interviewed him. Wingate was somewhat of a maverick himself and he made no bones about caring not one whit for Riley’s leftist political convictions. Without further ado he appointed Riley Company Sergeant Major of “A” Company where he would be under the command of Peter Kemp. Oblivious to the politics of the Spanish Civil War, Wingate’s reason for putting him under Kemp was stated as “you chaps both fought in Spain, no doubt you have a lot in common….” Nevertheless, despite their political differences, both men got on well and Riley served capably under Kemp throughout the Winter War. Wounded in action in the fighting in Finland, Riley would recover and on his return to the UK, would enlist with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Middle East.

Photo sourced from: http://www.lhp.org.nz/LHP/Articles/Entr ... pr1943.jpg
Sergeant Charlie Riley, New Zealand Army, April 1943

Outside Tobruk he would be wounded a fourth time, once again surviving to be repatriated. As the narrator says in “Man Alone”, John Mulgan’s classic New Zealand novel, “there are some men you just can’t kill”. Back in New Zealand, the almost indestructible leftwing battler remarried, outlived his second wife and carried on alone in his Naenae state house until his death in 1982. Interviewing him in 1972 at the age of 80, Ray Grover recalls that “there was nothing military about him, but he had the attitude of a ranker, a chirpy little Cockney guy.” Unlike many of those who offered their lives to the Spanish cause only to see Franco impose decades of repression, Riley looked back on his actions without regret. “There was no bitterness in the man at all.”

Captain Allison Digby Tatham-Warter – “B” Company 2IC

Born on 26 May 1917, Captain Allison Digby Tatham-Warter attended Scaitcliffe school in Surrey with his brother John, where they became friends with Peter Wilkinson, who went on to have a distinguished career with the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War. He later attended Wrekin College and then the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst where he became a talented horse-rider and won “The Saddle” as best horseman in his class. He joined the army in the late thirties and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 28 January 1937. He was expected to join the Indian Army, but during an obligatory year-long attachment with a British regiment serving in India (in this instance the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry) he decided to remain with them and was officially transferred to the regiment in 1938. Whilst in India Tatham-Warter further demonstrated his horse-riding and hunting skills. During a pig sticking competition he once killed three wild boar that each averaged 150 pounds (68 kg) and stood 3 foot (0.91 m) tall. On another occasion he killed a tiger that was stalking the group he was with. He was still serving with the Ox and Bucks in India but was on leave in the UK when war was declared in 1939. Tatham-Warter was promoted to Lieutenant in January 1940 and after volunteering and being accepted into the Atholl Highlanders, he was made an acting Captain and appointed 2IC of “B” Company under Major “Mad Jack” Churchill.

His first experience of combat came in the Karelian Isthmus offensive of Spring 1940 where Wingate put “B” Company in the vanguard of the drop, believing that both Churchill and Tatham-Warter were “thrusters”. Tasked with seizing two key road junctions and a critically important bridge, the Atholl Highlanders were to seize these at dawn on the first day of the offensive. “B” company would advance straight from the glider landing zone to the bridge while the rest of the battalion took the two road junctions. The initial landings were largely unopposed and the various Companies formed up quickly. Tatham-Warter set up the Battalion rendevous using smoke and lamps, before the order to move off came just after 6am. B Company was in action almost at once; ambushing a small Red Army recce group near the drop zone before moving off through the woods toward the river road, with each platoon taking turns to lead. Tatham-Warter led the vanguard one mile from the dropzone to the bridge at a cost of only one killed and a small number of men wounded whilst having killed something like 150 Russians. He later remembered that "for me, the best moment of all was after our platoons had overrun the Russians guarding the bridge and I stood on the embankment to the bridge watching as they moved into position to cover the approaches from the north and the bridge itself.”

After the bridge had been taken, they were joined by supporting units from the Battalion, including four anti-tank guns and two 81mm mortar teams. Red Army units began counter-attacking almost immediately in an attempt to recapture the bridge and the fighting became heavier by the hour. During the fighting that followed, Tatham-Warter could often be seen calmly strolling about the defences, seemingly oblivious to the constant threat of mortar barrages and rifle fire. Choosing to wear his beret in place of a helmet and swinging his trademark umbrella as he went, Tatham-Warter, no matter how desperate the situation became, never failed in his ability to remain unconcerned and to encourage those around him. Even old hands had become somewhat disheartened at the sheer strength and size of the Red Army attacks but the gloom was lifted instantly at the sight of Tatham-Warter leading a bayonet charge against Russian infantry who had dared to enter Atholl Highlanders territory; carrying a pistol in one hand, madly swinging his umbrella about his head with the other, and now sporting a bowler hat on his head - which he had obtained from God knows where - doing his best to look like Charlie Chaplin. On another occasion later that same day he used the rolled up umbrella to in-effect disable a Russian armoured car, simply by thrusting it through an observation slit in the vehicle and incapacitating the driver, after which the rest of the crew were killed and the vehicle captured and used as a machinegun post. Tatham-Warter later revealed that he carried the umbrella because he could never remember the password, and it would be quite obvious to anyone that the bloody fool carrying the umbrella could only be an Englishman.

During the battle, the Battalion Padre, was trying to cross the road to visit the wounded in a depression in the ground that provided at least a little cover. He made an attempt to move over but was forced to seek shelter from intense Russian mortar fire. He then noticed Digby Tatham-Warter casually approaching him. The Captain opened his old and battered umbrella and held it over the Padre’s head, beckoning him "Come on, Padre". The Padre drew Tatham-Warter's attention to all the mortars exploding everywhere, to which came the reply "Don't worry, I've got an umbrella." Shortly afterwards Lieutenant Patrick Dalzel-Job was sprinting over an open area he had been ordered to hold when he caught the sight of Tatham-Warter visiting men who were defending the sector, holding his opened umbrella over his head. Dalzel-Job was so surprised he stopped dead in his tracks and suggested to the Captain "That thing won't do you much good", to which Tatham-Warter replied, after staring at him with exaggerated shock, "Oh my goodness Pat, what if it rains?" Rifleman George Lawson was running back to the Company HQ position for ammunition when he saw Tatham-Warter coolly walking around and directing men to fresh positions. Upon noticing Lawson he asked him what he wanted, and was enlightened, so the Captain advised him to "Hurry up and get some and get back to your post soldier, there are snipers about", seemingly unconscious of the fact that he himself was a very obvious target. Such untroubled and good humored gestures doubtlessly contributed greatly to the morale of the defenders, and kept spirits high even when the fighting was at its fiercest.

Throughout the battle, Tatham-Warter was a model of leadership and continued to enliven spirits with his eccentric sense of humour, whilst also being tireless in making sure that the defences were as solid as they could be under the circumstances. The constant Close Air Support called in by the Finnish Army Fire Control Team attached to the Company also assisted the defenders considerably as the Red Army attacks grew increasingly desperate. Not having fought in a battle before and choosing an unusually violent one for his debut, Tatham-Warter asked of Major Churchill "I would like to know if this is worse or not so bad as the other things you've been in?" Churchill replied that it was hard to say as some things were worse, whereas some weren't; they still had food and water, but were getting low on ammunition. The best thing, Churchill told him, was the air support – he’d never imagined it could be so effective. In constant touch with Battalion HQ by radio, they received the good news that evening that the Maavoimat’s 21st Armoured Division was advancing rapidly and had already reached the first road junction held by the Battalion and that Maavoimat Artillery was now within range.

This was just as well as the trapped Red Army units were increasingly desperate to escape from the one side, and to recapture the bride from the other. With artillery support now available, most of the night was spend hunkered down calling in artillery strike after artillery strike on waves of Red Army infantry. As dawn broke, the Red Army attacks reached a new frenzy, as did the calls for artillery and close air support. “B” Company held, albeit with many killed and seriously wounded and like the majority of the defenders, Tatham-Warter received several wounds, including minor shrapnel cuts to his posterior, which he shrugged off. Late that afternoon, the leading elements of the 21st Panssaridivisioona reached the bridge and immediately passed across, attacking the Red Army units on the other side of the river. “B” Company continued to guard the bridge for the next 2 days as Maavoimat units passed by in an endless stream. The Red Army front had been smashed apart and the road to Leningrad was open as long as the attackers momentum was maintained.

