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Before we return to the Foreign Press for a final summation, it’s perhaps also worth taking a look at the Finnish Press and how the Finnish newspapers reacted to, and reported on, the Winter War. This is more relevant that it at first seems, as many foreign correspondents picked up translations of Finnish newspaper articles for their own use. Also, both the Finnish newspapers and the foreign correspondents relied to an extent on the daily media releases from the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus (VTK, or State Information Centre). Add to this the strong sympathy and support that almost all of the foreign correspondents felt for Finland and foreign reporting took on a more and more “Finnish” viewpoint as the War continued. This, a look at the Finnish Press is certainly both relevant and justified.
When examining coverage of the Winter War in the Finnish Press, we are dealing largely with the nation’s defence. Questions dealing with the enemy and hostilities were naturally a dominant daily topic in Finnish newspaper editorials and articles and the subsequent reputation of the Winter War is dominated by an image of the Finns’ complete unanimity. Examining the sources strengthens this view because the language used during the war appears remarkably similar in all newspapers, and every paper pretty much described the enemy using the same negative arguments and views, regardless of previous political affiliation. In general, one can say that Finns in general already had a preconceived mental image of the Soviet Union created over different periods and the unprovoked Soviet attack on Finland dovetailed into this.
This view had its roots in the repeated invasions of Finland and its seizure from Sweden in the eighteenth century, followed by the increasing nationalism and a desire for independence from “the loathsome embrace” of Russia in the nineteenth century. The achievement of independence in 1917 and the subsequent Civil War between the Whites and the Reds in 1918 had resulted in a stirring up of hatred against Russians and an increasing fear of communism, especially among influential right wing movements such as the Akateeminen Karjala Seura (AKS or “Academic Karelia Society) and the Lapua Movement (Lapuanliike). While some political parties perhaps could be considered more nationalist than others, the negative image of the Soviet Union permeated the entire Finnish middle class and indeed, was also widely held among leftists, excluding only the extreme left, largely as a result of events in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and the purges of the late 1930’s, news of which was well known in Finland, where refugees from across the border regularly arrived. Thus, the Finns image of the USSR had centuries-long roots due to a common history that included repeated conflicts, occupation and oppression.
Since independence, the Finnish military had viewed the USSR as the only potential threat to Finland. Through the 1930s Finnish military preparations had been directed towards meeting this threat. Care was taken however, even by the rightist politicians, not to unduly inflame relations with the neighbouring giant. Indeed, at the same time as Finland was increasing defence spending through the 1930’s, every effort was being made to increase reciprocal trade with the USSR and tie both countries into a mutually beneficial relationship. However, the Purges of the late 1930’s and the execution and deportation of large numbers of Karelians and Ingrians across the border were well-known in Finland and despite not being made much of in the Finnish Press, the activities of the NKVD reinforced the negative views of many Finns with regard to the Russians. This negative image of the Russians became ever more pronounced in late 1939 with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the “stab in the back” of Poland, the “agreements” with the Baltic States and then the pressure on Finland to adjust the borders and grant the USSR bases in strategic Finnish locations. In all of these acts, the USSR ensured that it was the very archetype of the same enemy that had repeatedly attacked and oppressed Finland in the past.
On the outbreak of the Winter War, Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus (VTK, the State Information Centre) had very little work to do to create a negative image of the enemy that would unite all Finns. The actions of the USSR achieved this quite successfully, creating an enemy “tailor-made” for the media, both Finnish and foreign, to demonise with ease. Influencing public opinion within Finland to adopt and receive views the government wished it to adopt and receive in this regard was not a great challenge. Nor was it a challenge to suitably influence the foreign press. This also was a relatively easy task that the Finns generally left to the USSR to achieve for them, something which the USSR did quite effectively, turning even former sympathizers such as John Langdon-Davies into outright opponents. The biggest challenge turned out to be detailed censorship of military information and the development of information-sharing guidelines associated with military topics and the actual fighting. Thus, censorhip and the provision of information to the press was not so much a political question as a military one, due to the unanimity shared between the press, both local and foreign, and the people.
Non-Socialist Finnish Newspapers
When the portrayal of the enemy in the Finnish news media is examined more closely however, differences emerge in the seemingly unified descriptions of the enemy. Different ideologies and ideals existing in the country are reflected in the image of the enemy created by newspapers - because of course the papers naturally wanted to appeal to their own particular groups of readers. For readers with right-wing inclinations, which included many members of the Agrarian party, the emphasis was on a patriotic war of national defence. This was the view that made its appearance in the first Order of the Day of the Military Commander, the Marshal of Finland, C. G. E. Mannerheim.
Image sourced from: http://www.mannerheim-museo.fi/pics/fin_no1.png
Mannerheim’s first Order of the Day, 1 December 1939
Commander-in-Chief’s Order of the Day No. 1.
On 30 Nov 1939, the President of the Republic has appointed me Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Defence Forces.
Valiant soldiers of Finland!
I accept this task at a moment when our centuries-old enemy is once again attacking our country. Confidence in an army commander is the primary condition for success in war. You know me, and I know you and I know that each and every one of you is prepared to fulfil his duty even unto death. This war is merely a continuation and final act of our War of Independence.
We fight for our homes, our religion and for our Fatherland.
Image sourced from: http://www.mannerheim-museo.fi/pics/Sot ... o_esim.jpg
Here is the 1st Order of the Day, text in Finnish but Mannerheim’s corrections in Swedish.
This view, succinctly expressed in Mannerheim’s first Order of the Day, presented the war as a battle of national defence in which the Soviet Union threatened home, religion and the fatherland. It also included a theme which had been emphasized throughout the 1920s and 1930s in Government, Suojeluskuntas and Army publications and by nationalist and conservative groups, namely that the Civil War of 1918 was a War of Independence (or War of Liberation) from the Russians. In the non-Socialist Finnish newspapers, this view and the history behind it was utilized from the very start of the war.
These non-Socialist Finnish papers described and made use of the historic connections between Russia and Finland. Old conflicts were used for comparison, mainly the Great Wrath. With the help of these, it was possible to describe that the Soviet Union was Russia’s successor and also very demonstratably the archenemy. It was “that old tormentor” which throughout history had attacked Finland and forced every generation to defend the country. The image of the USSR that was presented by the conservative factions in Finland, most explicitly by the right AKS and the Lapua Movement was utilised. Understandably this image was the strongest in papers of the extreme right and of the Agrarian Union and is seen in these papers from the first days of the war. Because war is generally a unifying force, it is not surprising that this enemy image based on history soon found its way into the newspapers of the political centre and occasionally into newspapers of the Left.
This “image of the enemy” also included appealing to the cultural difference between the Finns and the Russians and the Russians’ difference from the western peoples. Uuno Kailas’ famous poem “Rajalla” (On the Border) was well-known and was often referred to over the course of the Winter War, even finding its way into an English translation and being printed in foreign news articles about the Winter War:
Image sourced from: http://www.verkkoviestin.fi/lionshkikal ... bfdf7b.jpg
Uuno Kailas, born Frans Uno Salonen (29 March 1901 – 22 March 1933) was a Finnish poet, author, and translator. After his mother's death when he was young, he received a strict religious upbringing from his grandmother. He studied in Heinola and occasionally in the University of Helsinki. In 1919, he took part in the Aunus expedition, where his close friend Bruno Schildt, whom he had persuaded to take part, was killed. Kailas' critical reviews and translations were published in Helsingin Sanomat and the literary magazine Nuori Voima. His first collection of poetry was “Tuuli ja Tähkä” in 1922. Kailas served in the army from 1923 until 1925. The ideology of the right-wing movements in Finland is strongly reflected in Kailas's poem “Rajalla” (On the Border). Like Kipling, Kailas saw an unresolved antagonism between East and West, seeing Finland as the guardian of Western culture on the Soviet border. In 1929, he was hospitalized due to schizophrenia, and he was also diagnosed with tuberculosis. He died in Nice, France in 1933, and was buried in Helsinki.
Rajalla (On the Border)
Raja railona aukeaa (Like a chasm runs the border)
Edessä Aasia, Itä. (In front, Asia, the East)
Takana Länttä ja Eurooppaa; (Behind, Europe, the West)
varjelen, vartija, sitä. (Like a sentry, I stand guard)
Takana kaunis isänmaa (Behind, the beautiful fatherland)
Kaupungein ja kylin. (with its cities and villages)
Sinua poikas puolustaa (Your sons defend you)
Maani, aarteista ylin. (My country, the greatest treasure)
Öinen, ulvova tuuli tuo (Nocturnal howling winds bring)
Rajan takaa lunta. (Snow from across the border)
— Isäni, äitini, Herra, suo (Lord, let my mother and father)
Nukkua tyyntä unta! (Sleep, calmly dreaming!)
Anna jyviä hinkaloon, (Fill the bins with grain)
Anna karjojen siitä! (Let the herds breed)
Kätes peltoja siunatkoon! (Let thy hand bless the fields)
- Täällä suojelen niitä. (I am here, protecting them)
Synkeä, kylmä on talviyö, (The winter night is dark and cold)
Hyisenä henkii itä. (There is an Icy breath from the East)
Siell’ ovat orjuus ja pakkotyö; (Over there is slavery and forced labour)
tähdet katsovat sitä. (the stars look down and see)
Kaukaa aroilta kohoaa (Far away on the Steppe rises)
Iivana Julman haamu. (The ghost of Ivan the Terrible)
Turman henki, se ennustaa: (A spirit of doom is at work, predicting that
verta on näkevä aamu. (the morning shall see blood)
Mut isät harmaat haudoistaan (The gray fathers rise from their graves)
aaveratsuilla ajaa: (Phantom steeds they ride)
karhunkeihäitä kourissaan (Bear spears in their hands)
syöksyvät kohti raja (Rushing to the border)
—Henget taattojen, autuaat, (Blessed spirits of the fathers)
kuulkaa poikanne sana — (Listen to your sons words)
jos sen pettäisin, saapukaat (if I should not keep my word, then come)
koston armeijana —: (as an army of vengeance)
Ei ole polkeva häpäisten (Their tread will not desecrate)
sankarileponne majaa (the resting place of your heroes)
rauta-antura vihollisen, - (From the iron-soled foot of the enemy)
suojelen maani rajaa! (I will protect your borders)
Ei ota vieraat milloinkaan (Strangers will never take)
kallista perintöänne. (your precious heritage)
tulkoot hurttina aroiltaan! (let them come like hounds from the steppes)
Mahtuvat multiin tänne. (they will find a place here under the soil)
Kontion rinnoin voimakkain (With a bears powerful chest)
ryntään peitsiä vasten (I charge against the lances)
naisen rukkia puolustain (defending your women’s spinning wheels)
ynnä kehtoa lasten. (and your children’s cradles)
Raja railona aukeaa (Like a chasm runs the border)
Edessä Aasia, Itä. (In front, Asia, the East)
Takana Länttä ja Eurooppaa; (Behind, Europe, the West)
varjelen, vartija, sitä. (Like a sentry, I stand guard)
Finland certainly had strong reasons for identifying with the west following the national awakening in the mid-19th century, and it had been actively emphasizing the need for national unity - which included stirring up an antipathy towards the Soviet Union in the early years of the independence period. This topic was also dealt with by propaganda directed outside Finland during the war. This propaganda was used to influence public (and government) opinion in other countries by emphasising that the Soviet Union’s attack against Finland was not only aimed at conquering Finland but towards the entire world and a worldwide revolution. Therefore, it was in the best interest of those countries to help Finland. This propaganda, thus, had a clear practical goal and, because we are expressly dealing with the best interests of Finland fighting a defensive war, it is understandable that the domestic newspapers also wrote about the need for help from foreign countries.
The ideological differences between the different Finnish newspapers did not differ on this – almost all Finnish newspapers soon came to reflect this viewpoint, regardless of their previous ideological perspective, There were, however, differences in the volumes of articles with this theme. This may also be explain by the desire to influence foreign opinion because liberal Helsingin Sanomat, the largest newspaper of the country and the newspaper whose content was most often translated and used abroad in the British Commonwealth countries and in the USA, included the most articles on this topic. This paper was owned by Elias Erkko – a former Foreign Minister – and opinions expressed in this paper were definitely followed abroad and through the foreign diplomatic missions in Finland.
Finnish Labour newspapers
The Labour Movement newspapers were expressly newspapers of the Social Democratic Party, which as one of the parties making up the government, condemned the Soviet Union’s attack as unequivocally as did other newspapers (the Finnish Communist Party was banned). When we examine the content of the SDP’s newspaper dealing with the enemy, the SDP’s worldview is brought up as well as the practical need to encourage the working class to defend the country. The need for national unity in a war of survival for Finland was emphasized as being essential to military success. Thus the Soviet Union was examined from a somewhat different point of view than that of the non-labour movement newspapers.
It was of course not particularly useful to appeal to the working class left with the memories of their defeat in the Civil War in 1918. What did appeal was the condemnation of the imperialism of the Soviet Union and Stalin, separating thus from the ideals of the Finnish labour movement, which were assumed to be shared by readers of the SDP-supporting newspapers. For this reason it was emphasised in the labour newspapers that the Soviet Union had violated the most cherished and central principles of the labour movement by attacking its small neighbour. This meant that the ideals of socialism and working class ideology that had emerged during the revolution were no longer honoured in the Soviet Union.
This indicates that the motives behind these articles were clearly different from those expressed by the non-socialists. Later in the War, the labour newspapers also attempted to influence their readers’ opinion by emphasising the social development that had taken place in Finland since independence. Always in the background was a need to emphasise that Finland was worth defending from the point of view of the labour class – and this idea was apparently influential. The basis for the success of this line of propaganda was created by the events that took place in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, particularly the purges of Finns in Karelia – and as these events were relatively well known in all groups in Finland, it was possible to use mentions of these to remind readers of what the working class was going to lose if Finland was defeated. There was no need for the non-labour newspapers to emphasise the more democratic and humane nature of the Finnish society in comparison to that of the Soviet Union. It was clear without stating this explicitly. Therefore, it was typically only the labour newspapers that made an effort to demonstrate the issue by presenting arguments.
The Words and Deeds of the Soviet Union as reflected in Finnish Media
From the beginning of the war, news and commentary were intertwined in newspapers, and newspaper reporters freely expressed their views of the enemy’s actions and character in the news pages and headlines. All the Finnish newspapers used content from the Soviet Union’s own propaganda and actions which generously reinforced the preexisting image of the enemy in Finnish eyes. When the war began, Radio Moscow proclaimed on 1 December 1939 that the people of Finland had raised a rebellion against the white government and said that a new Finnish Government had been established at Terijoki. This government, for its part, proclaimed that it had requested help from the Red Army to suppress Finland’s White Guard government and had signed a mutual assistance agreement with the Soviet Union on December 2nd. With this assistance, it was certain that every Finn now knew that the whole of national independence was at stake, not only some strategic territories on the eastern border.
The Finnish government apparently felt some degree of concern about the influence of the Terijoki government on opinions at the beginning of the war, influenced by a fear that the Soviet Union’s propaganda maneuver would appeal to at least some members of the extreme left. Such concerns proved to be without any basis as the Terijoki “government” was ferociously condemned by the labour newspapers in many editorials and commentaries. The non-socialist press also judged the Terijoki government to be a sub-standard move by the Soviet Union but of course, they did not need to feel similar worry about their readers’ views.
The entire Finnish press considered the Terijoki government an example of “typical” Soviet duplicity. When it promised the Finns an eight-hour workday, which Finland had already had for more than two decades, this poor knowledge of conditions in Finland was utilised in the Finnish press. Many more minor mistakes of the Soviet Union were also exploited to create a poor image of the Soviet enemy. Descriptive examples of these are provided by radio programs directed by the Soviet Union to Finland in which it was reported that Finns ran toward the Red Army soldiers at the borders to hug and kiss them. The Soviet Union’s Finnish-language programs commonly reported that soldiers of the Red Army had received a “hot” reception at the borders, apparently meaning friendly and warm. The non-socialist Finnish newspapers milked everything possible out of the double meaning of this Finnish word. For once “Ryssä” speaks the truth - they certainly received a “hot” reception – that is, they had came under heavy fire – and they would in the future also receive a “hot reception”, they wrote with amusement.
The aerial bombing carried out by the Soviet Union had a stronger effect on the image of the Russians as enemy than even the Terijoki government. There had been attacks against civilians in the Spanish Civil War, but in the Second World War, which started in September 1939, Germany, England and France had not carried bombing attacks against each other’s civilians (although the Finnish Press had reported on the German bombing of Warsaw and of Rotterdam). For this reason, the Soviet Air Force bombings of Helsinki and other cities awoke the old image of the Russian as a traditional enemy – and an enemy for whom the killing of Finnish civilians in war was characteristically and traditionally a Russian activity. The Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov said at the beginning of the war (and continued to repeat through January) that the Soviet Union had not bombed civilian targets in Finland. The Finnish newspapers reported this with anger and reported that Molotov had also said that rather than bombs, the Russian planes dropped bread to starving Finnish workers. When Soviet bombers circled in the sky they were, after that, referred to as “Molotov’s breadbaskets”- and it was reported to astonished readers that entire buildings had collapsed due to the weight of the Soviet bread. Similarly, the howling of alarm sirens came to be called “the voice of Molotoff”. It was in this way possible to utilise a person, Molotov, as an image at which to direct people’s feelings of hatred. Whether or not claims presented to the public by Soviet propaganda were created for their own domestic propaganda was naturally not deliberated during the war. On the other hand, when they were presented in radio broadcasting directed at Finland there might have been a desire to also appeal to the Finnish workers in some way.
The image of the Russian enemy in which evil deeds are seen as being due to the national character of the Russians first appeared in right wing and agrarian party newspapers. In this viewpoint, the negative image of the Soviet Union had strong roots in the atmosphere of the Independence and Civil War period, which was strongly coloured by a hatred of the Russians and the fear of communism. At Christmas 1939, when the Soviet air bombings recurred, the non-socialist newspapers further developed the Great Wrath theme in the emotional atmosphere of the war. They started to write about the “Holy Wrath,” in which Finland defended all western and Christian values against the Asian communist barbarians – Finland was fighting for the sake of all Europe. This was a view that was rapidly reflected in almost all of the conservative newspapers of both the western democracies and of countries such as Italy and Spain. In the conservative newspapers of Britain and France, much was also made of the fact that the Soviet Union and Germany were both cut from the same cloth – totalitarian states imposing their demands on smaller states by force of arms.
In the case of the extreme right, the enemy of Finland was also perceived as God’s enemy that should be destroyed so that Christian values would survive in the world. This tendency was to be found in the right wing’s image of the Soviet Union before the war, but as the war continued it became a view that was more widely shared than previously. From January 1940 on, when more frequent Soviet air raids occurred despite the strong defence put up by the Ilmavoimat, the enemy’s inhuman cruelty was constantly emphasised in the news headlines. Editorials emphasised a parallel between the new attacks and the similar experiences of previous generations who had been attacked by the same archenemy. The labour newspapers’ condemnation of the Soviet air raids was ferocious from the first days of the war. However, neither the Russian national character, the Great Wrath nor the archenemy issue were brought up when deliberating the air raids. Instead, what was emphasized was the target areas of bombing and Stalinist imperialism. It was reported in labour newspapers that the Soviet Union for some reason bombed areas where workers lived especially intensively. The non-socialistic newspapers wrote about this also, but this view was clearly emphasised in the labour newspapers. From the background, one can see a desire to influence workers’ feelings at the moment of distress with concrete facts. Apparently there was no absolute certainty at the beginning of the war that the entire working class would fight to defend the country against the Soviet Union. A comparison with non-socialist papers, which did not need have a similar concern with regard to their readers, also emphasises the differences. The non-socialist newspapers for example, were able to concentrate on proving through history the cowardly nature of the enemy, which may not have appealed to the leftist readers of the labour newspapers.
When the concern for maintaining national unity turned out to be groundless as the war went on, the portrayal of the Soviet Union’s war as a war against civilians became more uniform. This changed viewpoint affected the labour newspapers most, as from January 1940 on they wrote more and more articles describing the Russians’ as barbarians as well as Russia being Finland’s traditional archenemy. These characteristics however never as prominent during the war as they were in the non-socialistic newspapers. The condemnation of the system created by Stalin and its differentiation from the “real labour” ideology would continue as a theme of the labour newspapers for the Winter War and thereafter.
As was stated at the beginning, appropriate slogans and terms that portray an enemy as evil are easy to adopt and are a common theme of war-time propaganda. In the Winter War, the Soviet Union made this an easy task for the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus. The enemy who bombed civilians became “Ryssä” in the right wing and agrarian union newspapers from the beginning of the war. The spirit of defence was intensified by stating that “one Finn equals twenty ‘ryssä’”. The opinion-uniting influence of the war grew stronger in January 1940 when there were strongly worded articles and editorials about “ryssä” in all the newspapers. At that time, even Pohjolan Työ, an extreme leftist labour newspaper, headlined its news of bombings with the emotional statement “Nearly 7000 kg of bread dropped last week by “ryssä’s” flying devils on top of civilians.” At the same time, news reports according to which the Soviet Union frequently bombed hospitals, churches and ambulances transporting the wounded became more common. The slogan ”A red cross equals a bombing target in the enemy’s mind” was headlined in all newspapers and made headlines in foreign newspapers worldwide.
“The Land of Kolkhoz Slaves and Forced Labourers”
After December, analytical articles in newspapers often examined communism, the Russian people, leaders of the Soviet Union and Soviet society. In non-socialistic newspapers, in which the abolition of private property, kolkhozes, the banning of religion and the communistic doctrine had already been described prior the war as the greatest evil, it was possible to write these articles in an I-told-you-so-tone. The Soviet system was as rotten and violent as had always been said, although a lot more was written with specific details of oppression, dictatorship and misery. Much was also made of the discovery of the “slave camps” on the Kola Peninsula, the discovery of the many mass graves, particularly along the route of the White Sea Canal and especially of the murders and deportations of Karelian Finns within the Soviet Union that was now reported on in great and shocking detail. As one can imagine, reporting and discussion of these topics in the newspapers intensified the already strong will of defence. In principle, one can summarise the image of Soviet society in non-socialist newspapers with a statement that, for these newspapers, the Soviet Union was the land of kolkhoz slaves and forced labourers led by Stalin, a bloody dictator and a mass-murderer who exceeded the worst excesses of Genghis Khan.
There were some differences in the viewpoints stated. For example, newspapers of the Agrarian Union wrote for their readers explaining the misery in the kolkhozes and the shortages of food rather more than other newspapers did. Religious persecution was also a part enemy image spelled out by the Agrarian Union and right-wing newspapers’ as well as in the entire non-socialist press. The negative characteristics of the Russian workers was mostly written about in the right wing and the Agrarian Union’s newspapers, with the Russians described as, for example, “an uneducated horde”, “a horde of slaves without their own will”, and “eastern barbarians”. Differences of emphasis were found mainly in giving reasons for the evil actions of the Russians. For the extreme right, they were due to the Russian people’s inherent characteristics. When we move toward the centre, the view is expressed that the Russians eval actions resulted more from a lack of education and centuries of oppression. At first, the descriptions of liberal newspapers also included pity for the oppressed people of Russia. This pity disappeared completely as the war continued. For example newspapers of the Agrarian Union begun to write that the Russian people were themselves responsible for their own misery because they were unable to establish a better system. In this view, one can also see the effect of the nationalistic Finnish ideology emerging.
The leaders of the Soviet Union were criticized so strongly that in February 1940 censorship forbid the making of defamatory comments about Stalin as a person. The background to this prohibition were articles where Molotov was commonly described as “molottaa” (says stupid things). Stalin was described as “a despot and tyrant”, “a bloody dictator”, “Josef the Terrible”, the “Russians’ new God” or as the “old bank robber”, who in his lust for power had his people killed in abundance. The articles in the labour newspapers about the Soviet Union were rather more studied and analytical than those of the non-socialistic papers. The Russian people were also criticized rather less frequently than in the non-socialistic newspapers. This may have been because of the situation of Finland’s leftists after the Russian Revolution and the Civil War of 1918. In the early 1930s, extreme leftist workers still had idealised views of the Soviet Union. Although this image had started to crumble as a result of events occurring in the Soviet Union in the later 1930’s, images are generally long lived and one may assume they had not entirely disappeared in the late 1930s.
As the war went on, it became clear that Finnish workers were as strongly committed as any other Finn to defending their country on the frontlines, and that the Soviet propaganda had no effect on them. Regardless of this, or partly due to this, there was a desire in the labour newspapers to criticise conditions in the Soviet Union. It was certainly easier to influence those who possessed a right-wing way of thinking and shared an image of the Soviet Union as the enemy, even during peacetime, by appealing directly to their emotional image of Russia as the traditional enemy and an evil Communist state. Workers, for their part, were generally not receptive to this viewpoint and as a result, facts were emphasised in creating the image of the Russians as an enemy.
In January, February and March 1940, labour newspapers’ often long editorials presented more and more information of the enemy country’s condition based on accurate numbers. The labour newspapers described the Soviet Union’s shortage of housing, food and consumer goods, how much a Soviet worker was able to buy with his salary and how much he paid in taxes. And, above all, there were continual reminders that the rights of citizenship that all Finns enjoyed – such as the right to go on strike – were missing, conditions were generally miserable, and there was a lack of personal freedom in factories and kolkhozes. Much was also made of the horrors of the slave camps that had been uncovered, and the sufferings of innocent people who were guilty of no crimes. These newspapers constantly sought reasons why the revolution had developed in entirely the wrong direction. Stalin was most commonly presented as the guilty party. He was said to have changed the system created by Lenin into a violent dictatorship, which subsequently destroyed Lenin’s co-workers. This viewpoint was understandable because it left honorably intact the Finnish labour movement’s roots, which dated to the period of the Russian Revolution and, thus, it did not include elements that violated traditions. As the war continued, criticism was also focused on Lenin, who was now thought of as the founder of an extremist Soviet Union. Apparently the Workers were no longer offended by this and it was possible for the ideologies between Finnish socialists and non-socialists to draw closer.
”David and Goliath: the Image of the Red Army in the Finnish Press”
From the very first, the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus had put a great deal of thought and planning into how the Red Army as an enemy was to be portrayed, both in the Finnish Press and to foreign correspondents and the foreign media. There was of course a great concern that in any war with the Soviet Union, the Finnish military would be severely outnumbered with all the military resources of a major totalitarian state attacking the small Finnish military. Initial Finnish strategy was geared towards a strategically defensive war in which the Finns would be fighting against far larger forces. News releases from Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus would continually emphasise this, and also emphasise the need for assistance – of equipment, weapons, munitions and men. The Red Army’s skills and size would be continually mentioned, always in conjunction with the fact that the Finns were holding the line, undefeated, inflicting large losses on the Red Army in every battle. The continuing tactical successes of the Maavoimat in almost every action was downplayed, as were the astounding ratio of Red Army casualties to Maavoimat casualties.
Within the Finnish Press, there was an emphasis on the strong defensive fight being put up by the Finnish military. Within a few weeks however, events overwhelmed the ability of the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus to impose their own “spin” on the stories being published. The mid-December 1939 defensive victory at Tolvajärvi, the truly enormous losses inflicted on the Red Army on the Karelian Isthmus, the limited but tactically highly successful counter-attack on the Isthmus of mid-December an the annihilation of the Soviet naval and marine force attempting to land near Petsamo were victories that the Finnish newspapers (and the foreign press) all emphasized. Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus was somewhat successful in ensuring that the Red Army’s mistakes and poor command were not emphasized, but with the stunning victories of January and February 1940 - especially the battles of Suomussalmi and Raate in early January, the slightly later capture of Murmansk and the rapid offensive in eastern Karelia that took the Maavoimat to the Syvari, Lake Onega and the White Sea, it was hard to portray the red Army’s military skills as anything other than sub-standard.
The emphasising of Finnish victories and the underestimation of the Red Army’s military skills was a view expressed in all Finnish newspapers, from late February on. Although Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus attempted to prevent newspapers from underestimating the enemy and overestimating Finnish victories, the right wing and the Agrarian Union’s newspapers and somewhat later all non-socialist newspapers were guilty of both. Many newspapers started to write that as a result of the war, the Soviet Union was more likely to collapse than Finland. When the situation of the time is taken into account, the description of the enemy’s poor military skills was discussed to some extent as an attempt to maintain the people’s will to fight, which may have been the real reason but was not really necessary. After all, Finland could not have been certain ar the beginning of the war that she was able to defend herself against a great power. The Soviet Union itself was prepared at most for a two-week war, which was a realistic assumption because nations such as Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland had either surrendered without a fight to Germany or they had collapsed instantly.
Furthermore, there was no certainty in Finland when the war started as to whether Finland’s own ranks would remain intact. In January, the situation was completely different - Finland had not just stopped a great power cold, but had also inflicted such severe casualties that the entire world looked on with admiration and wonder. As a result, instead of becoming divided, the cohesiveness of the Finns became ever stronger. An overreaction in the propaganda war was perhaps the result of this feeling of relief - Newspapers, including many of the major newspapers, reported that the Soviet military leaders had left their troops without supplies, did not take care of the wounded, had men killed left and right and, ultimately, sent them to attack at gun point. Therefore, it was possible to imply that the Red Army was close to collapsing.
The defensive propaganda of the early war took on more offensive tones as the Finnish strategic position strengthened. With the May 1940 offensive that took the Maavoimat back down the Karelian Isthmus to the outer suburbs of Leningrad, the tone of Finnish reporting became ever more strident – although in foreign newspapers the Battle of France, followed by the fall of France, virtually eliminated Finland and the Winter War from the headlines. But by then at least, the information war fought by Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus had been, for all intents and purposes, won. Large foreign volunteer contingents were in Finland, weapons and munitions had arrived or were en route, foreign support was assured and Finland was able to fight on, logistically secure. Many of the non-socialist newspapers held the optimistic view that the Soviet Union was going to lose the war and face societal collapse – despite the best efforts of the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus to rein in this over optimistic train of thought. Newspapers of the Agrarian Union and the right wing were the guiltiest of underestimating the Soviet Union. Newspapers of the labour class, in which the Red Army’s good equipment and training were occasionally described, were the least guilty of this underestimation. Even this late in the Winter War however, there was occasionally worry about underestimation of the Red Army – particularly in the Social Democratic newspapers, which feared that the underestimation would eventually prove costly by making foreign countries believe that Finland did not need any help and that the enormous resources of the Soviet Union remained a threat.
Therefore Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus continually reminded the media that it did not matter how wretched a Russian soldier may be and how badly he was led. Finland was dealing with a great power that had at its disposal unlimited reserves, as opposed to Finland’s small numbers. Despite this, the huge Soviet offensive of July 1940 that stretched along the entire front, from the White Sea to the Gulf of Finland, came as a shock to those who thought Finland on the verge of victory. Instead of victory and a negotiated peace, Finland was once more fighting desperately for survival and strict censorship had to be imposed to avert panic-stricken reporting of defeats and attacks made with overwhelming strength. In the event, despite the size of the attacks, the tactical skill of the Finnish military resulted in a series of annihilating victories over the Red Army. The Finnish newspaper reports of the time all exude a feeling of relief rather than of triumph – it was realized how narrow the margin had been, with victory the result of the skill and courage of every Finnish soldier – and newspaper reporting tended to reflect this rather clearly. The elation and sense of victory of a few weeks before had rapidly turned to incipient panic and then relief and a realization that getting out of this war was going to be just as much a strategic battle as winning the fighting so far had been.
At the same time as the Red Army attacked the Finns, Stalin had also decided to deal with the incipient problem of Estonia and a further massive offensive had simultaneously been launched against the Estonian armed forces. The five divisions of the Estonian Army together with the Estonian Air Force had put up a gallant resistance but found themselves driven back by sheer weight of numbers and firepower. The redoubt centered on Tallinn held out into late August 1940 but fell eventually - with a number of Estonian units fighting to the end to ensure as many civilians as possible could be evacuated to Finland. In this way, what amounted to personnel for two Divisions together with some 100,000 civilian refugees found themselves in Finland. This was reported with some sadness in the Finnish press - that the massive Red Army offensive that the Finns were facing precluded help from Finland being extended, other than from the Merivoimat, which carried out the evacuation from Tallinn under heavy fire (and later, from the islands of Osel and Moon). But it was only in the Finnish and Swedish Press that the situation of Estonia was reported extensively. In the rest of the world, a paragraph here and there was all that Estonia received. She would be forgotten for the next four years by all but the Finns.
The creation of the enemy image had succeeded rather too well
As a whole, Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus succeeded in its two-fold task of (1) influencing Finnish public opinion and maintaining the nation’s will to fight and (2) influencing foreign public opinion to generate support for Finland (which we will examine in the next Post).
Looking at Finnish public opinion, success was absolute - throughout the entire Winter War and thereafter, everybody in Finland felt that there was no alternative to fighting. Therefore, the readiness of the newspapers to maintain and support a “spirit of defence” existed across the entire political spectrum from the start. When we examine the image created of the Soviet Union, both the non-socialist and labour newspapers’ image of the Soviet Union was that Finland was dealing with a barbaric enemy. If the Soviet Union won, the enemy would not only conquer the country militarily, but would also destroy Finnish society, culture, religion and eventually the nation in its entirity. Each group of newspapers emphasised issues central to its own worldview. Therefore, details of the enemy image varied according to which issues were considered the most important in its own ideology. In point of fact however, the image became increasingly uniform as a result of the war and by the end of the war, those views that were originally held only by the right wing were adopted also across all other Finnish newspapers.
The image of military skill clearly shows how difficult it was to erase the self-admiration and, in reversal, the underestimation of the Russian enemy that emerged in January and February of 1940. The inferior enemy soldier as an archetype was created in Finnish newspapers without caution following the startlingly one-sided victories of the winter months. Thus when the major Red Army offensive of July 1940 burst against the Finnish defences, newspapers had succeeded too well in the creation of the image of the unskilled enemy and both the soldiers on the frontlines and the civilians at home were shocked at the resurgent strength of the Red Army. The attack began with a massive and successful Red Army crossing of the Syvari in late July, while a coordinated attack on the Karelian Isthmus was timed to coincide with the Syvari offensive. Initially threatening gains were made against the greatly outnumbered Maavoimat. Within a week, the Maavoimat had recovered and launched a four-day counter-offensive, driving the Red Army forces on the Isthmus back past their starting point. Stalin ordered Timoshenko to continue the offensive across the Syvari, but after initial deep penetrations, further attacks were decisively defeated; after which the Maavoimat counterattacked at the seam between two Red Army groups, crossed the Syvari, and advanced southward and westward towards Leningrad in over a week of heavy fighting while inflicting enormous casualties. At the same time the Ilmavoimat launched wave after wave of strikes against Red Army, Soviet Air Force and infrastructure targets, flying a higher sortie rate than at any other time except the early weeks of the Winter War.
For months the Finnish newspapers had described the enemy as militaristically extremely incompetent, its leaders as tormentors of their own people, its society as being on the brink of collapse, and its people as a mere mob afraid of the dictator. So the Finns were not psychologically prepared for the Red Army’s July offensive. Newspapers, and through them, their readers were themselves prisoners of an image of an incompetent enemy created for domestic use – and, it must be admitted, based on the early months the Red Army was incompetently led and trained, but by late summer 1940 major improvements in the enemy could be seen and this was reflected in a substantially more cautious viewpoint in the media from August 1940 on. Thus, the destruction of the Kremlin and with it a large proportion of the Politburo in the Ilmavoimat strike of September 1940 was not greeted with the elation that earlier victories had resulted in. The response was rather one of caution – would this attack merely spur the Russian monster into a renewed fury, or would it, as Mannerheim gambled, result in a new leadership and hopes of a peaceful conclusion to a war that, for Finland, could at best be a draw.
We now know the end result – the triumvirate that succeeded Stalin negotiated a peace agreement with Finland, one that satisfied neither completely but was at least tolerable. There were concessions made on both sides, and later, due to the extreme secrecy under which the talks were conducted, there would be much criticism in Finland of the Peace Treaty. The common view was that Finland had won victory after victory and suffered tremendous casualties in a war that the Soviet Union had started – and had won very little from her victories. In addition, a deep and abiding hatred of the Russians permeated Finnish society from top to bottom. Therefore, the terms for peace became upsetting news for the whole nation. It was for this reason that Marshall Mannerheim presented the terms of the peace agreement to the people of Finland. As Finland’s military commander, the architect of victory, he was the most trusted person in Finland and it was certain that every Finn would heed his voice. As indeed they did.
