Why did Finnish soldiers paint skulls on their helmets?

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
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Laurance.Robinson
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Re: Why did Finnish soldiers paint skulls on their helmets?

Post by Laurance.Robinson » 14 Nov 2017 08:52

The Skull and Crossbones, or Death's Head, symbol has been very much connected with the military since way back when (at least the 1700s).

It normally has a strong connection with mounted units, like Dragoons and Lancers, which probably helps explain why we see it in Finnish units associated with the Cavarly Brigade or with the successor to Cavalry, Armour.

It also is associated with Loyalty and Mortality. The Skull and Bones motif can be used as a signifier of an elite or hardened unit.

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Re: Why did Finnish soldiers paint skulls on their helmets?

Post by Juha Tompuri » 15 Nov 2017 21:07

Welcome to the Forum, Laurance.
And thanks for your input.

Regards, Juha

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Caselius
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Re: Why did Finnish soldiers paint skulls on their helmets?

Post by Caselius » 16 Nov 2017 09:47

Some information, most of it is known already but anyway:

I think I can also concur with the skull being tradition-wise related to the cavalry and especially light infantry units. Probably the most famous is Kevyt Osasto 4, which also had a skull on its "asevelimerkki", pin badge.

KevOs 1 had white skull with a flaming sword through it and was used on the right side of the helmet. Ratsumestari (Cavalry Capt.) Erkki Kokko was its leader.

In Kansa Taisteli 05 - 1982 Lauri Sotisaari says the following:

"Esitän parhaat aseveliterveiseni
Kevyt Osasto 1:lle, jonka kantana
ja runkona on ollut talvisodassa
komentamani Kevyt Osasto 4.
Hengessä puristan teidän jokaisen
kättänne, pojat!"

He says that the Continuation War era Kev. Os. 1 had Winter War era Kev.Os. 4 as basis.
Sotisaari had commanded it in Winter War. He then led JR 47 in the continuation war. JR 47 was in the same division as Kev. Os. 1.

What is also of interest is that the same division's (12. Divisioona) JR 3 formed so called Light Brigade T in 1941 and later formed the 3rd "Blue" Brigade which has been discussed on this topic as well. Probably there might be an inspiration or link between this all in the whole division?

Another user of skull insignia, although not painted or in helmets was Panssariprikaati which had an unofficial cloth insignia with skull and crossbones until being replaced by Lagus' arrows.

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Caselius
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Re: Why did Finnish soldiers paint skulls on their helmets?

Post by Caselius » 18 Nov 2017 17:44

I did some more research on the Kev.Os 4 and I found even more interesting attachments to the Continuation War units and skull usage. After Sotisaari, Ratsumestari Alfons Sundblad took the command of Kev.Os 4 and led it for most of the Winter War.

Source: Talvisodan asevelimerkit (Matti Allonen, Jari Nykänen)

When Continuation War began, Sundblad then as major led I/JR 46 Their unofficial insignia was black skull with crossed swords under it and it was commonly painted on the helmets, used as a badge (on hats) and also painted on the skis for example.

Source: Suomen puolustusvoimien joukkojen tunnuksia ja asevelimerkkejä 1941-1945

On here you can see Sunblad's service record:
http://runeberg.org/kuka/1954/0842.html

He had served in URR pre-war and served in HRR as chief of staff from 1944 to 1946 and later URR again. So I see there is some chain of inspiration and usage being linked to specific people with cavalry or light infantry background.

I also recall post-war UudRakP (unit with URR traditions) using skull in one of their squadron's flag and was their unofficial insignia as well.

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Caselius
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Re: Why did Finnish soldiers paint skulls on their helmets?

Post by Caselius » 01 Dec 2017 17:47

I took a look on d1ea's picture on the last page (84423) taken at Valkeasaari. The skull-helmeted saluting officer with a stick and cavalry trousers is Alfons Sunblad according to the information on SA-Kuva webpage.

His helmet painting resembles the Kev.Os 4 paint scheme from Winter War which makes a lot of sense considering he led it for most of the war.

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Re: Why did Finnish soldiers paint skulls on their helmets?

Post by Lotvonen » 27 Mar 2020 10:56

Kevos4kaann.pdf
The enclosed article appeared in the Finnish newspaper "Iltalehti" on 13. March 2020 as a memorial for the Winter War.
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Re: Why did Finnish soldiers paint skulls on their helmets?

Post by Tommy R » 01 May 2020 20:47

Some more skull-helmet photos at SA-kuva, this time a coastal(?) artillery man, SA-kuva 99353, also 99352, 99354.
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JTV
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Re: Why did Finnish soldiers paint skulls on their helmets?

Post by JTV » 02 May 2020 04:38

Tommy R wrote:
01 May 2020 20:47
Some more skull-helmet photos at SA-kuva, this time a coastal(?) artillery man, SA-kuva 99353, also 99352, 99354.
According original photo captions gunners in Continuation War era 120 mm coastal artillery battery of Rautaveräjä in Island of Valamo / Valaam. There seem to be at least two soldiers in the gun team with skulls in their helmets. The helmets seem to be German m/16 and Hungarian m/38.

Rautaveräjä coastal artillery battery (Google maps map seems to only work when satellite photo is selected):
https://www.sotahistoriallisetkohteet.f ... /-/id/422

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