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

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
Hosted by Juha Tompuri
User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

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

Post by CanKiwi2 » 26 Feb 2011 18:16

John Hilly wrote:Sorry to interrupt Your story, but...
About the English abbreviations.
It might be preferable to give us ignorants explanations e.g. of the followings:
OTL,
ATL,
POD.

With best
Juha-Pekka :milwink:
Apologies.
OTL = "Original Time Line" i.e. historical reality
ATL = "Alternative Time Line" i.e this little deviation into the realms of alternative history
POD = "Point of Departure" i.e., where an event in original timeline history is tweaked, adjusted or altered so as to lead into the alternative. POD's could be minor or major, with lesser or greater effects, and then there's the "Butterfly effect" where a series of minor POD's, seemingly insignificant in and of themselves, combine further down the timeline to have a major impact.

In this "What If", I'm "tweaking" the Finnish economy and industrial capabilities to give Finland a lot more GDP than existed in reality (about double as a very very rough measure). So from that point of view, it's not quite as close to "reality" as it could be, but it's far more fun to write.

And interruptions more than welcome :D
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
John Hilly
Member
Posts: 2586
Joined: 26 Jan 2010 09:33
Location: Tampere, Finland, EU

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

Post by John Hilly » 27 Feb 2011 11:42

Thanks for your explanations, Nigel! :D
But now there's a new one - the GDP - Gross ? Product? :?
In Finnish we have BKT - "Bruttokansantuote" - obviously meaning GDP, but can't figure out, what the D means!
Simple things can be irritating, or I'm a "Pilkunviilaaja", meaning something like "nut picker"?

Yours
Juha-Pekka :milwink:
"Die Blechtrommel trommelt noch!"

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

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

Post by CanKiwi2 » 27 Feb 2011 17:04

John Hilly wrote:Thanks for your explanations, Nigel! :D
But now there's a new one - the GDP - Gross ? Product? :?
In Finnish we have BKT - "Bruttokansantuote" - obviously meaning GDP, but can't figure out, what the D means!
Simple things can be irritating, or I'm a "Pilkunviilaaja", meaning something like "nut picker"?

Yours
Juha-Pekka :milwink:
Ah-ha, the joys of translating!

GDP = Gross Domestic Product

"Pilkunviilaaja" = Nit Picker. Must say, I am picking up new Finnish words every day

Cheers...............Nigel
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Origins of the Cadre-based Army

Post by CanKiwi2 » 10 Mar 2011 20:19

This is going to be a rather lengthy look (over a number of posts) at the origins of the Finnish Cadre-based Army structure (as opposed to a Militia-based system) in the 1920’s, as well as covering Conscription, changes to the military’s Mobilization Plans and the increasing role that women played in the fully-mobilized Finnish Military in the inter-war years. I’ll also briefly cover some of the changes in Military Training over the 1930’s, primarily around the introduction of the school-based Military Cadet organisation, membership of which became compulsory for both boy and girl-students in 1932. Military Training in the 1930’s will itself be covered. The objective of these Posts is to outline the foundations that were laid within the Finnish military in the 1920’s, and then to detail the high level training, mobilization and personnel-related changes that were made in the 1930’s and the impacts of these on military preparation and readiness. Also note that while there are constant references to the Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svärd organizations throughout these posts, these organizations are not covered in detail – that comes next after I've finished working through the Cadre Army and Conscription.

A Note on OTL vs ATL and sources: This next series of Posts combines a great deal that is actual history together with ATL changes. Everything on Conscription in the 1920’s and the origins of the Cadre Army is OTL, with much of the content unashamedly plagiarized from a PhD Thesis entitled “Soldiering and the Making of Finnish Manhood: Conscription and Masculinity in Interwar Finland, 1918–1939,” written by Anders Ahlback, which is the best English-language reference on the subject that I’ve come across. I’ve also referred back here and there to Knut Pipping’s “Infantry Company as a Society”, more for background information than anything else so you won’t see any plagiarism or direct references quoted from this book. Once you strip all the “Gender” and “Masculinity” references from Ahlback’s thesis, you actually have quite a useful historical record of Conscription in the Finnish Military in the inter-war period, as well as some good stuff on the origins of the Suomen Maavoimat (Finnish Army) as a Cadre Army, vs the Militia Army that was strongly supported as an alternative military structure at the time of Independence.

Changes to the Mobilization Plans are pure OTL, but when we get to the school-based Military Cadet organisation, the changing gender composition of the Finnish Military in the inter-war years and changes to Conscript Training and conditions in the 1930’s, this is all pure ATL, as are the references to the participation of Lotta Svärd members in semi-combat formations (and incidentally, the Finnish school dental nurse program referred to in a later post, although the information on the New Zealand school dental nurse program is accurate). OTL, Lotta Svärd members made an important contribution to the Finnish military during both the Winter War and the Continuation War, but this was always in non-combat roles, although I believe there were some city-defence AA-Gun units made up of Lotta Svärd members. Within this ATL, I have broadened, extended and formalized the participation of many more Lotta Svärd members within the Finnish military in a much wider combat support role and hopefully provided a justification for this that would be acceptable within the context of the period. If I haven’t, I’m wide open to suggestions / contributions on how it could be better justified.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did plagiarizing and adapting much of the content. I do recommend downloading the original Anders Ahlback thesis as well as Knut Pipping’s “Infantry Company as a Society” if you’re interested in reading more on the subject as, despite all the gender and masculinity references, the thesis is a great source of information on the origins of the Cadre Army and the debate around a Cadre Army vs a Militia Army that went on within Finland at the time, as well as covering the introduction of Conscription and the experiences of Conscripts at that time. And Knut Pipping’s “Infantry Company as a Society” is a one-of-a-kind study (its available from the Finnish Defence Forces website for download). For Finnish readers, there’s another good book by Juha Mälkki that I’m working through, “Herrat, Jätkät ja Sotataito: Kansalaissotilas-ja” – in English, that’s "Gentlemen, Lads and the Art of War: The Construction of the Citizen Soldier and Professional Soldier Armies into "The Miracle of the Winter War" during the 1920s and 1930s". Only available in Finnish however. Seems pretty good, but seeing as I haven’t finished working my way through it, I’m leaving the content out although content from it may appear in later posts.

Also, if you want to read about the experiences of an actual conscript in training in the later 1930’s, I’d recommend three books – of which only one is written in English unfortunately for non-Finns. John Virtanen’s novel, “Molotov Cocktail” ( Virtanen served in the Finnish Army in the Winter War and was writing from experience. Unlike Linna’s “The Unknown Soldier” and the other two books mentioned below which were written for a Finnish audience, Virtanen wrote his book in English for the US market (he moved to the USA after WW2 and it’s an easier and lighter read) and it has a couple of good chapters near the start that cover Conscript Training really well. We see a lot of the issues in Virtanen’s novel that Pentti Haanpää (see below) raises, with men who have already left school and started working being called up and resenting this strongly, as well as those with a left-wing background resenting serving in the “White” Army. However, Virtanen’s novel is more middle-of-the-road than the two Finnish books covered below which are at either extreme of the views on conscription and military service – Virtanen is more in the centre and while his protagonist resents being called up, he actually comes to enjoy his service and becomes an NCO.

As I mentioned above, there’s also two further good books (in Finnish). Pentti Haanpää, in his book “Kenttä ja Kasarmi. Kertomuksia Tasavallan Armeijasta” (Helsinki, 1928), presented his readers with a bitter critique of the nationalistic rhetoric surrounding the conscript army. He depicted life in the army as a grey, barren and anguished world of physical hardship, meaningless drill, humiliating treatment and unfair punishment. The conscripts in his fictional short stories are men of little education; farm hands and lumberjacks used to hard work and plain living. Nevertheless, these men think of the barracks and training fields as “gruesome and abominable torture devices”. For them, the year spent in military service is simply time wasted. Haanpää described Finnish working men as brave soldiers in war but extremely recalcitrant conscripts in peacetime. Military service offended two basic elements of their self-esteem as men: personal autonomy and honest work. If they could not be in civilian “real” work, they saw more dignity in fighting the system by deceiving their officers and dodging service than in submitting to fooling around in the training fields playing what they saw as pointless war games. Very much the point of view of the left-wing working class.

By way of contrast, Mika Waltari (an author more widely known than Pentti Haanpää outside of Finland due to his best-selling novels) was two years older than Pentti Haanpää and had already attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree before doing his conscript service. His diary-like documentary of life as a conscript (Siellä Missä Miehiä Tehdään, Porvoo, 1931) is marked by an unreserved eagerness, depicting military training as almost like a Boy Scout camp with an atmosphere of sporty playfulness and merry comradeship. He is carried away by the “magical unity of the troop, its collective affinity”, depicting his army comrades as playful youngsters, always acting as a closely knit group, helping, supporting and encouraging each other. To Waltari, his fellow soldiers were like a family; the officers admirable father figures, and the barracks a warm and secure home. He pictured military service as the last safe haven of adolescence before an adult life of demands, responsibilities and duties. At the same time, the army was the place where boys, according to Waltari, learned of a higher cause and thereby matured into the responsibilities of adulthood. Much more of a middle-class conservative viewpoint.

Waltari, Haanpää and Virtanen certainly provide an interesting contrast in views and ones that well illustrate the devisions and debates at the time.

And now……

The Finnish Army (Suomen Maavoimat): the Cadre vs Militia Debate

Following the Finnish Civil War, the Finnish Army was established as a “Cadre” Army. What this meant was that the permament Army personnel consisted of a small core of Officers and long-service NCO’s, while the bulk of the Army at any particular time was made up of Conscripts doing their period of military service.

In 1918, there had been no Finnish military for almost twenty years. Cultural and institutional military traditions in Finnish society had faded away, although they had not been completely forgotten. Finland had been spared from major military conflicts ever since the war of 1808-09, when Russia conquered Finland from Sweden. For most of the nineteenth century, there had only been a few Finnish military units, consisting of two or three thousand enlisted, professional soldiers. Universal male conscription was introduced in the Russian empire in the 1860’s–1870’s and the diet of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland enacted a conscription bill of its own in 1878. For the elite of Finland, the eight conscripted rifle battalions and one cavalry regiment created around 1880, consisting of Finnish youngsters, led by Finnish officers and stationed in Finland, symbolised a significant step towards Finnish nationhood.

A “Finnish Army” was added to the old Swedish legislation, the provincial diet, and the Finnish central bank, currency and stamps introduced in the 1860’s. All these institutions marked Finland’s cultural and political autonomy from the Russian motherland. However, the Finnish state simply could not afford to feed, house and clothe whole age classes of Finnish men. Less than one young man in ten was therefore called up for three years of active military service in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Another 30% were placed in the reserve and given a mere 90 days of military training, spread out over three years. The majority of men were completely excused on an array of different exemption clauses, such as a weak constitution, bad health or being their family’s sole provider. Through the latter half of the 1800’s, Finnish political thinkers had been building a notion of Finland as a separate state in personal union with the Russian Empire, contrary to Russian views. Starting in 1899, the Russian central authorities took measures to counteract what they interpreted as an increasing threat of Finnish separatism and manifest the authority of nationwide legislation in Finland. Finnish nationalists perceived of this as perjury and an oppression of Finnish political autonomy and national culture. A matter at the core of Russian concerns was actually a reform of conscription in Finland. The Russian government wanted to homogenise it with military service in Russia and integrate the Finnish troops into the imperial army. The Finnish troops were therefore dismantled in 1901–1902.

The new military service law of 1901 resulted in nationalist mobilisation and widespread “conscription strikes” in Finland. Fewer than half of those who received call-up papers were present at the draft in the spring of 1902, although the number of Finns who would actually have to perform military service under the new law was tiny; 500 of those eligible for the draft in 1902 and 190 in the next two years would be selected by lot. Eventually, the Russian authorities deemed it was better to have the Finns pay a hefty sum towards the defence of the empire than to have continued unrest in a strategic borderland and have Finnish soldiers as disloyal troublemakers in the ranks of the Russian army. The military service law was suspended in 1904 – and with it all conscription for the inhabitants of Finland. 5 The Finns did not even have to send their sons off to the Great War of 1914–1918, where almost two million conscripted young men from most other parts of the vast Russian Empire perished.

The Russian Revolution, Finland’s declaration of independence in December 1917 and the Finnish Civil War of January–May 1918 brought military matters back to the fore in Finnish politics and society. A political struggle raged over what the duty to fight for your country would actually mean in the new Finnish national state. A majority soon accepted this as a duty, but a heated debate continued for years over exactly what this duty should entail in peacetime society. This is shown by an analysis of the parliamentary debates over conscription, which are used as a prism of the attitudes to the conscript army. Admittedly, what is said in parliament is usually a mixture of sincere opinions, expediency and political tactics. Many things that all agree upon are never voiced, whereas some minor detail upon which opinions differ can be object of much argument. These debates must therefore be read with care and caution. In a democracy, with an extensive freedom of speech such as Finland experienced in the interwar period, parliamentary debates possibly give an exaggerated impression of the resistance within society to government policies. Yet they also display how those in power try to publicly legitimate their course of action. Moreover, these debates were not “just rhetoric”, but had a direct impact on the institutional arrangements of conscription and military training.

Two different models for the military were competing with each other in the political arena: the militiaman and the cadre army soldier. In the militia system, there would be universal conscription but no standing peacetime army. All those liable for military service would gather at regular intervals for a few days or weeks of military training, and only a small number of officers would be full-time military professionals. In the cadre army system, as used in the German, Russian and Austrian empires before the world war, the conscripts lived fulltime in a standing conscripted army for a fixed period of time – usually one to two years - and were given intensive military training by a relatively large corps of professional officers and NCO’s. In case of war and mobilisation, this standing army would form the “cadre” and the organisational framework, with the Army itself would be filled out with reservists. (Note that after the mobilisation system was reformed in 1932, Finland did not technically speaking have a cadre army any more. In this post, the term “cadre army” wwill be used when discussing the debates in the 1920’s, instead of the perhaps more descriptive “standing army”, since it was the term used by contemporaries. For the contemporary understanding of the militia system vs the cadre army system, see the parliamentary committee report on conscription in 1920, Asevelvollisuuslakikomitean Mietintö, Komiteamietintö N 23, 1920, pp. 48–50, 77).

The day after Finland had declared independence on December 6th, 1917, the Finnish parliament started debating a bill that proposed the establishment of the national armed forces. Fundamental questions were raised for debate, from the basic ethical justification of armed forces to their intended purpose, whose interests they would serve, whom they would actually be directed against, as well as what kind of educational and moral impact army life would have on young men. In the prolonged and heated debate, which both proponents and opponents understood as concerning a crucial political decision, a vast array of different arguments were put forward, displaying the scope of conflicts and disagreements over military, security and foreign policy.

After the February 1917 revolution in Russia, Finnish society had entered a state of disorder and uncertainty (as we have seen). The political system of the Grand Duchy regained its autonomy, which had been circumscribed by the Russian war administration, but large Russian military detachments remained stationed in Finland. Russian officers had been murdered by their men at the beginning of the revolution and the remaining officers had difficulties controlling their men. There were instances of Russian soldiers committing crimes, causing disorder and terrorising Finnish civilians. More importantly, there were strikes and demonstrations as the workers’ movement tried to seize the opportunities offered by the general upheaval. Food shortages caused by the international situation provoked riots and strikes by farm workers in July and August resulted in outbursts of political violence. The gendarmerie had been closed down by the change of regime and the maintenance of order in towns taken over by local committees and militias.

Starting in the spring of 1917, citizens’ guards were springing up to fill the void left by the paralysed state authorities. At first these were mainly “Red Guards” formed by socialists and workers, but as a reaction, ever more non-socialist civil guards, also known as “White Guards” or “Suojeluskuntas”, followed suit. In July, the provisional Russian government dissolved the Finnish provincial parliament, which had a social democratic majority. The new parliament, elected in October, now had a non-socialist majority, which made the carrying out of legal reforms to appease the worker’s unrest more difficult. The Social Democrats still obtained 45% of the popular vote, only 2% less than in 1916. Following the October Revolution in Russia, the Social Democrats arranged a general strike in Finland, which in places disintegrated into violent crime and clashes between Red Guards and Suojeluskuntas. Over 30 people were killed. Hopes of a socialist revolution in Finland and fears of a civil war were very much in evidence, as political polarization deepened.In this situation, the liberal representative Antti Mikkola (1869–1918) submitted a motion to parliament, supported by MPs from all non-socialist parties, demanding that a national military be created and that the Russian troops leave the country immediately.
Image
Antti Mikola (1869-1918)

The stated purpose of Mikkola’s motion was to avoid a civil war by providing the lawful government with organised regular armed forces. Mikkola described this new army as a “people’s army”, temporarily based on the old conscription law of 1878, until a “people’s militia based on universal conscription” could be developed along the lines of the Swiss militia system. This was an obvious attempt to win the support of the Agrarian Party and the Social Democrats. These popular parties of the political centre and left both harboured a deep mistrust of the “cadre” armies of the Russian and Prussian type, which they associated with monarchism and with the aristocratic authoritarianism of nineteenth century society. This should not be understood as a resistance to the idea of the citizen-soldier as such, or against the duty to take up arms to defend one’s country. Rather, it expressed an aspiration towards a more democratic, republican, even anti-authoritarian vision of a military system where the citizen-soldier could retain more of his autonomy as a free citizen.

The Agrarians and Social Democrats between them actually had a majority in parliament for most of the period 1917–1922, but they were unable to unite around this issue. Due to the inflamed domestic situation in 1917, the debate on Mikkola’s motion became a power-struggle between socialists and non-socialists over whether parliament should grant the government any kind of armed forces to restore order. The Social Democrats believed that the proposed army would primarily be used against the Red Guards and filibustered the bill. The first reading dragged out into January 1918, as more than a hundred addresses were made. Parallel to the endless debate, the Social Democrats actively campaigned against the bill among their voters. Their critique of a national conscript army in parliament thus became wide spread. It can be assumed that the arguments they used were well remembered during and after the Civil War of 1918, when a military system bearing a strong semblance to the kind they had criticized was indeed established.

The main thrust of the social democratic representatives’ critique of the proposal was the assertion that the planned armed forces were not really intended to protect the country from external threats, since any military defence that Finland could establish was negligible in comparison to the resources of the surrounding great powers. Its real purpose, they claimed, was to defend an economic system of capitalist exploitation against the just demands of the working class. They referred to examples from Russia, Germany, France, England and America, where capitalists had allegedly used the military to crush the workers’ legitimate struggle for better conditions. They also dismissed the Swiss militia model, which they claimed had proven fit to be a tool for the class interest of the Swiss bourgeoisie and condemned by the Swiss workers. If the bourgeoisie tried to enforce conscription according to the old law of 1878, the workers would not obey. “The conscious youth of Finland will not sacrifice its time, health, life and limb for the spoils of the bourgeoisie and to support its oligarchy”, stated MP Yrjö Sirola.

In addition to their tactical reasons for opposing the bill, the Social Democrats were drawing on a long tradition. In the second half of the nineteenth century, German social democrats co-opted liberal ideas from half a century earlier, about standing armies as instruments of absolutist power and a hindrance for liberal democracy. Drawing on republican notions of free men and citizen defending their liberty and their people, liberals in many European countries had envisioned some form of civic militias, “arming the people” as an alternative way of protecting both the national borders and civic freedoms. From the 1860’s onwards, the emerging social democratic movement continued both the critique of standing armies and the enthusiasm for the militia system of democratic liberalism. The German social democrats regarded the Prussian cadre army as a political and moral threat to the working classes. They claimed that it served only the interests of the ruling classes, both domestically and abroad, and pointed out that its leading positions were reserved for members of the social elites although its costs were born by the working classes. Social democrats thought that military training in the conscript army stifled young working class men’s potential for intellectual development. They regarded military education in its existing form as an education in coarseness, brutality, stupidity and slavishness. Unable to essentially change the military system, the German social democrats carried on a continuous criticism of the cadre army in parliament, for example exposing case upon case of scandalous maltreatment of conscripted soldiers.

Repudations of capitalist “militarism” and “imperialism”, especially the standing armies of the colonial powers, became an important part of international socialist ideology after the founding of the Second International in Paris 1889.15 The influential German social democratic Erfurt Programme of 1891 included demands for replacing the standing cadre army in Germany with a Volkswehr, a militia army. It also called for international conflicts being settled peacefully in arbitration courts. The analogous Forssa Programme, adopted by the Finnish Social Democrats in 1903, demanded decreased military burdens, a militia to replace the standing army, and “the idea of peace realised in practice”. An important pamphlet in this tradition was Karl Liebknecht’s Militarismus und Anti-Militarismus (1907), which was promptly translated and published in Swedish in 1908 and in Finnish in 1910. Many of the arguments used by the Finnish Social Democrats in 1917 can be found in this work.

The debate on the Army expanded to include the moral consequences of military education. The Social Democrats claimed that Mikkola’s motion would revive the old Finnish conscript army, “that compromise between Russian and Finnish militarism of the 1870’s, a perfect copy of Russian militarism”, with an aristocratic officer corps that formed a “closed and insular caste”. The Finnish people, they said, had always detested that institution, and young men had done all they could to evade being drafted. It was socially unfair, since the sons of the wealthy could use various exemption rules to dodge conscription. Worst of all, it was a place where young men of the working classes were brutalized by the officers’ teachings and the immorality of life among soldiers. Anni Huotari and Hilja Pärssinen, the two female socialist MPs who participated in the debate, both opposed any kind of militarisation.
Image
Anni Huotari, Socialist MP

Huotari stated that Finland’s women regardless of political colour “needed their husbands, brothers and sons to take care of and protect their homes”. They would not allow their men to be “packed into the morally corrupting atmosphere of military barracks.” MP Antti Mäkelin recollected serving in the old conscript army himself in 1894, at a time when food riots had occurred in Helsinki, shops been plundered, and the military was put in a state of alert. According to Mäkelin, the officers lecturing the soldiers drummed into them that they must fire on command, no matter what – even if their own parents or siblings were in the targeted mob. “Is that not a horrible education?” exclaimed Mäkelin: “There a father who has done everything to make his boy a man, there a mother, who has suffered good and bad times with her child, trying to make him a decent man. And when he has become a decent man, a brisk youth, a strong man, he has to kill his own mother and father, if the interests of capitalism demand it and the capitalist orders him to. This is what it is like, my good friends, the spiritual education you get there!”

Non-socialist MPs countered this description of the old conscript army with recollections of their own, pointing out how the physical, civic and military education received there had all been excellent, as proven by the fact that former soldiers could be seen in many responsible occupations in society, often enjoying great esteem in their local communities. “Thus our conscription law did not produce depravity, but on the contrary, it lifted many a depraved youth to a new life”, said Vilhelm Joukahainen of the Agrarian Party. Others stated that it did not matter what the old army had been like, since now the Finns for the first time had an opportunity to create a truly national military. Agrarian MP Juho Kokko envisioned that the new national form of conscription would infringe as little as possible on individual freedoms, “there will be quite another relationship between the men and the teachers, it will be as democratic as only possible”. Thus, he indirectly subscribed to the criticism of the old cadre army, although he claimed that many who had served there were now highly respected men in their local societies. He thought many of the trouble-makers “robbing and arsoning” in the recent riots could be educated into proper, orderly, real men through military training.

Most articulate in his visions of the positive moral qualities of the army-to-be was the Rev. Paavo Virkkunen (1874–1959) of the conservative Finnish Party, future Speaker of Parliament and Minister of Education. According to Virkkunen, Finland needed armed forces to preserve and represent its authority as a civilised state, to enforce domestic order, and “for the advancement of national backbone and conduct in our life as a people.” Most representatives of the non-socialist parties confined themselves to presenting a national armed force as a natural and inevitable institution in an independent and sovereign state.

Socialist and Non-Socialist Anti-Militarism

International socialist anti-militarism had differing threads. Some socialist opposed “bourgeois” armies, but accepted the violence of socialist revolutionaries, while others were genuine pacifists. This was demonstrated by the ambiguity of the Finnish Social Democratic MPs in 1917. Some Social Democratic MPs made it understood that they were ready to support a national militia-based army, but only “when true democracy with real civic liberties has been realised here and reforms carried out which are worthwhile to defend by armed struggle.” MPs Yrjö Sirola and K.H. Wiik explicitly underlined that they were not “tolstoyans”, i.e. pacifists but believed in the right of citizens to arm themselves in order to defend their lives and civic rights. Others declared that ordinary people increasingly opposed any form of armed forces and that Finland had no need of an army. The country could not afford the requisition and maintenance of “modern murder tools” nor keeping “thousands of men languishing in barracks instead of doing something useful”. The Christian commandment to love one’s neighbour was also cited. There were calls for Finland to be “a pioneer in the cause of peace” and expressions of amazement and disgust over how the bourgeoisie wanted to enforce the “capitalist curse” of militarism in Finland at the very moment when “the exhausted peoples of Europe are crying out against the raging war-madness”.

The resistance against a militarisation of Finnish society was not limited to the socialist movement. During the fall of 1917, some “bourgeois” groups, especially women’s organisations, had issued pacifist manifestos objecting to the establishment of Finnish armed forces. Ever since the mid-nineteenth century, there had been notable pacifists among Finnish clergymen, scientists and politicians. Pacifism had been an available and respectable position in Finnish society for a long time, especially among the idealistic proponents of popular enlightenment. Historian Vesa Vares has even characterised the Zeitgeist in Finland in 1917 as “very pacifistic” and the mood among moderate conservatives on the eve of the Civil War as anything but belligerent. He points out that the only heavyweight politician to publicly take a stand for the proposed armed forces in the contemporary press was K.N. Rantakari of the conservative Finnish Party.

Sabre-rattling was definitely not the order of the day among the non-socialist mainstream.Yet in the parliamentary debate only two non-socialist MPs, Gustaf Arokallio of the Young Finnish party and Antti Rentola of the Agrarian Party – both clergymen – resisted the proposed new Finnish Army. They argued that conscription sustained a warlike spirit even in small nations and dragged down young men, especially those from the bottom layers of society. They agreed with the socialists that the old conscription system of 1878 was repugnant to the majority of the people. Therefore, the re-enforcement of conscription would only accelerate the country’s slide towards civil war. The proposed army would do more harm than good, they thought, since Finland’s independence could neither be achieved nor preserved by armed forces, but only by national unity and international acknowledgement of Finland’s neutrality. These pacifist voices were hailed with cries of approval from the left, but found no support among their party colleagues. In view of the escalating political violence in the country, all the other non-socialist speakers stressed that a military institution was needed to maintain law and order and to protect all citizens’ property and personal security.

Some of the proponents of the bill gave assurances that they completely supported international disarmament and peace efforts, but said that as a small nation, Finland could not be a forerunner or take another route than that taken by the surrounding nations. As long as other countries were heavily armed, Finland had to gather all its strength to secure its independence. It was, in summary, every Finnish citizen’s regrettable, but inescapable duty to submit to these realities. Several non-socialist MPs dismissed the social democratic anti-militarist rhetoric as a grotesque farce, pointing out that as they spoke, the Red Guards were acting in an increasingly threatening fashion and taking on an ever closer resemblance to a full-scale army organisation. MP Santeri Alkio (1862–1930), the central ideologue of the Agrarian Party and a onetime peace idealist, stated that he did not believe that the proposed armed forces would be able to fend off an external enemy. However, as the Red Guards had become a threat to the democratic system and to Finland’s independence, he said he had been forced to abandon his earlier idealistic notion that Finland could do without “a bloody sword to secure the government’s authority”.

In midst of all the controversy, some things were taken for granted by both socialist and non-socialist speakers in this debate. The non-socialists envisioned military service as a place where unruly uneducated men of the lower classes could be given basic education and be educated and trained into decent honourable citizens – turning hooligans into pillars of society. A common feeling of patriotism would be induced in men from different classes and divert their attention from inner divisions towards common challenges. Thus, the army would support the prevailing social order, both by the physical enforcement of law and order and by an ideological influence. This was roughly what the socialists thought too – only to them this represented the dystopian preservation of an unjust society and the disciplining of the exploited workers by their induction with a false consciousness. In their view, the proposed army would produce ideologically blinded lackeys of capitalism, “hired murderers”, corrupted beings with no moral principles who would shoot at their own parents on command; men whose manpower was wasted for no useful purpose as they lazed away in the garrison, prevented from doing honest work and debauched by the vices of barracks life.

Opposed to this counter-image of the military and of democratic citizenship, a very different socialist citizen-soldier was implicitly outlined. This erect and courageous class-conscious worker would thwart capitalist militarism by refusing conscription and would take up arms only at his own will. He would never merely obey orders from above, but only fight for the just causes of emancipating the working class or warding off an external aggressor. All parties thought that the proposed army was primarily intended for the restoration of domestic order, although they differed in their views of what this order should be. There was a prevailing notion across the partylines, although by no means unanimous, that a Finnish national army would not stand any chance against the armed forces of any of the surrounding greater powers. These sceptical notions of the meaningfulness of armed struggle against foreign foes would soon take a sharp turn, whereas the various notions of the moral impact of military training would prove very tenacious throughout the interwar era. A decision on Antti Mikkola’s bill, however, was never reached, as the outbreak of civil war in January 1918 interrupted the work of parliament. Mikkola himself was imprisoned and shot by Red Guards in Helsinki on 1st February 1918, three weeks after the end of the debate.