This did not mean the people of Finland were happy with the terms of the Peace Treaty. In this, Finland had succeeded too well in her creation of the enemy image which had at first been far from uniform. But by the end of the Winter War, there was a common view shared throughout Finnish society that Russia was indeed the historic enemy, an evil empire, the Red Army were indeed “hounds from the steppe”. And thus, while a peace agreement had been signed, the Finnish newspapers were united as one in agreeing that Finland must remain on guard, her armed forces strong, ready to again protect Finland in a world at war.
Raja railona aukeaa (Like a chasm runs the border)
Edessä Aasia, Itä. (In front, Asia, the East)
Takana Länttä ja Eurooppaa; (Behind, Europe, the West)
varjelen, vartija, sitä. (Like a sentry, I stand guard)
The above is based largely on http://herkules.oulu.fi/isbn9514266331/html/t857.html (Image Research and the Enemy Image: The Soviet Union in Finnish Newspapers during the Winter War (November 30, 1939 – March 13, 1940 by Sinikka Wunsch, Oulun Yliopisto) but adapted for this ATL.
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When we examine the impact of the news media in influencing public opinion and foreign Governmental agendas, it is important to identify that there were differing objectives at work. For Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus, the key objective was to sway foreign Governments into supporting Finland through volunteers and material support, preferably of war materials. This was to be achieved in a number of ways – one of which was to exert influence and sway foreign public opinion through the aegis of the foreign correspondents in Finland. This public opinion then needed to be utilized to create actual pressure and exert influence on foreign governments in order to ensure that deeds matched the words of support uttered. In this, it is also important to understand that where foreign governments supported Finland materially, either through permitting or supporting volunteers and/or through the sale or donation of war materials, these foreign governments largely did so for their own national and political purposes.
This of course was a facet of the “Tietoasota” - the “Information War” - that Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus had planned and prepared for, even if it came as a surprise to many Finnish politicians. The planners of Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus were well aware of Lord Palmerston’s old adage as it related to Britain, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow”. The challenge for Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus was in ensuring that foreign governments believed that their interests would best be served by aiding Finland with material support. Within the western democracies, this was largely achieved by the generation of public support for Finland, which was rapidly translated into pressure on governments by support groups founded by “concerned citizens.” In many cases these support groups were initially founded by local Finnish immigrants and then expanded through prominent public figures who were willing to lend their name and their time to the cause of supporting Finland – men such as former President Herbert Hoover in the United States and Colonel Eric Campbell together with Dr. Lewis W. Nott in Australia.
In other countries, economic factors came into play. Italy being a prime example, where a surge of public opinion in support of Finland enabled Mussolini to boost his popularity by supporting Finland whilst at the same time earning significant amounts of foreign exchange in return for the sales of Italian military equipment and munitions (Italy would supply large amounts of military equipment to Finland through the early months of the Winter War). Likewise Britain, whilst supporting Finland for her own reasons (and at the same time assuaging British public opinion) charged a high price for the military equipment that she did sell to Finland. The USA was another case in point, as we will see when we come to consider US assistance to Finland in detail in a subsequent post. On the outbreak of hostilities between the USSR and Finland, the US restricted sales of military supplies to a cash on the barrel basis. In point of fact, very very few countries actually “donated” war material outright to Finland. Those that did were generally small countries with emotional ties to Finland such as Hungary, or smaller democracies such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa who did so for almost purely altruistic reasons.
As has been mentioned occasionally, by the late 1930’s, Finland was a major exporter of lumber and forestry products as well as a source for metals – Nickel, Copper and Steel in particular. The country had a sold financial reputation and had built up significant gold reserves over the period between 1934 and 1939. Trade links were well-established with a wide range of countries and Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus had also taken account of this in their planning. When Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus was mobilized as the threat of war loomed (and they were one of the first units which were), operational plans dictated that teams of Rintatiedotusupseeri (Information Officers) be dispatched to each of the Embassies and Consulates that Finland maintained abroad, in conjunction with Ministry of Defence Purchasing and Logistics Officers whose task was to negotiate the purchase and shipping of whatever military equipment could be procured on an urgent (and later, on an ongoing, basis). In the event, these Information & Purchasing Teams would remain stationed where they had been dispatched to for the duration of WW2, many of the personnel returning to Finland only in 1945 and 1946. They would never be large teams, but they would prove to be very effective indeed (as a note of interest, a small number of Osastu Karhu operatives would be inserted with each of the Information Teams to augment Osastu Karhu teams already in place).
And here we will do a quick aside on Osastu Karhu, although we will also look at this unit and its background in considerably more detail when we come to look at Finnish Special Forces units of the Winter War.
“Speak not the name of the Bear”
Perhaps the least known of the Finnish Special Forces units was the highly secretive Osasto Karhu (or Bear Force) – a name deliberately chosen for its many connotations. The symbolic role and position of the bear is very prominent in many of the world's cultures and peoples, but none more so than in Finnish mythology and folklore where the bear has a special place as the most sacred of animals, generally only referred to by euphemisms. Prior to the influence of Christianity, the bear was an integral part of religious practices, rites and ceremonies, including the ancient religious practice of bear worship.
While the bear held a feared and sacred status with the people, it was also hunted and killed. If a man killed a bear, this was regarded as both a sign of status and prestige within the community. The killing of a bear was followed by a great feast, Karhunpeijaiset (the Celebration of the Bear) where the bear was "sacrificed" as part of the ceremony, and was honored at this sacred banquet. A substantial part of the celebrations consisted of demonstrating the high level of respect and profound esteem with which the bear's spirit was held by the people, thus convincing the bear's spirit that it had died accidentally and hadn't been murdered. After the feast, the bear's skull, which was thought to embody the soul of the bear, was attached high up on a pine tree, called a kallohonka, so that the bear’s spirit would be released back to the sky from where it originated, and then return to the earth and to the forest. In Finnish, the word for bear is karhun, or "king of the forest". Because the bear was considered such a sacred animal, the ancient Finns were very careful, reticent, and even unwilling to orally verbalize and refer to the bear "spirit" directly in speech. There is an ominous and foreboding element to the folklore of the bear; the bear "spirit" might be referred to as "friend", but among many etymological substitutes for the word "bear" in the culture were such names as mesikämmen, or "honeypaws." Today, the bear is designated as Finland’s national animal.
At the time then, Osasto Karhu seemed a fitting name for the most secretive of the secret Finnish direct action units – and Osasto Karhu was certainly a unit which would never be directly spoken of. Even now, no official information has ever been released on this unit or its activities, although a small number of books have been published documenting the accounts of surviving members and their activities in the Winter War and WW2. Indeed, such is the continuing deep cover of this covert action unit than at the current time, the Finnish Police anti-terrorist unit is named Osasto Karhu, further muddying and confusing the waters with regard to the history of this unit.
Osastu Karhu had its origins in the Finnish Security Service (Suojelupoliisi / Skyddspolisen, abbreviated as SUPO). SUPO had been established in 1935 as a Department of the Etsivä Keskuspoliisi (Police Investigation Service or EK), itself first established in 1919. While the activities of EK were fairly well known, if little publicized, the establishment and operations of the Suojelupoliisi were kept completely secret. The Branch’s activities were intended to be external to Finland and were focused on two areas - espionage and, in times of war, “direct-action” missions. Espionage activities were low-key, there was no large budget for spying but small teams, sometimes only a single individual, were maintained overseas in key locations, largely to monitor Soviet economic activity and NKVD activity emanating from Soviet embassies and trade missions. In general, despite the small size of the operation, SUPO were very professional and had developed their own expertise without reference to other countries, and thus were largely unknown to the intelligence operations of the major powers, including the USSR and Germany. The information garnered by these units would in fact be key to the numerous and highly damaging attacks carried out on Soviet merchant shipping outside of the Baltic by Osasto Karhu units over the course of the Winter War. This information was also used to carry out assassinations world-wide of key personnel in Soviet Trade Missions and Soviet Front Companies who suffered numerous “accidental deaths” within a few days of the start of the Winter War.
Image sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... i_Esko.jpg
Esko Riekki, Head of the Secret Police of Finland (Etsivä Keskuspoliisi = EK) from 1923-1948. Riekki was described as “efficient, tireless and skilful but …. also ruthless in an indiscriminate way. … He was later considered to be guilty of many excesses during his career.” Riekki was the inspiration and guiding hand behind the formation of Osastu Karhu and while not involved in the details of selection, training or operations, he supplied the ethos of ruthless direct action that was to be the Unit’s trademark. Soviet activities outside the USSR during the Winter War were severely curtailed by Osastu Karhu, so to were the activities of those trading with or actively supporting the Soviet Union, often in an abrupt and brutally terminal fashion.
SUPO also kept as close a watch as was possible on American, British and European companies dealing with the USSR, particularly those with military implications such as the Ford assembly plant outside Nizhni Novgorod (renamed Gorky in 1932) that opened in 1931. In this, the Finns had some cause for real concern. The general design and supervision of construction, and much of the supply of equipment for the gigantic plants built in the USSR between 1929 and 1933 was provided by Albert Kahn, Inc., of Detroit, then the most famous of U.S. industrial architectural firms. No large construction program in the Soviet Union in those years was without foreign technical assistance, and because Soviet machine tool production then was limited to the most elementary types, all production equipment in these plants was foreign.
Image sourced from: http://preservedtanks.com/Handler.ashx? ... 435&Size=E
In May 1929 the Soviet Union signed an agreement with the Ford Motor Company. Under its terms, the Soviets agreed to purchase $13 million worth of automobiles and parts, while Ford agreed to give technical assistance until 1938 to construct an integrated automobile-manufacturing plant at Nizhny Novgorod. Production started in January 1, 1932, and the factory and marque was titled Nizhegorodsky Avtomobilny Zavod, or NAZ, but also displayed the "Ford" sign. GAZ's first vehicle was the medium-priced Ford Model A, sold as the NAZ-A, and a light truck, the Ford Model AA (NAZ-AA). NAZ-A production commenced in 1932 and lasted until 1936, during which time over 100,000 examples were built. In 1933, the factory's name changed to Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, or GAZ, when the city was renamed after Maxim Gorky; similarly, models were renamed GAZ-A and GAZ-AA.
As an example, during its six years of existence between 1920 and 1927, the The All-Russian Co-operative Society (Arcos) based in the UK did approximately £100,000,000 in trade between Britain and Soviet Russia. Soviet sources indicate that 300,000 high-quality foreign machine tools were imported between 1929 and 1940. These machine tools were supplemented by complete industrial plants: for example, the Soviet Union received three tractor plants (which also doubled as tank producers), two giant machine-building plants (Kramatorsk and Uralmash), three major automobile plants, numerous oil refining units, aircraft plants, and tube mills. In sectors such as oil refining and aircraft, where further construction was undertaken at the end of the decade, we find a dozen top U.S. companies (McKee, Lummus, Universal Oil Products, etc.) aiding in the oil-refining sector and other top U.S. aircraft builders aiding in the development of the Soviet aircraft sector (Douglas, Vultee, Curtiss-Wright, etc.).
In the years 1917-20 a variant of the modern "bridge-building" argument was influential within policymaking circles. The Bolsheviks were outlaws, so the argument went, and had to be brought into the civilized world. For example, in 1918 a statement by Edwin Gay, a member of the U.S. War Trade Board and former Dean of the Harvard Business School, was paraphrased in the board minutes as follows: “Mr. Gay stated the opinion that it was doubtful whether the policy of blockade and economic isolation of these portions of Russia which were under Bolshevik control was the best policy for bringing about the establishment of a stable and proper Government in Russia. Mr. Gay suggested to the [War Trade] Board that if the people in the Bolshevik sections of Russia were given the opportunity to enjoy improved economic conditions, they would themselves bring about the establishment of a moderate and stable social order.”
At about the same time American businessmen were instrumental in aiding the formulation of the Soviet Bureau, and several hundred firms had their names on file in the bureau when it was raided in 1918. Hence there was Western business pressure through political channels to establish trade with the Soviet Union. Then as now, no one appears to have foreseen the possibility of creating a powerful and threatening enemy to the Free World. There was widespread criticism of the Bolsheviks, but this was not allowed to interfere with trade. In sum, there was no argument made against technical transfers while several influential political and business forces were working actively to open up trade and this continued through the 1920’s and 1930’s. There was nothing Finland could do about this and indeed, Finnish firms and the Finnish Government were as eager to trade with the USSR as anyone – the Oil Barter agreement of the mid-1930’s was evidence for this, if any was needed. Many in the Finnish Government saw trade with the Soviet Union as indeed a way of “building bridges” and “building partnerships.” These delusions would be corrected, in Finland for a short period at least, although they would continue to maintain themselves elsewhere.
However from a military perspective, SUPO was tasked with monitoring the implications of Soviet industrial development as well as of imports into the Soviet Union and this they did very effectively, using their sources and contacts to elicit details on western-built plants and their capabilities. Beyond monitoring, no further action was carried out – but at the start of the Winter War, SUPO had very very accurate and up to date knowledge of firms exporting to the Soviet Union, what they were exporting, key factories and their locations and layouts in the Soviet Union, Soviet merchant shipping in use and the like. This information was of course made available to the direct-action branch of SUPO as well as to the military planners on an ongoing basis.
Within SUPO, the “direct-action” missions were the responsibility of the secretive unit within the Branch named “Osasto Karhu” (Bear Force), a unit so little-known and so well-disguised that even today much that is written about this unit and its activities in the Winter War and in WW2 is surmise and conjecture – and much of that surmise and conjecture is confused with the operations of Osastu Nyrkki (Fist Force), the elite behind-the-lines direct action unit of the General Headquarters. Osastu Karhu itself drew its men largely from the elite units of the Maavoimat – including from Osastu Nyrkki - and the selection process was as secretive as the unit. Men would be assessed, security checks performed and then would come a quiet approach and a rather obliquely phrased request by a senior officer as to whether they would be interested in serving Finland in a “special way.” Men were never able to apply for this unit - you were invited only if they thought you were good enough.
Once potential candidates for the unit accepted the invitation, they went through a rigorous selection process, still without being told about the unit. Only if they passed selection would they be told of the unit and its mission. At this stage they would disappear from their units – not for nothing did the men of Osasto Karhu refer to themselves as the Armeijayön ja Usva. Once admitted, they received further training in infiltration techniques, deep reconnaissance, signals intelligence, foreign language skills, how to pass as a citizen of a foreign country, professional driving, boat-handling, swimming, close quarter fighting, knife fighting, pistol shooting, unarmed combat, assassination techniques, forgery, sniping, explosives and demolition, sabotage, etc. The men of Osastu Karhu were organised into small operational detachments, usually of ten or less men, as well as small support detachments. With the ever-present focus on the Soviet Union as a threat, their chief objective was to determine how to respond to an attack from the Soviet Union in unexpected ways that would deeply hurt the Soviets. As we will see when we come to look at the Winter War, they would more than succeed in this goal.
Image sourced from: http://karhunvartijat.net/ryhmat/up_kuvat/miekka01.jpg
However, the unit’s first real success had been a “black operation” carried out as far back as the Spanish Civil War. In October 1936, the Spanish Republicans had secretly shipped four hundred tons of gold reserves from Cartagena to the Soviet Union in the face of Franco's advancing army, with the agreement that part of it would stay in Moscow to pay for Soviet aid. In May 1936, shortly before the start of the Civil War, the Spanish gold reserves had been recorded as being the fourth largest in the world. They had been accumulated primarily during World War I, in which Spain had remained neutral. The reserves constituted mostly Spanish and foreign coins - the amount of actual gold bullion was insignificant, as the reserves included only 64 ingots. The value of the reserves was noted at the time by various official publications. The New York Times reported on August 7, 1936, that the Spanish gold reserves in Madrid were worth 718 million U.S. dollars, corresponding to 635 tonnes of fine gold.
The legality of the gold transfer to Moscow by the Republicans has been hotly debated – suffice it to say that it took place. On September 13, 1936, a confidential decree from the Ministry of Finance which authorized the transportation of the gold reserves of the Bank of Spain was signed, on the initiative of Minister of Finance of the time, Juan Negrín. Less than 24 hours after the signing of the decree, on the morning of September 14, 1936, members of the Spanish Carabineers and various militiamen, sent by the Ministry of Finance, walked into the Bank of Spain. The appropriation operation was led by the Treasury Director-General and future Minister of Finance under the government of Juan Negrín, Francisco Méndez Aspe. He was accompanied by Captain Julio López Masegosa and 50 or 60 metallurgists and locksmiths. The vaults where the reserves were kept were opened, and over a number of days, Government agents extracted all the gold. The gold was placed in wooden boxes, and transported in trucks to the Atocha railway station, from where it was then transported to Cartagena.
The city of Cartagena was chosen because, in the words of historian Angel Viñas, "it was an important naval station, adequately supplied and defended, somewhat distanced from the theatre of military operations and from which the possibility of transporting the reserves through a maritime route somewhere else was available.” The gold was heavily escorted and was transported via railway, according to witnesses of the events. A few days after the extraction of the gold from the Bank of Spain, Bank functionaries retrieved the Bank's silver, valued at approximately 20 million U.S. dollars at the time. On October 15, Negrín and Largo Caballero decided to transfer the gold from Cartagena to Russia. On October 20, the director of the NKVD in Spain, Alexander Orlov, received a ciphered telegram from Stalin, ordering him to organize the shipment of the gold to the USSR. Orlov agreed on the preparations with Negrín. Orlov responded that he would carry out the operation with the Soviet cargo ships that had just arrived in Spain. On October 22, 1936, Francisco Méndez Aspe, Director-General of the Treasury and Negrín's "right hand man”, came to Cartagena and ordered the nocturnal extraction of the majority of the gold-containing boxes, of an approximate weight of seventy-five kilograms each, which were transported in trucks and loaded onto the vessels Kine, Kursk, Neva and Volgoles.
The gold took three nights to be loaded, and on October 25 the four vessels set out en route to Odessa, a Soviet port in the Black Sea. Four Spaniards who were charged with guarding the keys to the security vaults of the Bank of Spain accompanied the expedition. Out of the 10,000 boxes, corresponding to approximately 560 tonnes of gold, only 7,800 were taken to Odessa, corresponding to 510 tonnes. Orlov declared that 7,900 boxes of gold were transported, while Méndez Aspe stated there were only 7,800. The final receipt showed 7,800, and it has not been known whether Orlov's declaration was an error or if the 100 boxes of gold disappeared. What is now known is that a small Osasto Karhu team was in Cartagena, primarily to track Soviet activities and had become aware through their own observations of the activities of the Soviet ships that clandestine loading activity was taking place. Applying their training in clandestine action in a most practical way, the Osasto Karhu team had managed to slip away with 100 boxes – which they later found to contain 75kgs of gold per box. How they achieved this was never spelt out in detail but “some Russians died.” Smuggled out of Spain, the gold proved a useful addition to Osasto Karhu finances – “and it was a good training exercise” one the participants is recorded as saying.
As with almost all the Finnish military, Osasto Karhu maintained only a small cadre of permanent personnel, although joining the unit required considerable dedication and commitment of personal time. A very small number of overseas Finns had also been recruited into the unit, although almost always as a source of intelligence and support, rather than as direct action operatives. A small unit, at the start of the Winter War Osasto Karhu consisted of around 500 men – operating in some 35 units of between 10 and 15 men each. The unit was mobilized early in early summer 1939 as a precautionary measure and began operational planning and intense refresher training immediately. Dispersal of the unit to overseas postings began almost immediately, some of the teams shipping out disguised as crew on Finnish owned and operated cargo ships, In this, the large Finnish merchant marine proved useful, as the ships also permitted the concealed carriage of weapons, explosives and equipment. Others were inserted, as mentioned, as part of the Information Teams being sent to embassies and consulates.
As mentioned, we’ll go on to look at Osasto Karhu in detail in a subsequent post. Suffice it to say for now that many Osastu Karhu operatives were inserted via the Information & Purchasing Teams.
Next Post: Returning now to the dispatch of the Information & Purchasing Teams overseas
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Finland had been borderland between Russia and Sweden, between East an West since 13th century.
The most part of nowaday's Finland is in fact original Russian soil. You know peace tratment between Sweden and Russia 1323.
The most part of nowadays Finland was settled by Swedish colonialism with Finnish inhabitants on 16th to 18th centuries..
On 16 th and 17th centuries Swedish colonialism settled Finnish people to Russian soil in nowaday's Eastern and northern Finland.
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Somewhere down the timeline, I'll be doing a post or two on Finnish history as it relates to Ingria, Eastern Karelia and Finnish-related linguistic groups within present-day Russia, as well as other linguistic relationships and related history. It'll go into the historical issues in summary form. It'll also be an opportunity to dive into Lonrot and the material that he gather together for the Kalevala. Some of the viewpoints expressed at that time may likely be "ATL" related, but the core will be soundly based on historical facts. Won't be for a while though.Mika68* wrote:CanKiwi2, be aware of Finnish older history with Russia.
Finland had been borderland between Russia and Sweden, between East an West since 13th century.
The most part of nowaday's Finland is in fact original Russian soil. You know peace tratment between Sweden and Russia 1323.
The most part of nowadays Finland was settled by Swedish colonialism with Finnish inhabitants on 16th to 18th centuries..
On 16 th and 17th centuries Swedish colonialism settled Finnish people to Russian soil in nowaday's Eastern and northern Finland.
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While Finland had a limited number of embassies and consulates abroad in 1939 (there were 20 Finnish embassies, of which four were outside Europe, and an additional six consulates), these were all limited in their effectiveness and in the work they could carry out by small staff numbers (in 1935 the Foreign Ministry had a staff of 77, while missions abroad employed only slightly more than 100 people). Finnish missions were in place in Argentina (Buenos Aires), Australia (Sydney), Belgium (Brussels), Britain (London), Canada (Ottawa), Czechoslovakia (Prague), Denmark (Copenhagen), Estonia (Tallinn), France (Paris), Germany (Berlin), Hungary (Budapest), Italy (Rome), Japan (Tokyo), Latvia (Riga), Lithuania, Norway (Oslo), Poland (Warsaw), Romania (Bucharest), Spain (Madrid), Sweden (Stockholm), Switzerland (Berne), the USA (Washington DC and New York), the USSR (Moscow) and Yugoslavia (Belgrade),
Public Relations work in embassies and consulates prior to the Winter War had been largely improvised, with ambassadors given pretty much a free hand. Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus had planned and out together a war-information training program for diplomatic personnel but in mid-1939, this had largely not been implemented. Appointment of diplomatic personnel took place at infrequent intervals and with substantial travel times and costs involved in returning personnel to Finland, this training was not at the time a high priority. Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus war plans made provision for the immediate dispatch of Information Teams to each of the overseas diplomatic posts if war seemed imminent, with the size of the teams roughly correlated to their likely importance to the Finnish war effort. (This in fact meant that the largest teams were dispatched to Stockholm, Oslo, Washington DC, London, Paris, Berlin and Rome – to these locations also went senior Finnish politicians or military personnel with “connections” that could be utilised).
When the Information Teams arrived in-country, their first task was to confirm target audiences and carry out a systematic consideration of what should be the shape of information activity and operations for each country. The general concept was that in the event of war with the USSR, public relations and lobbying should not be carried out on an ad-hoc basis, but should be on a soundly planned footing, with specific objectives. Ground-work was started almost immediately teams arrived in-country, and in this the relationships that had been cultivated by the existing diplomatic personnel were critical, as were business relationships and past contacts. Thus, the initial arrivals of the Information Teams at each post saw a flurry of diplomatic, business, political and social contacts, not something that the Finnish diplomatic missions were generally noted for.
One can observe several parallel activities underway from July 1939 on: the commissioning of articles in foreign newspapers and publications, contacts with local journalists and politicians, contacts with commercial firms with whom Finnish companies did business, contacts with Finnish immigrant groups and societies, the immediate cultivation of “influential” local citizens who it could be anticipated would support Finland in the event of a war with the Soviet Union. The “progressive” nature of the trade union and social welfare situation in Finland was also utilized to make contacts with Unions and workers organizations whilst the Social Democrat Party’s links, however tenuous, with other socialist parties were used to build “political” relationships. The presence within each of the Information Teams of two or three Finnish politicians (inevitably minor players within Finnish politics) representing the various flavours of Finnish politics enabled the teams to start building a relationship with similarly minded political parties in the democracies. Conversely, in Italy the right-wing Finnish political party which had already-close ties with Mussolini’s regime, the IKL, were utilized with considerable success. In Spain, ties that had been established informally during the Spanish Civil War were brought into play.
The major disappointment was in Berlin. Germany was a country with which Finland had long had close ties, economically and militarily as well as political. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had been an unwelcome introduction to German Realpolitiks and the Finnish representatives in Berlin worked furiously to determine what was happening. Finland had already been leaked the secret protocols regarding the Baltic States & Finland, both from the USA and from German sources who strongly disagreed. The messages received were conflicted, but what it seemed to boil down to was that Hitler had a working arrangement with Stalin and while Finland could expect no official help from Germany, discreet unofficial assistance could be arranged, and in this “unofficial assistance” Göring seemed to be Finland’s biggest asset. As we will see, some unofficial German assistance would indeed be forthcoming, until events escalated the tensions between Finland and Germany to a point where even Göring would no longer lend his protection to any such schemes.
The Information Teams at the foreign diplomatic posts went into overdrive in the short time they had available before the war actually broke out. Articles in newspapers, journals and periodicals were printed, bought, commissioned, suggested, or supported in several ways. Publications directly written by Information Team (mostly previously prepared and then rapidly adapted in the spot) writers were spread through the embassy connections. Direct commissioning of foreign authors in order to produce articles seemingly free of official propaganda took place also. In many cases this was achieved through utilizing writers with sympathetic views towards Finland (this became rather more prevalent after the Winter War actually broke out). In France for instance, the Information Teams had to cater to the voracious appetites of a notoriously venal daily press and additional funding was provided for this. Ambassadors and Consuls acted through their networks of contacts, while whatever Finnish organizations, or organizations that might be sympathetic to Finland, were contacted and assistance asked for. In many of the countries, it was possible to put in place the groundwork for “Support Finland” organizations. As a result, most of the immediate pre-war publicity regarding Finland dovetailed nicely into the image of Finland that Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus wanted to spread.
After the USSR actually attacked Finland, the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus publicity campaign stepped into high gear, with remarkable results. The Winter War dominated headlines worldwide (although the lack of news from the “Phony War” also helped in this). Support organizations sprang into being seemingly overnight, the in-country Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Information Teams provided guidance, assistance and speakers. Country-specific campaigns sprang into being – to raise funds for Finland, to exert pressure on the Government to send aid, unions and churches spoke out against the aggression of the USSR, large public gatherings took place where speeches supported Finland, the Finnish Ambassadors initiated urgent meetings with Government Ministers and Prime Ministers while the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Information Teams ensured there were in all the local newspapers together with demands for support of Finland. All in all, the campaign was better organized and run than many political or advertising campaigns, and the results were, as we will see, surpassingly effective in raising local support and turning this into effective influence for Finland’s benefit..
In the following posts, we will look at the impact that the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Information Teams had in a number of countries from which volunteers were dispatched and from which assistance was provided, most notably the USA and Australia (countries for which more historical information in available than others. We know for example, that there was large scale support for Finland in Hungary, with much fund-raising activity, but unfortunately very little information on this survived WW2 and the post-war Communist government. This unfortunately precludes using Hungary as an example).
On the outbreak of the Winter War, the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Information Teams also encouraged foreign correspondents and politicians of influence to visit Finland. Given the distances and travel time involved, it goes without saying that these were from journalists and politicians / diplomats from, or already in, Europe and North America. Every assistance was given to these “foreigners of importance” to reach Finland, down to ensuring priority seating on the Finnish airline flights from America, London, Berlin, Oslo and Stockholm. The first day of the war in Finland saw about fifty additional foreign journalists arrive to join those few that were already in the country. Many more arrived within the next few days. Most expected a situation similar to Poland, with Finnish resistance to collapse within a few days, perhaps a few weeks at best. None expected the Finnish military to put up the fight that they did.
“Foreign guests” were free to meet whomever they pleased, but they were also largely dependent on their hosts, and many were all too happy to have their traveling organized for them. Certainly none expected the expert handling and facilitation that they received from the Puolustusministeriön Tiedostustoimisto – who, as well as running the Press Centre at the Hotel Kämp as the central coordination point, had established ancillary Press Centres in Viipuri, Oulu and in the north, at Rovaniemi. Puolustusministeriön Tiedostustoimisto also organized and provided accommodation and on arrival, assigned each foreign war correspondent a personal “minder” from the pool of Tiedotusupseeri (Information Officers) whose task was to assist and “guide” the war correspondents. The results of this were not to the dislike of the Finns, and the articles of almost all the correspondents dovetailed nicely into the image of Finland and to the overall “story” that the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus and Puolustusministeriön Tiedostustoimisto wanted to spread.
The reportage brought back by the photographer Therese Bonney for instance (who had arrived in Helsinki shortly before the Winter War broke out), was a mix of things obviously arranged for her (meeting Jean Sibelius, Väinö Aaltonen, being shown around Helsinki, the Finnish army, the construction of the Olympic stadium, model sanatorium and sports facilities in Tuusula, etc) and things that every Frenchman would have instinctively associated with Finland (hard-working women, saunas, nature, etc). There is an obvious correspondence involved in these immediate pre-war articles between what the foreigner wanted to find and the way their Finnish chaperons tried to show the best of the country. After the Winter War broke out, the immediate focus of the foreign correspondents was of course the war itself. As mentioned, most correspondents had expected Finland to fall quickly and it was only after the War had been underway for a few days, with heavy fighting and strong resistance reported by those already there, that the major news media organizations began to send out correspondents, including thirty from Britain alone.
The fact that the conflict took place in a time when news agencies had invested in wide networks of war correspondents but other fronts were rather quiet was an added reason for the attention. Correspondents were fascinated by many different aspects of the war – the huge imbalance of forces, the skilled and stubborn resistance of the Finns, the obvious commitment of every Finn to the fight, the unbelievably one-sided casualties in the early battles. Correspondents were also fascinated by the arctic aspect of the war. The snow, the cold climate and soldiers on skis wearing white camouflage made for a novel and exotic experience. Many correspondents chose to cover the battles in Lapland, although the decisive struggle was being fought on the Karelian Isthmus, in the southeastern part of Finland. These war correspondents showed a genuine interest in the turn of events, and the skilful assignment of untypically talkative Tiedotusupseeri appointed to work with the foreign correspondents assisted in engaged many of the war correspondents strongly at an emotional level.
As has been mentioned, the Tiedotusupseeri appointed to work with the foreign press had a remarkably fluid role and great care was taken to appoint personnel with the characteristics necessary to work comfortably with foreigners whilst at the same time ensuring that information of military importance was not included. As such, Tiedotusupseeri tended to be rather less taciturn than the norm, and included a large number of women, all of whom had to have completed military training and special courses on how to identify and deal with militarily significant information. They also needed to ensure that the image conveyed was that which the Finnish military wished to be conveyed in the event of a war. It was stressed to “minders” that manipulation of the media should not be overt but carried out subtly, as much as possible by letting the “facts” speak for themselves. After the war actually started, the Soviets assisted this effort almost as if they were working to the same plan as the Finns – the random bombings of Helsinki and other cities in the early days of the war, with numerous civilian casualties and buildings destroyed and in flames, was fodder for the foreign journalists, many of whom had seen similar death and destruction unleashed in Spain and had written furiously and passionately on this topic then.
The Puolustusministeriön Tiedostustoimisto was well aware of this from their own analysis of the Spanish Civil War and used this to advantage from the start, ensuring that foreign correspondents were informed of the bombing of civilian targets, and organizing trips for the journalists, giving them opportunities to discover the damage and interview affected civilians. The impression of a total war being carried out, with all of Finland’s people, both military and civilian, under attack from a ruthless USSR whose tactics echoed those of the Fascists in Spain and Poland very quickly became part of the overall picture of the Winter War. As Virginia Cowles would write in one of her early reports from Finland:
“Twenty-four hours later, I took a trip along the coast to Hango. Here I saw for the first time what continuous and relentless bombing was like. The deep quiet of the snowbound countryside was broken by the wail of sirens five or six times a day as wave after wave of Soviet bombers sometimes totalling as many as five hundred came across the Gulf of Finland from their bases in Estonia, only twenty minutes away. All along the coast I passed through villages and towns which had been bombed and machine-gunned; in Hango, the Finnish port which the Soviets demanded in their ultimatum, twenty buildings had been hit, and when I arrived, ten were still burning.
It is difficult to describe indiscriminate aerial warfare against a civilian population in a country with a temperature thirty degrees Fahrenheit below zero. But if you can visualize farm girls stumbling through snow for the uncertain safety of their cellars; bombs falling on frozen villages unprotected by a single anti-aircraft gun; men standing helplessly in front of blazing buildings with no apparatus with which to fight the fires, and others desperately trying to salvage their belongings from burning wreckage if you can visualize these things and picture even the children in remote hamlets wearing white covers over their coats as camouflage against low-flying Russian machine-gunners you can get some idea of what this war was like."
The stoic response of the Finnish civilians to these attacks was grist to the mill for the foreign journalists, making for memorable quotes that stuck in the minds of foreign readers of the newspaper articles that were churned out nightly (most of the British reporters for example worked for Morning papers, thus their articles needed to be filed by 9pm in the evening to make the morning papers, where they would be read and then talked about in the office or the factory). Every evening the press room of the Hotel Kämp overflowed with correspondents from a dozen different capitals, arguing, doubting, grumbling, questioning. The telephone rang continuously. From one end of the hotel to the other you could hear journalists shouting their stories across Europe to Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Paris and London, and even across the Atlantic to New York. Much to everyone's annoyance, New York was the only connection so distinct you could hear as well as though you were sitting in the next room. Virginia Cowles usually telegraphed her stories to London, but they were often delayed for five or six hours, and occasionally she was forced to telephone.
“The line was so bad I had to repeat every word three or four times and I hate to think what the charges must have been. Some of the delay, however, was due to the fact that the Sunday Times telegrapher couldn't understand my American accent; once in desperation, I handed the telephone to Eddie Ward. "I say, is that really Mr. Ward speaking? Why, I heard you over the radio only an hour ago. And am I really talking to Helsinki? By Jove! What's it like there? Pretty cold, eh?" The official communiqué was issued every evening about eight o'clock and there was always a mad scramble among the big agencies as to who got the news over the wires first. All of them put in telephone calls to Amsterdam, Stockholm and Copenhagen blitz calls at nine times the normal rate. Once the Associated Press hung on to the telephone for twenty-five minutes waiting for the communique to be issued. Five minutes after hanging up in despair a call came through for the United Press, and at the same moment a boy walked into the room with the communique. Black looks were exchanged. As a matter of fact, all calls that came through seemed to be for the United Press, and I learned later this was due to a very handsome arrangement with the Hotel Kamp telephone operator.”
On short notice, it was impossible to improve the telecommunications situation, but the Puolustusministeriön Tiedostustoimisto worked hard to ensure all else that was possible was done to assist the war correspondents in their work. Censorship was rapid at the Hotel Kämp, rather more so than when you were filing reports from outside Helsinki, but the process itself was somewhat mysterious – the censors were invisible people who lived behind barred doors. No one ever saw them. Your appointed Information Officer took your copy to them and when it came back within a few minutes (for the censorship was extremely prompt) red penciled you might as well complain to God for all the good it did, although the Information Officer’s were all very helpful and would make suggestions as to what would not make it past the censors, which speeded things up considerably once you knew what they were looking for.
The reports filed by British correspondents such as Hilde Marchant and Giles Romilly that we have seen earlier were fairly typical of the short articles that made it into the British papers on a daily basis, while longer and more “thoughtful” articles by reporters such as John Langdon-Davies would appear regularly throughout the war. Correspondents such as Martha Gellhorn and Jessica Mitford would write more human interest stories. All the British newspapers (and in generall, all foreign newspapers) were supportive of Finland to a greater or lesser extent and, as has been mentioned, during the period of the “Phoney War,” the “Winter War” dominated the headlines on a daily basis. While the Fall of France and then the great air battles of the summer of 1940 came to dominate the British Press, the ongoing struggle between Finland and the Soviet Union remained in the news throughout and once more made the front pages as the great battles of August 1940 raged on the outskirts of Leningrad and along the Syvari. The death of Stalin at the hands of the Finns, the ensuing emergence of a leadership triumvirate to rule the USSR and the rapidly-concluded peace agreement between Finland and the USSR would make the front pages in September and October 1940, after which Finland faded from view, relegated to being the subject of (unfortunately perhaps for the British military, incorrect) analysis from newspaper writers such as B. H. Liddell-Hart and books by a number of the war correspondents such as john Langdon-Davies and his “Finland: The First Total War” who had “been there.”
