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

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

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

Post by CanKiwi2 » 10 May 2011 18:21

Mark V wrote:
CanKiwi2 wrote:H... but probably with a few more guns ... and other things.
Hi. Keep on the great work.

I just listed the barest minimum for decently (not well, not plentifull) equipped army in geopolitical situation we were, totally doable in economy we had, without going to war economy, without losing any significant liberties and benefits.

Your goal is much higher, i see that.

Well, I have to say that by the time I finish, the Suoment Maavoimat, Ilmavoimat and Merivoimat will make the Israeli's look like a bunch of raving pacifists :lol: . I'm not sure if I've already used the simile here, but in this Winter War, the Soviet Union crashes through the front door expecting to kick a cocker spaniel out of the way and instead find themselves facing a junkyard pitbull that's off the leash.....

And now, on to my next Post....

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

Mark V
Financial supporter
Posts: 3925
Joined: 22 May 2002 09:41
Location: Suomi Finland

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

Post by Mark V » 10 May 2011 18:29

CanKiwi2 wrote: facing a junkyard pitbull that's off the leash.....

In original timeline that pitbull had been starving for a week, going without any food (=ammo).

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

Finnish Government and Politics of the 1920s and 1930s

Post by CanKiwi2 » 10 May 2011 18:49

Finnish Government and Politics of the 1920’s and 1930's

As mentioned briely in an earlier Post, after the Civil War the Finnish Parliament, controlled by the Whites, voted to establish a constitutional monarchy to be called the Kingdom of Finland, with a a German prince as king. However, Germany's defeat in November 1918 made the plan impossible. Finland’s brief alignment with Germany had initially somewhat soured relations with the victorious Allies and Mannerheim, the ex-Tsarist Finnish military commander-in-chief during the Civil War (who had opposed German aid and alignment with Germany) was appointed Regent of Finland.

After Germany had been forced to surrender in November 1918, General Mannerheim was elected Regent of Finland (from 12 December, 1918, till 27 July, 1919)

As Regent, Mannerheim travelled in Finland and abroad to support Finland’s interests. He also favored supporting the White Russian cause in the Russian Civil War that followed the Bolshevik Revolution. However, the white Russians were still aiming at maintaining the frontiers of the old Russian Empire and Mannerheim played a cautious game, unwilling to commit Finland to intervention without the support of the Allies and recognition of Finland’s independence from the White Russians. In foreign policy, he had to attend to Finnish interests in the tense situation caused by the Russian Civil War. He held to the view that Finland should participate in the occupation of St Petersburg and establish good relations with the government that might replace the Bolshevik Regime. On the other hand, he could not commit himself to the plans of the Russian anti-revolutionaries unless they were able to reorganize their ranks and recognize the right of Finland to independence. He even went as far as to consider leaving the law on the Republic form of government unratified in July 1919, a kind of coup d´etat.

Mannerheim as Regent, with his Cabinet

The constitution of Finland decreed that the President of the Republic was to be elected by 200 presidential electors, chosen by the people in a general and universal election. The first president would, however, be elected by the parliament. In spring 1919 the principal candidates for the presidency were K.J. Ståhlberg, president of the Supreme Court, backed by the Republican-aligned groups (Progressive Party, Agrarian Party and Social Democrats), and General Mannerheim, backed by the monarchists (the Coalition Party and the Swedish National Party). The so-called Suojeluskuntas circles backed Mannerheim. A delegation of Jägers even went as far as to try and persuade Ståhlberg to withdraw his candidacy. However, in the event, Mannerheim’s support was insufficient - in the presidential election on 25 July, 1919, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg got 143 votes, Mannerheim 50 votes, L.K. Relander one vote and Väinö Tanner one vote. Those who had voted for Ståhlberg regarded his election as a victory of Finnish nationalism and as a guarantee of peace. It was a bitter disappointment for the supporters of Mannerheim, and Ståhlberg found it difficult to find a suitable ADC among the officers.

Mannerheim as a Civilian

For his part, Mannerheim did not wish to withdraw into retirement, but finding a suitable new career was not an easy task. He spent some time travelling outside the country, and in Finland, Mannerheim’s skills and abilities were made use of in a number of confidential posts. He was Chairman of the Finnish Red Cross 1922-1951, and with his authority and support contributed to the establishment of the Mannerheim Child Welfare Association in 1920. Mannerheim regarded socio-political work for the benefit of the nation as the best policy of defence. Similarly, he emphasized that "the youthful strength and belief of the scouts were the best safeguards of our freedom and hopes for the future."

In 1921 Mannerheim accepted the chairmanship of the Finnish Red Cross. The request was put forward by Richard Faltin, Mannerheim’s school-fellow who had been a military surgeon in the Russo-Japanese War, in the First World War and in the Finnish War of Independence of 1918, and was fully familiar with the work the International Red Cross did during the wars to impartially alleviate pain and suffering. It was Faltin who had cured Mannerheim’s fever after the battle of Mukden in 1905. Mannerheim’s sister Sophie was the head nurse in the same hospital with Faltin and was very active in the Finnish Red Cross. One of the reasons for accepting this post may have been, as it has been said, that Mannerheim wanted to emphasize the unpolitical nature of his person in a situation when he was being an object of dispute among the Civil Guards. Mannerheim worked actively in the office of the Red Cross in the 1920s and 1930s, when, for example, an ambulance was equipped to be sent to the Abyssinian War. He also reached a prominent position in the International Red Cross. In the 1940s Mannerheim had little time to participate actively in the work of the Red Cross but he remained chairman till his death.
Mannerheim at a Finnish Red Cross Function

Mannerheim was invited to be the first honorary scout of the Finnish Scout Association on 16 August, 1919. He had great regard for the scouts’ ideals of chivalry and self-sacrifice, and was of the opinion that these ideals would help them "to win over their more underprivileged brothers into the service of the good and the noble." On 15 February, 1920, he donated to the scouts the so-called Mannerheim badge to be awarded for merit in scout activities. The badge was designed by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Mannerheim remained a supporter of the scout movement, and in 1936 he was chosen honorary chairman of the Finnish Boy Scouts. Reciprocally, the scouts participated in the Flag Day parade in 1919 and were prominently represented – altogether 11,000 young scouts – at Mannerheim’s funeral.
Mannerheim meeting Finnish Boy Scouts

After the world war, a group of people, including Mannerheim’s sister Sophie, who was the head nurse in the Surgical Hospital of Helsinki, Arvo Ylppö, assistant professor of pediatrics, and Erik Mandelin, began to consider ways of increasing the efficiency of child protection and welfare in Finland. Their objective was to diminish the rate of infant mortality and to help young people at the threshold of adulthood. Mannerheim contributed to these activities by placing his name and home at the disposal of the child protectors. When General Mannerheim’s Association of Child Welfare was established on 4 October, 1920, in Mannerheim’s home, the general became its honorary chairman. He supported various campaigns, for example the extension of the activities of agricultural clubs, and the organization of the activities of child sponsors. Mannerheim’s authority and reputation was useful to assist with the organization of various initiatives, to settle disagreements and to maintain foreign contacts. The association still functions today in Finland under the name of the Mannerheim Child Welfare Association.
In 1919 a national collection was organized to donate Mannerheim money as a present from the citizens. This collection yielded 7.5 million marks, and from these funds Mannerheim donated resources to support the pension societies of officers and widows of war, to fight the so-called Spanish Inflienza disease, and to help war orphans. He wanted to alleviate the misery of the poorer citizens and reduce the bitterness between the different social classes.

Also in 1920, Mannerheim was elected Chairman of the central Board of Governors of the newly formed Union Bank of Finland (formed when three smaller Banks merged). The fusion was an attempt to alleviate some of the impacts if the depression experienced at the end of the First World War as Finland’s exports to Russia (formerly its major market for exports) shrank to nothing.Mannerheim continued as chairman of the Board of Governors of Union Bank Inc and from 1931 on held the same post in the Bank of Helsinki. Due to his activities in various other confidential posts, Mannerheim, however, gave up his Banking appointments in the early 1930’s. Despite new arrangements, Mannerheim continued as chairman of the Board of Governors of Union Bank Inc, established in 1924, and from 1931 on in the same post in the Incorporated Bank of Helsinki. In the 1930s economical conditions gradually stabilized. Due to his activities in various other confidential posts, Mannerheim, however, gave up his mission in the bank.
Mannerheim as a civilian Banker

Mannerheim’s experience as Chairman of the Union Bank gave him business and financial experience and contacts which proved valuable in the mid to late 1920’s as he initiated the Maritime Initiative we have previously looked at, sparking of the rapid growth of the Finnish Maritime Industrial Complex with beneficial effects for both business and workers. Mannerheim also initially supported the aims of the anti-communist Lapua movement, but declined a post in its leadership. Previously, we have mentioned the 1930 Rapproachment that Mannerheim was instrumental in organizing between the Social Democratic Party and the Suojeluskuntas. This was a seminal event in Finnish history, leading as it did to reconciliation between the two major opposing forces of the Finnish Civil War, and as such, is worth readdressing to ensure the importance of the event and of the part played by Mannerheim in engineering the reconciliation is emphasized.

Much of the politicking around the maritime initiative and associated legislation that Mannerheim had been largely instrumental in orchestrating “behind-the-scenes” took place from 1926 to 1930, and for the first two years of this period, 1926-27, the government was a Social Democratic Party minority government headed by Vaino Tanner. Mannerheim, ably assisted by Rudolph Walden (more on him later), successfully negotiated all-party support for the initiative and worked closely with Vaino Tanner to do so. This working relationship led to the slow building of respect and what was to prove to be a lasting professional and personal relationship between the three. It was not an amicable relationship at all times – the political gulf between Tanner on the one hand and Mannerheim and Walden on the other was wide – but there was a slow building of respect for each others capabilities and a deep mutual trust built that had lasting ramifications.

And one of these ramifications was the rapproachment between the Social Democrats and the Suojeluskunta in 1930. This came directly from the working relationship that Mannerheim, Walden and Tanner slowly built. Walden and Risto Ryti were often dinner guests of Mannerheim’s, and as their working relationship grew closer, Tanner was added to the small and informal dinners. Mannerheim and Tanner in particular were eager to heal the wounds of the Civil War, and the SDP was also involved in an ongoing and bitter struggle for control of the Trade Union movement with the Communists. And while Walden strongly opposed Unions, he was even more opposed to the Communists. And Tanner and the SDP in general were concerned about the influence of the far-right within the Suojeluskuntas – a fear that was grounded in the hostility of the Lapua Movement to both the SDP and to Trade Unions in general. Out of discussions on these issues among others came the suggestion that a rapproachment be engineered between the Suojeluskuntas and the SDP, de-politicising the Suojeluskuntas and allowing SDP members to join and actively play a part in the defence of Finland.
Through the 1920’s, the Suojeluskunta and the Social Democrats had largely seen each other through the prism of the Civil War, in which many Social Democrats had fought as Red Guards. After the Civil War, the hostility had continued, although the Social Democrats had to a certain extent moved away from the Communists. There were still, particularly in the industrial city of Tampere, running brawls between the so-called Lahtarit (the Butchers) and the Punikit (the Reddies). Mannerheim and Tanner saw a rapproachment as step towards healing the wounds of the Civil War and building national unity while at the same time helping to take some of the heat out of the ill-feelings that the Lapua Movements actions were creating. While hot-heads at both extremes of the political spectrum agitated towards a replay of the Civil War, Mannerheim and Tanner were moving in the opposite direction, wanting to coll things down and draw the extremes closer together.

The rapproachment itself was largely orchestrated behind the scenes by Vaino Tanner and Mannerheim and its public announcement was one of the more epochal moments in Finland’s history (and not incidentally, one that also happened to subsequently remove a major obstacle to increased defence spending in reducing the opposition within the SDP to spending on the military). In February of 1930, at the urging of Tanner, and with the active support of Mannerheim, the SDP party committee had first made private contact with the Suojeluskunta leadership, and the two organisations found common ground very fast. When, in March 1930, Mannerheim, Major-General Malmberg (the head of the Suojeluskuntas, Lotta-General Fanny Luukkonen and SDP Leader Vaino Tanner publicly and jointly announced in both press releases and on a live radio broadcast (that was listened to by more than half Finland’s population at that time – in other words, everyone with access to a radio) that the Suojeluskunta and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) shared a common vision of the need for a spirit of national unity within Finland, jointly saw the dangers of the rising move towards totalitarianism in Europe and encouraged Finnish citizens of all political persuausions to join the Suojeluskunta or Lotta Svärd, this was a momentuous and earth-shattering political event that captured headlines across Finland.

Tanner had done his behind-the-scenes prepartions within the Social Democrat organisation well, and Mannerheim’s allies and supporters within the Suojeluskunta and the rightist political parties had also done their groundwork. There was little publicly voiced opposition in the Press, indeed the Press generally hailed the rapproachment in the spirit with which it was made. The Communists reviled the move, but they were on the verge of becoming an illegal and underground movement, and the actions of the Lapua Movement in destroying their printing presses and publications had ensured that they were unable to voice their opposition publicly although the Unions they controlled or influenced were quick to make their opposition known. Within the Suojeluskunta, members were ready to take the first step in removing hostility between the SDP and the Sk-organization. A formal event welcoming both Social Democrats into the Suojeluskunta, and Sk-members into the SDP was held on the 15th of March1930. The symbolic significance was large, but the actual results for members of both organizations were not immediately so. By the 10th of April 1930, only about 1,000 Social Democrats had joined the Suojeluskunta. However, with Mannerheim, Vaino Tanner, other SDP politicians and party leaders and Suojeluskunta leaders working together to emphasis the need for Finland’s defences to be strengthened, and continually emphasizing that the Suojeluskunta was a “Finnish” organisation, and not a “political” organisation, membership of the Suojeluskunta began to grow significantly from 1931 on. An added incentive were the new financial incentives for Suojeluskunta training included within the State Budget from 1931 on, as well as the support offered by both state-owned and private businesses for Suojeluskunta membership. While there was still Union opposition, it became ever more muted over time as more and more Union members joined.

The Appointment of Mannerheim as Chairman of the Defence Council in 1931

After being elected President, P.E. Svinhufvud asked Mannerheim to take the post of the chairman of the Defence Council (1931-1939). Mannerheim accepted after negotiating various conditions, including the appointment by parliamentary consensus of Rudolph Walden as Defence Minister, securing control over all Defense Spending for the Chairman of the Defence Council, negotiating increased levels of defense spending for 1931 and yearly increases thereafter and also giving him command authority over the Armed Forces, allowing him to implement changes and reforms as he saw fit. It is relevant to note at this point that the support of the Social Democratic Party, and of Vaino Tanner in particular, was a crucial factor in the granting of the powers requested by Mannerheim and the meeting of the conditions requested (such as the appointment of Rudolph Walden as Defence Minister, a post he held by an all-party consensus from 1931 to the end of the Second World War). With the close personal relationship and trust between Mannerheim and Vaino Tanner that had been built up during the negotiations leading to the Maritime Initiative legislation and the Rapproachment between the Social Democratic Party and the Suojeluskuntas, it is doubtful that the SDP would have agreed to the awarding of what was in effect complete control of the military and of all military spending to Mannerheim.

As we will see in later Posts, under Mannerheims’ chairmanship, and working hand-in-glove with the Defense Minister, Rudolph Walden (1931-1944 – appointed as Defense Minister in 1931 by an all-party consensus at Mannerheim’s request, concurrent with his accepting the position of chairman of the Defence Council) and with the Commander-in-Chief of the Military, the Defence Council steered and managed the expansion of the Finnish military industry and the ongoing expansion of capabilities of the Finnish Armed Forces. In this position, Mannerheim also organized campaigns to strengthen the positive attitudes of the general public towards matters of defence, supported the Scandinavian trend in foreign policy and sought close cooperation with Sweden, for example in matters concerning the defence of Åland and the development of arms production. The strengthening of the defence-relationship with Sweden did not, however, entirely proceed in the direction Mannerheim had hoped for (this, and foreign policy in general, will be covered shortly in a further post).

At this point, a brief introduction to Rudolph Walden is in order given that he served continuously as Defence Minister from 1931-44 under different governments and working closely with Mannerheim, Vaino Tanner and Risto Ryti throughtout this entire period. While Mannerheim can be seen as the great architect, strategist and war-time commander of the Finnish military and Risto Ryti can be seen as the financier who worked monetary magic to make the necessary funding available, Walden was the guiding hand behind the development of the Finnish military-industrial complex from 1931 to 1944, a positon from which he worked miracles in driving research, development and productionalisation of the Finnish armaments and munitions industry on a limited budget. It was Walden who ensured that the Finnish military were equipped with sufficient weapons and ammunition to fight first the Russians, and then the Germans. It was Walden who drove the design and introduction into the military of some of the more innovative Finnish weapons (as we will see when we look at the Finnish military-industrial complex, it’s development and the weapons produced in a later post). It was Walden who ensured the Ilmavoimat had a locally-based construction capability which ensured that through the length of the Winter War, the Ilmavoimats aircraft could be maintained and repaired, as well as new aircraft continuing to be constructed.

Rudolph Walden (December 1, 1878, Helsinki – October 25, 1946) was born the second eldest son of the Ähtäri District Court Judge Walfrid Walden and his wife, Mathilda Christina nee the Sommelius family. He started school at Jyväskylä Lyceum, but had poor success at school. Every summer he failed to pass his classes in Finnish and Swedish language. His father then made a decision; both of the younger sons, Rudolf and Nils, were sent to the Hamina Cadet School in 1890. The Finnish Hamina Cadet School then had seven grades, four general and three special. The former corresponded with the upper grades of Secondary School, and led to the Matriculation Examination, while the special grades prepared officers for the military. Rudolf was 11 years when he arrived at Hamina. He transformed himself into a diligent student, and before long he was the best in his class. His talent expressed itself in mathematics and military sciences, and he became ambitious. After having completed the general grades, Rudolf continued into the special grades, having decided to become an officer. The teachers and his circle of friends educated the youngster in a positive manner.

As the Cadet Sergeant Major and the best of his Cadet course, he would have been entitled to get into a Russian elite regiment, but because of Russification measures being taken in Finland he refused, and joined the Finnish Guard as an officer with the rank of Junior Lieutenant in August 1900. In the summer of 1901, the military force of the Grand Duchy of Finland was abolished, with the exception of the Guard's Battalion. Being loyal to the military of the Grand Duchy of Finland, Walden submitted his resignation, but it was not approved, and he was ordered to serve as a military member of the Kuopio Conscription Board. Walden refused and was threatened with punishment, with the case eing processed in the Military Supreme Court. Thus his case became part of the legality battle of the so-called Years of Oppression, and this is also how Walden viewed it. Walden was condemned to lose his post and also to lose the salary benefits associated with it. His short military career ended and s long career as an industrialist began.

In the village of Borskoye Tatarovo in Russia there was a paper mill owned by Finns, where an accountant and office clerk was needed. Walden was neither, but the maverick convicted and sacked Junior Lieutenant decided to take the position as there was a post and an offer of a salary. He bought a textbook on accounting and boarded a train. Within a year the company went bankrupt. The superintendent of the Jämsänkoski Factories then offered Walden the post of Office Chief of the Slovo Company in St Petersburg. The new Office Chief quickly noticed that the economy of the company was in the red, the workers stole company property, and there was a sluggish rate of work at the printing press and the agency. Walden returned discipline, and soon the company was succeeding. Within a couple of years, Walden was the CEO of Slovo. Business went well and customers trusted him.
Patalankosken paperitehdas ja hiomo Jämsänkoskella 1900-luvun alussa / Patalankoski paper mill - early 20th century

In 1911 he took a further position as the representative of the Simpele Paper Mill, the products of which he also began to sell in the Russian market. He also bought some of the company's shares and was elected as a Board Member of Simpele in 1910. The value of the shares began to quickly rise as WW1 went on – and Walden bought all available shares. By 1918 he owned about 28 per cent of the stock of Simpele. At the end of the same year, he bought a good third of the stock of Myllykoski Träsliperi Co. and in May 1919 was elected to the Board of Myllykoski and made its Chairman. At this time, co-operation within the Finnish paper industry between the families of Björnberg and Walden began, a co-operation which continued until 1952, when Myllykoski split off the United Paper Mills.

Walden's third move was due to both Simpele and Myllykoski needing a cellulose factory of there own. It turned out that the majority of shares of the Jämsänköski Company was available and a deal was made in November 1919, with the company transferred to the joint ownership of Simpele and Myllykoski, with Walden again as the Chairman of the Board. In the summer of 1920, Simpele, Myllykoski, and Jämsänkoski were merged into one conglomerate, Yhtyneet Paperitehtaat Oy (United Paper Mills), with Walden as the Chairman of the Board and owning a good quarter of the stock. Walden's fourth lucky strike took place in Valkeakoski in the Sääksmäki parish, where a minor paper mill and wood grinding plant had been built in the 1870's. The industry had later been expanded with the construction of the first suphate cellulose factory in Finland. Aktiebolag Walkiakoski was owned by Helsingin Osakepankki Bank in the early 1920's, and the bank was looking for an industrialist who could get the company back on its feet again. Walden was chosen to head Valkeakoski in 1925. After many negotiations, United Paper Mills acquired the majority of Valkeakoski shares in 1929, and the formal merger took place in 1934. From interests in forests, rapids, sulphite and sulphate cellulose and paper factories there developed a logical and economical entity. The history of the company remembers the Jämsänkoski "million-summer" of 1920, which was a remarkable bloodletting, as a great deal of money was spent on grandiose renovations that proved useless. When Walden returned from the Dorpat (Tartu) peace negotiations and familiarized himself with the situation, a radical reform of management followed; more than 30 men left Jämsänkoski.
On 27 January 1918 Mannerheim ordered his troops to disarm the Bolshevik troops in Ostrobothnia. On the same day Rudolf Walden returned to Helsinki from St Petersburg. On the next day, Kullervo Manner ordered the mobilization of the Red Guards. The Finnish Civil War had begun. Within a week Walden had reported to the service of the White Army in Seinäjoki, when he met Mannerheim for the first time. Walden knew what sort of a man Mannerheim was, but Mannerheim only knew that Walden was a businessman who spoke Russian like a native, had gone to Cadet School and had served briefly as a Lieutenant but was now aged 39 years. After their meeting, Walden was ordered to serve as an assistant to the Commander-in-Chief (Mannerheim) in the General Headquarters, and two weeks later he was promoted to Major. Long hours were worked at the General Headquarters, as there was more to do than here were men to do the work. This suited Walden, who had always slept poorly and worked effectively at night. Among his first tasks was achieving a reconciliation between the views of Mannerheim and of the Jägers. The dispute in views was escalating to the point where the White Army was about to lose either its Supreme Commander or the Jägers. Walden worked out a solution to the situation, which had far-reaching consequences for the whole war.

Because of his organizing skills, Walden was then assigned to act as the Commandant of Seinäjoki, the District Chief of Vaasa and the Chief of Depot Command. Major Walden's job description included among others handling issues related to foodstuffs, horses, vehicles, material, hospitals, railroad transport, postal and police matters. The businessman had the task of creating from the logistical capabilities of the White Army from nothing and in this he achieved outstanding success. After the capture of Tampere, Walden was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Liberty Cross, Second Class. After the war, Mannerheim and Walden submitted their applications for resignation. Mannerheim approved Walden's resignation one day before Regent P. E. Svinhufvud accepted Mannerheim's resignation. Mannerheim thanked his men, but forgot about Walden's promotion. The new Supreme Commander, Major General Karl Fredrik Wilkman, announced after a few weeks that Walden was entitled to wear a uniform and had been promoted to Colonel.
After the Civil War, Walden returned to managing his industrial interests and satisfactory results were soon achieved. Trade with Russia, where most of exports had gone until 1917, had ended in 1918. Germany had surrendered in the autumn of 1918. Britain and the United States still lived in war economy. Finnish paper producers tried to get trade started, but they had no information on how to conduct successful trade with Western countries as prior to WW1 there primary market had been within Russia. Walden saw that the weak economic basis of the country had to be strengthened quickly: industry must get up and running, exports must get going, and money must move. With Gösta Serlachius, he quickly created the Finnish paper mills association, took its chairmanship in July 1918, and thus rose to the number one position within the Finnish paper industry.

However, even before the year ended, Mannerheim and Walden were again carriers of state responsibility as the Regent and the War Minister respectively. One of Walden’s first tasks as War Minister, acting also as the Supreme Commander in command of the troops, was to escort the German soldiers in the country outside the national borders. From the beginning of 1919 the Supreme Command was transferred to the Regent Mannerheim, and the Chief of the Army with command tasks became Major General Wilkama. Along with the creation of the Finnish military, Conscription was instituted, the Law on Conscription and the Decree on the Suojeluskuntas were passed and the Officer School (Kadettikoulu) and Staff College (Sotakorkeakoulu) were established. The country had an energetic and precise War Minister who did not tolerate procrastination. When he gave an order, a report on how the matter had been dealt with had to be ready in short order. As a businessman, Walden took Army purchasing under his personal control. The status of the imprisoned Reds after the battles of 1918, now in camps, also had to be solved. Walden's view was that those imprisoned must be set free and people allowed to return to their families and back to work. Also Mannerheim had spoken at length about this, and in the spring of 1919 a decree was passed to end the action of the Courts of State Crimes and award a general amnesty. In 1919, on the first anniversary of the capture of Tampere, Walden was promoted to Major-General, thus he had risen from Lieutenant to General in 14 months.

While Walden was War Minister, Finnish troops were involved in the Aunus Campaign when Britain intervened, demanding that the Finnish soldiers in Repola return to Finland. The Cabinet decided that relations with London should not be put at risk. Action to assist the Karelians was forbidden, but individual initiative was permitted. According to the foreign press at the time, Finland was preparing to march an Army of 40-50 000 men on St Petersburg. Britain and Finland denied the rumor vigorously but the damage had already been done and Soviet Russia sent a protest note to Finland. In June 1919. eleven municipalities in Viipuri Province were declared to be in a state of war. Certain domestic pressure groups bombarded the War Ministry with demands to send troops to Aunus and Admiral Kolchak, who had set out from Siberia to march on Moscow, telegraphed direct to Mannerheim requesting him to join in a pincer movement against St Petersburg. The Chief of the Army Wilkama resigned and Walden submitted his own resignation. When the Cabinet announced that no commitments had been made to Kolchak and there was no planned campaign against St Petersburg, Walden took back his request for resignation.