The Civil War and the creation of the “White Army”

The Finnish national armed forces of the interwar “first republic” grew out of the military mobilisation against the attempted socialist Revolution and the resultant Civil War of January-May 1918. The winning non-socialist side referred to this armed conflict as “the Liberation War”, since they understood forcing the Russian troops out of the country and securing Finland’s political independence as the central objectives of their own troops. Yet the Bolshevik government had officially recognised Finland’s sovereignty in December 1917 and the Russian troops in Finland did not appreciably interfere in the fighting. The socialist leadership had declared no wish to rejoin Finland with Russia. The term “liberation war” thus carried a politically charged claim that the essential meaning of the war had not been an internal struggle among Finns over the future political and economic system, but a national struggle for Finnish independence from Russia. It was a way of insisting that the war had not been a tragic war between kith and kin, but indeed the valiant war of liberation planned and prepared for by Finnish nationalist activists long before 1918.38 “The Liberation War” also signalled that Finnish independence was the result of the deeds of Finnish freedom fighters, not the haphazard outcome of the internal collapse of the Russian Empire.

According to this nationalist viewpoint, the military struggle of the White Army was key to Finland’s national rebirth into an independent state. Thus, the founding of the national state became intimately connected to the military and to national valour, just as it had been in other noteworthy model cases of national liberation such as the United States, revolutionary France, and Prussia at the time of the Napoleonic wars or the Franco-German war of 1870–1871. The “whites” afterwards liked to describe this “Liberation war” in terms of a spontaneous rising of the freedom-loving, patriotic and lawabiding Finnish peasantry. Finland, still being a predominantly agrarian country, where rural life was often idealised by conservative nationalists – themselves often belonging to groups of the urban elite – the free-holding male peasant was crafted into the archetype of the valorous Finnish citizensoldier.

One version of this story was offered to Finnish and foreign visitors at the first Finnish Fair held in Helsinki in 1920 through a special multilingual issue of the army magazine Suomen Sotilas: “The Finnish Army was created in an hour of peril, when the hearts of the people were kindled by patriotism. – It rose into existence from the imperative necessity of homes and hearths having to be defended against the onslaught of native and foreign rebels, whose villainy had brought the old culture of the nation to the verge of destruction through rebellion. Then the peasants of Finland rose voluntarily to fight for their lawful Government. They left their homes hidden in the snow-wreaths of winter and gathered round their great Commander to expel the enemy from the borders of the land, fighting hard battles nearly unarmed and enduring want and hardship. And finally they carried off the victory. This glorious host of volunteers in the Battle for freedom formed the basis of the present standing army of Finland.” The “glorious host of volunteers” here refers to the Suojeluskuntas, the Civil Guards, who (as we have seen earlier) formed the initial fighting units on the non-socialist side as the political tensions exploded into open civil war at the end of January 1918..

Motivations for soldiering in the 1918 Civil War

After the war, both socialists and non-socialists mostly depicted the men on their own side as going to war out of patriotism or class-consciousness, idealism and valorousness, whereas the opponents were driven by economic self-interest, bloodthirstiness or sheer villainy. In reality, most Finnish men who fought the Civil War probably joined because they were forced to – for economic, social or legal reasons. There was no general belligerence or enthusiasm for war in Finland 1918. The “patriotic” citizens on the ‘white’ side who volunteered to fight against the socialists in 1918 scarcely constituted sufficient numbers to actually win the war. The Civil Guards were a volunteer corps based in local communities. They sent some detachments to the front, but as it transpired, the majority of the guardsmen were reluctant to leave their home districts. They thought it was their duty only to defend their own village or municipality. This soon provoked demands for the introduction of universal conscription by activists trying to mobilise the “white” population. In mid-February, an editorial in the Ilkka newspaper, mouthpiece of the Agrarian Party, complained that some regions in the government-controlled territory were filled with “cowards and layabouts”. Ilkka demanded that the old conscription laws should be enforced. “He who has no manliness and sense of honour must be forced – forced to protect his home, his family, his kin and his property”, Ilkka wrote. In some districts, citizen’s meetings had already voted for introducing municipal conscription. This, however, should not be understood as evidence of a general atmosphere of war enthusiasm, but rather as indications of a perceived lack of a proper readiness to fight voluntarily.

The “White” Guards who actually fought at the front included members from all layers of agrarian society, including workers, although half of them were from freeholder families. The voluntary guardsmen at the front were highly motivated, but had received little or no military training before the war. Their notions of discipline were often different from those of the White Army command, which mainly consisted of Finnish military professionals who had made a career in the Russian army. These professional officers were often Swedish-speaking members of the old social and economic elite. The rank-and-file guardsmen had strong notions of their autonomy as voluntary troops, and often took a suspicious attitude towards professional officers and authoritarian leadership. There were incidents where civil guards would disregard orders from the headquarters or refused to accept commanding officers they disliked. Stories were later told of whole units that simply decided to leave the front for the weekend to go home to their village and go to the sauna, whereupon they would return to the front, clean and rested.

The Red Guards were in principle also voluntary troops. At the outset, there was even a formal demand that red guardsmen must be members of some organisation within the workers’ movement. According to historian Jussi T. Lappalainen, those who joined the red guards before the Civil War or in its early stages did so for idealistic reasons. The strong solidarity within the workers’ movement made even previously anti-militarist groups join the fight once the war broke out, for example the social democratic Youth League in Helsinki. However, due to continued food shortages and the shutting-down of many civilian working sites, many red guardsmen probably joined the guards mainly to support themselves and their families. There was most likely also a strong group pressure within many workers’ organisations. Just as on the white side, the local red guards were often reluctant to leave their home district and go to the front. However, conscription was never introduced in the areas controlled by the socialist revolutionaries. Not counting several instances of compulsory enlistment at the local level, the leadership of the insurgency adhered to the principle of revolutionary volunteers, even in the face of pressure from their own district commanders and impending military catastrophe.

There were obvious similarities between the anti-authoritarian notions of military discipline among the Civil Guards and the Red Guards, but the phenomenon was more extreme among the socialists. Many detachments elected and dismissed their own commanding officers. There were attempts at transferring the democratic meeting procedures from workers’ associations to military decision-making. According to Lappalainen, by March 1918 the spread of absenteeism, desertion and refusal to obey orders was making purposeful leadership almost impossible. Harsh punishments seem to have been incompatible with Finnish socialist ideology – capital punishment had expressly been abolished at the beginning of the revolution in Finland. The government troops at the front were in dire need of reinforcements for an offensive to end the war. In a declaration on February 18th 1918, the senate called all male citizens liable for military service to arms, supporting the call-up on the legal authority of the conscription law of 1878 that was now declared never to have been formally abrogated. Historian Ohto Manninen has assessed that the population in the territories controlled by the government generally accepted this decision, with only scattered and isolated expressions of opposition. The preamble to the 1878 law stated that every male Finnish citizen was liable for military service “for the defence of the throne and the fatherland”.

Some who refused the call-up disputed the applicability of this law in an internal conflict. As objectors pointed out, there was no throne any more. Some propertyless workers scornfully stated they had no fatherland either since they had no land. Some questioned the legal authority of the senate to decide on such a matter. However, according to Manninen’s calculations, a mere 3–10% of those liable dodged the call-up. The motive for avoidance varied, from socialist sympathies to a desire to remain neutral or because of a conscientious objection. An important further motive was naturally fear – not only fear for one’s own life, but often for the livelihood of those one provided for. The introduction of universal conscription changed the nature of the White Army, and moved it away from a voluntary citizen’s movement towards a compulsory state institution. As the White Army’s numbers peaked towards the end of April 1918, conscripted soldiers made up about 55% of the White Army or about 39 000 troops. The remaining 45% consisted of volunteers in the civil guards and enlisted troops, and some of these had probably volunteered or enlisted already knowing that they would otherwise be conscripted. In general, Ohto Manninen characterises the conscripted troops as better disciplined and organised than the voluntary guards. Yet they occasionally posed problems of another kind for their commanding officers, providing some forewarning of the problems that the post-war conscript army would face: recalcitrance, shirking and malingering due either to leftist leanings among the soldiers or general indifference to the government’s war aims.

A “National” Army in a Divided Nation

While the Civil War ended in May 1918, the government’s “white” army was never dismantled. When the fighting ceased, army detachments were used to secure the country’s borders and guard the internment camps for the red guards, where over 80 000 people were detained awaiting trial. The voluntary civil guards soon returned home. Most of the conscripted troops were also demobilised, but the youngest conscripts were kept on duty and the army stayed in a state of alert. There were thousands of deserters, red guardsmen and other “politically untrustworthy citizens” still in hiding. Until and beyond the signing of a peace treaty with Soviet Russia in October 1920, the immediate threat of a war with Russia only gradually diminished. In the wake of a German military invention in the Civil War, requested by the Senate in Vaasa (and over the strong opposition of Mannerheim, it must be said), there were also 15 000 German soldiers in the country. By resorting to German arms deliveries and military support in the Civil War, the Finnish government had made Finland a close ally, if not a vassal state of the German empire.

During the summer and fall of 1918, as the Great War on the European continent still raged on, German military advisors supervised the reorganisation of the national armed forces and the military training of conscripts in Finland, naturally with a keen eye for German military interests. However, they had to leave abruptly in December 1918 following Germany’s military collapse on the Western Front. Immediately after the Civil War, there were highly conflicting attitudes towards the national armed forces among the population. The socialists associated both the Civil Guards and the conscripted Army with their military defeat and the maltreatment and summary executions of red prisoners in the prison camps. It has been calculated that some 5,200 Reds were killed in action, but another 7,200 were executed, shot or murdered in the so-called “white terror” towards the end of the war. An even greater number, 11,600 men, women and children on the losing side died from starvation or disease in the prison camps. The executions and atrocities in the internment camps surrounded the defeated with a horror that soon turned into deep bitterness, as the winners meticulously investigated any crimes committed by the insurgents, but protected the white terror with a pact of silence and oblivion. These experiences and stories also fed the hatred of the ‘white’ army, which in the losers’ eyes fitted only too well into the descriptions articulated by social democratic politicians before the war; a murder tool in the hands of capitalists to break the backbone of the working class.

However, the bitterness and suspicion was certainly mutual and well-founded on events. More than 1,400 non-socialist “class enemies” had been executed or murdered by the red guards during the revolution, and 3,400 Whites killed in action by the red guards. Finnish conservatives were deeply shocked, hurt and traumatised by the attempted revolution and the rancorousness of the proletarians, so far removed from nineteenth and early twentieth century images of a humble and hard-working Finnish people, struggling peacefully towards cultural and moral advancement under the leadership of the educated classes. Those non-socialists who had expressed pacifist leanings before the war were in many cases “converted” by the shock of the Civil War to ardent support of the new armed forces. Vesa Vares illustrates this with many examples, e.g. that of the Agrarian MP, Rev. Antti Rentola who had resisted the creation of armed forces in December 1917. In February 1918, he wrote of the civil war in the Ilkka newspaper as a “holy war” since it was “no militarist war”, but “the use of the sword of authority belonging to the divine order to punish the evil. (…) This is God’s war against the Devil.” There had been a shift in mentalities. Most of the non-socialists thought of the “white” army as a heroic host of liberators who had given the red “hooligans” what they deserved, restored law and order, and secured Finland’s independence from Russia. History seemed to have vindicated the activists who had tried to mobilise the nation into military action.

As the initial excitement over victory ebbed, an unfavourable attitude towards the army spread beyond the working classes over the fall of 1918. This had to do with reports of food scarcity, epidemics, deficient lodgings and ill-treatment of conscripts. In the wake of the war, there was a general food shortage over the whole country and the brand new army was underfed, underfunded, understaffed and poorly quartered in old Russian barracks that often were in a state of major disrepair. The officer corps was mixed and ridden with internal tensions, as former Russian imperial officers who had loyally fought in the tsar’s army until 1917 and the so-called Jäger officers, militant nationalist activists who had been trained in the German army during the Great War, did not always get on well together. There was widespread dodging of the call-ups in 1918, desertions and incidents of mutiny in some detachments that the military authorities blamed mainly on the men’s undernourishment. The material circumstances slowly ameliorated and dodging and desertions soon decreased. Yet the build-up of the regular army was for many long years obstructed by heavy ballast from the Civil War.

The Militiaman challenging the Cadre Army soldier

The conscript “cadre” army that had emerged from the confusion of the Civil War was regularised through conscription laws passed in 1919 and 1922. Yet it did not go unchallenged. First the Agrarians and then the Social Democrats presented their own visions of national defence and Finnish soldierhood, based on different configurations of democratic, republican and socialist idealism, and highly critical of the system at hand. As the Finnish parliament resumed its work in the summer of 1918, its members had been reduced almost by half. All but one of the Social Democratic MPs were absent. Some were dead; others had fled to the Soviet Union or were imprisoned facing charges for participation in the red rebellion. As the government in November 1918 presented this rump parliament with a bill for adjusting the old conscription law to the new circumstances, the political frontlines were therefore quite different than in 1917.

On the threshold of the civil war, the agrarian agenda for a people’s militia had drowned in the escalating ideological quarrel. In the new circumstances after the war, however, the Agrarians suddenly found themselves in opposition to the other non-socialists parties. Their alternative to a “conventional” conscript-based Cadre Army was highlighted for a short while, as they demanded that the cadre army born out of the Civil War be replaced by a people’s militia as soon as possible. Historian Juhani Mylly has located the origins of the people’s militia idea within the Agrarian Party to its main ideologue Santeri Alkio’s political thinking at the time of the party’s founding in 1906: “In the style of an idealistic leader of a youth association, Alkio at that time argued for the superiority of the militia system in relation to the cadre system, by referring, among other things, to those moral dangers he thought the youngsters would be exposed to far from their homes”. Mylly also points out that the Finnish Agrarians shared their distrust of standing armies and their interest in the alternative people’s militia model with agrarian parties in many countries, especially in Eastern Europe. The people’s militia model was well suited to the democratic and republican ideology of the Finnish Agrarian Party, where it was seen as a kind of people’s army that brought the issue of national defence concretely into the everyday life of ordinary citizens. To this peasant’s party, always economical with the taxpayer’s money, the relative inexpensiveness of the militia system was also of great importance.

Republican and Authoritarian Military Traditions

The Finnish Agrarians admired and supported the Suojeluskuntas (Civil Guards). In 1918–1919, they regarded them as a model and inspiration for how the national defence system should be organised. They resisted the separation of the Suojeluskuntas from the Army in 1918 and wanted to integrate them into the national armed forces. In accordance with European liberal democratic traditions, they associated a standing Cadre Army with the upper class life-style of aristocratic officers, pointless drilling, ostentatious display and parading, as well as moral corruption of the conscripts, especially through drinking. According to Mylly, the Agrarians thought the Cadre Army was an anti-democratic tool for the unsound ambitions of warlike monarchs. This notion must have been strengthened by the fact that the conservative government proposing a conscription bill in November 1918, based on the Cadre Army system, had for months been busy trying to make Finland a monarchy closely aligned to the German empire. The sovereign was even mentioned in the wording of the bill, although the parliament of 1917 had declared Finland an independent republic.

Having recently experienced the rebelliousness and “political immaturity” of the working classes, the right-wing parties were anxious to shape a new form of government that would ensure political stability and guarantee the educated elites a certain measure of control. The plans for a monarchy were wrecked in November-December 1918 by the German defeat in the Great War. Due to pressure from the victorious Western powers and the other Scandinavian countries a centrist republicanism gained the upper hand, including a policy of conciliation towards the workers’ movement: broad amnesties for “red” prisoners and permission for reformist Social Democrats to re-enter parliamentary politics. Nevertheless, the solid establishment of the Cadre Army system can be seen as one part of the larger political project of securing the social status quo.

The origins of the Prussian cadre army system, which in its 1918 German Reich version served as a model for the build-up of the Finnish Army, can actually be found in a very similar need to control the explosive force of arming the lower classes. Military historian Stig Förster has described the development of conscription in nineteenth century Prussia, and eventually in the German Kaiserreich, as the integration of the new, explosive forces of “a people in arms” into the traditional standing army organisation with its strict discipline and hierarchical command structure. Early nineteenth-century professional officers and military experts regarded the various forms of self-mobilised people’s militias that sprang up in the era of the democratic revolutions as inefficient in the long run and, above all, very difficult to control. In order to ensure the Prussian monarchy’s absolute control of the conscript army, even as an instrument of power in domestic affairs, conscripts drafted for active service in peacetime were subjected to an intense military training lasting three years, during which the conscripts lived in garrisons relatively isolated from civilian society. In the same way, the cadre army system in Finland should ensure that the conscripts were disciplined into a military force controllable by the government. Although the militia model resembled the organisational principles of the cherished Suojeluskuntas, the resemblance to the Red Guards may well have been too close for bourgeois sensibilities.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Origins of the Cadre-based Army

Post by CanKiwi2 » 10 Mar 2011 20:23

The Agrarians’ case for a People’s Militia

Since the Agrarians could not find support for their Militia model in the 1918 rump parliament they first tried to get the whole conscription bill rejected, and then concentrated on arguing that two years of military service for 20 year-olds as the government was proposing was far too much. Agrarian MPs Santeri Alkio and Antti Juutilainen both depicted the Cadre Army system as a relict of yesterday’s world and the military experts propagating it as “adepts of the old Russian school who cannot grasp that armies in today’s world can be trained and put together more rapidly than before”. Alkio argued that interrupting young men’s working lives and plans for several years would only provoke discontent and thus weaken the army. He held up the people’s militia model as the future goal to strive for. “Finland’s experience during [1918] shows that on this basis, as the people rises to defend its fatherland and its freedom and to create new conditions, a shorter training will suffice. All that is needed is patriotic enthusiasm”. In another flush of nationalist self-congratulation, Agrarian MP Mikko Luopajärvi claimed that due to the Finns’ fighting spirit, the arrival of small and rapidly trained Finnish voluntary troops on the battle scene had been a turning point in the Estonian war of independence. Asserting that the Finns accomplished more with merely a brief military training than the Estonians, who had served for four or five years in the tsar’s army, Luopajärvi tried to prove that it was more important to ascertain that Finnish soldiers had the right motivation to fight than to give them a very thorough military education.

His party fellow Juho Niukkanen agreed and quoted German military experts who had praised the Finnish soldier material as better than in many other countries. Not only was an overly heavy military service thus unnecessary, Niukkanen claimed, it was irreconcilable with the Finnish national character itself. It has also been said of the Finns, that “whereas they are good soldiers, they are also stubborn and persistent. They cannot wantonly be hassled or commanded against their will to carry out tasks that are obviously repulsive to them or to pointless military expeditions. (…) To my understanding, a Finnish soldier properly fulfils his assignment only if he feels the purpose he has to fight for, to shed his blood for, to be worth fighting for. For this reason, the Finnish soldier should not without cause be vexed with a too long duration of military service(…).” Niukkanen was skilfully harnessing a certain image of Finnish character to his political objective of gaining support for a military service of just 12 months’ duration. Between the lines in Niukkanen’s depiction of ‘the Finn’, one can also read an acid critique of the upper-class military establishment, with its “foreign” traditions for military training, and the rumoured plans for a Finnish military expedition against St Petersburg led by General Mannerheim to topple the Bolshevik revolution.

An image of straightforward valiant soldiers of the people, excellent fighters but only for a just and necessary cause, is juxtaposed with an implied image of irresponsible, possibly too cosmopolitan and aristocratic officers who do not understand these men. In spite of the controversy over military systems, there was a new consensus and optimism among the non-socialist parties in the fall of 1918 regarding what Finnish soldiers could achieve. Although the Minister of War, Colonel Rudolf Walden, and others spoke warningly about the Bolshevik’s growing military strength, it was now generally accepted that Finland could and should defend itself militarily in case of a Russian attack. The events of 1917 and 1918 – the Russian revolution, the partial dismantling of the empire, the Russian civil war and the nationalist interpretation of the Finnish civil war as a war of independence from Russia – had evidently given Finnish decision-makers an image of Russia as a weak military power. Russian military might was by no means considered harmless, but the prewar conceptions in Finland of Russian absolute military advantage had been swept away – at least in the political rhetoric. The Agrarians especially, claimed that the Finns could beat the Russians superiority in numbers by superior fighting spirit and patriotic fervour.

The Temporary Law of 1919 – introducing “Universal” Conscription?

As it transpired, there was cross-party support in parliament for cutting the length of military training from 24 to 18 months, against the advice of military experts. In a still deeply divided society, an overly heavy military burden was evidently seen as a greater security risk by the MPs than a possibly insufficient number of troops in active service. Many members of parliament were anxious about the possibility that conscription might not produce docile patriotic citizens, but the opposite – rebellious sentiments in young men. The parliamentary committee for military matters stated, “during almost two decades, our people has lacked a military establishment, Wherefore the conscripts would think it exceedingly burdensome being compelled to leave their proper activities for two years. A duty that feels overly heavy, could again give reason for discontent with the national defence and the whole legal form of government.” The committee found it was “more important that the army is completely trustworthy than that it excels in technical skills”. Concerns were expressed that passing the law in a parliament where the workers had almost no representation risked undermining the legitimacy of both the conscription law and the conscript army. This problem of legitimacy was solved by passing the bill as a “temporary” conscription law. The government was requested to present parliament with a new conscription bill “as soon as circumstances permit”.

Parliament expressly instructed the government that the new bill should reduce both the financial burden of the armed forces and the time of service “as much as possible”. The 1919 Temporary Conscription Act regularised truly universal conscription for the first time in Finnish history. Parliament repealed the lottery procedure of the 1878 law as unequal and unjust. In practice, however, only about half of each age cohort was actually given military training around 1919–1920, due to medical reasons and large-spread dodging of conscription. As the internal situation in Finland stabilised, dodging became increasingly difficult, but the percentage of men never given military training for medical reasons remained high. In 1926–1930, a yearly average of 36% was still rejected at the call-ups. OTL, in 1932–1936 the share of rejected was 24%. About a third of those rejected were “sent home to grow up” and taken into service a year or two later, when their health or physical strength had improved. The number of Finnish men that did not receive military training slowly decreased, as living conditions improved through economic growth, from roughly a third of each age cohort in the mid-1920’s to one sixth in the mid-1930’s. Thus, even in the interwar era of “universal” conscription, a significant share of younger men as well as most older men never did perform military service nor undergo military training.

Socialist fears of “undemocratic” armed forces

As part of the policy of national re-integration pursued by centrist political forces – including broad amnesties for the socialist insurgents and social and land reforms to appease social tension – the Social Democrats were permitted to return to parliament in the spring of 1919 and did so in almost their pre-war strength. They received 38% of the popular vote and 80 seats out of 200. Their representatives immediately started pushing for military reform, claiming that Finland through the events in 1918 had found itself with an “old, imperial-style army” that not even the burghers were happy with. Having changed their mind since 1917, they now wanted a people’s militia similar to the Militia in Switzerland, which they asserted would be more affordable and more democratic than the Cadre Army. A militia, they claimed, would not threaten neighbouring countries the way a standing army always did, and would thus promote peace. Since most of its officers would be civilians, “for example folk school teachers”, there would be no breeding ground for a dangerous caste spirit among them. The suggestions of different Social Democratic MPs varied, from a basic military training period of four months to the militia exercising every Sunday and for one or two weeks each summer. Based on self-discipline, they explained, the militia system would be more motivating and meaningful for the conscripts, and better at arousing their patriotism than the cadre army system, which was based on external compulsion.

On the surface, this suggested Militia bore a remarkable resemblance to the Suojeluskuntas organisation cherished by the political right and centre. Yet the Social Democrats were highly critical of the Suojeluskuntas. They regarded them as a state within the state, an armed organisation with leanings to the extreme right and not necessarily controllable by the legal government. They disputed the Suojeluskuntas claim to political neutrality and accused them of meddling in domestic politics, forming a threat to democracy. Debating conscription in parliament in 1922, social democratic MP Jaakko Keto criticised both the Suojeluskuntas and the Cadre Army for being armed organisations threatening the republican form of government. A militia system was necessary for the preservation of the republic, he stated. The Social Democrats repeated much of their 1917 critique of standing armies in the early 1920’s. The long months of incarceration in the barracks resulted in loathing and reluctance towards military service, as well as moral corruption of the conscripts; “innocent boys are led astray into immorality, drinking, pilfering, theft and forgery”.

Abuses of power and bullying of soldiers were well-known from Cadre Armies around the world, claimed MP Oskari Reinikainen, and they could never be checked because they were inherent in the system. The cadre system was not only a heavy economic burden for the citizens and incompatible with practical life – leading to loss of employment and difficulties to provide for one’s family – but also a danger to democracy. Since it was built on training the soldiers into unconditional obedience, there were no guarantees that these soldiers could not be used for reactionary purposes domestically and abroad – in other words, to put down strikes by Finnish workers or to attack Bolshevik Russia. Referring to the Russian and Prussian origins of the Finnish cadre system, the Social Democrats feared a military coup of some sort and frequently warned of the “undemocratic spirit” in the officer corps. Yet in spite of their loathing of the existing army system, the Social Democrats did not want working class men to be excluded from the civic duty of military service. They were enraged by a paragraph in the conscription bill of 1921 that allowed for the possibility of barring politically “untrustworthy” conscripts from military training and assigning them to labour service instead. These “Red paragraphs”, it was said, demonstrated how conscription was oppressive towards the working classes.

Yet somewhat inconsistently they also urged the bourgeoisie not to delude itself into thinking that the modern youth could be indoctrinated into unconditional loyalty to the government through military training. Due to the close contacts between the soldiers and the public in modern society, even a very long military service could no longer uproot the soldiers’ principles and produce the ideal bourgeois soldier. In 1924, the Social Democratic MPs exposed to parliament that an unofficial system for political classification of new recruits was being practiced in the armed forces. The “trustworthiness” of recruits was graded by the military authorities, in co-operation with the call-up boards and the local police and Suojeluskuntas, according to whether they were active members of the Suojeluskuntas and came from homes known to be “white” and patriotic, or whether they had affiliations with the worker’s movement. The Social Democrats called this system as practiced, a “caste system” that discriminated against soldiers from a working-class background and only produced “utmost bitterness among the soldiers and the whole working population”.

The Minister of Defence, ex-Jäger Colonel Lauri Malmberg, in his response admitted the existence of political classification without any further ado. However, he claimed it only registered communist sympathies among the conscripts and that this was necessary and normal practice in many other countries as well. According to historian Tapio Nurminen, it was in fact mainly communists who were actually classified as untrustworthy. The system was an attempt at ascertaining that the key military personnel given specialized education, ranging from machine gunners and artillery fire control men to noncommissioned and reserve officers, were completely “trustworthy personnel”; men who were active in or supportive of the Suojeluskuntas, brought up in homes known to be “trustworthy”, or otherwise known as “patriotic and loyal to the legal order in society”.

Comparing the Agrarian and Social Democratic Militiaman

In spite of many similarities, the Social Democratic and Agrarian versions of the militiaman differed in some important respects. The militiaman in his Agrarian version can be interpreted as expressing a firm belief in an essential warrior in Finnish men. This actually seems to apply to much of their subsequent arguments for shortening the military training period as well. The Agrarians’ vision of a militia system implied a view on warfare and military matters where the mechanical discipline and absolute obedience associated with the Cadre Army system was considered positively detrimental to military efficiency, since it ate into the conscripts’ motivation and patriotic enthusiasm. Dismissing extensive military training as unaffordable, morally corruptive and unnecessary in view of “the experiences of 1918”, their support for a militia system seems to have entailed a view of Finns as “natural warriors” who by sheer force of will, patriotism or protective instinct would fight ferociously enough to stop any aggressor. Whether this was seen as an inborn aptitude or something brought about by Finnish culture is not evident.

The Social Democratic version of the militiaman did not so much imply a warlikeness of Finnish men, but rather revealed a concern over how easily young men could be manipulated and impressed upon; a fear that military training could make class traitors out of young working men. If we are to judge by the Social Democrats’ rhetoric in parliament, they preferred the militia because it rendered more difficult inducing the soldiers with a false consciousness and making them act against their own class interests. The militiaman was bound up in civil society and adhered to its democratic values, but the young conscript incarcerated in the garrisons of a cadre army and isolated from civilian influences could soon be turned against his own class. There was also a connection to the Social Democrats’ concern over the financial resources devoured by the military. As they repeatedly pointed out, the tax money spent on defence was always money taken away from other important purposes; the first neglected area they listed was nearly always “culture” – that is, one can assume, the education and uplifting of the working classes to a higher level of civilisation, self-consciousness and social influence. Hence, merely the financing of the cadre army system dragged not only young men’s but the whole working class’ civic development in the wrong direction.