For the Puolustusministeriön Tiedostustoimisto, conveying the right image and creating the right publicity was the subject of ongoing analysis throughout the war. Finland must be portrayed as fighting heroically against huge odds, as indeed it was, but at the same time the image conveyed must contain the message that with help, Finland could indeed hold of the might of the Soviet Union, if not forever, for a considerable length of time. Early in the war, many foreign governments held the view that Finland could not hold out long enough for military aid and volunteers to arrive – and this was a myth that Puolustusministeriön Tiedostustoimisto worked hard (and successfully) to dispel. Much was made of the victories in the north and in eastern Karelia, much also was made of the slow retreat on the Isthmus and the enormous casualties being inflicted on the Red Army, the sudden counterattacks, the ability of the Finnish artillery to counter the Red Army guns. Much was also made of the devastating attacks on the Soviet Navy and the fight for supremacy in the skies that the Ilmavoimat was slowly winning. And always, the refrain went, “we need help with guns, ammunition, aircraft, food, volunteers, whatever you can send.”
The commitment of Finland to fight on regardless of the cost was emphasized again and again, as was the involvement of the entire population in the war effort. The Lotta women working at the front as medics, nurses, signalers, drivers, cooks and in combat roles as AA-gunners stunned the foreign correspondents who were not used to seeing women near the frontlines, even in the Spanish Civil War. Their work alongside the fighting men received special attention. So to did the work of the teenage girls and boys in uniform, the girls organizing and looking after refugees from the Isthmus and border areas, manning searchlights, AA guns, working as Air Observers, caring for the wounded, the boys, many of them working in factories taking over adult jobs so that the men could join the fight, working in military depots, unloading railway wagons crammed with military supplies. Other women had taken over civilian jobs, looking after the children, working in factories, providing services that needed to be continued. To the foreign correspondents, this was visibly an entire nation at war. Everything, the efforts of every single person, was dedicated to the war effort. Much was also made of the early foreign units, the Italian Alpini Division, the Hungarians and Spanish Divisions on the way, the early arriving ANZAC Battalion and their eagerness to join the fight.
Press cuttings from the Finnish newspapers of the time reveal just how heavily people were hit by the stories of the "Frenzied assaults of the enemy" and the long columns of death-notices for the killed in action. Hence the Finns also read gratefully the opinions of the world in the international press and of the steady arrival of various units of foreign volunteers. That, and the military successes of the Finnish military, offered comfort. "Now if ever is the opportunity for friends of freedom and democracy to stand up and do something for their beliefs", urged Webb Miller of UP, one of the most famous correspondents of his day, in December 1939, trying to encourage the formation of an "International Brigade" of volunteers. "The eyes of the world are watching with admiration this small nation that defends itself against a bullying giant". This of course, was exactly the sentiment and feelings that the Finns hoped to arouse internationally – along of course with material assistance. The Swedish writer Sven Stolpe, speaking in January 1940 said that "Finland is currently the soldier of humanity, and no people can have a greater task to carry out than the Finns".
Image sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... _debut.jpg
The Swedish writer Sven Stolpe in 1929
Before the outbreak of hostilities, Finland had been just a splash of colour on the map for much of the world, but the Winter War made Finland much much more than that. Hence Tapio Vilpponen displayed an impressive prescience when he wrote in Helsingin Sanomat on January 25, 1940: "There can be no doubt that the continuing positive propaganda towards our country will create for us an ever-richer soil in our interaction with other nations." One of American correspondent David Bradley’s more enduring memories was of being down at the railway station, seeing the trains leaving for the front. "There were boys and even some girls sitting there waiting, 17 and 18 year old boys and girls wearing uniforms and carrying rifles, a few older men among them, but mostly boys and girls just waiting for trains to take them to the fighting. When I'd seen those kids, I didn't need any book-learning to know what heroes were."
Image sourced from: http://pics.librarything.com/picsizes/7 ... 716b42.jpg
David Bradley, who became known to Finns as a correspondent covering the Winter War, died on January 7th 2008 at his home in Norway, Maine in the United States at the age of 92 years old. He was born on February 22nd, 1915. Bradley was the last living foreign correspondent who had covered the Winter War and had reported on the war for the American Lee Syndicate and the Wisconsin State Journal. After the Winter War Bradley studied medicine at Harvard University and went on to serve in the US military. In 1946 he was sent to the Pacific to take radiological measurements at Bikini Atoll. Bradley was among the first American scientists to warn Americans about the health hazards of nuclear radiation. Bradley left the military and continued to work against nuclear armament in his speeches and his writings. He was elected to the House of Representatives of the State of New Hampshire, where he served from 1955 to 1959, and again from 1973 to 1975. He returned to Finland to teach the English language and American Literature at the University of Helsinki from 1960 to 1962. He wrote a book, “Lion among Roses” about his experiences in Finland.
The ongoing reporting of Finnish victories, the stubborn fight they were putting up, the news of the foreign volunteers arriving, all inspired men and women in other countries to demand that their own governments do something to assist Finland. In the self-governing democracies of the British Commonwealth – Australia, Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia, a ground-swell of public opinion supported the sending of volunteers to join the fight. In the USA, there was a mixture of support for Finland opposed by a wary isolationism that rejected any involvement in European wars. In other countries there was also strong public support for Finland – in South America, in Japan, in France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway. But all of this meant very little if it was not translated into guns, munitions, aircraft and men to fight. And in this, the Puolustusministeriön Tiedostustoimisto faced a certain fact – the war in Finland was receiving much media attention. The lone struggle of a plucky and hopelessly outnumbered Finland against Stalin's armies made a good story, particularly when accompanied by images of white-clad soldiers on skis fighting in the snow supported by the Lotta’s. But this would only last as long as the war in Europe remained a “phoney” war – and the Finnish General HQ knew enough about the German military to be convinced that the Phoney War would not last forever – and when the war ceased to be “phoney”, Finland and its struggle would disappear from the news. And with that disappearance, the fickleness of foreign public opinion would mean there would no longer be public pressure on governments to assist Finland.
What was needed was to ensure large enough commitments of men and material early in the war so as to ensure support would continue, if only for the reason that large numbers of foreign volunteers had been committed and their loss would be a public relations disaster for the governments that had, even if reluctantly, supported and even organized their dispatch. To achieve this commitment, an even higher news profile generating greater public pressure on the foreign governments was needed – as were active support organizations in the countries concerned. How to achieve this publicity and ensure it was always in a favorable light had been the subject of considerable analysis within the Puolustusministeriön Tiedostustoimisto in the year prior to the war. And yet again, the Spanish Civil War had provided an inspiration and an answer. While large numbers of foreign correspondents had reported on the Spanish Civil War, there had also been a considerable number of authors who had actually fought as volunteers with the International Brigades. George Orwell, W.H. Auden, Spender, Day Lewis, MacNeice
This, combined with the desire of many reporters to “report from the frontlines” had led Puolustusministeriön Tiedostustoimisto to come up with a new concept – “Embedding” – which was implemented at the outbreak of the war. In an at the time unique approach, selected foreign journalists who accepted the risk were “embedded” in carefully chosen Finnish military units together with their Finnish “minders” who were fluent in the language of the foreign journalists and who were also “combat soldiers”. In this, the inability of almost all the foreign journalists to understand Finnish measurably assisted in the Finns skilful manipulation of the foreign media to their advantage. From experience in the Spanish Civil War, it was theorised that first-hand accounts from the front more often than not resulted in positive news reports – and in the Winter War this was proven, with the foreign journalists releasing unanimously astonished and admiring reports of the Finnish soldiers fighting against impossible odds in the harsh sub-zero temperatures of the Finnish winter – and winning. Virginia Cowles, the svelte blonde Bostonian journalist, found herself in perhaps the most challenging, dangerous and indeed, terrifying, position she would ever face as a journalist in WW2 when she was embedded in an Osasto Nyrkki (“Fist Force”) special forces unit tasked with an attack on a Soviet airfield deep behind the frontlines.
Photo sourced from: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/arc ... 71969a.jpg
Virginia Cowles in Finland (on left behind desk, Martha Gellhorn seated next to her in the center): Aged only 29 at the time of the Winter War, Cowles was a correspondent for Hearst newspapers in the United States. She had interviewed Mussolini in Rome, been flown personally by Air Marshal Balbo over Libya (“I know,” he said, having failed to entice her to fly for a second time, “the trouble is you don’t like my beard”), had tea with Hitler in Nuremberg (where Unity Mitford told her enthusiastically: “He says it’s very exciting to have the whole world trembling before him”). She had been to Soviet Russia, covered the Spanish Civil War (from both sides) where she had lunched with Ernest Hemingway and “the chief executioner of Madrid”, been falsely reported by Kim Philby as kidnapped in Spain, covered Czechoslovakia in October 1938 and, later, reported from the Polish border, as the Germans rolled in. Now she was in Finland covering the war between Finland and the Soviet Union. As with almost every other journalist in Finland, impartial and objective reporting was cast aside as she wholeheartedly supported the cause of Finland. She would see in the New Year of 1940 standing beside Marshal Mannerheim at his “mysterious headquarters hidden deep in the Finnish forests” at Mikkeli, where she entertained the Marshal by singing “Run, Rabbit, Run.”
At the time, the Winter War was also making a major impact in the media. The 1940 play “There Shall Be No Night” by American playwright Robert E. Sherwood was inspired by a moving Christmas 1939 broadcast to America by war correspondent Bill White of CBS. The play was produced on Broadway in 1940, and won the 1941 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The 1940 American film “Ski Patrol” features a Finnish reserve unit defending the border against Russians. The film took great historical liberties in its storyline and was photographed by the Hollywood master Milton Krasner. In addition, a considerable number of books for the British and American markets were written on the subject immediately after (and some even before) the war ended.
At the end and within a year after the Winter War – late 1940 and1941 – quite a number of books were also published in the Soviet Union. Given the death of Stalin and the political succession that had taken place, the books were very narrowly focused on military history and operations, but they had did have a carefully controlled and strong political message. The overall campaign was disastrous, so the literature found its pride in details of particular battles and encounters and in heroic soldiers. For example the breakthrough of the Mannerheim Line was represented as a "legendary" performance by the Red Army, as was the defence of Leningrad and the battles on the Svir. Timoshenko, in the biographical film of the same name, was portrayed as the heroic general fighting to the last against the savage Finnish onslaught and an inspiration to his men to do the same.
In fiction, the 1940 boy's adventure story “Biggles Sees It Through” by W.E. Johns is set during the final stages of the war. In a “fictional” work that is in reality a thinly veiled biography, albeit with many of the events adapted to serve the agenda of the British government, Squadron Leader James Bigglesworth, the leader of the Squadron of RAF Volunteers, flies reconnaissance raids from a base in Finland in a Bristol Blenheim bomber on missions for the British Security Intelligence Service, and encounters a Polish scientist with secret papers on new aircraft alloys, plus von Stalhein, his old World War I enemy, who is working with the NKVD.
Image sourced from: http://www.biggles.info/Details/23/Titlepage.jpg
Frontpiece from “Biggles Sees It Through” – “The Gadiator swept up in a tight half-roll”
There were also a considerable number of books on the war published by western journalists who had “been there.” Almost all of them were critical of the Soviet Union and sympathetic to the Finnish cause. Even after the war had drawn to a close, favorable portrayals of the Finns continued to emerge, a classic example being Virginia Cowles’ hagiographical book “Hero: The Life and Legend of Colonel Jussi Härkönen,” about Eversti Jussi Härkönen, the founder and commanding officer throughout the Winter War and WW2 of the Maavoimat’s elite Osasto Nyrkki (“Fist Force”) special forces unit.
Photo sourced from: http://twolftfeet.com/sas/SAS_winter_br ... to_014.jpg
Osasto Nyrkki 4WD “Bantam Gun-buggy”, photo taken from “Hero: The Life and Legend of Colonel Jussi Härkönen” by Virginia Cowles (Gummerus, 1949).
Her prologue – “There is a full moon shining down on the snow-clad forests of eastern Karelia. Overhead you can hear the drone of Soviet bombers whilst behind us the sounds of the frontline battle are muted thunder. Deep in the rear of the Red Army, the men of the Finnish Army’s Fist Force drive through the snow. Their mission – to attack a Soviet airfield packed with bombers being used to attack Finnish cities….” – sets the scene. “On nights like this,” she continues, “you wonder how future historians will visualise the majesty of this small country. Will they understand how violently Finland fought, how valiantly her soldiers died: how calmly her people lived in the midst of the world’s first total war?”
In the book she was fiercely critical of America for having “shrunk from our obligations” to support Finland – “a small democracy fighting for her life against an evil totalitarian regime” - to the fullest extent possible. As Finland “….struggles for survival and America refuses to provide war materials and equipment to assist her, shiploads of aircraft engines, machine tools and munitions with which the Soviet war machine will create weapons to use against this gallant country leave our shores for the USSR …….” Strange to say of a book written at one of the darkest times in WW2, and of the grimmest subjects, its chief note is one of gaiety. Virginia Cowles was young and well-connected. As an attractive woman in an almost totally male world, she was treated chivalrously and allowed an access that, nowadays, even top television reporters would envy. “What a fine thing it was,” she writes at one point, “to be a female of the species.” She had the most marvelous time in Finland over the months of war, and she does not solemnly pretend otherwise.
The sheer oddity of the Winter War fascinated her. There is a brilliant description of a midnight dinner laid on by Osasto Nyrkki deep in the Russian forests so that she and another reporter could dine in relative comfort while watching the Finns as they attacked, overran and then blew up a huge Red Army supply dump, and another of the difficulty of keeping warm in freezing Finland in a house which, at the time, was on fire. Equally, though, Cowles reports all the horror with direct human sympathy — the poor, distracted Karelian refugee desperate to get on the Helsinki train with her to find her children who had been evacuated earlier, the Australian Volunteer Battalion cook who makes her breakfast near the frontline on the Syvari one day and is dead in battle the next, the little lost Estonian refugee boy coming to the reception desk of the Helsinki hotel she was staying at late in 1940 after Tallinn had fallen to the Red Army saying, “Minu isa on piloot.” All such vignettes are the more effective because they are not dwelt on, and the physical description of Soviet atrocities is restrained. This is clear, unaffected reportage, and the book is a delight to read for that alone.
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“Minu isa on piloot.”
What is also likable about the book however, is its more dated aspect — its romantic devotion to Finland and to the heroically portrayed characters of Colonel Jussi Härkönen and Marshal Mannerheim (always an imposing and aristocratic background figure throughout the book). As a child, Virginia Cowles loved the stories of the Knights of the Round Table and of other heroic figures such as Sir Francis Drake, Clive of India and so on. After arriving in Helsinki, she thought “Finland seemed a wonderful land where all the men were very brave and wore splendid and beautiful uniforms[!]”. This impression was reinforced on meeting Marshal Mannerheim. “I was impressed by his imposing and aristocratic presence and his military bearing. He looked to me the way I had always imagined a true commander of brave men should look…..” Cowles was most struck, especially when she later compared the way Finland fought successfully against overwhelming odds with the rout of France, by the way the Finnish soldiers naturally respected the great Marshal, and the way the officers, NCOs and men worked together in battle. “Hardly an order was ever given. It was as if every one of them knew what was expected of them and what to do under every circumstance. A gesture, a nod, and an entire Platoon or Company would begin to move, easily, rapidly and silently through the snow and the forest, white-clad ghosts invisible and inaudible from even a few feet away.”
She also noticed and described Finnish “Sisu” – the sometimes suicidally stubborn refusal of the Finnish soldiers to give in to the Red Army, no matter how outnumbered they were, as well as their sardonically humorous outlook on the ongoing war. She repeated in one news piece she filed the request of one Finnish officer after the annihilation of the Red Army’s 44th Division, “ask Stalin to send another couple of Divisions, we could do with some more equipment.” Long afterwards she would write “….it was only after seeing the outcome of these and other battles that I came to truly realize just how much the Finnish Army had achieved, how many casualties they had inflicted on the Red Army and how little it had cost them. And it was then that I began to believe that as long as the world continued to aid Finland with military equipment and with ammunition, Finland could never be beaten.”
Towards the end of her book, she writes “Of all the days I spent in Finland, I remember August 15th 1940 the best. The Red Army had launched a huge attack on the Finns along the entire front, from Leningrad all the way to the White Sea. On this day the Ilmavoimat shot down a record number of one hundred and eighty Soviet planes. I had been driven down from Viipuri to near the front on the Karelian Isthmus with Vincent Sheean and from where we were we near Terijoki we tried to piece the drama together like a jigsaw puzzle. In almost the whole range of the sky there was action. To the right we could see a plane falling like a stone into the sea, leaving a long black plume against the sky; to the left, a bomber going down in flames; and directly above, a fighter, diving down on one of the bombers and suddenly a tiny fluttering parachute as one of the pilots baled out; and all the time the crackling noise of the anti-aircraft guns' fire and the white bursts of smoke against the sky and the white contrails of the aircraft everywhere. And underlying all other sounds was the continuing rumble of the artillery coming from the direction of distant Leningrad, like muted thunder that never ceased.”
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“….near Terijoki we tried to piece the drama together like a jigsaw puzzle. In almost the whole range of the sky there was action.”
Finland would emerge from obscurity again only in early 1944, once more making the headlines as she joined the Allied and launched the invasion of Estonia, with Finnish/Polish/Allied forces driving rapidly southwards along the Baltic littoral. A number of leading war correspondents who had become confirmed “Fennophiles” over the course of the Winter War would attach themselves to the Finnish forces for the remainder of WW2. Their reports would contrast the “lightning war” waged by the Finnish and Polish generals together with General George Patton (“sidelined to Finland by Eisenhower and eternally grateful for it”) with the “plodding advances” of Bradley and Montgomery on the “other front”.
Virginia Cowles herself returned to Finland in late 1944 and, together with Martha Gellhorn and other journalists, would accompany the Maavoimat on its drive southwards through the Baltic States and in to Poland. She would be flown into Warsaw by the Ilmavoimat as the German siege was broken, reporting on the duplicity of the Soviets as the Red Army refused to assist the Polish Home Army as it battled to hold Warsaw. She would enthrall America and Britain with her reports on the Relief of Warsaw by the Finnish and Polish Armies as well as her ongoing “Reports from the Spearhead” as the Finnish-commanded Army of the North rampaged through northern Poland, in to Germany and onwards to Berlin.
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“Raising the Flag over the Reichstag” - a historic World War II photograph taken during the Battle of Berlin on 2 May 1945, by an unknown Finnish Propagandaliitto photographer assigned to accompany Virginia Cowles together with her “minder.” It depicts several Maavoimat soldiers raising the flag of Finland atop the German Reichstag building. Accompanying the article filed by Cowles on the Fall of Berlin to the Finnish Army, the photograph was instantly popular, being reprinted in thousands of publications. It came to be regarded around the world as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war. Virginia Cowles was the first Allied Reporter to reach Berlin at the end of the War.
The Fall of Berlin was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II and ended as a race to the centre of Berlin between the Soviet Red Army and the Finnish Maavoimat. Starting in early January 1945, the Maavoimat/Polish/Baltic States Army and attached Allied (British, Commonwealth and US) Divisions and the Red Army had conducted parallel drives westwards, breaching the German front on the Vistula and Oder and rapidly advancing westwards through Germany, averaging 30–40 kilometres a day. The Maavoimat and attached allied units under their command were aided in their advance by the relative willingness of German forces they faced to surrender or withdraw without putting up a serious fight – although on the occasions when they did so, they were hammered mercilessly. By contrast, the German forces facing the Red Army tended to fight to the best of their ability. The Red Army was however prepared to take far heavier casualties in order to maintain the speed of their advance so in the end, the advancing armies remained neck and neck to the end. The battle for Berlin lasted from late on 20 April 1945 until 2 May 1945 and was one of the bloodiest in history for the Germans and the Red Army. Not so for the Finns.
The Maavoimat originally had no intention of participating in the battle or of advancing into Berlin. At the commencement of the battle, the Red Army advanced into Berlin from the east and south while the Maavoimat remained stationary along the northern border of the city – with large elements of the Maavoimat continuing to advance westwards, occupying northern Germany and forcing the German III Panzer Army and the German XXI Army situated to the north of Berlin to retreated westwards under relentless pressure until they were eventually pushed into a pocket 20 miles (32 km) wide that stretched from the Elbe to the coast. To their west was the British 21st Army Group, to their east were the Finns and to the South were the Americans – while a Merivoimat naval task force and Rannikkojääkärit units moved to liberate Denmark. The Finnish military command saw no reason to lose large numbers of Finnish lives in order to take a city which was bound to fall and was not especially interested in the “prestige” resulting from the taking of the city. During 20 April 1945, the 1st Belorussian Front commanded by Marshal Georgy Zhukov started shelling Berlin's city centre, while Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed from the south through the last formations of Army Group Centre. The German defences mainly consisted of several depleted, badly equipped, and disorganised Heer and Waffen-SS divisions. Within the next few days, the Red Army rapidly advanced through the city and reached the boundaries of the city centre where close-quarters combat raged. At least 125,000 German civilians perished in the fighting together with some 100,000 German soldiers. The Red Army would lose some 81,000 dead another 280,000 wounded together with 2,000 armoured vehicles destroyed. Throughout the fighting, endless columns of civilians filed northwards towards the Maavoimat positions, passing through to relative safety.
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Throughout the fighting for Berlin, German civilians filed towards the Maavoimat positions in a continuous stream, desperate to escape the vengeance of the Red Army.
It was the German civilian refugees that would indirectly lead to the Maavoimat moving into Berlin in force. On April 29th, Red Army forces near the Maavoimat positions began to attack and massacre a large German civilian refugee column that was snaking its way out of Berlin and through the Maavoimat lines, passing through the (Estonian) 31st Field Infantry Division commanded by Estonian Army Major-General Nikolai Reek. Reek ordered his Division to move to protect the civilians and, leading from the front as was often his wont, he was killed when Red Army units opened fire on the unit he was accompanying. With Reek’s death in action at Russian hands, the Estonian 31st Division responded with an all-out attack on all Red Army units in their vicinity on the north-east of Berlin, at the same time calling in Polish and Ilmavoimat close air support – which was always quick to respond to any aggressive moves towards Finnish/Polish/Allied units by the Red Army. At the same time, the Polish 1st Armoured Division and the Maavoimat’s 8th Infantry Division joined the fighting in support of the 31st Division. The Red Army units reeled backwards under the sudden and overwhelmingly violent onslaught. Only the personal and forceful intervention of Kenraaliluutnantti Oesch prevented the situation from escalating further.
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“Kenraaliluutnantti Oesch prevented the situation from escalating further”: The Fall of Berlin in 1945. Kenraaliluutnantti Lennart Oesch (right) and his chief-of-staff Eversti Valo Nihtilä (destroyed or captured Red Army materiel in the background). Nihtilä is shaking hands with the 2IC of the 31st Estonian Division who has assumed command on the death of Major-General Nicholas Reek.
However, in a move to prevent further unnecessary civilian casualties and deeply annoyed by the temerity of the Red Army’s attack on Maavoimat units, Kenraaliluutnantti Oesch ordered the Polish 1st Armoured, two Polish and four Finnish Infantry Divisions to move into Berlin. There was no resistance from the German military, those who were encountered surrendered immediately (and gratefully, it might be added) to advancing Maavoimat/Polish Army forces. Within two days, with almost no opposition, the Maavoimat had reached the center of Berlin and on the afternoon of 1 May, the Finnish Flag was raised over the Reichstag. Cowles documented the events surrounding the flag-raising in the articles she filed, writing that “I asked a rhyma of soldiers who happened to be passing by to help with staging of the photo shoot. Four of them climbed up onto the roof with the flag I gave them and 18-year old Private Ilvari Länsivuori from Helsinki attached the flag to the flagstaff. With him were Private Pekka Ronkainen, Sergeant Jorma Tiilikainen and Private Yrjo Kankkunnen, all from Karelia. It was an historic moment and one I found deeply satisfying.”
German military units in Berlin fighting the Red Army slowly withdrew or were forced northwards where they were not overwhelmed, fighting desperately to enable the escape of German civilians towards the Finnish lines. During, and in the days immediately following the assault, in many areas of the city, vengeful Soviet troops (often rear echelon units) engaged in mass rape, pillage and murder. This too was reported on by Virginia Cowles, although at the time American and British newspapers were (not for the first time) being prevented from printing stories that cast the Soviets in a poor light. Meanwhile, the Maavoimat was in the process of hastily setting up camps for the refugees. Most Germans, both soldiers and civilians, were grateful to receive food issued at Maavoimat Field Kitchens which began on Kenraaliluutnantti Oesch’s orders.
Photo sourced from: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_uy4vuBbsXMk/S ... %2B001.jpgCowles was a great admirer of Kenraaliluutnantti Karl Lennart Oesch – and she knew many Generals: “Oesch, the Polish General Anders, the Finnish General Hugo Osterman and George Patton made a great team. They complemented each other admirably. Oesch knew when to rein Anders, Osterman and Patton in and when to give them their heads, while Patton, Anders and Osterman respected each others abilities as well as Oesch’s abilities as a “fighting Commander. Oesch, Anders, Osterman and Patton were an unbeatable combination.
In those areas which the Maavoimat had captured and even before the fighting in the centre of the city had stopped, the Finnish Command took measures to start restoring essential services, as did the Soviets in their sector. Almost all the transport in and out of the city had been rendered inoperative, and bombed-out sewers had contaminated the city's water supplies. The Finns and Soviets both appointed local Germans to head each city block, and began organizing the cleaning-up. After the capitulation the Soviets went house to house, arresting and imprisoning anyone in a uniform including firemen and railway-men – as awareness of this grew and the fighting died away, a trickle of German civilians crossing from the Soviet controlled zone into the Finnish controlled zone became a torrent, and then a flood.
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Virginia Cowles: “Days of Wine and Shrapnel”: Born in Vermont, USA, Virginia Cowles (1910-1983) became a well-known journalist in the 1930s with her columns appearing on both sides of the Atlantic. Her autobiography, “Looking for Trouble” covers with brio her reporting of the main events between 1935 and 1940. In his memorial address, Nigel Nicolson recalled the first time he met her, “her appearance was doubly startling: that she should be there at all at so critical a moment; and that she was the most beautiful young woman on whom, until then, I had ever set my eyes.”
Before and during the Second World War she covered the Spanish Civil War, the Winter War, the rout in France, the Middle East, the Italian campaign, the liberation of Paris, and the Allied invasion of Germany. In 1945 she married the British politician and writer Aidan Crawley. She wrote many biographies including “Winston Churchill; the Era and the Man”, “Edward VII and His Circle”, “The Romanov’s”, “The Phantom Major” about David Stirling and the SAS and “Hero: The Life and Legend of Colonel Jussi Härkönen.” It is indeed interesting to contrast her studies of David Stirling and the SAS vis-à-vis Jussi Härkönen and Osasto Nyrkki and the background that is perhaps unintentionally revealed. The SAS were peculiarly British, an elite unit that emerged from the war unplanned and largely unwanted, pushing their way in, developing techniques and tactics as the unit evolved as a fighting force, very much in the British tradition of such units which came and went with each major war. The SAS would be no exception, largely disappearing in the aftermath of WW2 only to re-emerge a decade later when circumstances again called for such a unit.
Osasto Nyrkki by way of contrast had been conceived and developed to meet an identified need – a similar need that the SAS met for the British – but with a great deal more foresight, planning and development. It was no coincidence then that the British Volunteers from the 5th Battalion Scots Guards, who were trained by and fought with Osasto Nyrkki in the Winter War, would be the founders of almost all the British Army’s elite units of WW2. And Osasto Nyrkki itself would remain in existence after WW2, as secretive and close-mouthed as ever, but now also feared by Finland’s enemies, training and preparing for the next war, whatever that might be.
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Regardless, the foreign press had served its purpose, large volunteer contingents were in place, large amounts of military aid had been forthcoming and regular convoys laden with food, munitions and weapons arrived in Lyngenfijord, Petsamo and the now Finnish-held port of Murmansk from the factories of the USA and Canada. Shipments would continue to arrive up until the peace agreement with the USSR, although primarily from the USA and paid for in hard cash as Canadian factories switched to delivering their output to a British Army which had lost most of its equipment in France and at Dunkirk. And the remnant of foreign war correspondents would continue to file their reports throughout the war, their great coup and their reward for staying the course being the momentous reports on the surprise Ilmavoimat raid on the Kremlin and the death of Stalin and a significant portion of the Politburo who had been meeting with him on that flame-filled night.
“It’s difficult to imagine a more significant event in the first year of WW2,” Bradley said. “You have to remember that this was September 1940, the Soviet Union and the Nazi’s were partners, they were brothers-in-arms, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had led to the dismembering of Poland, many in fact had questioned why Britain and France had chosen to declare war only on Germany and not on the USSR as well, they were both equally guilty, accomplices in crime as it were. So the news of Stalin’s death, it wasn’t greeted as a tragic loss as it would have been after the Germans turned on the USSR and they became our ally, it was greeted rather as a significant achievement, a victory against the totalitarian states that dominated Europe, a great victory. And it was a real turning of the tide for Finland, the triumvirate who succeeded Stalin were far more rational, far more sensible. And after what had happened, they preferred o negotiate a peace agreement with the Finns because it was obvious there would be no easy victory over the Finns and that Hitler and Germany was the real threat. Which was of course what the Finns had hoped for.”
Carl-Adam Nycop, a Swedish reporter, spoke at length of the sensation that followed on the announcement of the peace terms. "We looked at the large map on the wall of the press-room and drew in the new borders. The Finns had given back almost everything the had won, they had even made some minor concessions on the Isthmus and in return that had got a large chunk of eastern Karelia, actually it was a huge chunk, Forests and Swamps, somebody said rather bitterly, and the border up by Petsamo had moved eastwards quite a bit but the Karelian Heartland, the land of the Kalevala, Lake Äänisen, the dream of a Greater Finland, had all evaporated. There was relief, relief at the Peace, relief that Finland had stayed intact, that the Karelians and the Ingrians would be allowed to come to Finland but there was also sadness. One of the Press Centre staff was sobbing in a corner. I tried to talk to a few people in the park in the morning, but they were too shocked. I understood why really, they had fought so long and so hard, so many soldiers and civilians had died, they had won the whole of what many considered to be their true homeland, the Greater Finland of the more ardent nationalists, and now they were giving it up. It was Mannerheim that carried the day with his speech, I think if anyone else had announced those terms there would have been a revolution, but everyone listened to Mannerheim and they would do whatever he asked them to. You could tell, even over the radio you could tell, that he wasn’t happy about it. But if anyone knew the Russians, he did and everybody knew that too."
And so, while there sadness and a lot of bitterness at the Russians, a bitterness that did not disappear as the Siege of Leningrad by the Germans would illustrate, when the Finns would not open their borders to permit any shipments through. Although they did offer that children could be evacuated through Finland but the Soviet leadership did not permit that. But while there was a great deal of sadness and bitterness, there was also relief that the war was over and that Finland had lost nothing, nothing except the lives of her soldiers and of the dead civilians. There were no victory parades, nothing to celebrate the end of the war – largely because when the war was done and the ceasefire had been declared, the Finns had to clean up the mess, repair the destruction, house the refugees. The Soviet Union ceded thousands of square miles of territory in Eastern Karelia to Finland, and around 200,000 Karelian Finns and Ingrians (and a few others that got mixed in with them) were deported by the NKVD over the border into Finland, regardless of their wishes, many of them had been sent to Siberia and they’d been sent all the way back without being told what was happening, they only found out when the trains rolled across the border and they were unloaded. And there were also the 50,000 odd prisoners from the NKVD camps on the Kola, not many of them wished to be returned to the Peoples Paradise and the Finns weren’t going to send them back if they didn’t want to go – they had seen the camps – and the burial sites. So they just gave them Finnish citizenship and that was that. Resettling them and the Ingrians and the Karelians and over 100,000 Estonian refugees was a huge amount of work. And with the rest of the world at war, there were no friends, nobody to come to their assistance, nobody able to do a damned thing and Sweden, which was probably the only country that could have helped, didn’t help much at all, although many individual Swedes did. The Finns had to do it all themselves. And they did."
Notes on Sources
For accounts of the Press in Finland, I’ve used a number of books as sources, many of which have been referenced in the preceding Posts. The first is indeed by Virginia Cowles (“Looking for Trouble,” which has a couple of chapters on her reporting from Finland). The second is Martha Gellhorn’s “The Face of War” (together with her articles from Colliers Weekly and a couple of different biographies – Caroline Moorehead’s “Martha Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life” being the best of the two I read). John Langdon-Davies wrote a very good book on the Winter War, “Finland – The First Total War” which is more about the war than the War Correspondents, but still useful as a source - as is Geoffrey Cox’s “The Red Army Moves” if you can find a copy (I couldn’t find a copy to buy, I had to get it via an inter-library loan).
Geoffrey Cox’s “The Red Army Moves” – excellent source material by a New Zealand journalist - if you can track a copy down….
Cheryl Hocker’s “The Accidental Journalist”, as well as containing some fairly comprehensive information on Edmund Stevens, is also a good source for commentary on other journalists in Finland at the time. A further book, “The Warcos: The War Correspondents of WW2” by Richard Collier has a very good section on war reporting during the Winter War and the War Correspondents who were there. This book formed the foundation for my Posts on this subject and led me to a lot of further reading on the subject. Paul Preston’s “We Saw Spain Die” has comprehensive information on many of these War Correspondents and is a really interesting book to read as well. There are also a couple of Finnish books on the subject which, perhaps fortunately (given the time it takes me to translate and work out the content) I didn’t get my hands on. But if you’re interested they are“TK-Miehet” about Finnish Military Information Companies in the (Continuation) War and “Talvisota Muiden Silmin” (The Winter War through the eyes of Others) by Antero Holmila
“TK-Miehet” about Finnish Military Information Companies in the (Continuation) War
“Talvisota Muiden Silmin” (The Winter War through the eyes of Others) by Antero Holmila. The Winter War drew wide international attention and Holmila's book looks into how foreign press viewed the conflict, with examples covering ten countries and three continents. The articles from Greece, Japan, Hungary and Great Britain show that foreign press emphasised and marvelled at the unity of the Finnish nation. Holmila says: "It is important to acknowledge that they did this for their own national and often political purposes." War loomed over the world and all countries were preparing for it. "Finnish history writing is limited by the fact that it is written by Finns. The language sets such strong barriers. What would have become of the history of Vichy, France if it had been left to Frenchmen to study?" asks Holmila. Unfortunately, Holmilla’s book is available only in Finnish…..
And lastly, for those who don’t know too much about the Winter War and Finland, don’t try and look for a copy of “Hero: The Life and Legend of Colonel Jussi Härkönen” by Virginia Cowles – you won’t find it – this one was invented for this ATL. For the brief mentions of the Soviet prison camps on the Kola and the NKVD slave ships (which existed) – see “Stalin's Slave Ships: Kolyma, the Gulag Fleet, and the Role of the West” by Martin J. Bollinger.
Next Post: Australian Aid to Finland
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As we know, Australia sent two full Infantry Battalions of volunteers to Finland for the Winter War together with sufficient volunteers to form supporting units for what would become the Commonwealth Division, a Divisional-sized Field Hospital, Medical personnel and Ambulance Units sufficient to support three Brigades. Australia was also instrumental in sending the personnel for a composite New Zealand/Australian Field Regiment (of Artillery). Finally, Australia (with some limited contributions of personnel from New Zealand and South Africa) would also send sufficient military personnel to establish two Brigade Headquarters units (Canada provided personnel for a third) together with the personnel for the Headquarters units of the “Commonwealth Division” that Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Rhodesia and Canada would jointly agree to forming from the disparate collection of volunteer units dispatched to Finland from within the British Commonwealth. Australia would not forget Finland after the Winter War – as well as ongoing shipments throughout WW2 of larg quantities of grain, mutton, kangaroo tails and wool for uniforms (albeit on ships of the Finnish merchant marine). In 1944, Australia would send a full Infantry Division (as would New Zealand) to fight with the Finns against Germany. While herself short of military equipment and unable to provide weapons and munitions to Finland in the Winter War, Australia would, with New Zealand, also pay for a number of artillery pieces and shells from the UK to be sent to Finland. Australia would also ship a considerable number of Ford Trucks to Finland (paid for through the “Buy a Ford for Finland” fund-raising campaign that was wildly popular with the Australian public, as we will see).