After having lost the Presidential elections to K. J. Ståhlberg, Mannerheim had retreated into private life. After the Dorpat (Tartu) peace treaty had been signed in 1920, Walden also retired from politics and moved back to business. At the same time however, Walden thought about the international status of Finland, the rise of bolshevism in the East, the internal disputes within Finland and especially the status of Finland’s military forces. In Walden's opinion, Mannerheim had to be returned to lead the military and he pushed this opinion forcefully and with all the sizable influence at his disposal. After Svinhufvud became President, the Defence Council was reorganized, Mannerheim became its Chairman, and Walden became both Defense Minister and also, at Mannerheim’s demand, a member of the Defense Council.
Foreign diplomats sent dispatches: “Finland has an out-of-Parliament Cabinet ready, should the country get into a state of emergency”. Mannerheim and Walen almost immediately found themselves in the midst of internal rows within the Army Headquarters over the massive shortcomings in armament and equipment. Mannerheim and Walden worked closely with Risto Ryti, J. K. Paasikivi and Väinö Tanner to determine on a course of action. Paasikivi was the first to agree, Ryti worked on various financial alternatives to fund increased defense spending while Tanner agreed with the defence initiatives in general while demanding improvements in the status of the labor class simultaneously with arms acquisition. With the support of the rightist parties as well as the SDP, defence spending increased significantly in 1931 and therafter, every year saw further increases in the budgetary allocations (something we will examine in detail, together with the development of the military-industrial complex) in a subsequent post.

In the middle of these early problems the Mäntsälä rebellion took place. Walden had supported the Lapua movement in its early stages but now its leaders demanded the President dissolve the Sunila Cabinet and nominate “Walden's Cabinet” instead. Walden was emphatic and vocal in his public condemnation of the Mäntsälä rebellion and its proposals, publicly stating his complete support for Svinhufvud and the current Cabinet and government and his statements helped seal the collapse of the rebellion. We will follow Walden’s career, the development of the Finnish military industrial complex and the specifics of Finnish armaments in a later post (as mentioned earlier). Suffice it to say that through the 1930’s, Walden and Mannerheim followed the development of events in Germany and Hitler's consolidation of power with concern, whist simultaneously doing their best to hasten the building up of Finland’s armaments and military strength. At the same time they tried to engineer closer relations with the other Nordic countries, especially Sweden. There was some response, even though the language row caused difficulties. Walden was annoyed by the dispute, but one target for the blame for feeding the language row was the newspaper Uusi Suomi, the board of which Walden was a member of.

Walden held a conservative view on the politics of the labor market. Labor organizing themselves into trade unions and collective agreements on wages were like a red rag to a bull for him. His view was that on wages and conditions of employment, the employer should have the right to agree directly with the employee without the interference of any outsider. The solutions should also be personal: a good worker must get more pay than a poorer one. For their level, the wages were very low for a long time, so much so that in August 1933 his son Juuso, who was a chief clerk at Valkeakoski, wrote his father a long letter advocating a general pay rise for the labor force. Walden’s reply letter to his son was as long, as he explained the grounds for his most important decisions. Mild pay rises were now allowed, however, with some considerations. Walden's view was that only a Suojeluskuntas member was a good worker irritated many workmen and the labor movement. This battle was spearheaded by a columnist of the Suomen Sosialidemokraatti (The Finnish Social Democrat), Sasu Punanen (the alias of Yrjö Räisänen), whose columns specifically criticized Walden among others.
Yrjö Räisänen, a left-wing columnist who wrote under the alias of Sasu Punanen:

The insults angered others as well, and the Central League of the Wood Refining Industry contacted Tanner to ask him to calm down the columnist’s bad mouthing. As Defense Minister and a member of the Defence Council, Walden found himself working almost on a daily basis with Vaino Tanner and this and the rapid growth in SDP members joining the Suojeluskuntas following the 1930 Rapproachment all combined to influence Walden into accepting the justification for organized labor and an egalitarian contracting mechanism in the mid-1930’s. The fatherhood of the idea of "the engagement of January 1934" between the STK (Suomen Työnantajain Keskusliitto: The Central League of Finland's Employers) and the SAK (Suomen Ammattijärjestöjen Keskusliitto: The Central League of Finland's Labor Unions) is generally ascribed to K. A. Fagerholm. Colonel Lehmus has later claimed he owns notes that prove Mannerheim and Walden playing key roles behind this engagement. The idea and the preparatory work were Fagerholm's, but without the duo of Mannerheim and Walden backing the initiative, the agreement would never have got the signatures of the STK leaders.

As Defence Minister through the decade of the 1930’s, Walden also commited his own industries to supporting the ongoing improvements in Finnish defence. Workers were encouraged to join the Suojeluskuntas, with paid leave for attendance on training courses and annual exercises and preference was given to hiring Suojeluskuntas members. In the early days, before the Maavoimat provided individual weapons to the Suojeluskuntas, Walden’s companies paid for Rifles for his employees who wished to join and contributed financially to the local units to which they belonged. Walden also made significant financial contribitions to the Lotta Svard organisation and encouraged female employees and the wifes and daughters of employees to join the Lottas. Walden’s companies made substantial purchases of Finnish Defence Bonds annually, and encouraged workers to contribute via matching employer contributions. Following the decision to purchase modern artillery for the Finnish Army in the mid-1930s, Walden established at his own expense a shell lathe plant with five lathes at the Valkeakoski Mill. Initial production was 300 shells per day, but this was soon increased to 500 shells and then, following the Munich Crisis, a further five lathes were installed and production was increased to 1,000 shells per day. At the same time, an additional ten lathes were purchased and installed as a “war preparation contingency measure” but were not brought on to use until August 1939.

At this time, when negotiations with the Soviet Union were not going well, these additional lathes were brought into production and by running triple shifts with the lathes running day and night, 7 days a week production soared to some 5,000 shells per day. Over the three months prior to the Winter War breaking out, this measure alone resulted in some 450,000 additional artillery shells being added to the war reserve (at a not insignificant personal cost to Walden’s company as this was undertaken on Walden’s personal initiative and was not funded by the Defence Budget in any way, although it must be added that after war broke out, Walden was reimbursed at cost). At Walden’s urging, other companies undertook similar initiatives, largely from the mid-1930’s on – the larger companies following Walden’s example and establishing these at their own expense while smaller companies did so at cost, forgoing any profit margins to contribute towards Finland’s defence. In the late 1930’s as the threat of war loomed ever larger, Walden also ordered the United Paper Mills to order and stockpile foreign raw materials much in excess of need as a war preparation measure. In his position as Defense Minister, he had regulations passed requiring other large industrial organisations to undertake similar measures.
Rudolph Walden – Finnish Industralist (picture from 1929). Walden was known as a tough and cool negotiator. He represented Finland in the negotiation of all peace treaties between Finland and Soviet Union: The Treaty of Tartu of 1920 and the Moscow Peace Treaty of September 1940; also in the Norwegian Neutrality Agreement with Germany (November 1940); he represented Finland in the 1943 Tehran Conference where it was agreed that Finland would enter the war on the Allied side and again at the February 1945 Yalta Conference where Europe’s post-war reorganization was discussed between Churchill, Roosevelt and Malenkov, who had emerged as the political leader of the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death.

The wars demanded a heavy sacrifice from Walden. He lost his son Rudi in October 1941 from an accident in Eastern Karelia as he was returning on leave. In August 1944 his youngest son, Lieutenant (posthumously promoted to Captain) Lauri Walden fell fighting with the Jaeger Airborne Division as the Finnish Army fought desperately to break through to relieve the besieged Polish Home Army in the battle of Warsaw. Defence Minister and Infantry General Rudolf Walden was paralyzed in November 1944 at his Helsinki home, the Marble Palace of Kaivopuisto, and he died at the Rapala Estate in Sysmä on 25 October 1946. He was buried at the Hietaniemi Cemetery of Helsinki. After Karl Rudolf Walden died, Marshal Mannerheim wrote to his widow: "I will preserve his faithful friendship with gratitude in my memory. It bound us together always from the very moment, when our roads joined on the darkest days of the War of Liberty. Not the smallest cloud has shadowed it. His experience as a large scale industrialist, his imagination, when it was a question of creating the Army organization from entirely nothing, they were the factors that Finland needed right then. As a Minister of Defense hrough both peace and war and as the grand scale constructor of our war industry our country has never had anyone like him".

During his military and civilian career, Walden had received several domestic and foreign honors and awards. For his actions during and after the War of Liberty (the Civil War), Walden received the Cross of Liberty, 1st Class with a grand star. He also received the Iron Cross of Imperial Germany in 1918. In 1919 he was made Commander of the Order of the White Rose of Finland. Later he received the Grand Cross of the Order. In peace time in the 1920's Walden became a Knight of the Swedish Order of the North Star and in 1928 he was awarded the Danish Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog personally from King Kristian X. The King also thanked Walden for the sacrifices for Denmark of his maternal grandfather. As the Minister of Defense during the Winter War and later, during Finnish involvement in the Second World War, Walden received several additional high decorations including the Swedish Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Sword and on 2 December 1944, the Mannerheim Cross of the Order of the Cross of Liberty.

When you’re an industrial magnate, you live like an industrial magnate. This is the so-called Marble Palace in Kaivopuisto, Helsinki, where Rudolf Walden lived from1937 to his death in 1946. It was originally built for the Swedish-born factory owner and art collector August Keirkner in 1918 – he was killed in the Finnish Civil War and his widow sold the house to Walden in 1937. After Walden's death, in 1947 the State of Finland rented the building. The Marble Palace was transferred to State ownership in 1949, and currently it is used by the Labour Court. The building was designed by the architect Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950), and it is protected as a significant building of Finnish architecture and cultural history. The Marble Palace is located about 300 m from Mannerheim's house, where Walden was often invited as a dinner guest.

And a look at the “Marble Palace” from the other side

Returning Now to the Politics of the 1920’s

In the Interwar Period the politically important parties in Finland were:

Suomen Sosialidemokrattinen Puolue / Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP) founded in 1899: Political Stance – emphasized Social Welfare and State Socialism

Kansallinen Kokoomuspuolue / National Coalition Party (KOK ) founded in 1918: Political Stance – conservative

Kansallinen Edistyspuolue / National Progressive Party (ED) founded in 1918: Political Stance – Liberal and Republican

Maalaisliitto / Agrarian (ML): Political Stance – represented the interests of farmers and the rural population in general

Suomen Kommusnistinen Puolue / Communist Party of Finland (SKP) founded in 1918: Political Stance: Communism and alliance with the Soviet Union (illegal from 1931 to after WW2)

Isänmaallinen Kansanliike / Patriotic People's Movement (IKL): Political Stance: Fascist, far-right

Suomen Pienviljelijäin Puolue / Smallholders Party of Finland ( ) founded in 1929: Political Stance – communist front organisation

Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue / Swedish People’s Party of Finland (SFP) founded in 1906: Poltical Stance – represented the interests of Swedish speaking Finns

Generally speaking, the main parties were the SDP, National Coalition (Kokoomus), National Progressive (Edistys), Agrarian (Maalaisliitto) with the SFP (Swedish People’s Party) consistently representing the Swedish-speaking minority. In the early 1930’s, the IKL emerged as a further and far-right minority party. Governments throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s were generally either a left-centre coalition or a centre-right coalition made up of various party groupings. Of the 19 governments that were in office in the 21 years between independance and the Winter War, 14 were minority or caretaker governments. Even the majority governments generally only lasted for a short while in office. An exception in the series of short-lived governments was T.M. Kivimäki's minority government consisting of the centre parties which stayed in office for nearly four years between 1932 and 1936. In this period it was usually the non-socialist centre and right parties who formed governments.

After the defeat of the left in the civil war and the departure of radical elements from its ranks, the SDP had been reconstituted in the same year under the leadership of the moderate Vainö Tanner, an opponent of the use of violence for political ends. Although still the country's largest political party, the SDP first entered the government in 1926-27 when the party assumed office alone as a minority government formed by Tanner. The SDP were not included in a governing coalition again until 1937, when it joined the Agrarian Party (Maalaisliitto-ML) in forming the first of the so-called Red-Earth governments (OTL - the most common and important coalition pattern for the next fifty years of Finnish political history). At that time, a tempering of SDP policy on the place of the small farmer in Finnish society permitted political cooperation with the Agrarians, although the party retained its program of a planned economy and the socialization of the means of production.

It was in 1937 that the SDP first began to demand the right of collective bargaining, and the party remained closely connected to organized labor. In 1930, for example, it had formed the Confederation of Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiyhdistysten Keskusliitto--SAK) in an attempt to counter communist influence in the labor movement while at the same time negotiating the Rapproachment with the Suojeluskuntas. Throughout the decade of the 1930’s, the Winter War and through the length of the Second World War, the SDP contributed significantly to national unity, while resisting both far-rightist dreams of a Greater Finland and an alliance with Nazi Germany on the one hand and the desires of others on the far-left for an early truce and the surrender of Finnish territory to the Soviet Union.

Given the many different governments, it’s pointless to examine these individually. Instead, we will take a quick and very high level look at some of the major initiatives that were undertaken through the 1920’s. Agrarian Reform was a key initiative. Large scale agrarian reform in the 1920s involved breaking up the large estates controlled by the old nobility and selling the land to peasants and tenant-farmers. As a result, the farmers became strong supporters of the government. Prohibition was introduced in 1919 with the same results that other countries who tried this measure experienced. Alcohol abuse had a long history in Finland, especially binge drinking and public intoxication, which became a crime in 1733. In the 19th century the punishments became stiffer and stiffer, but the problem persisted. A strong abstinence movement emerged that cut consumption in half from the 1880s to the 1910s, and gave Finland the lowest drinking rate in Europe. Four attempts at instituting the complete prohibition of alcohol during the Grand Duchy period were rejected by the Tsar; with the Tsar gone Finland enacted Prohibition from 1919. Smuggling emerged and enforcement was slipshod. Criminal convictions for drunkenness went up by 500%, and violence and crime rates soared. Public opinion turned against the Prohibition law, and a national plebiscite resulted in 70% voting for repeal of the legislation, consequently prohibition was ended in early 1932.

While a separate Post will examine Finland’s foreign relations and the ongoing attempts to build defensive alliances, one issue that we should mention within the context of internal politics is the serious dispute over the Åland Islands, which were overwhelmingly Swedish-speaking and sought to secede to Sweden shortly after independance. As Finland was not willing to cede the islands, they were offered an autonomous status. Nevertheless, the residents did not approve the offer, and the dispute over the islands was submitted to the League of Nations. The League decided that Finland should retain sovereignty over the Åland Islands, but they should be made an autonomous province. Thus Finland was under an obligation to ensure the residents of the Åland Islands had a right to maintain the Swedish language, as well as their own culture and local traditions. At the same time, an international treaty was concluded on the neutral status of Åland, under which it was prohibited to place military forces on the islands or establish fortifications.

In an earlier Post, we looked at the development of the Maritime Industrial Cluster and the rapid growth of Finland’s economy through the later 1920’s and the decade of the 1930’s. We will not go into this in any further detail, but suffice it to say that Finland’s economy through this period experienced perhaps the greatest percentage growth rate in Europe – approximately 7% annual growth through this period – with the Great Depression having only a minor impact. The rapid growth of the economy resulted in a steadily increasing government revenue from taxation, and the establishment and rapid growth of a number of state-owned enterprises also contributed significant revenue steams. While prior to 1938, defence spending was never a large percentage of the State Budget, it did increase steadily as the financial position of the state improved.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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

Finnish Government and Politics of the 1920's and 1930's (co

Post by CanKiwi2 » 10 May 2011 18:50

A Financial Success Story

At the end of WW1, Finland was a little known country saddled with debt to the United States, incurred when Finland borrowed just over eight million dollars between 1918 and 1920 to ease acute post war food shortages. Finland agreed to repay the loans over a 62-year period, with an interest rate of 3% for the first ten years, and 3.5 % thereafter. Finland was not alone in owing significant relief and reconstruction monies to the United States. In 1922, the United States had negotiated loan agreements totalling slightly more than 11.5 billion dollars with 15 European countries. But Finland alone turned around an ill-deserved reputation for being a “bad debtor” with a public relations coup when it was the only country that repaid its debt in full. In 1931, in the face of the worldwide economic depression, the United States announced a one-year moratorium on all inter-governmental loans. Debtors, with the sole exception of Finland, took this moratorium to be a pardon. In 1933, only six countries made token payments on their loans. The following year, Finland earned the distinction of being the only country to continue to pay its principal and interest payments in full.

Cartoon in Philadelphia Public Ledger. Photo: Courtesy of the Bank of Finland

Finland’s hopes for a rehabilitation of its reputation were satisfied. Between 1933 and 1936, when widespread economic hardship in the United States stoked public resentment of the European loan defaults, American newspapers published nearly 3,000 stories trumpeting Finland’s faithful repayment of the loan. Finland was widely portrayed as a small northern country willing to give the shirt off its back, while it’s more affluent neighbors left their debts unpaid. Finnish authorities were well aware of the public relations value of their resolve. In December 1934, then Governor of the Bank of Finland and later wartime President Risto Ryti remarked in a widely quoted interview that Finland could do nothing less than repay its debt in full: “It is only natural. We signed the contract. We promised to pay. It is the only honest thing to do.”

Finland continued to make regular payments on the loan until the 1940s, when a second moratorium was granted because of World War II. At that time, U.S. and Finnish authorities agreed that future remissions would be invested to benefit Finland. OTL, in 1949, the U.S. Congress passed a law allowing Finnish payments to fund travel in the United States for Finnish researchers and acquisition of American scientific and scholarly literataure and technical equipment for Finland’s institutes of higher education. Finland’s final loan payment in 1976 created the Finnish-U.S. Educational Trust Fund.

The Lapua Movement and the Emergence of the IKL

The Finnish landscape was populated with new monuments in the 1920s, as old battlefields and cemeteries from the Civil War to the war of 1809 were given new memorials in a wave of public need to remember the past and create new heroes for the young country. But while the winners were well remembered and their deaths were politicized, the Red side was unable to mourn and remember their own fallen in public on a similar scale.

The Lapua Movement (Finnish: Lapuan Liike, Swedish: Lapporörelsen), named after the then municipality, and current town, of Lapua, was a political movement in Finland. Lapuan Liike started in 1929 and was initially dominated by ardent anti-communist nationalists, emphasizing the legacy of nationalist activism and the Civil War in Finland. The leaders of the Lapua Movement were Lapua man Vihtori Kosola and Army Major-General Kurt Martti Wallenius. With memories of the Civil War still both fresh and bitter, the movement saw itself as the badly needed restorer of what was won in the Civil War, supporting Lutheranism, nationalism, and anti-communism in a reaction to the threat of socialism and the strong Communist movement. In this situation, where both camps of the Civil War expected a new showdown, events in November 1929 were a logical outcome of the tense situation. This new chapter in the political history of Finland began when the Communist youth organization scheduled a large gathering in the town of Lapua, Ostrobothnia. This was clearly a deliberate and open provocation. Many Ostrobothnians had been active in the struggle for an independent Finland, gaining national fame in the Jaeger movement. During the Civil War the region had been one the strongest support areas for the White war effort. As the delegates of the SKP youth organization arrived at the railway station openly wearing their red shirts, things quickly got tense. As rumours begun to circulate that "an anti-religious meeting" was a part of the planned weekend program of the SKP gathering, an angry mob of locals soon surrounded the school were the meeting was to be held, and then stormed the building. Participants were beaten up and stripped of their shirts while rifles were sporadically fired towards the building from the crowd. The local police made no attempt to intervene.

The news of the event was on the frontpages of national newspapers on the following day. There was also an announcement that the "honest patriotic farmers of Ostrobothnia have founded a new political movement to defend their way of life against the growing threat of Communist infiltration." While the provocation organized by the Communists in Lapua was most likely genuinely intented to be a mere show of force, it was almost certainly used as an excuse to start something that organized right-wing forces from within the Kokoomus (National Coalition Party), elements of the Suojeluskunta and major employer's organizations, especially an anti-strike organisation known as Vientirauha (Freedom of Export) had been working towards through the whole year of 1929. In what would later be known as the founding speech of the new Finnish mass movement on December 1, 1930 an anti-communist meeting was held, attracting more than 1,000 people. A ban on all communist activities was demanded., a prominent local landlord, Vihtori Kosola, told his cheering Lapuan audience that "All communist activity will have to be effectively repressed...I doubt it will be ever be possible under the existing system of government and thus the time has come for we the people to act for ourselves...Kosola then told that the Finnish farmers, "the backbone of our nation" as he called them, "...should rise up and put an end to the futile posturings of the politicians in Helsinki...it is a waste of time to send delegations, it would indeed be better to send riflemen to Helsinki..." He ended by stating that "it may well be that the whole present form of government and the parliamentary system will have to be sacrificed if we are to be saved as an independent nation."

Kosola and his followers praying. A remarkable feature of the Lapua Movement was the strong contribution of Pietism, a fundamentalist Lutherian sect. For many rank-and-file members of the movement, opposition to Communism was a sacred struggle against the forces of Satan himself and thus merely their duty as devout Christians

This meeting in Lapua on the 1st of December was then imitated all over Finland with many similar speeches being made and similar resolutions passed. Suddenly a new political force sprang into existence seemingly resulting from a spontaneously organized local protest. Few noticed how surprisingly soon the Lapua Movement begun to wield plenty of money and how quickly it managed to form an effective nation-wide organization. On March 1930 representatives from all over the country gathered in Lapua to set up a new national coordination body, Suomen Lukko - Finland's Lock, dedicated to anti-communist struggle and aspiring to become a unified national front for the Right. Many politicians and also some high-ranking military officers were initially sympathetic to the Lapua Movement, as anti-communism was the norm in the educated classes after the Civil War and so within this new movement prominent bankers, major industrialists, high-ranking officers and agrarian politicians joined forces with the leaders of the formally agrarian Lapua Movement. The grouping also created a new political program for the organization, stressing the "urgent need of direct action and the need to meet force with force."

Vihtori Kosola speaking

Suomen Lukko had got off to a roaring start, as almost all of the institutions of the Right joined in. In 1930 it enjoyed the support of the great majority of non-socialist Finns and was truly a new, genuine popular mass movement. With new slogans such as "Herää Suomi!" (Finland Awaken) and "Me Teemme Mitä Tahdomme" (We do what we will), the radicals of the new movement openly stating their willingness to stir up trouble. It is however important to notice the differences between the paternal autocratism of the Lapua Movement and central European Fascism. Despite the fact that Vihtori Kosola was openly portrayed as the leader of the movement and parodic proverbs like "Heil Hitler, Meil Kosola" (They have Hitler, we have Kosola) were soon circulating in the media, Kosola had no national standing outside of Ostrobothnia and was never considered as a serious candidate for the position of future leader of Finland. He was nothing more than a figurehead for the wide right-wing coalition that sought to use the Lapua Movement to promote their own anti-Communist goals.

Lars (Lauri) Kristian Relander was the 2nd President of Finland from 1925-1931. He had been a dark horse candidate in the first Presidential elections, and one of the youngest politicians in a torn and young republic, the job of President was perhaps too much for his abilities despite his best efforts. Since Relander was a strict opponent of Communism, he was indecisive in his critical early decisions regarding the rising power of the Lapua Movement.

Relander had been first elected to Parliament in 1910, serving until 1913, and again from 1917 to 1920 (by 1917 he had become one of the leaders of the party). After independence, his political career had gone well. He was a prominent member of the Agrarian League and was elected as Speaker of the Eduskunta for its 1919 session and part of its 1920 session. Later that year he was appointed Governor of the Province of Viipuri. However, in the 1920’s he did not have enough support in his own party to become a minister. In 1925, Relander was nominated as his party's candidate for that year's presidential election – his nomination only being confirmed just days before the election day. Relander was only 41 at the time, and his nomination came as a surprise. It was further guaranteed by the fact that some of the party's key figures, such as Santeri Alkio and Kyösti Kallio, declined to stand. Relander was elected in the third ballot of the electoral college, defeating the National Progressive Party candidate Risto Ryti by 172 votes to 109. He was elected largely due to the fact that he attracted less opposition than Risto Ryti.

According to some contemporaries, at least the Swedish People's Party electors more eagerly voted for Relander, because his wife happened to be a Finland Swede. This story may be partly apocryphal, because also Ryti had a Finland-Swedish wife. On the other hand, Ryti had campaigned as a "Finnish peasant's son." Strong right-wing opposition to the outgoing Progressive (liberal) President Ståhlberg, Ryti's membership in the same party, and at least some career politicians' desire for a more approachable and less independent President may partly explain Relander's victory. Two other important factors should be mentioned: Relander was an active member of the "Suojeluskunta" (Civil Guard) voluntary military organization and he accepted the right-wing worldview typical of White veterans of the Civil War clearly more wholeheartedly than Ryti did. Also as people, Relander and Ryti were notably different: despite having a doctorate, Relander was a much more talkative and social person than the intellectual and thoughtful Ryti.

As President, Relander was politically inexperienced and young. Politicians and other opinion leaders could not take him seriously. Relander had no political base to speak of, and he was deemed to have no particular program for his presidency, which further decreased his support. Even Relander's continual state visits and trips drew criticism, leading to him gaining the nickname of Reissu-Lasse ('Travelling Larry'). He was continually compared to his predecessor, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg and his performance as president. The cabinets during his term tended to be weak, short-lived minority cabinets, as in most European democracies of that time. All in all, Relander is remembered as a weak leader. On the other hand, Relander was an idealist who deplored the toughness of the political game and preferred minority governments of supposedly excellent individuals over majority governments of unprincipled individuals. While Relander can not be considered a strong President, he achieved a few notable things during his single term: he allowed the Social Democrats to form a minority government (1926–27), appointed Finland's first female Cabinet minister, Miina Sillanpää (as Assistant Minister of Social Welfare), dissolved Parliament twice (in 1929 over a dispute on the civil servants' salaries, and in 1930 to have the Parliament outlaw the Communist Party, which required a constitutional amendment and thus a two-thirds majority), and generally speaking supported the far-right Lapua Movement, until it started to kidnap various political opponents. He maintained a rather close friendship with the Social Democratic leader, Väinö Tanner.

In the late autumn of 1930, Relander realized he would not be re-elected, and during the winter of 1930–31 he sabotaged the prospects of his former Agrarian League colleague and rival Kyösti Kallio, so that Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, Relander's former Prime Minister, was elected. In Relander's opinion, Kallio did not talk straight to him and schemed behind his back to weaken his Presidency and help his political opponents. In Kallio's opinion, Relander was an inexperienced politician who had high ideals but not enough common sense to implement them. After his term as President, Relander served from 1931 to 1942 as the General Manager of Suomen Maalaisten Paloapuyhdistys, a fire insurance company for rural people. Relander died in 1942.