It is interesting that neither the Social Democrats nor the Agrarians, who both took the rhetorical position of speaking on behalf of the common Finnish people, brought up the issue of the language spoken among those officers of “the old Russian school” who, it was claimed, nourished an “undemocratic spirit” amongst them. It was perhaps natural that the rightwing parties wanted to emphasise national unity within the sphere of national defence. One might still expect that at least the mass parties in the left and centre would have pointed out that many of the most prominent members of the body of officers they criticised were also members of the old Swedish-speaking upper class. Yet for some reason, the frontlines in the politics of conscription never formed along the lines of language. One reason might have been that the Agrarians and especially the Social Democrats had imported much of their critical ideas about standing cadre armies from other countries, where the opposition between soldiers and officers was a class issue, not a language issue. Overall, the Social Democrats considered the language issue to be of minor importance for their political objectives in general. Another reason probably lay in the recent experiences of the civil war, where Swedish-speaking civil guards as well as officers had played a prominent role on the white side, side by side with Finnish-speaking troops. It was difficult for the Agrarians to explicitly criticise military heroes of the “Liberation War”. With the civil war in fresh memory, the military sphere was probably a relatively unlikely terrain for raising language disputes, whereas the war experiences made the antagonism between social classes difficult to keep out.

Why the Agrarians abandoned the Militiaman

In 1920, the militia model was obviously still considered a serious challenge to the Cadre Army system, due to its allure among the voters and the staunch support it had from the country’s largest party, the Social Democrats. However, the militiaman was by this time losing his fight against the cadre army soldier. Some perhaps decisive blows were delivered in the 1920 report of a parliamentary committee drafting a permanent conscription law. The committee consisted of non-socialist parliamentarians and professional officers. Its findings were mainly based on hearings with a number of military experts. In its report, the committee criticised the militia model at length, the main argument being that a militia army left the country unprotected in case of a sudden attack. In a sparsely populated country such as Finland, with a thin railroad network, it would be impossible to mobilise and transport such an army to the border fast enough to stop an aggressor. Another serious blow to the agrarian support for the militia system was the committee’s claim that it could be even more expensive for taxpayers than a cadre army. Before the Great War, it was pointed out, Switzerland’s military expenditure had actually been the third highest among the countries of Europe. The militia system was further criticised for its inefficiency as a training organisation. The military training of conscripts was allegedly superficial and fragmented. It was impossible to foster the “firm discipline and feeling of togetherness that is necessary for military success”. The short and disconnected training periods impeded on “the personal relation and trust between the men and the officers that also is necessary for the effectiveness of the army in a war”.

In the elections of 1919, the Agrarians had risen to become the largest non-socialist party with 20% of the popular vote. By the time the 1921 conscription bill was presented, however, they had already abandoned the militia model. Their party programme that year made no mention of it, but only demanded significant cuts in military spending and “conscription made as easy as possible for the citizens. Historians have offered different explanations for this sudden change of heart; that the Agrarians had simply been convinced by military experts that the militia system was an unsuitable and expensive option for Finland; that shouldering the responsibilities of partaking in a series of government coalitions, starting in 1919, forced them to take a more realistic approach to security policy; or that the renewed tension on the Finnish-Russian borders made an overhaul of the defence. According to historian V.P. Somerkari, the committee members were chosen from among individuals who shared the view of the government and the Regent, General Mannerheim, that the army must not be weakened or disturbed in its development by drastic reforms. A single Social Democrat was later allowed into the committee. He registered his dissent to its findings.

The system seem untenable in the foreseeable future. However, during the parliamentary debate on the new conscription bill in 1921–1922, Santeri Alkio himself stated only one reason as to why he had become convinced of the impossibility of the militia model in Finland. This was the untrustworthiness of the Social Democrats.
Image
Santeri Alkio: 17 June 1862 – 24 July 1930: Finnish politician, author and journalist. He is also considered to be the ideological father of the Suomen Keskusta.

According to Alkio, they had abandoned peaceful methods in 1917 and still could not control all the socialists who collaborated with the Bolsheviks terrorising Russia, they were “militarists of the worst kind”. In other words, he did not any longer trust the whole mass of Finnish conscripts enough to arm them and train them in warfare - not without the institutional control apparatus of the cadre army.

If it is correct that a notion of an unyielding autonomous “natural warrior” was inherent in the Finnish agrarian character and intrinsic to the Agrarians’ vision of a people’s militia, it does make sense that they would hesitate to distribute arms to militiamen of all political colours. As quoted above, Santeri Alkio expressed a (perhaps well-founded given the recent civil war) fear that socialist militiamen would know only too well how to use them for their own purposes, not necessarily guided and commanded by the government or their officers. His statements convey a view of Finnish men as essential fighters who needed to be checked and disciplined since one could not be certain they would fight for the “right” cause. Although their martial spirit would only be stifled by prolonged military training, that was seen as necessary for the preservation of internal order. Yet then it remains unclear why the Agrarians continued to support the militia idea for a year after the end of the Civil War. The lobbying of professional officers in committee hearings and along unofficial channels, depicting the militia as miserably inadequate in military terms, was probably at least as important for the Agrarians’ changing tack. Different groups of agrarian MPs, throughout the 1920’s, made various attempts at shortening the duration of military service. More than any other non-socialist party, the Agrarians also emphasised the need to practice strict economy in the defence sector. Yet in spite of reducing the grants for some large armament projects, the Agrarians assumed and adhered to a positive basic attitude to the standing conscript army after having made their choice around 1920.

Military Necessity Above All

The non-socialist coalition government consisting of conservatives, liberals and Agrarians used the arguments from the 1920 conscription committee report when presenting its bill for a permanent conscription law to parliament in 1921. The main reason given for dismissing the militia model was that only a cadre army system secured a sufficient number of soldiers in the standing, peacetime army to hold back an aggressor until the reserve could be mobilised. The Minister of War, Major-General Bruno Jalander described the government bill as the best possible compromise between military and fiscal considerations. One year of military training was an absolute minimum. However, no attempts were made in the preamble to justify the cadre army system by referring to positive side effects of the cadre army system in terms of civic education, national re-integration or the like. The matter was simply presented as a question of iron military necessity.

After the Agrarians had relinquished their views on the need for a people’s militia, the MPs from the non-socialist parties did not really bother to respond to the Social Democrats’ critique of the cadre system. When the new conscription bill was debated in 1921–1922, they mainly argued among each other over the costs and length of military service. The Agrarians wanted it shortened to cut the crushing military expenses, but the conservatives and liberals replied that the duration of military service was a matter of brute military indispensability, not of what would be pleasant for the conscripts or taxpayers. It was, argued the parties on the right, an issue that military amateurs could not fully grasp but where parliament had to listen to the professional expertise. As for the probability of a Finnish Army warding off a Russian invasion, the tone was more sober than in the patriotic exclamations of 1918 and 1919. The 1920 committee report had laid down a principle that would become a basic doctrine of Finnish security policy; although Finland could not necessarily maintain armed forces strong enough to hold back a Russian army in long run, Finland could make such robust resistance that an attack would not be worthwhile in terms of human lives and economic resources.

Only a few conservative MPs went beyond purely military considerations in arguing for the value of a full year of military training, claiming that the military service promoted “national self-consciousness”, “the education of the nation to a sense of duty and discipline” as well as solidarity among conscripts from different layers of society. Ilmi Hallsten of the National Coalition Party, one of the 22 female MPs in parliament 1919-1922, demanded that the youths “whose great and fateful duty is to risk their lives for defending Finland’s independence” must be given sufficient military training to feel prepared, secure, calm and full of confidence should =that day come. Furthermore, “they must take that confidence with them back home” and spread it among the people. During a longer time of service there was also sufficient time to “take care of their civic education” in order to open their eyes to the larger whole which they were the guardians of, claimed Hallsten.
Image
Ilmi Hallsten: 1862-1936: Finnish Politician, National Coaltion Party

A central conservative argument for the cadre army system in general and for a minimum training of 12 months was that a prolonged and continuous training time was necessary to make the conscripts skilled enough fighters who could stand a chance of survival in a modern war. In contrast to the agrarian rhetoric in 1918–1919 of the Finns as “naturals” at warfare, this implied an image of youngsters who had to be extensively guided, disciplined, hardened and prepared in order to become capable soldiers. In general, however, there was even less talk in the 1921–1922 debate about the positive moral effects on young men of military training and conscription than there had been in 1917. This could be taken as an expression of what were “politically correct” attitudes to military matters in a mental climate still shaped by a contest between pacifism and antimilitarism on the one hand and a militarised nationalism on the other. Alternately, it might indicate that universal conscription and the cadre army system were already becoming accepted – although not necessarily well-liked – institutions, whose existence did not have to be defended in front of the voters. The fact that the non-socialist parties more or less ignored the Social Democrats’ continued critique of the cadre system seems to point in this direction. MP Simson Pilkka of the Agrarian Party, one of the few who responded to this critique, made a brief but remarkable statement in parliament in March 1922, which actually combined these two explanations. He frankly admitted that barracks life really debauched youths from the countryside. However, he continued, “right now we cannot live here as an independent state if we do not have such barracks life”.

....To Be Continued
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Conscription: Finland Fast-Forwards into Military Modernity

Post by CanKiwi2 » 10 Mar 2011 20:25

Conscription: Finland Fast-Forwards into Military Modernity

Against the backdrop of broad and interrelated changes in military systems, weapons, doctrine, tactics and strategy sweeping across the European continent in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Finland in the interwar period represents an interesting borderland both in place and in time. Almost 150 years earlier, the American revolution had introduced the modern notion of a “people in arms” (largely based on the Swiss militia) and displayed the military potential of civic enthusiasm against the well-drilled, machine-like obedience of professional soldiers who were either fighting for money or enlisted by force. In Europe, the Republic of Revolutionary France introduced universal forced conscription for males and amazed Europe with the striking power of it’s mass armies of “citizen-soldiers”. In spite of its radical and democratic associations, authoritarian monarchies such as Prussia, Austria and Russia were one after the other forced to introduce conscription on one form or another in a kind of chain reaction stretching over the course of the nineteenth century.

Conscription not only enabled the raising of ever larger armies. The new “citizen armies” were marked by a higher degree of motivation than in previous centuries, largely because they were accompanied by strong feelings of patriotism and of civic participation, of free men fighting for their own republic or nation. Moreover, universal conscription allowed for the mobilisation of entire societies for increasingly violent “total” wars, as the fact that almost every family had a member fighting in the army meant that each thus became directly engaged in the war effort. Universal conscription linked together soldiering, nationalism and citizenship into varying yet always very powerful ideological configurations.

In the nineteenth century, in fact up until the end of the First World War, Finland had been an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire, essentially a pacified buffer zone between Sweden and Russia protecting St Petersburg from the northwest. During this period, Finland’s defence was mostly handled by Russian troops. During the two last decades of the nineteenth century, a limited form of universal conscription for male Finns was introduced as part of military reform in Russia, but only one tenth of each age cohort was actually drafted for active service. These “Finnish” troops gratified the rising nationalist sentiments among the Finnish elite, but were in effect designed to serve the Russian Empire’s strategic objectives. Conscription in Finland was actually abolished when Finnish nationalism and Russian imperial policies came into conflict around the turn of the century.

When independence was declared in December 1917, there had been no conscription and no compulsory military training in Finland for almost two decades. However, as we have seen, domestic social tensions resulted in a short but bitterly fought civil war in 1918. The victorious non-socialists had to face the military presence of a Bolshevik power consolidating on their Eastern border. Suddenly, trained soldiers were desperately needed to protect Finnish society. Finnish men had to be made into soldiers. The situation that resulted could be described as a fast-forward into European military modernity. A new institutional framework of universal conscription and compulsory military training was introduced, with influences from different countries and different military doctrines clashing with each other in an interwar Finland.

Foreign military doctrines were imported by Finnish officers who had served or studied in Russia, Germany, and post-WW1, in other countries. Democratic-republican ideas of “arming the people” rubbed shoulders with authoritarian military traditions from monarchic empires. A largely rural-agrarian class of young men, used to hard physical work and from a society with no recent tradition of military service (and not accustomed to the mental and physical discipline of a modern educational or military system) were suddenly and compulsorily introduced to a rigid military system and hierarchy. In addition, there were major tensions between socialists and non-socialists who disagreed on what kind of Finnish nation they wanted to create. Patriotic euphoria over national independence collided with the post-war gloom of a nation trying to come to terms with a bitter civil war and a continent trying to recover from the shock of a world-wide industrial war that had killed millions, lead to the collapse of Empires and much of the old order - and rocked the self-assurance of European civilisation.

In the period beginning with the Civil War of 1918 and continuing over the two decades up to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Finland underwent a sudden and rapid militirisation, both materially and mentally. The military, political and social ruling elite saw the new Finnish national armed forces, consisting both of the regular army and the voluntary Suojeluskunta, as the force at the core of national liberation and the guarantor of Finland’s independence and social order against both internal and external Bolshevik threats. Universal male conscription was reintroduced in 1918, and from there on, for the first time in Finnish history, every young man declared able-bodied was not only expected to fight for his nation in wartime, but subjected for at least one year to compulsory military service in a peacetime standing army. In this, the Finnish Army aimed to train all men in military skills, without regard to social standing or class background.

The military depicted universal conscription and the conscript army as central instruments for national integration and civic education. The shared experience of military service would unite young men of all backgrounds and classes into a closely knit national community through the tough but shared experience of military service. However, the new conscription institution and its incarnation in the standing conscript army were the objects of intense suspicion and public criticism, particularly in the first decade of national independence. The criticism ranged from concerns over the undemocratic spirit in the officer corps to outrage over poor sanitary conditions in the garrisons. There was a great reluctance within civilian society, not so much against the general principle of male conscription, as against the particular forms that the military system had adopted.

The politics of conscription

The first conscripts in the new Finnish Army were called up for service less than a year after the end of the Civil War of 1918. Tens of thousands had died in the fighting, been executed or died through famine and disease in the internment camps. The call-up was thoroughly repulsive to those conscripts who sympathised with the socialist insurgents. In many cases, their fathers, uncles or brothers had been killed in combat, executed or starved to death by that very army now summoning them for military service. Even for non-socialist young men who embraced “white” patriotism entered the army with grave reasons for anxiety. The press printed reports of dismal sanitary conditions, food shortages and poor clothing in the garrisons. There was also an imminent danger that the conscripts would soon see real military action. Russia was in the turmoil of revolution and civil war. Finnish volunteer forces were engaged in fighting against Bolshevik troops in Eastern Karelia, the region north of St Petersburg and Lake Ladoga, and in Estonia. In the spring and summer of 1919, rumors abounded that Mannerheim was planning an attack on St Petersburg. Just as the threat of war in the East seemed to diminish, troops were sent to the south-western Åland islands to fend off an anticipated attempt by Sweden to occupy and annex the islands. Military service and the conscript army were a new and strange phenomena.

From public indignation to closing ranks around the army

The permanent conscription law cementing the cadre system and fixing military service to 12 months was finally passed in 1922. Yet political tension surrounding the conscript army only eased very slowly. Up until the mid-1920’s and beyond, the armed forces’ public image was dominated by power-struggles within the very heterogeneous officer corps and a series of scandals involving mismanagement and embezzlement of military equipment and funds. Even more crucial for the public images of conscripted soldiering were continued reports in the press on insanitary housing conditions, deficient medical services and abusive treatment of the conscripts by their superiors. This negative image of conscript soldiering only started changing towards the end of the 1920’s. The 1930’s were marked by a closing of ranks around the conscript army, in the midst of building international tensions.

Public images of military education in the early to mid-1920’s were often far flung from notions of the army as a ‘school for men’ where youngsters became loyal, dutiful and patriotic citizens. Rather, it was often claimed even in the non-socialist press that the mistreatment of soldiers in the armed forces harmed national defence by undermining the soldiers’ motivation and making them loath the military. This, incidentally, had been one of the key arguments against the cadre army and in favour of the militia system. The Social Democrats often brought up critique of the moral and material conditions in the armed forces when the defence budget surfaced for discussion in parliament. For example, in the budgetary debate in December 1921, MP E. Huttunen listed several cases of mismanagement within the military administration as well as a number of recent homicides and suicides within the armed forces. He complained about the widespread abuse of alcohol in spite of the prohibition law enacted in 1919, the use of prostitutes, and the spread of venereal diseases among both officers and soldiers. He read aloud a letter from a conscript in a Helsinki unit who had tried to stay sober, but been subjected to scorn and even battering by his comrades for lacking the “spirit of comradeship”. Officers used soldiers as their personal servants, claimed Huttunen, sending them to buy smuggled liquor from bootleggers, making them collect their officers dead drunk from the officers’ mess at night, undress them and wipe up their vomits. “It is something so degrading and in addition there is always the risk of [the soldier] getting assaulted [by an officer], which often happens”, Huttunen thundered, eventually ending his oration by demanding some minor cuts in military funding.

All this could perhaps have been attributed to ingrained socialist antimilitarism, had not the agrarian ideologue Santeri Alkio stated in the next address that he agreed with Huttunen’s description of the state of affairs in the army. The inebriation in the military was commonly known, said Alkio, who blamed “customs inherited from Russia” within the officers’ corps for these evils, only to be interrupted by an interjection from the left: “They are just as much from Germany!” Alkio told parliament that many mothers and fathers who had to leave their sons in the army’s charge trembled in their hearts, wondering in what shape they would get their children back. “Many have been in tears telling me that their sons who left home morally pure have returned from military service morally fallen, having lost their faith in life and cursing the system that have made them such poor creatures”, Alkio declared “If the “Russian order” in the army was not uprooted, Finland’s defence was at peril”.

Public concerns running high

A high-water mark in the public discourse about the Finnish Army as a dangerous and degrading environment for young men was reached as late as December 9th, 1924. On that day, MPs of all political hues spent ten hours of the budget debate roundly denouncing on the army’s mistreatment of the conscripted soldiers.118 A recurrent notion in the debate, expressed across the political spectrum, was that the will to defend the nation was fundamentally threatened by the conscripts’ negative experiences of military service. MP Otto Jacobsson of the conservative Swedish People’s Party talked about the “absolutely reprehensible way in which recruit training is conducted”, the “groundless punishment drill”, “exercises through which conscripts are meaninglessly subjected to the risk of life-threatening illness”, and “punishments obviously aimed at disparaging the human dignity of recruits”. He harshly criticised the military authorities for their impassiveness, lack of understanding and irresponsibility in this regard.

Variations on these accusations were subsequently delivered by MPs from the other non-socialist parties. MP Kalle Lohi of the Agrarians saw a connection between the unjust collective punishments and why youngsters of good character resorted to “poisonous vices” in the barracks – they sought “some comfort in their miserable and desolate existence”. Even MP Juho Mannermaa of the conservative National Coalition Party, usually the most defence-friendly party in parliament, brought up the “ungodly barking”, “obscene name-calling” and “punishments bordering on downright torture” on part of the soldiers’ superiors. Mannermaa mainly blamed the bad conditions on insufficient funding and lack of competent personnel, but repeated Santeri Alkio’s claim that there was a “deep concern among the people” and that “fathers and mothers rather generally fear sending their sons to the barracks”. He proposed a statement that was passed in parliament, requesting the government to pay special attention to the disclosed shortcomings in the officers’ attitude to the men and take action to correct them.

The Social Democrats naturally piled fuel on the fire by continuing the catalogue of alleged malpractices and bad conditions; rotten food, soldiers freezing and falling ill in wet clothes and unheated barracks, soldiers commanded to crawl in muddy ditches or stand unprotected for hours in the burning sun, alcoholism and criminality among the officers, collective and humiliating punishments, and so on. In contrast to Alkio’s anti-Russian rhetoric, the socialists unequivocally pointed to Prussian influences as the root of all evil. The defence minister’s response to all the critique heaped on the military service system was surprisingly docile; he admitted that there were many deficiencies and pointed to newly started courses in military pedagogy for officers as a remedy that would need time to show results. However, he added, a certain heavy-handedness was in the nature of military education. “The soldier would be much more offended if he was treated like a young lady, and with good reason too.”

Conscripts as victims of military education

The argument that a bit of rough treatment was only salutary for young men, hardening them for both war and peace, was not, however, generally accepted in Finnish society as a sufficient explanation for the scandalous conditions in military training. As indicated by the press cuttings on military matters from Swedish-language newspapers in the Brage Press Archive, including summaries on major topics in the Finnish-language press, the poor sanitary conditions and reckless treatment of conscripts were labelled highly dangerous to the conscripts’ health, detrimental to the will to defend the country, and thus absolutely unacceptable, throughout the 1920’s. This was the case even in bourgeois layers of society that were at pains to emphasise their preparedness to make great sacrifices for the nation’s defence. For example, the above-average mortality rates among conscripts were the subject of many articles in 1928–1929. The chief medical officer of the armed forces V.F. Lindén himself stated that one reason for the high mortality were the excessively hard exercises in the initial phase of military training. The fearfulness of parents sending their sons to military service, the antimilitarist and embittered spirit of recently disbanded young men, the unpopularity of the conscript army, and disappointed amazement at the nonchalance of the army command in this respect were recurrent images in editorials on military matters.

In this, the portrayal of Finnish conscripts is far removed from the bold images of natural warriors of the Civil War. Here, conscripts are the defenceless victims of incompetence, moral corruption and sheer brutality among their superiors. They fall ill or even die in the military, but their deaths are not in the least heroic, only tragic and meaningless. The soldiers are often described as beloved sons, hardly more than children, and the press commentaries foreground the concerns and grief of their parents as their sons return home with a ruined health or morality. These conscripts are portrayed as boy soldiers, incapable of autonomous agency in the ironcage of military discipline. They are beyond legal protection, given into the care and custody of officers who fail the responsibility entrusted with them.

The turn of the tide

The Army seems to have been very limited in its public information services in the 1920’s, reluctant to accept the “meddling” of civilians – such as members of parliament – into the details of military matters. According to press reports, they were slow to react to the vehement criticism of military education. Yet in the years around the turn of the decade 1930, an inconspicuous but decisive shift in the negative public image of the conscript army took place. The press reports on disgraceful conditions in the army grew scarce. This evidently had several reasons. First and foremost, the material conditions in the army gradually improved with increasing funding and ever-larger defence budgets. Better equipment and food could be afforded, barracks were built and repaired and training approachs and methods changed rapidly. The professional and educational competence among the officer corps rose as the officer training system developed and new military curriculums were introducxed. New efforts were also made at public relations work within the armed forces. The army finally reacted to its image problem by starting to arrange “Family days”. In these events, the conscripts’ relatives could visit the garrisons and training camp, observe the soldiers’ living conditions, witness combat shows and listen to speeches by officers and politicians. A press bureau was set up at the General Staff Headquarters in 1929, a post as liaison officer between the armed forces and the press was created in 1933, and in 1934 an office for active information services was established. From 1934 on, the Army worked closely with the Suojeluskunta to produce short films on various military-related topics which were shown in cinemas around the country, doing much to raise the image of the Army and increase support for defence spending and the Armed Forces (we will touch more on this subject when we come to look at the Suojeluskuntas and Lotta Svard orgainisations in more detail. There was also a new bid to invite press representatives to observe large manoeuvres, which resulted in large, excited and positive reportages in the newspapers.

The armed forces also entered into co-operation with the national film company Suomi Filmi to produce a series of there own motion pictures where a positive image of the conscript army provided the setting for humorous adventure. In the political arena, the Social Democrats and their voters found an increasing number of things worth defending in the Finnish national state. Land reforms in 1918–1922 had made small farmers out of many former tenant farmers and farm workers. Labour market legislation as well as social reforms strengthened the burgeoning welfare state. The Finnish economy grew rapidly at an average annual pace of 4% through the 1920’s and 1930’s, bringing Finland from relative poverty to a level of prosperity on a par with the Netherlands and France. Although this wealth was unequally distributed, the living standards and real wages of Finnish workers rose considerably in the 1920’s and after a slump during the Great Depression rose again in the latter half of the 1930’s.

Ever since their return to parliamentary politics after the Civil War, the moderate wing among the Social Democrats wanted the party to take a more positive attitude to national defence. The party press printed articles attesting that the workers were ready to fight alongside the other classes to defend independence. Complete disarmament was still said to be the socialist ideal, but this could not come about as long as the “danger in the east” remained – indeed not before socialism was realised in the whole world. A left-wing pacifist tradition within Finnish social democracy continued to compete with the more centrist and pragmatic approach to national defence throughout the 1920’s, but the social democratic MPs acknowledged that Finland did need some kind of armed forces to protect its independence. The splitting of the Social Democratic party in 1920, and the subsequent entry of a new, far-left Socialist Workers’ Party in parliament in 1922, worked as a catalyst pushing social democracy closer to the political centre in this issue. “It makes a great difference to the working classes whether a foreign power can place Finland under its yoke”, MP Jaakko Keto stated in parliament that same year. “The class struggle of the workers can only be successful in a democracy based on the right of national self-determination.”
Image
Jaako Keto: 1884-1947, Social Democrat MP

This right, Keto underlined, was neither self-evident nor unthreatened. This patriotic outburst was a reaction to an MP Socialist Workers’ Party who had claimed it was not in the workers’ and peasants’ interest to give any kind of support to the bourgeois army. Instead, the army should be organised as in the Soviet Union, where soldiers from the working classes elect their officers among themselves. This was an exceptional proposal, as the far-left socialists usually argued for diminishing or even dismantling the national armed forces and entering disarmament treaties with the Soviet Union and Baltic states. Since the far left was usually understood as purely “defence nihilist”, its influence on the politics of conscription was limited to keeping the image of a domestic revolutionary ‘red threat’ alive.

Historians have designated the first post-civil war social democratic government, appointed in December 1926, to be a decisive turning point in the Social Democratic Party’s relationship to the regular army. One event in particular, the parade commemorating the white victory in the Civil War on May 16th 1927, was highly charged with symbolic meaning. The President of the Republic Lauri Kristian Relander had fallen ill and the social democratic Prime Minister Väinö Tanner agreed to preside over the parade – an occurrence that was dumbfounding for many people both of the political right and left. According to Historian Vesa Saarikoski, the reactions in the social democratic press expressed an acceptance of the regular army, but a bitter critique of the participation of General Mannerheim and the Suojeluskuntas. The latter were still at that time too strongly associated with the “white” tradition for many.

The far-left obtained 10–15% of the popular vote in the parliamentary elections from 1922 until their political activities were completely forbidden in 1930. The far left voiced a radical version of the socialist critique of capitalist militarism, wanted to abolish the civil guards and voted against all government proposals and appropriations in military matters. However, there was no parliamentary representation left of the Social Democrats during most of the major debates over conscription analysed here. The army was slowly ever more accepted by the Social Democrats as the defender of the whole nation, including the working classes.

Political convergence and the conscription bill of 1932

The parliamentary debate over the last conscription law of the interwar period, passed in 1932, demonstrated how the ranks were closing around the regular conscript army in its existing condition. The new law concerned a reform of the mobilisation system, where the responsibility of mobilising the reserve was taken off the regular army troops and transferred to a new organisation of regional military authorities, co-operating closely with the local branches of the civil guards. The objective was to free all available active troops in order to fend off an aggressor during the time it took to mobilise the reserve. As pointed out by Annika Latva-Äijö, this reform finally integrated the Suojeluskuntas (Civil Guard) and female voluntary defence workers (Lotta Svard) into the national armed forces to the full. It signalled an end to the condescending attitude of professional officers to the voluntary defence organisations and in a sense constituted a transition to a mixed form of a Cadre Army with Militia elements that would become an ongoing trend through the 1930s as more changes took place. The tone of the following debate was very different from that in 1921-22. There was no more debate over the basic principles of the military system. The bill was passed relatively rapidly. The Social Democrats main criticism was that the length of service was only nominally shortened. However, this time around, the socialist MPs were keen to demonstrate that they were as patriotically concerned about national defence as anybody else. They embraced the core of the reform, supported increased military spending and did not bring up the militia system as an alternative any more. Arguing for some alterations to the bill, providing for a shorter active service compensated by more refresher courses, they emphasised that their own proposals would actually strengthen national defence.

There was some debate over the role of the Suojeluskuntas within the armed forces but following the historic rapproachment between the Suojeluskuntas and the Social Democrats that we have already touched on, this was muted and almost inconsequential. The Social Democrats did however include provision for recurrent military training for all reserve soldiers; training of the kind that the Suojeluskuntas had only given to a part of the population, excluding anybody associated with the workers’ movement. The greatest benefit of the social democratic counterproposal, said MP Matti Puittinen, was that “in this way we can think the of the Suojeluskuntas as a Finnish organisation that is now non-political and dedicated to the defence of all Finns. We can now trust the Civil Guards.”

Just before the reading of the 1932 conscription bill started, the popular extreme-right Lapua movement had staged the so-called Mäntsälä rebellion. The Lapua movement demanded that the Social Democratic Party should be forbidden, just as the communists had been in 1930. The Mäntsälä rebels declared their readiness to override the lawful form of government if necessary to reach this goal. Some local commanders of the Suojeluskuntas sympathised with the rebellion and tried to mobilise their guardsmen. The result, however, was pitiful. The attempted rising never grew beyond 6–8000 men gathering at rallying-points around the country – only a small percentage of the hundred thousand + guardsmen. President of the Republic Per Svinhufvud, Commander in Chief Aarne Sihvo and several central ministers resisted the rebels’ demands. So did the centrist moderates in the local civil guards throughout the country, not least those affiliated with the Agrarian Party. In the end (we will cover this in more detail in a seperate post), the rebellion was wound up peacefully with the support of the Army and the vast majority of the Suojeluskuntas going to the Government.