The interesting question one must ask is, why would a country on the far side of the world, with almost no connections with Finland, make such a major commitment to assist a small and almost unknown country in Scandinavia when Australia itself was only just beginning to expand its military for the war against Germany. In considering this question, we will first take a quick look at the state of the Australian armed forces in late 1939, at the same time delving a little into Australian politics and history, primarily World War One and the inter-war years and then take a quick look at the history of Finns in Australia. After that, we’ll look in rather more detail at how Australia reacted to the Winter War. What swayed Australian public and governmental opinion to the extent that the country made the contribution that it did to assist Finland and just what was the full extent of the assistance given by Australia (for it would not be just men to fight)? We’ll consider all of these questions in this Post.
The state of the Australian armed forces in late 1939
As with Canada and New Zealand, Australia at the end of World War One was in the possession of a well-honed and highly experienced military, blooded in battle in disparate fronts around the world. The AIF had grown through the war, eventually numbering five infantry divisions, two mounted divisions and a mixture of other units. When the war ended, there were 92,000 Australian soldiers in France, 60,000 in England and 17,000 in Egypt, Palestine and Syria. Overall, 421,809 Australians served in the military in WW1 with 331,781 serving overseas. Over 60,000 Australians lost their lives and 137,000 were wounded. As a percentage of forces committed, this was one of the highest casualty rates amongst the British Empire forces. fter the War ended, some Australians soldiers in Europe went on to serve in Northern Russia during the Russian Civil War, although officially the Australian government refused to contribute forces to the campaign. HMAS Yarra, Torrens, Swan and Parramatta served in the Black Sea during the same conflict. Elsewhere, in Egypt in early 1919, a number of Australian light horse units were used to quell a nationalist uprising while they were waiting for passage back to Australia. Despite shortages in shipping, the process of returning the soldiers to Australia was completed rapidly and by September 1919 there were only 10,000 men left in Britain waiting for repatriation. On 1 April 1921, the AIF was officially disbanded. Most of the men of the A .I .F. said good-bye to the army without regret, but there were enough who remained committed to the military to provide a strong cadre of officers for the re-formed Citizen Force, some of them because they liked the military lifestyle and some out of a conviction that the army they trained or its successor would be called upon to fight again.
Gallipoli and the battles on the Western Front, in which Australian Troops took heavy casualties, made a lasting impression on the Australian psyche, one that has lasted down to the present day. Australian and New Zealand troops landed on the Aegean side of the Gallipoli peninsula near the end of April 1915, and fought there through December 1915, when the troops were evacuated. The Australians lost 8,500 men killed in those few months, New Zealand lost 2,700 – and both the Australians and the New Zealanders placed the blame for these (and the enormous casualties later suffered on the Western Front) firmly on the unthinking, callous and hidebound British Generals. For Australians and New Zealanders, the campaign has been seen as a key moment in a growing sense of national identity. In the context of the Great War, the Gallipoli campaign had little impact but for the men who were there, their families and countless New Zealand and Australian communities, the effects would last for generations, becoming a core part of the ANZAC mythos and permeating the national cultures of both countries.
In the immediate aftermath of World War One, the dead were remembered with a considerable amount of sentimentality: Ray Kernaghan & “Suvla Bay”
In order to advocate for the many thousands of returned servicemen and women many organisations for former servicemen sprang up, te most prominent of which was the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (now the Returned Services Association, or RSA – an Australian and New Zealand icon, particularly in rural areas) which had been established in 1916. Following the war this organisations’ political influence grew along with its numbers, which by 1919 were estimated to be at around 150,000 members. Also in the immediate post-war period, a noticeable number of ex-soldiers entered the political arena in the Australian Parliament, mostly as MPs for the Nationalist Party (and only one as an MP for the Labour Party, which had successfully fought against Conscription in 1916 and 1916). These new MPs (and others in the Nationalist and Country Parties believed that Australian should maintain her links with Britain, and that the Australian military should be maintained at sufficient strength to preserve an effective nucleus for the Armed Forces in the event of another war.
The Australian Labour party, on the other hand, had been reshaped during the war by two historic struggles which overshadowed any other conflicts the Labour movement had experienced. These were the successful campaigns against conscription for overseas service in 1916 and the strikes of 1917. The expulsion from the Labour Party of those members who supported conscription for foreign service had it with a hard core of uncompromising Labour leaders in whose eyes the vital struggle of their period was that between employers and workers – in their eyes the war that had just ended was merely a conflict between two "capitalist" groups . To some of them a khaki tunic was a symbol of "imperialism." Were not British soldiers in 1920 being employed against the newly-born socialist republic of Russia, against the nationalists of India and, closer still, against Irish patriots struggling for their independence (almost a third of the members of the Labour Party were Irish, or of Irish descent)?
One the left, there was a long-lasting bitterness around the scale of the casualties and the loss of life in an “imperial” war. Eric Bogle’s “Green Fields of France”
In 1920-21, the militia numbered 100,000 compulsorily enlisted men of the 1899, 1900 and 1901 classes, practically untrained, and was equipped with the weapons which the A.I .F. had brought home from Europe and the Middle East – and little else. There was a cadre of 3,150 permanent officers and men, which was about 150 more than there had been in 1914. In the defence debates of 1921, some Labour MP’s advocated going farther than mere reductions and entirely abolishing the army and navy ; others argued that the Australian did not need to begin military training until war began ; "if the war proved anything," said Mr D. C. McGrath (Labour) "it proved that young Australians many of whom had not previously known one end of a rifle from another were, after training for a month or two, equal to if not superior to any other troops" General Ryrie, the Assistant Minister for Defence at the time, disagreed.
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Major General Sir Granville de Laune Ryrie KCMG, CB, VD (1 July 1865 – 2 October 1937), Assistant Minister for Defence from 1920 to 1922. Ryrie worked as a jackaroo (trainee farm manager), and eventually managed his own property. He was also a good heavyweight boxer. He served in the Boer War, where he reached the rank of Major. He was elected to Parliament in 1906 and again in 1911. At the start of WW1, he was promoted to Brigadier-General, and was given command of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, part of the Anzac Mounted Division, with whom he took part in the famous charge of the Australian Light horse in the battle of Beersheba. After returning to Australia, Ryrie remained a Member of Parliament. In 1920, he was made an Assistant Minister for Defence. In 1927, when he was appointed the Australian High Commissioner in the UK, where he remained until 1932 when he returned to Australia. As Assistant Minister of Defence, Ryrie (who was among the few who believed another war to be possible within a generation) pressed the need for military training and the necessity for maintaining a cadre of skilled officers and men . "Germany", this veteran soldier said, "is only watching and waiting for the day when she can revenge herself".
The Ministers who brought forward the modest defence plans of 1920 and 1921 were described by some Labour members as "militarists" and "war mongers". "We must carefully guard", said the newly-elected Mr Makin (Labour) "against the spreading in the body politic of the malignant cancer of militarism." To be fair, many conservatives also advocated reduced defence expenditure at the time. While the Washington Conference negotiating naval strengths was still in session, the Australian Prime Minister, Hughes, had promised Parliament that, if the naval reductions were agreed upon, the defence vote would be substantially reduced . In the following year, nearly half of the ships of the Australian Navy were put out of commission, and it was decided to reduce the permanent staff of the army to 1,600, to maintain the seven militia divisions (five of infantry and two of cavalry) at a strength of about 31,000 men—only 25 per cent of their war strength—and to reduce training to six days in camp and four days at the local centres a year. Seventy-two regular officers out of a meager total of some 300 would be retired. In the army the sharp edge of this axe was felt most keenly by two relatively small groups. The first was the small Officer corps - careful selection, thorough technical training and moulding of character by picked instructors, followed immediately by active service, had produced an officer corps which, though small, was of fine quality. Before and during the war of 1914-18 each young officer saw a brilliant career ahead of him if he survived. The reductions of 1922 dashed these hopes. It was unlikely that there would be any promotion for most of them for ten years at least. Until then they would wear the badges of rank and use the titles attained on active service, but would be paid as subalterns and fill appointments far junior to those that many of them had held for the last two or three years in France or Palestine .
Even more rigorous had been the reduction in rank of the warrant officers, some of whom had become Lieutenant-Colonels and commanded battalions in the war . They were debarred from appointment to the officer corps — the Staff Corps as it was now named — entry to which was reserved to pre-war regular officers and graduates of Duntroon, and became, at the best, quartermasters, wearing without the corresponding pay and without hope of promotion the rank that they had won in the war. Australia’s defence now became tied to the proposed construction of a naval base the naval base at Singapore – not without opposition from the Labour Party As a consequence of the 1923 conference, the Bruce-Page Government decided to buy two 10,000-ton cruisers and two submarines at a cost of some £5,000,000, whereas, over a period of five years, only £1,000,000 would be spent on additional artillery, ammunition and antigas equipment for the army. In these five years expenditure on the navy aggregated £20,000,000; on the army, including the munitions factories, only £10,000,000; on the air force £2,400,000. The strength of the permanent military forces remained at approximately 1,750, whereas that of the navy rose, by 1928, to more than 5,000.
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Stanley Melbourne Bruce, 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne, CH, MC, FRS, PC (15 April 1883 – 25 August 1967) was Prime Minister of Australia from February 1923 to 1929. Born in Melbourne, his father was a prominent businessman. He was educated at Glamorgan (now part of Geelong Grammar School), Melbourne Grammar School, and then at Cambridge University. After graduation he studied law in London and was called to the bar in 1907. He practised law in London, and also managed the London office of his father's importing business. When World War I broke out he joined the British Army, and was commissioned into the Worcestershire Regiment, seconded to the Royal Fusiliers. In 1917 he was severely wounded in France, winning the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre. He was invalided home to Melbourne, and became involved in recruiting campaigns for the Army. His public speaking attracted the attention of the Nationalist Party, and in 1918 he was elected to the House of Representatives as MP for Flinders, near Melbourne. His background in business led to his being appointed Treasurer (Finance Minister) in 1921. The Nationalist Party lost its majority at the 1922 election, and could only stay in office with the support of the Country Party. However, the Country Party let it be known it would not serve under incumbent Prime Minister Billy Hughes. This gave the more conservative members of the Nationalist Party an excuse to force Hughes (whom they had only tolerated to keep the Australian Labor Party out of power) to resign. Bruce was chosen as Hughes's successor, after which a conservative coalition government was formed.
With his aristocratic manners and dress – he drove a Rolls Royce and wore white spats – he was also the first genuinely "Tory" Prime Minister of Australia. Bruce formed an effective partnership with Page, exploiting public fears of Communism and militant trade unions to dominate Australian politics through the 1920s. Despite predictions that Australians would not accept such an aloof leader as Bruce, he won a smashing victory over a demoralised Labour Party at the 1925 election. Throughout his term of office, he pursued a policy of support for the British Empire, the League of Nations, and the White Australia Policy. His government was reelected, though with a significantly reduced majority, in 1928. Strikes of sugar mill workers in 1927, waterside workers in 1928, then of transport workers, timber industry workers and coal miners erupted in riots and lockouts in New South Wales in 1929. Bruce responded with a Maritime Industries Bill that was designed to do away with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and return arbitration powers to the States. On 10 September 1929, Hughes and five other Nationalist members joined Labor in voting against the Bill. The Bill was lost by 34 votes to 35 when the Speaker abstained, bringing down the Bruce–Page government and forcing the1929 election. Labor, now led by James Scullin, won a landslide victory, scoring an 18-seat swing—at the time, the second-worst defeat of a sitting government in Australian history. Bruce was defeated by Labor's candidate Jack Holloway in his electorate of Flinders, making him the first sitting prime minister to lose his seat.
After his 1929 defeat, Bruce went to England for personal and business reasons, contesting the 1931 election from that country as a member of the United Australia Party (a merger of Bruce's Nationalists and Labor dissidents). He won his seat back and was named a Minister without portfolio in the government of Joseph Lyons. Lyons immediately dispatched Bruce back to England to represent the government there, following which he led the Australian delegation to the 1932 Ottawa Imperial Conference. When Bruce sailed for the UK and then Ottawa in June 1932, his career in politics was over. Well before his return, Lyons offered him the high commissionership in London and when Bruce endeavoured to defer his decision, Lyons forced the issue in September 1933. At Ottawa Bruce consolidated his reputation as a tough negotiator. From there he went to London to renegotiate Australia's debt. Blocked by a government embargo on the raising of new capital, Bruce used his old City contacts to break through. As Australian High Commissioner in London from 1933-45, Bruce secured a solid reputation as an international statesman, travelling between London and Geneva while crisis succeeded crisis and the League of Nations floundered. When Turkey sought revision of the Straits Convention in 1936 Bruce was accepted unanimously as president of the Montreux conference and his chairing of it was widely acclaimed.
Meeting as an equal with British ministers in Geneva, it became easier in London to get access to senior ministers and to confidential information which enabled him to be accepted as an adviser to the British government in his own right, while also acting as the main adviser to the Australian government. His technique was to send a situation-appraisal to his Prime Minister with prior warning of the decision he might need to take, so that in most instances the decision when made was as Bruce advised. During the Abyssinian crisis Bruce was a reluctant supporter of sanctions and among the first to advise reconciliation with Italy after partial sanctions had failed to save Abyssinia. The key to peace in Europe he thought was to detach Italy from Germany. He urged the British to recognize this and to formulate clearly their intentions regarding Germany's claims. France, he repeatedly warned, would drag England into a European war: France would neither concede anything to Germany nor take effective action to block her, would not fight for Czechoslovakia, and could not assist Poland. An “unfulfillable guarantee” to Poland was of utmost danger. In the last days before the war Bruce desperately tried to avert that disaster.
His concern throughout was for the repercussions on Australia of Britain's situation in Europe and her lack of policy on China: Bruce recognized that the real danger to Australia lay in a Pacific war coinciding with a European war. As early as 1933 he was warning Australian ministers that the Royal Navy might not be available when needed: nevertheless he continued seeking assurances that it would. In 1938 he began negotiations for large-scale aircraft production in the Dominions, seeking guaranteed orders and technical assistance from England to make an Australian plant viable. In December 1938 on his way to Australia and in May 1939 on his way back, Bruce had seen the American president. The conversations dealt with the likelihood of American support if Japan moved south, but the president regarded a public commitment as premature. When war started Bruce and Prime Minister (Sir Robert) Menzies were in complete agreement that Australia should not commit its forces to a European war while Japan's intentions were unclear. Foreseeing the rapidity with which Poland would be over run, Bruce had tried to mobilize support for a clear definition of peace aims, hoping thereby to avert the destruction of Europe. Meeting with little success, he had put his hopes on Churchill, only to find he had no aim but to smash Germany. Throughout the “phoney war” Bruce pursued this issue beyond the tolerance of erstwhile admirers in high circles.
Bruce regarding the New Zealand High Commissioner’s support for an ANZAC volunteer unit to fight in Finland alongside the Finns as an unwelcome distraction and was not a supporter of the move – however, he did follow instructions from Menzies to assist New Zealand despite his own misgivings as to the policy being followed. He advocated strongly against any further Australian support being offered, but was over-ruled. The success of the Finns, and the considerable publicity accorded the successes of the Australian Volunteers in Finland led to a further reduction in Menzies’ reliance on Bruce. Nevertheless, Bruce continued on as High Commissioner, loyally serving every wartime Australian government. He joined the War Cabinet in 1942 but had little influence, to his chagrin he found he was invited only on selected occasions and in August 1945 his retirement was announced. In 1947 he became the first Australian created a hereditary peer when he was made Viscount Bruce of Melbourne. He was also the first Australian to take a seat in the House of Lords. Bruce divided the rest of his life between London and Melbourne. He represented Australia on various UN bodies, was the chairman of the World Food Council for five years and was appointed as the first Chancellor of the Australian National University, a position he held from 1951 until 1961. He died in London on 25 August 1967, aged 84.
During this period the strength of the militia varied between 37,000 and 46,000 and it was a nucleus which did not possess the equipment nor receive the training "essential to the effective performance of its functions". It lacked necessary arms, including tanks and anti-aircraft guns and there was not a large enough rank and file with which to train leaders to replace those hitherto drawn from the old A .I .F.—a source of supply which had dried up . In the regular officer corps of 242 officers there was a "disparity of opportunity and stagnation in promotion, with retention in subordinate positions, cannot lead to the maintenance of the active, virile and efficient staff that the service demands". The only mobile regular unit for example was a section of field artillery consisting of fifty-nine men with two guns. In the long debates on the naval proposals of the Bruce-Page Government, the defence policy of the Labour Opposition was defined . Whereas the Government's policy was to emphasise naval expenditure, Labour 's proposal was to rely chiefly on air power and the extension of the munitions industry . However, the Labour party was to be in office for just over two years in the period between the wars. Consequently Australia's defence policy closely followed the principles set down in 1923 – these emphasised ultimate reliance on the British Navy to which Australia would contribute an independent squadron as strong as she considered she could afford, and a reliance on the base at Singapore, from which the British fleet would operate in defence of British Far Eastern and Pacific interests . At the same time a nucleus militia, air force, and munitions industry would be maintained.
The army did not share in the comparatively small increases that were made in the defence vote each year from 1924 to 1928 . The effectiveness of the militia continued to decline while the tiny permanent force together with militia officers and men carried on staunchly despite discouragement and a lack of any material reward. However, the system whereby each young lieutenant spent a year with the British Army in the United Kingdom or India, and a number of more-senior officers were always overseas on exchange duty or attending courses at British schools helped to keep the officer corps from stagnation. Gains in equipment were microscopic: in 1926 the army obtained its first motor vehicles—five 30-cwt lorries, one for each military district except the Sixth (Tasmania), and eight tractors for the artillery; in 1927 four light tanks arrived. Nor could the army comfort itself with the reflection that, when the need arose, it could commandeer even enough horses, because, the breeding of working horses had so declined that Australia was not only losing her export trade in army horses but it was doubtful whether there were enough suitable animals in the continent to mobilise the seven divisions . To the militia officers these circumstances were equally discouraging, and the fact that they were willing to devote their spare time to so exacting a hobby—and a keen officer had to give all his leisure to it - was evidence of uncommon enthusiasm for soldiering and, in most instances, an impelling desire to perform a public service.
By the late 1920s, the numbers of horses in Australia had seriously declined, such that not only was Australia losing her export trade in Army Horses (the famous Walers), it was highly doubtful that there were enough horses available to meet all the transport requirements of the mobilized seven divisions of the Australian Army. This contrast with the situation in WW1, where Australia exported hundreds of thousands of horses for use by the military in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. More horses than men died in WW1.
Peace-time military service conferred little prestige - indeed, an Australian who made the militia a hobby was likely to be regarded by his acquaintances as a peculiar fellow with an eccentric taste for uniforms and the exercise of petty authority. Soldiers and soldiering were in particularly bad odour in the late 'twenties . From 1927 onwards for four or five years, a sudden revival of interest in the war that had ended ten years before produced a series of angry war novels and memoirs of which Remarque's “All Quiet on the Western Front”, Robert Graves' “Good-bye to All That” and Arnold Zweig's “The Case of Sergeant Grischa” were among the most popular. Whether this criticism was right or wrong, these books and the plays and moving pictures that accompanied them undoubtedly did much to mould the attitude of the people generally and particularly of the intelligentsia to war and soldiers, and produced rather widely a conviction that wars are always ineffectual, are brought about by military leaders and by the large engineering industries which profit by making weapons, and that if soldiers and armaments could be abolished wars would cease. It was, however, not so much a desire for disarmament, and for the peace which was widely believed to be the sequel to disarmament, but another factor that was to produce substantial and sudden reductions in the armies and navies of the world. In October 1929 share prices in New York began to collapse; soon the entire world was suffering an acute economic depression.
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Australian Militia in the Inter-war years
The Labour Party had taken office in Australia in October 1929 for the first time since the conscription crisis of 1917, and the day after the first sudden drop on the New York Stock Exchange. Before the full effects of the distant catastrophe were apparent, the new Ministers who, harking back to an old controversy, had promised the electors that if the Labour party was returned it would abolish compulsory training, ordered (on 1st November 1929) that conscription be suspended, and cancelled all military camps arranged for the current year . At the same time the new Prime Minister, Mr Scullin, instructed the Defence Committee to submit an alternative plan for an equally adequate defence. There would, he said, be no discharges of permanent staff . Accordingly the Defence Council submitted a plan, which was eventually adopted, to maintain a voluntary militia of 35,000 with 7,000 senior cadets. The reaction of Mr Roland Green (Country Party) who had lost a leg serving in the infantry in WW1 was an indication of the feelings that were aroused. Green made a bitter speech in the House of Representatives recalling that Scullin and other Labour leaders, including Messrs Makin, Holloway and Blackburn, had attended a Labour Party conference in Perth in June 1918 when a resolution was passed that if the Imperial authorities did not at once open negotiations for peace, the Australian divisions should be brought back to Australia, and calling on the organized workers of every country to take similar action . "As a result of that attitude", said Green, "Labour was out of office in the Commonwealth for thirteen years, largely because of the votes of the soldiers and their friends. During all that time the party nursed its hatred of the soldiers, and now it is seeking revenge"
Gallipoli became a core part of the ANZAC mythos, permeating the national cultures of both countries. Part of that myth was the pervasive image of the British General’s as butchers – an image that would result in Australia (and New Zealand to a lesser extent) ensuring it’s Divisions could if necessary refuse to participate in British operations if an action was seen as against Australia’s interests – something that would occur a number of times in WW2: This image is perhaps best portrayed in popular Australasian culture in Eric Bogle’s “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”
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James Scullin, (18 September 1876 – 28 January 1953), Australian Labor politician and the ninth Prime Minister of Australia. Scullin joined the Labor Party in 1903 and became an organiser for the Australian Workers' Union. In 1913, he became editor of a Labor newspaper in Ballarat, the Evening Echo. Scullin stood for the House of Representatives in 1906 but lost. In 1910 he was elected to the House but was then defeated in 1913 and went back to editing the Evening Echo. He established a reputation as one of Labor's leading public speakers and experts on finance, and was a strong opponent of conscription. After World War I he came close to outright pacifism. In 1922 he won a by-election for the safe Labor seat of Yarra in inner Melbourne, and in 1928 he was elected Labor leader. He was Prime Minister of Australia from 1929 to December 1931, when his government was defeated in a landslide swing to the Opposition. He remained as leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party until 1934, after which he resigned but remained in Parliament as a backbencher until 1949.
The abolition of compulsory military training resulted in the burden of carrying out the new government’s policies falling upon the same small and over-tried team of officers, both professional and amateur, who had tenaciously been maintaining the spirit and efficiency of the citizen army through nine lean years and now had even leaner ones to look forward to. They "rose to the occasion" and in the first four months of 1930 their recruiting efforts produced a new militia of 24,000, with an additional 5,300 in the volunteer senior cadets—a relic of the big, well-organised cadet force in which all boys of 14 to 17 had formerly been given elementary military training. The numbers increased gradually, between 1931 and 1936 the number of militiamen fluctuated between 26,000 and 29,000. This strength, however, was about 2,000 fewer than that of 1901 ; the permanent force too stood at about the same figure as it had twenty-nine years before. In 1901, when the population of Australia was 3,824,000, the permanent forces had been 1,544, the partly-paid militia and unpaid volunteers 27,400. In June 1930, when the population was 6,500,000, the permanent forces totaled 1,669 and the militia 25,785.
The abolition of compulsory training had been based purely on political doctrine but within a few months the depression resulted in still more severe reductions in the three Services. Defence expenditure was reduced from £6,536,000 in 1928-29 to £3,859,000 in 1930-31 and hundreds of officers and men were discharged from all three services. Further discharges were avoided only by requiring officers and men to take up to eight weeks' annual leave without pay. A number of regular officers resigned, others transferred to the British or Indian Armies.
However, before the world had emerged from the depression, signs of war appeared in Asia and Europe. In 1931, Japan had begun to occupy Manchuria, in 1933, Hitler’s National-Socialist movement gained power and Germany withdrew from the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations. Before this critical year was over, the need for repairing the armed services was being canvassed by politicians and publicists in Australia . Brig-General McNicoll, one of a group of soldiers, professional and citizen, who had been elected to the Federal Parliament in 1931 when the Labour party was defeated, declared that "a wave of enthusiasm …. has passed over Australia about the need for effective defence". This was perhaps an exaggeration, but nevertheless, there was undoubtedly evidence of some alarm and of an increasing discussion of foreign affairs and their significance to Australia. The response of the United Australia Party, successor to the Nationalist party and now the Government, was cautious. The Government considered that its first responsibility was to bring about economic recovery. Between 1933 and 1935 the defence vote increased only gradually.
The Government adopted its policy ready-made and with little amendment, from the Committee of Imperial Defence. A weakness of this body was that it contained no permanent representatives of the Dominions. Such representatives might be summoned to advise on business that closely affected their governments, and would attend during Imperial conferences, exchange of senior officers in all Services, and the attendance of Dominions' officers at the English staff colleges and the Imperial Defence College somewhat strengthened liaison and encouraged discussion of higher policy. But, if Australian and New Zealand officers at those colleges frequently expressed disagreement with British military policy towards the problem of Japan, for example, that fact was not likely to affect the plans of the Committee of Imperial Defence, whose permanent members, secretary, four assistant secretaries (one from each Service and one from India) were servants of the United Kingdom Government . The committee carried out continuous studies of Imperial war problems but without an influential contribution from the Dominions. It shaped a military policy which carried great weight with Dominion ministers ; yet in the eyes of Dominion soldiers the committee could justly be regarded as a somewhat parochial group, since it was possible that none of its members had ever been in a Dominion or in the Far East .
Within Australia an outcome of dependence on advice from London and the consequent failure to develop a home-grown defence plan was that successive ministers failed also to work out a policy which, while integrated with the plans of the British Commonwealth as a whole, reconciled the differing viewpoints of the army and the navy. Always the ministers' aim seemed to be to make a compromise division of the allotted defence budget (invariably too small to be effective) among three competing services. Both Government and Labour defence theories were strongly criticised. The Government policy was attacked by some Government supporters as well as by the Labour Opposition on the ground that it disregarded that the British Navy did not, and could not spare a sufficient force to command Eastern seas, that Britain lacked the military and air power even to defend her own bases in the East, and therefore that Australia should take what measures she could to defend herself. Labour's policy was denounced because it left out of account that Australia's fate could and probably would be decided in distant seas or on distant battlefields. Gradually those members of the Labour party who had begun to inform themselves upon defence problems discovered that leaders of Australian military thought were able to go part of the way with them .
In their ten-years-old argument against Naval doctrines and particularly against the Singapore thesis the Australian Army leaders had adopted a position not far removed from that which the Labour party was reaching. Thus, when Admiral Richmond, the senior British naval theorist of his day, attacked, in the British Army Quarterly, a theory of Australian defence that resembled the Labour party's in some respects, his argument was countered (in the same journal) by Colonel Lavarack, then Commandant of the Royal Military College, Duntroon. And when, in 1936, a lecture which had been given to a small group of officers sixteen months before by Colonel Wynter, the Director of Military Training, came into the hand of Mr Curtin, leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party, he read it, without betraying its authorship, as a speech in the House, presumably as an expression of the policy of his party. This incident and another similar occurrence in the same year added greatly to the resentment felt by the regular officer corps towards the right-wing political leaders. The copy of Wynter's lecture, which contained substantially the same argument as he had published in an English journal ten years before, had been handed to Curtin by a member of the Government party who, like others of that party, was critical of the Government's defence policy . Four months later Wynter was transferred to a very junior post. One month after Wynter 's demotion Lieut-Colonel Beavis, a highly-qualified equipment officer with long training and experience in England, who had been chosen to advise on and coordinate plans for manufacturing arms and equipment in Australia was similarly transferred to a relatively junior post after differences of opinion with a senior departmental official.
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John Joseph Curtin (8 January 1885 – 5 July 1945), Australian politician, served as the 14th Prime Minister of Australia. Labor under Curtin formed a minority government in 1941 after two independent MPs crossed the floor in the House of Representatives, bringing down the Coalition government of Robert Menzies, resulting in the September 1940 election. Curtin led federal Labor to its greatest win with two thirds of seats in the lower house and over 58 percent of the two-party preferred vote, and 55 percent of the primary vote and a majority of seats in the Senate at the 1943 election. Curtin led Australia when the Australian mainland came under direct military threat during the Japanese advance in World War II. He is widely regarded as one of the country's greatest Prime Ministers. General Douglas MacArthur said that Curtin was "one of the greatest of the wartime statesmen". Curtin died in 1945. It was Curtin’s decision that would see an Australian Division sent to fight alongside the Maavoimat in 1944 and 1945. It was an unpopular decision with many on the left wing of the Labour Party. Ben Chifley, who succeeded Curtin as Prime Minister and who led the Labour Party to victory in 1946, would later say about fighting alongside Finland “It was a decision that was not supported by the Left of the Party, but it was one that resonated with the people of Australian, who still remembered “plucky little Finland” and the part that Australians played in the Winter War - and it certainly helped the Labour Party in the elections of 1946 with the returned soldiers vote.”
From 1935 onwards, defence was becoming a topic of major interest in the newspapers and reviews . More books and pamphlets on the subject were published between 1935 and 1939 than during the previous thirty-four years. Expenditure on defence was slightly increased year by year, and there was an awareness in political circles that there was a growing public opinion in favour of more rapid progress. For the army the three-year plan (for the years 1934-35 to 1936-37) included the purchase of motor vehicles on a limited scale, increased stocks of ammunition, and "an installment of modern technical equipment". The Army could not mobilise even a brigade without commandeering civil vehicles, and now had to base its plans on the assumption that it would be engaged, if war came, against armies (such as the German) whose weapons belonged to a new epoch.
After the Imperial Conference of 1937, Australian Army leaders now pressed for accelerated expenditure on the equipment of the field army, even if it meant rearming the coast defences more slowly, arguing that coast defences might be taken in the rear if the field army was not converted into an effective force. As the threat of war became more apparent so the Labour party, under Curtin's leadership, based its defence policy, at the technical level, more and more definitely on the doctrines of those military and naval critics who contended that Australia first and foremost must prepare defence against invasion during a critical period when she might be isolated from Britain and the United States. The Government leaders however, stood firmly by the decisions of 1923—a "fair contribution" to an "essentially naval" scheme of Imperial defence. Defence expenditure continued to rise year by year, in 1935-36 it reached £7,583,822, which was the largest in any year since WW1. In the next year, the figure rose to £8,829,655. In 1938 (when taxation was increased for the first time since 1932) defence spending rose again.
In 1935, for the first time since the depression, the Army’s budget was raised to approximately the sum that it had received in the mid 1920’s. A relatively young officer, Colonel Lavarack, was promoted over the heads of a number of his colleagues and made Chief of the General Staff . The army whose rebuilding he had to control consisted of 1,800 "permanent" officers and other ranks (compared with 3,000 in 1914) and 27,000 militiamen (compared with 42,000 in 1914). Its equipment had changed little since the A.I.F. had brought it home from France and Palestine ; and it was equipment only of the seven divisions, not for the many supporting units that are needed for an army based on seven divisions—such units had been provided in the war of 1914-18 by the British Army . It lacked mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns; it lacked tanks, armoured cars, and a variety of engineer and signal gear; it had inadequate reserves of ammunition. In recommending how the moderately-increased army vote be spent Lavarack's policy did not differ materially from that laid down fifteen years before by the Senior Officers' Conference of 1920; broadly it was for training of commanders and staff first, equipment next, and, lastly, the training (or semi-training, for that is all it could be) of more militiamen. Full mobilization would bring into the field the five infantry and two cavalry divisions, 200,000 men in all not allowing for reinforcements . To produce such a force would demand an exacting national effort; on the purely military level it would be necessary, for example, for each brigade of three nucleus battalions not only to bring itself to full strength but to produce a fourth battalion. (The army at that time was still planning on a basis of four battalion brigades). The leaders were thus faced with the problem of making plans for a full mobilisation which would entail expanding each so-called brigade of perhaps 900 partly-trained and poorly-equipped militia, without transport, into a full brigade of some 3,600 fully equipped and mobile infantrymen.
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Australian 1930’s Militia Magazine - from 1937
Plans for full mobilisation were based on the assumption that the enemy (Japan) would attack at a time when Australia was isolated from British or American naval aid and would seek a quick decision . The enemy, using carrier-borne aircraft, would, it was assumed, first attempt to destroy the defending air force and to impose a blockade . He would then occupy an advanced naval and air base somewhere outside the relatively well-defended Newcastle-Sydney-Port Kembla area. When his main force was ready he could move overland from this advanced base, whence his force would receive the protection of land-based aircraft, or he could make a new landing farther south . The Australian mobilisation plans provided for the concentration of the greater part of the army in the vital Newcastle-Port Kembla area; the army could not be strong everywhere. It was seen that the accomplishment of even such a modest plan of military defence would take years to achieve despite the larger funds that the Government was then allotting . The sum of £1,811,000 was spent on the army in 1935-36, £2,232,000 in 1936-37, £2,182,000 in 1937-38 ; but one battery of 9.2-inch coast defence guns with its essential equipment cost £300,000, a battery of anti-aircraft guns with its gear and ammunition cost £150,000 . In fact, until the crises of 1938, the army received only enough to repair some of the deficiencies it had suffered under since 1918. The army leaders, in whom the years of parsimony had produced a distrust of politicians, were resolved to spend such funds as they received on something that the politician could not take away from them if the crisis seemed to have passed and the army's income could be cut again . Thus there was this additional reason for giving priority to guns and concrete rather than men and training: that if the vote was again reduced, the guns and concrete would remain.
In the first two months of 1938, events in Europe and China began to move too rapidly to permit leisurely rearmament. Evidence of the alarm that was felt by the Australian Government was provided a month later when the Government announced that it proposed to spend £43,000,000 on the fighting Services and munitions over the next three years. This was more than twice what had been spent in the previous three years. The army would receive £11,500,000, the air force £ 12,500,000 and the navy £15,000,000. Since 1920 the navy had year by year received more money than the army; now, for the first time, the air force too was promised a larger appropriation than the army's. Compared with the sum it had been receiving before, the army's new income, though the least of the three Services’, was astronomical. In December 1938, after the Munich crisis the newly appointed Minister for Defence announced that the total of £43,000,000 for defence would be increased by an additional £19,504,000 to be spent during the three years which would end in 1941. As a result of a recruiting campaign directed by Major-General Sir Thomas Blarney, the militia was increased in numbers from 35,000 in September to 43,000 at the end of 1938 and 70,000, which was the objective, in March 1939 - 22,000 more than the conscripted militia of 1929.
Image sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... ng_WWI.jpg
Men in Melbourne collecting recruitment papers
The promise of funds, the successful recruiting campaign and later, the taking of a national register (which was vehemently resisted by trade union organisations as being a step towards military and industrial conscription) sufficed to give citizens the impression that something was being done . It was too late, however, to achieve before war broke out what was far more important than these parades and promises, namely adequate equipment. Machines and weapons which the Australian Army, like the air force, had ordered four years before had not been delivered from British factories, which were fully employed in a last-minute effort to equip the British Armed Forces.
What had been achieved by twenty years of militia training? There were in 1914 and again in 1939 three kinds of armies. The long service volunteer regular armies of Great Britain and the United States were able to attain a high degree of unit efficiency, though this was offset by the higher commanders' lack of experience in handling large formations. Next in order of efficiency came the large conscript armies of which, in Europe, the German had for generations been the model. With an expert general staff and, in each formation, a strong cadre of professional officers and NCOs, and a rank and file trained for periods ranging up to two or three years, these immense armies were able to move and fight at short notice. In a third category fell the militia armies maintained by nations influenced by a desire for economy or a belief, real or imaginary, in their relative security. Some of these nations—the Swiss for example—managed to create relatively effective militias by insisting on a period of initial training long enough to bring the recruits to a moderate standard of individual efficiency . But in the Australian militia (the British Territorial Army, New Zealand Territorial Army, the Canadian Militia and the United States National Guard fell into much the same category) the recruit lacked this basic training and had to acquire his skill as best he could during evening or one-day parades and brief periods in camp. In Australia, in spite of the brevity of the annual training given to the enthusiastic volunteer militiamen, they were made to undertake complicated and arduous exercises. It was decided that to spend one camp after another vainly trying to reach a good standard of individual training was likely to destroy the keenness of young recruits and was of small value to the leaders.
However, so far as the aim of the Australian system had been to produce an army ready to advance against an enemy or even to offer effective opposition to an invader at short notice it had failed. At no time, either under the compulsory or the voluntary system, had the militia been sufficiently well trained to meet on equal terms an army of the European type based on two or three years of conscript service, and experience was to prove that perhaps six months of additional training with full equipment would be needed to reach such a standard . However, it would be wrong to conclude that the system had not achieved valuable results, and that the devoted effort of the officers and men who had given years of spare-time service had been wasted. The militia had not and could not make efficient private soldiers, but it did produce both a nucleus of officers who were capable of successfully commanding platoons, companies and battalions in action, and a body of useful NCOs. These men were fortunate to have been trained by highly-qualified professional and citizen soldiers who had seen hard regimental service in the war of 1914-18 and were able to hand down to them the traditions of the outstanding force in which they had been schooled (to that extent the militia owed its effectiveness more to the old A .I.F. than to its own system).