Tatham-Warter would recover from his minor wounds and, like the rest of the Atholl Highlanders, go on to fight in a series of raids behind the Red Army lines before returning to the UK. He would return to Finland in late 1943 as a Major commanding a Company of the British Army’s 1st Airborne Division where he would participate in the airborne landings that heralded the start of the invasion of Estonia. His last major action would be the drop of the 1st Airborne Division, the Maavoimat Parajaeger Division and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade into Warsaw to fight alongside the Polish Home Army in the Warsaw Rising. Once again, he would be there to welcome the Maavoimat’s 21st Panssaridivisioona as they broke through the German defences to relieve Warsaw. He is recalled as a particularly severe but inspirational commander of his men (few of whose names he apparently knew, nor was particularly interested in). The soldiers were there to follow and to fight and he, above all, to lead. His officers (mainly drawn from similar backgrounds as his) were expected to emulate his attitudes and standards. Derek Tullocj, Tatham-Warter's Battalion 2IC in Finland, once remarked (probably in Digby's defence): "But every battalion needs a Digby!" Officers, and many of the men, who served with and under him would almost certainly agree

Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... Warter.jpg
Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter DSO (26 May 1917 – 21 March 1993)

OTL, Major Tatham-Warter volunteered for the Parachute Regiment in 1943 and in September 1944 he accompanied the 1st Airborne Division to Arnhem during Operation Market Garden. In the ensuing battle he was part of the small force that actually reached Arnhem road bridge and defended the northern end for several days before being overrun. Although captured by German forces he quickly escaped and contacted the local resistance. Over the next month he organised dozens of survivors from the battle who were in hiding behind enemy lines, before leading them to freedom south of the Lower Rhine. For his part in the battle and escape operation he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. After the war he moved to Kenya where he became a hunter and in a somewhat eccentric manner ran a safari park, becoming a pioneer of camera-shoots. He died in 1993 at the age of 75.

RNVR Sub-Lieutenant Patrick Dalzel-Job, Platoon Commander, “B” Company

Patrick Dalzel-Job was born near London in, the only son of Captain Ernest Dalzel-Job, who was killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He suffered ill health as a child and his widowed mother took him from Hastings to Switzerland, to regain his strength. Here, Patrick became accomplished at cross country skiing and then ski jumping and taught himself to sail on a lake near the French border whilst studying navigation by correspondence course. He returned to Britain in 1931, built his own schooner, the Mary Fortune, and spent the next two years sailing around the British coast with his mother as his crew. In 1937, they crossed the North Sea to Norway and spent the next two years making studies of the west coast and the fjords, channels and islands and sailing as far north and east as Petsamo, in Finland. He and his mother were accompanied by a blue-eyed little Norwegian schoolgirl named Bjørg Bangsund. The Norwegians were most hospitable and Patrick soon became fluent in their language.

In late August 1939, a radio broadcast persuaded Patrick and his mother that war was imminent and they returned to England. Patrick was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 8 December 1939, and requested a posting as far north as possible. He was appointed navigating officer on a target towing tug working from Scapa Flow in Orkney from January 1940.

Photo sourced from: http://www.specialforcesroh.com/gallery ... le7399.jpg
Patrick Dalzel-Job as a young and recently-commissioned Naval Officer

Ever eager to return to Norway and the north, Dalzel-Job applied in writing to join the Atholl Highlanders on reading of the need for Volunteers for Finland in the newspapers. His application had been discarded (a naval officer, after all) when Wingate happened to come across it as he was looking for a scrap of paper on which to jot some notes - almost at the last moment as it was on the last day before Wingate was to leave for Norway. That evening, Dalzel-Job received a telegram ordering him to Glasgow where he was to report on board the cruiser HMS Southampton. There he was to join Lt-Col. Wingate and the last contingent of the Atholl Highlanders, who were to travel to Finland via the northern Norwegian port of Lyngenfjiord. He made it with only a couple of hours to spare and on 12 March they sailed together with 4 cargo ships carrying war materials and a small escort of destroyers.

It soon became evident that Dalzel-Job’s knowledge of the area and weather conditions was invaluable as the naval ships had no detailed maps of the area where they were to be transported to. In addition, on arrival at Lyngenfjord it was found that the limited docking space available was tied up with cargo ships unloading military supplies around the clock and there was simply nowhere to unload the troops. Wingate asked Dalzel-Job’s advice, and immediately accepted his suggestion that the soldiers could land from the cruiser using the local fishing boats (skøyter, which Dalzel-Job referred to as 'puffers'). With his colloquial command of Norwegian, Dalzel-Job soon had the local fishermen organized and the men were taken ashore in these boats on 14 and 15 March 1940. He was later to say “I called them puffers because as a child in the West Highlands, all our goods used to come up from Glasgow in little round ships called puffers. They were built like that to come through the Grand Canal and the Norwegian word for these boats was skøyter. Well, of course, no British people would say skøyter so I called them puffers and Wingate thought that was the Norwegian name and official reports said “local boats called puffers” – but they were called puffers only by me.”

With his knowledge of Norwegian, Dalzel-Job proved an invaluable aide to Wingate in getting the men and equipment off loaded and organized on-shore. His knowledge and experience of the climate and conditions also led Dalzel-Job to rapidly organize with the Norwegians and later with the Finns for the provision of more suitable clothing and equipment for the British volunteers even prior to their moving out on a large convoy of overloaded Finnish trucks. A week later the Atholl Highlanders were in Lapua and being put through Finnish Army training, which Dalzel-Job found an enjoyable challenge. “It was tough, far tougher than I had ever imagined such training would be or could be, but we all learnt a tremendous amount in the shortest imaginable time. There was not a moment wasted and our Maavoimat instructors, many of them recovering from wounds received in the early fighting back in December, kept drumming it in to us that we had to learn fast and that a single mistake in fighting the Russians would get us killed.”

When the Atholl Highlanders moved up to the Karelian Isthmus on the reserve lines, Dalzel-Job was in command of a Platoon within “B” Company under Major Churchill. The Battalion continued to train hard as they manned the rear defence lines and listened to the guns. “The artillery went on day and night and when it crescendoed, we knew the Russians were up to something and we were all on edge a bit. But the Finns were good at keeping us informed as to what was going on and they never showed any doubt as to the outcome. The common refrain was “The Marski knows what he’s doing” and they had an unshakable faith in him, which of course as we all know now was entirely correct. We ended up meeting “The Marski” – even we ended up referring to Marshall Mannerheim by that term – when we left Finland in late 1940 after the peace agreement with the Soviet Union was signed and he turned up for our last parade before we were trucked north to Petsamo (by that time Lyngenfjiord was a bit close to the Germans for us to ship out from). He was certainly an imposing figure with a real presence that you could feel and he spoke excellent English.

Then, I have no idea how it happened but Lt-Col. Wingate somehow got us attached to the Maavoimat’s Parajaeger Division and we trained with them for a couple of weeks and then took part in the big offensive that the Finns launched to retake the Karelian Isthmus from the Russians in Spring 1940. We were carried in Gliders, we’d never heard of using gliders to carry soldiers into an attack before but the Finnish soldiers were all very blasé about it so we just did our training and then when the time for the Op came, we gritted our teeth and climbed in and hung on. The whole attack seemed to take the Russians completely by surprise and the Maavoimat just took them apart chewed them up and spat out the pieces. Now, I can say that it was “Blitzkrieg” before the Germans showed how it was done to the rest of the world in France in May 1940, but this was a month earlier and the Finns certainly didn’t publicise how they did it but from our part in it, we had a pretty good idea. Of course, when we got back to the UK we had to write up all sorts of reports on what we’d seen but as far as I could tell, they all just disappeared into the usual Intelligence black hole and nothing ever came of them – the British Army certainly didn’t learn a thing although in the Commandos and later in 30 AU we put the Finnish tactics we’d learnt to good use. So did Wingate and Tulloch and Mike Calvert for that matter with the Chindits in Burma, and of course everyone knows about David Stirling and the SAS – and all of that had its origins in the 2 British units sent to Finland and the experience we gained there.

After the Spring Offensive, we got pulled out to recover and then we did some more training, this time with the Maavoimat’s Osasto Nyrkki special forces unit – they were the real elite of the Finnish Army and they pulled off all sorts of amazing feats – blowing up the NKVD Headquarters in Leningrad was just one of them – they also took out a whole Russian airfield with hundreds of aircraft – I think that was where Stirling got some of his ideas from, from that raid. Anyhow, we trained with them and then we did a whole series of missions behind the Red Army lines where we were attacking headquarters units and logistical supply dumps and railways and bridges and things deep inside the Soviet Union. We would be flown in and either parachute in or land in floatplanes – the Finnish Air Force, the Ilmavoimat, had a lot of those, and then we would do our mission and usually end up running away from the Russians who would chase us through the forests and swamps, and then we would be picked up or we would exfiltrate through the Red Army lines back to the Finnish side, take a break and then do it again.