In general, the non-socialist MPs did not find much to debate in the 1932 conscription bill. The comments of the agrarian Minister of Communications Juho Niukkanen, an active figure within parliamentary defence politics ever since 1915, were indicative of the emerging convergence around the national armed forces. He pointed out that the differences of opinion regarding the bill itself were actually relatively small. For the first time, Niukkanen stated, even the Social Democrats argued over national defence “on quite a relevant and no-nonsense basis”. There had been a decisive shift in favour of the regular army within both the left and the centre. The army had proven its democratic reliability in the interest of all layers of society during the rebellion.

The 1932 bill was passed unaltered and Finland acquired its final prewar conscription law. As far as the legislation process was concerned, the politics of conscription had reached its interwar terminus. During the rest of the 1930’s, military politics in parliament turned around the issue of how much money should be spent on military acquisitions and further reforms in training and organisation. The Social Democrats supported a number of supplementary grants for national defence, and after they entered a large centre-left coalition government in 1937 and in face of the tightening international situation they were a key participant to the approval of major defence spending increases. Regardless, from 1930 on the Social Democrats programme essentially supported a strong defence based on the existing conscript army system.

......To Be Continued
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

An example of Corrective Action within the Armed Forces in t

Post by CanKiwi2 » 10 Mar 2011 20:29

An example of Corrective Action within the Armed Forces in the 1930’s and the wider ramifications of such a change within Civil Society

As we have seen, there were numerous problems with Conscript Service in the 1920’s. We will look at these in broad detail in a subsequent post. For now, we will content ourselves with looking at one specific issue, how it was addressed, the wider ramifications of this corrective action within Civil Society and an unexpected consequence of this particular action when the Winter War broke out.

A specific problem that was addressed was malnutrition. In the 1920’s in particular, many of the recruits came from such poor families and lived in such poor conditions that they were malnourished. A combination of military-initiated programs were instituted to address this problem. One of the first programs outside of the military was the introduction of free school breakfasts and lunches and free school milk from 1932 on. In this way, children from poorer families received at least two good solid meals a day. (It is perhaps worth mentioning that while this program was initiated by the military, it was organized and run by the Lotta Svärd organisation with food and milk funded from the Education budget).
Image
School Children distributing Free School Milk

Image
….and School Meals

On entry into the military, a physical assessment of recruits was carried out as they began their service and recruits who appeared malnourished were, from 1932 on, put on special diets to build them up. In addition, the military dental care program was initiated – some 60% of recruits at this time had major problems with their teeth due to their poor diets and/or poor dental hygiene – and from 1933 on this was addressed as recruits began their service with the military dental care program (the introduction of the school dental care program in 1935 was another byproduct of this military initiative and one that will be described in more detail below – reports on the poor condition of so many recruits teeth eventually reached all the way up to Mannerheim, who followed through by urgingg the Government to put in place a comprehensive school dental care program as one of his many initiatives related to child welfare. This was initiated in 1935, with School Dental Clinics staffed by trained “Dental Nurses” – in many remote rural areas, the School Dental Clinics were in fact the only dental care available and their role was more often than not informally extended to include dental care for adults.

The Finnish School Dental Service was not a world-first – the service as it was instituted in Finland was modeled on that of New Zealand, which in the 1920’s had been the first in the world to set up such a program – but it was a first within Scandanavia. The service as introduced aimed to provide preventive dental care to school children from clinics located on school grounds. Rather than take the children to the dentist (impractical in many areas of Finland), the dentist was brought to the children.
Image
1937 – Finnish School Dental Nurses and the “Victims”

A dental school to train these dental nurses was opened in Helsinki in 1935. The immediate popularity of the program lead the Government to rapidly expand the service, with additional training schools being opened in Tampere in 1937 and Vipurii in 1939. Large numbers of dental nurses were rapidly trained and the school dental nurse in her "whites" and red cardigan and her clinic (which rapidly became known as "the murder clinic" to generations of children) quickly became a part of the school community, though children tended to tread rather warily when in the vicinity of the clinic lest they be summoned inside for one of their twice yearly check-ups.

The Finnish system was very closely modeled on the New Zealand system (and in fact was assisted in getting started by the official participation of a small number of New Zealand Health Department officials who had been instrumental in setting up the New Zealand system, led by Colonel Thomas Anderson Hunter, who had been head of the New Zealand Army Dental Corps in WW1, and who was also the Director of the Division of Dental Hygiene within the New Zealand Department of Health until his retirement in 1930 and largely responsible for the New Zealand Dental Nurse program).
Image
Colonel Thomas Anderson Hunter, originator of the New Zealand School Dental Service in the 1920's and Advisor to the Finnish Government on setting up a similar program in Finland in the 1930's

Colonel Hunter had, before WW1, been Chairman of the NZ Dental Association, during WW1 he had been commanding officer of the New Zealand Army Dental Corps and he was a man with many political, official and military contacts within New Zealand. When the Finnish Government, via their Embassy in London, had contacted the New Zealand High Commission in London and requested an expert to assist in setting up a similar program, Colonel Hunter (then retired) had volunteered his assistance. With the agreement of both governments, he had come out of retirement and travelled to Helsinki with his wife, Greta, in 1934. Similarly to the New Zealand system, the plan he drafted for the Finnish service proposed training and sending women into schools to do basic dental work and educate children and parents on tooth care and healthy living. He argued that women were better suited than men to working with children, and such a scheme would be far cheaper than training more dentists. He also supported his plan with the justification that dental nursing would provide short term employment between young women leaving school and getting married and starting families. As in New Zealand, his proposal was in large part accepted because the cheapness of the scheme and it’s instant popularity appealed to politicians in a period when government resources were stretched.

As a sidenote, Colonel Hunter was still in Helsinki and working in the Finnish School Dental Service when the Winter War broke out in late 1939. Despite his age, he volunteered to assist the Suomen Maavoimat and served in the Dental Corps of the Finnish Army for the duration of the Winter War. He was also instrumental in leveraging his high-level contacts within the New Zealand Government and Military and the New Zealand High Commission in London to secure assistance for Finland from New Zealand and Australia. Given the distance of these countries from Finland, this was somewhat limited, but despite this, Colonel Hunter was instrumental in engineering the arrival of a single Battalion of ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand) volunteers recruited primarily from Australians and New Zealanders together with some South Africans and Rhodesians living in the UK at the time. Only volunteers with previous military experience were accepted (their experience was largely from the Territorial Army’s in their respective countries), they were given some hasty refresher training before being transported via Finnish-flagged passenger ship to Norway and thence to Finland, arriving in January 1940. The story of these ANZAC volunteers together with other foreign volunteers who arrived to assist Finland will be covered in more detail in a later post or posts.

The School Dental Care Program was no statist experiment in the compulsory torture of the young: parental permission was sought and widely given. By 1940, more than 60 percent of preschool children and 95 percent of primary school children were voluntarily registered (by their parents!) with the school dental service, underscoring the high participation rate by the community. Significant improvements in dental health were registered over the longer term. For instance, in 1935 there were 78.6 teeth requiring extraction for every 100 teeth that were restored. By 1945 this figure was reduced to 2.5 extractions per 100 restorations. Thus, by 1945 many young-adult Finns retained a full set of teeth, many with few fillings, in strong contrast to the period up to 1935 when many of the same age cohort had lost many or even all their teeth by sometime in their twenties or thirties.

The School Dental Nurses themselves saw the benefits of their work, even though many of them initially entered the field largely because it was one of the few occupations open to women. Lieksa’s Ilmi Pentikäinen got into school dental nursing by chance. Having finished her last year at school, she had moved to Tampere and was working in a factory when "I saw the advertisement in the paper, it said 'Only two exams', and I thought “Well! That will do me!' and because I really didn’t want to keep working in a factory I applied and got in. Of course when I went down there to Helsinki, there were all sorts of tests and I really was lucky to be selected!" That was in 1935, when 18-year-old Ilmi Pentikäinen was looking for a career a little different to the norm. Dental nursing seemed right for her. "It was very selective. There weren't many careers for women in those days – nurses, teachers, and if you were very bright and your family could afford it you went off to university, or else it was working in factories or shops or you stayed on the farm until you got married, which was what most of my friends did. There just wasn’t that much choice for girls in those days."

The school dental service had been set up as an experiment in public health after a strong recommendation from the military and at the insistent urging of Mannerheim, who was concerned with the impact of poor dental care on Army conscripts. (As mentioned earlier_, the initial program was based on the New Zealand model (in 1921, New Zealand had been the first country in the world to set up a school dental program – a first in public health at the time). Also closely modeled on the New Zealand system, the Finnish Service’s aim was to send women into schools to do basic dental work and educate children and parents on tooth care and healthy living. Hundreds applied, but in 1935 Ilmi was one of only 120 girls chosen from over 2,000 applicants to train in the first intake of dental nurses. The dental nurses started their two-year training at an old building newly converted to the task in Helsinki. "It was lovely there. We started off as a junior nurse with a blue veil – we were more or less the flushies – we cleaned the head rests and basins and set up the tables and sterilised the equipment for the senior nurses as well as attending lectures”.

The young dental nurses learnt the 'ins and outs' of teeth by carving plaster cast moulds of the jaw, studying from the incisors to the molars. The next step was creating ‘dummy jaws’ inserting human teeth into plaster cast moulds to practice drilling on. “We used teeth dentists had extracted. I remember going around Helsinki on the tram collecting all these gory teeth in a jar! We'd have to clean them up before we could use them." The students had to pass tests before they could move onto real live patients – who were the children from surrounding schools. "You had to build a rapport with the kids, chat away with them, reassure them.” Back in those days the dental nurses had treadle machines to drill teeth. Pumping their feet on the treadle would turn the drill bit in the patient's tooth. "Most of us had worked on treadle sewing machines, so we were used to it. You learnt the rhythm to keep the drill going." Unlike today, patients didn't receive a pain-numbing injection before they had their teeth drilled. "We only gave injections for a tooth extraction. You just put up with the pain of having a cavity drilled – it wasn't for long. Of course, sometimes the kids tried to run away, and then you had to team up, with one holding them in the chair and the other doing the drilling."

The students learnt how to heat little copper pellets in a spoon over a Bunsen burner until they melted. "We'd then screw it up in a piece of gauze so the mercury would come out on our hands." The copper fillings were a cheaper filling used on children's baby teeth. "We'd put the mercury in a little bottle as a special treat for the kids – we called them Silver Fairies – as a play thing. Of course today that would be frowned on!" For fillings in permanent teeth the dental nurses would weigh out silver amalgam and mercury on little scales before mixing them together in a mortar and pestle. "We thought nothing of handling the mercury with our bare hands – we didn't know any different."

Ilmi graduated from training school and went to work as a sole-charge dental nurse in a small town in Eastern Karelia in January 1937. Her job was to travel to outlying schools, checking children's teeth and arranging for them to see her at the central dental clinic at the school in town if they needed treatment. She was expected to treat 500 children every six months. "It was a big challenge. I spent a lot of time on the phone asking the central clinic in Helsinki how to do things!” But her training had drummed into her the basics of tooth repair. "The cavity you made with the drill, the lining you put in, then the filling…" She says, mostly, children were very well behaved when they visited the dental clinic. "I think it was a lot to do with how I treated them. I only struck one unmanageable child. He just was not going to co-operate. So I just sent him back to class. He came back on his own a few weeks later because his tooth hurt so badly. By then I had to extract it." In 1939, Ilmi was assigned to operate from a mobile dental clinic that was towed from school-to-school in the very remote areas near the border. “It was a good place for a young dental nurse. Schools and parents were very welcoming, and even children seemed to like the new dental nurse. It was interesting going around all those schools … The mobile clinic was very good. Some dental nurses had to work on school stages, and in school halls, in corridors… those poor girls. These days they wouldn't be allowed to – it wasn't sterile enough – but they coped."

As a trainee dental nurse, Ilmi had joined the Lotta Svärd organisation when she started training. “It was what you were expected to do. The Lotta Svärd did all sorts of things, and it was just accepted that we all would join. Nobody ever questioned that, it was just something one did without even being asked. Some of the girls didn’t like the military training part of it but personally, I really enjoyed it.” She was mobilized when the Winter War broke out and assigned to an Army Dental Unit. “We were behind the front-lines, but close enough that we could almost always hear the guns. Even when we were working, we had to have our guns nearby in the Clinic in case we were attacked. It never happened to me, but I heard some of the girls had to use theirs. And we got to do all sorts of dental work that we weren’t allowed to do at the school clinics. The Dentist in charge..”(there was usually one Dentist working with a team of Dental Nurses under him) ..”trained us to do all sorts of procedures. But we weren’t allowed to use them on the children, it was just because of the war and it was all urgent.” Ilmi went back to school dental work after the Peace Treaty but was mobilized again when Germany attacked the USSR. She was told that with her experience she was mobilized for the duration, meaning she couldn't leave unless she had a very good reason. That reason came after her first child was due in 1944 (she married in 1941 - “I was doing a filling for a Suojeluskunta Officer, he was a Captain when I met him I think, on a Lotta Svärd weekend and he asked me out, I said yes because he had such nice teeth, usually I turned them down right away”) and she was released from service. Like all the other dental nurses from that period, she thought “We did work that really had value. Before we came, none of those children or their parents ever saw a dentist, most of them didn’t even know how to clean their teeth. It still amazes me that Mannerheim paid attention to all these details – he was such a busy man with so many responsibilities on his shoulders but still he made enough time to push through things like this!”

Note that this is just one small example of the widespread ramifications on Finnish Society of the changes to Conscript Military Service that were made through the 1930’s. One small change (dental work on the teeth of Conscripts) led to a School Dental Program which in turn led, after the Winter War broke out) to a Battalion of ANZAC volunteers arriving in January 1940. The Butterfly Effect exemplified.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
John Hilly
Member
Posts: 2586
Joined: 26 Jan 2010 09:33
Location: Tampere, Finland, EU

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

Post by John Hilly » 11 Mar 2011 17:31

CanKiwi2 wrote:OTL, Lotta Svärd members made an important contribution to the Finnish military during both the Winter War and the Continuation War, but this was always in non-combat roles, although I believe there were some city-defence AA-Gun units made up of Lotta Svärd members.
OTL there was one AA Search Light Battalion formed in Helsinki into ItR 1 (AAA Rgt. 1) by Lottas in 1944. They were the only women who had rifle (shooting) training in the FDF. The battalion was formed after the massive bombings in February 1944,so it didn't see any true action. 8-)

Great stuff overall, Nigel! :D

Greets
Juha-Pekka :milwink:
"Die Blechtrommel trommelt noch!"

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

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

Post by CanKiwi2 » 11 Mar 2011 18:10

John Hilly wrote:OTL there was one AA Search Light Battalion formed in Helsinki into ItR 1 (AAA Rgt. 1) by Lottas in 1944. They were the only women who had rifle (shooting) training in the FDF. The battalion was formed after the massive bombings in February 1944,so it didn't see any true action. 8-)

Great stuff overall, Nigel! :D

Greets
Juha-Pekka :milwink:
Hey, glad you're enjoying it. Jumping the gun a bit as I will use these photos later, but speaking of searchlight units, here's a couple of photos of Lotta's operating searchlights.

Image

Image

Cheers............Nigel
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

The Jääkärit and their place in the Finnish Army - I

Post by CanKiwi2 » 17 Mar 2011 19:41

The Jääkärit and their place in the Finnish Army

For those without a good knowledge of Finnish history, the “Jägers” (Finnish=Jääkärit) were volunteers from Finland trained in Germany as Jägers (elite light infantry) during World War I. Supported by Germany to enable a Finnish sovereign state, it was one of many means by which Germany intended to weaken Tsarist Russia and to cause Russia's loss of western provinces and dependencies. The recruitment of the Jäger volunteers from the Grand Duchy of Finland was clandestine, and was dominated by Germany-influenced circles, such as university students and the upper middle class. The recruitment was however in no way exclusive. The recruits were transported across Finland's western border via Sweden to Germany, where the volunteers were formed into the Royal Prussian 27th Jäger Battalion (Königlich Preussisches Jägerbataillon Nr. 27). In Germany, initial training consisted of "Boy Scout Training" and then training by the Lockstedt training group (Ausbildungstruppe Lockstedt), which was responsible for giving military training to the Finnish volunteers eager to fight for independence.
Image
27th Jäger Battalion on a training march in Libau, Germany

Image
27th Jäger Battalion, 1st Company

Image
27th Jäger Battalion, 2nd Company

Image
27th Jäger Battalion, 3rd Company

More than 200 university students had participated in the so-called “Boy Scout” training – they dressed in Boy Scout uniforms during the training, and they went on to become the Officers of the Finnish Jäger Troops. This group was expanded by extensive recruitment over autumn 1915 and spring 1916. The goal was to grow the unit to 1,200 men, including Artillery and Pioneers. The new recruits included working class young men and farmers as well as sailors and as not so many of these knew German, it was necessary to create military manuals in Finnish, and to come up with a military vocabulary. The Jäger Battalion fought in the ranks of the German Army from 1916 in the battles on the northern flank of the eastern front. After the outbreak of the Civil War in Finland, on 13 February 1918, in the Liepāja Holy Trinity Church they pledged allegiance to the legal government of Finland. At the same time, the Jaeger flag was consecrated. Precisely three years after the start of their military training, on 25 February 1918, the main group of Jaegers returned to Finland from Liepāja and were engaged on the "White" (non-socialist) side in the war and then went on to form the nucleus of the new Finnish Army. In Finland, these 2,000 volunteers were simply called The Jägers (Finnish = Jääkärit).

The Lockstedt Training Corps
Document date: Aug. 26, 1915.
M.J.13630/15 A.I. Confidential.
Image
Battalion commander Major Maximilian Bayer (1872-1917) in 1916

1. An immobilized formation will be raised in Lockstedt Camp, which will be known as "The Lockstedt Training Corps". It will consist of several companies, which will be gradually brought up to the strength of a battalion of D. II. 3 type, with a machine-gun company and a pioneer company.

2. Enrolment in this company is open to foreigners who enlist voluntarily. Foreigners accepted for service in it will not acquire German nationality. The army administration will undertake no liability to endorse applications for naturalization. The army administration will also undertake no responsibility for the financial support of any such foreigners disabled by wounds received on active service with the German Army. Furthermore, the relatives of such persons will have no claim on the German Government for compensation in the event of the death or total disability of the persons concerned. This must be confirmed in writing by every individual serving in this formation. Foreigners must be warned before enlistment that it will be their duty to support the German Reich to the best of their ability, to serve wherever they may be sent, to obey all orders given them by their superiors and to obey the German civil and military laws and whatever regulations may have been issued for the duration of the war.

3. In all service, administrative and legal matters the formation will be under the direct orders of the general commanding the 9th Army Corps. The High Command will decide the nature of its future employment. The formation will be commanded by Major Bayer, of the 27th Infantry Regiment, who will receive the authority of an independent battalion commander. He will apply to the general commanding the 9th Army Corps for the appointment of any further subordinate officers or instructors he may require. The War Office will supply the necessary material resources. Major Bayer will be responsible for the supply of new recruits, and for this purpose the War Office will place at his disposition three officers and three N.C.O.s in addition to those on the regular strength of the formation.

4. The War Office will supply rifles, ammunition and machine-guns (exclusively captured Russian material) and all other training material which the commander may deem necessary. Furthermore, twelve bicycles will be supplied for the use of every company, including the pioneer company. The material for four field telephone sections will also be supplied by the War Office. The 9th Army Corps will supply any horses deemed necessary.

5. The formation will be trained on German principles. Words of command will be given in German. Clothing and equipment of a German Jaeger Regiment (shoulder straps without regimental number) will be supplied by the 9th Army Corps. Pay and rations on the scale in force for immobilized troops. Foreigners may be promoted to N.C.O. ranks to bring them up to strength. They will then receive the pay carried by the rank in question, but will not wear the distinguishing marks of such ranks. They will not be deemed superiors of German N.C.O.s of lower rank or German privates. For this purpose they will be given the ranks of section-leader, group-leader and assistant-group-leader instead of the German ranks of staff sergeant, corporal and lance-corporal, and shall be superior officers over all foreigners in the formation who hold no rank.

6. The Lockstedt Camp unit formed by the order of February 23rd, 1915, is merged into the new formation.

7. The commanding officer will make monthly reports to the 9th Army Corps and the War Office on the strength of the formation, the progress of its training and any other matters which may arise. The first report is due on October 1st.

8. The existence of this formation is to be kept as secret as possible. The contents of this document will therefore be imparted only to those authorities immediately concerned with the work of the formation and only in an epitomized form. No mention of the formation must appear in the Press.

Signed: Wild von Hohenborn.*

From the book: "Finland Breaks the Russian Chains" by Heinz Halter. Translated from the German by Claud W. Sykes. John Hamilton Ltd., London, 1940. Major Bayer's picture is from the book "Jääkärit maailmansodassa" (The Jägers in the World War), ed. E. Jernström, Helsinki 1933.

Image
Jaegers on Parade in Vaasa, 1918

Their contribution to the White victory was crucial, not least through improving morale. Educated as elite troops, they were also fit to assume command as officers over the untrained troops of the Civil War. Immediately after the Civil War, they were given the right to use the word Jäger in their military ranks. Many of the Jägers continued their military careers. In the 1920s a long feud between officers with Jäger-background and Finnish officers who had served in the Russian Imperial army was concluded in favor of the Jägers: Most of the commanders of army corps, divisions and regiments in the Winter War were Jägers. The Jäger March composed by Jean Sibelius to the words written by the Jäger Heikki Nurmio, became the honorary march of many army detachments. The Jäger conflict derived from the German influenced Jägers and politicians that saw Germany as their ally in conflict with the Swedish-Entente orientated circles around the former Russian General and Finnish Commander-in-Chief Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. Mannerheim and the Swedish officers of the Finnish Army left Finland as a direct cause of this conflict and the Finnish Senate elected a German prince as King of Finland and would have made Finland a Monarchy. When the World War ended and the Kaiser fled, the Finnish monarchy was replaced by the Finnish Republic and Mannerheim returned as Regent of Finland.
The Jägers played a key role in the Suomen Maavoimat from its formation through to, and in many cases after, the Winter War World War 2. By the time of the Winter War, “Jäger” Officers held most of the senior positions in Army Headquarters as well as commanding almost all of the Divisions and Regiments of which the Army was made up. While mostly junior Officers in the 1920’s, the Jägers gradually assumed higher ranks and held more and more key positions as time passed and older Officers retired. It was these Jäger Officers who were instrumental in carrying out the training and organizational reforms of the 1930’s. It was these Jäger Officers who drove the innovative weapons research and design programs of the 1930’s. It was these Jäger Officers who were instrumental in developing the combat doctrine and tactics that, man for man, made the Suomen Maavoimat into what was arguably the best combat army of World War 2, with an effectiveness out of all proportion to the small size of the Army and the Country. It was these Jäger Officers whose dedication over the course of two decades to the ongoing development of Finland’s defense capabilities led to the Finnish victories of the Winter War and of the Finnish Army in the later part of the Second World War.

As such, before we go any further, we should take a closer look at the “Jägers” and their place in the Finnish Army (Suomen Maavoimat) through the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The Jägers and the “Russians”

The Finnish Cadre / Conscript Army grew out of the long shadow cast by the Civil War. The senior officers in charge of the emergence of the military system in interwar Finland were a combination of nationalist activists who had prepared for a war of independence from Russia and who had trained and fought under German command, and professional officers from the former Tsarist-Russian Army who had returned to Finland after the Bolshevik Revolution. These groups mobilised and organised the White Army in 1918, and led its development into a modern national armed force. Of these disparate political and generational factions, one group in particular stands out as decisive in the formation of the Finnish Army. This group was that of the so-called Jäger officers, the war heroes of the “Liberation War.” The story usually told about the Jägers in interwar Finland described them as young militant activists for independence who had clandestinely left Finland for Germany during the First World War, defecting to the Russian Empire’s enemy by the hundreds. Seizing the unique opportunity provided by the Great War, they sought military training in order to lead a planned popular insurgence to “liberate” Finland from Russia. The Jägers then returned to Finland to fight in the Civil War, training the government’s new conscripted troops and leading them into battle. Contemporaries thought their thorough German military training, fresh combat experience of modern warfare, and patriotic zeal was crucial to the striking power and final victory of the White Army in 1918.

The story of the Jägers’conveyed an image of what the Finnish soldier should and could be like. The living reality and presence of the Jägers throughout the army organisation made their example something more than a distant and lofty ideal. In the 1920’s, a good number of the training officers as well as the company and regimental commanders of the conscript army were Jäger veterans. They were flesh-and-blood, leading much of the practical military education of Finnish conscripts at the company and regimental level and serving as ever-present real-life models for the conscripts. Jäger officers led the institutions for officer training, from the Reserve Officer School to the Cadet School and the National War College. Towards the end of the 1920’s and even more so through the 1930’s, they came to dominate the senior positions in the armed forces and thus the central planning and organisation of the Conscripts military training. In the post-war flood of historical works, memoirs, novels and magazine articles about the events of the Civil War, the story of the Jägers who risked everything to save their country was repeatedly and actively told and retold, not least by their supporters and by the Jägers themselves.

The story of the Jägers became part of the mythic telling of the Civil War, conveying a deep moral message, but also meeting the psychological needs of post-war society. In their patriotic grandeur the accounts were probably far removed from the private war memories of many people, especially those on the “red” side. Forming a kind of master narrative, the Jäger myth obscured many other viewpoints of the Finnish Civil War experience. These obscured viewpoints were not only the voices of the socialists and “workers” who lost the Civil War, but also those of the professional officers who had served the Russian Tsar, the Jägers disabled in the war, and the Jägers who found themselves unemployed and in misery in a post-war society. Nevertheless, the Jäger story offered a perception of history that not only served the state’s purposes, but obviously appealed to many Finns – perhaps even more so to young people who had no personal experiences or only dim childhood memories of the war. To the extent that the Jäger stories permeated Finnish society ever more deeply, the stories also provided an image of the Finnish military for Conscripts to base their own expectations on.

This particular Post is a study of how the Jägers public image in Finland in the 1920s and 1930s, together with the stories told about their achievements and the character of the Jägers themselves helped to create an image of the Finnish Soldier within Finnish Society. It was in many ways this societal image which set the standard for Conscripts and formed a solid psychological foundation for the soldiers of the Winter War. This Post is not an overview of the history of the Jäger movement as such, as this has been extensively researched, is widely available elsewhere and is outside the timeframe that we are looking at. This PhD thesis from which this analysis has been taken draws on a range of sources; histories of the Liberation War and the Jäger Movement published shortly after the war, memoirs by individual Jägers, Suomen Sotilas (the army’s magazine for soldiers) and the yearly Christmas magazine Jääkäri-Invaliidi (The Jäger Invalid), published by the Jäger Association and sold for the benefit of Jäger veterans who were invalids.

The first section looks at how the “heroic Jäger” image was built up. The second section will look at how the “heroic Jäger” image was used in a campaign to oust former officers of the Russian Imperial Army and pave the way for the Jägers to obtain leading positions in the Armed Forces. Here, some newspaper and magazine articles were used as sources. However, as Jääkäri-invaliidi and the internal newsletter of the Jäger association Parole make visible, not all Jägers who survived the war became successful career officers. The experiences of less fortunate Jägers add an interesting contrast to the imagery of the successful war heroes. In the third section, the military education agenda of the Jäger officers, as it was expressed in military regulations and handbooks of the late 1920’s and 1930’s, is investigated as regards the images created of the Finnish soldier and the connection of this to the Jägers’ ideals and self-image. In the concluding section, the functions and purposes of the Jägers as a military image held up to be emulated and aspired to are discussed.

How the image of the “Heroic Jäger” was built up

A great number of historical and fictional works, articles and short stories in magazines and periodicals, memoirs and even stage plays and motion pictures were produced in the interwar era to commemorate the Jäger movement and the vicissitudes of the Jägers’ journeys, military training and war experiences during the Great War and the Liberation War. All this commemoration can be seen to have served a number of different purposes. Perhaps the most immediate one was to vindicate these militant activists for independence against all those who had thought they were immature and foolhardy adventurers who had put the whole nation at risk, or even thought that their actions constituted treason. Other purposes were to invest the horrific civil war with a positive meaning, turning a national tragedy into a national triumph, and to create an image of the “ideal” Finnish Soldier for all those Conscripts who were now called up to defend the new Finnish state.