Returning now to the Lapuan Movement, marches and meetings were arranged throughout the country. President Relander and the government sought to appease this new political activity by going forward with new anti-communist legislation. A new press law was introduced in March 1930, but failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority due to the strong resistance of the Social Democrats and more moderate centrist forces in the Eduskunta, the Finnish Parliament. The response of Lapua Movement soon came. The printing presses of socialist newspaper Työn Ääni were destroyed during a nighttime raid in Vaasa, the regional capitol of Ostrobothnia. The right-wing press welcomed and approved this event, stating that "it was a proper response to parliament's refusal to pass the press law soon enough." On June 16, 1930, more than 3,000 men arrived in Oulu in order to destroy the print and office of the Communist newspaper Pohjan Voima. However, the last issue of Pohjan Voima had appeared on June 14. The same day, a Communist printshop in Vaasa was destroyed.

Lapua Liike marchers - 1930

Riflemen in Helsinki and thugs in the streets

A so-called "Peasant March" to Helsinki was a major show of power. On the 7th of July 1930 some 12,000 men, a quarter of them armed, marched through the streets of Helsinki along roughly a similar route to the victory parade of 1918 to demand the removal of Communism from Finland. They were given a solemn public reception by President Relander, General Mannerheim, Prime Minister Svinhufvud and the rest of the government. In the speeches President Relander thanked God for the patriotic upsurge which the marchers represented, while Svinhufvud assured them that all their demands would be met and that communism in Finland would be "stamped out for ever."

Meeting the Lapuan Liike marchers, 7 July 1930

During the Parliamentary elections the previous summer, Lapuans had openly attacked the Social Democrats and the remaining moderate right opposition on the streets. Meetings held by leftist and labour groups were also interrupted or broken up, often violently, newspaper offices were attacked and trashed and more than 400 local Social Democratic organs were forced to close down their activities. The specialty of the Lapua Movement was however a method known as muilutus, a combination of kidnapping and human smuggling. They would seize an opposition politician, trade union activist or a reporter, beat their victim up and them drive them to the Soviet border in a car trunk, sometimes even forcing them to cross to Soviet Union at gunpoint. If the victims were then not treated as spies by the Soviet authorities (as was often the case) and they managed to get back, the Lapuans issued them a stern private warning to stay out of public life in the future. During the summer of 1930 there were over a thousand cases where low-ranking public officials and, increasingly often, former members of the Eduskunta as well, were subjected to muilutus while official authorities seemingly stood by. In October 1930 twenty men marched as a delegation to the Ministry of the Interior and openly stated that they had organized several kidnappings during the summer. As a response the Minister of Interior personally came to openly assure the men that should any member of this delegation ever find themselves before a court, they could count on sympathetic consideration.

While these incidents were mainly political terrorism, for the Lapuans they were also part of a campaign to insure that the new parliament would approve their demands for new legislation. The leaders of the movement predicted that in order to succeed they would have to affect the elections to the extent that at least 134 members of Parliament could be trusted to support Lapua Liiki demands and that there would be no more than 66 Social Democrat representatives opposing them. Due this political terrorism and blackmailing it was not surprising that in the elections of 1930 the conservative Kokoomus (National Coalition) Party jumped from 28 to 42 seats, scoring a landslide victory. The Social Democrats were nevertheless able to maintain their leading position with 66 seats. When the new Eduskunta assembled for the first time, one of its first actions was to rapidly pass the so-called Lapua laws. In these laws the President was granted strong emergency powers while the government gained the right to close down "offensive associations and publications." The electoral law was also revised to disfranchise anyone adjudged to have been a member of an illegal organization and the local electoral boards were given wide discretion to decide who actually fell into this category. Similarly, in the "Protection of the Republic Act" communist newspapers were outlawed.

The Lapua Movement had seemingly won: with the new legislation in force, the Finnish Socialist Workers' Party (SSTP, the front organization of the illegal Moscow-based SKP, the Communist Party of Finland) was reduced during the 1930s to a tiny and hunted underground movement incapable of any effective political action or public demonstrations. The culmination of the political terror of the Lapua Movement came a few months later, when a group of armed men kidnapped the popular ex-president Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg and his wife on 14th of October 1930 and drove them towards the Eastern border with the clear intention of sending them to Soviet Union. This was due to the fact that Ståhlberg was viewed as the most likely Presidential candidate for the remaining political opposition. At the remote regional capitol of Joensuu in North Karelia the kidnappers lost their nerve due the fact that Ståhlberg himself had remained calm and constantly demanded that as a former President and Civil War-era leader he and especially his wife should not be treated like this. As the shocked old Presidential couple was taken to safety at the Joensuu Suojeluskunta HQ building, the entire nation was shocked to hear the news of this event on the following morning. The general sense was that the Lapua Movement had gone too far. Legal proceedings against the attackers resulted in prison sentences or everyone involved and a new political scandal followed as the former Chief of the General Staff, General Kurt Wallenius was found guilty of being involved in the plot. The more moderate members began to leave the movement and the “extremists” began to take greater control.

It was in face of this rampart imtimidation and political terrorism that the Presidential elections of 1931 were fought. Once again Ståhlberg was the candidate of the Social Democrats and many among the Agrarian Union had also rallied to his campaign that promised "a return to legality." Against him stood Svinhufvud, the candidate of the united right with the full support of the Lapua Movement. As the Lapuans had expected, the opposition rallied round the figure of J.K. Ståhlberg, the first President of the Republic, who had emerged from retirement precisely to campaign for the upholding of the Constitution and the rule of law. Ståhlberg immediately became the prime target for hostile Lapua propaganda, since he was obviously immune to the standard Lapua practice of portraying their opponents as "stooges of Moscow." Ståhlberg was nevertheless accused for his opposition to the Jäeger movement before independence, his policy of reconciliation after the Civil War and first and foremost for his signing of the "shameful peace" – the Treaty of Dorpat.

Carl Johan Ståhlberg was an old and respected politician who had gained his experience in the Senate of the Grand Duchy of Finland before independence. His liberal opinions and support for strict legalism made him the prime opponent of the more radical nationalists and conservatives.

On the first ballot of the Electoral College, neither Ståhlberg nor Svinhufvud received a majority. Ståhlberg took the lead on the second ballot, but without the majority necessary for victory. The Agrarian Union now held the balance, and the party leaders were hard-pressed to decide which candidate they would support. In the end their choice was not made freely. Major-General Malmberg, commander of the Suojeluskunta, declared that he could not guarantee the maintenance of order in the country if Ståhlberg were elected. Despite this fact, the prolonged political intimidation and the new electoral law that all worked for Svinhufvud, he was ultimately elected by the smallest possible margin in the electoral college, 151 to 149 - and even this outcome was probably the result of the last-minute public intervention of the Suojeluskunta. The new President, Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, had now nevertheless gained all he wanted from the Lapua Movement, but instead of gracefully retiring into the background the leaders of the movement were already planning their next step.

A Mountain over which no force could pass...President Svinhufvud takes on the Lapua Movement

President Pehr Evind Svinhufvud: Pehr Evind Svinhufvud (December 15, 1861 – February 29, 1944) was the third President of Finland from 1931 to 1937. A lawyer, judge, and politician in the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland, he played a major role in the movement for Finnish independence as a member of the Kagal secret society and as an independence activist. After being appointed as a judge in Heinola in 1906, he attempted to keep out of the front line of politics but was elected Speaker of the Parliament in 1907, largely because the majority Social Democrats considered him "the best-known opponent of illegality". Svinhufvud's parliamentary opening speeches, in which he laid emphasis on legality, led to the Tsar dissolving Parliament in both 1909 and 1910. He served as Speaker until 1912. During the First World War, when Russia replaced various Finnish officials with Russians. Svinhufvud refused to obey the orders of the Russian procurator Konstantin Kazansky, which he considered illegal, and this led to his removal from office as a judge and being exiled to Tomsk in Siberia in November 1914. In his Siberian exile, he spent his time hunting while still keeping secret contact with the independence movement. When he left Finland, he had promised to return "with the help of God and Hindenburg". When news of the February Revolution reached Svinhufvud, he walked to the town's police station and bluntly announced, "The person who sent me here has been arrested. Now I'm going home." In Helsinki he was greeted as a national hero.

Svinhufvud was appointed Chairman of the Senate on November 27, 1917, and was a key figure in the announcement of Finland's declaration of independence on December 6, 1917. He also personally went to Saint Petersburg to meet Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who somewhat hesitatingly gave his official recognition of Finnish independence. Svinhufvud's Senate also authorized General Mannerheim to form a new Finnish army from the Suojeluskunta at the beginning of the Civil War in Finland. During the Civil War, Svinhufvud went underground in Helsinki and sent pleas for intervention to Germany and Sweden. The conflict also turned him into an active monarchist, though not a royalist. In March 1918 he managed to escape from Helsinki via Berlin-Stockholm to Vaasa, where the Senate was now located. He resumed his function as Head of Government and in this role he pardoned 36,000 Red prisoners in the autumn of 1918. On May 18 1918, Svinhufvud became Protector of State or Regent, retaining this post fter he stood down as Chairman of the Senate on May 27. After Germany's defeat in World War I, and the failed attempt to make Finland a Monarchy under a King of Finland (Frederick Charles of Hesse), Svinhufvud withdrew from public life (where he was replaced by Mannerheim as Regent of Finland and was active only in the Suojeluskunta.

As a conservative who was strong in his opposition to communism and the Left in general, Svinhufvud was not embraced as President by everyone, but after his Presidency, as the amiable Ukko-Pekka (Old Man Pete), he came to enjoy wide popularity.

Returning to the outcome of the 1931 Presidential elections, Ukko-Pekka ("Old Man Pete") was now in charge, and he was not known for his willingness to share power. At the same time General Wallenius, accused of participation in the kidnapping of Ståhlberg, was acquitted of his charges and elected as the new Party Secretary of the Lapua Movement. Now back in control of the movement, Wallenius was soon devising plans for a coup where the Suojeluskunta would take over the country and bring the leaders of the Lapua movement to power. The movement would then demand the formal resignation of the government, calculating that ministers of the Kokoomus would do so when asked, thus collapsing the credibility of the government. The next step would be the formation of a new "government of national unity" with a “proper” figurehead ruling officially while Wallenius himself would be the actual ruler of the country as the new Prime Minister. It was later rumoured that Mannerheim was alledgedly discreetly approached and requested to take the lead once the moment was right, but no actual proof of his involvement to this conspiracy can be found and Mannerheim never made any comment on such an approach or his reaction (given that in 1930 Mannerheim, working closely with Vaino Tanner, had just suceeded in engineering the historic rapproachment between the Social Democractic Party and the Suojeluskuntas, it seems unlikely that Mannerheim would have been approached).

The crisis finally came in February 1932 when a group of 500 armed supporters of the Lapua Movement gathered at Mäntsälä near Helsinki in an attempted coup d'état which became known as the Mäntsälä Rebellion (Mäntsälän kapina and was led by the former Chief of Staff of Finland's army, Major-General Wallenius They issued the following statement: “Unless the present cabinet immediately resigns and the political course of the country changes, we don't consider that we can preserve peacefulness of the country. In place of the present cabinet, there must come a new cabinet which is free from party aims and petty disputes, and which depends in its action upon the support of patriotic elements of the people." General Wallenius attempted to mobilize units if the Suojeluskuntas in key cities and the League of War Veterans declared that it was time "to finish the job" begun during the Civil War. Army Chief of Staff General Sihvo expressed fears that some former high-ranking Jäeger officers would support the demands of the Lapua Movement and refuse to comply with orders to suppress a revolt should the matter turn to violence. But by now Svinhufvud had had enough. He immediately assembled his cabinet, together with General Sihvo of the General Staff and Major-General Malmberg, national commander of the Suojeluskuntas and gave an explicit order: "Not even one armed man may come...to the capital."

Two days later the cabinet ordered the leaders of the Lapua Movement arrested using the Proctection of the Republic Act which the movement itself had urged a year earlier. Army units began preparing as the commander of the army, Lieutenant-General Aarne Sihvo prepared to use force to end the rebellion. Orders were given to reinforce the defence of Helsinki with tanks and artillery in case the situation escalated and orders, which were obeyed, went out to the Suojeluskuntas to mobilise. As the tensions grew, so did the consumption of alcohol among the instigators in Mäntsälä. The situation was tense in Svinhufvud's own family as his adult son Eino declared that he would march to Mäntsälä to join the revolt. His father was furious: "What's taking place in Mäntsälä is mass psychosis and pure madness! You are not going anywhere!" After he averted a family and potential political crisis by keeping his son at his side, on the 2nd of March Svinhufvud broadcast a nation-wide radio speech aimed at the people of Finland and the rebels of Mäntsälä:

President Svinhufvud broadcasting: "Throughout my long life, I have struggled for the maintenance of law and justice, and I cannot permit the law to now be trampled underfoot and citizens to be led into armed conflict with one another.... Since I am now acting on my own responsibility, beholden to no-one, and have taken it upon myself to restore peace to the country, from now on every secret undertaking is aimed not only at the legal order but at me personally as well - at me, who have myself marched in the ranks of the Suojeluskuntas as an upholder of social peace.... Peace must be established in the country as swiftly as possible, and the defects that exist in our national life must thereafter be eliminated within the framework of the legal order.”

The speech was skillfully crafted around its central theme, the respect for the rule of law. During the era of the Grand Duchy, the Swedish Constitution of 1772 had received an almost sacred status in Finnish political consciousness, and its defense had become one of the most important political issues. When, after Finland's independence, rebellions had taken place in 1918 and then now, the rebels' defiance of laws and constitution was the strongest argument the government could use to rally the public and the armed forces. Svinhufvud gave his radio speech, where he urged the Lapuan movement rebels to return home and promised that only the leaders would be punished. Following President Svinhufvud’s radio broadcast, followed by the news that the Suojeluskuntas were mobilizing against them, the rebels duely dispersed and the leaders were arrested a few days later. After a trial, the Lapua Movement was banned on November 21, 1932 once again utilizing the very same legislation the Lapuans themselves had promoted.Wallenius and about 50 other leaders were sentenced to prison terms. By now the Finnish far-right was splintered and all attempts to forge a unified national front of conservative and nationalist parties were abandoned. Hardcore members from the former Lapua Liike created a new political party (the Lapua Liike had never taken part in elections by naming their own candidates, but only by harassing their political opponents). The new movement was named Isänmaallinen Kansanliike, the Patriotic People's Movement or IKL.

An Estonian Sidenote: The last political scheming of the Finnish radical right was actually their support for the Eesti Vabadussõjalaste Keskliit, an Estonian radical right organization that was similarily opposed to parliamentarism. Unlike in Finland, the radical right in Estonia practically succeeded in seizing power by legal means in 1934 when President Konstantin Päts (a friend of President Svinhufvud) declared a state of emergency, dissolved the movement and began to rule Estonia as a paternal autokrat. In 1935 Finnish activists were supporting an Estonian plot to overthrow Päts.

In 1936 Finland had the first truly free elections in years. While the IKL managed to gain 97 891 votes and 14 representatives in the Ediskunta, the Social Democrats under Väinö Tanner won 83 seats and were planning for the first time since the Civil War to return to government by forming a majority coalition in alliance with the Agrarian Union, aiming at finally ending their long presence in the opposition. President Svinhufvud was initially inclined to agree, but ultimately he declined, claiming that the SDP Party program "was to Marxist." This decision woulc come back to haunt Svinhufvud during the Presidential elections of summer 1937, when Ståhlberg was once again his main opponent and the SDP campaigned against his re-election. Tanner promised his support for the candidate of the Agrarian Union should they agree to form a new coalition government with the Social Democrats. On the first Electoral College ballot Ståhlberg got 150 votes to Svinhufvud´s 94 - just one vote short of winning on the first round. On a second ballot the SDP shifted their support to the Agrarian Union candidate, Kyösti Kallio, who then won the election as a dark horse candidate, similarly to Relander in 1925.

Svinhufvud viewed Kallio as too inexperienced and weak, and stated that "a democratic system needs to be counterbalanced by strong personalities holding the reins." He neverthless gave up his position to his successor in a legal manner and stated in his farewell address to the nation: "In the coming years we must keep in mind that before we can improve our standards of living, we have to secure our borders..." With the old Suojeluskuntas activist finally gone from power, Tanner could lead the Social Democrats into a coalition government with the Agrarian Union, starting the beneficial "Red Earth" cooperation between the two strongest moderate parties. The worldwide economic hardships of the early 1930s were finally giving way to new economic growth, and the domestic situation in Finland as improving rapidly along with the average standard of living. Finnish democracy had seemingly withstood the setbacks that had brought down similar political systems elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

Under the new President, Mannerheim’s position as Chairman of the Defense Council was reconfirmed, as was Rudolp Walden’s position in the Cabinet as Defense Minister with the new government honoring the all-party defense consenus of 1931. With Vaino Tanner once more in government and firmly committed to the previous government’s policy of incrementally increasing defense spending and continued development of the military industrial complex, funding for the defense of the country was on a secure footing and SDP members continued to join the Suojeluskuntas and Lotta Svard organisations in ever increasing numbers.

The foreign impact of the Lapua Movement

In the Soviet Union, the Lapua Movement's actions were closely followed. Old deep-rooted misperceptions of Finland as a threat and as a continuation of the ancient tsarist régime were enhanced among ordinary citizens by the Bolshevist leadership, which further contributed to the conditions leading to the Winter War. In Leningrad, the old concerns over the close proximity of the border were renewed. Over that border, invasion armies had arrived right at the doorstep of the old Tsarist Russian capital twice in the 18th century and again in 1918, immediately after Finland's independence which had resulted in the alliance with Germany during the Civil War and as a result, threatened to bring the war and the Germans to Leningrad. Russian newspapers propagandized these fears, covering events in Finland and interviewing victims that had been deported to Russia by the Lapua Movement as so-called examples of terror in capitalist countries.

The political situation in Finland was closely followed in Sweden and in the Soviet Union, but for different reasons. While the strong Finnish nationalism and critical attitude towards the role of the Swedish language in Finland worried Sweden, the Soviet Union looked at the actions of the Lapua Movement as a proof of "Finns being fascists in disguise" and the fact that Finland was not only openly hostile towards Soviet Union but also internally too unstable to sustain foreign political pressure in a time of crisis.

The Rise of the Isänmaallinen Kansanliike (the Patriotic People's Movement or IKL).

The Isänmaallinen Kansanliike (Patriotic People's Movement, usually abbreviated to IKL) emerged in 1932 as the successor to the nationalist and anti-communist Lapua Movement. It had an ideology similar to its predecessor, except that IKL participated in elections — with limited success. The IKL was founded at a conference on 5 June 1932 as a continuation of the Lapua Movement. The three major founding members were Herman Gummerus, Vilho Annala and Erkki Räikkönen. Lapua Liike leader Vihtori Kosola was imprisoned for his part in the Mäntsälä rebellion at the time of formation but the leadership was officially held for him and other leading rebels, notably Annala and Bruno Salmiala, were also involved in the formation of the IKL. Ideologically, the IKL was ardently nationalist and anti-Communist, and endorsed an aggressive foreign policy against the Soviet Union and hostility towards the Swedish language. The creation of a Greater Finland was an important goal for the party. Many of its leaders were priests or participants of the mainly Ostrobothnian Pietist movement called Herännäisyys. Its manifested purpose was to be the Christian-moral conscience of the parliament. A more hard-line tendency was also active, centred on Bruno Salmiala.

The IKL uniform was a black shirt with blue tie, inspired by the Italian fascists and also by the Herännäisyys movement, which had a tradition of black clothing. Members greeted each other with a Roman salute. The IKL had its own youth organization, called Sinimustat (Blue-blacks), members of which were trained in combat and in street-fighting. It was led by Elias Simojoki, a charismatic priest. Sinimustat were banned in 1936 (although they were immediately reformed as Mustapaidat ('Blackshirts')). The party received its main support from wealthy farmers, the educated middle-class, civil servants, Lutheran clergy and university students. Unlike Lapua Liike, the IKL participated in parliamentary elections. In 1933 its election list was pooled with the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), and the IKL won 14 seats out of a total of 200. Kokoomus held seats collapsed from 42 to 18 seats. After the collapse, Juho Kusti Paasikivi was elected chairman of Kokoomus. He converted his party to be the voice of big business and as such had no interest in the direct action tactics of IKL, taking action to weed out the most outspoken IKL sympathizers from the party.


Rally 'round our flags!
With closed ranks, proudly
The blackshirts march firmly with grim pace.
Come brothers, join our front of justice!
We´ll stop their lies! To victory or death!

Make way, as the black watch marches,
Mangling all obstacles in it's path.
Our eyes are bright and minds are
Filled with courage, as thousands
Look upon us with new hope in their hearts.

Warhorns are calling, the last battle is upon us,
O hear the mighty rumble of new dawn!
Now remember your oath to the Lord of Heaven:
"No longer shall Finland bewail her grief!"

Rally 'round our flags!
With closed ranks and proudly,
The blackshirts march firmly with grim pace.
Woe to those who dare to mock our colours,
As the Finnish Maiden lies wailing in her pain.

Luo Lippujen! (Rally 'round our Flags!) - Anthem of the IKL, sung to the tune of the Horst-Wessel-Lied

The IKL came under increasing scrutiny from the government and was subject to two laws designed to arrest its progress. In 1934 a law was passed allowing the suppression of propaganda which brought the government or constitution into contempt and this was used against the movement, whilst the following year a law banning political uniforms and private uniformed organisations came in, seriously impacting on the Sinimustat in particular. The IKL kept its 14 seats in the elections of 1936 but was weakened by the overwhelming win for the social democrat-agrarian coalition of Toivo Mikael Kivimäki. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936, the IKL in particular were vocal and active in their support for the Nationalist side. When, in December 1936, Mussolini decided to send volunteers to fight alongside the Nationalists in Spain, the IKL moved to organise and dispatch Finnish volunteers to do the same. The IKL initially raised some 1,000 volunteers in December and these left by ship for Germany and thence to Spain on German ships at the end of the month. It was at this stage that the leftist Finnish Government decided to involve itself in the Civil War discretely. The Suojeluskunta by this stage of the mid-1930’s was politically neutral, with many SDP supporters as active members, and there were mixed feelings towards the Spanish Civil War. As in the rest of Europe, most on the left saw the War as a fight against Fascism, while many of the center and the right saw it in similar terms to the Finnish Civil War of not so many years previously.

The IKL leadership receiving a bust of Mussolini from an Italian delegation on June 7, 1933. From left: Italian special Nnvoy Gray, Italian Ambassador Tamaro, Vilho Annala, Vihtori Kosola, Bruno Salmiala, Juhana Malkamäki and Eino Tuomivaara

The Armed Forces High Command looked at the growing Soviet, German and Italian involvement and saw the war from two points of view – the first being as a prelude to the European-wide War that some saw as being inevitable, the second as an opportunity for the Finnish military to observe the “red-earth” social democrat-agrarian coalition Government and the Armed Forces used the IKL as an unwitting front organisation as well as a “safety valve”. The government saw the sending of IKL volunteers to Spain as a way of ridding themselves of a difficult and vocal minority. The military saw it was a way to gain some experience to combat and to try out aspects of tactical doctrine that had been developed. Members of the Armed Forces were granted leave of absence if they wished to volunteer (although this was never stated in writing or even openly articulated. Rather, it was hinted at, and permissions were freely granted for “extended overseas travel”). Likewise, Suojeluskunta members of the “right” political (or apolitical) persuasion were discretely encouraged to volunteer. At this stage, the IKL was short of funds and there were discrete conversations (never openly acknowledged or reported on) by the Government with the Italian Ambassador whereby it was indicated to the Italians that if they funded the IKL’s efforts to raise and transport volunteers under the table, the Finnish Government would make no objection. This the Italians did, and the end result was, as will be covered in detail in a later Post, that a Division (which was actually more of a strong Brigade-sized Regiment) nicknamed Pohjat Pojan – the “Boys from the North” by its Finnish volunteer members, financed and equipped by the Italians formed a part of the Italian Volunteer Corps that fought in Spain.

Again, as will be covered in a later post, Pohjan Pojat volunteers fought with increasing effectiveness for the duration of the Civil War, and in fact saved the Italians from military defeat or indeed, disaster, on a number of occasions. In the process, the Finnish Volunteers gained a considerable amount of practical experience and learnt many lessons, which were promptly fed back to the Finnish Army for review and incorporation into tactical and doctrinal training. Not the least of these lessons were the use the Germans made of their 88mm AA Gun in an anti-tank role, the effective use of combined arms in battle, the valuable contribution of close air support and artillery support and the overarching need to always always always have good communications. Alongside them fought half a dozen squadrons of Finnish Air Force volunteers, again largely flying Italian-supplied fighters, ground attack aircraft and bombers, with which they put into practice the air combat tactics that had been in the early stages of development prior to the war.

In all of this, the IKL was an unwitting, but not unwilling, tool of the government and the military. Late in 1938, as the Spanish Civil War neared its end-game and a Nationalist victoty, the usefulness of the IKL as a tool of policy came to an end and the new government with its strong position soon moved against the party, with Urho Kekkonen, then Minister of the Interior, bringing legal proceedings against the movement. The courts did not feel that there were sufficient grounds to allow for a banning however. Despite this the prosperity experienced under Cajander's government hit the IKL and in the 1939 elections they managed only 8 seats. Following the outbreak of the Winter War the IKL was included in the all-party government that was formed, and Annala was even included in the Cabinet. The price of this recognition however was an end to IKL attacks on the system and as such an effective end to the very reason it existed. While the IKL remained in government and filled one Cabinet position for the duration of the Second World War, in the aftermath of the War, the IKL faded out of the political scene, winning no seats in the first post-war elections.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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

The Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force): the early 1920s

Post by CanKiwi2 » 13 May 2011 00:58

The Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force): a Brief History through the first half of the 1920’s

I - The Birth of the Ilmavoimat

Finland was part of the Russian empire from 1809 until the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the first steps in Finnish aviation were taken with Russian aircraft. The first Finnish pilots were trained in Russia in the Imperial Army and the Russian military had a number of aircraft stationed in the country during WW1 as part of the Air Arm of the Imperial Russian Baltic Fleet, with Military Air Stations in Ahvenanmaa, Turku and Helsinki. Aircraft flown were Farman HF.XVI Maritime recon a/c -1915, Farman MF.11 Maritime recon a/c -1916, Schetinin M-9 Maritime a/c -1917, Schetinin M-16 Maritime recon a/c -1917 and Schetinin M-5 Trainer a/c -1917.

Farman HF.XVI Maritime recon a/c -1915

Farman MF.11 Maritime recon a/c -1916

The Maurice Farman MF.11 Shorthorn was a French reconnaissance and light bomber biplane developed during World War I by the Farman Aviation Works. It was essentially a Farman MF.7 with a more powerful engine, and a more robust and aerodynamic fuselage, which was raised above the lower wing on struts. The aircraft was also fitted with a machine gun for the observer, whose position was changed from the rear seat to the front in order to give a clear field of fire. Its name derived from that of the MF.7 Longhorn, as it lacked the characteristic front-mounted elevator and elongated skids of its predecessor. Its maximum speed was 66mph (106kmph), it could reach an altitude of 12,000 feet and had an endurance of 3.75 hours. Interestingly enough, at the beginning of World War I, Russia had an air force second only to France, although a significant part of the Imperial Russian Air Force used outdated French aircraft of which the Farman’s were some. The Imperial Russian Air Force used large numbers of seaplanes, but at least in the Gulf of Finland, the bases in Finland were subsidiary to the large seaplane base in Reval (Tallinn). The Imperial Russian Air Force aircraft hangars for seaplanes in Reval (Tallinn) harbor were some of the first reinforced concrete structures in the world.