Depending on the mission, we could be anything from a small team up to a whole Company and once even the entire Battalion. I found the whole thing rather exhilarating at the time and even though it was dangerous, I never worried about that aspect of what we were doing. No doubt it was the boundless self-confidence of youth. I did feel sorry for the Russian soldiers at times, it was like killing baby chicks a lot of the time but it had to be done. The NKVD rear area troops were different though, they were quite often fairly good and you didn’t want to fall into their hands either – we had seen the results of that once or twice and after that, we never passed up the chance to take them out. And the Finns had an evil way with booby traps and devices to slow them down when they were chasing us, we put that to good use many times. The Finns were great chaps to fight alongside, not great talkers and their sense of humor was a bit challenging at times but they knew their way round the woods, their fieldcraft was really good and they were superb soldiers. Not much discipline compared to us, and we were no great shakes compared to the regular British Army – in fact the way that we and the 5th Bat Scots Guards operated ended up becoming the modus operandi for units like the Commandos and the SAS later on and that was all picked up from working with the Finns and with Osasto Nyrkki in particular.

Photo sourced from: http://cfs8.tistory.com/image/36/tistor ... f72611b5d5
Sub-Lieutenant Dalzel-Job with the Atholl Highlanders, Finland, 1940. “By the end of summer, 1940, I had commanded a Platoon in the glider landings on the Karelian Isthmus in the Spring, and then been on four deep penetration missions behind the Red Army’s lines attacking rear area units and supply dumps. I had jumped out of an aircraft using a parachute twice, been in so many firefights I had lost count and half my men had been killed or wounded in action. I had fought alongside the Finnish soldiers of Osasto Nyrkki and for the rest of the war, whenever things got rather challenging, I would say to myself, “What would Osasto Nyrkki do here” and the answer was usually the most outrageously aggressive and daring solution you could think of. So that’s what I would do.

After his return to the UK from Finland in late 1940, Dalzell-Job would return to the Navy and spend almost two years on ships before going on to become a Commando and a distinguished Naval Intelligence Officer. In June 1942, Dalzel-Job was assigned to collate information about the west coast of Norway. A few months later, Lord Louis Mountbatten, head of Combined Operations, chose him to convey Commando raids there, known as 'VP operations', using eight 'D'-Class Motor Torpedo Boats. From mid-1943 until early 1944, he served with the 12 (Special Service) Submarine Flotilla becoming versed with X-Craft and midget submarines, while taking time to complete parachute training with the Airborne Division. As prospects for major action in Norway faded, Dalzel-Job visited London and discovered 30 AU (Assault Unit) Commando, the field operative unit of the Naval Intelligence Division - Room 30. He transferred to 30 AU under the command of Commander Ian Fleming who was then Personal Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence. In this role, and promoted to Lieutenant Commander, he landed near Varreville on Utah beach, Normandy, on D+4 with two Royal Marines Commandos allocated to him, and an unrestricted authority order signed by U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower to pass through Allied lines and assault specific targets in German held territory. In June 1945 he returned to Norway and found the blue-eyed young Norwegian girl (Bjørg Bangsund, now 19) he and his mother had sailed with before the war. They were married in Oslo three weeks later.

“The name's Job, Patrick Dalzel-Job”

Photo sourced from: http://covers.openlibrary.org/w/id/1600520-L.jpg
Patrick Dalzel-Job released his memoirs, titled From Arctic Snow to Dust of Normandy in 1991 and died on 14 October 2003, aged 90 years.

OTL, Dalzel-Job served with the Anglo/Polish/French Expeditionary Force to Norway from April to June 1940, during which time he disobeyed a direct order to cease civilian evacuation from Narvik. His action saved some 5000 Norwegians for which King Haakon of Norway awarded him the Ridderkors (Knight's Cross) of St. Olav in 1943. This award saved him from being court-martialed. Brave, reckless and a maverick known for his disregard for authority, Patrick Dalzel-Job was the nearest real life model for James Bond and the release of his war records, protected by the Official Secrets Act for more than half a century, appears to strengthen his position as the "true" 007. Dalzel-Job ended up working for British Naval Intelligence and was recruited by Ian Fleming to join his undercover 30 Assault Unit, a special force which would race ahead of Allied front-line troops to seize secret German equipment and documents before they could be destroyed. Like Bond, he piloted miniature submarines and could ski backwards. Just as Bond's independent attitude frustrates 'M', so the lone wolf Dalzel-Job had no qualms about disobeying orders. Confidential reports by senior officers show parallels with Bond. "He keeps himself in an exceptionally high state of physical fitness, he can withstand an unusual amount of hardship and exposure," said one. Another report stated: "An unusual officer who possesses no fear of danger and has been used to living on his own. When the work appeals to him he is a first class officer."

Photo sourced from: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_OvryYdVtfSo/T ... leming.jpg
“Age of Heroes” – the 2010 movie about Ian Fleming’s 30 Assault Unit.

Photo sourced from: http://www.k1bond007.com/wp-content/gal ... f_30AU.jpg
And finally, one of the books…..”The History of 30 Assault Unit” – there are a few more, included “Ian Fleming’s Commandos” and “Ian Fleming’s Secret War.”

Second Lieutenant David Vere Stead, Platoon Commander, “B” Company

Another of the “B” Company platoon commanders was Second Lieutenant David Vere Stead. Stead was an Australian from Melbourne, the son of Australian millionaire David Sydney Vere Stead and the brother of the first Australian woman to become a duchess - the former Melbourne socialite, Nell Vere Stead, whose husband, a Navy Commander whose full name was Alexander George Francis Drogo Montagu (known by the courtesy title of Viscount Mandeville) and who was to become the 10th Duke of Manchester in 1947.

Probably one more Post on the Atholl Highlanders coming and then its the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards......
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

More on the Atholl Highlanders...

Post by CanKiwi2 » 13 Apr 2012 22:16

Lieutenant Karl Nurk, “HQ” Company, British Army Liaison Officer to the Finns

Lieutenant Karl Nurk was an Estonian, born in Tartu on 24 June 1904, died in South Africa 28 July 1976. As a 13 year old volunteer, he had been one of the youngest soldiers in the Estonian War of Independence. After Estonia had secured its independence, he had taken part in the fighting against the Russians in Eastern Karelia as a volunteer. He then attended the H. Treffneri Gümnaasium (in Tartu, Eesti) from which he graduated in 1923. He then served in the Estonian War Ministry but in 1924, he decided to embark on adventurous journey into the wider world beyond Estonia. He travelled to France, where he met a fellow Estonian, Evald Marks, who had an unusual plan - to "walk" across the Sahara desert. The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website mentions that in 1925, two young men from Tartu, Evald Marks and Karl Nurk, spent some time in Tunisia and that in November of the same year they set off from the city of Gafsa on their 7 month hike through the Sahara Desert. They apparently started out with camels but ended the journey on foot after their camels died (there were also rumors that the two had deserted from the French Foreign Legion but this seems to be fictional rather than factual).

After their successful desert crossing, they spent some time in the French corner of Central Africa as professional elephant hunters (hunting for ivory was fairly lucrative in the inter-war years if you were up to the challenge of successfully shooting enough elephants to make it worthwhile). Later the two continued on to British East Africa, they are recorded in 1928 as having been Estate Managers for the Earl of Lovelace in the area around Babati, Kenya, where the Earl owned coffee estates. In 1934 Nurk once again began to hunt elephants in Tanganyika. At some stage it appears he married an Englishwoman who owned a sizable plantation and thus became somewhat wealthy himself. Back in the UK at the outbreak of WW2, when the Winter War broke out, Karl Nurk visited the Finnish Embassy in London and expressed the wish to go for help in the fight of the Finns against the Russians. The Finnish Embassy referred him to the British Volunteer unit being set up, where Nurk successfully presented himself as a military veteran with experience fighting in Karelia as well as a successful citizen of British East Africa.