And it should not be imagined that, because units were trained for only a week or two a year, the militia officers received no more experience than that. They generally gave much additional time to week-end and evening classes, to tactical exercises without troops and to reading, and the keenest among them attained a thorough knowledge of military fundamentals. A large proportion (but not always large enough, particularly in some city infantry units) were men of good education, and leaders in their professions. Genuine enthusiasm for soldiering was demanded of them, and there were few who did not suffer disadvantages in their civilian work because of their military service. Indeed, an important factor in the small attendances of other ranks at camps was the frequent inability of men to obtain leave from unpatriotic employers (and they were in a majority) except on prejudicial terms such as curtailment of annual vacations and delay in promotion and an efficient officer had to give to military work much time that he could otherwise have spent profitably on his civilian business.
The larger question of what had the Australian Government done between the wars to enable the military to carry out its responsibilities can be summarized briefly? In the inter-war period Australia had become a fully-independent nation, an enhancement of status in which she took some pride. Her population had increased by nearly two million people and her industrial equipment had been vastly elaborated. There had been a corresponding increase in her responsibilities as a member of the British Commonwealth; and the military leaders of the UK had declared that in a major war the immediate help of trained, equipped forces from the Dominions would be needed. Yet in 1939 Australia possessed an army little different in essentials from that of 1914. It was fundamentally a defensive force intended if war broke out to go to its stations or man the coastal forts and await the arrival of an invader. History had proved and was to prove again the futility of such a military policy. The measures that had been taken in the few years of "re-armament" were insignificant in the face of the threat offered by two aggressive Powers, one of which desired to master Europe, the other East Asia.
Next Post: Australian Enters WW2
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Unlike Canada and South Africa, Australia entered WW2 on the 3rd of September 1939 with no debate. At 9.15 p.m. the voice of the Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, was heard by listeners throughout Australia . "It is my melancholy duty", he said, "to inform you officially that, in consequence of a persistence by Germany, in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. " Australia asked London to notify Germany that Australia was an associate of the United Kingdom. This position received almost universal public support, though there was little enthusiasm for war. On the 5th of September, after the formal declaration of war, it was announced that militiamen would be called up 10,000 at a time for sixteen days to provide relays of guards on "vulnerable points.” Since there seemed to be no sign of attack by Japan, the eyes of most Australians were fixed on a war in which they might have to shoulder their rifles and defend the status quo against Germany. When the Federal Parliament met on 6th September Opposition members offered no criticism of the Government's action in entering the war; it was soon evident that the burning question was whether or not Australia would send forces overseas—the problem which had coloured every debate on defence in Parliament for more than twenty years.
Meanwhile, the Australian Government waited on advice from the British Government as to what form of assistance was needed. The Australian Government was warned that there must be preparation for a long war. "We therefore hope," the cablegram continued, "that Australia will exert her full national effort including preparation of her forces with a view to the dispatch of an expeditionary force." The policy of the United Kingdom Government, the cablegram stated, was to avoid a rush of volunteers, but she would nevertheless welcome at once, for enlistment in United Kingdom units, technical personnel, such as fitters, electricians, mechanics, instrument mechanics, motor vehicle drivers and "officers with similar qualifications and medical officers ." If Japan gave no evidence of a friendly attitude, it might be thought unwise for Australia to dispatch an expeditionary force overseas but the Commonwealth Government could assist by holding formations ready at short notice for reinforcement of Singapore, New Zealand, or British and French islands in the Western Pacific. Uncertainty about Japanese policy was not the only reason for the British Government's hesitation to request military aid in the main theatre of war and the somewhat cautious tone of the communication. Britain lacked military equipment, and knew that the Dominions could not fully arm their own expeditionary forces; indeed that Australia, for example, was still awaiting the delivery of modest orders from Britain that had been lodged four years before. This general shortage had already set up in Britain a struggle for resources between the fighting Services.
Until the Munich crisis Britain had been planning "a war of limited liability" in which only five regular divisions would be prepared for service on the Continent. After Munich, however, Britain reached an agreement with France whereby she would have thirty-two divisions (including six of regulars) ready for oversea service within a year after the outbreak of a war. This entailed doubling the Territorial Army yet the equipment of the unexpanded Territorial Army was then no better than that of the Australian militia. After war broke out the British Government decided to prepare to equip fifty-five divisions (her own thirty-two and twenty-three from the Dominions, India and "prospective Allies). This estimate was evidently based on an estimate that contingents from the Dominions would be on the scale of 1918, when there were six Australian divisions (including one mounted), four Canadian divisions, one "Anzac" mounted division and one New Zealand division in the field. It was already evident that it would be impossible for Australia to be at war and Australians to stand aloof. If no expeditionary force was raised no regulation could prevent Australians from finding their way to other Allied countries to enlist and the British Government had already asked that professional men and technicians be allowed to volunteer for service in the British forces.
Within a day after the declaration of war by Britain and France the Japanese Government shed a little light on its policy by informing the belligerents of its intention to remain not "neutral" but "independent." Thus, while fear that Japan would take advantage of the preoccupation of Britain and France in Europe had always to be taken into account, it appeared that, for the present, either she was too heavily committed in China—and Manchuria where a minor war against Russian frontier troops was in progress—or she intended to wait and see how affairs developed in Europe. Nevertheless plans for sending Australian expeditionary forces abroad had to take into account the possibility of both of Germany's allies, Italy and Japan, being at war. In that event Britain and France would be outnumbered at sea and, unaided, could not command the oceans both in the West and the East. Moreover, the British and French Air Forces were perceived as inferior both in Europe and the East to those of their enemies or potential enemies.
In addition to fear of Japan, lack of equipment, and the opposition of the Labour party (for the Labour Party remained strongly opposed to sending an expeditionary force overseas), there were other brakes on the sending abroad of a military force. One of these was the widespread conviction that, in the coming war, armies would play a far less important part than in the past. It had become apparent between the wars that the air forces would inflict greater damage in a future struggle than in 1914-18 and also that the increasing elaboration of the equipment of each of the fighting Services would require that a greater proportion of a belligerent s’ manpower than hitherto would be needed in the factories and in the maintenance units of the forces. Enthusiasts had expounded these points with such extravagant eloquence that the impression had become fairly general that armies, and in particular, infantry would play a minor part in the coming war, an impression which air force leaders and industrialists had done much to encourage. An additional brake on a full-scale war effort was the opinion not noised abroad but nevertheless widely entertained at the time by leaders in politics and industry in Australia as in England—and Germany—that an uneasy peace would be negotiated leaving Germany holding her gains in eastern and central Europe.
However, a chain of events had been set in motion. War had been declared, Britain was in danger. Australians should be there. To probably a majority of Australians the problem was seen in as simple terms as that. And on 9th September the New Zealand Government, which faced a similar situation, announced that it had decided to raise a "special military force" for service in or beyond New Zealand, and as a first step 6,600 volunteers were to be enlisted. In Australia most of the newspapers had from the beginning urged that an expeditionary force be formed, and as days passed and no decision was announced, their demands became more vehement. "The outward complacency of a Federal Government actually engaged in carrying on a war," declared the Sydney Morning Herald on 14th September, "is beginning to arouse more than astonishment among the Australian public." Finally, on the 15th, Menzies, in a regular Friday night broadcast, announced that a force of one division and auxiliary units would be created—20,000 men in all—for service either at home or abroad "as circumstances permit." The new infantry division, he said, would consist of one brigade group from New South Wales, one from Victoria and one from the smaller States (as had the 1st Division of the A.I.F. of 1914) . Privates and NCOs must be over 20 and under 35, subalterns under 30, captains under 35, majors under 40 and lieut-colonels under 45, and preference would be given to single men not in "essential civil jobs."
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Early WW2 AIF Recruiting Poster
In a broadcast address a week later he said "that Great Britain did not want Australia to send a large force of men abroad" and expressed the opinion that "any active help that Australia gave would be in the air." "Every step we take," he added, "must be well considered, and we must not bustle around in all directions as if we were just trying to create an illusion of activity. We must see that every step is a step forward." At the same time as it was announced that the militia would be called up 10,000 at a time to continue training and to guard vulnerable points it was also announced that “experts" would cull out militiamen in reserved or exempted occupations based on an occupational list. This list provided, for example, that tradesmen such as shearers and carpenters would not be accepted if they were over 30, foremen if over 25, brewing leading hands over 25, there was a complete ban on the enlistment of engineers holding degrees or diplomas. On 10th October 1939 the War Cabinet decided not to fill gaps in the militia caused by enlistment in the A.I.F. and discharges to reserved occupations - and married men were to transfer to the reserve after one month's training. These decisions threatened to reduce the strength of the militia by half, since 10,000 vacancies in the AIF. had been allotted to it, more than 6,000 men had been lost to the reserved occupations in the first few weeks of the war, and an additional 16,000 men of the force were married.
In September 1939 the militia had a strength of about 80,000 men - about 40 per cent of the full mobilisation strength of the four infantry and two cavalry divisions, the independent brigades and ancillary units. Considerably more than half the citizen soldiers of September 1939 had been in the force less than a year. All divisional and brigade commanders and most unit commanders had served as regimental officers in the war of 1914-18 and the junior officers had been trained under these experienced leaders, but the strength in veteran leaders in the senior ranks was offset by an extreme shortage of regular officers to fill key staff posts. A divisional commander was fortunate if he had two Staff Corps officers on his own staff, four as brigade majors and four or five as adjutants. The force was armed with the weapons which the A.I.F. had brought back in 1919, the infantry with the Lee-Enfield 303 rifles and Lewis and Vickers machine-guns, the artillery regiments with 18-pounder field guns and 4.5-inch howitzers. Most of the signal and engineer equipment was obsolete, nor was there enough equipment to meet active service conditions. Obsolescence and deficiency are relative terms, there were armies in Europe which were not as well equipped as the Australian militia, but the Australians judged their force by the standard of the British regular army. There were not enough anti-tank and modern anti-aircraft guns in Australia to fully equip one unit. The tank corps consisted only of a small training section with a few out-dated tanks. The only weapons that the Australian factories were capable of manufacturing for the army were anti-aircraft guns of an out-dated type, rifles and Vickers machine-guns, though it was hoped to soon be producing Bren light machine-guns to replace the Lewis guns which were already decrepit and would soon be quite worn out. Machine-gun carriers and 3-inch mortars had been ordered but were not yet being produced. If the militia were to be armed from Australian sources it would be necessary to manufacture up to date field, anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns, mortars, pistols, grenades, armoured fighting vehicles, a wide variety of other technical gear, and thousands of trucks. To meet these requirements would demand expenditure on factories and war material on a far higher scale than Australian Governments had hitherto contemplated.
On 29th September the Minister for Supply and Development submitted to the War Cabinet a proposal for capital expenditure on new munitions projects amounting to £2,755,000 "to bring munitions production up to a condition whereby the war may be prosecuted effectively." The largest item but one was £750,000 to build a second explosives filling factory, because the existence of only one such factory which a single air attack or a single accident might put out of action had long been an anxiety . This was agreed to but the largest item, £855,000, to extend the Commonwealth's only gun factory and its ammunition and explosives factories so that they could produce 25-pounder field guns and ammunition, was not approved. A few weeks later a proposal to buy 2,860 motor vehicles, including 664 motor cycles, for the militia and 784, including 180 motor cycles, for the new division was approved. Those numbers, however, would not equip either force for war, but only for training, the vehicles on the war establishment of one infantry division at that time being about 3,000. In this way plans for adequately equipping the army in general and the A.I .F. in particular were allowed to proceed at a cautious pace. Treasury officials seemed resolved that the war should not be an excuse for undue extravagance on the part of the Services. Fortunately the proposal to make 25-pounder guns was approved, with Cabinet assent to the expenditure of £400,000 (less than half the original sum) to provide for the manufacture of 25-pounder field guns and 2-pounder anti-tank guns. There had then, however, been a delay of four months in initiating the manufacture of modern field guns, in spite of the fact that at the outset, in September, the War Cabinet had been told that the guns with which the militia was equipped were "obsolete" although "quite effective for local defence" – a somewhat optimistic description of them.
Thus far, the Government had called for volunteers for an expeditionary force, but on a minimum scale, and had approved a plan of militia training, but one which would take only 40,000 men at a time away from fields and factories. By 15th September 1939 it had approved expenditure on the fighting Services and munitions amounting to £40,000,000—as much, as Menzies pointed out, as Australia had spent in 1915-16 "with the war in full blast and large forces overseas"—and the Services were asking for more and more. Relative to pre-war military expenditure it was indeed a huge sum, but, in relation to the demands that would be made if full mobilisation became necessary, it was small indeed and was in any event based on an assumption that the greater part of the equipment the Australian forces needed could be bought from Britain. Throughout October 1939 a decision about the future of the Second A.I.F., as the new force was named, was deferred. The danger of attack by Japan was a constant concern - if Japan was hostile, no troops could be sent out of Australia except to reinforce Far Eastern garrisons and localities. The War Cabinet decided, on 25th October, to inform the Dominions Office that the period needed to train the Second A.I.F. even up to the stage where it might be possible to send units abroad for garrison duty and further training would "afford a further opportunity for the international position to clarify itself as to the possibility of the dispatch of an expeditionary force from Australia." Meanwhile the staffing and organisation of that force proceeded. It was named the 6th Division.
This brings us up to the early November 1939 timeframe, the arrival of the Finnish Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Team in Sydney and the start of the Finnish “information war” in Australia. But before we move to looking at the activities of the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Team in Sydney and the interaction of these with regard to the groundswell in support for Finland, we’ll take a quick look at pre-WW2 Finnish immigration to Australia and the participation of Australian-Finns in WW1 with the Australian Army – for this was a facet of Finnish life in Australia that the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Team in Sydney would be quick to grasp and utilize to advantage.
Early Finnish immigration to Australia prior to WW1 and Australian-Finns in WW1
Finnish immigration to Australia began in Australia’s early days. Even before 1900, Finns had been arriving in Australia in small numbers, generally sailors deserting from sailing ships or small groups of young women immigrants. The young women were usually familiar with a Finn already in Australia and were met on arrival at their destination. Early Finns in Australia remembered as many as a hundred men, but the number of Finnish girls could be counted on the fingers of two hands. The outbreak of WW1 resulted in the immediate enlistment of volunteers, a number of whom were Finnish. These “Australian-Finns” belonged to two main categories – Finns who were resident in Australia, generally labourers or sailors who lived in the cities – primarily Sydney and Melbourne, and a smaller group of second-generation immigrants who had grown up as adults in Australia. So far, some 246 Finns have been identified in the Australian armed forces in WW1, based on source material in the Australian National Archives.
Toisen polven australiansuomalainen Arthur Nikolai Ronnlund kuului vuonna 1917 Australian joukkoihin Ranskassa ja joutui saksalaisten vangiksi. Kuva Siirtolaisinstituutti, Turku / Second-generation Australian-Finn Arthur Nikolai Rönnlund with the Australian troops in France in 1917. He was captured by the Germans. Picture from the Migration Institute, Turku, Finland
The first major fighting the Australian forces were involved in was in the Middle East against the Turks. With the invasion at Gallipoli and the ANZAC landings on April 25th, 1915, fierce fighting took place as the Turks tried to drive the invaders into the sea. Australian losses were 8,587 killed and 19,367 wounded while the new Zealand Army lost 431 killed and 5,140 wounded. Two Australian-Finns are known to have been killed at Gallipoli – Thomas Lind, killed in action on 26 April 1915 (i.e. during the actual landing), and Jacob L. Jofs (Jåfs), whose date of death was 18 November 1915.
The photo shows Australian-Finn Carl V. Suominen at a military camp near Melbourne in 1916. (Kuva, Siirtolaisinstituutti, Turku, Finland)
The Australian Imperial Camel Corps Brigade was formed in December 1916 and took part in fighting in the Sinai and Palestine. Australian-Finns also served in the Camel Troops, Wilhelm Konsten was killed at Jerusalem 19 April 1917.
After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the AIF was reorganized in Egypt and gradually transferred to France from March 1916 onwards. Australian Mounted Rifle units remained in the Middle East fighting the Turks, and the majority of the “British” troops in the Camel Corps were also Australian. These units advanced across the Sinai and battled the Turks in Palestine. At least one Australian-Finn is known to have died fighting with the Camel Corps. He was Wilhelm Konsten, born in Rauma in 1895. Konstens fell in battle in Jerusalem in 19 April 1917, aged 22 years. He already had been awarded two medals for bravery. Australian losses in the Middle East were minor compared to those that would be experienced on the Western Front. At the Somme, the Australians lost 5,500 men in one day. By the end of 1916, 42,000 Australians had been killed or wounded on the Western Front and many Australian-Finns are recorded as having died at Ypres. Overall, current information is that about 250 Australian-Finns fought in the ranks of the Australian military and of these 53 are known to have been killed. It is believed that all but three died on the Western Front. While throughout the Australian armed forces, the average death rate was 17.9%, the Australian-Finn death rate was 21.2%. One of the causes of the proportionally higher mortality rate was that the Australian-Finns were generally found in the forefront of the battle.
Pihlajaveteläinen Niilo Kara osallistui vapaaehtoisena ensimmäiseen maailmansotaan Australian joukoissa haavoittuen rintamalla. Toivuttuaan hän palasi Australiaan ja toimi jonkin aikaa farmarina. Kuva Siirtolaisinstituutti, Turku / Niilo Kara fought in the First World War as a volunteer in the Australian Army, where he was wounded at the front. After recovering, he returned to Australia and was for some time a station hand (a “station” in the Aussie and Kiwi vernacular is a very large sheep or cattle farm). Following the outbreak of the Winter War, Niilo Kara would speak frequently around New South Wales at fund-raising events in support of Finland. Picture from the Migration Institute, Turku, Finland
Prior to 1921, the Australian census recorded Finns as Russians, so numbers can only be estimated. But according to the 1921 census, there were 1,358 persons born in Finland then living in Australia. Of these, 1,227, or 90%, were men. The largest age group were 25-30 year olds. During WW1, a number of young Finnish men left Australia to avoid having to join the Army. And in 1917, after Finland gained independence, a number of Finns returned to Finland from Australia via Siberia. As, in 1921, new immigration from Finland to Australia had not really started up, it can be estimated that at the time of the start of WW1 there were about 1,500 Finns in Australia. In addition, there were also a number of children born to Finnish parents resident in Australia. Given these numbers, it is estimated that about a fifth of the Finns in Australia joined the Australian armed forces and of these, one in five died.
What made so many Finns take up arms for a foreign country? The Finns who joined the Australian Army were usually young men, and very often sailors, who had been left ashore in a port. During the war, cargo ships could not go on as before, and for unemployed seamen, joining the army was often one of the few options available. The armed forces also offered something new, interesting and exciting and the adventure probably overweighed the economic factors as a reason to join the military. For second-generation Finnish-Australians, the main motivation to join the Army was usually, as with almost all the volunteers, a strong sense of Australian identity and a sense of duty to the country and the Empire.
And this was something that Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus would constantly highlight – that Finns had fought and died for Australia in WW1 out of selfless patriotism and loyalty to their adopted country. And now, when Finland was in need, Finnish Australians were rallying to support their old homeland, and asking for the support of all Australians to help their country remain free from Soviet tyranny – and the Soviet Union was the ally and friend of Nazi Germany, with whom Australia was now at war. Stalin and Hitler were but two faces of the same totalitarian enemy whom free peoples around the world were fighting.
Appendix: (identified) Finnish-Australian troops killed over 1914-18
- Jofs, Jacob L., Vöyri, sotilas, kuoli 18.11.1915;
- (SSSP: Jåfs, Johan Gustaf, kaatunut Egyptissä 18.11.1915)
- Lind, Thomas, killed in action 26.4.1915.
- Konsten, Alli Wilhelm, s. 1895, Rauma, merimies, sotilas, kuoli taistelussa 19.4.1917, 22 v. Imperial Camel Corps, Jerusalem, Palestiina, BWM, VM.
- Alenius, Edward E. , Helsinki, kuoli taistelussa 3.8.1916 Ranska, BWM, VM.
- Asplond (Asplund/Haapaniemi), Hugo, Vaasa, kuoli haavoihin 15.10.1917 Belgia, BWM, VM.
- Backman, Onnie, Yarkup(?) , Finland, kuoli taistelussa 29.7.1917 Pozieres, Ranska, BWM, VM.
- Backman Evert I., Kristiinankaupunki, kuoli haavoihin 25.9.1917 Belgia, 37 v.MWM, VM.
- Borg, Charles Leonard kuoli taistelussa 13.4. 1918.
- Broström, John kuoli taistelussa 8.8.1916; (SSSP: Broström, Johan Ferdinand, s. 11.3.1894, Mustio, Karjaa, merimies, kaatunut Ranskassa 8.8.1916)
- Carlson (Vesala), Victor Köyliö, kuoli taistelussa 14.11. 1916 Somme, Ranska, 1914–15 Star, BWM, VM.
- Edman, Alfonso E., Helsinki, kuoli taistelussa 28.12. 1916 Lesboefs,Ranska, BWM, VM; (SSSP: Idman, Alfons Eugén, s. 23.11.18888, Helsinki, kaivertaja, kaatui Ranskassa 28.12.1916)
- Ek Emil, Turku, kuoli taistelussa 20.9. 1917 Zillebeke, Belgia, 1914–15 Star, BWM, VM.
- Ekland, Adolf, Hanko, kuoli taistelussa 1.9.1916 Villiers-Bretonneux, BWM, VM.
- Falk, Paul Richard Eugene Napoleon Nicholas, s. 5.4.1893, Helsinki (Hanko), aliupseeri, kuoli taistelussa 25.9.1918 Star, BWM, VM; (SSSP: Falk, Paul Richard, Eugen, s. 5.4.1893, Helsinki, aliupseeri, kaatunut Ranskassa syyskuussa 1918, haudattu Tincourtin sotilashautausmaalle 25.9.1918)
- Graubin, John G., s. 6.12.1881, kuoli taistelussa 26.9.1917 Ypres, länsirintama, BWM, VM; (SSSP: Granlin, Johan Gustaf, s. 6.12.1881, Helsingfors, kaatui Ranskassa 26.9.1917)
- Halona, Mikael (isä Helsingissä), kuoli taistelussa 14.8.1917 Belgia, BWM, VM.
- Hanson, Hugo, kaatunut taistelussa 8.8.1918; (SSSP: Hansson, Johan Hugo, s. 22.1.1894, Pernaja, kaatunut Ranskassa 1918)
- Henderson, John, kuoli taistelussa 21.3.1918.
- Hendrickson, John, kuoli Ranskassa 18.12.1916.
- Holmen (Vastamaa), Kustaa Victor, Kullaa, kuoli haavoihin 5.7.1918 Ranska, 29 v. BWM, VM.
- Johanson, Gustaf, kuoli taistelussa 4.7.1918.
- Johnson, Karl Johannes, kuoli taistelussa 3.9.1916.
- Jorgensen, Carl, kuoli Englannissa 6.11.1918.
- Kalson (Karlson?), Alfred, Finland, sotilas, kuoli taistelussa 2.5.1917 Ranska, BWM, VM.
Australian sotajoukkojen Lontoon toimisto ilmoittaa kirjeessään 2.6.1917 Venäjän Lontoon konsulaatille sotamies Alfred Karlssonin kaatuneen kuukautta aikaisemmin Ranskassa. Konsulaatti lähetti kirjeen omaisille. Kirje kuvaa havainnollisesti dokumentaatio-ongelmia, sillä sekä kaatuneen että hänen siskonsa nimet, kuten kotipaikkakuntakin ovat vääntyneet kirjoitustavaltaan, samalla kun seurakunnallisia tietoja ei ole löytynyt / The London Office of the Australian Imperial Force sent this letter dated 2nd June 1917 to the Imperial Russian Consulate in London requesting them to advise the family of Alfred Karlsson advising of his death in action. The letter illustrates graphically the communication problems in advising next of kin in Finland.
- Karllström, Gunnar, kuoli haavoihin 11.1.1917.
- Knappsberg, Oscar Bruno, kuoli haavoihin 7.5.1917; (SSSP: Knappsberg, Oskar Bruno, s. 29.12.1889, Mustio, Karjaa, tehtaantyömiehen poika, kaatunut Ranskassa 18.5.1917)
- Kortman, Ernst H., Helsinki, kuoli haavoihin 22.8.1917 Belgia, 1914–15 Star, WM, VM; (SSSP: Kortman, Ernst Hjalmar, s. 15.4.1879, Helsinki, merimies, kuollut Ranskan rintamalla ilmeisesti 1918 joskin todellista kuolinajankohtaa ei tiedetä)
- Kotkamaa Johannes, kuoli taistelussa 19.8.1917.
- Kärnä, Alfred, Kankaanpää, kuoli taistelussa 3.5.1917 Ranska.
- Lauren, Karl Walter, kuoli haavoihin 12.7.1918.
- Lehtonen, Johan Alfred s. 1891 Helsinki, merimies, kuoli taistelussa 3.1.1917.
- Liljestrand, Erik Arvid, s. 1884, Kirkkonummi, merimies, naimaton, sotilas, kuoli Englannissa 9.6.1918, 34 v.; (SSSP: Liljestran, Erik Arvid, s. 5.1.1884, merimies, Australia, kuoli sodan aiheuttamaan haavaan 9.6.1918)
- Lindholm, John, kuoli taistelussa 1.10.1918.
- Ljung, Karl R., Helsinki, kuoli taistelussa 2.4.1917 Ranska, 1914–15 Star, BWM, VM.
- Nelson Eric William, kuoli taistelussa 10.4.1917.
- Olin, Axel Alexand, kuoli taistelussa 21.2.1918.
- Pennanen, Alfred H. , Viipuri, kuoli taistelussa 17.7.1916 Ranska, 1914–15 Star, BWM, VM.
- Petersen, Charles, Finland, kuoli taistelussa 14.1.1918 Belgia, BWM, VM.
- Peterson, Mat H. ( äiti Tippo (Jeppossa?) kuoli haavoihin 5.7.1916 Ranska, BWM, VM.
- Petterssan, August S. , (isä Kiskasta, Orijärveltä) kuoli taistelussa 4.10.1917, Ypres, Belgia, BWM, VM.
- Piukkula, (Puikkula), Otto Valfrid Bruno, s. 1891, Turku , kuoli Sommen taistelussa 11.4.1918.
- Ravoline (Ravolaine, Ravolainen ( = Savolainen?)), David Sylvester , Mikkeli (Viipourin mlk), korpraali, kuoli taistelussa 24.7.1916, BWM, VM.
- Saarijärvi, Adolf, kuoli Englannissa 28.10.1918.
- Salonen Usko Leonard, s. 23.9.1889, Turku, korpraali, kuoli taistelussa 8.6.1917 Belgia (kaatunut 8.7,1917), BWM, VM.
- Savolainen, Arthur John, kuoli taistelussa 20.7.1916.
- Somero, Daniel, Yli-Kitka, kuoli taistelussa 4.10.1917 Ypres Belgia BWM, VM.
- Talava (Jalava), Ansselmi, (isä Turussa), kuoli taistelussa 23.8.1918 Ranska, BWM, VM.
- Tornroos (Törnoroos), Arvo Malakias, s. 1891, Rauma, merimies, naimaton, sotilas, kuoli taistelussa 5.10.1918, Ranska.
- Troyle (Turja?, mikä oli äidin nimi), Kontrat J., Turku, kuoli sotavankina 13.10.1918, Berliini, BWM, VM.
- Weckman, Walter Alen, kuoli Englannissa 9.11.1918.
- White, John H. , Viipuri, kuoli taistelussa 12.10.1917 Ypres, Belgia, BWM, VM.
- Wikström, Karl, Turku, kuoli haavoihin 17.8.1917 länsirintama Ranska, BWM, VM.
- Winter, Frank, kuoli Australiassa 12.9.1916.
- Wirta, Tobias Oscar, kuoli taistelussa 12.9.1916.
(Note on sources: The above information is summarized from an article (AUSTRALIAN JOUKOISSA SURMANSA SAANEET SUOMALAISET VUOSINA 1914–18 by Olavi Koivukangas) in “SUOMALAISET ENSIMMÄISESSÄ MAAILMANSODASSA - Venäjän, Saksan, Ison-Britannian, Ranskan, Australian, Uuden Seelannin, Etelä-Afrikan, Yhdysvaltain, Kanadan ja Neuvosto-Venäjän armeijoissa vuosina 1914–22 menehtyneet suomalaiset sekä sotaoloissa surmansa saaneet merimiehet” Lars Westerlund (toim.). ISBN 952-5354-48-2, Published by Edita Prima Oy, Helsinki 2004. Photos included in the text above are from the same source).
Next: Post WW1 Finns in Australia and the outbreak of the Winter War
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A note on sources for this Post: There’s a book about the first 50 years of the Finnish Society in Sydney (Australia), published in 1979 - "Finnish Society of Sydney - 50 vuotta Värikästä Toimintaa" written by Satu Beverley. (For information, see http://finnsinsydney.org.au/). It’s available as a downloadable PDF file (Finnish language only, just in case you’re not Finnish) for anyone interested. This is the source used for much of the information below (although I have tweaked the Winter War Aid “a bit” in my alternative history), while a paper from the Journal of Baltic Studies, Volume 9, Issue 1, 1978, pages 66-72 entitled "Australian aid to Finland and the Winter War" by A.R.G. Griffiths (Flinders University of South Australia) forms the foundation for much of the political aspects of Aid to Finland by Australia (and many thanks to the Toronto Reference Library for having available this rather obscure Journal in all it’s issues and for copying the requested articles for me and providing them free of charge through the inter-library loan system. Gotta love libraries that keep all this obscure stuff and make it available at no cost – getting something tangible back for the taxes one pays is a real benefit).
Most of the Finns in Australia at the time of the Winter War had arrived in the 1920’s in the period after emigration to the United States became more difficult. As with North America, the majority of the Finnish immigrants to Australia came from the region of Ostrobothnia. One of the early arrivals was a Pastor Boijer, who arrived as a priest in Australia during World War I. He founded the Finnish Seamen's Home and a Finnish Reading Room in a small apartment on Hamer Street in the Woolloomooloo district. This became a popular gathering place, especially since there it was possible to read Finnish newspapers.
In 1918, immediately after independence and the establishment of the Finnish Republic, Finland had established a consulate in Sydney. The first Finnish Consul in Sydney (and for Australia as a whole) was Kaarlo J Naukler. However, his term as Consul was short-lived as he died in 1921 (the inquest on his death was reported on May 21st, 1921 in an Australian newspaper, The Northern Advocate where it was disclosed that he had committed suicide. A doctor gave evidence that the deceased had come to him and said he had injected morphia into his leg because he was upset over his wife leaving him and asked if the Doctor could save him. The remedies tried proved unavailing. According to other evidence, Naukler had been overworking and was suffering from mental strain. The verdict was that death was caused by morphine willfully self-administered). A news report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 12 May 1921 reported that the body of Mr. Naukler was to be removed to Melbourne to be cremated, with the ashes to be brought back to Sydney, and afterwards be sent to Finland. The deceased had expressed a desire that his body should he cremated, and his widow was reported as observing his wishes. A Funeral Service was held at the parlours of Messrs. Wood Cofill Limited, George Street with the Rev. O. Schenk, of the Evangellical Lutheran Church, officiating. The service was attended by representatives of the Government, Military Forces, and Consular services. The Rev. Mr. Schenk delivered a short address, paying a tribute to Mr. Naukler's public usefulness and private worth. There were present a full representation of the consular body and many representative citizens. During Naukler’s term, he apparently set up some sort of sports club for Finnish men.
His successor was Consul Harold Tanner, who in 1926 founded a local Finnish magazine. In those early years, the Finnish Consulate, apart from providing consular services, also played the role of a social club for the Australian Finnish community. In May of 1929, the Finnish Society of Sydney was founded by three women (Inga Lindblom, Aino Potinkara and Helvi Larsson) who were meeting in a coffee shop when one of them suggested founding a Finnish Society. The others agreed and they invited 10 more women to join in and a sewing circle was founded with membership consisting of the previously named women together with Elmi Lammi, Mimmi Tuomi, Martha Aflect, Helena Wirsu, Elmi Peltonen, Marja Koski, Margaret Klemola, Lyyli Muje and Ella Tanner, the wife of the consular representative. The number of members quickly grew to 19 and in November that same year men joined also and the Sydney Finnish Society was well underway. Gathering took place in the early days at home every other Friday. The presidents were all men from 1929 up to until 1983 when the first woman was chosen to be the president.
The Rev. Kalervo Kurkiala
In 1922, the same year as Consul Harold Tanner arrived, a new priest, the Rev. Kalervo Kurkiala, arrived to minister to the Finnish community in Sydney. The Rev. Kurkiala would go on to play an important role with the Australian Volunteer Force for Finland. Kurkiala was born on 16 November 1894 to Karl Johan Gabriel Groundstroem and Aina Fredrika Widbom (like many Swedish-Finns, he had changed his surname to a Finnish name). His brother was Jaeger (light infantry) Captain Ensio Groundstroem. In 1913 Kalervo Groundstroem graduated from the Helsinki Normal school, after which he studied at the Theological Faculty of the University of Helsinki from 1913 to 1915, gaining his degree. In the midst of WW1, Kurkiala left his theological studies and joined the 27th Jäger Battalion as a volunteer on 29 December 1915 where he was made a lieutenant. He fought in battles on the German Eastern Front on the Misa River, the Gulf of Riga and the Gauja. He married Elisabeth Rolfsin, a German woman, in 1918.
Kurkiala was influenced by a militarism that he thought beneficial to young men, including "country boys" as well as "bookworms and spoilt, sloppy idlers". In his view, military training, besides preparing a person for the future, built muscle and character. In 1919 he wrote that military service can build an unshakable sense of duty in the individual. The barracks life, where many conscripts live close together, removes pettiness, selfishness and vanity. In another tract, however, he warns recruits of the dangers of barracks life. After the Finnish Civil War broke out, Kurkiala travelled to Vaasa, the White headquarters, and on 25 February 1918 was appointed Lieutenant. In March 1918 he was appointed a battalion commander in the White forces, taking part in the battles at Tampere, Lahti, Lyykylä, Mannikkala and Tali, where he was slightly wounded. He served with the General Staff from 3 June 1918 until he resigned from the army on 26 June 1919. He then resumed his theological studies and was ordained a minister in 1919. On 1 August 1919 he was ordered to take the post of pastor with the Central Finland Regiment and Häme cavalry regiment. He resigned from the Army again on 1 April 1920, and then studied philosophy and theology at the University of Greifswald in Germany from 1920 to 1921. On 1 August 1921 he was appointed pastor of the Jaeger Artillery Regiment. He held this position until 15 April 1922, at which time he again resigned and traveled to Australia, where he worked as chaplain at the Finnish Seamen’s Mission until 1926. It was at this time that he changed his surname from Groundstroem to the more Finnish-sounding Kurkiala.
Image sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... alervo.jpg
The Rev. Kalervo Kurkiala in 1927, immediately following his return to Finland from Australia
Returning to Finland at the end of 1926, he was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Finnish Seamen's Mission. In 1938 he was appointed secretary of the Finnish general ecclesiastical committee, a position he held until 1931. On 1 May 1931 he was appointed chaplain of Ikaalinen, and also worked as an English teacher in the Ikaalinen school from 1931 to 1938. He obtained a degree in doctrinal education in 1932 and was a member of the local military organization from 1934 to 1938. As an enthusiastic member of the Suojeluskuntas, he was among the first to take up the rapidly developing Finnish military martial art of KKT, and by 1938 was both a black belt, a sensei and a frequent writer on the subject of KKT in Finnish magazines and newspapers. On 1 May 1938 he was appointed Vicar of Hattula. As the threat from the USSR heightened in 1939, Kurkiala was asked to return to Australia with the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Team travelling to Sydney. He accepted immediately and on arrival in Sydney, immediately commenced renewing old ties. Fluent in English as well as German, Swedish and Finnish, he spoke at many Church gatherings around New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia as well as at numerous meetings organized by the Australian Finland Assistance Organization, a group jointly chaired by Dr. Lewis W. Nott (more on Dr. Nott later) and Colonel Eric Campbell.