The old Imperial Russian Air Force aircraft hangars for seaplanes in Reval (Tallinn) harbor – photo from 2007

Schetinin M-9 Maritime a/c -1917 – those captured by the Whites in the Civil War were later used by the Ilmavoimat as a Primary Trainers

The Grigorovich M-9 (alternative designation ShCh M-9, sometimes also known as the Shchetinin M-9)

The Grigorovich M-9 (alternative designation ShCh M-9, sometimes also known as the Shchetinin M-9) was a Russian World War I-era biplane flying boat, developed from the M-5 by Grigorovich. The first M-9 was ready in 1915 and its maiden flight was carried out on January 9, 1916 at Baku. On September 17, 1916, the test pilot Jan Nagórski became the first to make a loop with a flying boat. During the Russian Civil War, M-9s participated in the air defence of Baku, dropping approximately 6,000 kg of bombs and 160 kg of arrows. The aircraft also carried out photo reconnaissance, artillery spotting and air combat sorties. The M-9 was also used for the first experiments on sea shelf study, participating in the finding of new oil fields near Baku.

Nine M-9s were captured by Finland during the Russian Civil War. One was flown by a Russian officer to Antrea on April 10, 1918. It sank the following day during type evaluation. Eight more were taken over at the airfields at Åland and Turku. The aircraft were used until 1922 by the Finnish Air Force.

Schetinin M-16 Maritime recon a/c -1917

The Grigorovich M-16 (alternative designation ShCh M-16, sometimes also known as the Shchetinin, Schetinin or Stetinin M-16) was a successful Russian World War I-era biplane flying boat of the Farman type, developed from the M-9 by Grigorovich. The M-16 was a version especially intended for winter operations, with better aerodynamic qualities. It was somewhat larger than the M-9. Six M-16s fell into Finnish hands during the Russian Civil War. The first Finnish parachute jump was done on June 17, 1922 from an M-16 by a parachuter named E. Erho. The aircraft were flown until 1923. With a maximum speed of 120kph and an endurance of 4 hours, it was a capable maritime reconnaisance aircraft of it’s time.

Grigorovich / Schetinin M-5 a/c -1917

The Grigorovich M-5 (alternative designation Shch M-5, sometimes also Shchetinin M-5) was a successful Russian World War I-era two-bay unequal-span biplane flying boat with a single step hull, designed by Grigorovich. It was the first mass production flying boat built in Russia. The aircraft designer Dmitry Pavlovich Grigorovich completed his first flying boat (the model M-1) in late 1913, and produced a series of prototypes, gradually improving the design, until the M-5 appeared in the spring of 1915, which was to be his first aircraft to enter series production, with at least 100 being produced, primarily to replace foreign built aircraft, including Curtiss Model K and FBA flying boats. The M-5 was of a wooden construction, the hull was covered in plywood and the wings and tailplane were covered in fabric. Aft of the step the hull tapered sharply into little more than a boom, supporting a characteristic single fin and rudder tail unit, which was braced by means of struts and wires. It was normally powered by a 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape engine mounted as a pusher between the wings, but some used 110 hp Le Rhône or 130 hp Clerget engines. The pilot and the observer were accommodated side-by-side in a large cockpit forward of the wings, the observer provided with a single 7.62 mm Vickers machine gun on a pivoted mounting.

Most of the M-5s served in the Black Sea or in the Baltic, initially with the Imperial Russian naval air arm and later with both sides in the Russian Civil War. Some remained in service until the late 1920s as trainers, reconnaissance and utility aircraft. One M-5 fell into Finnish hands when it was found drifting at Kuokkala in 1918. The aircraft was flown by the Finnish Air Force until 1919, when it sank.

Another photo of a Grigorovich / Schetinin M-5 a/c -1917

Soon after the declaration of independence, the Finnish Civil War erupted and the Russians generally sided with the Reds – the communist rebels. The Whites managed to seize a few aircraft from the Russians but had to heavily rely on foreign pilots and aircraft. Sweden refused to send men and material but individual Swedish citizens came to help the Whites. The editor of the Swedish daily magazine Aftonbladet, Waldemar Langlet, bought an N.A.B Albatross aircraft from the Nordiska Aviatik A.B. factory with funds gathered by the Finlands Vänner ("Friends of Finland") organization. This was the first aircraft to arrive from Sweden. It was flown via Haparanda on 25 February 1918 by the Swedish pilots John-Allan Hygerth (who became the first commander of the Finnish Air Force on 10 March 1918) and Per Svanbäck. The aircraft made a stop at Kokkola and had to make a forced landing in Jakobstad when the engine broke down. This aircraft was later given the designation F.2 in the Finnish Air Force ("F" came from the Swedish word "Flygmaskin" (aircraft)). The Swedish Count Eric von Rosen gave the Finnish White government its second aircraft, a Thulin Type D.

Thulin Type D– this aircraft was a Swedish-built Morane-Saulnier L, a French parasol wing one or two-seat aeroplane of the First World War. The Type L became one of the first successful fighter aircraft when it was fitted with a single machine gun that fired through the arc of the propeller, which was protected by armoured deflector wedges. Its immediate effectiveness in this role launched an arms race in fighter development, and the Type L was swiftly rendered obsolete. The original Type L used wing warping for lateral control, but a later version designated Type LA was fitted with ailerons. Built by Morane-Saulnier, large numbers of the Type L were ordered by the French Aviation Militaire at the outbreak of the war, being designated the MS.3. In total about 600 Type Ls were built and, in addition to the French air force, they served with the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and the Imperial Russian Air Service. The aircraft had a maximum speed of 78mph and an endurance of 4 hours.

The pilot of the first FAF plane was a Swedish noble and air force enthusiast, Count Carl Gustaf Ericsson von Rosen, son of a famous explorer. Eric von Rosen had been using a swastika as a personal owner's mark. He originally saw the symbol on runestones in Gotland, while at school. Knowing that the symbol signified good luck for the Vikings, he utilized the symbol and had it carved onto all his luggage when going on an expedition to South America in 1901. Being a friend of Finland, he gave the newly-independent state an aircraft, which signified the beginning of the Finnish Air Force. The aircraft, a license manufactured Morane-Saulnier MS Parasol/Thulin D, was marked with his badge, a blue swastika, and this blue swastika was adopted as the official symbol of the Suomen Ilmavoimat decades before anyone had even heard of the Nazi Hakenkreuz. The white circular background was created when the Finns tried to paint over the advertisement from the Thulin Air Academy. The swastika was officially adopted after an order by Mannerheim on 18 March 1918.

Von Rosen, incidentally, was also to become the brother-in-law of Hermann Göring, when his wife's sister, Carin von Kantzow, married Göring. Göring was flying Eric von Rosen in bad weather from Stockholm to Rockelstad Castle, at Lake Båven in Sörmland, Sweden. Due to bad weather conditions, Göring had to stay at the castle. There he became acquainted with the sister of von Rosen's wife, Carin von Kantzow. She was at that time married to a Swedish officer, but would go on to become Göring’s future wife.

The pilot, Lieutenant Nils Kindberg, flew the aircraft to Vaasa on 6 March 1918, with von Rosen as a passenger. As this aircraft was donated against the will of the Swedish government, and no flight permit had been given, it resulted in a 100 kronor fine for Kindberg for leaving the country without permission. This aircraft is considered by some to be the first aircraft of the Finnish Air Force, since the Finnish Air Force didn't exist during the Civil War, and since it was only the Red side who flew a few aircraft with the help of some Russian pilots. The von Rosen aircraft was given the designation F.1. The F.1 aircraft was destroyed in an accident, killing its crew, not long after it had been handed over to the Finns.
Lt Nils Kindberg in the cockpit of the first Finnish Air Force aircraft - a Morane Parasol/Thulin Type D, at Umeå in Sweden on the morning of the 6th of March 1918

Air activity of the Reds

Most of the airbases that the Russians had left in Finland had been taken over by the Whites after the Russian pilots had returned to Russia. The Reds were in possession of a few airbases and a few Russian aircraft, mainly amphibious, with 12 aircraft in all. The Reds did not have any pilots themselves, so they hired some of the Russian pilots that had stayed behind. Among the machines acquired by the Reds were three Nieuport 10’s, one Nieuport 17, one Nieuport 21, three Nieuport 23 fighters, one of the SPAD S. VII and one Rumpler 6B –fighter. On the 24th of February 1918 five aircraft arrived in Viipuri, and were quickly transferred to Riihimäki. The Reds created air units in Helsinki, Tampere, Kouvola, and Viipuri. There were no overall headquarters, the individual units served under the commander of the nearest front line. A flight school was created in Helsinki, but no students were trained there before the fall of Helsinki.

Two of the aircraft, one reconnaissance aircraft (a Nieuport 10) and one fighter aircraft (a Nieuport 17) that had arrived at Riihimäki were sent to Tampere, and three to Kouvola. Four Russian pilots and six mechanics also arrived to Tampere. The first war sortie was flown on March 1, 1918 over Naitenlahtiwith a Nieuport aircraft from Tampere. The 1st recorded bombing took place on 10 March in Vilppula. It seems likely that the Reds also operated two aircraft over the Eastern front. The Reds mainly performed reconnaissance, bombing sorties, spreading of propaganda leaflets, and artillery spotting. The Reds' air activity wasn’t particularly successful. Their air operations suffered from bad leadership, worn-out aircraft, and un-motivated Russian pilots. Some of the aircraft were captured by the Whites, while the rest were destroyed.

Air Activity of the Whites

In January 1918 the Whites did not have a single aircraft, nor pilots, so they had asked the Swedes for help. Sweden was a neutral nation and would not send any official help. Sweden also forbade its pilots to go to Finland. However, one Morane-Saulnier Parasol, and three NAB Albatross arrived from Sweden by the end of February 1918. Two of the Albatross aircraft were gifts from individuals supporting the White Finnish cause, while the third was bought. It was initially meant that the aircraft would be used to support the combat operations of the Whites, but the aircraft proved unsuitable. The Whites also did not have any pilots, so all the pilots and mechanics came from Sweden. One of the Finnish Jägers, Lieutenant Bertil Månsson, had been given pilot training in Germany, but he stayed behind in Germany trying to secure aircraft deals for Finland. 2 Flying Detachments were formed, one in Vilppula (Kolho) from 28 Feb and one in Antrea from 25 March. From Kolho, Flying Detachment I was transferred to Orivesi on 21 March, to Vehmainen on 28 March and finally to Tampere on 10 Apr. The Aviation Detachment of the Karjala Corps was established on 16 April 1918.

During the Civil War the White Finnish Air Force consisted of:
29 Swedes (16 pilots, two lookouts and 11 mechanics). Of the pilots, only 4 had been given military training, and one of them was operating as a lookout.
2 Danes (one pilot, one lookout)
7 Russians (six pilots, one lookout)
28 Finns (four pilots of whom two were military trained, six lookouts, two engineers and 16 mechanics).

The first Air Force Base of independent Finland was founded on the shore near Kolho. The base could operate three aircraft. The first aircraft was brought by rail on March 7, 1918, and on March 17, 1918 the first aircraft took off from the base. In 1918 the Finns took over nine Russian Stetinin M-9 aircraft that had been left behind. White air activity consisted mainly of reconnaissance sorties. The first operative recon mission was flown in the morning of 18 March over Lyly with an NAB type 9 Albatros aircraft. Two more recon missions were flown in the afternoon of the same day. As the front line moved south, towards Tampere, the AFB was moved first to Orivesi and then to Kaukajärvi near Tampere. On the 11th and 12th flights on 31 March, 8 incendiary bombs were hand-dropped on Tampere and on 2 Apr 3 explosive bombs were dropped. All in all, the contribution of the White air force during the war was insignificant. From March 10, 1918 the Finnish Air Force was led by the Swedish Lt. John Allan Hygerth. He was however replaced on April 18, 1918, due to his unsuitability for the position and numerous accidents.

Captain Mikkola with his pilots on the ice of Vakkolahti in front of the Nieuport 23 fighter in March 1919. Pitkäsilta is visible between the wings and in the middle is the Sortavala church. To the left of the church is the Sortavala school.

The German Expeditionary Force brought several of their own aircraft when they intervened in the Finnish Civil War, including one Rumpler 6-B Flying Boat, but these aircraft did not contribute much to the overall outcome of the war. The German aircraft flew recon missions over Ahvenanmaa starting from 2 March 1918 and over South-Finland starting from 3rd March. Three bombs were dropped on the Kouvola Railway Station on 27 April 1918 and the Germans established small air stations in Finland, 2 at Helsinki, 1 each at Loviisa, Koivisto and Suursaari.

The First Years

The German intervention in the Finnish Civil War had the result of binding Finland to Germany both politically and economically. A German Officer, Hauptmann(Captain) Carl Seber, was put in command of the Finnish Aviation Force from April 28, 1918 until December 13, 1918.

Hauptman Carl Seber

Seber was an experienced aviator, having been awarded the Knight’s Cross of Saxony's St. Henry Order on 4 July 1915 whilst serving in Feldflieger-Abteilung 23. His citation reads: “Leader of the Royal Saxon Feldflieger-Abteilung 23 since December 1914, Hauptmann Seber performed heroically as an observer on many occasions. He carried out an especially gallant act on November 18, 1914 when, with Oberleutnant [Gottfried] Glaeser, they forced a superior French plane down with shots from a pistol on their return from Amiens.” Seber had not actually commanded Feldflieger-Abteilung 23 “since December 1914,” but took command on 10 January 1915. Seber was also a recipient of the Prussian Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Classes as well as the German Army Observer Badge.

Hauptman Seber (standing behind the Mascot)

Seber was largely responsible for the development of the Air Force as an independent arm of the Finnish military and he stressed the importance of the maritime aircraft. By the end of the Civil War, the Finnish Air Force had 40 aircraft (these were already a mixture of 14 aircraft types, mostly seaplanes), of which 20 had been captured from the Reds (the Reds did not operate this many aircraft, but some had been found abandoned by the Russians on the Åland Islands). Five of the aircraft had been flown by the Allies from Russia, four had been gifts from Sweden and eight had been bought from Germany.

The "basic aircraft" of Sortavala Air Station was the Friedrichshafen 49C, n C.72-18. Under the pontoons there are rollers for ground transport. Maintenance Sergeant O. Koivunen beside the aircraft. Information: produced in Germany, wooden, two-seat, wingspan 16,7 m; length 11,6 m; empty weight 1485 kg; Max speed 140 km/h; Bentz Bz IV 6-cylinder engine 220 hp; used at Sortavala 26.6.1918 - 22.3.1919.

Various aircraft types lined up at Sortavala on the 5th of February 1919 for the inspection of General Mannerheim. In the front, two Stetins, an M-15 and an M-5, behind them a Nieuport 23, a Rumpler C.VIII and a 6B, also a Friedrichshafen 49C

Santahamina, Koivisto, Sortavala and Lappeenranta (transferred to Utti in June 1918). 5 Flying Detachments and a Flying Battalion were established in October 1918. Finnish pilots and mechanics were sent to Germany for training. The revolution in Germany and the end of the War put an end to aircraft acquisitions from Germany and also to co-operation and training with the Germans.

The birth of the FAF during the Civil War had more symbolic value than real strategic significance. Since the commanders of the future Finnish Army had no practical knowledge of the usage of combat aircraft, the new organization, named Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) became an independent branch of the armed forces. After the Civil War this originally temporary solution became the new norm, and thus the FAF became one of the oldest "independent" air forces in the world. This position gave the early commanders of FAF considerable freedom to test new tactics and methods, and during the 1920s 1930s the air force was as a result able to avoid stagnation and conservative resistance to change. The FAF was free to test and operate without hindrances. Yet the combination of the fast paced development of aircraft designs and the limited military spending of the young republic created a situation where innovative tactical solutions were often the only thing that enabled the otherwise obsolete equipment of the Ilmavoimat to remain usable in any potential conflict.

The first steps were the establishment of air units and training programs, and at this point the presence and influence of foreign air units based on Finnish soil was immense. The first military aircraft used in the country were based from the naval aviation bases built by the Imperial Russian Army or Navy during WWI, later on followed by German air units that were in turn quickly replaced by a British naval aviation unit that operated on the Gulf of Finland during the chaotic postwar years. At this point the Ilmavoimat was trying to gain more aircraft from any and all available sources on a limited budget, and all available planes were bought from the Entente powers and from rebellious German garrison troops based in the Baltic states – these were added to the air fleet left behind by the withdrawing Russian Army. Due this "grab what you can"-policy the Ilmavoimat operated 20 different aircraft types in the early 1920s and still had an extremely limited number of aircraft in service. This type variety was to prove a fairly permanent problem in later times, especially for the FAF technicians.

In the summer 1918, after the War of Independence was over, the Ilmavoimat was organized into five air stations, three of which also acted as training centers. Because of the enormous number of lakes in the country, sea planes were regarded as the most suitable type of aircraft, thus four out of the five air stations were in effect sea plane harbours. All of the stations were located in southern Finland, as their main mission was surveillance and in this way the network served well to cover the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga areas.

The Establishment of the Sortavala Air Station:

The responsibility for establishment of I Field Air Station at Sortavala was given to Lieutenant Väinö Mikkola. The detachment came to Sortavala on the 23rd of June 1918. The mission of the air station was to patrol the Lake Ladoga (Laatokka) sea front. Aerial reconnaissance was important to the Finnish Army supreme command. Lieutenant Väinö Mikkola established the Sortavala Air Station and was the first commander. He was undisputedly the most experienced pilot in Finland. He had received his pilot training during 1915 - 1916 in Russia, St. Petersburg and Baku. During World War I Mikkola served as the commander on the aircraft hangar ship Orliza on the Gulf of Finland and after that as the commander of the Hermanni Air Station. Mikkola joined government service in January 1918 and in May he was registered in the Finnish Army. He was promoted to captain in July and given the first Finnish military pilot's wings number 1 on the 17th of September 1918. He served as the commander of the Sortavala Air Station till the 4th of December 1919 when he was ordered to take command of the Aviation Battalion at Santahamina. On the 16th of May 1920 he was promoted to Major. The location for the air station was on the western shore of the Vakkolahti bay that divided the town of Sortavala into two parts. Later Vakkolahti turned out to be too small for air operations and in 1924 the unit moved south to Kasinhäntä.
Capt. Väinö Mikkola established the Sortavala Air Station and was the first commander. First Finnish military pilot's wings no 1/17.9.1918. Mikkola died on the 7th of September 1920 together with Lieutenant Leijer and Ensign Durchman when their Italian flying boats crashed in the Alps during a transfer flight to Finland. This date is now the annual Finnish Air Force memorial day

The original four pilots: From left: Ensign Rafael Hallamaa, Captain Väinö Mikkola (commander), Captain Leonard Lindberg (Kotsalo) and Sergeant Eero Heinricius.

Ensigns Alexander Tschernichin and Rainer Ahonius in their flight suits on the pontoon of the Stetin M-16 sea plane. Both served later as the commander of the air station: the first at Vakkolahti and the latter at Kasinhäntä

Pilot training in the Sortavala air station was started in 1919. Because of many technical problems with the aircraft there weren't many to be used. The situation eased a bit when Capt. Mikkola flew the Stetin M-16 flying boat "Winter-Farman" to Sortavala in July. This aircraft type was the most important in the early 1920s until the I.V.L. A22 Hansas arrived in 1923. In February 1920 I Aviation Detachment at Sortavala had four aircraft, two Georges-Levys (3.B.401 and 3.B.402), one Farman (2.b.101) and a Rumpler C.VIII (2.B.350). In the end of July another Farman arrived from Turku. From the Russian war booty Farmans two more were assembled in 1921 which enabled a high level of training activity till 1923. In summer 1923 Aviation Detachment 3 had one flyable Caudron (1.E.15), one Rumpler in repair (2.B.350) and one Farman stored.Because of the strategic location of the Sortavala Air Station it had a very important mission in the surveillance of the eastern border till the Tartu Peace Treaty. Because of skirmishes along the border during 1921 – 1922, two Brequet reconnaissance planes fitted with skis were transferred to Sortavala. The planes returned to their base in March 1922.

The situation at Sortavala in the early 1920’s, that of limited aircraft and a shoestring budget, was also typical of the other Air Stations in this period. The Ilmavoimat had 31 aircraft of 14 different types in 1919. By 1920 the air force aircraft situation was still poor. During 1918 and 1919 the air force had acquired 54 aircraft and now they were mostly destroyed or in poor condition without leaving a mark in the development of the Finnish Air Force. In October 1920 the air force had 26 aircraft of seven different types. Of those aircraft the six Georges-Levy flying boats could be operated only during the open water summer-season. In a crisis the air force could operate nine aircraft during wintertime and 15 during summertime. At the beginning of 1921 the air force was practically without sea planes. This situation would slowly change over the early 1920’s.

1919-1922: The immediate Post-War Years and French Influence

After the defeat of Germany, the German officers left the country and the Finnish Air Force lost its first actual commander. Also, Finnish Pilots who were being trained in Germany were forced to return. The next commanding officer of the Ilmavoimat was Lieutenant Colonel Torsten Aminoff (December 14, 1918 to January 9, 1919). He was CiC for too short a period to achieve anything, but under his replacement, Lieutenant Colonel Sixtus Hjelm (January 10, 1919 to October 25, 1920), the Ilmavoimat received it’s first budget and the Air Force Chief of Staff, Captain Bertel Mårtenson, bought three Fokker D. VII fighters together with six Junkers J.1 low-level ground attack, observation and Army cooperation aircraft.

The Junkers J.I (manufacturer's designation J 4; not to be confused with the earlier, pioneering J 1 all-metal monoplane of 1915/16) was a German "J-class" armored sesquiplane, developed for the low-level ground attack role in close cooperation with friendly ground troops. It is especially noteworthy as being the first all-metal aircraft to enter mass production. It was a slow aircraft, but its metal construction and heavy armour was an effective shield against battlefield's small arms fire. In an extremely advanced design, single-unit steel "bathtub" that ran from just behind the propeller to the rear crew position, acted not only as an armour, but also both as the main fuselage structure and engine mounting setup in one unit. The armour was 5 millimetres (0.20 in) thick and weighed 470 kilograms (1,000 lb). It protected the crew, the engine, the fuel tanks and the radio equipment.

The aircraft could be disassembled into its main components – wings, fuesalage, undercarrage and tail – to make it easier to transport by rail or road. A ground crew of six to eight could re–assemble the aircraft and have it ready for flight within four to six hours. The wings were covered with skin of aluminum that was .19 millimetres (0.0075 in) thick. This could be easily dented so great care had to be taken when handling the aircraft on the ground. The J.I was well-liked by its crews, although its ponderous performance earned it the nickname "furniture van". The aircraft first entered front service in August 1917. They were used on the Western Front during the German Spring Offensive (Kaiserschlacht "Kaiser's Battle") of March 1918. The production at Junkers works was quite slow due to poor organization. There were only 227 J.Is manufactured until the production ceased in January 1919 (some of the production continued after the end of the war). None were apparently lost in combat, a tribute to its tough armoured design, but a few were lost in landing accidents, and other mishaps.

The aircraft was usually armed with two fixed, synchronized machine guns firing between the propeller blades and with a single flexible gun for use by the observer. Two downward-firing guns were sometimes installed for the observer, but the difficulty of aiming these guns from a low, fast-flying aircraft rendered them ineffective, and they were quickly removed. A radio link connecting the aircraft with friendly ground troops in the forward area was also generally provided. The J-I had a maximum speed of 96 miles per hour, could climb to 6560 feet in 30 minutes, and had an endurance of 2 hours, a very creditable performance for an aircraft of relatively low power. The good performance of the aircraft was due in large part to the low value of the zero-lift drag coefficient of 0.0335 and the high value of the maximum lift-drag ratio of 10.3. The J-I was among the most aerodynamically efficient of the World War I aircraft anf very effective in it’s ground-attack role. The Ilmavoimat acquired six Junkers J.I’s in early 1919, the aircraft would remain in service until 1932 and continued experience with the use of these aircraft led to the formulation of the Ilmavoimat’s early ground-attack and close-support doctrine. This in turn would later lead to the establishment of the highly effective ground-attack squadrons of the Ilmavoimat which would go on to fight through the course of the Winter War so effectively, following a tactical doctrine which the British and Americans only came to adopt years later.

Following the departure of the Germans, Finland sought aviation expertise from the West. France was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Finland and the planning of the Finnish Aviation Force strategy, aircraft types and training was given to a delegation of French aviation “experts”. While command of the Ilmavoimat was retained in Finnish hands, Finnish pilots and mechanics were sent to France for training. Under French pressure, the Finnish HQ cancelled a deal (signed after the German capitulation) to buy Fokker D.VII-fighters and Albratros recon aircraft from Germany while the French aviation experts in Finland, led by Major Raoul Etienne, the commander of Aviation Section of French Military Delegation in Finland (the "Commission Francaise Militaire de Finlande, Aviation" stressed the importance of the land-based aircraft and, unsurprisingly, in April 1919 recommended the purchase of 30 Breguet 14 aircraft from France, aloowing twenty to always be ready for service and ten in repair at any time. There was a strong opinion in favour of sea planes in the Finnish Aviation Forces, partly due to the cost of building airfields and consequently, the Ilmavoimat compromised and purchased 20 Great War-vintage Breguet fighters and 12 Georges Levy flying boats whilst at the same time beginning the long process of creating the necessary infrastructure and training systems to maintain and improve the Ilmavoimat. Of the twenty Breguet 14 A2 aircraft ordered in 1919 (the order also included over two hundred (221) used Fiat A-12bis engines from French surplus stock for the aircraft), the first four arrived to Finland in July 1919. In 1921 ten more aircraft arrived, followed by eight in 1922. The planes delivered in 1921 were without engines. The type remained in Finnish service until 1927. One aircraft (3C30) remains today in the Central Finland Aviation Museum, where it is undergoing restoration.