In order to understand how the Jägers were portrayed as soldiers, and what kind of image was conveyed, consideration must be given to how the Jägers portrayed the righteousness of their cause and how they ascribed the Civil War with a special meaning. This section will first provide the historical background for the Jäger movement, then highlight the characteristics by which the Jägers were portrayed as war heroes; their energy and ability to act, their youthfulness and passionate nature, their patriotic zeal and spirit of self sacrifice, and their unflinching faith in victory, beyond rationality or consideration. The Jägers’ “war heroism” should be seen against the backdrop of a process of transformation within Finnish nationalism during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Finnish nationalism in the nineteenth century had primarily celebrated Finnish language and culture and emphasised the peaceful advancement of national culture and prosperity through popular enlightenment, legal rule, and domestic autonomy. The heroes of the national pantheon had mainly been poets, philologists, composers and political philosophers. Due to Finland’s position as a part of the autocratically ruled Russian Empire, expressions of Finnish patriotism had to be carefully expressed. The main military heroes of the era were the semifictional characters of Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s poem Tales of Ensign Stål (1–2, 1848 and 1860) and Zacharias Topelius’ serial story Tales of an Army Surgeon (1853–1867), both immensely popular works that certainly provided role models for the Finnish Soldier.

A new militancy within Finnish nationalism came into existence around 1900, for the first time it was suggested that military force could be a useful way of promoting Finland’s national interest in relation to the Russian Empire. According to historian Nils-Erik Villstrand, this period constituted a turning point, where Finland suddenly diverged from a common Nordic political culture of non-violence, dialogue and mutual adjustment. Influenced by Russian opposition groups, Finnish independence activists and socialists incorporated political violence into their arsenal. A Finnish underground activist movement started to form in 1901, in order to resist the Russian suppression of Finnish autonomy. It co-operated with revolutionary movements in Russia, distributed illegal literature and press, opposed the draft under the new military service law of 1901 and organised political agitation among the population. In 1902–1903, parts of the resistance movement were radicalized and adopted terrorist methods, including political assassinations, for restoring “lawfulness” and full Finnish autonomy. The early activism of 1901–1905 soon dissolved as a consequence of the Russian government’s political concessions in the wake of the Russian Revolution in 1905. The widening rift between Finnish socialist and non-socialist civic activists also contributed to the dissolving of this movement.

The so-called early activists organised shooting practices and aimed at arming “patriotic” citizens. Yet even they did not necessarily see independence as a viable option. One concern was that the military burdens of an independent state would be too heavy for Finland to carry. As long as the Russian monarchy was in place, opinions in Finland remained deeply divided over whether resistance should be active or passive and whether the Finns should seek confrontation or reconciliation with the Russian government. A majority of Finns remained loyal to Russia at the outbreak of the Great War. Over one thousand conscripts volunteered to fight in the Russian army. Yet according to historian Tuomas Hoppu, no evidence can be found that these men volunteered for the cause of Russia or the empire. Rather, their motivation ranged from a poor social position and a desire to secure their own and their families’ livelihood, to love of adventure and a wish to see the world and gain career opportunities. In spite of formal loyalty, Hoppu writes, the public opinion in Finland was negative to Finns serving in the Russian forces, and for this reason several hundred volunteers changed their mind and stayed at home.

The founding of the Jäger movement

Bourgeois Swedish-speaking “old activists”, nationalist veterans of the activism of 1902–1905, immediately recognised a potential ally in Germany in 1914; an ally not only against the common Russian adversary, but also against the ever-strengthening socialist movement and the growing threat of social revolution in Finland. The Germans for their part had a strategic interest in inciting a rebellion against Russian rule in Finland. Contacts between exiled Finnish activists in Stockholm and the German military command were soon established. The older activists joined forces with a younger generation of leaders of both Swedish and Finnish-speaking nationalist student circles in Helsinki, who had also been scheming for Finnish independence with support from either Sweden or Germany. These students were frustrated with what they thought of as the compliance and outmoded clinging to legality of the older generation of Finnish nationalists in the struggle to defend Finnish autonomy against Russian authorities. The educated youth in 1914 was “trembling with a vague desire to do something and was only looking for a form of action which would sufficiently satisfy its glowing hatred of the oppressors”, wrote Pehr Herman Norrmén (1894–1945), one of the earliest Jäger activists, in an early history of the movement in 1918.

According to historian Matti Klinge, an admiration of the new German Kaiserreich and its science, economy and military strength had grown among Finland’s educated elites during the decade before the Great War. A current of Germanism, starting primarily among conscripts of the largely Swedish-speaking upper classes, celebrated activism, sports, and notions of “Germanic energy”. Force, action and intuition were seen as superior to rationalism and empiricism. For young men attracted by this cult of action, the option of sitting out a world war in peaceful Helsinki, while other nations seemingly fought over the future of Western civilisation, must have seemed shameful. By contrast, the alternative of joining forces with the admired Germans had an allure of adventure in spite of – or maybe indeed because of – the dangers involved and the foolhardiness of the whole venture. P.H. Norrmén described what happened as a forceful “emotional reaction” against the paralyzing sentiment of passivity in Finnish society. He remembered how “passionately” the young students longed for some action that would “wake up the sleepers, force the hesitant to act”. The students decided it was time to ignite a national rebellion in Finland. To lead that rebellion, the students needed military education.
Image
A group of Finnish Volunteers, many of whom would later become Senior Officers in the Suomen Maavoimat and play an important role in the Miracle of the Winter War

In February 1915, the Germans agreed to give military training to a group of 200 Finnish activists. Whether the initiative was actually made by older Finnish activists in Sweden, German intelligence or university students in Helsinki is a matter of controversy – the Jägers themselves later claimed the latter. The leaders of the “passive” resistance against Russian imperial policies in Finland, i.e. the majority of older Finnish politicians, flatly opposed the plans, but the activists were not impressed by their objections. Volunteers travelled to Sweden under different pretexts and then continued to Germany and a training camp of the German army at Lockstedt in the Hamburg region. During 1915 and 1916, the original training unit of 189 men, consisting mainly of Swedish-speaking university students or graduates from Helsinki, was slowly enlarged through secret recruitment in Finland to a battalion comprising almost 1900 men. Students and workers eventually constituted the two main groups of the Finnish Jäger battalion at the Lockstedter Lager. The majority of the enlarged battalion were Finnish-speaking men from the lower social strata; 34% were farmer’s sons and 26% sons of workers. Nonetheless, those with a father in an academic profession were over-represented at 8%.

The battalion underwent austere Prussian military training at the Lockstedter Lager, suffering from prolonged uncertainty over their future and the German military command’s intentions as well as hunger due to the general food shortage in the belligerent Reich. As the envisioned German landing operation in Finland was postponed indefinitely, the Finnish battalion was deployed on the German Eastern Front in Latvia and Lithuania to get battlefield experience. There, the Jägers endured trench warfare and Russian shelling, but only a few instances of actual combat. In the Jäger histories, the Jägers’ growing despair as to whether they would ever be able to return home was usually depicted as much harder to bear than the hardships of life at the front. Only in February 1918, after Russia had been shaken by two revolutions, and after Finland had declared independence in December 1917 and with the interior situation in Finland deteriorating into civil war, did the German military command finally decide to send the Jägers back to join the Finnish government forces.

The Jägers gave elementary military training to tens of thousands of volunteers and conscripts and led these troops into battle. The victory of the government troops in May 1918 was perhaps hastened by the German intervention in April. Nevertheless, the military expertise and leadership of the Jägers was often identified in contemporary accounts as a decisive advantage of the “White” Army over the well equipped but poorly trained “Red” troops. According to the historian and politician Eirik Hornborg (1879–1965) – himself a Jäger – the most important thing about the Jägers was not their numbers, 400 officers and 700 non-commissioned officers, but their standing as seasoned warriors in a country hitherto untouched by the Great War. “[A] Jäger was a legendary figure who enjoyed the blind confidence of his men, whether he actually deserved it or not”. Sievi Holmberg, who worked as a nurse for the Whites, described Jäger officer Veikko Läheniemi, commanding the white forces in her sector, as a man who “despite his modest appearance arouses horror in the enemy, unlimited admiration and respect in his own boys, and with his personal courage shows his boys that “a real man can only fall, not yield to danger.” The Swedish Colonel W.A. Douglas, who participated in the Finnish civil war, later remembered “the Jägers enjoyed an almost supernatural trust among the nationally minded public in Finland.”

A heroic story of National Liberation

The gaining of independance to a certain extent vindicated the activists who for years had plotted and agitated for armed resistance against the Russian Empire. Yet how to construct the national self-image in the wake of 1918 was problematic. Finland never really participated in the Great War, but neither could the country identify with the self-image of a peace-loving neutral nation either, since it had the memories of its own short but cruel civil war to deal with. Finland’s independence had above all been made possible by the Russian military defeat by Germany and the subsequent Russian revolutions. Only after power in Russia had fallen into the hands of socialist revolutionaries did the Finnish bourgeoisie unanimously rally around the idea of national independence. The bitter class conflict within the Finnish population itself almost undid independence just as it had been declared. German weapons deliveries and a German military intervention to support the Finnish government in the Civil War had a major impact on the outcome of the Civil War. Historian Matti Lackman has pointed out that the activists and politicians inviting German troops to Finland took a great risk. The country would in all likeliehood have become a vassal state of the Reich, had not Germany been defeated by the Entente soon after.

The Jägers, however, provided ample material for anybody who wanted to tell a heroic and edifying story about how Finland gained its independence. Their story had all the elements of a good adventure tale; Finland’s desperate situation at the hands of the Russian oppressors, the passivity and resignation of the older generations, the insuppressible longing for deeds and action among a young elite, the dangerous journey into the unknown, the hardships and privations of
draconian Prussian military training, the baptism of fire on the Eastern Front, the nerve-racking waiting for a decisive turn in events, and eventually the triumphant return to the native country and the final victorious battle against Finland’s enemies.

In 1933, Yrjö Ruutu (1887–1956) published an article in the Jääkäriinvaliidi magazine, commemorating the 15th anniversary of the “Liberation War”, which is an interesting example of how the Jägers could be used to make claims about the war and the entire Finnish nation. Ruutu was the president of the students’ union in 1914 and one of the earliest organisers of the Jäger movement. He acquired a standing as a kind of theorist and ideologue of the movement. Among the different means for achieving independence, Ruutu wrote, the Jäger movement had been the most important. “The Finns’ own influence on their country’s future hang on its success more than on anything else.” Behind this movement stood members of all social classes and parties and thus it represented the whole Finnish society, claimed Ruutu. “Its existence was proof that the will for independence of the Finnish people had gone from words and wishes to actions.” The Jäger movement had demonstrated that the Finnish people did not want to “sit around arms crossed” in the middle of a World War, waiting for others to act and to help, but that the people of this nation wanted to take responsibility for its own destiny. In Ruutu’s mind, the Jäger movement was proof of Finland’s coming of age as a state.
Image
Yrjö Ruutu (1887–1956), theorist and ideologue of the Jäger movement

Similar portrayals of the Jäger movement could be found in the conservative and right-wing press on the anniversary of the Jägers’ return to Finland that same year, February 25th, 1933. Ajan Suunta, the daily newspaper of the far-right Isänmaallinen Kansanliike (Patriotic People’s Movement) wrote about the conscripts who had been ”the avengers of their people”; who wielded ”a sword hardened in fire and blood in strong hands”. The open armed struggle of Finnish youth against the oppressor in the Great War was a beacon for the people, stated Ajan Suunta. “The shining example of a thousand conscripts was the igniting spark that lit into enormous flames the eternal fire of patriotism”. The conservative daily Uusi Suomi was not quite as carried away, but wrote: “Many peoples could envy us for the hero story of the Jägers. … They roused the spirit of the liberation war, years before its hour had come, and maintained it during years of seeming hopelessness, in spite of the warnings and accusations of old people and although “the people and the country hung their heads” … The Jäger story is a national treasure. It is an inspiring model and source of faith for Finnish youth for all times to come. It is one of the most durable keystones of our future.”

Thus, a small group of young idealists mounting illegal military action against the old regime were offered as the evidence of national maturity. The strength of their passion and valour was seen by Ruutu and other nonsocialist commentators as an indicator of how the “Finnish people” had developed a patriotism strong enough to sustain an independent state. The Jägers springing into action, doing something daring and magnificent, made it possible for nationalist rhetoric to gloss over the image of a nation passively awaiting its destiny at the hands of foreign armies with the far more preferable image of the Finnish nation as strong, energetic and capable of decisive action. Similar to how the Jägers had appeared on the battlefields as armed and trained soldiers, Finland had now emerged on the world-scene as a sovereign state, armed, ready and able to defend itself. The nation had finally reached the threshold and passed the necessary trial of statehood in war. “The new free state was born with the attitude of the freedom fight”, wrote the prominent Jäger officer, publicist, military historian and military educator Heikki Nurmio (1887–1947) in 1923, thus triumphantly concluding a lyrical description of the Jägers’ journey over dangerous waters to return home to Finland in February 1918. True independence can only be attained through struggle and fight, maintained the chairman of the Jäger Association Verner Gustafsson in 1938.

Another frequent variation on this theme was that the Jägers had rekindled “the spirit of the forefathers” and thus renewed a centuries-old alleged tradition in which “the Finnish man has fought for his country or valiantly marched for faith, freedom and fatherland”, especially against “the evil East”. In this version, then, the strong, bold and Jägers evoked the memories of their Finnish forefathers, linking the modern nation to a mythical past. The Jägers’ role had been to energise a nation that had lost its vigour and valour through Russian oppression, the lack of national armed forces and the anxiousness of old men clutching on to lawbooks instead of taking up the sword. This rhetoric probably corresponded to how the Jägers had personally experienced the situation in 1914–1915; the suffocating cautiousness and passivity of the older generations and their own youthful urge for action. P.H. Norrmén wrote in 1918 of his “lively recollection” of a night in October 1914 as students in a nightly gathering in Helsinki burst out singing Die Wacht am Rhein “seized with a crazy enthusiasm … without damping and without precaution, just for the joy of defying the prevailing sentiment of old men’s wariness.”


Die Wacht am Rhein

These angry young men longed for armed action and were “embittered by the know-all attitude
of voices trying to subdue the rising fighting spirit in our people”. They were thus confronted with a widespread reluctance against military violence among the Finnish educated classes that only deepened as the Great War raged on. However, as we have seen, the Civil War brought a decisive shift towards the new kind of militarised nationalism represented by the Jägers.

Youthfulness and Passion in the Jäger story

The youthfulness and youthful passion of the Jägers was often emphasised. In his documentary book Diary of a Jäger (1918), published soon after the Civil War, Heikki Nurmio described how three teenage boys came to see him in 1915, eager to leave for Germany. As their high school teacher at the time, Nurmio tried to talk them out of it, but failed. He commented: “Who can still a storm with rebukes. The storms of spring take their own course; they crush the chains of nature, as if for fun, with their irresistible force. In those youths, under their seemingly tranquil surface, the storms of spring were raging and already doing their irresistible work.” This passionate desire for action and deeds among the young generation was juxtaposed with the cautiousness and passivity of the older generation in the stage play Jääkärit [The Jägers, 1933], written by Jäger Major Leonard Grandell (1894–1967) and bestselling author Kersti Bergroth
(1886–1975). In the play, young Arvo who is secretly preparing to travel to the Jäger training camp in Germany bursts out angrily at his father, who adamantly abides by legality in the face of the Russian imperial authorities’ suppression of Finland’s autonomy: “A young person will do foolish things if he is not allowed to fight. (…) A young person cannot control himself – but maybe he can control the world. Let us fight outwards, that suits us. And let us fight in our way.” At the end of the play, as Arvo returns as a Jäger officer and the liberator of his own village from the socialist revolutionaries, his father admits: “I say, it was a great idea, this strange deed of the boys. Where did they get it, immature children? It took us old people years to even understand it. To them it just came ready-made – out of somewhere!”

Image
Jäger Major Leonard Grandell

The Jäger youth was thus associated with energy and action and contrasted to the passivity of the older men of compliance. The foolhardiness, adventurousness and even recklessness of their enterprise, characteristics that would have been scorned by middle-aged moralists in most other contexts, were celebrated as admirable virtues. Youth and strong passions were closely connected to each other in nineteenth and early twentieth century bourgeois discourses on manliness and morality. However, in the “self-help books” for conscripts of the era, as studied by historian David Tjeder, the passions were seen as a threat and a problem, something that a young man had to learn to master, control and suppress, lest they bring his downfall into a life of vice. Self-discipline, self-restraint and building a “strong character” were emphasised. However, this was not the case in the Jäger narratives. There, the passion of youth became a historic force as it was channelled into flaming patriotism. The demands of warfare in an era of national states transformed the bourgeois ideals of manliness. The national warrior of the Liberation War certainly had to know how to master his desires and his fear. However, according to the Jäger narratives, even more than that he must be able to devote himself, give himself up to great and noble emotions, push vapid circumspection aside and just passionately believe in his own and his nation’s ability to fight and to triumph.

In some stories, individual Jägers could be portrayed as reckless adolescents rather than real men upon leaving home for the great adventure. The journalist and former student of theology Eino Salmelainen (1893–1975) depicted the fictional main character of his 1922 short story ‘How Rudolf Borg became a Jäger’ as an unusual and precocious adolescent who was illadjusted to his school environment, did not care for schoolwork and made his parents very concerned. Borg leaves for Jäger training in Germany and returns transformed. He “fights like a man” in 1918, but the narrator of the short story asks whatever would have become of the boy if he had not found his calling in soldiering and the Jäger movement. “The brave and gallant officer’s dress still hid within it more of a daredevil boy than a man. After the war, life here once more began to feel too plain and ordinary. Then the battlefields of Estonia and [Eastern Karelia] could for their part bring his restless mind gratification.” The story nevertheless ends with a depiction of how Rudolf Borg visits his home town as a stately officer. His previous schoolmates who had made fun of him are now shy of him, not knowing what to say in their awe of him. His father, however, is proud to walk beside him in town: “He felt that his boy had now become a man.”

In narratives such as the stage play Jääkärit or the short story about Rudolf Borg, military training, war experience and the duties of an officer channelled the foolhardiness and passion of youth and gave them forms respected and appreciated by society. Both stories implicitly states that when the nation was in danger and deeds were needed, the passionate nature of young masculinity was transformed from a problem in normal peacetime society into a rescuing resource in times of crises. At the same time, war and noble action gave the passions of youth the possibility of being discharged in order to benefit of society. Most of the Jägers were between 20 and 25 years old when they enlisted. There were some teenage boys among them, who more or less ran away from home to join the battalion, but there were also older men in their 30’s. However, the people actually taking the real decisions within the Jäger movement – apart from the German military command – were the older generation of middle-age, upper-class activists in Helsinki, Stockholm and Berlin – Interestingly, their significance was later played down in the heroic story-telling, perhaps because it did not fit into the dramaturgy of the youthful hero myth.

The heroic virtue of self-sacrifice

Despite all their daredevilry, adventurousness and passionateness, the Jägers were also depicted as models of the supreme nationalist virtue, the spirit of self-sacrifice. Although most of the Jägers survived the war and many became distinguished figures in post-war society, over 10% of the 1300 Jägers who returned to fight in the Civil War were killed or mortally wounded in action. The Jägers who died and “gave more than all others” were thus an important though not a dominant part of the Jäger story, however, it was once again their youth that was especially emphasised. In the poem “The young Jäger” by Aarne Mustasalo (a nom de plume used by Heikki Nurmio) published in 1924, the “young hero” is lying mortally wounded on a stretcher, “his pale face noble and beautiful”, feeling the burning pain in his wound and death calling him. Through the treetops sound “songs of heroes immortal … over Finland, sounding in every young and brave heart, raising the troops with shining eyes. – From heart to heart, the song is one, the faith is one: the fatherland calls!” This poem was dedicated to the memory of Jäger Second Lieutenant Ahti Karppinen who was killed when the city of Viipuri was captured in one of the very last battles of the Civil War.

Another poem published in 1921, written by Artturi Leinonen, who himself had tried to join the Jägers in Germany, but been intercepted by Russian police, also gave expression to the cult of the youthful, passionate and self-sacrificing national warrior. This cult was not limited to the Jägers, but included all the allegedly voluntary and self-sacrificial soldiers of the White Army – yet as the leaders of other soldiers, the Jägers were fallen heroes on a higher level. Leinonen’s poem “The young hero” describes an unspecified white soldier hit by a bullet in the head, lying in the snow and feeling death approaching:

(…) Like a child, exhausted and fallen asleep
he lies on the glistering snow.
What moment loveliest in life?
That, which ignites the heart
brings it to an intense glow, to a holy fire.
When a man, forgetting himself
Only directs his strength to what is great and noble.
When he gives everything he can give.
Who brought a young life as a sacrifice
he gave more than all others.
As long as the stars and moons wander
As long as new days break to dawn
The word hero will honour his memory

The Jäger hero demonstrated to Finns how national freedom and prosperity had to be built on the power of arms and readiness for military violence. The Jäger narratives underlined and repeated the claims that Finland’s independence had been achieved by force of Finnish arms and that armed forces were a vital necessity for the nation. “Finland’s independence was reached by arms. The creation of Finnish armed forces was the act that gave birth to Finnish independence”, wrote Yrjö Ruuth (Ruutu) in the army magazine Suomen Sotilas in 1919, for an intended readership of conscript soldiers and civil guardsmen. He continued, “We must go on building our country’s future on this same firm ground. Finland’s future rests on the powerful arms of Finnish soldiers.” Resembling the Jägers, the national warrior should be ready to sacrifice his career, his family life, his health and his life for a higher purpose, namely the fatherland. Yet the Jäger myth was not only about sacrifice, but also about optimism and self-reliance. It demonstrated the allegedly historical force of the military; how patriotism, courage, willpower, ability to take action and the willingness to fight constituted a moral and physical force that could achieve victories deemed impossible by rational calculation. This message was meant to encourage and reassure the soldiers of a small and young nation, preparing for a future war against the great power on its eastern border.

The role of women was also incorporated into the Jäger “myth”. Ruth Munck and Saara Rampanen, two Finnish nurses who joined the Jäger battalion in Latvia during the war to nurse their wounded countrymen, were often remembered in Jäger narratives as female heroines. They had, it was said, left their homes and put everything at risk, just like the Jägers themselves, to join them in Germany and follow them back to Finland and through the struggle of the “Liberation War”. A writer in Jääkäri-invaliidi in 1933 commented on a passage in the stage-play The Jägers, where the sister of a Jäger bitterly deplores being a woman and therefore unable to join the fight. Taking ”Sister Ruth and Sister Saara” as well as the women who volunteered in auxiliary tasks during the “Liberation War” as his evidence, the author of this piece stated that events had shown that both women and men could work for their country; “indeed, that national defence today positively and absolutely needs the work and support of both sexes, i.e. the whole people”. To the author’s mind, this outcome of the Great War in all countries of Central Europe was “an enormous step forward for the women’s question, the victorious advancement of women into spheres of society that previously had been closed to them.” Women could thus be part of the military action and be of service to the nation.
Image
Kuva: Lotta Svärd-yhdistyksen keskusjohtokunta vuonna 1926. Istumassa vas. Hilja Riipinen, Signe Björkenheim, Helmi Arneberg-Pentti, Fanny Rikama ja Ruth Munck; seisomassa Hilma Pohjanpalo, Fanni Luukkonen, Tekla Brummer ja Fanny Munck Lotan ulkoisena tunnusmerkkinä oli harmaa lottapuku, johon kuuluivat valkoiset irtokaulukset ja -kalvosimet. sekä lottaneula Kaikki toimivat jäsenet antoivat lottalupauksen
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

The Jääkärit and their place in the Finnish Army - II

Post by CanKiwi2 » 17 Mar 2011 19:54

The Jääkärit and their place in the Finnish Army

Heroic Officers and their Counter-Images

The idealised image of the Jägers as war heroes was mainly built around their actions during the war years. However, as many Jägers after the war went on to professional military careers, their heroic image could also be used to further their own careers, especially when contrasted with counter-images of other officers. As peace returned after the Civil War and Finnish independence seemed secured, roughly half of the 1300 Jägers who had returned to Finland to fight left the army and went on to continue their interrupted civilian lives. But in 1921, nearly seven hundred still remained in service, ranging in rank from sergeants to colonels. Some stayed because of promising career opportunities, some because they did not know what else to do. For many, however, organising and training strong Finnish armed forces to meet the Russian threat was also the logical continuation of their mission as freedom fighters.

The Jägers, however, were not the only soldiers returning to Finland in 1918. The Russian imperial army had, ever since the early nineteenth century, offered career opportunities to Finnish officers from aristocratic families. As the Russian empire and its army crumbled in 1917–1918, most of these officers returned to Finland. Whereas the Jägers were only conscripts, students with elementary officer training at best, many of the “Russian officers” had reached high positions in the Russian army. They had higher military education and experience of planning wars and leading whole armies. The highest command in the White Army in 1918 and in the regular armed forces after the war was as a matter of course given to these senior officers, above all Kustaa Wilkama who was made Commander of the armed forces after the war and Oscar Enckell who became Chief of the General Staff in 1919. Although Jägers were also appointed to high offices, such as division commanders, the former Russian Tsarist Officers formed a very powerful military group.
Image
Kustaa Wilkama

Many Jäger officers were not content with this state of affairs for long. With a few exceptions, the first and foremost being the white supreme commander in the Civil War, C.G.E. Mannerheim, they regarded most of the “Tsar’s officers” as traitors to Finland’s cause and considered that these men had mismanaged the build-up phase of defence planning. As they saw it, these officers had unscrupulously served the oppressor for the sake of their own careers whereas they, the Jägers, had sacrificed everything and suffered hardships in the German trenches only for the hope of liberating their fatherland. Together with some of the old activists behind the Jäger movement such as Kai Donner and Elmo Kaila, experienced propagandists and intrigue-makers, a group of the highest-ranking Jägers started a campaign in 1920 to oust all “Russianness” from the army, accusing the “Russian’s officers” of general incompetence and corruptness.
Image
Kai Donner (1881-1935): Finnish linguist, ethnographer and politician. He carried out expeditions to the Nenets people (Samoyeds) in Siberia 1911–1914 and was docent of Uralic languages at the University of Helsinki from 1924. He was, among other things, a pioneer of modern anthropological fieldwork methods, though his work is little known in the English-speaking world. Kai Donner studied Finno-Ugrian philology at the University of Helsinki from 1906 and in 1909, was a student at Cambridge Universitt. Studying the Finno-Ugrian peoples of Siberia had become an important part of the "national sciences" — Finno-Ugrian philology and ethnology, folklore studies, and archaeology — that arose in answer to the interest in national "roots" that followed the "National Awakening" of the mid-19th century. Kai Donner had decided early on that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of pioneer philologist and explorer M.A. Castrén (1813–1852) and study the peoples who lived beyond the Urals. On his first trip (1911–1913) he traveled along the upper reaches of the Ob and most of the Yenisei. His second trip took him to the Ob, Irtysh, and upper Yenisei. Living with the Nenets and Khant people, Donner studied not only the language but also the way of life and beliefs of his hosts. His travelogue, "Bland Samojeder i Sibirien åren 1911-1913, 1914" ("Among the Samoyeds in Siberia in the years 1911-1913, 1914"), was first printed in 1915. During World War I, Donner was active in the Finnish independence movement which was secretly sending young men to Germany to receive military training in preparation for an armed struggle for independence from Imperial Russia. Betrayed to the Okhrana in 1916, he fled to Sweden and lived there and in Germany as a refugee until 1918. During the Finnish Civil War, Kai Donner served as General Mannerheim's aide-de-camp. In the 1920s and early 1930s he was one of the more influential leaders of the rightist Lapua Movement. Finland-Swedish by mother tongue, he expressed reservations about the persecution of Swedish speakers, which was commonly supported by conservative Finns in those decades

They claimed that these older officers in high positions were preventing the Jägers from obtaining continued military education and were favouring other officers who had served in Russia. The campaign culminated in 1924, as the Jäger officers in effect blackmailed the government into dismissing eight of the highest ranking officers, including the commander-in-chief, by threatening their own mass resignations. The politicians resisted at first, but the Jägers eventually triumphed. Whether this should be understood as a case of the military overruling parliamentary democracy, or as a skilful move on part of the politicians to purchase the Jägers’ loyalty to the centrist republic, i.e. a kind of “appeasement” policy to prevent the Jägers from allying themselves with authoritarian radical movements, is a matter of perspective. The “purge” of the army command was stretched out over a two-year period and carried out under various false pretexts. The Jägers involved repeatedly denied that the ‘officers strike’ was aimed at making their own advancement possible, but the end result was that by 1926 most of the top positions in the army – chief of the general staff, commander-in-chief, two out of three division commanders, and so forth – were filled with Jäger officers. Historian Max Engman has compared the Jäger officers to similar voluntary nationalist warriors of the same period in Poland and Czechoslovakia and noticed with all of them, that men who once had taken up arms against the legal authorities had a low threshold for political intrigue-making to reach other objectives. Because they were driven by idealism and high expectations, they were, according to Engman, likely to be disappointed with developments in peacetime society – especially with regard to their own career prospects.