The success of this group and others in influencing the Australian Government to permit and support the raising of Volunteer Units to be sent to Finland owed much to Kurkialas’ speeches. He was a popular speaker and much admired for his ability to sum up the issues clearly and succinctly, as well as for his oft-stated intention of returning to Finland to fight alongside the Australian Volunteers. He would in fact accompany the Australian Volunteers on board ship to Finland. Appointed Liaison Officer to the Australian Volunteers, he spent his time en-route to Finland with the volunteers training Australian Officers and NCOs on the Finnish military, conducting lectures to the men on Finland and holding Sunday services. No stranger to combat himself, he also introduced the Australians to the Finnish martial art of KKT, of which he was both an enthusiastic practitioner and sensei. Extremely popular with the Australians and a strong believer in martial Christianity, he would remain with the Commonwealth Division and fight with the Australians for the duration of the Winter War, taking part in the battles on the Karelian Isthmus and later on the Syvari Front. The Commonwealth Divisional CO would appoint Kurkiala a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Australian Army.
Image sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... topuhe.jpg
Finnish Liaison Officer to the Commonwealth Division and Military Chaplain, Lieutenant-Colonel Kalervo Kurkiala making a memorial speech to fallen Australian brothers-in-arms in late 1940
Kurkiala would remain with the Australians after the end of the Winter War, volunteering to accompany the Volunteers to the Middle East where he retained his rank in the Australian Army and was appointed Military Chaplain with the Australian 17th Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Stanley Savige, one of the two Australian Brigade Commanders in Finland. With the Australians in the Middle East, he would continue to promote KKT enthusiastically, passing in his skills to many Australian soldiers. He would return to Finland in early 1944 as Finnish Liaison Officer with the Australian Division that would fight with the Maavoimat for the remainder of WW2.
Image sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... alervo.jpg
Lieutenant-Colonel Kalervo Kukiala with an unknown Australian Army Officer in Finnish uniform, Summer of 1944.
After the war Kurkiala and his family immigrated to Australia, where he worked as a primary school teacher until 1947, when he became a teacher of religion and philosophy at Knox Grammar School, NSW. In 1950 he was appointed Vicar of St John’s Estonian and Finnish Lutheran Parish of Sydney, a position he held until he retired in 1964. Also in 1950, he was elected Chairman of the Australian Winter War Veterans Association, a position he held until 1960, after which he stood down. Kalervo Kukkiala died on 26 December 1966. He was buried in Sydney, Australia. Iivari Rämä's biography of Kalervo Kurkiala, “Jääkäripapin Pitkä Marssi” (The Jäger Priest’s Long March) was published in 1994.
Returning to the Finnish Community in Sydney
Another Finn in Sydney, Karl Selvinen rented an old house at 48 Arthur Street, Surry Hills, part of the city, and in 1929, established a boarding house called "Suomi Koti” (Finland Home), mainly for mariners. The reading room at the Consulate was transferred to Suomu Koti, as was a library from the Consulate. For Finns in Sydney, Suomi Koti now became Sydney's general place of assembly. The Finnish Society met there from 15 November 1929. The gatherings also came to include men such as Karl Selvinen, James Aalto, August Lammi and Lillqvist. The Finnish Society of Sydney had now begun. Rules for the Society were drawn up and with the assistance of a Finnish sailor, printed in Melbourne. These Rules stayed in effect for more than 20 years, until 1964 when the club changed its name to the Sydney Finnish Club.
Photo sourced from: "Finnish Society of Sydney - 50 vuotta Värikästä Toimintaa" written by Satu Beverley
"Suomi Koti" and the official opening of the Independence Day of December 1929. The presence of about 70 people, including. Wirsu, Laukka, Consul Tanner, his wife, Mrs. and Mr. Lammi, Hill, Selvinen, Raninen, Walton, Muje, Lillqvist, Pohjanpalo, Huhtala, Mrs. and Mr. Tuomi, Orava, Mr. and Mrs. Tulander, Aalto, Laherholm, Westburke. This photo was published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph 9 December 1929
Photo sourced from: "Finnish Society of Sydney - 50 vuotta Värikästä Toimintaa" written by Satu Beverley
The founding meeting of the Sydney Finnish Society of 15 November 1929. Approximately 80 people were present, among them. Consul Harald Tanner and his wife Ella, Potinkara, Snellman, Toppinen, Loukola, Väisänen, the Hoipon brothers, Lagerholm, Walton, "Helsingin Oskari” (Helsinki Oscar), Aalto, Wallie, Peltomaa, Adamson, Halonen, Gustavson, and Selvinen.
The Finnish Society benefited greatly from the warm-hearted support of the Consul H. Tanner and his wife. Mr. Jorma Pohjanpalon was a regular presence at the Society’s meetings, always sitting at the piano and playing folk songs, polkas and waltzes, etc. A number of the other men also played Finnish music, including Josef Kaartinen on the saxophone, Eric Bergen on his hanurinsoittaja (piano accordion) and Bruno Emelaeus with his violin. Just when the club was getting a good start, the financial depression began to have an effect. Industrial plants were closed down, construction work came to an end and Finnish men began to seek out of town employment, many of them in the Gosford region, which later became a very Finnish community. One of the first Finns in the Gosford region was August Lammi Kauhava, whose Apple Orchard was in 1980 the largest Finnish-owned farm in the locality. Men and women gradually moved out to the country and in the city were left only a few families, women working as maids and a few more or less unemployed young men. All of this adversely affected the club’s activities and also the business of Suomi Koti.
Jorma Pohjanpalo was born in Ylivieska, in Ostrobothnia. After completing business school, where he studied economics, he was Secretary at the Finnish Consulate in Sydney from 1927-31. During this period he acquired what would be a lifelong interest in Finnish migration. Following his return to Finland he published a book based on his experiences entit;ed “Australia by Pen and Camera.” He would return to Australia in October 1939 to work as part of the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus team in Sydney.
Post WW2, Professor Pohjanpalo served on many committees and was for many years on the Executive Board of Suomi-Seura. When the Institute of Migration was established in 1974, Jorma Pohjanpalo as appointed as the Suomi-Seura delegate on the Institute’s Council and was elected as the first council chairman. Having served in this capacity from 1974-1984, Professor Pohjanpalo was then elected as the Institute’s first Honorary President. He supported the Institute’s work in many different ways, on his journey’s to different parts of the world, and by donating materials linked to migration, including writings, photographes, etc., to the Institute’s Archives. (Photo taken on his 80th birthday on 12.12.1985). He published several books on shipping and plastics.
When at last the economic situation started to improve, Karl Selvinen, handed over the lease for Suomen Koti to two Finnish ladies, Inga Lindblom and May Mclntosh. When both of these ladies married a couple of years later, the home ceased to be a gathering place for Finns. From then on, the Club had no permanent meeting place. When the new Consul, Paavo Simelius and his wife arrived from Finland in 1935, their spacious home became the new gathering place. Many festive occasions were held there and Society meetings were often held at the Finnish Consulate’s reading room on Saturdays, hosted by the new Consul.Many good memories remained of these events. The Finnish Society of Sydney's founding members, James Aalto, and Mimmi Tuomi, later reminisced about those early days. Jormi Pohjanpalon was a lunatic on the piano, Josef Kaasalainen was a professional saxophone player and Sylvia Aalto often sang solo songs. On social occasions, members performed their own events, and no paid performers were ever needed. The atmosphere was intimate, as the number of Finns in Sydney was small and all knew each other well.
Many of the events were attended by 70-100 members even before World War II with guests coming from all over – including from Newcastle, Albion Park, Wollongong and the Gosford area. Alcohol was not drunk at the public meetings – in the old Finnish tradition, members brought alcohol with them and stashed it "just around the corner" to drink. For dances, the entrance fee included a cup of coffee and sandwiches, which the hostesses brought to the table. All members, including officers, paid the entrance fee. This remained unchanged until the late 1950s. The Society intended only to cover the running costs and not make money.
From the beginning, activities included meetings, dances and picnics. The first picnic was held the day after the inaugural event. Popular picnic spots were the beaches, especially at Dee Why beach, which was then a totally uninhabited beach. Centennial Park and Maroubra were also popular. James Aalto also remembers with joy the dances. These were held in the house over the liquor cellars, where a "fishing line" was dropped into the cellar and the "catch" was hauled up. In the early days life was good. Politics and religion did not intrude into the activities of the Society. Mrs. Ida Niemi remembers how in the opening ceremony of the Society it was very clearly said that we are all Finnish and class differences among immigrants do not exist. All members eagerly participated in the club and were prepared to assist in dances, gatherings and performances. The needy were also assisted. Times were tougher back then and while help was forthcoming from the government, it was not much – and the Finnish people were strangers in Australian society, which in its own way was rather insular. Under these circumstances, the club activities were of great importance to the small group of Finnish immigrants in Australia.
Next: The Winter War, Australia and Finnish-Australians
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Note on Sources: Some of the below is sourced from an article, “Suomalaiset Australiassa” by Olavi Koivukangas, Professori, Siirtolaisuusinstituutin Migrationsinstitutet, Turku – Åbo 2005. More detailed information on Finns in Queensland is sourced from http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ances ... he%20Finns while information on Nestori Karhula is sourced from Wikipedia.fi (photographs from http://www.migrationinstitute.fi ) for providing the initial information that led me to include this. Almost all of the photos in this post are sourced from the Finnish Migration Institute - http://www.migrationinstitute.fi – which has a great collection of photos on Finns in Australia. I’ve also referred to chapters in a book entitled “Tyranny of Distance: Finns in Australia before the second World War”, also by Olavi Koivukangas.
We’ve already covered some information on Finns in Sydney and Finnish Australians in WW1 – but Finnish connections to Australia extend far into the past. When Captain James Cook, the British explorer who mapped Australia for the Royal Navy, landed at Botany Bay in Sydney around, a native of Turku, Herman Spöring was part of the scientific group on the Endeavour. Spöring died of fever in the Java Sea in January 1771 as the Endeavor was returning to Britain and was buried at sea, but many of Spöring’s illustrations remain in the British Museum in London. Captain Cook had earlier shown his appreciation of Spöring’s work by naming an island in New Zealand after him (Spöring, or Pourewa, Island - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pourewa_Island). Cook was also apparently grateful to Spöring for repairing a quadrant that some Tahitians had stolen and broken. Canberra (the capital of Australia) has a street named after Spöring and in 1990 a memorial was erected in Turku ((Åbo), Spöring’s birthplace. The memorial includes a rock taken from Pourewa (Spöring) Island, commemorating the first Finn to set foot in New Zealand in 1769. The Finnish Federation of Australia Association has also set up the Spöring Fund, which supports Finnish-Australian
After the United States and Canada, Australia has been the next most popular destination for Finnish migrants. The Finnish emigration of some 361,000 persons to the United States and Canada over the last half of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth was part of the enormous migratory movement in which over 55 million Europeans left their homelands for overseas countries between the Napoleonic wars and about 1930. In this mass migration, Australia was not a popular choice. Travelling the vast distance between far northern Finland and the antipodean world of the Southern Seas in a period when a voyage around Africa or South America took months, was costly, and often dangerous. The strongest brake on Australia's population growth was its distance from Europe. When European overseas mass emigration started in the first half of the nineteenth century, a working family in Britain was not easily attracted to Australia. The sea voyage was much shorter, safer and three or four times cheaper to New York than to Sydney. Moreover, during the long voyage to Australia, a working man was compulsorily unemployed for months. And if he eventually decided to return from Australia, he had only a faint prospect of being able to pay his passage back to Europe. The disadvantages of isolation eliminated Australia as a goal for most emigrants who had to pay their own fare.
While Australia attracted few working men until the late 1820s, it could attract men of capital by offering free land and convict labourers. The problem of attracting working people to Australia was therefore crucial. A way of paying the fares had to be found. In line with the ideas advanced by Edward G. Wakefield, a bounty system was introduced in the 1830s allowing private employers to select migrants and to receive a government bounty for each approved person landed. Others came through direct government assistance. The source of money was the vast expanses of land owned by the crown. Discovery of gold in eastern Australia in 1851 brought a large influx of immigrants, including Germans, Scandinavians, Chinese and Americans. By 1860, the Australian population had grown to 1,145,000, three-quarters from immigration. About 40 per cent of the immigrants were assisted. Owing to the gold and free labour, the transportation of convicts ended. By the end of the 1880s, assisted immigration had been virtually abandoned by all the colonies except Queensland and Western Australia. Around 1900 a policy of virtual exclusion of non-European migrants was adopted—this policy remaining essentially unchanged until after the Second World War. In the years preceding World War One, Australia experienced extensive immigration, especially after 1906, and this continued until the war halted immigration. About 187,000 assisted settlers arrived in this period.
There is no record of the first Finn to settle in Australia, but more than likely he was a sailor who jumped ship from one of the thousands of sailing ships that visited Australia. In 1874 for example, there were likely to be at any one time 4 to 5 Finnish ships in Sydney. Even up until WW2, Finnish sailing ships from the Åland-based Gustaf Erikson line transporting wheat from Australia to Europe were often to be found (as we have covered in an earlier post) in Australian ports. In 1851, news of the rich gold discoveries in Australia spread quickly and sailors and miners from the California gold fields were the first to respond. It is estimated that about 200 Finns tried their luck in the Victorian and New South Wales gold fields. Some of them stayed permanently in Australia, others continued the search for gold in New Zealand and some returned to Finland.
Image sourced from: http://www.migrationinstitute.fi/galler ... S_1247.jpg
The Barque “Basset” – it was on sailing ships like this that the first Finnish immigrants came – generally seamen who left their ships in Australia and stayed…
Thousands of Finnish seamen sailed under foreign flags, especially in British and American ships, and these vessels whaling and sealing in Australian and New Zealand waters after 1788 generally had crews of highly mixed national origin. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Finnish ships also began to visit Australian ports. Before gold was discovered in Australia in 1851, a 23-year-old seaman, Isak Herman Sandberg, from Kaskinen, Finland, landed there in January 1851 from the Bombay, sailing via London. When he was naturalized fifty years later, he was living in Victoria and gave his occupation as laborer. As the news about the rich Australian gold discoveries did not reach Europe before the second half of the year 1851, there must have been some other reason for Sandberg's staying in Australia. Assuming that only a minor part of the early Finns in Australia were eventually naturalized, there probably were but few Finns among the 400,000 inhabitants of Australia in 1851, although next to nothing is known about these early settlers.
When gold was discovered in eastern Australia in 1851, tales of fabulous fortunes made in Australian goldfields spread rapidly all over the world, causing the first major influx of non-Britishers to the Australian colonies. Thousands of men started to cross the oceans to Australia. Over 600,000 immigrants arrived and the four colonies grew to six as Victoria and Queensland cut loose from New South Wales. Another feature was the inflow of seamen deserting their ships in Melbourne and Sydney in response to the lure of the goldfields. In the first week of 1852, only three of the thirty-five foreign ships in the bay at Melbourne had full crews. Often the whole crew, including the captain, deserted their ship. The Australian gold discovery of 1851 must be seen in connection with the California gold rush of 1848. It was in 1849 that the first Finnish sailors jumped ship to follow the crowds to the goldfields. It has been estimated that California gold drew over two hundred Finns, who settled on the Pacific coast. Many returned to San Francisco with empty pockets and from there, with the strong demand for sailors, the Finns could ship out to Europe—or to Australia—for reasonably good wages. One Finnish fortune-seeker was Isaac Mattson, a native of Turku, who travelled from San Francisco to Sydney in 1852. He proceeded to the rich Ballarat goldfield in Victoria and spent seven years there. Then he went to Tasmania, presumably on a similar quest, and after staying there for thirty years, moved on to New South Wales and then to New Zealand before living out his last years in Melbourne. When he was naturalized there in 1911, nearly sixty years after his arrival, he gave as his occupation "mine carpenter" and went on record as a widower with four children. Isaac Mattson's life reveals the great mobility of the early Finnish settlers in Australia.
There were also Finns among the gold miners who left the fields after a few years. Two brothers, Alfred and Wilhelm Haggblom, natives of Isojoki, Finland, were sea captains who spent four years in the goldfields in Victoria and New South Wales and returned to the Old Country in 1858. In Australian naturalization records, there are listed fifty-one Finnish settlers who arrived in the "golden decades" of the 1850s and 1860s. Assuming that of these early immigrants every fourth became naturalized, the number of Finnish settlers that landed in Australia in 1851-69 was approximately two hundred. How many left Australia to return to the land of their birth, to move to other countries, or to go back to sea is difficult to estimate. A rough estimate of the number departing could be every second or third. The Finns in the Australia of the gold rush after the middle of the nineteenth century numbered only a couple of hundred; and they were often counted—especially the Swedish-speaking Finns—as belonging to the larger Scandinavian group, some 5,000 strong. These numbers also include seamen employed in Australian coastal waters, labourers in seaports, artisans, etc., many of whom, perhaps, had first tried their luck searching for gold.
The major influx of Finns to pre-Second World War Australia took place in three waves: in the 1880s, in the years preceding the First World War, and again in the 1920s. The first peak can best be called the seaman immigration, when Finnish deep-sea sailing vessels and other ships with Finns in the crew put into Australian ports. With the growth of its population and its wheat and wool production, Australia held out attractive opportunities for Finnish seamen to sail with the Australian coastal fleet or work on the wharves of rapidly growing Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, or even in inland mining towns. The number of these mobile Finns in the 1880s may have been somewhere up to 1,000—almost all males. In the depression years of 1890-1906, Australia did not attract many Finns.
The Utopian Commune of Matti Kurikan
The peak of Finnish migration to the United States was in the early 1900’s, culminating in 1902 when 23,000 Finns took ship to America. However, at the turn of the century Australia was trying to attract immigrants from Britain – and when enough British immigrants could not be found, the Queensland State Government offered free passage to migrants from Scandinavia. Over 1899 and 1900, when the travel grants was in force, some 200 Finns settled in Queensland over a period of around 10 months. Of these 200, 78 were members of a group led by Matti Kurikka (24 January 1863, Tuutari, Ingria – 4 October1915 Rhode Island, USA, a writer, journalist, leader of the labor movement and utopian socialist) dedicated to setting up a utopian settlement. The Kalevalan Kansa Society was founded in Helsinki in 1899 with the aim of establishing a Finnish utopian socialist settlement in Australia. Kurikka arrived in Brisbane in October 1899, after which his supporters soon began to arrive. The settlement was not successful, and Kurikka moved on to Canada in 1900, together with many of his supporters, to set up the rather more successful “Sointula” community in British Columbia.
Image sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... urikka.jpg
Kurikka was the editor of the Työmies newspaper from 1897–1899. In 1908 Kurikka purchased the Wiipurin Sanomat. As editor of Wiipurin Sanomat, Kurikka was initially influenced by the Young Finns political movement, later moving towards Christian socialism. Kurikka moved to North America in the year 1900 and founded the newspaper Aika, the first Finnish-Canadian newspaper. In 1901 Kurikka helped establish Sointula, a utopian island colony on Malcolm Island, British Columbia based on cooperative principles. Sointula dissolved as a utopian colony in 1905 after financial difficulties and a devastating fire, but continued as a fishing and logging based community.
However, many of Kurikka’s supporters remained in Queensland and settled in the Nambour area, 100km from Brisbane, where they moved into sugar cane cultivation. The Finnish colony in this area came to be called Finnbury, where a Finnish immigrant society, “Erakko”, provided a hand-written magazine called "Orpo" (“The Orphan”) for the small Finnish community which felt somewhat isolated in a foreign country and culture. In general however, the early Finnish immigrants in Australia were seamen and labourers, a mobile group who were not disposed to establish societies or clubs. Another factor militating against a more active social life was the small number of women. The most common meeting place for Finns in Australia — as for many other nationalities — was the local hotel or pub, where fellow countrymen could be met and news heard.
It was only at the turn of the century, when the first groups of Finnish farming settlers appeared in Queensland, were any Finnish societies founded. Perhaps the first of these was the socialistic-minded Nambour settlement mentioned above. A Finnish society was founded in Brisbane in 1914 and another in Melbourne in 1916. When, in the first half of the 1920s, as Finns began to arrive in the sugarcane fields of northern Queensland, a society was formed by some 150 Finns around their leader, Nestori Karhula, a former officer in the Finnish army. It arranged picnics and athletic meetings, tried to establish a library and even arranged to run a course in the English language. This compact Finnish community dispersed after Karhula left for Brisbane in 1926.
After the USA introduced immigration restrictions, another 1,000 Finns diverted to Australia, most finding employment in the sugar cane fields of Queensland. Among these was a Finn named Basilius (Vasili) Suosaari who was born at Impilahti in Karelia in 1861, arrived in the district. He had been a member of the delegation which took Finns' protest petition to Tsar Nicholas II in1899. He was a Social Democrat Party spokesman in Finland's first unicameral parliament in 1906. He came to Australia in 1911, with his family arriving three years later. After initially working on August Narrominessa’s farm in New South Wales and in construction work in Brisbane, Suosaari acquired his own sugar cane farm near Nambour, Bli Blistä, in 1916.
Image sourced from: http://www.eduskunta.fi/fakta/edustaja/kuvat/911563.jpg
Basilius (Vasili) Suosaari
Image sourced from: http://maroochydoreslscearlyhistory.yol ... 201922.jpg
The Maroochydore Surf Lifesaving Club, Nambour, Queensland, c. 1927
back row: Glenn Foxover; ? ; Arthur Evans; Henry Burton; Basil Suosaari (clothed and with hat); Eric Eggins (also in clothes).
middle row: Joe Suosaari; ? ; Tom Prentis; ? ; Sandy Suosaari; ? ; ? ; Nugget Evans.
kneeling: Vic Suosaari; ? ; Bob Anderson
The Suosaari boys, Santeri (Sandy), Joel (Joe) and Victor (Vic) were keen members of the Surf Lifesaving movement, to which the best Australian swimmers, runners and wrestlers of the 1920’s belonged. Their sister, Akseli Suosaari was one of Australia's best free swimmers, and the Finns tried fundraising to get her to the Amsterdam Olympic Games in 1928. But the fundraising was insufficient and Akseli Suosaari died of tuberculosis in 1934. Basilius Suosaaren remained an active socialist and in 1914 the family participated in establishing the Finnish Society in Brisbane. All three brothers would serve with the Australian Volunteers in Finland and would then fight with the Australian Army in the Middle East before returing to Finland with the Australian Division in early 1944.
Nambour itself had had an active Finnish Association since 1915, of which a central part was the Sports Club. Former members of the commune established by Matti Kurikan were active members of the Association and to this day, descendants of Finnish immigrants live in the area, forming one of the largest enclaves of Finns outside Sydney and Newcastle. Finnish immigrants also moved to Mullumbimby where, post WW1, they built another large enclave of Finns. By the 1930s they were amongst the largest immigrant groups in the district. Those who lived in this banana-growing area came mainly from the Swedish-speaking communities of the north-west coast, while New South Wales’ next largest Finnish enclave at Gosford was predominately Finnish speaking.
Image sourced from: http://www.migrationinstitute.fi/galler ... S_0144.jpg
Suomalaisia keininhakkuussa Innisfailissa. Nambour, Qld./ Finnish sugar cane farmers, Nambour, Queensland
Elsewhere, another Swedish-Finn, Karl Johan (aka Jacky) Back, led the Finnish invasion of Mullum in 1902. He was of Swedish descent, born in Munsala (Ostrobothnia) under the old family name of Ohls in 1877, and migrated to Australia in 1899 to slip the conscription agents of the Russian Czar. Probably with stake money provided by his father, he acquired three blocks (640, 510 and 22 acres) at Goonengerry and shortly afterwards started construction of a sawmill on the smallest block, Devil's Lookout, adjacent to which his brother, William Andrew (Vilhem Anderson), and his father, Andrew William, acquired respectively 442 and 65 acre blocks shortly afterwards. The mill was a massive undertaking, but it never got operational and the huge hardwood logs stood on the skyline for about 40 years until a bushfire destroyed the place. (In 1999 the farm blocks became the main portion of the Goonengerry National Park.)
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Cutting and moving timber for Sawmilling, Queensland. 1923-1928. Finnish immigrants tended to move into work they were familiar with from the home country – timber-felling, sawmilling, farming….
“Jacky” Back’s father Anders, and his 16yr old brother, Vilhelm (“Billy”) arrived at Bangalow Station in early 1903 in the middle of a heat wave. The story goes that they walked through the Big Scrub all the way to Goonengerry, with Anders dressed in fur-lined clothes suitable for the arctic winter, having been attacked along the way by hundreds of leeches dropping from the trees. Whether it was this experience, or snakes and other nasties, unheard of in Finland, that turned him off the promised land is unknown, but Anders Back promptly returned to Finland and left his sons to get on with the job on their own. He is however believed to have been a man-of-means in Finland and to have made another trip out to Australia at some stage. A short time later “Jacky” and “Billy” made their way along the bullockies’ tracks to Wilson’s Creek where Jacky became the pioneer sawmiller on site. After a swag of surrounding scrub had been felled and burnt and all the stumps removed he diversified into farming and market gardening. Billy meanwhile had branched out on his own and established a farm at Burringbar, having mortgaged his Goonengerry block to the NSW State Savings Bank. He won the hand of Miss Christina Hart in 1908 and subsequently was credited with driving the first motorcar over the tracks to Wilson’s Creek to visit his in-laws. Upon settling in Mullum he became an elder and keen worker for the Presbyterian Church.
Jacky, a backwoods philosopher, has the distinction of being the first Finnish author in Australia, a remarkable feat for a bloke who never had a day's schooling in the English language in his life. Using the pseudonym “Australianus”, he wrote a book of verse and stories called “The Royal Toast”, of which he had several hundred printed. He also wrote a book on economics and contributed articles to the Sydney Bulletin. In the middle of the Depression he tried to save the world with his book “A Solution to the World’s Financial Problems”, published in 1932. He gained a reputation as an eccentric and colourful character who could turn his hand to anything. He seems to have become a banana grower at Yelgun sometime in the 1930s before retiring to live with his Holm relatives at Billinudgel. He died in 1962 aged 84 and lies in Mullum cemetery.
Image sourced from: http://www.migrationinstitute.fi/galler ... S_1036.jpg
Banaaneja pakataan / Banana Packing, New South Wales
As for “Billy”, the Tweed Times and Brunswick Advocate was prescient in early 1909: “Mr W. Back of Burringbar was offered by auction at Burringbar £16 per acre for his farm of 296 acres… and he …owns over 1000 acres of prime land along the railway line and 1280 acres at Mullumbimby. As Mr. Back is a very young man, there must be looming in front of him the vision of a millionaire’s wealth. His Burringbar farm supplied the poles for the Lismore to Casino telephone line.” He went on to become a mover and shaker in the business world - Beyond doubt the wealthiest Finnish immigrant in Australia. Just before the war he left Burringbar and settled in Mullum where, in 1918, he built “Cedarholm” with cedar milled by his brother Jacky. In Mullum he became an auctioneer and stock and station agent and began buying up large properties and subdividing, including “Jasper Hall” at Rosebank and “Morrison Farm” fronting the Brunswick, which took up about a quarter of the Mullum municipality. He is credited with building 100 houses in Mullum and creating 30 dairy farms. Later he moved into Queensland and acquired a large station at Winton, amongst others, before developing the suburb of St Lucia in Brisbane. Sydney properties were also in the portfolio. Through the 1930s and 40s his real estate company was the leading broker of banana plantations, but the growth of his Queensland business interests forced a move to Brisbane in the late 1940s. Both he and Christina died in Brisbane (he in 1974 aged 87 and she in 1970 aged 83) but are buried in the Mullum cemetery.
The Back brothers sister Anna (Mrs Erik J. Holm (Nyholm), landed with her husband and five children in 1921. They lived and worked at Main Arm for 6yrs before acquiring a 275 acre farm at Billinudgel where they remained until 1968. Another sister, Sofia, remained in Finland, where their father Anders died in 1928 and their mother, Sanna in 1937. That such remote deaths in Finland should be reported in the Tweed Daily (the local newspaper) suggests the local prominence of Billy Back at that time. Billy Back certainly had pull. During WW1 it wasn’t safe to speak with any sort of a non-Australian or non-British accent in Mullum and in mid 1915 the Star found it necessary to say “It has been said that Mr. W. Back of this town is of German nationality. On Mr Back’s naturalization papers, 18 Feb1908, the place of birth is given as Munsala, Finland, a Swedish part.” The next paragraph continued in the same vein: “Mr E. J. Erichs, a native of Denmark….” But no such consideration was given to other aliens, who had to pay for their own adverts.
The Backs also acted as the nucleus for the chain migration of their compatriots from Finland. Their father Anders no doubt passed the word around of the success of his sons in Australia and “Billy’s” holiday back home in 1923/24 generated much interest. Some of those who followed the Backs include the Kastren, Holmkvist, Holmnas, Fors, Melen, Tuohimaki, Roos, Snabb and Soderholm families. (Possibly connected to the farming Soderholms was Captain Soderholm, the Finnish Master of the 'SS Bonalbo' doing regular runs between Ballina and Sydney through to the early 1930s.) The Back farm at Wilsons Creek was the staging post for Finns proceeding into Queensland, particularly those making for the Finnish Commune at Nambour. The Backs were followed by other migrants from Swedish-speaking Finland, including members of their own family. The Finnish community at Mullumbimby grew during the 1920s… and became firmly established during the 1930s. Billy Back’s farms were also the initial source of employment for many new arrivals who later moved on to north Queensland.
Image sourced from: http://www.migrationinstitute.fi/galler ... S_1153.jpg
Aksel Rönnlundin (kuvassa taustalla) perhettä ja työmiehiä Nambourissa. Edessä maatyömies ja Orpo-lehden toimittaja I. O. Peurala. /Aksel Rönnlund (in the background) and the family of the laborers - Nambour. Maatyömies front and Orpo journalist I.O. Peurala.
A number of these new arrivals were men who had fought on the “White” side in the Finnish Civil War. In all, it seems that around a dozen “white” infantryman went to Australia in the 1920s, preferring to emigrate to Australia rather than Canada - especially as many of the Canadian Loggers were on the so-called red side. But Australia was also preferred over Canada due to the economic and climatic aspects - if the travel money could be acquired from somewhere. One of these young men was Antti Isotalo, great-grandson of Antin Isotalo, who later returned to Finland. Another such was Nestori Karhula, the driving force behind the Cairns Finnish Community, who arrived in 1921. Karhula was one of a number of young Ostrobothnian men who began to arrive in groups in the early 1920’s.
Nestori Karhula – Jaeger Lieutenant and Volunteer in the Winter War
Nestori Ilmari Karhula (9 November 1893 Lohtaja - 13 January 1971 Brisbane Australia) was a infantry lieutenant in the Finnish Jaegers, later emigrated to Australia and returned to Finland with the Australian Volunteers to fight in the Winter War. His parents were farmers, Tuomas Karhula and Mariana Huhtala and Nestori himself married in 1920 to Kerttu Wäggin. Nestori Karhula graduated from high school in Kokkola in 1913 and joined the South Ostrobothnian Students' Association. He continued his studies at the University of Helsinki in the Faculty of the Philosophy Department and in agricultural economics between 1914-1915. In 1915 Karhula travelled to Germany as a volunteer soldier where he underwent infantry training in the 27th Jaeger Regiment. He took part in the fighting on the Eastern Front at the Misse River, the Gulf of Riga and the Aa River.
Karhula returned to Finland on 8 December 1917 and joined the White Army where he took part in the preparation for the Civil War by training Suojeluskuntas members in Oulu. He was also involved in the transfer of arms from Kokkola to Oulu in January 1918. After the beginning of military operations, he led the capture of Kokkola. Under his command were assembled Suojeluskuntas units from Kaustinen, Vetelin, Esse, Terjärv and Kokkola, as well as the rural Guards. After the capture of Kokkola, he used his frontline experience to train the troops. Karhula eventually transferred to the Jaeger troops and was made first commander of 7 jääkäripataljoonaan, then on 2 April 1918 to Konekiväärikomppaniaan Light Infantry Regiment, and on 20 April 1918 company commander 4 Jaeger Battalion konekiväärikomppaniaan. He took part in the Civil War battles at Tampere, Tarpilassa and Raivola.
Image sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... estori.jpg
Jääkäriluutnantti Nestori Karhula, 1918
Karhula served after the Civil War as a machine gun company commander in the 2nd Jaeger Regiment, and later in the Pori infantry regiment No. 2 He resigned from the Army in 2 September 1918 and moved to the Civil Guards where he was as the local head of the Lohtaja Kokkola Civil Guards. He was transferred on 1 May 1919 to be local head of the Central Ostrobothnia Suojeluskuntapiiriin, from which he was transferred on 10 February 1921 to be the Lohtaja Guard local commander. In 1921 he left Lohtaja to emigrate to Australia, where he worked as a farmer in Queensland.
Image sourced from: http://www.migrationinstitute.fi/galler ... S_0186.jpg
Keskellä Nestori Karhula. Cairns District, Qld. Joulukuu 1923 - “Crocodile” Karhula (standing in the middle of the group), Cairns District, Queensland, Australia, December 1923
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Suomi-farmi (Redlynch lähellä Cairnsia), Queenslandissa. Oikealla jääkäriluutnantti Nestori Karhula, Kerttu Karhula ja tytär Toini. 1920-luku / Suomi-Farm (at Redlynch, near Cairns), Queensland. On the right, ex-Jaeger infantry lieutenant Nestori Karhula, his wife Kerttu Karhula and their daughter Toini. 1920s.
In Queensland he also became a Justice of Peace), in 1925 he helped establish the local Finnish magazine. He was also interested in the old Australian and New Zealand Finnish and in 1923 he founded the Cairns Finland Society. In 1927 he also founded the Suomen Athletic Club in Brisbane. Karhula was Secretary on the the Eight Mile Plains Elementary School Committee in 1927-1928 and the Secretary to the Mt. Grovattin School Committee in 1929-1931, as well as Runcovrin Progress Association secretary from 1929 to 1932. Karhula was also a member of the local air defense (Australian Air Force Reserves perhaps?).
Image sourced from: http://www.migrationinstitute.fi/galler ... S_1223.jpg
Jääkäriluutnantti Nestori Karhula tyttärensä Toinin kanssa Väinö Ojalan haudalla. Redlynch. 1920-luku / Jaeger Lieutenant Nestori Karhula daughter Toini with Väinö Ojala's grave. Redlynch. The 1920s
Image sourced from: http://www.migrationinstitute.fi/galler ... S_0378.jpg
Suomi Athletic Clubin edustajia 1920-luvulla. Vasemmalta: Reino Ruhanen, Aimo Sulkava, Matti Takala, Niilo Klemola, tuntematon ja Nestori Karhula / Finnish Athletic Club members in the 1920's. from left: Reino Ruhanen, Aimo Sulkava, Matti Takala, Niilo Klemola, unknown and Nestori Karhula
Like almost all Australian-Finns, Karhula was actively involved in local Finnish Association and Finnish community activities as well as in wider community activities. He was also well acquainted with the previous Finnish Consul, Harald Tanner as well as with the new Consul, Paavo Simelius. As the threat of war between the USSR and Finland loomed, Karhula was heavily involved with the work of the Finnish Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus team as they planned and worked to garner Australian support for Finland. As an ex-Army officer, and one with considerable experience in both the First World War and the Finnish Civil War, as well as being well-acquainted with the Finnish Consul, Harald Tanner, and well-established in the local community in Queensland, Karhula was consulted frequently.
Image sourced from: http://www.migrationinstitute.fi/galler ... S_2025.jpg
Lindströmin farmilla. 1931. Vasemmalla konsuli Tanner, Mr & Mrs W.Lindström, Jussi Tilus, Mrs Karhula (istuu), Mrs Tanner ja Nestori Karhula / At Lindström's farm in 1931. On the left, Finnish Consul Harald Tanner, Mr & Mrs W.Lindström, Jussi Tilus, Mrs. Karhula (sitting), Mrs. Tanner and Nestori Karhula
As the threat of war between the USSR and Finland loomed, Karhula at first planned to raise a company of Australian-Finnish Volunteers to travel back to Finland to fight in the Winter War as part of the Finnish Army - and by early December 1939, some 150 Australian-Finns had committed to join this unit. However, as the wave of Australian support to send a large contingent of Australian Volunteers turned into a solid commitment from the Australian Government in early January 1940, Karhula and his Company of Australian-Finns were subsumed into the overall Australian unit. Their ability to speak Finnish as well as the Australian version of English, and the fact that a number of them were familiar with the Finnish Army, led to the Australian-Finns being attached to the Australian Volunteer Units as liaison officers. This ensured that every Australian Unit within the volunteers had a number of fluent Finnish-speakers attached. On arrival in Finland, as the different components of the Commonwealth Division came together, the Australian Finns were farmed out across the entire Division, thus ensuring at least a modicum of communication with Finnish units was possible.