The Bregeut 14 A2 could carry four 10 or 12.5 kg bombs, a camera and a wireless transmitter. It had dual controls for the observer with armament consisting of one synchronised fixed Vickers machine gun for the pilot and twin TO3 ring mounted Lewis machine guns for the observer. Machine guns and the ring mounting were not always installed in Finnish aircraft, sometimes the observer had only a single mg. Michelin bomb racks were located under the lower wing, just outboard of the inner interplane struts. The aircraft formed the backbone of the Ilmavoimat for several years. The first aircraft were assigned to the 2nd Aviation Detachment (Ilmailuosasto 2, Ilm.Os) at Utti, which was in 1921 renamed to 1st Aviation Detachment (Ilmailuosasto 1) and in 1924 to Land Reconnaissance Squadron (Maatiedustelulaivue, Ma.T.L) and finally in 1926 to Land Flying Squadron (Maalentoeskaaderi, M.L.E). In summer they were often operated from Perkjärvi, which was the only full size airfield, besides Utti, in Finland. After 1920 also the Aircraft Factory at Santahamina had a small airfield. During winters the Breguets were operated all over the country on skis.

Bregeut 14 A2

At Utti French mechanics assembled the first aircraft and French instructors taught Finnish pilots to fly the Breguets. Instructors included Lieutenants Bourdon and Moutonnieux and Sous-Lieutenant Discours. Some aircraft were probably assembled at Santahamina. The first Finnish pilot to perform aerobatics in Finland was Captain Gunnar Holmqvist. He made a vertical turn and side slip with a Breguet (2C461) on 4 September 1919. Four Breguet 14 aircraft were moved from Utti to Perkjärvi on Karelian Isthmus on 30 August 1919. From there reconnaissance flights were made to the St. Petersburg area, where the forces of General Judenitsh were observed. On 25 October 1919 Captain Holmqvist and his observer Captain H. Lilja photographed Russian Red and White Army positions and bombed the Komandantsky (called Kolomäki by Finns) airfield. Their aircraft took one hit from Russian anti aircraft fire. Reconnaissance flights on the south east border were also made in 1920 and 1922.

The Breguets were the first true combat aircraft of the Ilmavoimat

In the summer of 1920 Telefunken radios were used for the first time in artillery spotting rehearsals at Perkjärvi, these were continued on a yearly basis from 1920 through to 1923. Using the Breguets, the Ilmavoimat also started to fly a mail service between Helsinki and Tallinn from 12 February 1920. The hard winter had isolated Estonia from the rest of the world, but also made flights over the Gulf of Finland somewhat safer. The ongoing peace negotiations with Soviet Russia had increased the need for diplomatic contacts and ten return flights were made through to March 10th, when the sea was again open, by 2nd Lts Armas Anthoni, Carl-Erik Leijer and Tauno Hannelius (later Hannus) and the French Sergeant Major (Maréchal des Logis) Pierre Burello, carrying diplomatic mail and occasionally a VIP. On March 3rd one of the planes carrying a diplomat made a landing on Wrangler Island (Prangli?) 25 km north east of Tallinn, due to fuel shortage. The service was not continued in 1921, but in February 1922 mail flights were made from Santahamina in Helsinki to Lasnamäki airfield in Tallinn. The book "Finland I Krig 1939-1945" has a photo on page 29 showing the Finnish Foreign Minister in full flying outfit standing in front of a Breguet 14. The text says "Foreign Minister Holsti returning from Warsaw in 1922". It seems unlikely that he really flew from Warsaw, but was rather being transported from Tallinn to Helsinki.

The Ilmavoimat sent 1 M-16 to help the Estonians in the Estonian War of Liberation in January-February 1919. While voluntary Finnish expeditionary forces took part in the so-called Olonets Campaign (part of the Heimosodat) in Eastern Karelia in April-June 1919, the Ilmavoimat did not participate. However, in June-August 1919 the Ilmavoimat reconnoitered Soviet territory and sea and bombed Soviet ships and submarines that entered Finnish territorial waters. The Ilmavoimat also attacked Kronstadt harbour as a retaliation to Soviet bombings of Finnish territory. The Tartu Peace Treaty with the Soviet Union was concluded on 14 October, 1920, the last guerilla fighters retreated to Finland as late as February 1922 and the borders between the two countries were finally established on 1 June 1922. In the summer of 1920, Finland raised its defensive preparedness in Ahvenanmaa (the Asland Ilands) as the province wanted to join Sweden and the Swedes were interested in taking possession. The League of Nations resolved the situation in 1921 before the dispute lead to any military actions being taken.

In 1921, in conjunction with the purchase of the Breguet 14 A2 aircraft, the Ilmavoimat had also purchased 12 Georges Levy G.L. 40 HB2 Flying Boats from France for maritime reconnaissance and patrolling. The Georges Levy G.L. 40 HB2 was a three-seated amphibious biplane aircraft designed in 1917 with a maximum speed of 90mph, a cruising speed of 71mph, a range of 248 miles and was armed with 1 machinegun and up to 400lbs of bombs. The aircraft was designed by Blanchard and Le Pen and the aircraft was also known as the Levy-Le Pen. It was claimed to be the best French amphibious aircraft of World War I, but that is probably due to the limited production of such aircraft in France at that time. The Ilmavoimat was not happy with this purchase - three aircraft were lost in accidents that claimed lives - and it was nicknamed "the flying coffin" in the 1920s.

The Georges-Levy GL 40 HB2 seaplane proved to be a "flying coffin" and was one of the reasons why the French influence ended and the domestic aircraft industry was started up

A New Commanding Officer for the Ilmavoimat

In October 1920 the Ilmavoimat received a new commander when a young (29) former cavalry officer, Jager Major Arne Somersalo was tasked to reform and expand the FAF. The young commander realized that he had only nine combat-capable Breguets at his disposal, and that the new air force had to acquire all kinds of technical equipment to enable the training of new pilots. All military airfields available for use at this time were constructed for the needs of Imperial Russia, and thus located at places of secondary importance for the new strategic situation. There were thus many challenges to be overcome. Commander-in-Chief of the Suomen Ilmavoimat from 1920 to his death in action in 1944, Somersalo had a strong influence on the future of FAF. He strongly opposed the early conceot of a general workhorse plane type, forcefully advocating the creation of separate bomber, air reconnaissance and fighter units. Somersalo argued that in the future fighter units would be the most important element of FAF, a force that he envisioned to develop into a "combat-worthy service that controls the national airspace in all military fronts." He also fiercely defended the independent position of FAF while maintaining otherwise supportive attitude towards cooperation with Army and Navy.

Somersalo met with much opposition over the course of his career, even considering resignation in 1926 after the General Staff decided to continue further down the path recommended British General Walter Kirke. However, Somersalo made the decision to continue to “fight from within” and his persistence paid off in the early to mid-1930’s, as we will see.

Arne Sakari Somersalo (born 18 March 1891 in Tampere as Arne Sommer - died 17 August 1944 near Riga, Latvia) was a Finnish officer and anti-communist activist. Somersalo was educated at the University of Helsinki before studying natural sciences at the University of Jena. One of the Jagers who fought for Germany during the First World War he was appointed as an officer in 1916. He would later claim that the war had been the death of old Europe and argued that one of its main positives was that it had "rescued our nation from the deadly, slimy embrace of a loathsome cuttlefish" in reference to Russia. He transferred straight to the Finnish Army and from 1920 to 1944 was the commander of the Finnish Air Force. He became peripherally involved in politics in 1926 when he started contributing to the right wing journal Valkoinen Vartio and then was instrumental in founding the fiercely anti-communist Finnish Defence League. He joined the Lapua Movement in 1930 and then the Patriotic People's Movement (IKL) in 1932, when he considered resigning from the Ilmavoimat and standing for election to Parliament.

However, with his promotion to Kenraalimajuri in 1932 and substantial increases in the Ilmavoimat’s budget looming, he made the decision to withdraw completely from politics and focus his career on the continued strengthening of the Ilmavoimat. It was primarily Somersalo’s continued advocacy of the creation of separate air reconnaissance, bomber, ground-attack / dive-bomber and fighter units and the building up of fighter units as the most important element of the Ilmavoimat that was instrumental in the decisive role played by the Ilmavoimat in the Winter War. Promoted to Kenraaliluutnantti on 3 Oct 1941, Somersalo continued to command the Finnish Air Force through the Peace between the Winter War and Finland’s entry into WW2. He was killed in action near Riga, Latvia on 17 August 1944 as he was visiting the 1st Polish Armoured Division (the Black Devils, then fighting under command o
f the Suomen Maavoimat) in the advance southwards through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and into Poland in 1944.

(ATL Note: This differs from the OTL. In reality, Somersalo resigned as commander-in-chief of the Ilmavoimat in 1926, disheartened by the Military High Command's decision in 1926 to plan future expansion on the Kirke Memorandum. For Somersalo, the continuing uphill struggle was too much, and he resigned. His successor was Col. Vaino Vuori, an infantry officer with no experience in military aviation who took no risks and decided to follow the guidance of "foreign experts". In reality, Somersalo's legacy faded fast. Somersalo went on to become involved in politics, editing the right wing journal Valkoinen Vartio from 1926 and then founding the fiercly anti-communict Finnish Defence League. He joined the Lapua Movement in 1930 and then the Patriotic People's Movement (IKL) in 1932, serving as the Member for Turku in Parliament from 1933 to 1935. He was also the editor in chief of the IKL party newspaper Ajan Suunta from 1931 to 1935. Recalled to active service for the Winter War, he acted as Chief of Staff for the frontline at Suomussalmi and was awarded the Order of the Cross of Liberty for his actions. During the Winter War, Somersalo acted as liaison officer for the German SS Division Nord on Finnish Lapland. He was killed in action near Kiestinki (Kestenga), USSR on 17 August 1941).

As a part of this ongoing development, Finland made a choice typical of the era, and sought to create a national aviation industry to provide the Ilmavoimat with new trainers and later on licence-build and domestic-made combat aircraft as well. The idea was first proposed in 1920 (Somersalo firmly believed in the benefits of the plan and organised a strong political lobby to support it), and a year later the first repair workshop of the Ilmavoimat was expanded into the Airforce Airplane Factory (Ilmavoimien Lentokonetehdas, IVL) and immediately begun to manufacture the Caudron G.3 trainer aircraft built under licence, which was followed very shortly by the building under licence of the A22 Hansa (a license-built copy of the German designed Hansa-Brandenburg W.33). With the creation of IVL the Ilmavoimat and Finnish industry had established the basis of an effective and reliable maintenance system for Finnish combat aircraft. Initially the factory was administered by the War Ministery, with the repair workshop and factory acting as separate departments under the Ilmavoimat. For practical reasons they were combined together in 1928, and the State Aircraft Factory (Valtion Lentokonetehdas, VL) was born.
Ilmavoimien Lentokonetehdas, IVL – late 1920’s

Caudron G.3 Primary Trainer -1920-1924

The Ilmavoimat purchased twelve Caudron G.3aircraft from France in 1920 for use as primary trainers. Six of these were built in Finland by the newly established Santahaminan Ilmailutelakka between 1921 - 1923. Two aircraft and spares were purchased from Flyg Aktiebolaget on April 26, 1923 together with a Caudron G.4 for 100,000 Finnish markka. The aircraft was easy to fly and repair and thus very suitable as a trainer. The Finnish-constructed aircraft had worse flying characteristics than the French machines due to a bad wing profile. The FAF used a total of 19 Caudron G.3 aircraft, which was called Tutankhamon in Finland. The Caudron G.3 was used by the FAF between 1920 and 1924.

The Caudron G.3 was a single-engined French biplane built by Caudron, widely used in World War I as a reconnaissance aircraft and trainer. It first flew in May 1914 at their Le Crotoy aerodrome. The aircraft had a short crew nacelle, with a single engine in the nose of the nacelle, and twin open tailbooms. It was of sesquiplane layout, and used wing warping for lateral control, although this was replaced by conventional ailerons fitted on the upper wing in late production aircraft. Following the outbreak of the First World War, it was ordered in large quantities. Usually, the G.3 was not equipped with any weapons, although sometimes light, small calibre machine guns and some hand-released small bombs were fitted to it. It continued in use as a trainer after ceasing combat operations until after the end of the war. One aircraft (1E.18) is currently being repaired at the Hallinportti Aviation Museum.

IVL A.22 Hansa - ordered 1922, retired 1936, reactivated 1939, retired 1940

The IVL A.22 Hansa was a Finnish-licensed copy of the German Hansa-Brandenburg W.33, a two-seat, singe-engined low-winged monoplane flying boat. The Hansa-Brandenburg W.33 was designed in 1916 by Ernst Heinkel and entered German service in 1918. Twenty-six aircraft of this design were built, only six of them before the collapse of Germany. The W.33 proved to be an excellent aircraft, with the Hansa-Brandenburg monoplanes considerably influencing German seaplane design. Several copies appeared in 1918, such as the Friedrichshafen FF.63, the Dornier Cs-I, the Junkers J.11, and the L.F.G. Roland ME 8. After the war a version of the W.29 was used by Denmark, while Finland purchased a number of W.33 and W.34 aircraft from Germany.

In 1921 Finland purchased a manufacturing license for the W.33. The first Finnish-built Hansa made its maiden flight on November 4, 1922 and in Finland was designated the IVL A.22 Hansa. This aircraft was the first industrially manufactured aircraft in Finland, and during the following four years between 1922 and 1925 a total of 120 of this aircraft-type were manufactured for the nacent Ilmavoimat. The IVL A.22 Hansa would become the second most numerous aircraft built in Finland for the Finnish Air Force and would continue to be used in maritime service until 1936. The A.22 Hansa had a crew of 2 and was a single-engined floatplane with a maximum speed of 99mph. The A.22’s were finally retired from service and mothballed in 1936 as the Ilmavoimat’s aircraft modernisation program picked up speed. As the threat of war came closer in the late 1930’s, approximately 80 of these aircraft were brought back into service and were initially used for Maritime Patrol activitives over the Gulf of Bothnia, largely being flown by student pilots. They were used in the same role over the summer of 1940 before being finally retired on the signing of the Sept. 1940 Peace Treaty with the USSR.
Hansa-Brandenburg. Technical information: Wooden, two-seat sea plane. Weight 2124 kg, Max speed 170 km/h, wingspan 15,85 m, length 11,10 m, endurance 6 hours. Weapons: navigator's twin machine gun, bombs 4x10 kg

Of Note: The Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle has been transferring it's archives to the internet and one of the videos is about the Finnish Air Force Airshow in 1926. The plane in the film is 4F66 which was the 66th Hansa build in Finland. It was taken into service in 20th December 1924. To see the video click the link and press "play" below the image and next to "armeijan lentonäytös". If you have enough bandwidth you can choose bigger image by pressing "play" and then select "asetukset" from right hand top corner and then select "1 Mbps tai nopeampi" and "tallenna asetukset".

A new, longer version of this film has also been published. More Hansa’s and a Brequet 14. Use this link.

Two Hansa-Brandenburg W.33 reconnaissance seaplanes, Finnish Air Force (the paler AF-38?) by Kuutsalo island with boat-houses near - 1924

Seaplane Pilot in Flight Suit (Left photo). Flying overall, boots, life west, parachute, leather helmet and goggles. "The mannequin" Chief Master Sergeant Viktor Törhönen. Notice the squadron insignia on the fuselage behind IL-46.

Hansa startup for engine test. During startup the propeller was turned only "once behind the compression". This lessened the fear of getting hit by the propeller during startup. There was often a fire in the carburetor during startup. The fire was usually suppressed by the mechanic putting his hat over the intake. Notice the squadron eagle insignia on the fuselage.

The Gourdou Leseurre-GL-22 Fighter (ordered 1923)

After his appointment and on realising that Finland lacked any practical fighter aircraft force, Somersalo in 1921 drafted the Air Force Development Plan, which planned for a fighter strength of 136 aircraft. It was decided to fill this need by acquiring the first squadron from abroad and then build up to the total strength by construction of the remaining aircraft in Finland. In October 1922, the Ilmavoimat Headquarters sent a tender to the Dutch Fokker, the French Gourdou & Leseurrelle and the British Aircraft Disposal Company requesting one fighter for comparison purposes. Bids were received and the aircraft were ordered in January 1923. A Fokker DX, Gourdou Leseurre-GL-21 and a Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard arrived in the country rapidly. After evaluation, the Gourdou-Leseurre was selected and 18 GL-22 machines were purchased (allowing some for spares) and the aircraft arrived in Finland in the summer of 1924.
Gourdou Leseurre-GL-22 at the Aviation Museum of Central Finland. With a maximum speed of 153mph, a service ceiling of 14,600 feet, a range of 280 miles and armed with 2 forward firing .303 Vickers machineguns, this was a capable, if not outstanding, fighter in it's day.

Caudron C.60 Primary Trainer - ordered 1923, retired 1936

The Ilmavoimat purchased 30 Caudron C.60s from France in 1923. A further 34 aircraft were licence built in Finland between 1927-1928. The Finnish Air Force had a total of 64 Caudron C.60s in service, where they were used as primary trainers until 1936, when they were retired as more modern trainers were brought into service. With a maximum speed of 93mph, a ceiling of 13,120 feet and an endurance of 5 hours, they were a typical biplane trainer of the 1920’s.
Caudron C.60 Trainer

Overall, it has to be said that the Suomen Ilmavoimat flight operations through the 1920's suffered from a lack of vision and goal. Flying was an end in itself, there was little real understanding of how to use air power in a real war and the Ilmavoimat would not have been capable of accomplishing the wartime missions assigned to the service. While flight hours climbed steadily, most of the flights were training flights and there wasn't a lot of tactical training because many of the pilots were inexperienced and needed advanced flying training and sea plane conversion training. There were also a number of fatal accidents over this period - between 1923 and 1930 there were 20 fatal accidents with 42 persons lost. The end result of this was that the Hansa also received somewhat of a reputation as a "flying coffin" althought it should also be kept in mind that the Ilmavoimat flew more with the Hansas than with all other types combined.

Foreign Advisors - directing the Ilmavoimat into a dead-end for a time....

With the basic requirements for future development programs more or less in place, Finland now once again sought foreign military expertice and guidance from the victors of the Great War. This time a military advisor team arrived from Britain, led by General Walter Kirke. The British advisors created a development program that was planned as a temporary basis for the future Ilmavoimat. The program conflicted with the views of Somersalo in many cases. British officers disregarded the importance of fighters and instead promoted the offensive capabilities of air arm, envisioning the bombing of enemy territories as the main future mission of FAF. The Kirke Memorandum was strongly influenced by the ideas of the Italian theorist Giulio Douhet, but its general outlines were strictly conservative. The memo emphasized the importance of flying boats and naval aviation for Finnish coastal defense and recommended future investments in naval bomber aircraft.

The British General Kirke created his memorandum as an outline for the short-term development of the Ilmavoimat. Despite this fact his work directed the development of the Ilmavoimat into a dead end for a considerable period of time after its central ideas had been proved obsolete and unpractical.

While the Suomen Ilmavoimat had carried out advanced air combat and bomber training to it's pilots and navigators starting from the mid-1920's, little attention had been paid to joint exercises with the Army and Navy, largely due to the reluctance of the Ilmavoimat to participate in such exercises. The British Specialist Committee had stressed in their study the importance of joint exercises in developing the Air Force and while these became routine in the late 1920's, they were only adequate at most. There were shortcomings in the planning and execution of the exercises, with a major problem being that the exercise leadership was unware of the Ilmavoimat operating capabilities. Another common problem were ongoing communications problems between the Ilmavoimat Pilots and the Army units they were operating with. There were all issues that would be addressed successfully through the 1930's.

Next Post: Meanwhile, through the last half of the 1920's, the Kirke Memorandum and the British influence was having it's effect on the Ilmavoimat.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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

The Ilmavoimat in the late 1920's

Post by CanKiwi2 » 13 May 2011 21:32

The Kirke Mission

By the mid-1920’s, Finland had begun to recover economically from WW1 and the cutting of off Russia as the major market. With this economic recovery came increased stability and the ongoing development of the military, as we have seen. The governments of both France and Britain had quickly become involved in the economic development of the Baltic littoral, and with Finland in particular. Many foreign businessmen, and sometimes even government officials, proved willing to go to extremes to win contracts, generally laboring under the assumption that an initial success would mean long-term rewards. As shown by the early French involvement with the Ilmavoimat, where there influence quickly faded, they were perhaps too optimistic.

Over the early 1920's, Great Britain had rapidly become Finland's most important trading partner. Against Somervalo’s wishes, a group of British “experts” led by General Walter Kirke were invited to Finland by the Military High Command in 1924 to “help re-organize” the Ilmavoimat (Kirke himself was not an airman and had served in WW1 as a General Staff Officer at GHQ in France and Belgium). In 1918 Kirke had become the Deputy Director of Military Operations at the War Office and in this role he had been responsible for the preparation of number of papers and memorandum on various aspects of the RAF as well as with regard to the British Army.

Arms, Influence, and Coastal Defense: The British Military Mission to Finland, 1924-25

(taken from an article in the Baltic Security and Defence Review, Vol 12, Issue 1, 2010 by Donald Stoker – but note that the contents have been “tweaked” a little here and there in line with the ATL Scenario – but the tweaks are minor)

“Finland must take some chances, and history shows that it is safer to take chances with the Russian fleet than with the Russian Army.” - General Sir W. M. St. G. Kirke

In the modern period military missions have served as an important tool for nations pursuing military development, as well as those attempting to gain influence over the political and military policies of the recipient states. Typically, a smaller country contracts with a larger power for a visiting team of expert advisors. The dispatching power might have the best interests of the smaller state at heart, but self-interest usually drives both nations involved. In the decades between the world wars, the European powers generally sought to place military missions in foreign states to achieve economic benefits, particularly the sale of arms, or to counter the political and economic influence of a rival.

In 1924, as a part of its long-running efforts to draw-up an affordable naval bill to meet the nation’s defense needs, the Finnish government asked for a British military mission. The impetus for this came from the Finns in 1919, when Commodore G.T.G. von Schoultz discussed the idea with Marshal Mannerheim. Von Schoultz brought the idea before the government, but did not get what he wanted. Instead, the Finnish government chose a French military mission and then supplemented it with a short-lived French naval mission after World War I. The French presence would be temporary, but Finland’s quest for direct foreign military advice continued.The French, like the British, used military missions as a means of pursing several diplomatic, military, and economic goals. To Paris, they were an element of France’s Eastern European alliance and influence building strategy in the immediate post-World War I period. In February 1919, at George Clemenceau’s order, a mission comprising two Air Force and two Army officers, left for Finland. To Mannerheim, the mission’s purpose was to instruct the army. But the French also had other tasks for it, some not unlike what the British would outline for their future mission. Its additional duties included intelligence gathering and conducting propaganda on France’s behalf. Similarly, the French dispatched missions to Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. The French hoped to tie these states to France’s post-World War I alliance strategy by having them adopt French arms and military methods, which was far more commitment than the British hoped to extract from Finland, or intended to give. The important economic advantages that it was hoped would result from such missions became increasingly important to London and Paris during the 1920s.

In late 1923, the Finnish government appointed a combined civilian and military committee to examine the state of the nation’s defenses. The proposals issuing from the group bore little relation to what the Finns could afford. For example, the amount the committee required for coast defense alone amounted to £5,000,000, a sum larger than Finland’s defense budget for two years. The proposal horrified civilian officials and worried officers of the army; the latter feared that their own requirements would be sacrificed for the needs of coast defense and indeed, sometimes this was the case. In 1923, the Finnish government had under consideration proposals to spend about 300,000,000 Finnish marks, nearly £2,000,000, on defense. The government, citing the opinion of many Finns that the nation’s military officers lacked the necessary technical experience to carry out their duties, decided to seek military advice from abroad before submitting any military spending proposals to the Eduskunta. The Finns, at least initially, wanted a British commission that would advise on coastal, naval, and air defense, a group for which the Finns would pay all expenses. Finland also wanted the mission sent in as unobtrusive a manner as possible to avoid any unnecessary comments from the Finnish press. Approaching Britain for such advice was a new turn for Finnish policy. Previously, they had sought the services of France and Germany in such matters. Major-General Walter Mervyn St. George Kirke, who eventually led the British team, viewed the shift in Finnish policy as being thanks to the efforts of Sir Ernest Rennie, the British consul in Helsinki.

To the British government, the mission Kirke was to lead had two purposes: to counter French influence, and obtain orders for British armaments firms. The initial Finnish request for the mission came on 20 March 1924. The Finns wanted the mission purely for defensive reasons and had no aggressive intentions. Moreover, the Finnish government had a strong desire to get the best value for its modest funds. Finland wanted British experts to advise on the nation’s sea defense and the fortification of the Finnish coast, particularly in regard to coastal batteries, taking into consideration the materials then available. The Finns also wanted to know how air power could be used in coastal defense and whether or not aircraft could replace some of the units then being utilized to protect the nation’s maritime frontiers. The Foreign Office gave its blessing to the mission, though expressing some doubts as to whether or not it would ever materialize. The War Office proposed a seven-member commission, one Chief of Mission, assisted by two men from each of the armed services. Lieutenant-Colonel F. P. Nosworthy, of the Royal Engineers, who was on a tour of the eastern Baltic and scheduled to be in Finland from 23-27 May, was instructed to obtain more information from Finland on its needs. The British government worried that the mission might arrive in Finland at a time of political crisis in the Finnish High Command, an allusion to infighting between the Jägers (the bloc of Finnish officers who had served in the German army during World War I) and their supporters, and the former Tsarist officers, and instructed Nosworthy to keep in close contact with the British representatives in Helsinki. The Admiralty also approved of sending British advisors to Finland—if the Finns agreed to pay all the expenses involved in such a venture.

Meanwhile, Commodore von Schoultz, the head of the Finnish Navy, met with Captain W. de M. Egerton, the British naval attaché in Helsinki, and discussed the possibility of a purely naval mission to Finland. The meeting provides insight into some of the problems within the Finnish high command. Von Schoultz was not aware that the Finnish government had requested a combined British military mission, or even that Finnish authorities had suggested it. Egerton believed that von Schoultz’s ignorance of Finnish policy resulted from the fact that the entire command structure lay in the hands of the Army. Egerton wrote that “it appears to be their policy to keep the Navy as much as possible in the background.” Egerton also commented that the planned addition of a naval officer to Finland’s General Staff might result in better communication between the service arms. On 24 May 1924, Egerton, Nosworthy, and Major R. B. Goodden, the British military attaché for Finland and the Baltic States, met with Commodore von Schoultz, Commander Yrjö Roos of the Naval Staff, Major Martola of the Finnish General Staff, and a Finnish officer assigned to the Coastal Defense Artillery, Major Talvela. They discussed Britain’s dispatch of an expert commission to study various matters related to the coast defense of Finland. Finland wanted some type of mission, but several factors greatly concerned the Finnish government. Perpetually poor, it worried about the cost of the mission and because of this asked that it involve as few personnel as possible. The British were asked to suggest the composition of the mission, the rank and number of officers needed, as well as the mission’s duration. Commodore von Schoultz said that the coastal areas that they would be considering included parts of the Gulfs of Finland and Bothnia, as well as the northern and western shores of Lake Ladoga. The Finnish government reserved the right to designate which ports and bases required special defense preparations because of specific military or other reasons.