Defaming the countertype officer

Within the context of images of soldiering in the new Finnish republic, it is interesting to note how the public rhetoric used in the campaign against the officers who had served in Russia cast them as counter-types of the Jägers. It was implicitly claimed that the “Russians” did not display the proper military image neded to educate, inspire and lead the new Finnish citizen-soldiers. The central accusation was that having served for so long in Russia, they lacked “national spirit” and had become Russian in mindset. They did not cherish Finnish independence and they derided Finnish nationalism. Elmo Kaila (1888–1935), probably the most active and venomous writer of the campaign, claimed that the “Russian” officers had no contact with their soldiers and left their training completely to the non-commissioned officers. To Kaila, they represented an old oppressive military culture, alien to an army of free citizens. “A soldier in the Russian view is a brutish machine, only good enough for taking orders and being cannon-fodder”. He claimed that they thought their task as officers was “to ‘represent’ the army, in elegant dress and with sophisticated manners” instead of standing in the mud of the training-fields. The soldier, Kaila wrote, will start to hate the army where he is not treated like a human being. The people will be alienated from the armed forces and Bolshevik agitators will find rich soils for their secret seeding.

In a very similar article in the Suunta (Direction) political weekly, run by Kai Donner and other members of the old nationalist activist circles of 1915–1918, the pseudonym “Defender of the Country” (Maanpuolustaja) accused the officers who had served in Russia of not understanding the specific circumstances in Finland. They resisted reforms and new military technology out of sheer ignorance and fear that their incompetence would be revealed. The text went on to claim that officers who did not share the soldier’s nationality simply could not be good military leaders: “It stands clear, that an officer of another nationality or belonging to the other language group [i.e. Swedish-speaking] lacks all prerequisites for understanding the spiritual life and basic nature of the men. Neither has he the will to the kind of closer contact [with the men] that would produce the necessary feeling of sympathy and trust. Their narrowness also becomes apparent as an ignorance of national, societal and political circumstances, yet knowledge about these matters are of utmost importance, especially to the higher command. This causes a mercenary-like inclination to isolation, superficial judgement of circumstances, selfishness and prejudice as well as political adulation. This kind of officers lacks the steely trust in the country’s and the people’s future and the ardent attachment to the men which alone could infuse them with a common, strong and enduring patriotic mind.”

All these negative descriptions of the “Russian” officers worked as counter-types, providing a foil against which the ideal officer could stand out. By pointing out all the deficiencies of these inferior leaders, they stroke by stroke also painted an image of officers who would meet these requirements. In the words of “Defender of the Country” the officers needed are “accomplished, far-sighted men who have the courage to face all the demands of the future and endure the worst ordeals head up high, trusting in victory”. Who would fit this description better than the Jägers who had faced hopelessness and despair yet never lost faith? In Ilkka, E.E. Kaila explicitly brought up the Jägers as a positive contrast to the “Russian” officers: “Everybody knows what kind of men the Jägers are: to a large extent their origin is among the ordinary people, they are close to the people, they have dedicated themselves to the military profession enlivened by patriotic ideals and thus they understand the needs of the rank-andfile; they are of young age, but they have gathered life-experience in a hard school.”

In the campaign by Kaila and others, an opposition was constructed between “old-school” officers depicted as high-level mercenaries, military professionals with allegiance only to their own self-interest, and the new kind of nationalist officers who supposedly had chosen the military profession for purely patriotic and idealistic reasons. The former were portrayed as alienated from the people, steeped in foreign aristocratic traditions, whereas only the latter had the required qualifications to induce the necessary patriotism and spirit of sacrifice in the soldiers by the power of their own heroic example. The rhetoric repeatedly stressed how the Jägers had emerged from the masses of the Finnish people and therefore had a deeper bond with the people. Although they themselves represented heroic superiority, they understood and took care of the lumberjacks and farmhands they commanded. For example, in an obituary for the fallen Jäger lieutenant Yrjö Koivisto in Suomen Sotilas in 1920, it was mentioned how Koivisto “to an unusual degree was respected by his comrades and his men”. He sang with his men, he refused to ride on his horse when his men had to march along muddy roads, he ate the food they ate, slept where they slept, and stood at their side in the heat of battle, “always calm and encouraging where needed”. His men followed him with pride. Under the ”boyishly nonchalant surface was the mind of a real man, apt, glowing and deep, who did not shun even great sacrifices if the cause was just and noble.”

In the public debate on whether the Jägers’ future careers were being obstructed by the old imperial officers, the theme of their self-sacrifice re-emerged. It was pointed out by their supporters how the Jägers ever since 1918, due to the lack of trained officers, had been working extremely hard, trying to give adequate military training to the thousands of soldiers needed to protect Finland’s young independence. Poorly paid, with no possibility of taking leave for further military education, they were portrayed as having continued to sacrifice themselves for the nation after the war. Instead of receiving the gratefulness of the people and the material rewards they deserved, they had been side-stepped in their career path by “Russians” and inexperienced lieutenants fresh from the new cadet school. Apart from underplaying the fact that many Jägers by the early 1920’s had been promoted to ranks normally far beyond their formal military education, this rhetoric ignored some other problematic issues.

The notion that the Jägers were close to and representative of the people disregarded the fact that most of the higher-ranking Jägers actually originated within the educated upper and middle classes, a great number of them also being Swedish-speaking. This was in part because the Jäger movement in its earliest stages had found its recruits mainly among the students of Helsinki University. Those first to arrive at the Lockstedt training camp acquired a lead in relation to later arrivals. “Men of the people” were consciously promoted to the ranks of non-commissioned officers in the Jäger battalion in order to boost motivation, yet most of these never advanced beyond the rank of sergeant majors. There was a strong contemporary notion among both the German trainers and the Finnish leadership that a solid general education was a prerequisite for being an officer. In the 1920’s, this became a problem even for many Jägers from a middle-class background, who had by this point advanced to the ranks of lieutenants or captains, but had never finished their schooling because of their departure for Germany. In parliament for example, the Agrarian MP Juho Niukkanen had already in the summer of 1918 complained about the fact that the Jägers were being sidestepped and discriminated against as “Swedish gentlefolk’s boys” while those given brief officer training by the Jägers were being promoted to officers whereas many Jägers were still only non-commissioned officers;

Forgetfulness in the hero myth

A great deal of the pain and trauma left behind after the Civil War of 1918 was silenced in the atmosphere of mutual bitterness and mistrust in “white” post-civil-war Finland. Not only the suffering and defeat of the losing socialist workers, but also the losses and anguish of those on the non-socialist side. Those propounding the Jäger movement did not want Finns to remember the war as a bitter internal conflict, they would rather it was remembered as a triumphant Liberation War, and so the Jägers were made the living symbols of this triumph. In this context, what becomes important is determined as much by what is left out as by what is told and retold.

By emphasising the self-sacrificial and unselfish nature of the Jägers’ fervour, some other traits of their activities in the Civil War were given less attention. Although the lyrics of the Jägers’ own marching tune proclaimed the “invincible wrath” of the Jägers and how they “rise to seek vengeance”, too much bloodthirstiness did not fit into the Jäger post-war image, which was supposed to be a model of exemplary national warriors for the country’s soldiers. Historian Matti Lackman has written an extensive history of the Jäger movement which is deeply critical of the nationalist tradition in Jäger historiography. He has described the Jägers returning from Germany in terms of their burning hatred of many Jägers for the Russians and their “henchmen”, the self-righteousness with which they saw themselves as avengers of their comrades and even of their forefathers, and their role in the so-called “white terror”; the atrocities and summary executions of socialist revolutionaries towards the end of the war. He characterises the Jägers as nationalist revolutionaries who would not let superior officers prevent them from rather arbitrarily executing Russians, including prisoners and civilians, and anybody else suspected of collaboration with the Russians or the socialists.

Although the precise extent of the Jägers’ complicity in the white terror has not been proven, they were certainly included in the socialist workers’ memories of the White Army as “the butchers”. Stereotypical Jäger stories ended with their surviving the war and entering a successful career as professional officers. To some extent, there were also obituaries and short biographies idealising the heroism of fallen Jägers published for many years after the war. There were, however, groups among the Jägers who were given far less attention. One group more or less eliminated from the Jäger story were those 451 Jägers who for some reason or other only returned to Finland once the Civil War was over. According to Matti Lackman, a great number of these Jägers probably either refused to fight in the Civil War or were simply not allowed to return with the others since they were suspected of sympathising with the socialist revolutionaries. These “lost” Jägers would have been difficult to fit into the story of the Civil War as a war of national liberation. However, since they had fought alongside their comrades against Russia on the German East front, it was difficult to question their valour or their patriotism. The mere thought that they either refused to fight for the government or possibly would have fought on the socialist side would too painfully have attracted attention to the fact that the war of 1918 was primarily an internal conflict; not a “pure” war for independence, but a bitter political fight over what national independence should mean.

A further and relatively large group of Jägers also not much mentioned were those who were mentally or physically disabled by their war experiences. A Jäger pension committee in 1935 reported that at least one fourth of those Jägers who were still alive were in need of economic assistance. Of those 900 Jägers the committee had information about, at least 68 had died from tuberculosis, eleven had committed suicide and four “died of mental disturbance”. In addition, 15 were “permanently insane”. The attitude taken to these unfortunate Jägers was complex. On the one hand they were mostly not mentioned when the feats of the Jägers were celebrated e.g. in the conscript magazine Suomen Sotilas. One can assume that military educators hesitated to refer to these examples of the national warrior’s possible fate – probably much scarier to conscripts than the fallen soldiers who in the nationalist imagery always suffered “a beautiful death” – as in the poem by Artturi Leinonen quoted earlier. On the other hand, the invalids could be said to be carrying the heaviest burden and to have made the greatest sacrifice in the Liberation War, so that other citizens might enjoy their freedom. On the relatively rare occasions when Suomen Sotilas paid attention to the invalids of 1918, the texts mostly pointed out the disparity between the invalids’ heroic spirit of sacrifice and the thoughtless ingratitude and forgetfulness of society. And yet they were in their way the most forceful living evidence of the Jägers’ heroic spirit of self-sacrifice.

In the public depictions of the Jägers, there is a tendency to pay far more attention to heroes that lived or died than to those mutilated and crippled. Even in the yearly magazine Jääkäri-invaliidi [The Jäger Invalid], sold around Christmas time to collect means for charity among disabled and impoverished Jägers, the invalids themselves were the subject of few articles. Mostly, Jääkäri-invaliidi was filled with the usual exciting or edifying adventure stories about the Jägers’ fortunes during the war. However, there were one or two texts in every issue where officials of the Jäger association depicted the heart-rending destinies of many Jägers who wrote letters to the association begging for financial support. In these texts, interesting nuances and cracks were added to the public image of the Jägers. Returning home from a war can be harder than winning the war, noted the association’s secretary, Jäger Colonel Paavo Talvela (1897–1973) in 1933: “The trials and strains of the wars we passed through excited the nervous system of each one of us, made the blood move restlessly.” Toiling as a training officer in the understaffed armed forces after the war was seen as a cause of mental burn out. Unemployment and problems in making a living among the Jägers were depicted as results of war experiences, but also as indications of the lack of gratitude in society. In these public depictions of the invalids’ misery, the authors were always careful to point out that the veterans themselves were stoically and heroically carrying their suffering without complaint. It was always underlined that they did not want to be given flowers or handouts, only a fair chance to earn their living within the confines of their physical abilities.

Testimonies of more outspoken bitterness can be found in the Jäger association’s internal newsletter Parole, for example harsh words about the “flowery language” of the state authorities, which did nothing to save a Jäger in economic difficulty from “ending up derided by communists in the poorhouse”. In 1934, the newsletter even expressed concerns over the high number of Jägers who committed suicide; “May no Jäger get too distressed in the struggle of living. It may well be that the fatherland once more needs all of us. Keep your chin up and face resistance with courage! Resistance is there for us to prevail over, not for succumbing to! The Jäger spirit must stay alive!” Thus, even the Jägers themselves were eventually challenged to identify with and live up to the example set by their own self-image.

The Jäger Officers as Military Educators

What did the Jägers want to do with the military power they had seized in the mid-1920’s? More precisely, what was their vision for military training in the conscript army? What kind of soldiers should it produce and how should they be educated? There is no simple answer to these questions, since the Jägers, as we have seen, were a very heterogeneous group. There were at least two different public images of the Jägers as military educators, in part contradicting each other: on the one hand there were the trailblazers of a new, national and “modern” military education, different from the old Russian one, and on the other hand the harsh and merciless practicioners of “Prussian discipline” in Finnish military training. Both images had their correspondence in real groups among the Jäger officers, although probably neither represented the majority.

Some Jägers were put in charge of educating conscripted troops in the middle of the Civil War, although they had not even finished elementary school and only been trained as common soldiers in Germany. Without much further education, they continued to train conscripts in the rather undeveloped army organisation of the first post-war years, marked by a lack of officers and material scarcity. A good number of the conscripts who arrived to do their military service in the years immediately after the Civil War sympathised with the socialists and resented the regular “white” army and the Jäger “butchers”. Others instinctively rebelled against being forced into subservience. How should an officer deal with these men? According to the large body of reminiscences of military training, which will be analysed in depth later, many Jäger officers took recourse in the Prussian tradition and the way they themselves had been trained in Germany. “The Prussian discipline” soon became a swearword in the Finnish military vernacular and for some time was commonly associated with the Jägers. In memoirs of interwar military training, particularly of the 1920’s, it usually denoted a stereotyped image of a marked hierarchy and distance between superiors and subordinates, a ridiculous over-emphasis on saluting superiors, on close-order drill and indoor duty; stiffness and pompousness in the military hierarchy, and extremely formal and distanced relations between officers and the rank-and file.

One informant who did his military service in 1920 recollected that their Jäger officer claimed he had himself been to a tough school in Germany and been taught that “you have rip the spunk out of a man, only then can he become a good soldier.” Although this might be an element from a collective narrative, it does seem to reflect the reverse side of the half-mythic popular notions of the Jägers in interwar society. A certain dangerousness and a potential for violence was not infrequently included in images of the Jägers. An essential part of their image was of being hard men, ruthless and sometimes even merciless. They were no blue-eyed Boy Scouts, but war professionals who had experienced unimaginable horrors and hardships; men not to be joked with. Using humour to gloss over this scariness in the presence of the Heroic, an article in Suomen Sotilas in 1924 depicted how an ordinary, rank-and-file soldier in the Civil War viewed the Jägers. ”Us, we were just ordinary fat-faced country bumpkins and them Jägers, they were such skinny and angry-looking boys, like pitch oil merchants, cursin’ and makin’ such a racket that blue smoke was puffin’ from their nostrils.”

In many instances, the Jägers themselves actively contributed to this narrative tradition. Writing about their training in the Lockstedt camp or their experiences on the German Eastern Front, they usually emphasised the extremely harsh conditions, the severity of discipline, the lack of food, the oftentimes depressed and sometimes despairing mood among the men – but also how these experiences transformed them. The Jägers G.F. Helsingius and Ture Eriksson, writing about their time in Lockstedt for Jääkäriinvaliidi in 1933, remembered arriving at the training camp as a “moment of creation” when they were “met with a blast from a new world, a stronger and more austere one”. Eriksson depicted the recruit training in Lockstedt as absolutely hellish, as “pure white death”: “Yet we did not die, but the soul did. Our old soul that we had dragged along all the way from home, inherited, foisted upon us, struggled for, respected and cherished. Needless ballast! Enough to have a rifle, a belt, a bayonet, a food bag, water bottle, iron-shod boots. – And around this denuded, skinned, naked self something new, sprouting, vigorous and hard started forming, layer by layer: a new soul. (…) I think it was largely the simple grip of life which we learnt [in the Lockstedt training camp] that gave the new soul its vital force.”

One consequence of such stories about the Jägers’ hard training and hardships was the legitimisation of any excessive harshness or toughness in contemporary Finnish military training. If these experiences had eventually produced the hardened military manliness of exemplary military heroes, a bit of rough play certainly would not hurt the present conscripts either – on the contrary, it would toughen them and make them warriors. Although the Jägers as military educators were often stereotyped and associated with the extreme harshness of “Prussian discipline”, they were not a homogenous group in this respect either. Whereas some Jäger officers and sergeant majors were remembered as ruthless tyrants, more feared than respected by the soldiers, others were described admiringly as calm, sensible, self-confident professionals that were respected and esteemed by their men. In some narratives they appear as models of the military ideal; either as young, athletic and handsome lieutenants, or as stern but caring company commanders, like father figures. In some troops led by the Jägers, the ‘Prussian discipline’ was remembered as efficient and fair although very tough and demanding rapid and precise execution of orders.

Nevertheless, the popular association of the Jägers with the ‘Prussian discipline’ and its extreme emphasis on subservience did not fit very comfortably within the nationalist image of an army where the officers understood their soldiers’ needs and inspired them to self-sacrificing patriotism. One solution was trying to externalise the phenomenon. The term itself, Prussian discipline, was one way of claiming that this military culture was foreign to Finnish culture and incompatible with the Finnish national character. Only through their stay in foreign Prussia, a foreign country, could the Jägers have adopted such outlandish nonsense. Juha Mälkki makes a similar interpretation of the concept of ‘Prussian discipline’, which he finds expressive of the estrangement civilians unfamiliar with modern conscript armies experienced in their early contacts with a military system of the German type.

Already in 1918, Finnish-speaking Jäger Heikki Nurmio had publicly criticised how the Germans had taught Jägers picked out for officer training to distance and isolate themselves from their rank-and-file countrymen – and how these, mostly Swedish-speaking, upper-class members of the original training group, had only all-too-eagerly complied and adopted the German hierarchical ideal. Analogous to how the conscripts tried to project the nastier sides of military hierarchy and Finnish officers’ abuse of power onto a foreign “Prussian” military culture, Nurmio threw at least part of the blame on the upper-class, Swedish-speaking (and thus not quite Finnish) leading Jägers, whom he found wanting in the right kind of solidarity with their brothers-in-arms and compatriots. Nurmio’s critique implies that nationalist warriors should be spiritually united by their common purpose, not divided by military or social hierarchy.

Training a new kind of National Warrior

Some prominent Jägers in the 1920's took the lead in actually trying to change the culture of military education in interwar Finland. They wanted to move away from the “Prussian style” they had experienced in Lockstedt and which a number of their comrades evidently were practicing in the exercise fields of Finnish garrisons. Notable figures in this connection were Heikki Nurmio, Director of the Cadet School from 1925–1927; Aarne Sihvo (1889–1963), Director of the Military Academy rom 1924–1926 and Commander of the Armed Forces from 1926–1933; Regiment and Division Commander Hugo Österman (1892–1975), Sihvo’s successor as Commander of the Armed Forces from 1933–1939, and Hannes Anttila (1893–1968), who instigated the formal teaching of military pedagogy in the Finnish armed forces.

In writings in the military press as well as in the new army regulations of the mid-1920’s onwards, these and other writers – including young officers who were not themselves Jägers – claimed that the “old methods” of military education had to be abandoned. Interestingly, their main argument had a connection with the Jägers’ heroic self-image as a new kind of national warrior and a new kind of officer close to the people. The traditional methods of scaring or drilling the conscripts into mechanical obedience, they claimed, were insufficient to produce the spirit of sacrifice and individual initiative needed in modern warfare. Thus, in effect, they called for a new military training, which would produce soldiers with the same kind of mindset with which the Jägers and other volunteers of the “Liberation War” had fought for their people, nation and state. This idea took root in the 1920's, and when we look at training through the 1930's in detail we will see the full flowering of this concept. It is, however, noteworthy that they advocated a change in the way conscripts were treated and trained by way of developments in tactics and the dictates of modern military rationality – not by arguments based on democratic or moral principles. Heikki Nurmio, who had worked as a secondary school teacher before joining the Jäger movement, published a number of writings in Suunta and Suomen Sotilas during the 1920’s, where he called upon training officers to leave behind the drilling of recruits into absolute submission and instead strive towards infusing the soldiers with patriotism, a sense of duty and a spirit of sacrifice. Today’s armies are different from those in the past, he wrote in 1922, in that the men must feel they are fighting for the continued existence of their people, for freedom and independence. They must believe they are fighting for a just cause and must be ready to sacrifice themselves for this idea. Otherwise, they yield when they look death in the eye. “We must not chain up men’s freedom with slavish demands for submission, because then they will be afraid to fight”, wrote Nurmio. In the past, he claimed, there had only been discipline achieved through drill and harsh punishments. Now, the demands were much greater. “The recruit must be educated into a new human being.”

Nurmio claimed that many of those arriving to do their military service had grown up in “red environments” and went through military training with the sole motivation of preparing for a future revolution. Anybody who thought it was enough to give these men purely military education for a few months would only “educate skilled soldiers for the Bolshevik army”. Obviously referring to the contemporary debate over the length of military service, Nurmio stated that only if the training was of sufficient length did the army stand a chance of “rousing those soldier virtues sprouting from patriotism and nationalism” in the conscripts. The officers must not only be teachers, but also know and understand their soldiers and their background, in order to be able to rouse the “dormant forces” of patriotism and sense of justice within them and “remove bitterness and hurtful memories”. Military training must not inflict new insults upon the soldiers, but encourage them. A precondition for true military discipline, he stated, is that the officers have such an authority, maturity and knowledge of human nature that the soldiers feel absolute trust in them.

Whereas Nurmio connected the military rational in developing military pedagogy with political considerations in 1922, Captain Niilo Sigell (Niilo Viktor Hersalo), (1895–1979) argued for a similar pedagogical agenda in more purely military terms in his three-volume handbook on the training of infantry soldiers, published in 1927–1929. Sigell was at the time Director of the Civil Guards’ Officer School. He intended this handbook primarily for the readership of young training officers, both in the regular army and the civil guards. Sigell was not a Jäger himself, but had been active in mobilising the white guards in his home region of Lahti in 1917–1918 and served as commander of voluntary government troops in the Civil War. In his handbook on “The art of infantry fighting” (Jalkaväen Taistelutaito), Sigell explicated the consequences of modern tactics for military training at length. In an historical overview of the development of infantry tactics, he explained how the new co-operation between artillery, machine guns, rapid-fire guns and individual riflemen had forced a development away from chains of riflemen spread out abreast, towards an irregular distribution of soldiers in the terrain. Spreading the troops both sideways and in depth decreased the risk of the whole unit being annihilated, but also impaired the officers’ ability to lead their troops. In older times, when the private soldier fought tightly surrounded by his whole company, he executed mechanically practiced movements and was constantly under the watchful eyes of his officers, Sigell explained.

Only in close quarters was he forced to independent action that was directed by the instinct of selfpreservation: to kill or get killed. Now, however, as most soldiers in a combat situation were out of reach of platoon and company commanders, the squad leaders had to take charge. Even the individual private soldiers had to know and understand their own tasks in a new manner. Sigell vividly described the situation of the private in modern combat: “He moves further and further away from his officers in whom he is used to place his trust in a tight spot, until at last he finds himself together with only a few comrades in the midst of the desolation of the battlefield, surrounded by the deafening roar, crackle and explosions. He is like in a rocking boat in the midst of a stormy sea, the thunder rumbling and lightning tearing away between sky and earth. Loneliness fills him with dread and makes him feel helpless; the uproar of battle, a comrade falling, the wailing of the wounded try his nerves. An apparent shelter attracts him. The temptation to leave unfulfilled the task given him, or delay in its fulfillment, is very near; maybe his superior will not see! Neither the hope of acknowledgements or rewards nor the fear of punishment is particularly great.”

Much depended on the actions and independent decisions of the individual private soldier. Where no officer could spur or force him forward, he had to be motivated by inner forces. These forces, according to Sigell, were based on moral values as well as in military skills and lines of action acquired by long practice and made half-instinctual by thorough military training. Sigell emphasised how the external coercion of the past, when soldiers were under the immediate control and leadership of the officers, had now to be replaced with an internal compulsion, “a sense of honour and duty which push the individual to fulfill his duties and tasks, usually consciously, but in oppressive situations often also instinctively.” To Sigell, obedience meant something else in modern warfare than it had in the past. “Blind obedience” was not enough in modern wars where the squad leader or private had often to determine for himself how the officer’s orders could best be carried out in the situation at hand. Thus, willpower, power of initiative, inventiveness, independent action and mutual trust between the men in the fighting groups were central virtues of military manliness in Sigell’s work, but they had to be guided by self-discipline and a sense of responsibility in order to serve the larger whole.

The opposition between military tradition and modern pedagogy

A third example of this younger generation of officers pushing for a “new” understanding of the citizen-soldier and “modern” training methods is a textbook on military pedagogy by Jäger Captain Hannes Anttila, published in 1929. According to the author’s introduction, it was the first book on this topic in the Finnish language. As a young student of theology, Anttila had dealt with pastoral tasks in the Jäger battalion in Germany and served as a company commander in the Civil War of 1918. He thus had first-hand experience of both German military training and actual warfare. After the war, he had taken Master’s degrees both in theology and pedagogy and worked as military priest and teacher of military pedagogy. As an official in the training department of the General Staff 1928–1930 he laid the foundations for military pedagogy as a part of the curriculum for officer training.

Anttila’s 1929 textbook argued strongly for bringing methods and insights from contemporary pedagogy into military training. His point of departure was that a training officer is also a teacher and an educator. He appears to have been keen on presenting his work as based on modern scientific knowledge, as opposed to military tradition. He devoted much space to explaining contemporary psychological understandings of instincts, emotions and volition, all of which he thought were important for the officer to have some knowledge about. For example, he wrote that an essentially biological “fighting instinct” had always been strong in the Finnish people, unfortunately often expressed as brawling and unruliness, but also being the reason why Finnish “soldier material” was in a class of its own. “This same instinct occurs in pupils who take to resisting their teacher. This desire to protest is often born out of exaggerated strictness, constant prohibitions, exaggerated punishments etc., which therefore should be avoided by the military educator.” Yet interestingly enough, Anttila’s book seems impregnated with concerns that many Finnish officers did not meet the challenges of modern military requirements, but were unprofessional and inefficient as educators. In his book he consistently argued against an image of a psychologically insensitive, angry and shouting officer: “Let us imagine ourselves as pupils of an irritated teacher. We have given the wrong answer. He might take to shouting and acting in such a way as to agitate the whole class. In that state of excitement the teacher cannot lead the class to the right answer with auxiliary questions, nor can the class follow his train of thought.”

A good training officer must foster a suitable amount of self-esteem and sense of honour in the soldier, stated Anttila. He must recognise how shyness and lack of self-confidence in a recruit can hinder his military performance and cause failure, e.g. in the first shooting exercises with live ammunition. In such a situation, the officer leading the shootings must know how to act in the proper manner: Anybody understands that loud noise and scoffing will be of no help in this case, but on the contrary only cause further damage. The recruit who has failed must with all available means be encouraged and spurred on to new attempts and efforts. … May never words of ridicule be heard from the trainer’s own mouth, directed at the clumsy [soldier]! An impatient exclamation: ‘You’re simply good for nothing!’ will do a disservice to the whole educational work. Beware of that! Anttila also warned of the perniciousness of “the so called corporal spirit”. A “barking and bawling” teacher will only make the recruits nervous, cloud their rational thinking and in the worst case make them susceptible to nervous fits and mass panic in battle. Therefore, Anttila urged all military educators to fight their own nerves and irritability and to train their recruits in a “spirit of good nature”. In this respect, he seemed to view war veterans among the training officers as a risk category, pointing out that soldiers whose nerves had been exposed to the strains of war often ended up as irascible individuals. Yet he stated that these officers should be viewed as a particular kind of war invalid and forgiven for their behaviour. They had lost their health as a sacrifice for the fatherland and its people. They could be cured, yet “who, for example here in Finland and in our young army, has had time to take time off to have his nerves set right. Most of the officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, still work with all guns blazing for safeguarding the fatherland.” Here we recognise the voice of Anttila as secretary of the Jäger Association, concerned with the plight of Jäger invalids.

In spite of these difficulties, an officer must master himself and always stay calm in order to make the right impression on his men. The example set by his personality, professionalism and personal conviction is of utmost importance to all military training, wrote Anttila. Here the notion recurs that E.E. Kaila used against the “Russian” officers, that an officer with a detached “mercenary” attitude could not raise the kind of national warriors Finland needed to protect its independence. Similar to Nurmio and Sigell, Anttila too stressed that the purpose of the training must be to “educate the recruit into a patriotic and fit soldier with a strong character and moral”. He repeatedly emphasised that the officers must train the soldiers’ will and ability to act on their own initiative. This was achieved by teaching methods that forced the pupils to reflect, consider and act independently. If they were taught through orders and instructions they did not understand, they would start acting like automated beings. Such soldiers were able to function according to a certain scheme, but were completely lost when circumstances abruptly changed. “Modern armed forces have no use for such automatic machines”, Anttila forcefully lay down.