Nurk was promptly signed up and commissioned as a Lieutenant. After interviewing him, Wingate attached him to HQ Company, explaining that there were few enough Finnish speakers in the British Army that he would be invaluable as an assistant to Wingate. They also apparently spend considerable time talking about their respective Saharan desert trips, a common interest which gave Wingate a high regard for Nurk. They would work well together throughout the Winter War, with Nurk acting as an Aide to Wingate through to the end of the campaign. Indeed, such was the regard that Wingate held Nurk in that he would take Nurk with him to Ethiopia ater Italy had declared war on Britain and Wingate was sent to Ethiopia, where he would form “Gideon Force” to fight the Italians. Second Lieutenant Nurk would serve with the 2nd East African Irregulars, training Ethiopian Irregular units. In November 1941 he was involved in the conquest of Gondar. In a book published after the war in the UK (1949) about the fighting in Abyssinia, Nurk was repeatedly mentioned by name – at the time, on 21 October 1941 (ref London Gazette) he was promoted to Captain (General List) and awarded the Military Cross.

After completion of his assignment Abyssinia he was posted to Iran and then in 1942 to Cairo, where he was on the General Staff. In 1944 he was part if the SAS unit sent to Yugoslavia and based on Visi Island, from where they supplied and supported Tito’s forces and carried out raids against the Germans, actions in which Nurk often took part. In one such attack against the Germans Nurk was wounded by a grenade after which he was sent to a hospital in Italy and then to Algeria to recover. In August 1944 he was dropped into southern France behind the front as part of a SAS unit. His unit was in contact with the French resistance movement, and carried out a series of attacks behind the German lines. Roy Farran mentions Nurk a number of times in his recollection of his time in the SAS during WW2, however he is referred to in Phillip Warner’s “The SAS” as a White Russian.

On 13 June 1944 Nurk is mentioned in the London Gazette has having been awarded the DSO and somewhere in this timeframe he was promoted to Major. In 1947, shortly after WW2, Nurk became a British Citizen (Naturalisation Certificate: Karl Nurk. From Russia. Certificate AZ28546 issued 21 June 1947) and in 1949 he was awarded the Military Medal of Haile Selassie 1st Class. From 1949 to 1953 he was part of the British Military Mission in Greece. From 1954 to 1957 military attaché at the British Embassy in Ethiopia he was the British Military Attaché at the British Embassy in Ethiopia, at which time he is recorded as holding the rank of Colonel. After retiring from the military, he lived for some time in the UK, where he had an acting role in the 1965 movie, “The Naked Brigade” playing the role of Professor Forsythe. In 1966 he moved to South Africa where he lived for the last 10 years of his life. Having survived countless adventures, Karl Nurk died on 28 July 1976. He was survived by his wife, Madeleine, and son.


OTL Note: Nurk was a Platoon Commander with the British Volunteers in Finland. He managed to escape through Petsamo by ship to New York, after which he returned to the UK and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on October 1940 (ref the London Gazette). The service with Wingate in the Winter War is ATL, all else in this brief biography is factual.

Lieutenant Duncan Dunbar Guthrie, Platoon Commander, “D” Company

Duncan Dunbar Guthrie was born in London on 1 October 1911. Prior to WW2 he had been an actor, a journalist and a playwright. His most notable acting appearance was in the 1935 film, “Riders to the Sea” – a photo of the cast appears below (without names unfortunately). He also acted in a further film, “Children of the Fog.”

Sourced from: http://www.briandesmondhurst.org/images ... eacast.jpg
Actors from “Riders to the Sea” – photo from 1935 at the end of filming

Whilst his beliefs were socialist, Guthrie volunteered to fight in the Winter War and was signed on as a Lieutenant. He would lead a platoon within “D” Company for the duration of the Winter War. After the return of the British Volunteers to the UK in late 1940, Guthrie would join the Royal Canadian Artillery, then transfer to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in 1943. He at some stage shortly after this transferred to SOE and as a Captain, led Jedburgh Team Harry, dropping from Tempsford to Central France on the night of 6-7 June 1944. After the war in Europe ended, he was promoted to Major and transferred to SOE in South East Asia and was dropped into Burma to join the Karen guerillas fighting behind the Japanese lines. He broke his leg on landing which effectively ended his participation in the War.

Shortly after WW2, he became involved in the financial support of medical research. This started in 1949 when Janet, his first child, developed poliomyelitis (Guthrie married Prue Holloway in 1949). This was at a time when progress was being made in the United States in the development of poliomyelitis vaccines, while in Britain, as the late Bill Bradley of the Department of Health said, “The problem of polio in England is - ignorance, impotence and insecurity.” Guthrie alerted society to this problem at the Festival of Britain and with his wife Prue set up the National Fund for Poliomyelitis Research with himself as the Director. Their first headquarters was two tiny dark rooms up three flights of stairs above a fruit shop in Spenser Street, in Westminster. Guthrie deplored the development of palatial offices and large staffs by charities and insisted that money collected for a charity should be spent on its aims. When Director of the NFPR, he had to be persuaded to accept an increase in salary for himself while his wife was doing a full-time job to help support the family of three children.

Photo sourced from: http://www.action.org.uk/sites/default/ ... aughte.jpg
Duncan Guthrie with his daughter Janet

In fund-raising, Guthrie demonstrated the same fertile and imaginative mind that had engineered his escape from Norway during the Second World War when the British Volunteers for Finland, to which he belonged, was disbanded; and that he had shown in France when he was dropped there by parachute to fight with with the Maquis and liberation forces, and later when he hid for weeks in the Burma jungle with a badly broken foot following another parachute jump. One of Guthrie's earliest innovative fund-raising efforts was to introduce the popular Christmas Seals - adhesive seal stamps - by having a real seal (which refused to go in the lift) flobber up the stairs at the Waldorf Hotel. (He was discouraged from inviting the Lord Privy Seal to the reception.) In the organisation of the NFPR, which became known to many as the 'National Fund' or the 'Fund', he was subtle in using the power and the influence of the grandees on the Council but at the same time he had an advisory body of carefully selected experts who advised on the distribution of the funds which were collected. In the early days the fund supported the first European trials of oral poliovirus vaccines in Belfast which established their effectiveness and safety standards for their subsequent world use.

Following this, the fund supported many other aspects of medical research in relation to problems of disablement and funded the endowment of 13 medical chairs in universities in the United Kingdom. Guthrie was given an honorary doctorate and masters degrees from several universities, but he sought no recognition for the greatest contribution any individual has made to funding medical research in the United Kingdom. After polio could be beaten, he changed the name of the fund to Action Research for the Crippled Child, which continued to support a wide programme of research in disabling diseases. Guthrie then turned his attention to the relief and rehabilitation of the paralysed, not only in the UK but in the developing world, and set up 'intermediate technology techniques' for developing equipment for the locomotion of the disabled in developing countries. When he retired as Director of Action Research he initiated a programme at the Institute of Child Health to provide essential health education for rural populations in Third World countries, particularly in Africa. This was called 'Child to Child' and was largely based on the novel idea of older children teaching their siblings about disease prevention and other health problems. With Alf Morris, he was closely involved in the All Party Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970), which paved the way for subsequent legislation for the disabled in the UK. He was awarded the OBE in 1976.

Guthrie died at Amberley, West Sussex on 12 October 1994. He was survived by his wife, one son and two daughters. He was the driving force behind introducing polio vaccinations into the UK.

Lieutenant Sir Graeme Duncan Power Sinclair-Lockhart, Platoon Commander, “D” Company

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

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

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

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

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

Sir Graeme volunteered to fight in Finland in the Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40 and was in Finland with the British Volunteers when the war ended. On the 15th Feb 1940 the London Gazette mentioned that he is transferred from the Scouts (Scottish Horse) retaining rank and seniority. Not a particularly imposing Officer and, at the age of 43, rather old for front-line service, Lieutenant Sir Graeme Sinclair-Lockhart was appointed Intelligence Officer, a role he filled competently given that he merely acted as a conduit for Intelligence from the Maavoimat to Wingate, Tulloch and the Rifle Company CO’s. He served for the duration of the Winter War and would remain in Helsinki after the War, where he was attached to the British Embassy as a Military Attache, a role he filled competently. Perhaps in recognition of this, The London Gazette of 16 Feb 1943 records 2nd Lieutenant Sir Graeme D P Sinclair-Lockhart (47418) as transferring from the Royal Artillery to the Intelligence Corps as of 17th February 1943, retaining his present seniority. He served as a Captain in Intelligence, posted to the Embassy in Helsinki, from 1943 to 1947. He would also write articles for the British newspapers about Finland through to the end of WW2, one of which is reproduced below.