The Finns eventually decided that they wanted the mission to examine the defense of Finland’s entire frontier, both land and sea, including the Karelian Isthmus. However, it was only to consider land defense that “depended on naval actions, as e.g. bombardment of the coast, landing of armed forces with the purpose of surrounding field armies, or cutting off their communications, etc.” The northern parts of Finland, meaning the frontiers between Finland and Sweden, were not considered critical, a clear indication of who F inland saw as its potential enemy. The regions of vital importance included the areafrom Turku (Åbo) on the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland, and the northern and western coasts of Lake Ladoga. The Finnish authorities were to inform the commission of what locations they felt to have enough strategic and political significance to warrant fortification. The mission would be left to determine the best methods of defending these areas. After learning the breadth of the terms of reference for the mission, The British representatives agreed that they could not suggest a team smaller than ten members. They proposed that a mission led by a chairman whose rank and branch of service was determined by the British military authorities. He would be assisted by officers from the three branches of the British armed services: two from the Navy, two from the Army, and two from the Air Force. Two secretaries and one draftsman would also be needed, and it would take two months in Finland to fulfill the assignment. The Finnish Minister of Defense had had in mind a much smaller staff, perhaps two or three members, but von Schoultz agreed with the British estimate.

The officials also discussed the critical matter of expense. The British representatives estimated that the proposed mission would not cost more than £2,000 per month. They prepared an itemized salary estimate, which included a twelfth mission member, and a typist. The expected monthly cost was £1,035. The British expected the Finns to pay for travel expenses to and from Finland and to also make contributions to the pension funds of the participating officers during the time they spent in Finland. The British representatives then pointed out that if Finland spent the entire projected sum of £2,000,000, the cost of the commission as discussed would amount to only 0.1 per cent of the anticipated funds, a sum approximate to the cost of 12 modern sea mines. The British and the Finns both looked favorably upon the possibility of the mission. The French had a different attitude, or at least the British believed they did. Nosworthy reported that “French intrigue was very hot in Finland: they had somehow got to know all about our proposed Mission and were extremely annoyed about it.” Rennie informed Nosworthy that the French were “deeply disliked by the Finns” and mentioned that it was unlikely that the French would be “able to affect their [Finnish] decisions in any way.” Official notification of Finland’s desire for the mission came in early June 1924. The Finns agreed to the proposed composition, as well as to pay the salaries and travel expenses of the commission members. It was anticipated that the mission would last two months and that therefore the necessary personnel should arrive in Finland before the end of June. Hjalmar J. Procopé, the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, was “anxious” for the dispatch of the experts. The Finns wanted them to study the defenses of the southern coast of Finland as well as Lake Ladoga, including both the inland and coastal defenses. The exact details of the work they would undertake would be settled after their arrival.

Hjalmar Johan Fredrik Procopé (born 9 August 1889 in Helsinki, died 8 March 1954) was a Finnish lawyer, politician and a diplomat from the Swedish People's Party who was elected to the parliament 1919-1922 and 1924-1926. He also worked in the Finnish embassy in Berlin from spring 1918 to the end of 1918. Procopé was a member Swedish People's Party and served as a minister on several occasions: Minister of Trade and Industry from 1920-1921 in the Erich cabinet, Minister of Trade and Industry 1924 in the second Cajander cabinet, Minister of Foreign Affairs 1924-1925 in the second Ingman cabinet and Minister of Foreign Affairs 1927-1931 in four consecutive cabinets. Procopé returned to the Foreign Ministry as Finnish ambassador in Warsaw 1926. From 1931-1939 he served as the CEO of Finnish Paper Mills Association.

Over the war years of 1939-1944 he served as the ambassador in Washington. According to Kauko Rumpunen, a Finnish National Archives researcher, Franklin Roosevelt warned Procopé about the 28 August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the contents that had been agreed between Nazi Germany and Soviet Union, including the secret protocols regarding Finland. Roosevelt's warning was taken seriously, partly because Roosevelt hinted at the original source of the intelligence being a subordinate of Joachim von Ribbentrop, and resulted in additional urgency being given to Finland’s arms construction and purchasing programs. Procopé was largely responsible for urgently negotiating the thirty million US dollar loan granted to Finland in September 1939 which was used for arms acquisition immediately priot to the outbreak of the Winter War. Procopé also used the sympathy of Americans during the Winter War to benefit the interests of Finland and was a key figure in the preliminary negotiations which led to Finland entered the Second World War on the Allied side.

The shifting nature of exactly what the Finns wanted the British to do reveals much about the confused state of civil-military relations and defense planning in Finland. The Finns expressed some concern over the official name of the mission; they disliked the terms “Naval and Military Mission” and “Commission.” Procopé said that such terms “would give an air of permanency to the body of officers” that Britain sent to Finland and that it also might “give rise to undue comments” in both the Finnish and foreign press. The War Office recommended that a high-ranking Army officer serve as the mission’s head. The Foreign Office agreed, citing as the basis for their decision the more advanced state of development of the Finnish Army when compared to the Finnish Navy and Air Force. Others in the British government possessed little enthusiasm for the project. In January 1924, the first Labour Government took office. Ramsey MacDonald, the new Prime Minister, quickly granted de jure recognition to the Soviet Union, something other British governments had previously refused (though they would trade with them), and soon embarked upon efforts to strengthen Great Britain’s political and economic ties with Moscow. C. P. Trevelyan, the President of the Board of Education protested the timing chosen to send a “large military commission to teach Finland, one of Russia’s neighbors, how to arm themselves most effectively against her.” He also contended that this constituted a “definitely unfriendly act to the Russian Government and for that reason alone I suggest to the Cabinet that it ought to be stopped.” Trevelyan also reminded the British government of the criticism it had leveled at France for the manner “in which it had been arming and instructing in matters its various vassal nations in the East of Europe. It is most objectionable that we should begin to play the same game.” The Minister’s comments, especially his criticism of armament policy, though a bit alarmist, do demonstrate the minor shift in the foreign policy views of some government officials during the short-lived Labour government. Trevelyan’s outburst might also demonstrate the influence of the pacifist wing of the Labour Party.

Sir Charles Trevelyan was a member of the British Liberal Party, born in 1870 and first elected to Parliament in 1899. He became a member of the left-wing Fabian Society and began to develop socialistic views on social reform. H. G. Wells kew him and was not impressed: he said "undoubtedly high-minded, Trevelyan had little sense of humour or irony, and was only marginally less self-satisfied and unendurably boring than his youngest brother, George." He was opposed to Britain entered WW1 and resigned from the government in protest when was was declared, was one of the founders of the UDC – the Union of Democratic Control – the leading anti-war organisation on Britain. Trevelyan wrote articles for newspapers and gave a series of lectures on the need to negotiate a peace with Germany. As a result of this Trevelyan was attacked in the popular press as being a "pro-German, unpatriotic, scoundrel" and, like other anti-war MPs, was soundly defeated in the 1918 General Election. Trevelyan joined the Independent Labour Party and over the next couple of years he became a controversial figure with his attacks on the Versailles Treaty. In the 1922 General Election Trevelyan was elected to represent Newcastle Upon Tyne Central and when Ramsay MacDonald became Prime Minister in 1924, he appointed Trevelyan as his President of the Board of Education. His outburst against the mission to Finland was symptomatic of the British Left’s love-affair with Bolshevik/Communist totalitarianism and their role as “Useful Idiots.”

The Foreign Office considered the objections of the Board of Education unwarranted. Finland possessed only rudimentary defenses and the Foreign Office refused to believe that Finland, either with or without the temporary help of a commission of experts, could pose a serious menace to the Soviet Union. The Foreign Office also did not like having a British mission compared with a French one. They insisted, incorrectly, that similar projects undertaken by France tended to be larger and of a longer duration. Moreover, they contended, with far too broad of a generalization, that French officers serving with such missions generally held command positions within the forces for which they provided advice. In the case under discussion neither the Finns nor the British anticipated any long-term commitment; Britain was merely responding to a Finnish request. The diplomats insisted that the mission would continue despite the objections of the Board of Education—if the Army Council still agreed to the matter. The Council did, and hoped to dispatch the mission around 15 July 1924.

By 8 July 1924, the British had assembled the necessary personnel. Procopé and others in the Finnish government were pleased that the British had agreed to send the advisors, and happy with the terms concluded. Some also held the opinion that the British acted from an attitude of personal “disinterest,” a perception that the British hoped and tried to impress upon the Finns. To command the mission the British authorities selected Major-General Sir Walter Mervyn St. George Kirke, an officer of the Royal Artillery who had served in India and China, as well on the Western Front during the Great War. This proved a wise choice. General Kirke worked diligently and quickly, generally keeping the needs of the Finns in the forefront of any decision, an unusual attitude for French and British officials working in the eastern Baltic between the world wars. Aiding his endeavors were Captain Fraser and Commander Twigg, both of the Royal Navy, Lieutenant-Colonel Wighton, Army, Lieutenant-Colonel Ling, Royal Engineers, Group Captain Holt, Royal Air Force (RAF), Squadron Leader Maycock, RAF, two military clerks, and one military draftsman. The mission came to Finland about the middle of July 1924, an event kept very quiet. Neither the Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish forces, General Karl Frederik Wilkama, nor the Chief of Staff, General Oscar Enckell, received official word of the arrivals. Again, the communication problem within the Finnish military and civilian structures becomes apparent.

After meeting with the Minister of Defense, General Kirke realized that no substantial political or strategic groundwork existed upon which to base the suggestions of the British mission. The Minister of Defense could also provide Kirke with no real estimate on the amount of money available for the specific service branches. Kirke suggested a comprehensive survey of the entirety of Finland’s defense problems before embarking upon any expenditure. The Finnish government agreed and the advisors began their work on this basis. General Kirke wrote: “I thus found myself in the position of Minister of Defence having to allot tasks and funds as between the three Services, each of which naturally considered itself entitled to the Lion’s share.” Six weeks later, General Kirke and his officers had reconnoitered the country and filed a report detailing their recommendations regarding the navy, coastal defense, and the air force. The British experts cautioned that the needs of the army should be considered equally and expressed their view that the requirements of the ground forces were among the most urgent. The recommendations then went to the Revision Committee. They were adopted six months later after much argument. The government was “enchanté” with the mission’s progress statements and Kirke wrote that the group’s report would not only give the Finns better coastal defenses, but also save them several hundred million marks. Some in the leadership of the Navy and Coast Defense were not so pleased with the work of the mission, or its recommendations. The inspector of coast defenses protested the cuts in the funding estimates for his service from £5,000,000 to about £500,000. The head of the Navy also pressed the Revision Committee to adjust its expenditure proposals upward. The Air Force accepted the British advice and as funding became available it moved its development along the proposed lines.

Kirke’s handling of the mission bought much goodwill for Britain. At the beginning of his tenure in Finland, Kirke made it clear that he wished to complete his work as quickly as possible in order to pass on the financial savings to the Finnish government. He sent some of the mission personnel home within six weeks, earlier than expected. He also intended to return home before his allotted time. This, according to General Kirke, was a “novel” experience for the Finns. Previously, they had had a difficult time getting rid of earlier German and French advisors, and he insisted that the French mission had been particularly difficult to dislodge. Kirke believed, in typical British fashion, that the French “having found a soft job tried to stick to it as long as possible.” The remainder of the British personnel, except for Kirke and a staff officer, sailed on 11 September 1924. The various branches of the British government and military did not always assist Kirke’s endeavors to keep the mission’s costs at a minimum. The British military wanted the Finnish government to assume the expense of the salaries of the officers sent to Finland, an outlay that the armed forces would have borne in any circumstance. General Kirke asked his government to find ways to keep Finland’s costs to a minimum and requested that they not charge the Finns expenses that the government would normally bear. Kirke
had been anxious to keep costs low in an attempt to convince the Finns of the “disinterest” on the part of the British government, hoping, in turn, that this would result in orders for British industry, an attitude that clearly reveals Britain’s hope for the mission. Rennie, the British Consul, supported Kirke’s efforts and pointed out to his superiors (incorrectly) that the French only dispatch missions if contracts are placed in France, the result being the creation of a bad impression. Rennie insisted that minimizing the mission’s costs would bring benefits to British industry that far outweighed any additional expenses the government might incur. The Foreign Office agreed with Kirke and Rennie and asked the three service heads to do as the pair recommended. The Admiralty, at least, agreed. Kirke also attempted to have the cost of instruction fees lowered for Finnish air officers to receive training in Britain. The Treasury refused to allow a reduction in these charges for any foreign officers.

Kirke’s conscientious efforts to reduce the expenses of the mission paid extra dividends for British influence. The Finns were pleased and impressed with all of Kirke’s efforts, enough so that they asked the General to remain in Finland until the end of the year. The official reason given was that he would help in the reorganization of the Finnish Army. The Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of the General Staff also wanted Kirke to stay. Both had only recently taken up their appointments, the former commanders having been relieved from their positions shortly after the arrival of the British mission. Possibly, the deposed soldiers were victims of Finland’s purge of non-ethnic Finns from the ranks of the government and military. Kirke accepted the offer and returned to Britain in September to bring Lady Kirke to Helsinki. The couple arrived in Finland at the beginning of October, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel P.L.W. Powell. Powell came to meet Finland’s request for the loan of an army officer for six months, with the possibility of this period being extended.

The Finns gave Kirke a free hand and he anticipated completing his work by Christmas. He attempted to have the question of army reorganization transferred from the Revision Committee to the General Staff. Subsequent to Kirke’s appointment, the Committee had spent eight months debating what should be done in regard to the army, without reaching a conclusion. Kirke’s efforts proved futile and he contributed his failure to the Chief of the General Staff, who being “new to his post, was afraid of responsibility, and had not the experience necessary to enable him to assert himself.” The Revision Committee also did not want to relinquish their control because of their own desires to do the job. The Finnish government also preferred that the responsibility for defense recommendations remain in the hands of the Committee. Its members were drawn from many of the different parties of the Finnish political spectrum and the government wanted them to be directly responsible for the conclusions reached so that their respective political groups would be committed to finding the necessary funding. On strictly military matters, the Committee invariably accepted Kirke’s advice. Kirke did not like the slow pace of the Revision Committee and his hope of departing around Christmas proved futile. But, he wrote, that this “was natural, seeing that they were all busy men and many of them with little knowledge of the subject, though intensely anxious to do their best.” Other factors also added to the extension of his stay. Army officers responsible for preparing reports on the cost of various proposals had promised them by January. These had still not arrived by the time of the General’s departure at the end of March 1925. To hurry the Finns, General Kirke proposed coming home several times, once soon after Christmas 1924. He reported that this had “an instantaneous though temporary effect.”

The Mission’s Recommendations

In the end, what were the recommendations offered by General Kirke, particularly for the Finnish Navy and Coast Defense, and did the Finns implement them? First, Kirke believed that the Finns should quickly reorganize the military command structure, as one branch of the army frequently did not know what the other was doing. He suggested that the Finns use the British War Office as a model. The British also recommended the creation of a Finnish Navy as an independent service not tied to the coastal defense command structure. Kirke also thought that placing warships under the command of Army coast defense officers would hinder naval operations and fail to take advantage of what he saw as the “enterprising nature of the Finnish character.” He also argued against placing the Coast Defense forces under the command of the Navy. He recommended this because he felt that in the event of a successful invasion defensive operations would become primarily an Army show. Kirke also did not want the navy burdened with the problems entailed in coast defense. He believed that the navy needed to concentrate on its own development so as to emerge as an efficient force. To him, this was burden enough. To Kirke and his staff the naval forces of Finland had several objectives: 1) forcing the concentration of enemy units, which would hurt any efforts at blockade and make enemy ships susceptible to submarine attack; 2) attacking single enemy vessels; 3) launching naval attacks in combination with aircraft; 4) forcing the enemy to devote resources to convoying unarmed vessels – “in short, hamper his freedom of action on the seas.” To accomplish these tasks the British argued that Finland needed air and naval forces, but not at the expense of the Army. The Army was seen as the most important arm, and rightfully so. Aircraft were considered useful to the army, naval forces not as much so. Kirke did believe that the Finns needed some naval units and felt that they would utilize them effectively. He wrote that the Finns were “naturally a sea-faring people, possessing numerous small craft and the knowledge of how to use them, and an endeavour should be made to put these factors to good use.”

The British mission also filed exhaustive reports evaluating the extensive coastal fortifications that the Finns inherited from the Russians. Elements in the Finnish military wanted to arm most of these sites with the numerous artillery pieces acquired upon the collapse of the Tsarist regime. Kirke believed that making an effort to erect fixed defenses to protect the entire coast was not only impractical, but also unnecessary. Enacting such a plan would, in his opinion, result in a “useless diversion of funds” that could be better spent on the field army. It would also contribute to making Finnish defenses weak everywhere. Kirke argued for the installation of coastal batteries at strategic points along the coast in order to protect Finland’s ports and other important installations. Kirke also pushed for the standardization of the coastal defense weapons.

The Finns had a myriad of old Tsarist artillery, some of which had been purchased from American firms, ranging from light 47mm pieces to 12-inch guns. Kirke suggested that in the interest of efficiency the shore guns should be of three types: 75mm (these could also act as anti-aircraft guns), 6-inch, and 10-inch. The British mission also argued against the creation of an extensive network of coastal fortifications because of the amount of personnel that manning such installations required. The coast defense forces already suffered from a shortage of officers, and the expansion of this service’s duties would only exacerbate the problem. The construction of batteries at strategic sites would allow the concentration of scarce personnel. Kirke also recommended that most of the servicemen assigned to coastal defense duties be Suojeluskuntas members wherever possible. This would release additional men from the younger and more-fit classes for service in the regular army. This desire to prevent the dissipation of Finland’s manpower resources in order to provide the Finnish Army with sufficient cadres was one of the dominant elements that continuously influenced the recommendations that Kirke offered the Finns.

Kirke also believed that the Finns had inordinate fears regarding a Soviet amphibious assault and the shelling of Finnish cities by the Red Navy. He wrote: “Finland must take some chances, and history shows that it is safer to take chances with the Russian fleet than with the Russian Army.” He argued that Finland’s best defense against a Russian amphibious assault was the use of mobile reserves and aircraft. A railway runs along the southern coast of Finland and Kirke believed that the Finns would have no problems massing sufficient strength to throw back any Soviet invasion force that made it to shore through a gauntlet composed of coastal guns, the Finnish Navy, and the Finnish Air Force. Similarly, attacks launched across the ice during winter would also be very vulnerable to attacks from the air. Kirke also argued that the possibility of coastal bombardment on the part of Soviet warships would be at best slight, an assessment that the Winter War would later prove correct. The many islands that dot the coast of Finland force any bombarding warships to take up stations a great distance from the intended target. Before radar, this prevented accurate observation of the site under attack, except by the use of aircraft. Unless aircraft can stay over the target, the bombardment proves very ineffective. Coastal guns, which generally have greater accuracy than those on board ship, would also make getting too close to a Finnish port a dangerous proposition for a Soviet warship. These same islands also inhibit the movement of enemy warships along Finland’s shores. The confined waters force the vessels to operate singly or in small groups. These units would be very vulnerable to Finnish naval attacks.

The British also offered advice on the composition of the Finnish Navy. The main element would consist of three gunboats, or more accurately, armored coast defense ships. The British recommended 2,500-ton vessels with a shallow draft (12-14 feet), with 6-inch guns for the main armament. Kirke advocated three such vessels so as to always have one at sea. The British also arrived at this number because the best information that Great Britain then possessed on the Red Navy led Kirke to believe that at the most, the Soviets would only be able to have three destroyers on station at any one time. Additionally, if the Soviets armed their available merchantmen, they might be able to muster an additional three vessels. It was felt that the armored ship would be able to deal with any threat from enemy destroyers as well as protect coastal shipping. Kirke’s commission recommended that one armored ship be built immediately so that the lessons learned from its construction and use could be utilized in the building of its sister ships. The British plan foresaw at least three 400-ton submarines complementing the armored ships. Kirke recommended buying these abroad, preferably from Great Britain, in order to take advantage of British experience. British builders were more knowledgeable than those in any “available” nation. This would result in a larger expenditure for the submarines, but the Finns would reap the benefit of British experience. Kirke advised the construction of subsequent vessels in Finnish yards. Additionally, the Finns also had the old Russian submarine AG.16, which the Finns had raised and upon which they had already spent 19,000,000 Finnish marks for hull and machinery repairs. Because of its age and condition Kirke did not believe that the Finns should seek to make it an active part of their navy. As a complement to the submarines, the British recommended the purchase of a submarine parent ship.

AG16 in 1917 (During World War I Russian and British submarines operated from bases in Finland. The Russian submarines of the Holland type (AG 11, AG 12, AG 15 and AG 16) were scuttled in the harbor of Hanko on April 3, just prior to the German landing there. These submarines had good sea going qualities and were easy to handle. When the German troops advanced on Helsinki, the British submarine group sailed out and scuttled their submarines outside the city, on April 4, 1918. The Squadron consisted of the submarines E-1, E-8, E-9, E-19, C-26, C-27 and C-35. The British crews returned to Britain via Murmansk. AG 16 had been completed in 1916, commissioned on 21 July 1917 and was scuttled on 3 April 1918. Ag 16 was stored on land while repairs were made, but never completed due to the overall cost. In 1929 the AG16 was finally scrapped).

Kirke’s mission also advised the construction of barges that would be equipped with 12-inch cannon left in Finland by the Russians. Inspired by the British experience in the Dardanelles in 1915 and along the Flanders coast in 1917-18, these weapons were meant for defensive use against attacking enemy warships under the cover of Finland’s many islands. Kirke argued against the purchase of new Coastal Motor Boats (CMBs), believing that the money would be better spent on aircraft capable of carrying torpedoes, something that he believed, correctly, would become increasingly efficient in subsequent years. The British recommended that the Finns equip 50 vessels for minesweeping and that they purchase the paravanes necessary for this, as well as numerous extras. Defensive mine laying played a role in the British plans and included sowing the areas around Bjorkö, Vyborg, Vasa, and Kotka. A field would also be laid between the Åland Islands and Sweden in order to protect Finland’s communications. At the time of Kirke’s tenure, the Finns had 1,834 mines in storage. Kirke recommended the purchase of an additional 5,000 mines. In the end, the British concluded that the Finns should spend 423,914,340 Finnish marks over a six-year period for the improvement and expansion of their navy. This figure included money for personnel expenses, maintenance, and work on a number of bases, as well as the moving of one. The latest Finnish program drawn up for the navy and coast defense before Kirke’s arrival had called for the expenditure of 684,974,840 Finnish marks.

The Aftermath

General Kirke left Helsinki on 24 March 1925. The Finns were very pleased by his work, especially his businesslike approach. They regretted his departure and offered their hopes that he would soon return. Kirke, as well as officials of the British government, believed the mission a complete success, and their comments on this subject demonstrate the primary purposes for dispatching the mission: influence and contracts. Kirke believed that the mission had produced an “invisible gain to British prestige” and that it had established good relations with the military leaders in Finland, particularly the Jäger officers, who had previously been perceived by the British as pro-German, and who were also the most important group in the Finnish military. In regard to the navy he wrote that “The extent to which British influence predominates will depend entirely on the extent to which the British Admiralty is prepared to help in training officers.” The Finns were particularly eager to send young officers to the United Kingdom for submarine training and Kirke wrote that “This is probably the only chance of getting any share for British yards in the work of the new Naval programme.” Kirke felt that relations between Finland and Britain would continue to improve steadily, the result being “good effects on commercial relations” between the two states. He proved overly optimistic. Despite his positive hopes for the future, Kirke was convinced that “the scales are heavily loaded against British firms.” He identified several obstacles, the first being the cost of French goods, which tended to be less than those from Great Britain. General Kirke also noted the French government’s policy of sometimes providing financial support to firms doing business with foreign countries, as well as the strong official encouragement from the French government. He also noted some additional past elements that weighed against the British: the French tactic of awarding medals to influential military and political personnel as well as “the propaganda of French officers who are practically agents for armament firms.” Finally, Finnish officers had often only seen French material.

General Kirke’s complaint regarding the French policy of awarding medals had particularly strong merit. During the 1920s, the French gave numerous Legions of Honor to important Finnish official, many of them naval officers. Included among these were Commander Einar-Wilhelm Schwank, 11 January 1923, and Commander Yrjö Roos, 23 July 1924, both of whom were future heads of the Finnish Navy. Important dignitaries receiving the medal included Dr. Rudolf Holsti, 22 April 1920, and Hjalmar Procopé, 22 November 1928. Commodore von Schoultz also held the Legion of Honor. But this did not win France the influence it desired. Despite the threat to the British from French competition, Kirke did not believe that the French represented the greatest danger. He saw the Italians and Swedes, both of whom had their advocates in Finland, as Britain’s most dangerous competitors. France, Italy, and Sweden had all accepted Finnish officers in to various military training schools and the Italians had even allowed the Finns to serve in command positions. But the real threat, which Kirke never realized, was Germany. Kirke’s presence and Finnish satisfaction with his activities and those of the other British officers did not prevent the Finns from also looking elsewhere for military advice. In early September 1924, near the end of the tenure of the British mission, Finland dispatched a group of leading Finnish naval officers to study the naval situations in Germany, Holland, and the Scandinavian countries. A British observer commented that Finland had “determined to have recourse to as many countries as may be for guidance in their task of reorganizing the defensive forces of their country.” During this same period, the Finnish Minister of Defense asked for permission to retain five foreign military experts for the new Army staff school scheduled to open on 3 November 1924. Included among these were one French, one Italian, and one Swedish officer.

Kirke’s intervention did prevent the appointment of a French advisor to the Finnish Air Force. Under an old agreement, General Enckell of the Finnish Army went to Paris sometime around Christmas 1924 to arrange for a French air officer as an instructor and air advisor to the Finnish government. Kirke, when he learned of this through the Finnish Air Force, pointed out to the Minister of Defense, as well as to the Foreign Minister, that simultaneously seeking the advice of two nations would be useless and “fatal to the efficiency of the Finnish Air Force, and that if they were definitely committed to the French, it would be best for us to go at once.” Rennie, the British Minister in Helsinki, supported Kirke’s view. A meeting of the Finnish Cabinet followed and its members voted unanimously that Kirke should stay and the French should be sent Finland’s regrets. Moreover, the Cabinet decided to request the services of a British air officer for two years. The British government agreed and Squadron Leader Field arrived in March 1925. In an effort to strengthen Britain’s economic chances, General Kirke advocated the granting of preferential treatment toward Finnish officers regarding invitations to British maneuvers. In Kirke’s view, the Finnish Army and government would greatly appreciate this and “it would probably lead to practical results when new equipment had to be purchased abroad.” Foreign Office officials had similar views. They believed that the appointment of a British air advisor indicated that the Finns were looking increasingly toward Britain. They also believed that if Finnish naval officers sent to Britain for training received a good welcome the “commercial results may very well be considerable.” A Foreign Office minute summed up in one sentence British hopes for General Kirke’s mission: “There is no doubt that the mission has enhanced our prestige & let us hope that commercial results will follow.”