The Jägers casting themselves as modernizers

Guidelines similar to Nurmio’s, Sigell’s and Anttila’s thinking can be found in the new army regulations, which were published from the mid-1920’s onwards, with Jäger officers having a central position in the editing process. In 1929, new official instructions for infantry training were published, edited mainly by Colonel Hugo Österman and approved by the Commander-in-Chief Aarne Sihvo and the Head of the General Staff’s Education Department Paavo Talvela – all three Jäger officers. According to these instructions, the main objective of military training was to “create and develop a fighting spirit and fighting skills based on unflinching discipline, a sense of duty and love of the fatherland, together creating a troop that acts in accordance with the will and in the spirit of its leader even in the shocking circumstances of combat.” The trainers were instructed to minimise close-order drill and indoor duties, explaining that these were mostly a waste of the short and valuable military training time. Hard field exercise was in itself a more efficient training in military discipline. Those formulating the new regulations found it necessary to impress on their readers, i.e. the training officers, that “military discipline is not just the individual’s passive submission to his commander’s will, but submitting to energetically take action in accordance with this will”. The training, therefore, should educate the soldier’s willpower and his “moral military virtues”.

In spite of the numerous references to the new tactics of the Great War, these notions of the soldier and the purposes of military training were actually not very new or original in the 1920’s. They were a consequence of the “fire-power revolution” which had already taken place in the last quarter of the nineteenth century with the advent of the breech-loading magazine-fed rifle, the machine gun and quick-firing artillery. According to military historian Hew Strachan, military theorists, long before the First World War, understood that morale was of increasing importance in the fire-swept battle zone. The First World War itself would only deepen that insight. In Russia, M.I. Dragomirov (1830–1905), recognised as the country’s preeminent expert on military training, wrote as early as in the 1860’s about how the new rifled weapons made it necessary to pay new attention to the moral strength and individuality of soldiers. Georg Fraser, a Finn who made a career as an officer in the Russian army, explained these matters to a Finnish audience in a book on the training of conscript soldiers published in 1880. Fraser stressed the importance of independent thinking, judgement and inner conviction in the soldier. The major difference between Fraser and opinions voiced in the 1920’s was in the precise nature of what constituted the soldier’s inner motivation. To Fraser it consisted of a sense of duty, enthusiasm, a spirit of sacrifice, love of the fatherland and love of the Emperor. The military authors of the 1920’s only replaced the Emperor with the nation and its freedom.

Then why did regulations, handbooks and articles in military periodicals during the 1920’s convey an image of the need to move on from an ‘old’ tradition, dismissed as the drilling of soldiers into blind, machine-like obedience, towards educating a new kind of soldier who had the skills, patriotism and sense of duty to keep on fighting and risking his life even when an officer was nowhere in sight? One possible answer is that the Jägers simply did not see enough “modern” military thinking when they looked around in the Finnish Army. A recurring topic was the implied problem with Finnish officers and NCOs adhering to old-fashioned and unprofessional methods. Yet in spite of the popular association of this kind of officer with the “Prussian discipline”, the reformers did not explicitly criticise their Jäger comrades. In a 1924 article on military pedagogy in Suomen Sotilas, Heikki Nurmio identified the NCOs as the people responsible for whether the soldiers start hating the armed forces, depressed by “constant insults and indecent treatment”, or whether they became soldiers with a strong will and motivation. Although many sergeant majors around this time were Jägers, Nurmio’s implication here is directed more towards their subordinates, preserving the Jägers’ status as models for other men. Another possible answer is that this way of writing fitted very well into the Jäger tradition of seeing themselves as modernisers of Finnish military institutions, as a new generation of conscripts combining idealism and action, in opposition to both the passivity of older civilian politicians and the aristocratic condescendence of older officers who had served in Russia. The reforms suggested were in line with the rhetoric used to elucidate the Jägers’ superiority over the “Russian officers”. The ideal modern officer, these texts seem to say, should be cast in the form of the idealised Jäger officer, with his understanding and sympathy for the character of ordinary Finnish men, his patriotic zeal and his spirit of sacrifice. Furthermore, the Finnish conscript should be educated into the same kind of heroic, militarised, national-warrior-like masculinity that was the Jägers self-image.

One of the concrete actions that a loose network of intellectual Jägers, among them Hannes Anttila, Heikki Nurmio and Aarne Sihvo, took to bring about this new kind of citizen-soldier was collaborating on the magazine for soldiers Suomen Sotilas. Writing on themes such as military history, patriotism, moral issues and religion, they propagated a certain ideology for military masculinity. They also engaged some of their Jäger comrades to write articles on the latest developments in military technologies and tactics. Niilo Sigell was a regular collaborator on the magazine in the early 1920’s, writing on sports and athletics, and thus closely networked with Jägers interested in educational matters. Together with occasional texts on the adventures of the Jägers, their role in the Freedom War, and obituaries for fallen Jäger heroes, these writings contributed to the establishment of an image of the Jägers as both moral and military professional authorities for conscripts on their path through military service. Yet the ideology offered up to conscripts in Suomen Sotilas extended much further than just extolling the Jägers as heroic examples, and will therefore be the subject of the next post.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

The ANZAC Volunteer Battalion in the Winter War

Post by CanKiwi2 » 22 Mar 2011 20:21

The ANZAC Volunteer Battalion in the Winter War

OK, first: I apologise because this part is completely out of sequence in the timeline, but it was in my head and I had to get it out before I could work on the more immediate stuff. That said, I’ve left out the actual fighting because I don’t have that done in detail and it’s not hogging brain cells that are needed to process other thoughts…

That said, hope you enjoy. Keep in mind it’s completely outside the timeline as it stands now and I’ll repost it all much much later when it once more becomes relevant – and with the detail I’ve left out around the actual fighting that the ANZAC’s were involved in fleshed out.


And now….. part of the story of the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion in Finland…..

On the outbreak of the Winter War between Finland and the USSR, in a flurry of telegrams and long distance calls between Colonel Hunter (whom we have mentioned previously in association with the setting up of the School Dental Nurse program within Finland) in Helsinki, the New Zealand High Commission in London and the Prime Minister’s Office in Wellington, New Zealand and the Australian Prime Minister’s Office in Canberra, it was agreed that an officially endorsed Battalion of ANZAC volunteers would be dispatched to assist Finland. As mentioned previously, this undertaking was largely taken based on the initiative of the New Zealander, Colonel Hunter, who as a result of his former role as Commander of the New Zealand Army Dental Corps in WW1 as well as his Civil Service role, had extensive high-level contacts within the New Zealand Government and Military and the New Zealand High Commission in London.

Colonel Hunter was almost solely responsible for the agreement of both the New Zealand and Australian governments to his initiative. At the time, both countries were actively mobilising, having as loyal members of the British Commonwealth declared war on Germany at the same time as the UK. There was therefore a marked reluctance on the part of the military in both countries to dissipate their limited strength on an obscure sideshow. When it was pointed out that, based on distance alone, for any force to be of use to the Finns it would need to come from the UK rather than the Pacific (a minimum of 8 weeks would be needed simply to ship soldiers from New Zealand and Australian to Norway) the military changed their tune. ANZAC volunteers from the UK would in no way affect the buildup of the military in New Zealand and Australia. And the loss of a few hundred ANZAC’s to the UK would be virtually meaningless in terms of overall British Army strength. Colonel Hunter’s proposal that this Battalion would be manned from New Zealand and Australian volunteers resident in the UK (of whom there were many), preferably with men with previous military training therefore met with rapid agreement. The decision to accept Australian and New Zealand volunteers was announced in the London papers on the 6th of December 1939, and on the next day the New Zealand High Commission was deluged with volunteers, far more than were needed in point of fact, with many South Africans and Rhodesians eager to assist also queing up on the offchance that they might be selected.

Image
Captain John Mulgan, New Zealand author, Rhodes Scholar and Rifle Company Commander, ANZAC Volunteer Battalion (Finland)

Mulgan was born in Christchurch in 1911, was good at sport as well as academic work, after Auckland Grammer School he went on to Auckland University where his main subjects were English and Greek. Towards the end of 1933, he entered Merton College, Oxford, and took a first class degree in English. He then worked for the Clarendon Press, and in 1936 he began a fortnightly newspaper column, `Behind the Cables', which was run in the (New Zealand) Auckland Star newspaper, providing an informed commentary on current European politics for New Zealand readers. In September 1939, Mulgan joined the 5th Battalion of the Oxford and Bucks (British Army) as an Officer while at the same time he also began recording a number of radio broadcasts, `Calling New Zealand', which revealed a flair for radio journalism. In December 1939 he volunteered for the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion (Finland) and was immediately accepted, promoted to Captain and placed in command of a Rifle Company.

It was here, after seven years away from his country that he again met up with large numbers of New Zealanders. He was emotionally stirred by the meeting. "It was like coming home. They were mature men, these New Zealander Volunteers, quiet and shrewd and sceptical. They had none of the tired patience of the Englishman, nor that automatic discipline that never questions orders to see if they make sense. Everything that was good from that small, remote country had gone into them, sunshine and strength, good sense, patience, the versatility of practical men. And they marched into history." They did indeed, and Mulgan was one of reasons that they did so, although he would himself have denied it. Mulgan continued to record radio broadcasts for the New Zealand (and Australian) public for the duration of the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion’s service in Finland. Entitled “ANZACS in Finland,” the regular radio broadcasts found a world-wide audience in the English-speaking world. After the return of the volunteers to the UK in late 1940, Mulgan returned to the British Army and in 1942 was posted to the Middle East. As second-in-command of an infantry regiment, Mulgan fought in the front line at Alamein.

After Alamein, Mulgan risked severe consequences when he challenged the competence of his commanding officer. He transferred to another British battalion, served in Iraq and then in May 1943 he joined the Special Operations Executive with Force 133. A few months later he was parachuted into Northern Greece. For the next year he ran guerrilla actions against the occupying German forces, and was also entangled in the increasingly complex slide towards Greek civil war. He was the only SOE officer to directly command Greek andartes, and was awarded the Military Cross for his strikes against German communications. Ill and exhausted, Mulgan was flown to Cairo in October 1944. He spent early 1945 in Athens, where he directed the British payment of compensation to Greek families who had assisted the Allies. He returned from Athens to Cairo in mid-April 1945, where he wound up a number of obligations, wrote his now-classic account of the ANZAC Volunteer’s in Finland, “Finnish Odyssey – the ANZAC Volunteers in Finland, 1940” (published by Whitcome and Tombs, 1947), wrote a report to the New Zealand Department of Foreign Affairs on the suitability of Greeks as immigrants, and made arrangements to transfer to the New Zealand Division. The day before that planned homecoming, on Anzac Day 1945, Mulgan took an overdose of morphine from his medical kit. The reasons for his suicide remain unexplained.


From the approximately twelve thousand volunteers, those without any military training or experience or with dependents were immediately rejected (which also got rid of the underage volunteers – the test for previous military experience was simple and straightforward. Volunteers were thrown a dirty and somewhat rusty Lee-Enfield .303 Rifle and told to strip it and clean it. Those who did so within a time limit of which they were not aware were passed. And it was obvious who had no idea how to handle a rifle). Those overage, obviously completely unfit or who failed the medical exam, were also rejected. It was decided that South Africans and Rhodesian volunteers would be accepted – rugby players and outdoorsmen, they fitted in well with the Kiwis and Aussies. The end result of the selection process, which was completed rapidly over a three day period, was a substantially over-strength Battalion of approximately 1,166 men, structured as follows.

• ANZAC Infantry Battalion (Finland Volunteers)

• Battalion Headquarters (5 Officers, 50 men)
• Headquarter Company (24 Officers, 170 men) comprised of;
Company HQ (2 Officers, 12 men)
Signals Platoon (2 Officers, 35 men)
Administration Section (1 Officers, 11 men)
Transport Platoon (2 Officers, 42 men)
Recconaisance Platoon (2 Officers, 35 men)
Medical Platoon (5 Officers, 10 Nurses (Officers), 35 Medical Orderlies)

• Heavy Weapons Company (10 Officers, 199 men) comprised of;
Company HQ (2 Officers, 11 men)
Anti Aircraft Platoon (1 Officer, 45 men)
Mortar Platoon (2 Officers, 73 men)
Anti-tank Platoon (3 Officers, 73 men)
Assault Engineers Platoon (2 Officers, 70 men)

• Four Rifle Companies (5 Officers, 113 men), each comprised of;
Company HQ (2 Officers, 11 men)
Three Rifle Platoons, each comprised of;
Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 4 men)
Three Rifle Sections, each comprised of 10 men

• Two Reserve Rifle Companies (5 Officers, 113 men), each comprised of;
Company HQ (2 Officers, 11 men)
Three Rifle Platoons, each comprised of;
Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 4 men)
Three Rifle Sections, each comprised of 10 men

• Total Strength of 1,166 all ranks (69 Officers and 1097 men)

Incidentally, ten single female volunteers, all experienced Nurses, were accepted and immediately sworn in as Nursing Officers. With the assistance of the British Government and the British Army, who were more than bemused at the rapid and decisive pace of the New Zealanders, progress was quickly made. Each day for the next three days, volunteers were notified of their acceptance and told to report that same evening to the High Commission from where they would be transported to a training camp. From the High Commission, they were bussed to Euston Station and placed on a nightly Special to Scotland. After reaching Edinburg, they were transported northwards to Aberdeen, where an existing British Army Camp had been hastily taken over. By the 12th of December, personnel for the entire Volunteer Battalion were in camp and in the process of being equipped from British Army stores.

At the same time, a heated debate was going on within New Zealand Government circles over the command of the Volunteer Battalion. The British Government had offered to provide a senior British Officer to take command as the volunteers themselves included no senior ANZAC Officers. This proposal was anathema to both the Australian and New Zealand governments, for whom placing an ANZAC contingent under direct command of a British Officer would have been a political hot potatoe. Memories of Gallipoli and the suicidal attacks of WW1 were still strong in both countries. As the whole contingent was largely being put together under the auspices of the New Zealand Government, the Australians in this case deferred to New Zealand, who made the decision to appoint New Zealand Territorial Army Lieutenant-Colonel Howard Karl Kippenberger as the Commanding Officer. Kippenberger was born in Ladbrooks, near Christchurch, New Zealand, the son of a schoolmaster who later became a farmer at Waimate. Kippenberger received his education at Christchurch Boys' High School and later at Canterbury University College.
Image
Howard Kippenberger, CO, ANZAC Volunteer Battalion with Charles Upham, another Volunteer (Upham was only the third person to receive the VC twice, the only person to receive two VCs during the Second World War and the only combat soldier ever to receive the award twice).

After the eventual withdrawal of the survivors of the ANZAC Volunteers from Finland, Kippenberger was perhaps the single most experienced senior Officer in the New Zealand Army. He was transferred to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Middle East almost immediately and commanded a composite Brigade in Greece, where he distinguished himself in his conduct of a fighting withdrawal. He then commanded a further composite Brigade in Crete where he again distinguished himself in the ill-fated defence of Crete. In the fierce fighting at Bel Hamed, in late November 1941, he was wounded and taken prisoner. He organised an escape for himself and 20 others and, after a sojourn in hospital, was promoted to Brigadier, commanding the New Zealand 5th Infantry Brigade. He took the brigade back to the Western Desert to build the El Adem box before moving east to join the rest of the NZ Division in Syria. Then followed the fighting and breakout at Minqar Qaim, the battles of El Mreir and Ruweisat Ridge, the holding of the line, and in October-November the turning of the tide at El Alamein, in all of which Kippenberger played a prominent part and during which he was awarded his first D.S.O. During the fighting across North Africa to Takrouna in Tunisia, Brigadier Kippenberger continuously led the 5th Brigade in operations apart from the occasions when, in General Freyberg's absence at Corps Headquarters, he was acting Major-General in command of the Division. In that year he won a bar to his D.S.O.

After a short furlough he resumed command of the 5th Brigade at the Sangro in Italy and in February 1944 again took command of the Division as it faced up to Cassino. On 2 March, while descending Monte Trocchio, Major-General Kippenberger stepped on a mine and had one foot blown off and the other so badly shattered that it was later amputated. After convalescence in England, he took control of the repatriation of New Zealand prisoners of war released from Germany. In 1946 he returned to New Zealand to become editor-in-chief of the New Zealand War Histories, which he was determined should fittingly record New Zealand’s national effort in the Second World War. His own autobiographical account of his war “Infantry Brigadier,” appeared in 1949 and was acclaimed a classic in its field, while his account of the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion in Finland, “Forgotten Battalion: ANZAC’s in the Russo-Finnish Winter War,” appeared in 1952 to further acclaim.


In 1915, during World War I, the then 18 year old Kippenberger had enlisted as a private in the 1st Canterbury Regiment. He took part in four attacks as a Private and then as an NCO during the Battle of the Somme in the autumn of 1916. The Army repatriated him after he received a serious wound in the right arm. After the War, Kippenberger qualified as a solicitor in 1920 and later became manager and then a partner of the Rangiora branch of a Christchurch legal firm. But the Army was his great love: interested in military history and theory from a young age, he built up what was probably the most comprehensive library of military history and textbooks in New Zealand and he joined the New Zealand Territorial Army. Commissioned, he commanded the Rangiora platoon of the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Regiment. In 1929 he was promoted to Captain, in 1934 to Major, and in 1936 to Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 1st Cants. On the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 he was appointed to command the 20th Battalion, New Zealand Division which was in the process of being hastily assembled and trained in New Zealand as part of the intended New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Lieutenant-Colonel Howard Karl Kippenberger (28 January 1897 - 5 May 1957), known universally to everyone both above and under his command as “Kip,” agreed to his governments request, was immediately promoted to full Colonel and together with a small and hand-picked staff (which included Sgt. Charles Upham, a fellow Cantabrian) embarked on a rapid journey to the UK via trans-Tasman ship to Sydney (a 3 day trip) and thence by Imperial Airways flying boat service from Sydney to Singapore on G-ADVD Challenger (which flew the Singapore-Sydney-Singapore sector).
Image
Imperial Airways flying boat G-ADVD Challenger

In Singapore, Kippenberger and his staff transferred to the Imperial Airways flying boat G-AEUB Camilla for the remainder of the trip to London.
Image
Imperial Airways flying boat G-AEUB Camilla

At a time when it took six to eight weeks by ship for the same trip, it was an extremely rapid journey, with Kippenberger arriving in London on the 21st of December 1939. He spent the next two days in meetings in London with the New Zealand and Australian High Commissions and with the British Army, following which he travelled by overnight train to Aberdeen to join the Battalion as it embarked with its equipment on the Admiralty-requisitioned Polish passenger ship MS Batory. Embarkation was completed on Christmas Day and on the 26th of December 1939, the MS Batory steamed for Narvik, escorted by two Royal Navy Destroyers.
Image
MS Batory: The M/S Batory was a large (14,287 BRT) ocean liner of the Polish merchant fleet powered by 2 sets of Wartsila marine-diesel engines driving 2 screws giving her a speed of 18 knots.

She had been built at the Crichton-Vulcan Shipyard in Turku, Finland, under an arrangement whereby part of her payment was made in shipments of coal from Poland and was launched on 8 July 1935. She was among the best-known Polish ships of the time. On the outbreak of World War 2, she had been reflagged as a Finnish ship under the terms of the secret Finnish-Polish defence agreement and had for the duration of World War II, she served as a troop transport and a hospital ship. In June /July, 1940 she secretly transported much of Britain's gold reserves (₤40 million) from Greenock, Scotland to Montreal, Canada for safekeeping. In August to September of that year, she transported 700 British children to Australia for safekeeping. In the same year she, along with the Polish ship M/S Chrobry, she transported allied troops to Norway following the German invasion.


The voyage to Narvik was rapid, with the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion disembarking from the Batory on December 30th after a frantic two days of unloading stores and military equipment. Narvik itself was somewhat in a state on confusion, if not downright chaos at the time, with Finnish-flagged ships arriving one after the other. Many of them carried shipments of military cargo which had been en-route to Finland but with the outbreak of war, they had been diverted to Narvik. The two ex-Italian Finnish Navy Cruisers, Ilmarinen and Vainamoinen were also in port and very much on guard against the possibility of a Soviet attack on what was turning into a major logistical chokepoint. The local Norwegian authorities were in a state of complete confusion, with no idea whatsoever as to what they were supposed to do and with no instructions from Oslo. That said, they were keen to assist the Finns but with no real idea as to what to do or how to address the shiploads of military stores and equipment arriving. The Norwegians were even more confused by the Battalion of ANZAC troops which suddenly disembarked in their midst. Nobody had forewarned them and for a while, it seemed that they thought they were being invaded, although outright combat was fortunately averted.
Image
An aerial view of Narvik during WW2.

Even the elderly Finnish liasion officers in Narvik had no idea the ANZAC’s were coming and while the Swedes were allowing Finnish military supplies to be freighted through Sweden on the rail line, they flat out forebade troop movements, especially troops armed to the teeth and looking for a fight, and the Finnish liasion officers had no other means of moving the ANZAC troops through to Finland short of marching on their own feet. Kippenberger however, was not a man to sit and wait for a solution to present itself, and not for nothing over the course of the Winter War did his Battalion’s ability to help itself to enemy—and allied—heavy weapons and transport lead to it being nicknamed "Kip's Thousand Thieves." Kippenberger simply gathered his officers and NCO’s together and told them to go out and find a solution.

Within two days, he had one. One of his NCO’s came back to report that two of the Finnish cargo ships anchored in the sound awaiting unloading were filled with a massive shipment of GMC 2.5 Ton Trucks which the Finnish Army had purchased. Not even the Finnish liasion officers were aware of the cargo. “Kip” moved into action. As the MS Batory pulled away from the docks, the ANZAC’s moved in and took over control of the dock space while one of the Cargo Ships was moved up. The Norwegians went ballistic, the Finns expressed concern, the Kiwis shrugged and the Aussies simply said “Fuck Off Mate” and hefted the Norwegian beer bottles they had seemed to acquire from thin air. Within hours, GMC Trucks were being rapidly assembled on the spot as fast as the ANZAC’s could get them out of the ships holds and onto the dock.
Image
This is how a 2½ ton truck is received in case you didn't know.

Image
A GMC begins to take shape

Image
The body goes onto the chassis, give it a quick a test run and another truck is ready

Image
Built up and ready to roll…..

However, Kippenberger went slightly further than simply meeting his own transportation needs. Most of his men came from rural farming backgrounds, and both New Zealand and Australia by the late 1930’s had extensively mechanised agriculture. The men were handy with machinery and many of them knew trucks and tractors intimately. The ANZAC’s offloaded and assembled the entire two shipments of trucks, some five hundred trucks in total, over the course of a week, included around fifty smaller Chevrolet trucks. With the assistance of the Norwegian townsfolk whom Kip cajoled (not that the Norwegians needed much cajoling) into volunteering their labour, all five hundred GMC trucks were loaded to capacity with urgently needed military supplies. The MS Batory had also carried a shipment of 60 British 18 pdr Field Gun’s, the Mk II – these, along with 240,000 rounds of ammunition for the guns, had been purchased by the New Zealand and Australian governments from Britain and donated to Finland. The guns were the model 1918 with pneumatic tires and had been all equipped for motorised towing (which is how they were towed in Finland). With a range of 6.5-10.7 kms and capable of firing ten to twelve 8.16-8.40 kg HE rounds per minute, they were an effective artillery piece. Kip had the sixty guns hooked on to the backs of his trucks and had a good part of the ammunition loaded – which, along with petrol in drums and jerricans, accounted for the loading of almost all the trucks.

Neither the Finns nor the Norwegians knew quite what to make of the energetic and forceful Kiwis and Aussies as they worked day and night. And when they weren’t working, they were busy doing their best to eliminate all the beer in Narvik. And when they weren’t doing that (or sometimes at the same time), a large group was busy modifying the fifty odd Chevrolet Trucks and fitting "acquired" machineguns to give the column an air defence capability of sorts. Places on these trucks were eagerly sought, despite the exposure to the cold as a result of little mods like the cabs being cut off.
Image
The British Ordnance QF 18 Pounder: This gun was the standard British Army field gun of the World War I era and formed the backbone of the Royal Field Artillery during the war. It was produced in large numbers and calibre (84 mm) and hence shell weight were greater than those of the equivalent field guns in French (75 mm) and German (77 mm) service. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s. The first versions were introduced in 1904 and later versions remained in service with British forces until early 1942. This is the updated version with pneumatic tires and equipped for motorised towing as supplied to Finland.

A week to the day after they had arrived in Narvik the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion set out by road. The Battalion had augmented its strength somewhat with most of the men from a Norwegian Reserve Artillery unit who volunteered en-masse to man the 18 Pdr Guns, as well as enough additional Norwegian volunteers to form up a further two Rifle Companies (the Norwegians also supplied skis and winter clothing and camoflauge to the ANZAC soldiers, although their ability to use the skiis provided was highly doubtful). Now with its own Artillery “Regiment” of 60 guns, and with a strength of eight Rifle Companies, the Battalion was more of a Light Brigade.
Image
ANZAC soldiers in Norwegian winter kit

Image
The ANZAC Column moving through Lappland

Image
Occassionally, the snow was a little more than the ANZAC’s were used too…..but they still got through……

Driving in heavy snow was not a new experience to many of the Kiwi soldiers from the South Island of New Zealand and, assisted by snow-plough attachments thoughtfully provided by the Norwegians and jury-rigged onto the trucks by the Kiwis they made good progress as they headed north from Narvik, utilizing every hour of daylight. They hit the intersection with the new all-weather Finnish road to the Norwegian port of Lyngefjord (which the Finns were busily building up as an alternative port to Narvik and Petsamo) and from there they drove east and south, reaching Rovaniemi less than a week after they had departed Narvik. News of their arrival had not preceded them in any detail, and the seemingly endless stream of heavily laden American trucks, many towing artillery and flying their collection of New Zealand, Australian, South African, Rhodesian and Norwegian flags and emblems that drove through Rovaniemi and continued southwards brought out what passed for crowds in Rovaniemi to watch and wave and cheer as the ANZAC’s passed through. Interspersed with the GMC 2.5T trucks were the smaller Chevrolet Trucks that the ANZAC’s had modified in Narvik for air defence, fitting them with machineguns purloined from every source available.
Image
ANZAC- Chevrolet Truck modified for Air Defence

The Battalion arrived in Oulu a day later. By now the Finns were well and truly aware of what was coming down the road and there was a welcome of sorts awaiting them. At a checkpoint outside Oulu the column was redirected to an Army Camp and the soldiers, exhausted from a week on continuous road-clearing and driving, were fed and directed to barracks to sleep. It was the first experience the ANZAC troopies had with the women of the Lotta Svard organisation, and in general, despite their exhaustion, they were suitably impressed. A few had enough energy to try their usual pickup lines, but sadly, they knew little or no Finnish and the Lotta Svard girls and women professed not to understand the Australasian version of English. From the laughter and giggles and the occassional whack to the side of an Aussie or Kiwi head, perhaps they understood more than they let on! Meanwhile, “Kip” and his staff were meeting with the somewhat puzzled Finnish Officers running the skeleton military organisation in Oulu, who were in their turn on the phone to Military Headquarters asking what to do with the rather piratical-looking bunch of Volunteers who had arrived armed to the teeth and asking where they could go to find a decent scrap.

(And the War Content will be filled in when we get there in the timeline – no more spoilers on this one…..)

In late summer 1940, after the signing of the Peace Treaty between Finland and the USSR, the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion was withdrawn from the front and transported to Helsinki. For all that they’d been in Finland for the best part of 9 months, none of them had been on leave and apart from what they’d seen during their arrival, all they had seen of Finland were the forests, lakes and swamps of Eastern Karelia. “And lots of Russians,” as they often responded when asked later. “Lots and lots of Russians, the bastards were worse than bluebottles, swat down one and there were always more of the buggers.” Arriving in Helsinki, they were given one weeks leave while arrangements were made to return them to the UK via the port at Lyngefjord, which was now the main access route to Finland.

Image
ANZACS on the move: Men of the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion rolling through a village as they withdraw from Eastern Karelia, Late Summer 1940. Still in possession of some of the GMC2.5T Trucks (and still with the old American markings) they had “acquired” in Narvik. They lost half their number dead in battle, but they were never defeated.

Before they departed, a formal memorial parade and Dawn Service took place, beginning as the sun’s first rays lightened the darkness. The Service started with a reading and then the singing of the traditional New Zealand Maori farewell song, Po Atarau

Pö atarau
E moea iho nei
E haere ana
Koe ki pämamao

Haere rä
Ka hoki mai anö
Ki i te tau
E tangi atu nei

(On a moonlit night
I see in a dream
You going
To a distant land

Farewell,
But return again
To your loved one,
Weeping here)

A wreath was then laid at the base of the memorial and the traditional Anzac Dedication was read.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
We will remember them.


A lone bugler then played the Last Post, there was a minute’s silence and then Reveille completed the formal and solemn occasion.

(The ANZAC Ode comes from “For the Fallen”, a poem by the English poet and writer Laurence Binyon and was published in London in The Winnowing Fan: Poems of the Great War in 1914. This verse, which became the ANZAC Ode, has been used in association with commemoration services in Australia and New Zealand since 1921. Perhaps an even more fitting memorial is two songs, one from New Zealand, the other from Australia)

Following the signing of the peace treaty between Finland and the USSR in late 1940, and the withdrawal of the Germans from Norway in the same timeframe, the now sadly reduced ANZAC Volunteer Battalion travelled from Helsinki to Lyngefjord by train and truck and their embarked on the short voyage to the UK. From there most of them eventually continued on to the Middle East to rejoin their compatriots in the New Zealand, Australian, South African and Rhodesian forces in the battles that culminated in the final Victory over Germany.