FIGHTING FINNS. Described LONDON, Jan 3 1945.--Sir Graeme Sinclair-Lockhart who is well known in Australia and New Zealand, has returned to Britain briefly from his posting in Helsinki to brief the War Office on conditions in Finland and the fighting prowess of our Finnish Allies as they fight their way into Poland. In an interview he depicted Finland as determined to play their part in the defeat of Germany but also wary of Russian intentions. In liberating the Baltic States and Poland, he said, “the Nazis have used the peoples of the Baltic States to help them continue the war against Russia and have stripped everything of value from these countries to help equip Hitler's army. In the Baltic States and in the areas of Poland that the Finnish and Polish Armies have liberated, conditions are appalling. Starvation and disease are sweeping the country and a large percentage of its manpower has been destroyed. Civilians were living on black bread. Porridge and meat were unobtainable. As well as fighting the Nazi’s, the Finnish Army is doing its best to assist civilians in the liberated areas but more help in this aspect of the war is needed. What conditions are like in the areas still under Nazi control today I cannot imagine."

Sir Graeme’s wife divorced him in 1947 – “AUCKLAND. — The unusual case of the wife of a Scottish baronet, Lady Jane Hamilton Sinclair Lockhart, obtaining a divorce from her husband, Sir Graeme Duncan Power Sinclair-Lockhart of Lanark, Scotland, in a New Zealand court was heard in Dunedin. A divorce was granted on the ground of desertion. The action was undefended. The reason it was heard in New Zealand was that the respondent was born and spent his youth in the Dominion, which is his domicile of origin. The wife, who was born in Glasgow, acquired her husbands nationality on marriage.” A last fleeting reference to Sir Graeme is found in February 19521, as the author of “The Black Pearls of Fatu-Hiva - A weird story from the South Seas as told by Sir Graeme Sinclair-Lockhart” in The Wide World Magazine.

Lieutenant Alfred Basil Brailsford "Basil" Woodburn, Platoon Commander, “F” Company

Alfred Basil Brailsford "Basil" Woodburn was born on 2 November 1910. He married Audrey Rosaline Bateman-Champain, daughter of Brig.-Gen. Hugh Frederick Bateman-Champain and Dorothy Gertrude Arbuthnot, on 22 June 1937. He volunteered to fight in Finland with the British Volunteers in the 1939-1940 Winter War and was appointed Lieutenant, albeit he had only limited military experience in the TA (Territorial Army). After returning to Britain, he served in the Black Watch, posted to 1st Battalion The Kings Regiment (Liverpool) (77 Indian Infantry Bde) with the rank of Lieutenant (Regimental#321337), where he ended up fighting in Burma with the Chindits, agains under the overall command of Orde Wingate.

In the fighting in Finland in 1940, Woodburn was awarded the Suomen Valkoisen Ruusun II lk:n mitali - SVR m. II (Medal of the White Rose (of Finland) 2nd Class). The recommendation was dated 29 May 1940 and reads “Action for which commended: From the morning of 22 May until 1200 hrs 24th May this Officer with his platoon were given two positions to hold, a counter attack to accomplish, and were used to cover the withdrawal of other troops through a position they were holding. During these various engagements, the strength of this platoon was cut down by casualties to 1 Officer and 10 men. Throughout this time the courage and leadership shown by this Officer was an example not only to his own platoon but to neighbouring units. Seldom could a higher example have been shown.” A further citation by the Finnish Fire Control Officer attached to “F” Company reads: “This officer with only ten men was ordered to counter attack up the side of a ridge that had been overrun by the enemy. With great courage he led the men himself and reoccupied the position. On 25th May he was filling a gap on the ridge between two other platoons when the enemy attacked. By his steadfast and personal courage he held his men together on the position until ordered to withdraw.”

Almost 4 years later, Woodburn would be awarded the Military Cross under similar circumstances in the fighting in Burma. The London Gazette of 3 June 1952 mentions that B. B. WOODBURN, M.C. (321337), from. Active List, to be Capt., 15th Jan. 1952, retaining his present seniority, indicating that in 1952 he was still in the Army. A further mention is found in The London Gazette of 27 Dec 1960 A. B. B. WOODBURN, MC (3121337), having exceeded the age limit, ceases to belong to the TA. Res. of Offrs., 28th Dec. 1960, and is granted the hon. Rank of Capt. The last mention found is from 4 May 1980, when Capt. Woodburn and his wife were murdered in South Africa, he at the age of 69, she at the age of 65.

Lieutenant Martin Edward Meakin Herford, Medical Doctor, CO Medical Platoon and Battalion Medical Officer, Atholl Highlanders

Martin Edward Meakin Herford (1909 - 2002) was a military doctor, pioneer in the occupational health of young workers. He was the second son of Oscar and Ethilda Herford who married in 1907. His father was a businessman based in Calcutta, India who was of German Jewish origins, with the family name of Haarbleicher. When anti-German feeling became extreme at the time of WW1, the family changed its name to Herford. His mother was born 6 December 1872, the daughter of Edward Meakin and Sarah Ann Budgett and died 26 Aug. 1956. Her Who’s Who entry gives her profession as "Hon. Physician, British Hospital for the Treatment of Mental Disorders; Hon. Physician, London Clinic of Psychoanalysis; Psychological research, Maudsley Hospital; Psycho-therapist (consultant)." Martin Herford gained his Bachelor of Medicine" degree (MB) and MD designation in 1937 in Bristol. After qualifying as a Doctor, he travelled to Spain to work with children suffering from starvation as a result of the Spanish civil war. After returning to the UK, he volunteered to serve in Finland with the British Volunteers, arriving in Finland in early March 1940 with the bulk of the Battalion. He was the only Medical Doctor among the volunteers and as such was appointed Battalion Medical Officer and CO, Medical Platoon, a role he rapidly grew into and filled with great competence for the duration of the Battalion’s sojourn in Finland.

He would return to the UK in January 1941. On 22 January 1941 he was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) as a Lieutenant (emergency commission, Regimental # 175256). He was immediately posted to Egypt, where he worked in the General Hospital (Helmieh, Egypt) to 27 Feb 1941, at which time he was posted to the Casualty Clearing Station RAMC (Greece) (liaison and evacuating British troops) through to May 1941. Returning to North Africa, he was promoted to Second-in Command, 7 Motor Ambulance Convoy RAMC (Western Desert, North Africa). On 22 January 1942 he was promoted to Captain and appointed Acting/Major and Commanding Officer, 16 Motor Ambulance Convoy RAMC (Western Desert, North Africa, wounded 23 July 1942, hospitalized & posted to 15 (Scottish) General Hospital 9 November 1942), holding the post until April 1943. In April 1943 he took command of 200 Field Ambulance RAMC (attached to the 231st Infantry Brigade in Sicily and then in Italy), holding this command until May 1944. From May 1944 to August 1945 he was Commanding Officer, 163 Field Ambulance RAMC – while holding this command, he was confirmed in the Rank of Major on 22 August 1944 and at the same time given the Rank of T/Lt.Col.

Photo sourced from: http://www.pegasusarchive.org/arnhem/Bi ... ford_1.jpg
Lieutenant-Colonel Martin Edward Meakin Herford (1909 - 2002). By late-1944 he had been promoted from Lieutenant to Lieutenant-Colonel over a 4 year period and had distinguished military career behind him in Sicily and Italy. He was now the Commanding Officer of 163 Field Ambulance, had been awarded a Bar to his Military Cross early in 1944 to accompany the MBE he received earlier in the war. His Field Ambulance Unit was part of the ground forces attempting to reach Arnhem.

Lt-Col. Herford, although not an Airborne soldier, played a critical role in the establishment of the “Airborne Hospital” at Apeldoorn, near Arnhem during the Battle and in the month afterwards which saved the lives of many Airborne soldiers, along with some civilians and German personnel. On 24 September 1944, he was granted permission to organise an attempt to get urgently needed medical supplies over the Rhine to Oosterbeek, accompanied by Capt Percy Louis from HQ Airborne Corps, and four ORs from 163 Field Ambulance. Although this supply mission ultimately failed, his presence in Arnhem was vital in co-ordinating Medical Services for the wounded (Cpt Louis would later drown attempting to re-cross the Rhine to Allied lines, whilst the ORs were captured shortly afterwards). The relief attempt began in daylight displaying a Red Cross flag to the south bank of the river, where they found an abandoned assault boat and paddled across the Rhine. Reaching the north bank safely, Lt Col Herford went forward to 'reconnoitre' and soon ran into some Germans troops who captured him. Over the next few hours he met various German officers at different locations before reaching a German HQ in Ede.