The recommendations of the mission had a limited effect on the development of the Finnish Air Force, Army, and Navy, but little effect on the Coast Defense forces. In general, the British advice received a “harsh reception” from the naval officers. The mission’s recommendation that Finland remove many of the coastal defense guns was rejected. The Finnish high command could not understand why Kirke’s mission had made such a decision and refused to accept it. The Finns also disagreed with the British recommendations regarding the caliber of the guns for the planned coast defense ships; they believed the suggested British caliber insufficient for their needs. The Finns also did not like Kirke’s conclusion that CMBs were useless to Finland. The Finnish Navy considered them very necessary. Moreover, the torpedo boats, as well as the armored ships and submarines, were weapons that the Finns had the potential to construct, at least partially, in their own yards. This too was an important factor in their defense considerations, and correctly so. In the end, the impact of General Kirke’s mission in regard to the Navy and Coast Defense was minor and the Maritime Industrial Complex initiative that Mannerheim was instrumental in driving through superceded the Kirke Mission’s naval recommendations within a couple of years. But while the naval high command generally rejected the British proposals, the Army and the High Command took many of them to heart, overruling Somervalo’s opposition to many of the recommendations concerning the Air Force in doing so.

The mission likely did succeed in changing Finnish attitudes toward Great Britain, therefore increasing British influence, and probably did soften the views of the Jägers toward the British. The French viewed it as a great success for their British opponent. Despite this, the British continually assumed, incorrectly, that the pro-German feelings of the Jägers equated to anti-British attitudes. This was in no way a correct assessment. The British cause was also dealt a severe blow by the resolution of the language dispute in Finland. In the early 1920s, many factions in Finland complained bitterly that many high political, military, and governmental positions were occupied by Finns of Swedish ancestry. This resulted in a campaign to remove many of the influential Swedish-speaking Finns from their jobs and replace them with Finnish speakers. The Swedish-speakers in the military also tended to be former Tsarist officers, another group that the more radical of the Jägers disliked. The Jägers played a key role in the campaign to remove these older officers and some of those who lost their positions were sympathetic to Great Britain and also the very men with whom the British were accustomed to dealing. Important among these was Commodore von Schoultz. Von Schoultz, the head of the Finnish Navy in the first half of the 1920s, was a former Tsarist officer and veteran of the Imperial Russian Navy. During World War I, he had served as a liaison officer with the British Grand Fleet. Present at the Battle of Jutland, Schoultz made comments on the fight in his memoirs that caused uproar in Great Britain (Von Schoultz G. Commodore: With the British Battle Fleet: Recollections of a Russian Naval Officer, London: Hutchinson 1st ed ND c1920). Schoultz criticized Admiral Sir John Jellicoe for breaking off the engagement in the evening, failing to take precautions to enable the British fleet to maintain contact with the enemy, and not sending his destroyers to launch night attacks against the Germans. Schoultz believed that these mistakes cost the British the opportunity to continue the battle the following day. Though many in Britain did not appreciate his remarks, Schoultz had maintained excellent relations with the British officers with whom he had served. The Commodore still had many friends in the Royal Navy and was generally well liked by British officials, no doubt his fluent English helped in this respect. Schoultz’s presence helped further the cause of good relations between Britain and Finland. Perhaps because of his German-appearing name, some French observers accused him of being a “germanophile.”

In Finland, in 1926, a law requiring knowledge of the Finnish language to hold a military post came into force. Officers were required to take a rigid language examination, which Commodore von Schoultz failed. The Commodore spoke excellent Russian, English, German, and French, but did not speak Finnish well enough to pass the exam. He was forced into retirement as were a number of other naval officers. A Finnish observer lamented Schoultz’s departure by writing that “there is nobody to take his place.” The Finns filled the recently vacated command posts with younger officers who would not normally have been awarded such senior slots. Commander Yrjö Roos moved into Commodore von Schoultz’s position in May 1925 when he was only thirty-five. Roos died in August 1926, his untimely death a result of a carbon monoxide leak in a minesweeper, the noxious fumes being accidentally pumped into the unfortunate officer’s cabin. Commander Achilles Sourander replaced Roos. In 1929, Commander Einar Schwank became the head of the Finnish Navy.

The retirement of von Schoultz cost the British one of their greatest allies. The Jäger victory in the linguistic struggle resulted in many of them filling positions of power that they had not formerly held. Though they were not necessarily pro-German, they were more inclined to deal with Germany than their predecessors. Kirke’s mission did produce an increase in British influence in Finland, but it was a short-lived bounty. Not long after Kirke’s mission, the Admiralty began to take the appointment of naval missions and naval advisors more seriously. The effects of the 1922 Washington naval treaties and lower governmental spending on ship construction began hurting Britain’s ability to produce the naval armaments that it needed. Obviously, in the eyes of the Admiralty this was an enormous security issue, and they began searching for ways to alleviate the problem. First, they tried granting subsidies for new construction, but by the mid-1920s it had become clear that this would not solve the problem. Soon, the Royal Navy saw Britain’s declining naval armaments industry as the greatest threat to British sea power, even more so than the Royal Navy’s true enemies: France, and most dangerous of all, the Treasury. The Admiralty began to see foreign orders as the solution. To protect its naval arms industry the Admiralty became very supportive of pursuing foreign orders. They believed that the best way to win them would be to send naval missions, naval advisors, and naval attachés, and even provide subsidies, to the potential customers. Moreover, naval missions could counter French influence, and the Admiralty’s agreement to send a mission to Romania was partially motivated by a desire to keep the French from sending one. Also, Romania, like the Baltic States, was seen a portal to Russian trade. This was a clear reversal of the 1919 Royal Navy policy against the dispatch of missions. The worsening economic conditions of the interwar period would force even more changes in Admiralty policy.

Later, in a lecture delivered after his return to Britain, General Kirke stressed his confidence in the Finns ability to defend themselves against the Soviets, stating that “one may reasonably conclude that the defence of Finland’s coasts and essential sea communications is by no means an impossible, nor even a very difficult task.” The results of the Winter War would prove him correct. The Finns did do some of the things that the British recommended, starting with the acquisition of a number of submarines. But this would not be done with British help. German experts, the most important of whom was a former submarine officer named Karl Bartenbach, were already quietly working in Finland. Puppet German firms built vessels for the Finnish Navy in Finnish yards, laying the foundation for a modern Finnish Navy, and incidentally, Nazi Germany’s U-boat arm. But rather than the three coastal defence ships the British had recommended, they then concentrated on building a destroyer flotilla based on the Polish Grom-class design, and smaller Anti-Submarine Corvette’s based on a simplified Swedish Goteborg-class design. They also went ahead, against the British recommendations, and built a sizable torpedoe boat flotilla in the last half of the 1930’s. The British sent a mission to keep Finland from the camp of French influence. London should have been worrying about the Germans, Poles and Swedes.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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

The Ilmavoimat in the last half of the 1920's-II

Post by CanKiwi2 » 13 May 2011 21:33

And on the Ilmavoimat.....

While the primary aim of the Kirke Mission had actually been to help in redesigning and reconstructing the Finnish coastal defences, they were also involved in making recommendations regarding the Ilmavoimat (Air Force). They suggested a temporary plan that downplayed fighter aircraft, advising that Finland simply could not afford to have a strong land-based air force. Their recommendation was that maritime aircraft, bombers and recconaisance aircraft should form the majority of the Ilmavoimat instead. Somersalo took the plan and more or less ignored it, following which, in the 1930's, the defence reorganization and rearmament plans resulted in the adjustment of the structure and organization of the Ilmavoimat to a more heavily fighter and tactical ground-attack oriented air force.

The Ilmavoimat through the 1920’s and 1930’s seemed also to make a practice if purchasing single examples of different models of aircraft for evaluation. Given that these were one-offs and more or less irrelevant to this ATL, these aircraft won’t be gone into in any detail. Examples were:
Fokker D.X – 1 purchased in 1923, out of service 1924
Avro 504K – 1 purchased 1926, retired in 1930
IVL C24 – 1 built in 1924
IVL C25 – 1 built in 1925
IVL D.26 Haukka I – 1 built in 1927
IVL K1 Kurki – 1 built in 1927
Potze 25 A2 – 1 purchased in 1927, retired in 1936

Following the reorganization in the mid-1920s, the Ilmavoimat’s sole fighter type for a number of years was the Martinsyde F4 Buzzard. The Ilmavoimat purchased 15 F.4s in 1923, the date of the order preceding the Kirke Mission, and operated them until 1939.

Martinsyde F4 Buzzard Fighter - 15 ordered in 1923, retired 1939

The Martinsyde F4 was derived from the Martinsyde F3, a single seat biplane fighter powered by a Rolls-Royce Falcon V-12 engine. Six F3’s were ordered by the RFC in 1917, with the first flying in November that year. While its performance during testing was impressive, demonstrating a maximum speed of 142 mph (229 km/h) and described in an official report as "a great advance on all existing fighting scouts", all Rolls-Royce Falcon production was required to power the Bristol F.2 Fighters, so no orders for the F.3 were actually placed. To solve this problem, Martinsyde designed a new fighter based on the F.3, but powered by a 300 hp (224 kW) Hispano-Suiza engine, the F.4 Buzzard. The F.4 Buzzard, like the F.3, was a single seat biplane powered by a water cooled engine. It had new lower wings as compared with the F.3 and the pilot's cockpit was positioned further aft, but otherwise the two aircraft were similar. The prototype F.4 was tested in June 1918, and again demonstrated excellent performance, being easy to fly and manoeuverable as well as very fast for the time. Large orders followed, with 1,450 ordered from Martinsyde, Boulton & Paul Ltd, Hooper & Co and the Standard Motor Company. It was planned to equip the French Aéronautique Militaire as well as the British Royal Air Force, and production of a further 1,500 aircraft in the United States of America was planned.

Deliveries to the RAF had just started when the Armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed, with 57 F.4 Buzzards delivered before the end of World War I, but these did not reach operational squadrons. Martinsyde was instructed to only complete those aircraft which were part built, while all other orders were cancelled. The F.4 Buzzard was not adopted as a fighter by the post war RAF, the cheaper Sopwith Snipe being preferred despite its lower performance. Martinsyde continued development of the F.4 Buzzard on its own account, buying back many of the surplus aircraft from the RAF, and producing two seat tourers and floatplanes. After the Bankruptcy of Martinsyde in 1924, these aircraft were obtained by the Aircraft Disposal Company, which continued to develop and sell F.4 variants for several years.

While the post war RAF did not want the Buzzard, Martinsyde had more success selling the Buzzard overseas, with single and two-seat versions being sold to a number of air forces, including those of Spain (30 aircraft), Finland (15 aircraft) and the Soviet Union (100 aircraft). Some of these aircraft had long careers, with six of the Spanish Buzzards remaining in service at the start of the Spanish Civil War. Following the bankruptcy of Martinsyde, the Aircraft Disposal Company managed to sell eight Jaguar engined versions, the ADC.1, to Latvia, two of these remaining in sevice until 1938. Performance of the Martinsyde F.4 was fairly typical of an early 1920’s fighter – a crew of 1, a maximum speed of 146mph powered by a single Hispano-Suiza 8Fb inline 300 hp (224 kW) engine, a service ceiling of 24,000 feet, endurance of 2.5 hours and an armament of 2x 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns.

Ilmavoimat F4 Buzzard

In this alternative scenario, this history remains unchanged, except that the Buzzards are retired a couple of years earlier, in 1937, as greater numbers of advanced trainers and more modern fighters with higher performance enter service.

Morane-Saulnier MS50.C Trainer – 5 ordered 1925, retired 1932

The Morane-Saulnier MoS-50 (also MS.50) was a French trainer aircraft of the parasol type from 1924. The twin-seat monoplane aircraft was of wooden construction and was one of the last aircraft to have a rotary engine - a 130 hp Clerget 9B. In 1925 six o the MS.50Cs were sold to Finland, where they were used as primary trainers until 1932. It was very popular in service.
Suomen Ilmavoimat Morane-Saulnier MS.50 Primary Trainers

In this alternative scenario, this history remains unchanged.

Koolhoven FK.31 – 12 purchased 1926, retired 1931

The NVI Koolhoven F.K.31 was a Dutch designed, two seat reconnaissance-fighter, which was developed in the 1920s by Frederick Koolhoven. The aircraft was equipped with an enclosed cockpit and single-strut landing gear and the prototype became the sensation of the Paris Air Show of 1922. Only a small number of aircraft were produced. However, the production of the F.K.31 met with many difficulties.

Koolhoven FK.31 at the Paris Air Show, 1922

The Koolhoven Factory. In 1938, N.V. Koolhoven Aeroplanes had grown to 1200 employees and the factory had a floor area of 8000 square metres

The aircraft was purchased for the Finnish Air Force with twelve FK.31s in service between 1925-27. The aircraft had been purchased while the development was still being carried out. The Finnish pilots disliked the aircraft and it has been considered the worst aircraft ever of the FAF. The F.K.31s flew for fewer than 6 hours in total in the Finnish Air Force. As Commander-in-Chief of the Ilmavoimat, and having signed off on this purchase, Somersalo recieved a great deal of adverse feedback from his subordinates on this purchase, with some heated conversations taking place. He would never make another such mistake.

Koolhoven FK.31 at Utti, 27th July 1927

Koolhoven F.K. 31 in summer 1930 at the factory at Suomenlinna

Aero A.11 Light Bomber and Reconnaisance Aircraft – 8 purchased 1927, retired 1939

The Aero A.11 was a biplane light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft built in Czechoslovakia between the First and Second World Wars. It formed the basis for a large number of other Czechoslovakian military aircraft of the inter-war period. Around 250 were built, with some remaining in service at the outbreak of World War II. Designed by Antonin Husnik, it was a development of the Aero A.12 (despite what the numbering of the designs might suggest). A Hispano-Suiza 8Fb-powered version, the A.11H-s was built for the Finnish Air Force, the only foreign operator of the type. The Finns had eight aircraft of this type and operated them between 1927-39. With a maximum speed of 150 mph, a range of 470 miles, a service ceiling of 25,000 feet and an armament of 1 forward firing .303 Vickers + 2× .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis machine guns in a flexible mount for the observer and 441 lbs bombload, it was a fairly typical light bomber of the period.

Aero A-11 a biplane light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft

In this alternative scenario, this history remains unchanged.

Fokker CV – 1 purchased 1927, 13 purchased 1931, retired 1945

The Fokker C.V was a twin-seated light reconnaissance and bomber biplane aircraft designed by Anthony Fokker and manufactured by Fokker. The C.V was constructed in the early 1920s by Anthony Fokker. When shown to the public in 1924, the C.V was the first multi-role combat aircraft available and it was manufactured in a variety of versions; the customer could choose from five different wing types (which varied in wing span), radial engines could be selected between 336-723 kW (450-970 hp). The landing gear could be changed from wheels to pontoons. The aircraft became an export success for Fokker, it was sold and/or license manufactured in Bolivia, China, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the Soviet Union and the US. Sweden purchased two different versions to use as models for their license manufacturing of the S6 reconnaissance version and a J3 fighter version. The Dutch Air Force used the C.V in front line service against the German Luftwaffe during World War II. After the Dutch surrender, the aircraft were taken over by Luftwaffe and used on the Eastern front until 1944.

The Ilmavoimat used both C.V-Ds and C.V-Es. One C.V-E was purchased in 1927, with delivery on 20 September of the same year, and a further 13 were purchased on 17 March 1931, arriving in the winter of 1932. During the Winter War, Sweden donated three more C.V-Es. The aircraft were used as reconnaissance and light bomber aircraft between 20 September 1927 and 1945. During the Winter War, the Finnish C.Vs flew extensively on reconnaissance and harassment bombing sorties without suffering any losses.

As we will see when we get to the Norwegian Campaign of 1940, a large number of Norwegian Army Air Service Fokker CV’s were taken under the wing of the Ilmavoimat for the duration of the Campaign. Those that survived were returned to the Norwegian Army Air Service on the conclusion of fighting in Norway. (The Norwegian Army Air Service had bought its first C.V-Ds and C.V-Es in 1926. The two versions were designated as long-winged (-E) and short-winged (-D). The initial purchase agreement with Fokker included license production rights, and over the period 1929-1931, 27 C.V-Ds were manufactured at the NoAAS' aircraft factory at Kjeller. After the production of C.V-Ds ended, a further 15 C.V-Es followed between 1932 and 1939. In total, the NoAAS operated 72 Fokker C.Vs, 40 of which were license built in Norway. When the Germans invaded Norway on 9 April 1940, 40 Fokker C.Vs were still in Norwegian service. The C.Vs were based at several air bases in different parts of the country and mostly saw service as reconnaissance and light transport aircraft. Although the planes were hopelessly outdated as combat aircraft, they still saw extensive and successful service in the bomber role during the 1940 Norwegian Campaign, supporting Norwegian and Finnish ground troops fighting on the Narvik front and then points South).
Finnish Fokker C.V-E's. Performance data: Maximum speed of 155mph, Range of 500 miles, Service Ceiling of 22,000 feet, Armament consisted of 2 × 7.9 mm (.31 in) fiorward-firing FN synchronized fixed machine guns and 1 × 7.9 mm (.31 in) Lewis machine gun on a flexible mount in the rear for the observer. 440lbs of bombs could be carried under the wings.

OTL Note: In reality, one CV-E was purchased in 1927, with delivery 20 September 1927, and a further 13 were purchased on 17 March 1934, arriving in the winter of 1935. For this ATL, I have moved the purchase of the additional 13 aircraft forward to 1931 – one of the first aircraft purchases made as the budget for the Ilmavoimat was increased from 1931 on, with the purchase of additional aircraft being based on the successful use of the single model purchased in 1927.

VL D.27 Haukka (Hawk) II Biplane Fighter - 17 ordered 1927, 23 ordered 1929

In 1927, the Ilmavoimat had been considering the purchase of Gloster Gamecock Fighters from Britain. The Gamecock was a single-seat British bi-plane fighter with a fixed under-carriage, built on a wooden framework with a fabric skin. Powered by a single Bristol Jupiter VI 9-cylinder radial, 425 hp (317 kW), the Gamecock had a maximum speed of 155mph, a range of 365 miles, a ceiling of 22,100 feet and was armed with 2×0.303 inch (7.7mm) Vickers machine guns. On 23 March, 1927 the State Aircraft Factory (VL) received a single Gamecock from England for evaluation.
At the same time, IVL (Valtion Lentokonetehdas, the State Aircraft Factory) had been experimenting with moving away from building aircraft under license to designing and building a series of trial aircraft,.With Kurt Berger as the designer, these started with the underpowered IVL C.24 and C.25 in 1924 and 1925. Learning from these aircraft, a prototype of the IVL Haukka, the Haukka I, was built and made its maiden flight on March 17, 1927. This was immediately followed by the VL D.27 Haukka II - a further developed version of the D.26. Two aircraft were manufactured at the aircraft factory at Suomenlinna (which now had shortened its name from IVL to VL).

In evaluations, the Haukka II turned out to have similar characteristics to the Gamecock, indeed, it proved to be the Gamecock’s equivalent in all regards and a decision was made that the Haukka would be ordered to equip a single Fighter Squadron, augmenting the single squadron of Martinsyde Buzzards then in service. An order for 17 aircraft was placed, with the Haukka’s to be manufactured at the VL aircraft factory at Suomenlinna. These were manufactured between 29 Oct, 1928 and 15 May, 1929. A further 23 Haukka’s were ordered in January 1929 and were manufactured between May 1929 and April 1930. The Haukka II’s were relegated to use as an Advanced Fighter Trainer from the mid-1930’s as more modern fighters entered service and eventually retired in 1944.

The Gloster Gamecock Biplane Fighter: Powered by a single Bristol Jupiter VI 9-cylinder radial of 425 hp (317 kW), the Gamecock had a maximum speed of 155mph, a range of 365 miles, a ceiling of 22,100 feet and was armed with 2×0.303 inch (7.7mm) Vickers machine guns.

Powered by a single Gnome-Rhone Jupiter IV radial engine of 480hp (358 kW), the Haukka II had a maximum speed of 154mph, a range of 365 miles, a ceiling of 22,100 feet and was armed with 2×0.303 inch (7.7mm) Vickers machine guns.

To be continued…….
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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

The Ilmavoimat of the 1920's - continued...

Post by CanKiwi2 » 16 May 2011 19:41

Blackburn Ripon - 1st ordered 1927 (40 delivered between 1929 and 1933)

The Blackburn Ripon was a British two-seat mixed-structured bi-plane maritime aircraft developed as a carrier-based torpedo-bomber and reconnaissance biplane which first flew in 1926. It was used by the Fleet Air Arm as a torpedo bomber from 1930 until 1935. The Ripon was designed to replace the single seat Blackburn Dart torpedo bomber. In accordance with British Air Ministry Specification 21/23, it was also required to be able to be used for long range reconnaissance, for which a two-man crew was demanded. Initial trials against its competitors, the Handley Page Harrow and the Avro Buffalo, showed that none of the competitors were adequate, so the Ripon was redesigned with an improved engine installation, an enlarged rudder and increased sweepback on the wings. Thus improved, the Ripon was declared the winner and ordered for service. Four prototypes and 90 production types were manufactured by Blackburn for use by the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. The Ripon entered service with the Fleet Air Arm in 1929 and was normally used as a carrier based landplane, and although capable of being converted to a seaplane, in Fleet Air Arm service was rarely fitted with floats. The Ripon continued in service with Torpedo Bomber flights until 1933. The last British Ripons were retired from service in January 1935.

The Ilmavoimat ordered one Blackburn Ripon in 1929, at the same time acquiring an unlimited license for production. The Ripon built by Blackburn was delivered on 20 Sep, 1929 (this 1st model was powered by a 530 hp Bristol Jupiter VII engine). The Ilmavoimat then ordered a first production series of 15 Ripon IIFs (type R.29) from VL. Series I, consisting of 7 aircraft, was delivered to Merilentoasema between 17 Dec, 1930 and 20 Oct, 1931 (these were powered by the 480 hp Gnome Rhone Jupiter VI engine). Series II, consisting of 8 aircraft, was delivered between 20 Oct, 1931 and 18 Feb, 1932 (these were powered by the 535 hp Armstrong Siddeley Panther engines). VL had been busy manufacturing Haukka II Fighters from October 1928 to April 1930. Manufacturing of the license-built Ripon’s commenced immediately after the Haukka’s had been completed and kept VL working at capacity through 1930 and 1931. In 1931 as part of the 1931 Military Review, as we will see shortly when we take a look at VL and the Finnish aircraft manufacturing industry in detail, a decision was made to ramp up VL’s construction capacity, with major ramifications for Finland’s air defence capability.

The Ripon had a maximum speed of 110mph, a range of 410 miles and service ceiling of 10,000 feet. Armament consisted of a single fixed forward firing 7.7 mm Vickers MG for the pilot and 2x7.7 Lewis MGs or a L-33/36 MG for the observer, while racks under the wings and the fuselage had the capacity to hold 720 kg (3x240kg) of bombs or 2 depth charges or one 18in Torpedo.

Following the major defense review of 1931, a third series of 25 Ripons was ordered in late 1931. These were delivered between 11 June, 1932 and 26 Oct, 1933 and were powered by the 580 hp Bristol Pegasus engines), equipping the Ilmavoimat with two full squadrons (40 Ripons in all) which were all in service by early 1934. On the outbreak of the Winter War, the Ripons, with their maximum speed of 110mph (note that this was perhaps 30mph slower than the Fairey Swordfish, which was used in a number of effective torpedo bomber attacks against Italian and German warships early in WW2), were intended to be used primarily for anti-submarine patrols and anti-submarine escorts for naval warships and convoys out of range of shore-based Soviet fighters. They were also used in a number of low-level torpedo attacks on Soviet warships in the initial days of the Winter War, operating in these attacks with heavy Ilmavoimat fighter cover. A single squadron of Ripons operating in conjunction with Ilmavoimat Skua Dive Bombers were credited with sinking a Soviet destroyers on the first day of the Winter War - the personnel of Lavansaari Coast Guard station reported an approaching Soviet destroyer at 7.45am on the morning of 30th November, maritime air units were called in and, operating in conjunction with Coastal Torpedoe and Motor Torpedo Boats, the Soviet destroyer was sunk after being hit by at least three torpedoes and a number of bombs. Two Ripons were shot down.

Ilmavoimat Blackburn Ripon preparing to take off

On the second day of the war, 1 December 1939, the cruiser Kirov together with the destroyers Stremitelnyi and Smetlivyi approached the Russarö coastal artillery battery. Stremitelnyi and possibly also Kirov were hit by fire from the Finnish shore batteries after a short exchange and the enemy ships turned away. Before they could return to Kronstadt, one squadron of Ripons together with a squadron of Skua Dive Bombers and a squadron of Ilmavoimat medium bombers launched a wave of air attacks, during which a Coastal Torpedo Boast Flotilla operating from a base near the Russarö battery also moved in to attack. The Kirov and both destroyers were sunk, a devastating blow to the Soviet Navy on the second day of the war, but with almost half the Ripon’s shot down in the course of the attack it wasn’t entirely a one-sided success for the Ilmavoimat either.

Also on 1 December, a further Soviet naval force moved to attack the rock islands of Someri and Narvi. This naval force was attacked by the second squadron of Ripons together with a number of Blenheims operating under fighter cover, and with a full Flotilla of Coastal Torpedo Boats and a smaller number of Torpedo Boats. All ships of the Soviet naval force were sunk. Survivors were not picked up as a further (and larger) Soviet force had been identified moving towards Suursaari, which was subjected to a heavy bombardment on the morning of the 3rd of December. The remaining Ripons, now down to single squadron strength after half there numer had been lost, again together with the Skua Dive Bombers, were concentrated on this Soviet naval force, while a large Finnish Navy task force consisting of two Grom-class destroyers and a fill Flotilla of Torpedo Boats accompanied by a rather larger number of Coastal Torpedoe Boast closed rapidly. The Soviet naval force retreated after taking heavy losses.

After these attacks and following the substantial losses of the first few days of the war, the Ripons were only used once more in an active combat role. On the 14th of December, two Soviet G-class destroyers, Gnevnyi and Grozjastshij, exchanged fire with the Utö coastal battery and one of them was hit by return fire. Again, the Ripons and Skuas attacking together with fighter cover and in conjunction with Coastal Torpedo Boats responded with both destroyers sunk within two hours of the attack on the battery. After this, and having taken substantial losses amounting to over half their strength, therafter the Ripons were used only for anti-submarine patrols over the Gulf of Bothnia.