Nestori Karhula himself was appointed a Major in the Australian Army and served as Liaison Officer to Brigadier John Joseph Murray, CO of the 2nd Brigade of the Commonwealth Division. Of the 163 Australian Finns that volunteered, most were commissioned as Lieutenants, those with prior military experience were generally commissioned as Captains, all in the Australian Army. They would serve with the Commonwealth Division for the duration of the Winter War, where approximately 18% of their number would become casualties of the war. After the Winter War ended, almost all would transfer to the Middle East with the Australians of the Division. A significant number would again return to Finland in early 1944 with the single Australian Division that fought with the Maavoimat through 1944 and 1945. Nestori Karhula would be one of their number, once again serving as a Liaison Officer in Divisional Headquarters.
Returning to Australia and his farm after WW2, Nestori Karhula left a memoir listing over twenty Finnish-Australian adults together with their children who were resident in Mullum in 1935. This figure indicates that the Finns were amongst the largest of the immigrant groups in the district at this time. In the course of time, Mullumbimby developed into a large Finnish-Swedish colony, whose connections with Finland have survived to the present day and which is the best known settlement of Swedish speakers from Finland existent in Australia.
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Nestori Karhula esittelee perustamansa Suomi Athletic Clubin tunnusmerkkiä / Nestori Karhula presents founder Finland Athletic Club emblem
From 1951, Karhula worked as an Immigration Agent in Australia, where he died in 1971. He is buried in Brisbane.
Next: The Winter War, Australia and Finnish-Australians
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When Britain had declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939 the federal parliament of Australia was sitting in Canberra. The Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, without consulting Parliament, immediately broadcast on national Radio that Britain was at war and therefore that Australia was at war. To Menzies, there was one King, one Flag and one cause, and so almost all Australian people saw it. In those crucial early days of the war, Australian Foreign Policy was directed from the Australian High Commission in London, where the Commonwealth High Commissioners were an essential part of the British policy making machine. All the Dominions had High Commissioners in London. They had begun regular meetings on an informal basis during the period of sanctions against Italy. These meetings had assumed a definite shape and greater importance during the Munich crisis, and by the time WW2 broke out the High Commissioners were meeting once a day with the British Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in a consultation among relative equals.
As has been mentioned earlier, Australia’s High Commissioner in London was S M Bruce, former Prime Minister of Australia and Minister for External Affairs from 1923-1929, who had been High Commissioner since 1933. A polished Anglophile, confidante of Sir Alexander Cadogan (Permanent Under Secretary of the Foreign Office, 1938-1946), Bruce ostensibly reported to Sir Henry Gullet, Australia’s Minister for External Affairs from 26 April 1939. But because as High Commissioner Bruce was such a distinguished incumbent, Gullet made little contribution to policy making within the Australian External Affairs Department. The Euro-centered concepts of Australian foreign policy were further developed because of the way in which the contribution of the Commonwealth was crucial to the British War Effort. The strategic importance of the Commonwealth resulted in heavy weight being given to the counsels of the Commonwealths elder statesmen: Bruce, General Jan Smuts (South African Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs and Defence, 1939-1948), Sir Earl Page (Australias Special Envoy to the War Cabinet), and Richard Casey (leader of the Australian delegation to the meeting of the United Kingdom and Dominions Ministers, October-December 1939, and subsequently a member of the United Kingdom War Cabinet).
With Neville Chamberlain (and later Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden) relying on the advice of the Commonwealth Ministers in London, it was scarcely to be wondered at that the external affairs office in Canberra took a low profile. In London, Bruce had been peripherally aware of the growing tensions between the USSR and Finland but had paid little attention to the situation until the Soviet Union actually attacked Finland. The Finnish Ambassador in London, Gripenberg, had of course met with Bruce on a number of occasions but with little success in terms of gaining any support from Australia. Bruce was reluctant to involve Australia in what he saw as a sideshow of little relevance to Australia and this was the basis of his advice back to Australia. Nevertheless, events in Australia had by this time begun to overtake Bruce. Much to his dismay, it seemed that public opinion in Australia was forcing an intervention that he did not see as being in Australia’s interests. The very public commitment to Finland of a volunteer battalion by the New Zealand High Commissioner in London was strongly opposed in private by Bruce, and it was only reluctantly that he acquiesced to instructions from Canberra to assist the New Zealanders in their endeavours.
Back in Australia, events had gathered their own momentum from early November 1939 on, assisted by the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Team. The new Finnish Consul, Paavo Simelius had been working non-stop to secure introductions for the 20 man Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Team, some of whom were in turn working furiously with Australian journalists and advertising companies to put out material supportive of Finland. Elsewhere, members of the team, including the Rev. Kurkiala and Jorma Pohjanpalo were establishing their own contacts in the religious, political and business fields. At one and the same time, Sydney's Finnish community was preparing for the worst and organizing, whilst at the same time praying that there would be no war. Simelius had indeed secured an appointment with the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, in mid-November 1939 as Finland girded for war. Menzies was non-committal at this time, advising Simelius that if Finland was attacked, there would be little that Australia could do beyond providing moral support. The Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Team thought otherwise, although few concrete steps were taken prior to the actual outbreak of war. Nobody wanted to be premature.
On the 30th of November, 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland with no declaration of war. The Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus team in Sydney was prepared. Along with the front page headlines were a continuous stream of background articles filling the Australians newspapers, describing Finland, setting out the situation, providing a background to the unprovoked attack on a small neutral country which wished only to remain at peace, suggesting ways in which Australians could assist Finland. The immediate Australian public reaction was one of indignation and condemnation of the USSR’s actions. Editorials stridently critical of the USSR blazed across every newspaper in the country. Well-prepared and prominent supporters of Finland spoke on the radio and seemingly overnight, the Australian Finland Assistance Organisation emerged, announced on the 3rd of December 1939 at a packed public meeting in Sydney where the prominent speakers included the joint founders (whom we will cover in the next Post), Dr Lewis Windermere Nott and Colonel Eric Campbell together with the Rev. Kalervo Kurkiala.
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The inaugural meeting of the Australian Finland Assistance Organization in Sydney on the 3rd of December 1939 was packed to capacity.
Within days, branches of the Australian Finland Assistance Organization had been established across Australia, with offices prominently positioned in main streets. Churches, factories, schools, Returned Servicemen’s Association Halls, all were pressed into service as popular enthusiasm led to the organisation’s membership soaring into the thousands and then into the tens of thousands within days. Fund-raising activities commenced almost immediately, with Churchs’ taking up Collections for Finland, street corner collectors in the cities and large towns, collections in the factory and the office, fund-raising fetes and, on a larger scale, requests to businesses for donations. Within days, thousands of pounds had been collected, within weeks, tens of thousands as the Australian public responded to the call. By mid-December 1939, it seemed that a large percentage of the Australian population were involved in the campaign to support Finland. It was a cause that stirred enthusiasm in the public, far more so than the war with Germany. And this enthusiasm was in large part the result of the skilful distribution of information, news articles and commentary provided by the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus team.
Buy a Ford for Finland
One of the most iconic fund-raising campaigns for Finland in Australia was the “Buy a Ford for Finland” campaign initially kicked off by a Ford dealership in Sydney in mid-December 1939. Ford Australia was the Australian subsidiary of Ford Motor Company and had been founded in Geelong, Victoria in 1925 as an outpost of the Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited (Ford Canada was a separate company from Ford USA. Henry Ford had granted the manufacturing rights to Ford in the British Commonwealth (excluding the UK) countries to a group of Canadian investors. By the late 1930’s, the Ford Geelong plant was a large scale concern and Ford was one of the two major motor vehicle manufacturers firmly established in Australia (the other was Holden, a formerly Australian owned company which had become a subsidiary of General Motors in 1931 (in 1930, Holden had manufactured 34,000 vehicles, which gives you an idea of the scale of these two companies). During World War II both companies saw their efforts shifted to the construction of military vehicles, field guns, aircraft and engines – but in the period we are concerned with, this shift had not yet begun and orders for military vehicles had not been placed with either company.
In December 1939, prior to the decision being announced that the Australian Government would support the sending of volunteers to Finland, Ford Australia very publicly donated outright 50 Ford trucks for use as Ambulances, with the fitting out as specialist Ambulance trucks being carried out by Ford workers on a voluntary basis. Such was the enormous goodwill that this announcement generated for Ford that a Ford dealer in Sydney who was strongly sympathetic to the Finland Assistance Organisation’s efforts announced that he would donate the profits for every Ford vehicle sold over the months of December and January to the Organisation. The Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Information Team in Sydney used the networks they had established to ensure the announcement gained widespread publicity and the Ford Dealer saw his sales soar within days. At the same time, a bright spark within the Tiedotuskeskus Information Team suggested to the Organisation that they establish their own “Buy a Ford for Finland” fund raising campaign. The concept took off like an Australian bushfire, sweeping the country. Finland Assistance Organisation speakers, news articles and radio broadcasts praised the idea. This was something tangible that Australia could contribute, something that would assist the soldiers of Finland in their fight, it was something towards which every Australian’s contribution, no matter how small, counted.
Ford Australia saw an advertising campaign that would gain them widespread name recognition in the unrelenting competition with Holden, even then somewhat of an Australian icon. Determined to milk this for all it was worth, Ford Australia almost immediately announced that all Ford vehicles purchased for dispatch to Finland would be passed on at cost, while the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union announced that their members at the Ford Plant would contribute their own time to any specialist fitting out needed for military use of the Ford trucks. The campaign swept across Australia, with Boy Scouts and Girl Guides conducting “bottle drives,” Church’s passing additional collections on Sundays, volunteers collecting money at factories and on street corners. Almost every city and town in Australia worked to purchase a Ford Truck, graphic displays tracked the funds raised and the numbers of vehicles paid for, news articles reported daily on progress – and Ford’s name was splashed across every newspaper, every day of the week. Articles were written describing how Ford Trucks were used in an Army Division, Ford Trucks were on display across the country, photos of Ford Trucks were plastered across every newspaper in the country on a regular basis. For Ford, it was name recognition beyond all expectations – and within the first week, sufficient money had been raised to pay for almost 250 of the Ford 4x4 trucks.
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A procession of Ford 4x4 Ambulance Trucks heading to Melbourne from the Ford Geelong plant. The Ford 4x4 ambulance did little for patient comfort during evacuation, but they were among the best available within the technology of cross-country trucks at the time.
In January 1940, in tandem with the announcement that the Government would support the sending of a Volunteer Force to Finland, the Government also committed to ensuring all vehicles purchased were shipped to Finland together with the Volunteers. The campaign continued, with the target set at 3,500 Trucks – the transport establishment for a British Army Division (which in point of fact was far in excess of that allocated to a Maavoimat Division). By the end of December 1939, the fund-raising campaign had paid for 1200 Ford trucks. By the end of January 1940, with the Ford Geelong Plant now working to full capacity, some 4,200 Ford Trucks had been paid for, manufactured, crated and were in Melbourne being loaded for shipment to Finland together with the Australian Volunteers. General Motors in Australia had also, and somewhat belatedly, sprung into the act with their own campaign, but unfortunately for them, they failed to come up with a marketing slogan as catchy as Ford’s. Nevertheless, some 250 Holden-manufactured half ton 4x4 truck’s were bought and crated for shipping to Finland together with the Volunteers. On use in the Winter War, the Holden 4x4 trucks became synonymous with a rugged durability that only the Sisu-trucks manufactured in Finland rivaled. Vehicle manufacturing for Finland would end with the dispatch of the convoy of ships to Finland in early February 1940, but both Ford and Holden would continue working to meet newly placed orders from the Australian Government. The Finland campaign had actually been beneficial for both companies in that it had allowed them to re-hire (or hire and train) additional workers and move, at least in Ford’s case, to full production so that when Government orders were placed, these could be met rather more quickly than might have been the case.
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With the startling success of the “Buy a Ford for Finland” campaign, Holden belatedly got into the game with the “Support Finland with a Holden” campaign.
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Australian-supplied Holden 4x4 Ambulance in use by the Polish 1st Corps during the Winter War (Karelian Isthmus, Summer of 1940). Note the driver is a Polish woman volunteer. A considerable number of Polish women had escaped to Finland via Lithuania and Latvia and many had joined the Polish Army in Finland. The Polish Divisions in Finland were created on the Maavoimat model and Polish women filled numerous rear-echelon positions.
There were of course other fund raising campaigns. The announcement that volunteers were being dispatched aroused the patriotic fervour of the Australian people – and the Australian Finland Assistance Organization found itself flooded with volunteers and donations of money and materials, with the Australian Government belatedly stating that all public contributions would be matched by the Government on a 1 for 1 basis (although in point of fact the Government contributed rather more as they committed to paying outright for all travel costs, the provision of uniforms and basic military equipment as well as paying an allowance to the Volunteers – which were in fact the majority of the costs). The Australian Pharmaceutical and Medical Supplies industry provided large quantities of medical and pharmaceutical supplies at cost and these were transported to Melbourne by the State Railways free of charge where they were sorted and packed by volunteers. In addition to the ships transporting the 5,000 odd Volunteers and accompanying military and medical cargo, half a dozen shiploads of Australian wheat donated outright by the Australian Wheat Board (in the late 1930’s wheat was fast becoming Australia’s single most valuable agricultural export item) with the proviso that Finland arrange for shipping.
Not only wheat was shipped. Australia was a large exporter of various agricultural products, as was New Zealand. Both countries exported frozen mutton and lamb as well as significant quantities of dairy products. In addition, both countries had a widespread canning industry with large canning plants putting out a wide variety of products – canned meats, jams, fruits, vegetables, the significance of which we often forget in these days when so much is refrigerated. Keeping in mind that with the bulk of Finland’s manpower mobilized in the military, along with many women likewise – and many more working in factories on the production of war material – and with most farm vehicles and the majority of farm horses also mobilized – Finland expected to experience a major food-production crisis in the event of a drawn out war. Another concern that arose was with the arrival of significant volunteer forces in Finland – as the Italians, Spanish, Hungarian and Scandinavian Divisions arrived – and with 25,000 Poles already in the country – and Commonwealth units en route – the Maavoimat was being augmented not just by 100,000 foreign volunteers, but by 100,000 attached mouths and digestive systems that required feeding. Given that the population of Finland was only three and a half million, and stockpiled food supplies were barely sufficient for that number, one hundred thousand additional bodies was a significant number to cater for. The provision of sufficient additional food supplies was a problem that had been fairly low on the original priority list for the Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Teams, but this changed rapidly (Food supplies would be a problem that would escalate further in the summer of 1940 with the flood of Estonian refugees from Tallinn, and again after the end of the Winter War with the influx of Karelians and Ingrians. Fortunately, the pre-war introduction of potato and pig farming in Lapland went some way towards alleviating potential food shortages – and the ability to import food from Australia, Canada and the United States on ships of the Finnish merchant marine and through the port of Lyngenfjiord through the war years prevented any shortage of food developing. Indeed, during the Siege of Leningrad by the Germans, the Finns would permit trainloads of food to cross the border into the USSR to supply Leningrad, although there was considerable and very heated internal debate within Parliament before this was permitted).
Immediately prior to the Christmas of 1939, the Sydney Valtioneuvoston Tiedotuskeskus Team worked with the Finland Assistance Organisation to put together a “Donate Food for Finland” campaign. This too was a campaign in which every individual, even school children, could participate – and the Christmas Season saw the campaign get off to a flying start. And this was a campaign that rapidly spread to New Zealand as well. It seemed that every Grocers, Co-op and Department Store across Australia and New Zealand had a large collection box labeled “Food for the Soldiers and People of Finland” plastered across it. Schools and Churches organized their own campaigns. The Finland Assistance Organisation borrowed space from Churches, Stock Agents, Warehouses – wherever this could be obtained at no cost – to act as collection depots, where volunteers sorted donations by type, boxed and crated items and organized shipment by Rail to the Warehouses and Melbourne. Day after day, wagonload after wagonload of food poured into the Melbourne warehouses from all across Australia, where warehouses fast being packed to capacity awaited the rapidly approaching Finnish Merchant Marine cargo ships.
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Australian Volunteers from the Country Women’s Association (CWA) at a Finland Assistance Organisation packing boxes to be sent to Finland. Numerous organizations were involved in supporting the Finland Assistance Organisation, but the Country Women’s Association was perhaps the largest and the most dedicated.
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The Country Women's Association in Emerald, Queensland, December 1939. It was small groups such as these spread everywhere across Australia and New Zealand that made the volume of assistance that was in the end provided so significant – and who also generated the political pressure on the Australian Government that ensured Menzie’s somewhat reluctant acquiescence to the dispatch of the Australian Volunteers to fight.
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And it was in small grocery stores such as this, spread throughout both Australia and New Zealand, that canned food for Finland was collected, a trickle of donations becoming a flood – and eventually enough to fill a number of Finnish cargo ships to capacity. In this way, some interesting Australasian delicacies found their way to Finland – some to be enjoyed, some not. As the war progressed and food shipments from Australia and New Zealand were organized on a more regular basis, Maavoimat soldiers could never be quite sure what their next meal would consist of…….
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From New Zealand, “K” brand plum jam was one of the most common “jam” items sent to Finland by the pallet load (and incidentally, was one of the most popular product lines within New Zealand – sadly, the company shut up shop at the beginning of the 1970’s after ninety years in business but the plum jam was great!)
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Teenage workers stir jam pans inside the “K” Factory, Nelson, New Zealand
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The manufacturers themselves began advertising, promoting products to be bought for shipment to Finland. “Recommend “K” Peach Jam – the best variety to include in Parcels for Finland”. And so, Maavoimat soldiers would end up with a lunch of Rye Bread with New Zealand Cheese and Peach or Plum Jam
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Another item that was donated in very large quantities from both New Zealand and Australia – although the brand shown here is a New Zealand one - “K” Brand spag with cheese (Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce with Cheese – an Australasian delicacy beyond compare….
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George Allen and staff in the Dominion Road Four Square store, Auckland, New Zealand with the items stacked on the counter and floor being a single day’s worth of donations to the Food for Finland Campaign made by customers.
Image sourced from: http://www.library.otago.ac.nz/pdf/hoc_ ... uring2.pdf
Packing sheep’s tongues into tins for shipment to Finland - at Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd plant in January 1940
There was of course a far wider variety of food donated than that shown above. In addition to wheat, canned meats, jams and staples such as Spag Cheese, honey, cheese, canned fruit and vegetables and fish, baked beans, vegetable soups, pork and beans, were also sent. Some of the more exotic donations were canned sheeps tongues, canned loganberries, dessert raspberries, diced fruit salad and even canned Bluff Oysters from the south of New Zealand.Perhaps the most awful of New Zealand exports, large quantities of Marmite were sent to Finland for finnish children. For those who have not had the pleasure, the taste of this so-called “food” is indescribable – although to the unwary it rather resembles a chocolate spread. As the manufacturer’s marketing slogan says with complete truth: "Love it or hate it."
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Marmite is a concentrate of yeast extract made as a by-product of beer brewing (and thus available in large quantities in New Zealand, both then and now). Marmite is traditionally eaten as a spread on bread, toast, or crackers and other similar baked products. Owing to its concentrated taste it is usually spread very thinly with butter or margarine. It was recommended for children due to i’s “healthy nature” and large quantities were sent to Finland for finnish children – who did NOT bless their benefactors. (For those interested in sampling this uniquely New Zealand taste sensation, please note that in November 2011, Sanitarium, the NZ manufacturer) shut down the sole production line of New Zealand Marmite at its Christchurch factory after damage from the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and its aftershocks. On 19 March 2012, the company announced that its stocks of Marmite had run out and the production line was not expected to be running again until July. Some supermarkets rab out of stock, leading to the dubbing of the crisis as "Marmageddon". Immediately after the announcement, panic buying of Marmite took place. Over one hundred auctions for jars of Marmite were listed on NZ online auction site TradeMe, with some sellers asking for up to NZ$800 per jar; over 185 times its usual retail price of around $4.25 per 250g jar.. The NZ Government advised people to use the spread sparingly, with Prime Minister John Key admitting he may have to switch to Australian rival Vegemite once his personal supplies run out. In June 2012, it was announced that additional structural damage had been uncovered at the factory, and the proposed July return to production was pushed out to October.
In addition to the donated food which was generally in small cans, bulk amounts of Rice and Sugar from Queensland were purchased for shipment. The Finland Assistance Organisation also used a good part of the money donated to purchase large amounts of bulk-canned foods. This consisted primarily of Tinned Mutton, Corned Beef and the ubiquitous cans of kangaroo tail soup, soon to become a frontline delicacy in Finland. Both New Zealand and Australia were large-scale suppliers of Mutton and Lamb for the export market, although even in the inter-war years the bulk of this export trade was in frozen meat. However, there were numerous canning plants in existence and it proved fairly straightforward to meet the Canned Meat orders from the Australian Finland Assistance Organisation.
The great advantage of canned meat of course was that it could be shipped without refrigeration and in ordinary cargo ships (refrigerated cargo ships were fairly specialist and the Finnish merchant marine had very few of these). It could also be stored in ordinary warehousing facilities, unlike frozen carcasses which required storage in specialist facilities. Canning plants had been used extensively for these very reasons in WW1, but in the inter-war years, Australian canning plants had deteriorated. Nevertheless, there was sufficient capacity available to process canned meats and soups for shipment to Finland and the canning plants remaining welcomed the business, even at cost. Remembering WW1, the Australian Government initiated follow-on orders for the canning plants which were taken up as the initial production for Finland came to an end.
Kangaroo Tail Soup (or Stew) was something of an unknown outside Australia, but the vast numbers of pestiferous kangaroos were in fact rather tasty and made a most acceptable stew. They were also more or less free – and in rural areas, there was a sudden surge in Roo hunting as the Food for Finland campaign suggested that any good patriotic Aussie who wanted to support the people of Finland should go out and plug a few Roo’s on a Saturday and bring ‘em back into town where the local butcher could quickly process them for the local canning plant to utilize.
And since shooting kangaroos was a popular pastime, the popularity of this activity was high in country districts. One could sit down for a beer at the pub or the RSA on a Saturday evening and when asked what you’d done, you could genuinely say you’d been out working for the Finland Assistance Organisation. With a grin. There was an added benefit in that the hides from the slaughtered kangaroos made superb leather.
Image sourced from: http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201108/r816267_7346932.jpg
The ubiquitous kangaroo tail soup, soon to become a frontline delicacy in Finland. Australia would ship enormous quantities of canned kangaroo tail soup to Finland (although if one was honest, one would say the main ingredient was chunks of kangaroo steak, rather than the tails which are rather boney appendages). Since kangaroos ran wild by the millions in Australia, the cost of the main ingredient was low. That said, most of the millions of cans of kangaroo tail soup would find its way to the soldiers on the frontlines, of whom many, it must be said in all honesty, DID acquire a taste for this marsupial delight – an indication of an affinity for Australian products among Finns which can still be seen in Helsinki today with its plethora of Australia-themed bars. Stockpiles of kangaroo tail soup would still exist in military warehouses at the end of WW2 – most of these were used up by the Lotta Svard organization in their relief work in the immediate post-WW2 years in the Baltic States, Poland and northern Germany. As one Finnish soldier was quoted as saying in an Australian newspaper – “it sure tastes better than Squirrel Stew….”
The Ingredients of a typical Can of Kangaroo Tail Soup as supplied to Finland included:
1 kilo (2 pounds) of kangaroo meat, diced
4 rashers of fatty bacon cut into large pieces
2 large onions diced, 2 large carrots diced, 4 medium potatoes cubed
50grams green peas, 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter, pepper and salt
1 tablespoon flour, 2 tablespoon tomato sauce, 1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
To make the Soup prior to canning, the diced kangaroo was lightly fried in butter for 10 min, add diced onions, garlic, bacon, pepper and salt. It was then fried for another 10 min after which pre-cooked vegetables were added and simmered for 30 minutes before stirring on flour and water, then adding tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce. As issued by the Maavoimat to Field Kitchens in the Winter War (and afterwards) to the horror of conscripts doing their training who had been subjected to the “Kangaroo Soup” horror stories of their fathers and older brothers who had sampled this antipodean delicacy, in many cases continuously for weeks on end, one standard can served two meals. A larger can serving 10 was also supplied in large quantities, generally issued to Field Kitchens.
In this Food for Finland campaign, Australian farmers, meatworks and unions would play a large part, with many farmers donating sheep for slaughter, meatworkers donating their work (an unusual occurrence in Australia but such was the popular support for Finland), the meatworks processing and canning the meat at cost and dockworkers loading Finnish cargo ships in their own time. All told, this was a significant quantity of food and one that would be much appreciated on its arrival in Finland.
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Melbourne Dockworkers ("wharfies") taking a break
Later in the Winter War, the Finnish Government would put the importing of food from Australia, Canada, the USA and South America on a more regular basis, with less reliance on donations and fund-raising, and more on the purchase of needed basics such as wheat, rice and sugar. Nevertheless, Australia could continue to be an important source of agricultural imports for Finland throughout WW2, largely transported on the large Finnish merchant marine which would continue to roam the worlds oceans throughout WW2, earning significant foreign exchange for Finland in the process.
Next Post: The “Uniforms for Finland” campaign
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In late February 1940, a small Brigade sized unit of 4,500 South American volunteers, most of whom were from Argentina but with one Battalion of Chilean mountain infantry, arrived at Lyngenfjiord on ships from Buenos Aires. This was the Regimiento Bolivar "Cazadores de Montana.” To those from elsewhere, South America is not often thought of as a continent whose soldiers are experienced and trained in winter warfare. However, this belies the obvious – the backbone of South America is the Andes mountain range – which also runs along the borders of a number of countries, including Argentina and Chile, the two countries with whom we are most interested as there are where 98% of the south American volunteers who fought in Finland came from. With much of their border areas being mountainous, both Argentina and Chile had early on trained sizable specialist units in mountain warfare, often in extreme conditions.
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…..both Argentina and Chile had early on trained sizable specialist units in mountain warfare, often in extreme conditions
To find the origins of the Argentine mountain troops, we must go back to the South American wars for independence. More precisely to the Chasseurs of the Andes founded by the famous Argentine liberator, General Jose de San Martin, for possibly the largest military operations and logistical maneuvering on the South American continent. An entire army under his command crossed the Andes mountains in the style Napoleon at Saint Bernard (Alps), hence the name "Army of the Andes". Specifically, this body of "Hunters of the Andes" (Chasseurs of the Andes) was wearing a uniform inspired in part by the British Light Companies of the Napoleonic Wars.
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The origins of the Argentine mountain troops …(lie in) ….. the Chasseurs of the Andes founded by the famous Argentine liberator, General Jose de San Martin
In WW1, mountain warfare and combat tactics gained prominence, particularly in the fighting along the Austrian-Italian front. Argentina, a country with a long Andean border and ongoing tensions with Chile, decided to send officers and military attaches to countries like Italy and Germany where mountain warfare was studied and particularly to Italy, where mountain warefare units were maintained through the inter-war years. Argentine officers received technical training and logistics training in the field of mountaineering, Military and Sports sking skills were also developed in these years. Both Argentina and Chile placed a strong emphasis on mountain warfare – in the 1920’s and 1930’s Argentina had a Mountain Warfare School outside Mendoza in the Andes, and Chile maintained a similar training camp on her side of the Andes. In the late 1930’s the Argentine Army began in earnest to modernize and update the doctrine and tactics of mountain warfare and promising young officers were often given the opportunity to train overseas in Italy before bringing their new-found skills together with knowledge of recent developments back to the Argentine Army Mountain Warfare School in Mendoza..
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Similar to the uniform of late 1939, the Model 44 Uniform (R.R.M.44), Argentine skier with snow camo. Painting by Argentine artist Marenco . Right: Mountain troop officer with model 46 uniform in earthy brown color.
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Argentine troops at the Mountain Warfare Training School. Mendoza
Important figures in Argentine history were sent on these educational trips – young officers such as Edelmiro Farrell, who trained as a staff officer at the Italian Alpine military school of Aosta and who would later in Argentina found the infantry regiments.
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El teniente coronel Edelmiro J. Farrell, commandante en jefe el destacamento de Montana Cuyo…. Farrell would later become President...
Training at the Argentine Mountain Warfare School was extremely tough, and instructors were expected to be among the best Officers in the Argentine Army. To qualify as a Mountain Warfare and Military Ski Instructor was no sinecure.
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Ski Training, Argentine Army Mountain Warfare School, Mendoza, Argentina, 1930’s
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Mountaineering training, Argentine Army Mountain Warfare School, Mendoza, Argentina, 1930’s
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Route-marching in the foothills of the Andes.
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The footwear of the Argentine mountain troops was not very different from other mountain troops of the era. It was basically a short waterproof combat boot in black with a three-layered sole that had hobnails, edge cleats and toeplates.
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Machinegun training. Mountain troops had to be able to bring their heavy weapons with them and use them accurately and efficiently in extreme conditions with challenging logistics – training that proved very applicable in the Winter War, where the Argentine and Chilean volunteers proved to be some of the best of the non-Finnish troops at fighting under the harsh conditions of an Arctic Winter.
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Machinegun Team – Live Firing exercise
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Officers and NCO’s of the Cazadores de Montana – Orders Group during training exercise
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Command group of the Cazadores de Montana during training exercise
The following report on the training of Argentine mountain artillery units was originally published in the US military journal “Tactical and Technical Trends”, No. 1, June 18, 1942 and serves to illustrate Argentine military capabilities at the approximate period of time in question.
"Argentine Mountain Artillery Training" from Tactical and Technical Trends
A demonstration was given by a 75 mm mountain artillery battery; all the men taking part were of the class of 1920 and therefore had been in the service a little over one year. The exercise was held in the foot hills about two miles west of Mendoza. The terrain in this region is very rough and rocky with no vegetation except cactus and small bushes. There are many steep slopes, slides, and chasms. All pack mules were led by men dismounted. One gun was taken in pack to the top of a hill over a narrow, knife-edge ridge which was so steep that dismounted men assisted the mules by hauling on ropes tied to each side of the packs. This gun was eventually placed in position on top of the hill. Another crew hoisted its loads to the top of a cliff by hand, first using rope ladders for the personnel. The loads were then taken across a deep arroyo on a rope cable with pulleys. The personnel also crossed in this manner and the gun set up on the other side. It was explained that the rope ladders and cables had previously been placed in order to save time. Nearly every pack carried a coil of heavy rope, and several rope cables were also carried. The battery detachment scaled a nearly vertical cliff on foot in the Alpine style to establish an observation post on a high hill. Communication equipment consists of telephone and radio. All these activities were conducted simultaneously.
Comments by observer: This demonstration is the best I have seen of Argentine army activities. Although rehearsed many times, as could be seen by the appearance of the ground, it presented a true phase of peace-time garrison training. The troops were in their every-day work uniforms and there was a total lack of parade ground atmosphere. The equipment was well worn but kept in serviceable condition. The guns were clean and working parts oiled. All in all, I was very favorably impressed with the efficiency by all ranks. (M/A Report, Argentina, No. 7809.)
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After training at altitude in the mountainous terrain of the Andes, the low altitude and almost flat terrain of Finland in winter seemed somewhat similar to Paradise for the tough Argentine soldiers – until they met the Russians….. “los rusos no eran niños chilenos de conejo” (“the Russians weren’t chilean bunny-boys”) as one Argentine soldier later said.
In the inter-war decades of the 1920’s and 1930’s, sking was not just a military pastime but also became a popular recreational activity for those well off enough to be able to afford the cost. Mendoza was not only used for military training, but became a popular ski resort for well-heeled Argentinos.
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Learning to Ski – Argentina, 1936
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Learning to Ski – Argentina, 1936
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Learning to Ski – Argentina, 1936
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And then of course, there were the “apres-ski” cocktails….
Returning now to the Argentine military, with a population (in 1938) of 12,762,000: in 1939, Argentina fielded the largest and most powerful armed forces in all of South America. Military service was compulsory for all males capable of bearing arms and between the ages of 20 to 45 years old (one year of which was in the active service and 24 years in the reserve). In 1938 the army numbered 47,467 full-time personnel, organized into five divisions based on military districts. Aside from these five divisions, there were also two cadre regiments of mountain infantry, three cavalry brigades, and several independent and service detachments. The training was generally modeled on that of the German army. The Argentine Navy was the 8th largest in the world during this period and was starting a period of considerable expansion. Personnel of the naval forces stood at 12,000 (including a 450-strong coastal artillery corps); its equipment included four line vessels (two of them old), two coastal defence armoured ships, three light cruisers, 16 destroyers, and three submarines, with a collective displacement of 107 000 tonnes. The main naval bases were at Puerto Belgrano and La Plata. The air force, prior to 1944, did not constituted a separate branch of the armed forces but instead various units of the air force formed integral parts of either the army or navy. In 1937 the army had 106 airplanes while the navy had 46. In 1939 there were three aviation groups, each group was composed of one fighter and three recon mini-groups (a mini-group was formed from two flights). The Argentinian armed forces served as a powerful weapon in frequent internal struggles for power (especially in the 1942-1945 period), and participated in numerous military coups.
Chile's army too was not insubstantial – it was based on a national militia system that emphasized total mobilization of the country's menpower. All citizens capable of bearing arms were required to serve in the armed services in case of a general mobilization. In 1939 there were three military districts which were obligated to raise a whole division in case of hostilities (in 1940 one more military district was created). The army consisted of three cadre divisions of the military districts (four from 1940) and a cavalry division (each division included three brigades). In the early 1940's each of these five cadre divisions included the following units: 12 regiments and four mountain infantry battalions, six cavalry regiments, four field artillery regiments, one heavy artillery group and six mountain artillery groups, four engineer battalions (pontoons, sappers, and communications), one regiment of railway troops, one regiment of heavy bridge engineers, two mixed detachments, and other units. On full mobilization the strength of the armed forces would reach in excess of 725 000 troops. The navy possessed eight large destroyers, nine submarines, two coastal defence ships, a surveying ship, a submarine depot ship, two oil tankers, and miscellaneous training and auxiliary vessels. It had some 8 000 personnel.
Thus, as we can see, the armed forces of both countries were substantial and with conscription, all male citizens had generally undergone a year of full-time military training. In addition, each country had sizable cadres of mountain warfare troops, with many more reservists who had undergone mountain warfare training during their period of compulsory military service.
Economically, despite the effects of the Great Depression, Argentina was still a wealthy country. Through the 1920s, Argentina had been the “breadbasket of the world” - and the world’s sixth wealthiest nation. In 1929, Argentina had had the world's fourth highest per capita GDP – largely built on the export of wool and meat. British investment in Argentina in the last half of the nineteenth century had been significant and as the British built railways stretched out across the country, both the cattle and sheep industries had flourished, making Argentina's fortune through the exporting of both wool and meat. Refrigeration ships were invented in the 1870's, enabling meat to be shipped in bulk to the expanding industrial countries of Britain and Europe. British immigrants formed a sizable and influential Anglo-Argentine community – the largest of any country outside the British Commonwealth. The world depression following the Wall Street Crash of 1929 devastated export markets but the collapse of international trade also led to internal industrial growth focused on import substitution, leading to a greater economic independence.
Argentine politics of the 1930s were essentially a conflict between the demands of an increasingly militant urban labour movement and the Conservatives, still powerful in the provinces and with allies in the armed forces. Through the 1930s a series of military backed governments, dominated by the Conservatives, held power; the Radicals were outlawed and elections were so fraudulent that it frequently happened that more people voted than were on the register. Yet the armed forces themselves were disunited: while most officers supported the Conservatives and the landholding elites, a minority of ultra-nationalist officers, inspired by developments in Europe, supported industrialization and the creation of a one-party dictatorship along fascist lines. Internal political conflict increased, marked by confrontation between right-wing fascists and leftist radicals, while military-oriented conservatives controlled the government. Though many claimed the polls to be fraudulent, Roberto Ortiz was elected president in 1937 and took office the next year, but due to his fragile health he was succeeded by his vice-president, Ramón Castillo. Castillo effectively took power in 1940; he formally assumed leadership in 1942.