Lt Col Herford was instructed to go Apeldoorn to visit the Chief Regional Medical Officer, Lt Col Zingerlin, by the German HQ at Ede. On 25 September Herford arrived in Apeldoorn. Zingerlin informed him that many wounded British soldiers were expected as a result of a truce that had occurred in Oosterbeek which allowed the evacuation of wounded. The German occupied hospitals were already pretty full and Zingerlin took Herford to a pre-war Dutch Army base, the Willem III Kaserne Barracks, where he suggested around 250 lightly wounded Airborne troops could be treated. Lt Col Herford later said he suggested the Barracks should be made a ‘British Hospital’ and staffed by British medical personnel, which Lt Col Zingerlin agreed to. The British personnel were happy with this idea, as it was hoped the 2nd Army might soon secure a bridgehead on the North Bank of the Rhine nearby and soon relieve Apeldoorn, although this Allied advance would ultimately fail to materialise. Later on the afternoon of 25 September, casualties began pouring into the barracks and were being laid in rows upon piles of straw. As Lt Col Herford was unknown to any of the Airborne officers he was initially treated with some suspicion - a possible 'stool pigeon' planted among them by the German Intelligence Services. It soon became clear however that he was genuine. His fluency in German proved invaluable to help overcome numerous differences of opinion.

When the Divisional ADMS, Col Graeme Warrack, arrived at around 1900 hrs on 26 September, and assumed command, he established an HQ, and retained Lt Col Herford as his Second-in Command. Herford remained as an integral part of the Hospital until he, along with several other Officers, escaped during a night of bad weather on 16 October 1944. Herford escaped by swimming the Rhine and with him brought the names of all the wounded British soldiers. He went on to organise medical services at Belsen and was awarded a Distinguished Service Order in March 1945 for his actions at Arnhem and in North West Europe. After the war, he remained in the Royal Army Medical Corps and rose to become an Acting Colonel (31 August 1945) and a full Colonel in the TA in 24 February 1950.

After the war he studied occupational medicine in the United States and on his return to the UK, worked in the field. Predeceased by his wife, Mary, he left three daughters and nine grandchildren.

Sourced from: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-XiYbVbVvn2o/T ... 0/DAW2.jpg
The Cover Image from “A Doctor at War”: The writer, M R Hall, comments in the updated forward: “Now and again one has the privilege of meeting someone truly inspiring. I had such an encounter in 1995 with the then eighty-six year-old Colonel Martin Herford, the most decorated British doctor of World War Two. I was a twenty-seven year-old lawyer trying to become a writer of fiction, but as fate would have it, my first published work would be in the realm of non-fiction; through a series of coincidences I had landed the job of recording this remarkable man’s wartime experiences. It’s fair to say that scarcely a month has passed in the intervening years in which I haven’t thought about what it must have been like for him to serve first in the Spanish Civil War, then in Finland, then in every major theatre of war right through to the liberation of Belsen. There can have been very few men who saw as much of the world’s biggest and most devastating conflict as Colonel Herford, and who emerged so philosophical and faithful to their principles. He was a living testament to the efficacy of Churchill’s famous maxim: ‘When you’re going through hell, keep going.’

At a time when ephemeral culture is finally showing signs of giving way to more sober and thoughtful perspectives, I feel we may need the stories of men like Colonel Herford more than ever: like the war-time years, those ahead promise to require inspired and outstanding individuals to subordinate their egos to vast group efforts. Virtue may once again have to suffice as its own reward. The following pages are a simple account of Colonel Herford’s war written by a young man who scarcely appreciated the enormity of what he was setting down. But what I did understand even then was that the doctors, nurses and stretcher-bearers of the military are every bit as courageous as the front-line troops, and very seldom written about. The image of a team of medics tucked safely away in a hospital tent well behind lines is far from accurate. Very often the wounded were treated in the midst of battle with bullets flying and shells exploding all around. Were it not for the efforts of the thousands of Medical Officers and staff who accompanied the Allied armies throughout battles across three continents, the fatalities would undoubtedly have been far higher.

When it came to discussing his experiences, Colonel Herford proved to be a modest man with an admirable reserve typical of the wartime generation. Self-aggrandisement was definitely not his style. Consequently it wasn’t always easy to extract detail from him – especially that concerning his own acts of heroism - but thankfully he had an old leather suitcase full of diaries, letters, notes and official dispatches through which I sifted in an effort to distil the unembellished facts. I am glad to say he gave his full approval to the finished text. When I cast back my mind nearly seventeen years I remember a man full of dogged but peaceful spirit. After dinner in his farmhouse on the Cornish coast, he led me outside and pointed out the constellations in a perfectly clear night sky. Despite all he had witnessed, he remained in awe of God’s infinite creation, and ever respectful of it.”
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Financial supporter
Posts: 1016
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Last Post on the Atholl Highlanders

Post by CanKiwi2 » 17 Apr 2012 22:06

Godfrey Millington-Hogg

Godfrey Millington-Hogg was a Canadian (born in Britain) who was in London, England when the war started in September of 1939. “I remember sitting on the front steps at my Aunt Clara's when the sirens went off for the first time and all were ordered down to the basement. No one went but just stood around outside.” Millington-Hogg had joined the militia at the age of 17 as a member of the Mississauga Horse Regiment in Toronto. He did not receive pay for belonging to regiment but it allowed him to spend time with horses and compete in equestrian competitions.

Photo sourced from: ... g_01_m.jpg
Godfrey Millington-Hogg served with the Governor General's Horse Guard. He enlisted in 1936 and escorted King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on their tour of Canada in 1939.

“In 1940, I volunteered to go to Finland, because the country was looking for volunteers. I was interviewed, asked about my military service, etc. I was then sent to a building in Soho on Greek St. and I spent about one month there. I left on the first boat. They only took three quarters of us that signed up.” Millington-Hogg was assigned to “E” Company and survived the fighting in Finland where a good number of his comrades did not.

Sourced from: ... g_03_m.jpg
Godfrey Millington-Hogg is in the back row at the far left.

OTL Note: “In 1940, I volunteered to go to Finland, because the country was looking for volunteers. I was interviewed, asked about my military service, etc. I was then sent to a building in Soho on Greek St. and I spent about one month there. I left on the first boat. They only took three quarters of us that signed up. The police took the rest away as they were criminals trying to escape England. I was attached to the Air Force and an infantry unit of the Army in Finland. In 1941, Germany sent troops into Finland and we were sent to Sweden despite German authorities' plans to lock up all foreigners.” He was training to be an airgunner in the Finnish airforce when the Winter War ended. He like many other volunteers from England were moved to Sweden . Here he was able to get a diplomatic flight out in 1942 to England . The previous flight was shot down by the Germans for some reason. He wound up as a tank commander through Italy and northern Europe Holland and into Germany.

“By the time I got back to England in the late summer of 1942, I learned that my mother received a telegram saying that I was dead and she did not recognize me when I appeared at her door. After being back in England for a month, I tried to enlist in the Canadian Army. It was a complicated process because I had been away from Canada for a few years and still retained my British citizenship from birth. Thankfully, I met up with the commanding officer of the Mississauga Horse Guards at the Canadian Army Reinforcement Station who remembered me from my time in the militia and helped move the process along. After participating in a sanitary course, commando course, and building projects, I was sent to Sicily. The only injury of this part of the war that I remember was when I was stationed in Foggia Italy. I was instructing gunnery on tanks. I was standing somewhere on the tank, I gave a command to turn the big gun left and the new recruit turned the gun to the right, catching my foot. It turned the sole of my boot to the top of my instep. The foot started to swell and someone helped me back to the medic but no doctor. I lay down in my tent for two days but still couldn't stand. After being sent back to base to recuperate for a month, I ended up with yellow jaundice and was shipped to a hospital on the Adriatic.

After recuperating, I rejoined my regiment and we fought through Italy and Belgium before ending up in Holland for the end of the war. During our last battle of the war, we were bedded down in a farmhouse. I was in a room facing the back of the house. The German troops attacked. All the officers were in an old school house while the Germans went down the street. We were backing up the Irish Regiment that day. The Irish Regiment had 15-20 men dead. I pulled my tank across the laneway where there was a hedge on the right hand side which was about 200 yards away. The hedge connected to another hedge row. I saw Germans moving around over there and I was the only tank in position so I started firing. The Germans surrounded the town and were running up and down the streets but didn't go into the school house where the officers were meeting. With no officers with them to give orders, my tank started shooting 303 ammo at the hedge. The gunner wasn't well trained and kept his finger on the trigger causing the barrel to overheat. When the barrel gets so hot the barrel whips around so there's no accuracy at all. We used up 4 barrels this way. When it was getting daylight and the officers were coming back to where the men were, an officer started giving me hell because of destroying all the gun barrels. Then a man from the Irish Regiment walked up and said, "Well done." We took many German prisoners that day and this was the last battle which was a week or so before the war stopped.