Image
The ANZAC Cemetery and Memorial, Eastern Karelia

Can you hear Australia’s Heroes Marching?



Can you hear Australia's heroes marching?
Can you hear them as they march into eternity?
There will never be a greater love
There just couldn't be a greater sacrifice
There just couldn't be

Can you hear Australia's heroes marching?
The ones who fought and gave their all

Can you hear Australia's heroes marching?
Can you hear them as they march into eternity?
There will never be a greater love
There just couldn't be a greater sacrifice
There just couldn't be

Can you hear Australia's heroes marching?
They're marching once again
Across our great land

Can you hear Australia's heroes marching?
Can you hear them as they march into eternity?
There will never be a greater love
There just couldn't be a greater sacrifice
There just couldn't be
Can you hear Australia's heroes marching?

And there, in October 1940, we shall leave the gallant remnants of the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion (Finland). Their dead rest in peace in the Cemetry in Eastern Karelia near where they fell. Their memory lives on in the Cenotaph that stands over them deep in the Eastern Karelian forests.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

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

Post by Peter H » 23 Mar 2011 11:16

Great posts but you need to give a source for photos please.

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

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

Post by CanKiwi2 » 25 Mar 2011 00:29

Ran out of time to edit the previous post and add this in, but of you are wondering what Po Atarau sounds like, here are a bunch of NZ Army guys singing it (NZ Army, Bosnia, 1995 - close as I could get. Most recorded versions are sung by female singers and that was not the flavour I wanted). This is about as close as I could get. Scale it up a bit and imagine a few hundred soldiers singing this. Pretty moving stuff for a Kiwi.

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

User avatar
CanKiwi2
Financial supporter
Posts: 1009
Joined: 26 Nov 2010 15:48
Location: Toronto, Canada

Training the Conscript Citizen-Soldier (in the 1920’s)

Post by CanKiwi2 » 29 Mar 2011 19:22

Training the Conscript Citizen-Soldier (in the 1920’s)

The Finnish Army faced enormous challenges in the interwar years. It was supposed to organise and prepare for defending the country against vastly superior Russian forces. It had to train whole generations of young Finnish men into skilled soldiers and equip them for combat. Furthermore, it was expected to turn these men into the kind of highly motivated, patriotic, self-motivated and self-sacrificing modern national warriors envisioned by the Jägers and other officers in the younger generation. The starting point was none too promising, due to the criticism and scepticism in the political arena towards protracted military service within the cadre army system. Many conscripts from a working class background had all too probably seized on at least some of the socialists’ anti-militaristic or even pacifistic agitation against armies in general and bourgeois cadre armies in particular. Neither could conscripts from the areas of society supporting the Agrarian Party be expected to arrive at the barracks unprejudiced and open-minded. Although conscripts from families who were small freeholders usually supported the Civil Guards, they were not necessarily positive about military service within the cadre army, especially during the first years of its existence. In consequence, a majority of the conscripts, particularly in the 1920’s, could be expected to have an “attitude problem”. Some of the greatest challenges facing the conscript army were therefore to prove its efficiency as a military training organisation, convince suspicious conscripts and doubtful voters of its commitment to democracy, and demonstrate its positive impact on conscripts.

Although it was often claimed that military training as such would foster mature and responsible citizens – giving the conscripts discipline, obedience and punctuality as well as instilling consideration for the collective interest – officers and pro-defence nationalists with educationalist inclinations did not place their trust in close-order drill and field exercises alone. More had to be done. From the point of view of army authorities and other circles supportive of the regular army, there was an urgent need to “enlighten” the conscript soldiers. They had to be “educated” into adopting a positive attitude towards not only military service and the cadre army system, but also towards their other civic duties within the new “white” national state. This Post examines the attempts of officers, military priests and educationalists to offer the conscripts images of soldiering that would not only make conscripts disciplined, motivated and efficient soldiers, but also help the conscript army overcome its “image problems” and help the nation overcome its internal divisions. The Post’s focus is therefore not on the methods or practices of the educational efforts directed at the conscripts in military training, but on the ideological contents of these efforts, mainly as manifested in the intertwined representations of soldiering and citizenship in the army’s magazine for soldiers Suomen Sotilas (Finland’s Soldier).

Civic education and the Suomen Sotilas magazine

The 1919 report produced by a committee appointed by the Commander of the Armed Forces to organise the “spiritual care” of the conscripted soldiers expressed both the concerns felt over the soldiers’ attitude towards their military service and the solutions envisioned. The report stressed the importance in modern war of “the civil merit of an army, its spiritual strength”. In the light of “recent events” the committee pointed to the risks of arming men without making sure that they had those civil merits – a reference to the Civil War, perhaps, or to the participation of conscripted soldiers in the recent communist revolutions in Russia, Germany and other Central European countries. The report stated, “the stronger the armed forces are technically, the greater the danger they can form to their own country in case of unrest, unless they are inspired by high patriotic and moral principles that prevent them from surrendering to support unhealthy movements within the people”. The committee members – two military priests, two Jäger officers and one elementary school inspector – saw the remedy as teaching the conscripts basic knowledge about the fatherland and its history, giving those who lacked elementary education basic skills in reading, writing and mathematics, and providing the soldiers with other “spiritual pursuits”, which mainly meant various religious services. Quoting the commander of the armed forces, General K.F. Wilkama, the committee supported the notion that the army should be a “true institution of civic education”. Its optimistic report expressed a remarkably strong faith in the educational potential of military service.

These educational aspirations should be seen not only within the framework of not only the military system, but also as a part of the ngoing concerns among the Finnish educated classes over the civic education and political loyalties of the working class ever since the end of the nineteenth century. Urbanisation, industrialisation and democratisation made the perceived “irrationality” and “uncivilised” state of the masses seem ever more threatening to the elite. In face of the pressure towards “Russification” during the last decades of Russian rule, and the subsequent perceived threat from Soviet Russia, this anxiety over social upheaval was translated into an anxiety over national survival. Historian Pauli Arola has argued that the attempt by Finnish politicians to introduce compulsory elementary education in 1907 – after decades of political debate, but only one year after universal franchise was introduced – should be seen within the constory of these feelings of threat. Once the “common people” had the vote, educating them into “loyalty” in accordance with the upper classes’ notions of the “nation” and its existing social order became a priority. Resistance from imperial authorities stopped the undertaking in 1907, but Finnish educationalists continued to propagate for increased civic education through-out the school system.

The civil war only intensified the urgency of the educated elite’s agenda of educating the rebellious elements among the Finnish people. The intellectuals of “white” Finland described these as primitive, brutal, even bestial, hooligans who for lack of discipline and culture had become susceptible to Russian influences and given free rein to the worst traits in the Finnish national character. There was a special concern over children from socialist environments and the orphan children of red guardsmen who had died in the war or perished in the prison camps. When compulsory education was finally introduced in 1921, the curriculum for schools in rural districts, where most Finns then lived, was strongly intent on conserving the established social order. It idealised traditional country life in opposition to “unsound” urbanisation and emphasised the teaching of Christian religion and domestic history. In the same spirit, civic education was from the outset included in the training objectives of the conscript army. “Enlightenment lectures”, also called “citizen education”, were incorporated in the conscripts’ weekly programme. These lectures were sometimes given by officers, but mainly by military priests (who were also assigned the duty of teaching illiterate conscripts to read and write.

As elementary schooling was only made compulsory in 1921, the army throughout the interwar period received conscripts who had never attended elementary school. The share of illiterate conscripts was however only 1–2%, peaking in 1923 and thereafter rapidly declining. Nevertheless, in 1924 elementary teaching still took up ten times as many working hours for the military priests as their “enlightenment work”). In 1925, the Commander of the armed forces issued a detailed schedule for these lectures. The conscripts should be given 45 hours of lectures on the “history of the fatherland”, 25 hours on civics, 12 hours on Finnish literary history and 10 hours of lectures on “temperance and morality”. Taken together, roughly two working weeks during the one-year military service were consequently allocated for civic education. In addition, the pastoral care of the soldiers, in the form of evening prayers and divine service both in the garrisons and training camps, was seen as an important part of “enlightening” soldiers. A consciousness of the nation’s past and religious piety were evidently een as the two main pillars of patriotism, law-abidingness and loyalty to the existing social order. (The dean of the military priests Artur Malin presented the ongoing civic education work in the army in an article in the Suomen Sotilas magazine in 1923. He listed the following subjects: reading, writing, mathematics, geography, history, civics, natural history, singing, handicraft and temperance education).

The Army’s Magazine for Soldiers

In most army garrisons and camps, local female volunteers provided a service club or “Soldiers’ home”. These establishments offered coffee, lemonade and bakeries, but also intellectual stimulus in the form of newspapers, magazines and small libraries. Any socialist or otherwise “unpatriotic” publications were unthinkable in these recreational areas where the conscripts spent much of their leisure hours. However, one of the publications the conscripts would most certainly find at the “Soldiers’ Home”, if it wasn’t already distributed to the barracks, was the weekly magazine Suomen Sotilas (Finland’s Soldier). This illustrated magazine contained a mixture of editorials on morality, military virtues and the dangers of Bolshevism, entertaining military adventure stories, and articles on different Finnish military units, sports within the armed forces, military history, weaponry and military technology. There were reviews on recommended novels and open letters from “concerned fathers” or “older soldiers”, exhorting the conscripts to exemplary behaviour, as well as a dedicated page for cartoons and jokes about military life. The interwar volumes of Suomen Sotilas serve as a good source on the “enlightenment” and “civic education” directed at the conscript soldiers within the military system. Through its writers, the magazine was intimately connected with the command of the armed forces, yet formally it was published by an independent private company.

The editors in chief were literary historian Ilmari Heikinheimo (1919–1922), student of law and later Professor of Law Arvo Sipilä (1922–1925), M.A. Emerik Olsoni (1926) and army chaplain, later Dean of the Army Chaplains Rolf Tiivola (1927–1943). Important writers who were also Jäger officers were Veikko Heikinheimo, military historian and Director of the Cadet School Heikki Nurmio, Army Chaplains Hannes Anttila and Kalervo Groundstroem, as well as Aarne Sihvo, Director of the Military Academy and later Commander of the Armed Forces. Articles on new weaponry and military technology were written by several Jäger officers in the first years the magazine was published; a.o. Lennart Oesch, Eino R. Forsman [Koskimies], Verner Gustafsson, Bertel Mårtensson, Väinö Palomäki, Lars Schalin, Arthur Stenholm [Saarmaa], Kosti Pylkkänen and Ilmari Järvinen. All of these officers had successful military careers, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or higher. In the last number of the first volume of 1919, the editors published the photographs of 13 of the magazine’s “most eager collaborators”. Out of these 13, nine were officers, five were Jäger officers. The five civilians were a Master of Arts, two Doctors of Philosophy and one clergyman.

The initiative for starting the magazine originally came from the war ministry and the contents of each number were initially examined before publication by ministry officials. In 1919–1921, the magazine was published by a small publishing house for popular enlightenment, Edistysseurojen (as this publisher went bankrupt in 1923, the editors formed a public limited company, ‘Kustannus Oy Suomen Mies’ (~Finland’s Man Publishing Company Ltd.) which took over the magazine. On the tenth anniversary of the magazine’s founding, its chief accountant complained that the state had not subsidised the magazine at all in 1919–1925 and then only granted a minimal subsidy) and regular writers were mostly nationalist officers of the younger generation, many of them either Jäger officers or military priests. Civilians – professional authors, historians, educators and clergymen – also wrote for the magazine, but usually more occasionally rather than regularly. In spite of different backgrounds and experiences, the contributors had a lot in common; they were generally educated middle-class men who shared a staunchly non-socialist and nationalist political outlook. Contributions from female authors were not unheard of, but rarely occurred. Although the magazine was meant to be published weekly, it was published fortnightly over several long periods. The support of private business was important for its economy, both through advertising revenue and gift subscriptions to the military units paid for by defence-friendly businessmen. The magazine started out with a circulation of 4 000 in 1919 and rose to over 12,000 by mid-1920. This caused the editors to proudly exclaim: “Now it can be said with certainty that Suomen Sotilas falls into the hands of every soldier and civil guardsman.” After the magazine’s first 18 months these rather frequent notices on the circulation ceased to appear, probably indicating that the circulation had started to decline. Originally aimed at a readership of both conscripts and civic guards, the magazine had to give in to the tough competition from other magazines for Suojeluskuntas readership after a few years. It then concentrated on being the army’s magazine for soldiers.

The contents of Suomen Sotilas not only express the hopes and objectives of some of the same people who were in charge of training and educating the conscripted soldiers, but also their concerns and fears with regard to conscripts. In its first number, the editors of Suomen Sotilas proclaimed that the ambition of the magazine was to “make the men in the ranks good human beings, good citizens and good soldiers”. Its writings should serve “general civic education and completely healthy spiritual development” and strive towards “the fatherland in its entirety becoming dear to and worth defending for our soldiers.” A concern about lacking patriotism or even hostility towards the national armed forces can, however, be read between these lines. This concern did not diminish much during the 1920’s, but was stated even more explicitly by the former editor-in-chief Arvo Sipilä (1898–1974) in the magazine’s tenth anniversary issue in December 1928: “It is well known, that among the youths liable for military service there are quite a number of such persons for whom the cause of national defence has remained alien, not to speak of those, who have been exposed to influences from circles downright hostile to national defence. In this situation, it is the natural task of a soldiers’ magazine to guide these soldiers’ world of ideas towards a healthy national direction, in an objective and impartial way, to touch that part in their emotional life, which in every true Finnish heart is receptive to the concept of a common fatherland (…)”

The editors of Suomen Sotilas were painfully aware of the popular and leftist criticism of circumstances and abuses in the army throughout the 1920’s. In 1929 an editorial lamented, “the civilian population has become used to seeing the army simply as an apparatus of torture, the military service as both mentally and physically monotonous, the officers as beastlike, the [army’s] housekeeping and health care as downright primitive.” The same story greeted the recent PR drive of the armed forces, inviting the conscripts’ relatives into the garrisons for “family days”. There, the editorial claimed, they would see for themselves that circumstances were much better than rumour would have it. The initiative behind these “family days”, however, arose from the officers’ intense concerns over the popular image of the conscript army17 – concerns that were also mirrored in the pages of Suomen Sotilas (According to historian Veli-Matti Syrjö, the ”family days” was an initiative by Lieutenant-Colonel Eino R. Forsman. In his proposal, Forsman pointed out how an understanding between his regiment and the civilian population in its district was obstructed by popular ignorance).

Turning a Conscript into a Citizen-Soldier

In the autumn of 1922, the First Pioneer Battalion in the city of Viipuri arranged a farewell ceremony for those conscript soldiers who had served a full year and were now leaving the army. On this occasion, the top graduate of the Finnish Army’s civic education training gave an inspiring speech to his comrades. – At least, so it must have seemed to the officers listening to Pioneer Kellomäki’s address, since they had it printed in Suomen Sotilas for other soldiers around the country to meditate upon. This private told his comrades that the time they had spent together in the military might at times have felt arduous, yet “everything in life has its price, and this is the price a people has to pay for its liberty”. Moreover, he thought that military training had no doubt done the conscripts well, although it had often been difficult and disagreeable: “You leave here much more mature for life than you were when you arrived. Here, in a way, you have met the reality of life, which most of you knew nothing about as you grew up in your childhood homes. Here, independent action has often been demanded of you. You have been forced to rely on your own strengths and abilities. Thereby, your will has been fortified and your self-reliance has grown. In winning his own trust, a man wins a great deal. He wins more strength, more willpower and vigour, whereas doubt and shyness make a man weak and ineffective. You leave here both physically hardened and spiritually strengthened.” This talented young pioneer had managed to adopt a way of addressing his fellow soldiers that marked many ideological storys in Suomen Sotilas. He was telling them what they themselves had experienced and what it now meant to them, telling them who they were as citizens and soldiers. His speech made use of two paired concepts that often occurred in the interwar volumes of the magazine. He claimed that military education was a learning process where conscripts grew into maturity and furthermore, that the virtues of the good soldier, obtainable through military training, were also the virtues of a useful and successful citizen.

What supposedly happened to conscripts during their military service that made them “much more mature for life”? In the army, conscripts allegedly learned punctuality, obedience and order, “which is a blessing for all the rest of one’s life”. Sharing joys and hardships in the barracks taught equality and comradeship. “Here, there are no class differences.” The exercises, athletics and strict order in the military made the soldiers return “vigorous and polite” to their home districts, admired by other young people for their “light step and their vivid and attentive eye.” Learning discipline and obedience drove out selfishness from the young man and instilled in him a readiness to make sacrifices for the fatherland. The duress of military life hardened the soldier, strengthened his selfconfidence and made “mother’s boys into men with willpower and Stamina.” The thorough elementary and civic education in the army offered possibilities even for illiterates to succeed in life and climb socially (1929).24 The order, discipline, exactitude, cleanliness, considerateness, and all the knowledge and technical skills acquired in the military were a “positive capital” of “incalculable future benefit” for every conscript – there was “good reason to say that military service is the best possible school for every young man, it is a real school for men, as it has been called.” “If we had no military training, an immense number of our conscripts would remain good-for-nothings; slouching and drowsy beings hardly able to support themselves. [The army] is a good school and luckily every healthy young man has the opportunity to attend it.” (All quotes from various articles in Suomen Sotilas magazine).

It is noteworthy how the rhetoric in Suomen Sotilas about military service improving conscripts’s minds and bodies usually emphasised the civic virtues resulting from military training. Military education was said to develop characteristics in conscripts that were useful to themselves later in life and beneficial for civil society in general. Conscripts being discharged in 1922 were told that experience from the previous armed forces in Finland had proven that the sense of duty, exactitude and purposefulness in work learnt in military service ensured future success in civilian life as well. If the conscripts wanted to succeed in life, they should preserve the values and briskness they had learnt in the army, “in one word, you should still be soldiers”. Such rhetoric actually implied that the characteristics of a good soldier and a virtuous citizen were one and the same. As the recruit became a good soldier, he simultaneously developed into a useful patriotic citizen. The Finnish Army, an editorial in 1920 stated, “is an educational institution to which we send our sons with complete trust, in one of the decisive periods of their lives, to develop into good proper soldiers and at the same time honourable citizens. Because true military qualities are in most cases also most important civic qualities.” If the army fulfilled this high task well, the story continued, the millions spent in tax money and working hours withheld would not have been wasted, but would “pay a rich dividend.”

Storys in this vein were most conspicuous in Suomen Sotilas during the early 1920’s, as conscription was still a highly controversial issue and heated debates over the shaping of military service went on in parliament. In 1922, just when the new permanent conscription law was waiting for a final decision after the up-coming elections, an editorial in the magazine expressed great concerns over the possibly imminent shortening of military service. The editors blamed the “suspicious attitude” among the public towards the conscript army on negative prejudices caused by the old imperial Russian military. The contemporary military service, they claimed, was something quite different. It was a time when conscripts “become tame”, realised their duty as defenders of the fatherland, improved their behavior and were united across class borders as they came to understand and appreciate each other’s interests and opinions. All these positive expectations can be read as mirroring anxieties among the educated middle classes over continued class conflicts in the wake of the Civil War and the lack of patriotism and a “sense of duty” among conscripts in the working classes. The assurances that military service would inevitably induce the right, “white” kind of patriotism and civic virtue in conscripts and unite them in military comradeship appear to be fearful hopes in disguise.

As late as 1931, the conservative politician Paavo Virkkunen wrote in Suomen Sotilas that the bitterness “still smouldering in many people’s mind” after the events in 1918 had to give place for “positive and successful participation in common patriotic strivings”. He saw conscripts divided by political differences and hoped that they would be united by the common experience of military service, “a time of learning patriotic condition” and “a fertile period of brotherly
comradeship and spiritual confluence.”
Image
(Image Sourced from http://www.eduskunta.fi/fakta/edustaja/kuvat/911749.jpg)
Paavo Virkkunen (27 September 1874, Pudasjärvi – 13 July 1959, Pälkäne) was a Finnish conservative politician. He was a member of the Finnish Party and was elected in the parliament in 1914, but joined the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) in 1919. He was five times the Speaker of the Parliament. He became the chairman of the party in 1932 following the six year leadership of Kyösti Haataja.


Physical Education

Moral education and physical development were closely intertwined in the public portrayal of how military service improved conscripts. The military exercises, it was claimed, would make the conscripts’ bodies strong, healthy and proficient. In 1920, the committee for military matters in parliament made a statement about the importance for national security of physical education for conscripts. Pleading to the government to make greater efforts in this area, the committee pointed out how games, gymnastics and athletics not only generated the “urge for deeds, drive, toughness and readiness for military action” in the nation’s youth, but also developed discipline, self-restraint and a spirit of sacrifice. The conscript should be physically trained and prepared for a future war in the army, as well as being developed and disciplined into a moral, industrious and productive citizen. The militarily trained conscript, claimed Suomen Sotilas in 1920, was handsome and energetic, aesthetically balanced, harmonious, lithe and springy – unlike the purely civilian citizen, who was marked by clumsiness, stiff muscles and a shuffling gait.

According to Klaus U. Suomela, a leading figure in Finnish gymnastics writing in the magazine in 1923, the lack of proper military education and the hard toiling in agriculture and forestry had given many Finns a bad posture and unbalanced bodily proportions. Their arms, shoulders and backs were overdeveloped in relation to the lower extremities. Gymnastics to the pace of brisk commands as well as fast ball games and athletics would rectify these imperfections and force the Finns, “known to be sluggish in their thinking”, to speed up their mental activities, Suomela stated. He admitted that “the Finnish quarrelsomeness” would be worsened by individual sports, but this would be counteracted by group gymnastics and team games. Suomela seems to have viewed Finnish peasant boys from the vantage point of the athletic ideals of the educated classes, emphasising slenderness, agility and speed, and found them too “rough-hewn and marked by heavy labour”.

After independence and the Civil War, Finnish military and state authorities immediately saw a connection between security policy, public health and physical education. Officers and sports leaders debated how gymnastics and athletics formed the foundations for military education. Proposals to introduce military pre-education for boys in the school system were never realised, but physical education in elementary schools and the civil guards nonetheless emphasized competitive and physically tough sports in the 1920’s and 1930’. These “masculine” sports were thought to develop the strength and endurance needed for soldiering. Light gymnastics, on the other hand, were considered more appropriate for in schoolgirls, developing “feminine” characteristics such as bodily grace, nimbleness and adaptation to the surrounding group. Sports and athletics were given lavish attention in Suomen Sotilas.

The magazine reported extensively on all kinds of sports competitions within the armed forces, publishing detailed accounts and photographs of the victors. Sports were evidently assumed to interest the readership, but the editors also attached symbolical and political importance to sports as an arena of national integration. An editorial in 1920 claimed that in the army sports competitions, ”Finland’s men could become brothers” as officers and soldiers, workers and capitalists competed in noble struggle. “There is a miniature of Finland’s sports world such as we want to see it – man against man in comradely fight, forgetful of class barriers and class hate. May the soldiers take this true sporting spirit with them into civilian life when they leave military service.” Hopes were expressed that conscripts, permeated with a patriotic sense of duty after receiving their military education, would continue practicing sports and athletics in their home districts, not only to stay fit as soldiers and useful citizens, but also in order to spread models for healthy living and physical fitness among the whole people.

The Immaturity of Recruits

The rhetoric about the army as a place where boys became men and useful, responsible citizens required a denial of the maturity and responsibility of those who had not yet done their military service. The 21-year old recruits who arrived for military training, many of them after years of employment, often in physically demanding jobs requiring self-management and responsibility, were directly or indirectly portrayed as somehow less than men, as immature youngsters who had not yet developed either the physique or the mind of a real man. In this constory, the writers in Suomen Sotilas took the moral position of older and wiser men who implicitly claimed to possess the knowledge and power to judge young soldiers in this respect. Any critique or resistance against the methods of military service was dismissed and ridiculed as evidence of immaturity or lack of toughness. “You know very well that perpetual whining does not befit a man, only women do that”, wrote an anonymous “Reservist” in 1935 – i.e. somebody claiming to already have done his military training. An “Open letter to my discontented son who is doing his military service” in 1929 delivered a paternal dressing-down to any reluctant conscript, claiming that the only cause for discontent with army life was a complete lack of “sense of duty”. The military, however, provided a healthy education in orderliness and the fulfilling of one’s duties, taking one’s place in the line “like every honourable man”.

This immaturity of the Finnish conscript was sometimes described as not only a matter of individual development, but also associated with traits of backwardness in Finnish culture and society, which could, however, be compensated for both in individuals and the whole nation by the salubrious effects of military training. It was a recurring notion that Finns in layers of society without proper education had an inclination to tardiness, slackness and quarrelsomeness. This echoed concerns over negative traits in the Finnish national character that had increased ever since the nationalist mobilisation against the Russian “oppression” encountered popular indifference. The spread of socialism, culminating in the rebellion of 1918, made the Finnish people seem ever more undisciplined and inclined to envy, distrustfulness and deranged fanaticism in the eyes of the educated elites. In an article published in 1919, Arvi Korhonen (1897–1967), a history student and future professor who had participated in the Jäger movement as a recruiter, complained about the indolence and lack of proficiency and enterprise of people in the Finnish countryside.
Image
(Source: http://www.hum.utu.fi/oppiaineet/yleine ... honen.jpeg)
Arvi Korhonen: History Student, History Professor and WW2 Intelligence Officer


Korhonen called for military discipline and order as a remedy for these cultural shortcomings. “Innumerable are those cases where military service has done miracles. Lazybones have returned to their home district as energetic men, and the bosses of large companies say they can tell just from work efficiency who has been a soldier.” Korhonen claimed that similar observations were common enough – he was evidently thinking of either experiences from the “old” conscript army in Finland or from other countries – to show that “the army’s educational importance is as great as its significance for national defence.” Another variation on this theme ascribed a kind of primordial and unrefined vitality to Finnish youngsters, which had to be shaped or hardened by military training in order to result in conduct and become useful for society. The trainer of the Finnish Olympic wrestling team Armas Laitinen wrote an article in this vein in 1923, explaining why the military service was a particularly suitable environment to introduce conscripts to wrestling: “Almost without exception, healthy conscripts arrive to the ranks and care of the army. The simple youngsters of backwoods villages arrive there to fulfil their civic duty, children of the wilds and remote hamlets, whose cradle stood in the middle of forests where they grew to men, healthy, rosy-cheeked and sparkling with zest for life. In the hard school of the army they are brought up to be men, in the true sense of the word, and that common Finnish sluggishness and listlessness is ground away. Swiftness, moderation and above all vigour are imprinted on these stiff tar stumps and knotty birch stocks. They gradually achieve their purpose – readiness. The army has done its great work. A simple child of the people has grown up to a citizen aware of his duty, in which the conscious love of nationalism has been rooted forever.”

Jäger lieutenant and student of theology Kalervo Groundstroem (1894–1966) was even less respectful towards the recruits when he depicted the personal benefits of military training in 1919. In the army, he wrote, everything is done rapidly and without any loitering, “which can feel strange especially for those from the inner parts of the country”.
Image
(Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... alervo.jpg)
Jääkärikapteeni Kalervo Groundstroem: Lauri Kalervo Groundstroem myöh. Kurkiala (16. marraskuuta 1894 Längelmäki - 26. joulukuuta 1966.


“It is very salutary that many country boys, who all their lives have just been laying comfortably next to the fireplace, at last get a chance to rejuvenate and slim themselves. And we can only truly rejoice that numerous bookworms and spoilt, sloppy idlers get an airing by doing field service. Barracks life and the healthy influence of comradeship rub off smallmindedness, selfishness, vanity and other “sharp edges” in a young man’s character”, claimed Groundstroem. Military training is therefore “a useful preparation for future life.” Moving in step with others, the soldiers acquire a steady posture, their gaze is strengthened, their skin gets the right colour, they always have a healthy appetite, and flabby muscles are filled out and tightened. The finest result of this education, however, is the “unflinching sense of duty” it brings forth. The “sense of duty” mentioned in many of the quotes above stands out as the most important shared quality or virtue of the ideal soldier and citizen. From this military and civic virtue, the other characteristics of a good soldier and a good citizen quoted so far could be derived, such as self-restraint, a spirit of sacrifice, order and discipline, punctuality and exactitude in the performance of assigned tasks, unselfishness and submitting to the collective good, etc. The writers in Suomen Sotilas usually positioned themselves through their storys as superior to the readers in knowing what duty meant and hence entitled, indeed obliged, to educate the readers, who were positioned as thoughtless yet corrigible youngsters. In the constory of Suomen Sotilas, references to “a sense of duty” conveyed a message to the individual man that he needed to submit himself and his actions in the service of something higher and larger than his own personal desires and pleasures – submit to the army discipline and to the hardships and dangers of soldiering.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

Return to “Winter War & Continuation War”