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Jaime Gerardo Roberto Marcelino María Ortiz Lizardi (September 24, 1886 – July 15, 1942) was President of Argentina from February 20, 1938 to June 27, 1942. Ortiz was born in Buenos Aires and graduated from the University of Buenos Aires (after participation in an unsuccessful revolution in 1905) as a lawyer. He became active in the Radical Civic Union and was elected to the Argentine National Congress in 1920, serving as Minister of Public Works from 1925 to 1928. He supported the revolution of 1930 and served as Treasury Minister from 1935 to 1937. In the presidential elections of 1937, he was the official government candidate and won, though the opposition accused him of participating in electoral fraud. Soon after becoming president, Ortiz became seriously ill with diabetes and in August 1940, he gave up his powers to vice-president Ramón Castillo. He resigned a few weeks before his death. Ortiz was a supporter of Britain and France but due to the armed forces being largely Germanophile, Argentina maintained a neutral posture on the outbreak of WW2.
While the Argentine army was highly Germanophile, this did not involve a rejection of democracy but rather an admiration of German military history and military professionalism. This, combined with an intense Argentine nationalism, influenced the main stance of the army towards Britain and Germany on the outbreak of WW2: neutrality, with the perception of the war being as a conflict between foreign countries with no Argentine interests at stake. Only a handful of military took the Germanophilia to an actual support of Adolf Hitler. Argentina did however have an influential Anglo-Argentine population with major business and agricultural interests – and Britain was a major export market for Argentine meat and wool and would remain so throughout WW2. However, there WAS a strong Communist Party in Argentina which was oriented towards supporting the USSR. On the outbreak of WW2, the Argentine Communist Party toed the Stalinist line and opposed any support to Britain.
On the outbreak of the Winter War, in Argentina and Chile as elsewhere, support for Finland among the population at large was strong – although in South America, news of the attack on Finland by the Soviet Union had more impact in those countries with strong ties to Europe – primarily Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, all of whom had large immigrant populations who still had close ties to Europe.
We have previously mentioned that numbers of promising young Argentine Army Officers were sent to Europe, and particularly to Italy, to go through Italian Mountain Warfare and Ski Training schools. In 1939, one such officer was none other than Major Juan Peron who was sent along with other Argentine officers to the Merano Tridentine Alpini Division for military training and training in ski mountaineering we well as to observe other Italian military units and to visit other European countries. Perón had begun his military career shortly after WW1 and had made somewhat of a name for himself in1920 by resolving a prolonged labor conflict at La Forestal, a leading Argentine forestry firm. He went on to earn instructor’s credentials at the Superior War School, and in 1929 was appointed to the Army General Staff Headquarters. Perón married his first wife, Aurelia Tizón (Potota, as Perón fondly called her), on January 5, 1929. After supporting the wrong General in a military coup in 1930, Perón was banished to a remote post in northwestern Argentina, although this did not harm his career.
He was promoted to the rank of Major in 1939 and named to the faculty at the Superior War School where he taught military history. He served as military attaché in the Argentine Embassy in Chile from 1936 to 1938, after which he returned to his teaching post. His wife was diagnosed with cancer that year, and died on September 10 at age 29; the couple had no children. Perón was then assigned by the War Ministry to study mountain warfare in the Italian Alps in 1939 – an assignment which proved fortuitos for the up and coming young officer. He also attended the University of Turin for a semester and served as a military observer visiting Italy, France, Germany, Hungary, Albania, Yugoslavia, and Spain. He also studied politics, including Italian Fascism, Nazi Germany, and other European governments of the time, concluding in his summary, Apuntes (Notes), that social democracy could be a viable alternative to liberal democracy (which he viewed as a veiled plutocracy) or totalitarian regimes (which he viewed as oppressive).
Perón was in Finland as an observer with the Italian Alpini Division for the planned winter exercises in late 1939 when tensions escalated and Mussolini placed the Alpini and the other Italian units in Finland for the exercises at the disposal of the Finnish government and military command should war break out. Very much the Argentine man-on-the-spot, Perón was caught up in the enthusiasm of the Italians in support of Finland and made his own very public plea to Buenos Aires for Argentine governmental and military support for the dispatch of volunteers to Finland. The arrival of Maureen Dunlop, the highly photogenic Anglo-Argentine female pilot, as a volunteer in Finland made the front pages of every newspaper in Argentina – and joining her on the front page was the handsome young Major Juan Perón with an impassioned article supporting the dispatch of Argentine volunteers to fight in Finland – and himself volunteering to remain in Finland and fight as their commander.
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Photos of Major Juan Perón were splashed across the front page of every newspaper in Argentina alongside his impassioned plea for Argentine Volunteers to come to Finland. The image of Perón as a gallant combat commander of heroic Argentine soldiers fighting in Finland assisting the gallant Finns in their epic war against the Russians would serve Perón well in the years to come….
Support among conservatives in Argentina was strong, while the Soviet-oriented Communist Party expressed strong opposition. The military themselves were strongly anti-communist and the outspoken Argentine Communist Party support for the USSR, and vituperative criticism if Finland, merely served to overrule their instinctive reaction to remain neutral and to instead at least tacitly support Finland. The Ortiz government acquiesced, as it did on many issues, to the wishes of the military and announced officially in late December 1939 that Argentina would permit volunteers to travel to Finland to assist the Finns with official Argentine Government backing – and that former Major, now Teniente-Coronel Juan Perón, was appointed to lead the Argentine Volunteer Force into battle at the side of the gallant soldiers of Finland.
The response in Argentina surpassed the expectations of the military, the government and of Perón. Argentines by the thousands volunteered and, as elsewhere, support for Finland was strong, particularly among the more conservative members of Argentine society. The strong communist movement in Argentina continued to strongly denounce any assistance to Finland as being against the interests of the working classes, as represented by Stalin and the heroic workers of the Soviet Union and the comrades of the Red Army. The Army in turn announced that all ranks would be permitted to volunteer and within days, at first a Battalion and then two Battalions plus support units for a Brigade had been selected and were assembled just outside of Buenos Aires. These men were hastily transported southwards to Mendoza for refresher training while shipping was organized. At the same time, civilians worked to organize non-military assistance for Finland – the first example of which was a shipload of frozen Argentine beef which was to be dispatched together with the shiploads of volunteers and enormous quantities of Argentine wine donated by well-wishers.
In early January 1940, the Chilean government officially approached the Argentines and requested that a Battalion of Chilean mountain infantry volunteers be sent to Finland as part of a joint Argentine-Chilean volunteer brigade. It was at this stage that it was decided to name the volunteers the Regimiento Bolivar – the early Argentine inclination to opt for Regimiento San Martin after the Argentine national hero being deemed liable to spark a disagreement with the Chileans – and Bolivar was sufficiently acceptable that all volunteers of both nationalities would accept this name for the unit. Some three weeks later the Volunteers had been joined by the Chileans and all 4,500 men embarked on ship after a parade through Buenos Aires, where they were given a grand farewell.
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Argentine Volunteers of the Regimiento Bolivar in snow camo march on parade through Buenos Aires prior to embarking on ship for Finland. January 1940.
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Another photo of the Argentine Volunteers of the Regimiento Bolivar on parade
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Shoulder Patch for the Regimiento Bolivar "Cazadores de Montana"
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Fighting Knife of the Cazadores de Montana – many of the cazadores would return to Argentina with Finnish puukko knives which they had bought to replace the argentine-army issue knives. This founds it’s way into the mythos of the cazadores and today’s Argentine Army cazador companies maintain a tradition of all men carrying a Finnish “Puukko” knife.
There would be one further piece of tangible military assistance from Argentina to Finland. Argentina had ordered 12 75 K/40 artillery pieces from Sweden. With the dispatch of the Regimiento Bolivar to Finland in January 1940, the Argentine Government donated all 12 guns to Finland, merely asking that they be assigned to the Regimiento artillery battery, the personnel for which were amongst the Argentine volunteers.
Image sourced from: http://www.winterwar.com/images/GunsWrecoil/75k40c.jpg
The 75 K 40 was manufactured by Bofors for the Swedish Army and for export based on a Krupps design. The main export customer was Argentina, who had ordered 12 guns. All 12 were donated to Finland by the Argentine Government and were issued to the Field Artillery of the Regimiento Bolivar. Three of the guns were destroyed in combat. After the Winter War ended, the remaining 9 were returned to the Maavoimat before the volunteers returned to Finland and Chile.
Speaking of Chile, support for Finland was as strong in Chile as elsewhere and large amounts of money were raised. This resulted in the purchase from Sweden of what would be come known as the “Chilen tykki” – the “Guns of Chile.” In the mid-1920's, Swedish Bofors developed a 105-mm howitzer for export sale. The Netherlands purchased 30 of these howitzers to be used in its colonies at East Indies. However World War 2 changed plans: the Swedes found themselves in desperate need of more field artillery and so, in 1939 the Swedes confiscated 32 howitzers which had been ordered by the Netherlands and Siam (Thailand) but not yet delivered.
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The Bofors-manufactured 105 H/37 howitzer – 24 of these were paid for by Chile and supplied to Finland – they became known as the “Chilen tykki” – the “Guns of Chile.” The Swedes kept 8 for some months, but in May 1940 would transfer these 8 to Finland as well.
The 105 H/37 howitzer had a split trail with hinged spades, gun shield and wooden wheels with steel hoops. Later in the war the old wheels were replaced with new rubber tired wheels with a built-in brake system. The recoil system below the barrel was of the typical pneumatic/hydraulic kind. The breech system with a semi-automatic vertical sliding breech block (after firing a shot the system removed the used cartridge case and readied itself for loading the next shot) used in the howitzer allowed quite a high rate of fire - 10 shots/minute. The muzzle was equipped with a perforated muzzle brake and the sight system was the typical dial sight. The barrel was of autofregated structure (in other words: it didn't have sleeves). The howitzer was suitable both to be horse-towed and for motorised towing. Ammunition was cartridge-seated type with 6 propellant charge sizes. The limber used with the howitzer contained four shots. In service with the Maavoimat, the “Chilen tykki” would be used by Finnish artillery regiments throughout the Winter War and later in WW2.
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An artillery piece of the Regimiento Bolivar’s artillery battery going into action against the Red Army, July 1940. The professionalism of the Argentine Army artillery volunteers in the Winter War saw them very quickly acquire Maavoimat artillery techniques and make very effective use of these over the months of heavy fighting.
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Soldiers of the Regimiento Bolivar in Finland initially built snow shelters as per Argentine Mountain Warfare training. Their Finnish liaison officers soon taught them techniques better adapted to the Finnish winter conditions.
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“Soldiers of the Regimiento Bolivar led by Teniente-Coronel Perón moving up to the front to block a Red Army breakthrough. The confidence of the cazadores in their ability to put a stop to the Bolshevik attack is evident in their cheerful faces and swinging stride as they go into battle yet again….” (from the Buenos Aires “La Vanguardia” newspaper 28 July 1940)
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Teniente-Coronel Juan Perón in Finland: signed photograph from the photo album of his Maavoimat Liaison Officer
Of his time in Finland in command of the Regimiento Bolivar, Teniente-Coronel Perón would later write: “The terrain, the soldier, the fighting patterns, the climate and untamed nature of the Finnish forests; everything seemed to speak to us in a different language. The forest of Finland lends an atmosphere of surprise and the unexpected to the battle; in it, everything superfluous or apparent disappears and the battle leader must impose oneself. There one must be more than one seems. It was the true command school." In another passage Peron writes, "The art of command is intuitive but it is perfected by exercising it. Fighting in the winter war had needs that went beyond normal commands. One must love the soldier and the comrade in battle to be loved by them in return; an officer and a leader in battle must know the mens needs and share their hardships, their fatigue, their sacrifices; win their esteem and their confidence with your example." Of the cazadores, Perón writes, "We of the Regimiento Bolivar had to simultaneously combat with three enemies: the terrain, the climate and the enemy, our missions were always the most difficult, it was the most complicated tactical problems, the material means less potent and the actions were fought and won by the initiative and courage in battle of all...."
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Cazadores of the Regimiento Bolivar on parade in Finland, November 1940, immediately prior to returning to Argentina and Chile. The men of the Regimiento Bolivar performed many dangerous missions and fought to great effect throughout the Winter War under the command of Teniente-Coronel Juan Perón. In the last great battles of July and August 1940 the unit took heavy losses but would nevertheless continue to fight effectively through to the end of the war.
After the Winter War ended, Perón would return with the volunteers to Buenos Aires, where he was immediately placed in command of the Argentine Army Mountain Warfare Training School. This was in part a deliberate move by the Army command to remove Perón from Buenos Aires – he was already recognized as a “political” officer and with his high profile in Argentine newspapers as the “Hero of the Winter War”, his popularity had soared.
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Lieutenant Colonel Juan Perón in the center for mountain instruction in Mendoza upon his return from Finland. (He is dressed in a dark khaki colored open jacket and an earthy brown cap, specialty uniform for the Argentine mountain troops). Photo from and early 1941 Buenos Aires newspaper. Despite being stationed in Mendoza, Perón remained in the public eye.
Promoted to Colonel, Perón would play a a significant part in the military coup by the GOU (United Officers' Group, a secret society) against the conservative civilian government of Castillo (who as Vice-President had suceeded Ortiz on his death in 1940). At first an assistant to Secretary of War General Edelmiro Farrell, Perón later became the head of the then-insignificant Department of Labor. Perón's work in the Labor Department led to an alliance with the socialist and syndicalist movements in the Argentine labor unions. This caused his power and influence to increase in the military government. In Finland, Perón had also met a number of times with Finnish politicians and after the war ended, had spent his remaining time in Finland looking at the Finnish poltical model, nationalised and state-owned industries and the labor and social welfare legislation of the country. The obvious successes of these in raising the living standards of the Finnish workers had impressed him and thus when, after the coup, socialists from the CGT-Nº1 labor union, through mercantile labor leader Ángel Borlenghi and railroad union lawyer Juan Atilio Bramuglia, had made contact with Perón (and fellow GOU Colonel Domingo Mercante) he proved receptive to their approach and their ideas.
They established an alliance to promote labor laws that had long been demanded by the workers' movement, to strengthen the unions, and to transform the Department of Labor into a more significant government office. Perón had the Department of Labor elevated to a cabinet-level secretariat in November 1943. Following a devastating earthquake which claimed over 10,000 lives, Perón became nationally prominent in relief efforts. The Junta entrusted fundraising efforts to Perón, who marshalled celebrities from Argentina's large film industry and other public figures. The effort's success and relief for earthquake victims earned Perón widespread public approval. At this time, he met a minor radio matinee star, Eva Duarte. Following President Ramírez's January 1944 suspension of diplomatic relations with the Axis Powers (against whom the new junta would declare war in March 1945), the GOU junta unseated him in favor of General Edelmiro Farrell. For contributing to Farrell’s success, Perón was appointed Vice President and Secretary of War, while retaining his Labor portfolio.
As Minister of Labor, Perón established the INPS (the first national social insurance system in Argentina), settled industrial disputes in favor of labor unions (as long as their leaders pledged political allegiance to him), and introduced a wide range of social welfare benefits for unionized workers. Leveraging his authority on behalf of striking abattoir workers and the right to unionize, he became increasingly thought of as a presidential candidate. On October 9, 1945, Perón was forced to resign by opponents within the armed forces. Arrested four days later, he was released due to mass demonstrations organized by the CGT and other supporters. His paramour, Eva Duarte, became hugely popular after helping organize the demonstration; known as "Evita", she helped Perón gain support with labor and women's groups. She and Perón were married on October 2, 1945. Perón would be elected President in 1946, largely on the basis of his stated goals of social justice and economic independence – but his status as a genuine war hero from the Winter War certainly did him no harm. The rest, as we know, is history…..
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Another area in which Australia made a significant contribution was the “Uniforms for Finland” campaign that the Australian Finland Assistance Organization initiated. One thing both Australia and New Zealand were and are noted for from the early years of settlement was the production of high quality wool. There were a significant number of sheep bred for their wool in both countries – and the sheer volume of wool produced was enormous. In the nineteenth century most of this wool however was exported raw in bales to the UK, where British textiles mills did the processing and manufacturing. However, by 1909 some 9% of Australian wool clip was used by textile manufactories in Australia and New Zealand was similarly developing a large textile industry. The military requirements of WW1 boosted the industry, with almost all the wool produced during the war years being purchased by the Government At the cessation of hostilities, there remained a vast stockpile of unsold wool, and around 1920, in order to furnish employment for soldiers returning from overseas, the Australian Government took active measures to promote secondary industries, which contributed to the establishment of textile mills in a number of regional centres. The total number of textile and garment manufactories in Australia soon climbed to 4,575.
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Australian wool bales inside a cargo ship hold
A typical Australian mill established at the time was Wangaratta Woollen Mills, in Victoria, which was opened in 1922 and produced worsted knitting and weaving yarns by 1923. Confidence in the future was firm and plans to expand the operation by the addition of a scouring, carding and combing plant were being drawn up; this was supplemented by a dyeing and recombing plant in 1930. The cotton and flax sectors of the textile industry had not been idle all the while, and were establishing themselves during the post-war years. In 1923, in Sydney, George Bond (later Bonds Industries) commenced spinning cotton yarn and began the manufacture of towels and knitted garments and, in 1926, the Airedale Weaving Mills, of Melbourne, began weaving cotton tweeds and engineer's twist. The latter company pioneered the cotton-weaving industry in Australia which grew rapidly, with a number of different companies setting up factories. Almost without exception, all these companies imported overseas technology.
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Wangaratta Woollen Mills, Victoria
With the Depression of the 1930’s, the export markets for woolen textiles saw lower demand and the prices sheep farmers earned for raw wool dropped markedly, leading to financial difficulties for many sheep farmers in both Australia and New Zealand. At the same time, stockpiles of wool built up and even as late as 1939, these stockpiles were still substantial. And with approximately 110,000,000 sheep, many of which were Merino’s producing high quality wool, these wool stockpiles were of very high quality wool – some of the best in the world. Thus as we can see, in the late 1930’s there was a large and solidly established textile industry in Australia manufacturing textiles in both wool and cotton, an experienced workforce and existing stockpiles of war materials available at reduced costs. New Zealand was in a somewhat similar position and would also contribute a sizable quantity of uniforms for the Finnish military. New Zealand in the 1920s and 1930s also had a sizable textile industry and not only exported enormous quantities of raw wool (there were some 32,000,000 sheep in New Zealand in 1939 vis-à-vis 1,500,000 people) but also had a large number of textile and clothing factories, one of the largest of which was the Roslyn Mill outside of Dunedin, Otago.
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Other large New Zealand woolen mills included the Mosgiel Woollen Factory Ltd, Bruce Woollen Factory at Milton, the Oamaru Woollen Factory Co. and Lane Walker Rudkin’s Ashburton mill. In late 1939, war orders had not yet been placed and these mills had significant capacity available.
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Cutting and sewing uniforms for the Finnish Army - a crowded workroom in the Roslyn Woollen Mills, Kaikorai Valley, Otago (New Zealand), December 1939. One of the largest woolen mills in New Zealand and employing 2,500 workers in its mills, clothing factories and warehouse, Roslyn Mills would complete and ship some 100,000 articles of winter clothing destined for Finland by mid-December 1939. Roslyn Woollen Mills was only one of about a dozen New Zealand firms operating woolen mills on a similar scale who would also complete large quantities of winter uniforms for the Finnish military in record time. The Finnish orders for fabric for winter uniforms as well as for Army blankets kept the machines and clothing factories running 24 hours per day and stretched their capacity to the limit. Clothing manufactured from the various fabrics included special Shetland-blend underclothes and undershirts, heavy duty twill-weave woolen trousers, shirts, tunics, socks and heavy duty winter coats as well as woolen yarn for jerseys.
Additionally, there was a large tannery industry in both Australia and New Zealand taking both sheep and cattle skins and either processing the hides into good quality leather or curing the hides in brine for both local use and for export. Tanning was in fact one of Australia’s oldest industries, with the earliest known tanners in the country operating in Sydney from 1803 – and in the early years of Australia, one of the few products other than wool that could be exported was hides, which could be salted and exported raw. The early tanneries were on a small scale and generally family-owned businesses with a number of workers, with some expanding in the early twentieth century as they processed hides for export or for use by footwear and clothing factories. It is also interesting to note that there was also a slowly growing trade in kangaroo hides, as it was realized that kangaroo hide made leather that was of higher strength, lighter weight and more durable than that made from steer hides with 10 times the tensile strength of cowhide and some 50% stronger than goatskin.
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Workers pose outside the Keralgere Tannery at Morningside, Brisbane, Queensland ca. 1897 The men wear leather aprons and pose with a dog, tools and equipment. The 'Rossiter Brothers' sign is prominent on the workshop building, which has two-stories, a shingle roof and window awnings. The area is surrounded by bush and a horse and cart stands to one side
As with wool, significant stockpiles of raw hides and tanned leather existed, including (in Australia), significant quantities of kangaroo hide and kangaroo leather. Orders from Finland for various items of uniform and field kit (such as sheaths for Puukko knives, pistol holsters, belts and braces, straps for rucksacks, headwear, gloves and boots, as well as uniform clothing for tankers and aircrew would be manufactured in Australia and New Zealand from these stockpiles). This have a twofold effect on both countries – kickstarting the domestic textile industry into war production, so that when Government orders were finally placed the industry was geared up and ready, and also introducing some useful pieces of equipment that the Australian and New Zealand military would copy. We will look at these orders shortly.
A.H. Ellis and Co & Sleeping Bags from New Zealand
Another iconic New Zealand company which would supply Finland with specialist winter equipment was A.H. Ellis and Co., a company which had been involved in the design and manufacture of specialist outdoor equipment since the 1920’s. They made the first down-filled sleeping bags in the Southern Hemisphere and from the 1930s, the company’s sleeping bags became essential equipment for all New Zealand outdoor enthusiasts. The company had started out in 1877 when Ephraim Ellis, a hand-loom weaver from Yorkshire and Nicholson, the pioneers of the business, imported a flock machine and started making flock for mattresses in a barn. Sixty odd years ago ideas on this subject were not so advanced as they are today and with a single machine driven by a water-wheel, they made flock from wool which was then sold to upholsterers and furnishing shops. Each Firm made up its own requirements in the way of bedding, which was looked upon as a mere sideline.
The firm was dissolved and renamed E. Ellis and Co. sometime in the 1880’s and some progress must have been made within the next twenty years in the notion of what constituted a satisfactory bed, for in 1896 the Firm began importing kapok from Java and teasing it for sale along with the flock. In 1901 the manufacture of wire mattresses was started but in 1906 this was dropped and the manufacture of bedding started. About the same time electric power was introduced, and E. Ellis and Company was one of the first Firms in Dunedin to take advantage of this more economical and flexible motive power. From that time the business steadily expanded, but the processes of mattress-making did not change materially. Bedding was still a primitive case filled with primitive material and, finished laboriously by hand.
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An early A H Ellis & Co advertisement
In 1925 the Firm, now under the name of Arthur Ellis (Ephraim’s son) and Company Limited, modernized its bedding plant by importing machinery from America where rapid strides and revolutionary changes had been made in the mattress industry, and introduced the new style of inner spring mattress by importing the spring units and using wool felt batts for the filling instead of flock. Owing to the high cost of production, however, this type proved somewhat expensive and the older fillings were still also used. Another associated branch of the trade was started in 1926 when the factory was extended and equipped for the manufacture of down quilts. The whole process was undertaken from the importation of the raw feathers to the completion of the finished article, and "Faireydown" soon became a household word in New Zealand. In 1929 a furnishing warehouse was started in Dunedin, and this development proved so successful that branches were opened in Christchurch and Invercargill.
One or two members of the Ellis family were keen trampers (Kiwi slang for Hikers) in the rugged mountains of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Out of this grew an interest in the design of sleeping bags and outdoor clothing suited to extreme conditions. Hiking even then was a popular pastime in New Zealand and with demand making itself known, the company soon began to manufacture sleeping bags for sale to hunters and hikers. Word spread beyond New Zealand and the company quickly gained a worldwide reputation for the sleeping bags and outdoor clothing it designed and produced for mountain climbing and for polar conditions – with Faireydown sleeping bags being used in expeditions to the Himalayas and to the Antarctic.
Image sourced from: http://www.earthseasky.co.nz/images/her ... dellis.jpg
The Ellis family’s involvement in manufacturing outdoor products started in the 1920’s when Roland Ellis, combined his love of mountaineering with the manufacture of his company’s bedding products to develop and make the first down-filled sleeping bags in the Southern Hemisphere. From the 1930’s the company’s sleeping bags became essential equipment for all New Zealand outdoor enthusiasts. Post-WW2, the wide recognition of their excellence was endorsed internationally when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing used them during their first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953.
As a result of increase of demand for the Firm's products it was felt necessary in 1937 to undertake considerable extension in both the bedding and quilt departments and advantage was taken of the opportunity to install the latest plant both for mattress-making and for treating feathers, as well as machinery for making spring units and other components, thus enabling the production of the inner spring mattress (hitherto regarded as a luxury line) at a lower cost and its adoption as the standard. The Firm now had a staff of 135 and the program of modernization was extended in 1938 by the erection of a building housing the new office-, and an engineering workshop capable of maintaining and developing the plant in the two and a half acres of buildings which the factory now occupies.
Image sourced from: http://www.webs4u.co.nz/kaikorai/lower- ... s-1940.jpg
The Arthur Ellis factory in 1940
By 1939, A H Ellis & Co manufactured a small range of sleeping bags using either down or kapok as filling. These were rugged sleeping bags suitable for use in the alpine terrain of New Zealand and were designed to be durable, warm and lightweight (when compared to the weight of blankets that would be needed to provide similar warmth). At this time, it must be remembered that sleeping bags were very much a “luxury” item and were not in common use – and in fact much of the equipment that we now take for granted such as insulating pads to sleep on and load-bearing rucksacks were unheard of. In most of the Army’s of Europe a soldier’s rucksack and sleeping roll would look something like the picture below (although generally the blanket would be wrapped in a waterproofed groundsheet) – a very basic frameless rucksack with a bedroll and with additional equipment fastened on the outside. No real attention had been paid to the ergonomics of rucksack shape, loadbearing and design although you will see some rucksacks with a very basic waistband (which we will look at shortly)
Finnish Army rucksack and blanket
While New Zealand and Australia would supply large quantities of easily manufactured woolen blankets for military use, another less significant contribution was the manufacture and delivery of some twelve hundred sleeping bags by A. H. Ellis & Co. in a rapid timeframe. At the time, as mentioned above, sleeping bags were primarily a civilian item rather than a military one – and would remain so until well after WW2 – in Finland, standard issue sleeping gear would remain a blanket and greatcoat until well after WW2. However, the Maavoimat special forces units that had evolved over the last years of the 1930’s and which were tasked with operating behind enemy lines had to a certain extent developed their own equipment – one piece of which was a cold-weather sleeping bag for use in arctic conditions. In this, the Maavoimat had drawn on the early experiences of Arctic and Antarctic exploration and the equipment used in particular by the Norwegian explorer, Amundsen – and before him, Fridtjof Nansen – as well as the ability to live in arctic conditions of Finland’s own Sami people.
Peoples living in the arctic such as the Sami have long used skins such as reindeer for insulating layers to sleep on, together with blankets and coverings made from animal skins and fur. As sleeping mats, these furs provided warmth and comfort, with the stiffness of reindeer fur meaning it does not compress under body weight, providing unparalleled insulation and comfort. The disadvantage of reindeer skins is of course that they are heavy and bulky and are not easily man-portable.
Image sourced from: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/wp-con ... g-1888.jpg
The disadvantage of reindeer skins is of course that they are heavy and bulky and are not easily man-portable – here, an early primitive sleeping covering.
Sleeping bags as we now know them began to be developed in the last half of the nineteenth century. Perhaps the best known of these early developments was a prototype of an Alpine Sleeping Bag developed and tested in 1861 by Francis Fox Tuckett, an early Alpine Mountaineer. This prototype sleeping bag consisted of a blanket material with a rubber-coated fabric on the underside.
Image sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... F_1868.jpg
Francis Fox Tuckett FRGS (10 February 1834 – 20 June 1913) was an English mountaineer and one of the main figures of the Golden age of alpinism, making the ascent of 269 peaks and the crossing of 687 passes. In Scrambles amongst the Alps Edward Whymper called Tuckett "that mighty mountaineer, whose name is known throughout the length and breadth of the Alps". Tuckett entered his father's business as a leather factor and was also a gentleman farmer all of his life, taking two to three months off each year for alpine exploration (his first trip to the Alps was in 1842 in the company of his father). In 1882, his business, under the name of 'Tuckett and Rake', was at 18 & 20, Victoria Street, Bristol, and was described as 'Leather, Valonia, and Raw Hide Factors'. He was vice-president of the Alpine Club from 1866 to 1868, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. On 17 January 1896, at the age of 62, Tuckett married Alice Fox while he was in New Zealand in a climbing trip.
The next recorded development in the history of sleeping bags is the design, development and marketing of the “Euklisia Rug”, an all in one blanket, shawl and rug with a sewn in inflated pillow made in 1876 by the Welsh entrepreneur Pryce Jones, who also pioneered the mail order business. They were made from Brown Army Blankets originally made for the Russian Army. According to a copy of the Brown Patent ( http://a-day-in-the-life.powys.org.uk/e ... klisia.php ) in the Powys county archives, the wool sleeping bags were to be 2 yards and 11 inches long by 1 yard and 31 inches wide. These wool sleeping bags, which were the first to be mass produced and circulated, used fasteners to keep them closed. The success of this sleeping bag is supported by records which show that 60,000 Euklisia Rugs were sold to the Russian Army as well as being used in the Australian outback and missionary posts in Congo. It really didn’t look like a sleeping bag of today as it's more of a folded rug but with a couple of fasteners it would certainly be more recognisable as a sleeping bag. Despite these records none of the aforementioned sleeping bags survive today, however the rug has been recreated using the original patent by an antique cloth specialist and donated to Newtown Textile Museum where it is now on display.
In 1889, the first commercially produced sleeping “bag” (as opposed to a blanket) was designed and developed by Fridtjof Nansen and the company Ajungilak of Norway, for Nansen’s first expedition to the North Pole. The bag was made from reindeer fur and kapok fiber (Kapok fiber comes from the Kapok tree and is light, buoyant and resistant to water. Kapok fiber was often used in place of down as it retained its insulating value even when wet, until it was superseded by synthetic fillings in the 1980’s). Ajungilak of Norway was founded in 1855 in Oslo, Norway by Jacob Michael Breien, originally specialising in blankets, pillows and clothing filling and going on to be among the first to develop synthetic sleeping bags. In 1920 they made their first down sleeping bags and in 1932 they began to focus on the sleeping bag business. Also in 1932, Martin Mehren and Arne Hoygaard crossed Greenland using Ajungilak sleeping bags. Today Ajungilak is part of the Mammut Sports Group AG – and reindeer fur and kapok fiber are not currently used.
In Canada, similar development was running in parallel. The Canadian firm of Woods Canada, established in 1885 in the Ottawa valley by James W Woods to supply Canadians with canvas products, tents, sleeping bags and clothing designed for Canada’s harshest regions, entered the market for sleeping bags in 1895, producing bags under the “Woods” label. Between 1895 and 1900, Woods Canada provided equipment and clothing for countless Canadian pioneers and prospectors, with sales soaring with the discovery of gold at Bonanza Creek touching off the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1905, Woods products sailed with Amundsen on the tiny sloop Gjöa through the Northwest Passage and between 1906 and 1915, Woods would work closely with Amundsen to prepare equipment and clothing for Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole and his subsequent First Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913 - 1915). Woods would design the Arctic parka, combining outer shells of their patented Canatite® canvas with down insulation and traditional fur hoods – and Amundsen’s expedition would take Woods sleeping bags to the South Pole.
By contrast with Amundsen’s scientifically designed, developed and tested equipment, the British Antarctic Expedition of Robert Scott would make use of the now primitive reindeer fur sleeping bags. These had seem some improvements in design – they were tapered at the feet for example, similarly to today’s Mummy Bags, but they also froze solid in the extreme cold, meaning the user had to more or less thaw there way into them, and the reindeer fur trapped condensation inside, meaning continual ice buildup. The bags used by Amundsen would prove superior. (Incidentally, the reindeer fur sleeping bag used by Captain Lawrence Oates on Scott’s expedition is on display today at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge (UK).
Image sourced from: http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wp ... 00x450.jpg
Two members of Scott’s expedition working on their reindeer fur sleeping bags
Image sourced from: http://www.coolantarctica.com/images/watson_lg2.jpg
Frank Wild & Watson in reindeer fur sleeping bags and tent on sledge journey - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911-14
Through the 1920’s and 1930’s, the old reindeer fur bags disappeared, to be replaced in mountaineering and expedition use by either down-filled or kapok filled bags – or, for less extreme use, wool-filled bags. The type of fill used largely depended on climatic conditions – down was more suitable for extreme cold at high altitude where it could be expected to be drier, while kapok was preferred if there was a risk of the bags becoming saturated with water. Down certainly weighs less than kapok and retained heat better, but it cost more and if it did get wet, it provided even less insulation than no sleeping bag at all – something that could prove fatal in cold conditions. To a certain extent this could be overcome by the use of sleeping bag covers made of a waterproofed material, generally a light canvas with a rubberized-canvas base – but again, this added more weight. Wool repels water nicely and also resists compression, but it weighs much more than any of the other alternatives and when it did get soaked, weighed even more. Cotton suffers from high water retention and significant weight, but its low cost makes it an attractive option for uses where these drawbacks are of little consequence.
As mentioned, in the late 1930’s, special forces units within the Maavoimat began experimental use of civilian-type sleeping bags such as that illustrated below. For winter use, the Maavoimat began trials in 1938 with a small number of down-filled Ajungilak sleeping bags manufactured in Norway. There were around one hundred of these bags in Finland at the start of the Winter War and the reports from the winter warfare experiments over December 1938 to March 1939 had rated them highly. In the trials, a few improvements had also been made, included a collar round the neck to retain body heat within the bag and a “hood” to enclosed the head. Down on the underside had also been reduced as when compressed by body weight, it provided very little insulating value – instead, a lightweight rubberized-paper waterproof insulating pad that rolled easily was being trialed. The real benefit for the special forces units whose mission was to operate behind enemy lines for prolonged periods of time was the reduction in weight and improved comfort and warmth offered by the down bags – warmth in winter being a critical factor given that it was often impossible for small units behind the enemy lines to use stoves to keep warm. The down bags therefore offered real potential to the special forces units in extending the length of time at which they maintained themselves at peak condition.
Image sourced from: http://digi.kansalliskirjasto.fi/pienpa ... =3&type=hq
A lightweight Kapok-filled civilian sleeping bag manufactured and sold in Finland in the late 1930’s for summer use
The Maavoimat would continue to issue blankets to soldiers for general use. However, the modified Ajungilak sleeping bags that had been trialed proved to be useful enough that the Purchasing Teams were asked to purchase anything similar if this proved possible. In the event, two sources of supply were identified and orders placed. A H Ellis & Co in New Zealand would go on to manufacture twelve hundred sleeping bags and covers in the short period of time available, incorporating the new design features requested by the Maavoimat. Some six hundred down bags would also be purchased from Ajungilak in Norway and a further five hundred from Woods in Canada, together with a smaller number donated by well-wishers and a couple of hundred kapok and down bags donated by owners in Finland and a similar number from Sweden. The end result was that around 1,800 down sleeping bags were available for issue to special forces units operating behind the Soviet lines. It was not enough - but it helped, and those lucky enough to be issued a down bag certainly benefited in the months of winter warfare that were waged.
Image sourced from: http://go-armynavy.com/components/com_v ... t/1879.jpg
A. H. Ellis & Co down filled “Nordenskiöld” bag with water-resistant cover. This is the early issue Maavoimat winter-weight sleeping bag for special forces use, manufactured in late 1939 and delivered to Finland in early 1940. Some 1,200 were manufactured in New Zealand for use by the Maavoimat. No further bags were made after the initial run as A. H. Ellis & Co used up their down stockpiles and could not source further supplies until after the war.
However, A. H. Ellis & Co would go on to manufacture sleeping bags of a similar design but with a woollen filling rather than down. These were mummy shaped and weighed less than the blanket that was standard issue. However, while an early order from Finland for 50,000 bags was completed and delivered, the Winter War ended before further orders were placed. Finland would go on to manufacture similar bags domestically for the Maavoimat over 1941 to 1943, equipping a sizable minority of the military with these bags. However, the majority of the soldiers who fought over the period 1944-1945 in the war against Germany would continue to use the old-style blanket and greatcoat combination and it would not be until many years later that sleeping bags would see common use.
That said however, the small number of down bags that were supplied from New Zealand would also arrive too late to be of any real use in the winter fighting period of the Winter War. However, they were certainly appreciated by the special forces units in the fighting against Germany, by which time they were standard issue as it had proved possible to source more such down-filled sleeping bags from Canada.
Next Post: Returning to Rucksacks