Captain Rex King-Clark – Rifle Company CO – “C” Company

Robert "Rex" King-Clark MBE MC (born 27 November 1913; died 29 December 2007) was a British soldier, pilot, racer, photographer, author, and diarist. Rex King-Clark was born on 27 November 1913, son of Alexander King-Clark (a London stockbroker who was killed in action 2 weeks before the end of WW1) and Katherine Margaret Elizabeth Mainwaring Knocker. After prep school in Sussex, Rex went to Loretto School, Edinburgh with his brother Cuffy. From Loretto ‘Rex’ went on to Sandhurst where to his considerable surprise he became a cadet sergeant and gained a Blue for Fencing, going on to win the Inter-Services Foil at the 1933 Royal Tournament. Like many Loretto boys (as opposed to those from English public schools) he did not find Sandhurst over arduous. As he was later heard to say, “I never even got beaten there”, a not uncommon occurrence at Loretto. In February 1934 Rex was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment. This was through the influence of his sister’s father-in-law, Sir John Maclure, an ex-officer of the Manchester’s who served on the Regimental Council. He joined the 2nd Battalion, The Manchester’s at Strensall serving with them until 1937 when he joined the 1st Battalion in Egypt and on to Palestine and Singapore.

In 1934 an inheritance enabled him to channel his surplus energy and enthusiasms into other fields as well. He flew his Miles Whitney Straight airplane as far as Egypt, Singapore, and Bali. During March 1937 he flew aerial reconnaissance flights of the harbor at Benghazi, North Africa, taking photographs which were later used by the Royal Air Force during World War II. He toured Europe and America by car and raced his J4 MG at Brooklands which made him to become a member of the prestigious British Racing Drivers' Club. In 1938 during the “Troubles” in Palestine he commanded one of Orde Wingate’s three Special Night Squads, the SNS of Israel folklore, where he fought against Arab Terrorists in the steep Galilean Hills of Northern Palestine. He was awarded the Military Cross and a certificate of Gallantry for this work. One Sergeant and ten other ranks from the Manchester Regiment were with him, together with a number of Jewish soldiers with whom he remained friends for many years. His diaries of his pre-war adventures formed the basis for his autobiographical book Free For a Blast, published in 1988.

In 1937 Rex had applied for a four year secondment to the Royal Air Force and this was approved in March 1939. On arrival in England Rex went along to the War Office where he was told that he had never been heard of and that he was to return to his Battalion in Singapore after his leave was finished. Eventually this was sorted out and he was “attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment, Aldershot, pending attachment to the RAF”. However on the 1st September 1939 his pending attachment was cancelled and he was instructed to return to The Manchesters. When his old friend Jack Churchill volunteered to fight in Finland under Orde Wingate (whom he knew very well indeed) and mentioned this to King-Clarke, King-Clarke immediately volunteered as well. Wingate accepted him immediately and as an Acting Captain and with combat experience under Wingate in Palestine, he was appointed Company Commander, “C” Company. He would be wounded in action in the fighting in Finland but would also, to his joy, fly Gliders in the assault landings that the Atholl Highlanders participated in on the Karelian Isthmus and would later fly one of the Fiesler Storch light liaison and observation aircraft that the Maavoimat used.

Photo sourced from: http://www.tameside.gov.uk/tmbc_images/ ... clark2.jpg
Captain Rex King-Clark, Finland, Summer 1940

After returning to Britain, he would be posted to India, promoted Captain in 1942 and would go on to command the 2nd Battalion The Manchester Regiment during the Battle of Kohima fought on the Burma/India border from April to June 1944, despite being wounded on 24 April. He wrote two books from his diaries of those times, The Battle for Kohima, and Forward From Kohima. He was promoted to Major in 1947 (although he was already acting in that rank). Rex finally achieved his flying ambition and commanded the Glider Pilot Regiment in the UK between 1949 and 1952. He married Jean May Evelyn Campbell, on 16 January 1950. They had two children, Robert Campbell King-Clark (born 28 October 1950), and Catherine Mainwaring King-Clark (born 30 October 1952). He went to Korea where he served as Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General (DAA & QMG) of 28 British Commonwealth Brigade. He then returned to The Manchester’s in 1953 in Berlin as Second in Command. His last military job was as General Staff Officer 1 (GSO1) Land/Air Warfare Directorate where he played a major part in the formation of the Army Air Corps. He retired from the Manchester Regiment with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1958 and died in 2007 at the age of 94.

Major H. E. N. “Bala” Bredin – Rifle Company CO – “D” Company

Humphrey Edgar Nicholson 'Bala' Bredin CB, DSO and two Bars, MC and Bar (b. 28 March 1916; d. 2 March 2005) was a British soldier whose military service took him from 1930s Palestine, Finland, North Africa and Italy to the Cold War in Germany. The second son of Lieutenant-Colonel A. Bredin, of the Indian Army, “Bala” Bredin was born at Peshawar on the Northwest Frontier on March 28 1916. He was educated at King’s School, Canterbury and at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst after which he was commissioned into the Royal Ulster Rifles in 1936. He was following in a long family tradition of military service, for his forebears had fought on both sides at Agincourt in 1415. Both his father and grandfather were in the Green Howards, and two of his uncles had served in the Royal Irish Regiment. While at Sandhurst, Bredin acquired the nickname "Bala", which was the name of a fort in Peshawar and also the name of a successful horse owned by the Aga Khan. On being posted with the Ulster Rifles to Palestine, he found himself quartered in an Arab village called "Bala".

During the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine Bredin was a subaltern (2nd Lieutenant) with the 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles in Upper Galilee. The Army was charged with protecting Jewish settlements and tracking down Arab insurgents. Bredin took part in counter-insurgency patrols under the command of Major (later Major-General) Orde Wingate as part of Wingate’s Special Night Squads. He won his first MC for a successful patrol attack against superior numbers at a notorious ambush point on the Tulkarm-Nablus road, in April 1938, and a second a month later in a similar action. The citation noted that "he had already proved adept at this work which is both arduous and dangerous". While patrolling with a squad of soldiers and police supernumeraries on the night of June 11 1938, he saw a party of Arabs setting fire to the oil pipeline; he attacked them, promptly inflicting casualties and making arrests. Three weeks later he was leading five soldiers on patrol when they encountered a much larger gang astride the oil pipeline which he attacked and drove off, killing and wounding several. In another action a few days later he engaged a large enemy party which he chased part of the way up Mount Tabor. In spite of being wounded, Bredin remained on duty till the end of the action.

In 1939, as the threat of war with Germany loomed, units of the British Army, including the Royal Ulster Rifles, returned to the UK and when war broke out, they moved to France. Bredin was about to leave with his unit for France when Wingate took over the Atholl Highlanders and asked for him by name. Bredin was at first loath to volunteer, preferring to stay with his Battalion, but Wingate was pressing and Rex King-Clark and Jack Churchill, both of whom Bredin knew well, convinced Bredin to join them, a move he never regretted. Wingate promoted him to Acting Major and gave him command of “D” Company, a position he held throughout the Winter War. An experienced soldier and officer with combat experience from Palestine, Bredin trained his men hard and ensured they made the most of the Maavoimat training after they arrived in Finland.

After the Karelian Isthmus offiensive of Spring 1940, Bredin received the Cross of Liberty 2nd Class, with swords . The citation said: "Major Bredin commanded D/AH (D Company of the Atholl Highlanders) during the period 12-25 April '40 when 21st Pansaaridivisoona advanced on the Karelian Isthmus. This Company was dropped in advance of the 21st Div by and was affiliated to the Parajaegerdivisoona. On four occasions over a three week period, the Atholl Highlanders were launched by glider to land in advance of the leading elements of the 21st (Pansaaridivisoona) in order to secure strategic objectives and to exploit battlefield success. On each occasion, outstanding results were achieved, the enemy's defences being overwhelmed, objectives seized and havoc and confusion caused in the enemy’s back areas. In particular, on April 18th, D Company under Major Bredin’s command was launched in advance of the main attack (Map Reference 237651) and executed a dashing seizure of a strategic bridge 10,000 yds (yards) in the enemy rear, capturing the bridge (Map Reference 246677) from the SW (south-west) and then securing and holding the bridge against Red Army counter attacks until advancing armoured units relieved the Company. In the action, medium arty (artillery) was overrun, tanks, and anti-tank guns destroyed or captured and many Red Army soldiers killed.

Again, on 21 April, D Company dropped by glider in the late afternoon and after regrouping, in bright moonlight seized a bridge (Map Reference 191820) and nearby road junction (Map Reference 213823) 8,000 yds in the enemy rear against stiff opposition. Again, the enemy were thoroughly disorganised and all types of equipment seized and many Red Army soldiers killed. These fine successes in a type of operation entirely new to the participants were very largely due to the outstanding skill and powers of command shown by Major Bredin. In these fast-moving battles, he always had a thorough grasp of the situation and acted with admirable speed. Such was the confidence of his Company in his leadership that they cheerfully and enthusiastically embarked upon tasks which might have appeared foolhardy under less inspiring leadership. Major Bredin's co-operation with Ilmavoimat Close Air Support and Maavoimat Artillery support as well as with the advancing lead elements of the 21st Pansaaridivisoona was a model of what should be done in these circumstances."

Sourced from: http://www.finnmedals.net/WebRoot/Kaupa ... 2_39mk.jpg[
Cross of Liberty 2nd class with swords 1939 - Winter War

In October 1940, Bredin was on his way back from Finland to Britain with the Atholl Highlanders, embarking on a Finnish transport ship at Petsamo for the risky voyage back to the UK. They had just completed boarding and just as Bredin slumped down to catch up with sleep, he saw a man in a white coat. On discovering that he was a steward, Bredin inquired: "Any chance of a pint of beer?" "Yes, sir," replied the steward, "but I can't serve you till we are three miles out." The ship was rolling from side to side as it reached the open sea. Eventually Bredin got his beer. "I thought to myself," he said, "we can't lose the war with people like that about."

After returning to the UK, Bredin ended up volunteering for the Airborne Division and by 1943, he was Brigade Major, 2nd Parachute Brigade (1st Airborne Division). In 1944 Bredin was asked to command the 6th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Italy; on May 15, he was given the task of leading 78 Division in the break through the Gustav Line, the German defences across the peninsular from the north of Naples and Termoli. "Throughout this operation he commanded his battalion with the utmost skill and inspired his men by his examples of personal gallantry under heavy fire. This difficult operation was entirely successful owing to his leadership," ran the citation. Two days later Bredin was ordered to attack Piumarola, where German infantry and tanks had held up an advance all day. He planned the attack at short notice and was wounded on the start line; but despite his wounds he fought on with great gallantry until success was in sight, when he fainted from loss of blood and was evacuated. He was awarded an immediate DSO.

Picture sourced from: http://www.davidrowlands.co.uk/images/f ... casino.jpg
The O Group at Monte Cassino: On 15th May 1944, during 8th Army's Cassino offensive, 2nd London Irish Rifles were preparing to advance when German shell and mortar fire mortally wounded the Commanding Officer. Major John Horsfall assumed command. Brigadier Pat Scott, the Irish Brigade commander, Lt-Col Bala Bredin, the CO of 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, whose battalion was already on its objectives, and Major Paul Lunn Rockliffe, commanding the supporting battery of 17th Field Regiment RA, joined Major Horsfall for an Orders Group at 1700 hours to plan the next stage of the advance. John Horsfall, who has written several books about his soldiering days, described the scene in graphic detail. The ground was full of banks and folds. Olive trees reduced the visibility forward.

“A wrecked German 56-mm anti-tank gun was dug in nearby, and an awful lot of smashed kit was lying about.'”John always wore his Sam Browne belt and leather pistol holster. Fusilier Clanachan prepares to hand him a mug of rum. Pat Scott typically smoked his pipe, as they spread aerial photos (joined up on boards) on the bonnet of a jeep. (His caubeen is now in the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum). Paul Lunn-Rockliffe, “almost always seen wearing shorts”, was on the No.19 radio set, directing the fire of his guns; the jeep was probably his, and bears the RA tactical sign and the Battle-axe badge of 78th Division. The Regimental Aid Post was operating in the base of a once substantial building, now wrecked, and wounded soldiers were being stretchered in. A Sherman tank of 16th/5th Lancers is nearby. At left is a carrier bearing the tac sign (56) of 2 LIR, at the spot where the CO was killed earlier. Riflemen of the London Irish lie in shallow foxholes about the position.

When Bredin had recovered from his wounds, he was appointed to command the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles. Mounted in Kangaroos (armoured troop carriers) and affiliated to the 9th Lancers, it was then launched through the leading elements of the enemy positions in order to exploit their success. On April 18, the battalion advanced 10,000 yards, capturing the bridges over the Fossa Sabbiosola and reaching the Scolo Bolognese. In this action enemy artillery was over-run, tanks and guns were destroyed or captured, and many prisoners were taken. Three days later the force advanced another 8,000 yards against stiff opposition, capturing more bridges and matériel. Bredin's citation emphasised that in this fast-moving battle his grasp of a rapidly changing situation and rapid action were vital. His men had such confidence in his leadership that they cheerfully and enthusiastically embarked on tasks which would have appeared foolhardy under less inspiring command. Well aware of the horrors of the battlefield, Bredin held that preliminary discussion of expected casualties was a mistake, and that fear was best dispelled by treating war as a sort of game.

Photo sourced from: http://www.irishbrigade.co.uk/media/opt ... d3c3d.jpeg
Lt. Col Bredin: Reproduced courtesy of the London Irish Rifles. He never wore a steel helmet and was a conspicuous figure in his regimental feathered bonnet, and carrying a cane. A soldier who was constantly making jokes, he affirmed, was worth his weight in gold, for it took men's minds off the appalling scenes around them.

Following the war, Bredin was once more engaged in anti-terrorist work in Palestine and, after a spell as an instructor at Sandhurst, was seconded to command the Eastern Arab Corps in the Sudan Defence Force from 1949 to 1953. He next commanded the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment and would lead the Battalion when they dropped on the airfield at Port Said in November 1956 during the Suez Crisis and on Cyprus, where his leadership and planning in anti-terrorist work, mainly in the Troodos Hills, brought him a third DSO in 1957. His troops captured a large collection of automatic weapons, arms and explosives as well as important documents, and reduced four organised gangs to a number of leaderless individuals. On returning home, Bredin was characteristically outspoken about the men's deep frustation at the ceasefire. From 1958 to 1960, Lt. Col Bredin went on to command the the 2nd Parachute Regiment.

After two years in the home posting Bredin was promoted to command 99 Gurkha Brigade Group in Malaya and Borneo. In 1962, he was appointed Chief of the British Commander-in-Chief's Mission to Soviet Forces in Germany (BRIXMIS) for two years. From 1965 to 1968 he commanded 42nd Division (TA) and from 1967 was GOC, Northwest District. He was appointed CB in 1969. His final posting was as Director of Volunteers, Territorials and Cadets, Ministry of Defence, from 1968-71, during which time he was also the first Colonel Commandant of the newly formed King's Division. He was Colonel of the Royal Irish Rangers from 1979 to 1984. In retirement he was Essex and Suffolk Appeals Secretary for the Cancer Research campaign, and enjoyed shooting, travelling, fishing, gardening and entertaining. A trenchant letter writer to The Daily Telegraph, he questioned cuts to the services in 1991, and protested at remarks about the cavalry by Field Marshal Lord Carver, saying that field marshals never retired because "they had to defeat the Queen's enemies in the murky future and to harass the politicians accordingly".

Despite his distinguished military career, in which he had been wounded with every regiment with which he had served, "Bala" Bredin stressed that he was not a warmonger, "I've seen too much of war to like it," he would say. But he felt that while there were ambitious, ruthless people of every nationality, war of some form or other was probably inevitable, and that Britain should be prepared for all possible contingencies and not count on "peace in our time". He married first, in 1947 (dissolved 1961), Jacqueline Geare; they had a daughter. He married secondly, in 1965, Ann Hardie; they had two daughters.

Major-General 'Bala' Bredin died died 2 March 2005 aged 88. He was awarded an MC and Bar when serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles in Palestine in 1938, the (Finnish) Cross of Liberty 2nd Class, with swords in 1940 and an immediate DSO in Italy in 1944; he won an immediate Bar to his DSO in 1945 and received another Bar to his DSO when commanding the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, on Cyprus in 1957; he was also twice Mentioned In Dispatches, and was one of the most decorated soldiers in the British Army.
Last edited by CanKiwi2 on 17 Apr 2012 22:30, edited 1 time in total.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

Return to “Winter War & Continuation War”