Ilmavoimat Blackburn Ripon badly damaged by Soviet AA fire – but returned to base before succumbing to damage

OTL Note: Historically, the Ilmavoimat ordered one Blackburn Ripon in 1929, at the same time acquiring an unlimited license for production. The Ripon, built by Blackburn, was delivered on 20 Sep, 1929 (powered by a 530 hp Bristol Jupiter VII engine). The Ilmavoimat initially ordered 15 Ripon IIFs (type R.29) from VL. Series I, consisting of 7 aircraft, was delivered to Merilentoasema between 17 Dec, 1930 and 20 Oct, 1931 (these were powered by the 480 hp Gnome Rhone Jupiter VI engine). Series II, consisting of 8 aircraft, was delivered between 20 Oct, 1931 and 18 Feb, 1932 (these were powered by the 535 hp Armstrong Siddeley Panther engines). Also a third series of 10 Ripons were ordered. These were delivered between 11 June, 1934 and 26 Oct, 1934 and were powered by the 580 hp Bristol Pegasus engines). In total, 25 Ripons were produced under License by the Finnish State Aircraft Factory (VL).

Historically, the Finnish Air Force used Ripons as reconnaissance aircraft against the Soviet Union in the Winter War and the Continuation War. In the Winter War, the Ripons flew 277 sorties (225 of these being reconnaissance). In the Continuation War, they dropped 3.95 million leaflets, transported 1,593 wounded, carried out 20 bombing sorties & number of anti-sub patrols and escorts. After losing an aircraft to Soviet fighters in 1939, the Ripon was limited to night missions. The last missions were flown in 1944.

Some interesting links if you want to know a bit more:

Final of the three scene collections from the Meidän Poikamme Ilmassa (1934) movie. Highlighted is the Blackburn Ripon float plane.

The Finnish Päijät-Häme Aviation Museum has worked hard to overhaul the sole remaining Blackburn Ripon biplane in the world, the aircraft is on display – the above link includes information on the aircraft (in Finnish) and photos.

De Havilland Moth Primary Trainers - ordered 1928

In 1928, the Ilmavoimat was looking for a sound Basic Trainer for introductory pilot training. The exisiting Caudron C.60 Primary Trainers (of which approximately 60 were in service in 1928) were adequate to the task but it was felt that a limited number of a more modern basic Trainer would be useful. To this end, on 31 March, 1928 the State Aircraft Factory (Valtion Lentokonetehdas –VL) acquired a license to build the de Havilland Moth export model 60. Intended as a Basic Trainer, the Moth was a two-seater, with a maximum speed of 105mph, a cruise speed of 85mph and an endurance of approximately 3 hours. The de Havilland Moth prototype had first flown in 1925. The Moth was developed from the larger DH41 and was a two-seat biplane of wooden construction with a plywood covered fuselage, fabric covered wing surfaces and a standard tailplane with a single tailplane and fin. The early models were powered by a Cirrus engine (although the Cirrus engine was reliable, its manufacture was not. It depended on components salvaged from World War I–era 8-cylinder Renault engines and therefore its numbers were limited by the stockpiles of surplus Renaults. In 1928 de Havilland decided to replace the Cirrus with a new engine built by his own factory, the de Havilland Gipsy I engine).

The Ilmavoimat ordered 18 de Havilland Moths from VL in 1928. The first 7 were delivered over Feb-March, 1929 and the second series of 11 aircraft in early 1930. The Moth remained in service as an effective Basic Trainer until 1944. The Ilmavoimat Moths were powered by the new de Havilland Gipsy I engine and cost a relatively modest £650 in spite of the state-of-the-art engine and the effects of inflation.

Standard Ilmavoimat de Havilland Moth Basic Trainer

The De Havilland D.H. 60 Moth at the Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Tikkakoski, Jyväskylä.

VL Sääski II & IIA Trainers – 32 ordered 1929, delivered 1930-31

The VL Sääski was the second series produced aircraft that had been designed in Finland (the first being the Haukka II Fighter). The aircraft was again built by the State Aircraft Factory (Valtion Lentokonetehdas –VL) and was a wooden-sconstruction, two-seat, biplane, single-engined trainer with a fixed undercarriage (wheels, floats or skis). The aircraft was designed by Kurt Berger and Asser Järvinen in 1927 and the prototype was financed personally by a ten person construction team in the A.E. Nyman workshop. The prototype was called Sääski I and was completed in the early spring of 1928. The prototype was bought by the Ilmavoimat on 25 June, 1928, but was destroyed in an accident in 1931. The constructors of the aircraft formed a company called Sääski in 1928, obtained a manufacturing licence from the designers and built four improved Sääski II's for civil use by the State Aircraft Company.

Due to a lack of orders, the company was near bankruptcy when, on 18 Oct. 1929, the Ilmavoimat ordered 10 of the improved-design Sääski II aircraft as Primary Trainers. The Sääski II had a greater wingspan and and larger ailerons than the earlier version and was considered to be safe and reliable. It could also be equipped with floats or skis and the float- version was still able to do aerobatics. The aircraft were quickly constructed and delivered between March and June 1930. On 31 March 1930, another series of 10 aircraft of Sääski IIA with an even wider wingspan was ordered. This series was delivered between November 1930 and March 1931. The 3rd and last series, consisting 12 Sääski IIAs, were ordered on 15 December 1930. They were delivered between March and Uune 1931.

On the outbreak of the Winter War, the Ilmavoimat had 33 Sääski aircraft in service in total. There were a further five Sääski 's in the civil market and on the outbreak of the Winter War, these were requistioned into the Ilmavoimat, giving a total of 38 in service, equipping two squadrons. The aircraft continued to be used primarily as a trainer, but was also pressed into service for aerial photographing, machine gun exercises and as a liaison aircraft for the army.

Powered by a single Siemens-Halske Sh 12 9-cyl. radial engine of 90 kW (120 hp), the Sääski II’s maximum speed was 90mph, range was 3 hours 30 minutes flying and the service ceiling was 14,760 feet.

OTL note: Total production of the aircraft numbered 32 aircraft between 1930 and 1932, with the Ilmavoimat having 33 Sääski aircraft in service in total. There were a further five Sääski 's in the civil market and on the outbreak of the Winter War, these were requistioned into the Air Force, giving a total of 38 in service, equipping two squadrons. The aircraft was primarily used as a trainer, but also for aerial photographing, machine gun exercises and as a liaison aircraft for the army. OTL, delivery timeframes were slightly more spread out than in this ATL, extending out to late 1932.

One Sääski IIA is preserved today and on display at the air museum in Vantaa. Another one, the former coast guard aircraft LK 1 is on display at Maritime Centre Vellamo in Kotka, Finland.

Aero A-31 Army Co-operation and Light Bomber – 16 ordered 1929

The Aero A.32 was a Czechoslovakian-built biplane from the late 1920s used for army co-operation duties including reconnaissance and tactical bombing. While the design took the Aero A.11 as its starting point (and was originally designated A.11J), the aircraft incorporated significant changes to make it suited for its new low-level role. Like the A.11 before it, the A.32 provided Aero with an export customer in the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force), who purchased 16 aircraft in 1929 as the A.321F and A.32GR (these spent most of their service lives as trainers). They were in service until 1944.
Ilmavoimat Aero A-32 at Turkinsaari in the beginning of 1930

With a two-person crew (pilot and observer), a maximum speed of 141mph, a ramge of 262 miles, a service ceiling of 18,000 feet and armed with 2 × forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns and 2 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis machine guns on a flexible mount for the observer, they also carried pp to 12 × 10 kg (22 lb) bombs.

OTL Note: At least one fuselage has survived, preserved at the Finnish Air Force Museum (in storage as of 2003).

Letov S-18 (Smolik) Primary Trainers – 10 ordered 1930, 65 ordered 1931

However, through the 1930’s and the Second World War, the bulk of the Ilmavoimat’s Primary Trainers were the Letov S-18. This was a Czechoslovak single-engined two seat biplane trainer designed by Alois Smolík at the firm of Letov Kbely which first flew in 1925. The Czechoslovakian Air Force used the type from 1925 to 1930 as a beginner trainer aircraft. In 1929, one Š-218 Smolik was shown at the Helsinki International Show. Needing a newer replacement for the Caudron C.60 Trainers (and preferably something cheaper than the de Havilland Moth), the Ilmavoimat assessed the aircraft and purchased it outright in March 1930 in order to further test it. The "Smoliks" proved safe and easy to handle, if rather poorly suited for aerobatics due to their weight and lack of maneuverability but overall the results of the tests were satisfactory, the cost was low and an order for nine further aircraft together with the manufacturing license was soon placed.The nine aircraft ordered from Czechoslovakia arrived at the Kauhava Aviation School in May-June, 1931.

In the meantime, the 1931 Military Review was well underway and a series of decisions on the strength, composition and projected growth of the Ilmavoimat had been made early on. With the planned expansion of the Ilmavoimat, it was decided that substantially increased numbers of Primary Trainers were required for Pilot Training. Almost immediately on plans for Air Force expansion having been formulated by mid-1931, an order was placed with the State Aircraft Factory for a further 65 Smolik Primary Trainers to be delivered over the period 1932-1933. An expansion to VL manufacturing capacity and numbers of employees was planned for and funded was provided in the 1931 defense budget to enable this and other future ilmavoimat orders to be met in the planned timeframe. The aircraft were delivered over 1932 to 1934 and remained in use as basic trainers until 1945, proving to be effective in their role as Primary Trainers and having been used as the Primary Trainer for most of the Ilmavoimat Pilots who fought in the Winter War so effectively.

Ilmavoimat Smolik S-218: The Finnish version, which was equipped with a Bramo radial engine of 145 hp (110 kW) could develop a maximum speed of 155 km/h (83 knots, 96 mph).

OTL Note: A Smolik that was presented at the Helsinki International Air Show in 1929 was accepted for further tests. The Air Force bought it in March, 1930. 9 more were ordered and a manufacturing license was acquired at the time. The 9 aircraft ordered from Czechoslovakia arrived at the Kauhava Aviation School in May-June, 1931. The State Aircraft Factory (VL) manufactured 29 slightly modified aircraft in 3 series. The first 10 were ready in 1933, the second series of 10 aircraft were ready in 1935 and 9 more in 1936. The Smolik remained in active use as a basic trainer until 1945. One aircraft is still preserved at the Finnish Aviation museum in Vantaa and one replica is being built in Finland (as of 2005).
Ilmavoimat Letov S.218 A Smolik (SM-153) Primary Trainer at the Suomen Ilmailumuseo. Helsinki, Finland

Junkers W34 Maritime Aircraft – first ordered 1930

The last aircraft order actually placed by the Ilmavoimat prior to the 1931 Military Review was for the purchase of 10 Junkers W 34’s in 1930 for use as a light transport aircraft. They were manufactured by AB Flygindustri in Sweden (where Junkers produced military versions of its aircraft at the time). They were delivered on 30 Sep, 1930. The Junkers W 34 was a German-built, single-engine, passenger- and transport aircraft. Developed in the 1920s, production began in 1926. The passenger version could take a pilot and five passengers. The military version was a 3-6-seat light-alloy metal structured low-wing maritime, communications, transport and training aircraft. The Junkers W 34 was manufactured in many different versions. The total production numbers for the civil market were around 1,000. A further 2,024 were built under license for the RLM and for the Luftwaffe. The unit price was between RM 65,000 and 70,400. One Junkers W 34 be/b3e managed to break the then current altitude record on May 26, 1929 when it reached 12,739 meters (41,402 feet).

Moving ahead a little, in April 1934, the Ilmavoimat ordered a further six second-hand W34hi’s and an additional five second hand aircraft were purchased in 1936. In 1938, with the threat of war on the horizon, a further twenty were ordered from AB Flygindustri. These were delivered in August 1939, giving the Ilmavoimat two squadrons (41 aircraft in total). They were used as ambulance aircraft and to ferry and support long range reconnaissance patrols and small Sissi (Special Forces) units behind enemy lines. All aircraft were allocated to LLv.16 (Flying Squadron 16) – Air Ambulance or to LLv.15 (Flying Squadron 15) – Sissi (Special Forces) Support.

The Type W 34hi purchased by the Ilmavoimat had an enclosed cockpit and was powered by a single BMW 132 660 hp radial engine. It could be fitted with skis, floats or wheels and had a maximum speed of 165mph, a range of 560 miles, and a service ceiling of 20,670 feet. The aircraft had a crew of up to 3 (Pilot, Co-pilot/Radio-Operator, Observer / machinegunner) and could carry 5-6 passengers or an equivalent weight in cargo. Armament consisted of 1 or 2 x 7.7 mm Lewis or L-33/34 MG (upper fuselage - rear) and 1 –x 7.7 mm Lewis or L-33/34 MG belly hatch (rear).

The rather successful design of the W-34 was based on that of the Junkers F-13 airliner and was suited for a variety or purposes. Within the Ilmavoimat, the aircraft was used primarily as a transport (fitted with floats in summer and skis in winter) but was also used successfully in the training and signals training platform roles. The aircraft’s somewhat limited range restricted it’s usefulness.

Ilmavoimat Junkers W-34

OTL Note: In reality, in 1930 the Ilmavoimat purchased one W 34fa from Junkers in Germany for maritime purposes and ordered an additional six of its military version, the K43fa for light bombers. AB Flygindustri in Sweden manufactured those aircraft. The W 34hi arrived on 30 Sep, 1930 and the six K 43fas on 9 Apr, 1931 by railroad. On 17 Apr, 1944 Finland bought five second hand W 34hi aircraft from Germany (these were overhauled by Czech Flugzeugwerke Letov and flown to Finland from Olmütz (30 Apr) arriving on 18 May.

And here, immediately prior to the 1931 Military Review, is a good point to leave the Ilmavoimat temporarily and go on to take a look at other aspects of the 1920’s that we haven’t yet touched on.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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

Finnish Coastal Defences - Part I

Post by CanKiwi2 » 19 May 2011 21:18

Moving on from the Ilmavoimat, this and the next two or three Posts will focus on the Finnish Coastal Artillery through the 1920's and in to the 1930's. One of the first Posts in this Thread mentioned the purchase of a number of additional naval guns from the French - that purchase and what use is made of the naval guns so acquired as well as some other changes to the Coastal Artillery defences will be covered in the last Post of this series on the Coastal Artillery. In this series of Posts we will also cover the progressive strengthening of the defences over the 1920’s and 1930’s, the defense cooperation with Estonia (with regard to coastal artillery defenses only) and the ongoing problem of the defence of the Åland Archipelago.

Finnish Coastal Defence in the 1920s

In this Post, we will review the origins of the Coastal Artillery defences, and start on the positions themselves together with the artillery allocated.

On independence, Finland had inherited a considerable and effective coastal defence system from Tsarist Russia. This system had been designed and built to block access to the old Russian capital of Saint Petersburg via the sea, a threat which reached back in time to the founding of the city by Peter the Great. Prior to WW1, the most recent manifestation of this threat from the Baltic Sea confronting Russia goes back to the Crimean War in 1854-1855, when a combined British-French fleet entered the Baltic. Although it was too weak to threaten St. Petersburg, it did engage in a series of smaller harassing actions, shelling Sveaborg (Viapori) fortress near Helsinki and the Russian coastal fortresses at Bomarsund on the Aland Islands. In the late 19th century the Russians had already built a series of coastal fortifications along the Finnish coast, stretching from the fortress at Bomarsund on the Aland Islands eastward along the mainland.

The decision to start construction the naval fortress line came after the disastrous events at Tsushima, where the whole of the Russian Baltic Fleet had been annihilated by the Imperial Japanese Navy. The road to Saint Petersburg was left unprotected and open. The quickest and cheapest way of dealing with this problem was to protect Saint Petersburg with a seemingly impenetrable zone of coastal artillery until a new fleet had been constructed. The idea was presented for the first time in 1907. According to the defence plan of that time, the task of the weakned Baltic Fleet was the close-up defence of St. Petersburg from a fortified position. The Kohtlajärvi - Suursaari - Kotka line was chosen as the first such position in the defence plan of 1907-1908. However, this position had several drawbacks. It did not have enough artillery, it was situated in the widest part of the Gulf of Finland (fig. 1), which was hard to defend and it was too close to St. Petersburg. It would also leave the rest of the Gulf of Finland open to the enemy. Because of the drawbacks a suggestion to move the defence line to the narrowest part of the gulf, i.e. the Porkkala - Tallinn (Reval) line, was made for the first time in 1907.

However, it took some further years before anything concrete happened. The plans were studied in several further committees before being endorsed by Tsar Nicholas II in August 1909. However, there was no money available for this plan, and it was not implemented at this time. The defence plans were again referred back to various committees. One of the questions discussed was the numbers and calibres of the guns of the different forts. This plan was called the “Ddefence Plan of 1910”, although the plan was far from completed at that time and the construction of some defenses had begun before that. The Central Defence Line between Reval (Tallinn) and Porkkala was scrutinised again between 1911 and 1912 and finally approved by Tsar Nicholas II on 5th July 1912 with construction beginning soon thereafter. Changes to the plans were made even after that however. While work had first begun under the defence plan of 1910, following the Tsar’s approval of the “final”plan in 1912, this work extended to incorprate an elaborate in-depth naval defensive system focused on the Gulf of Finland. In the following years, work was carried out on an extensive series of naval bases, coast artillery forts and mine barriers on both sides of the Gulf, in southern Finland and along Estonia's northern shores.

The plans for the fortress lines included heavy coastal artillery pieces along the northern and southern shores of the Gulf of Finland, with the emphasis put on the defences of the gulf's narrowest point, between Porkkala (in current day Finland) and Tallinn (in current day Estonia). This was a strategic point, as the two fortresses of Mäkiluoto and Naissaar were only 36 kilometres apart. The coastal artillery had a range of about 25 kilometres and could thus "close" the gap between the shores, trapping enemy ships in an effective crossfire. Furthermore, Tsarist Russia had constructed a major new naval base in Tallinn (Reval) shortly before WW1.

The system consisted of several zones of defence:
1. The innermost zone consisted of the fortresses at Kronstadt, Krasnaya Gorka, Ino and the land and coastal fortresses near Vyborg. The latter were to prevent that the enemy bypassing the Kronstadt line by landing near the Bay of Vyborg.
2. The Rear Defence Line Kohtlajärvi - Suursaari – Kotka was between Kotka and Narva, along the islands that lay between these two points.
3. The Central Defence Line was between Tallinn (Reval) and Porkkala.
4. The Forward Defence Line Hangö – Dagö was between Hiiumaa and the Hanko Peninsula.
5. The Far Forward Defences between Aland and Dagö.

Each line was guarded by a combination of coastal artillery batteries, minefields and mobile surface and submarine units from the Baltic Fleet. The entire system was under command of Admiral Nikolai von Essen, Commander-in - Chief of the Baltic Fleet (Baltiskij Flot) of the Russian Imperial Fleet (Rossiskij Imperatorskij Flot). The mining was extensive. During WW1 approximately 35 000 mines were laid by the Russians in these defensive positions, and 3,500 in the western Baltic. In the Gulf of Finland, most of the sea-mines were laid along the Central Defence Line, Reval - Porkkala. By 1918, a total of 10,000 mines had been laid there. The Rear Defence Line received about 5,000 mines and the Forward Defence Line about 7,000. The minefields were, in turn, protected by mobile forces of the Baltic Fleet. The headquarters and main base were under construction, but as this was not completed during WW1, the bulk of the warships operated from Helsinki.
Admiral Nikolai von Essen, Commander-in-Chief (1909-1915)of the Baltic Fleet of the Imperial Russian Navy. He was widely regarded as the most able of Russian admirals in WWI. Essen urged far-reaching reforms and moderization of the Russian Navy. He recognized early the importance of submarines and aircraft, and sought to promote younger officers based on their knowledge of modern strategy and tactics, also establishing a naval training academy at Kronstadt. Above all, he pushed for operational autonomy of the Baltic Fleet. On 9 August 1914 Essen led part of his fleet towards Gotland to contain the Swedish navy and deliver a note of his own making which would have violated Swedish neutrality and may have brought Sweden into the war. He was ordered back before his plan could be executed. Essen died unexpectedly after a short bout with pneumonia in May 1915.

Russian warships overwintering in Helsinki during the first world war.

At the outset of the war, the far Forward Defence Line was patrolled by four cruisers of the Cruiser Brigade. Behind them, covering the Forward Defence Line and ready to sally forth in support if necessary, was the patrol area of the 60 destroyers, divided into two Flotillas based at Hanko and the Estonian islands. The submarine brigade, operating eight submarines, was divided into two divisions, based at Reval and in the archipelago off Turku respectively. Finally, an offensive naval base was under construction at Libau, but had to be abandoned as it was too expensive. Further, Helsinki and Tallinn were ringed with defensive lines on land, consisting of hundreds of kilometers of railways, bunkers connected with tunnel systems and artillery firing positions. The fortification around Helsinki, Krepost Sveaborg, was centered on the old fortress of Suomenlinna. The construction of the defensive system was slowed down due to the outbreak of WWI.

The General Principles of the Russian Fortifications in Finland

In the early 20th century and during WWI the Russians placed the guns about 20-30m apart in each battery. The gun emplacements were made of concrete and sometimes even reinforced concrete was used. The magazines were made of concrete. Almost all ceilings were covered with iron beams or similar (see later Mäkiluoto). Only in some of the casemates was a rubber-asphalt mix used between the beams and the concrete. If asphalt was not used the roofs usually leaked. Almost no attention was paid to snow, and the entrances to the casemates were normally rather big and were blocked by snow in winter. The casemates were normally drained, but the outlets were often clogged, especially in autumn. There was normally no proper ventilation in the magazines, only small ventholes. Thus the casemates were rather damp almost all the year and no heaters were used. The shells and charges were brought to the guns by hand-operated hoists.

The guns were exposed in open positions. The casemates and magazines provided a low protection from the front, but were too far from the guns and there was no protection from the rear. The command posts were generally strong, low concrete towers. There was no integrated measuring network, but each battery had its own fire command posts. The searchlight shelters were made of concrete. The searchlights were elevated by an electric motor and were often placed on a railroad wagon. Some searchlights had a rock shelter.

An example of a Coastal Artillery Battery

An Example of a Fort - Mäkiluoto

Fort Mäkiluoto (Makilo / MacElliot) was a typical coastal artillery fortress of the early 20th century, although the deployment of the guns differed from the pattern normally used and the fortifications were better made than normally. Mäkiluoto will be used as an example to describe the building of the defences. The reason for choosing this fort is that it was perhaps the most important of the forts of that time. In September 1913 Sergeij von Langskoj was chosen to manage the construction work at Mäkiluoto. He did not get detailed plans of the fort, but had to prepare the final plans after the preliminary work had already begun. The plans were endorsed by various authorities in St. Petersburg where they had been finalised by the summer of 1914. The fort was to have four 8 inch guns in two turrets and six 14 inch guns in three turrets. The 14 inch and 8 inch guns had been ordered from different factories in Russia. None of the guns were on site when work was begun.

The sizes and shapes of the different casemates and bunkers were easy to resolve because there were standard drawings available from earlier projects or the vendors of the guns, power plants and other equipment. The hardest decisions were those concerning the deployment of the batteries and their casemates. Finally it was decided not to place the guns in a "normal" battery, i.e. in a row close to each other (20-30 m apart), but in separate two-gun turrets on different horizontal levels. This enabled a 360 degree azimuth for most of the guns. In addition it was decided to join all casemates and bunkers with covered passages. The searchlights were to be remotely controlled from the fire control station.

One of the hardest problems to solve was how to join the concrete with the bedrock of the island. It was known that a thin layer of concrete would firmly attach to the rock, but not a thick layer of a casemate. In this case the different expansion coefficient of the rock and the concrete would cause problems i.e. cracks in the concrete. To overcome this it was decided to make the outer parts, which were exposed to weather changes, detached from the bedrock. This was achieved by using different layers of concrete and clay on which the outer parts of the casemate could slide in case of expansion. A passage was also made in the wall to encircle the whole casemate. This passage would also help to keep the walls dry. The principles mentioned above could not be applied to all the lower rooms in the casemates. That is why it was decided to apply a 6 inch layer of rubber-like asphalt between the walls and the rock as well as below the floor of these rooms. Unfortunately, there was not enough of this asphalt available because of the war, and as a result water later penetrated some of the walls causing much damage. All ceilings were covered with an "iron-cover", i.e. using I or U-shaped iron beams. On top of the beams was a 6 inch layer of rubber-asphalt. This arrangement prevented concrete fragments falling from the ceilings during an enemy bombardment. To prevent water from condensing inside the casemates they were equipped with a central heating system. This had to be used in the summer to keep the temperature inside the casemates on the level of the outside temperature to prevent the condensation.

Some details of the construction work itself are known. Rather weak concrete was used for the inner parts of the casemate walls. The vaults and the outer parts of the walls were made of strong concrete. Only slow-drying concrete was used. Not very much water was used for the concrete. It was laid 20 cm at a time and manually stamped hard by using groups of men (soldiers) to walk over it at least fourteen times. Mechanical devices could not be used because they would make the lower layers too dry and prevent them from hardening. It was imperative that the concrete factory produced as much concrete as needed to avoid any interruption in the work. When the walls were ready and almost dry the uppermost layer was coverd with cement plaster. When this was dry and the I- and U-shaped beams had been attached and the rubber-asphalt applied, the vaults were filled with concrete as was done with the walls. In order to prevent cracks in the concrete, artificial "cracks", i.e. gaps between thick layers were made. The surfaces of the gaps were plastered with cement and then covered with a thin layer of clay. To prevent water from intruding into these gaps the top of the gap was shaped.

When the revolution broke out in Russia, work was more or less stopped at Mäkiluoto. The fire command post had only been planned. It would have been very interesting as all guns were to be laid and fired from it. The theoretical rate of fire of the 8" guns would have been 10 shots/minute and the 14" guns four shots/minute. In addition to the work completed, an additional casemate for the fort crew, a concrete shelter for armoured cars and a road around the island had been planned. Finally trees and bushes would have been planted to camouflage all the defences. Only about half of the work planned had been completed at this time and even before the work was started, the location of the 14 inch guns was criticised. Mäkiluoto was considered too small for such guns and another larger island was suggested for them, but because the Tsar had approved the plans no changes could be made.

The naval fortresses were only partly finished when both Finland and Estonia declared their independence, following the Russian October revolution. The German Navy performed one major landing operation on the shores of the Gulf of Finland during World War I. In April 1918, following a request from the Vaasa Senate in Finland, the German Ostsee Division, commanded by Rüdiger von der Goltz, landed in Hanko, joined the Finnish Whites in the fight against the Reds and captured Helsinki. The heaviest batteries were supposed to consist of 356 mm/52 m 1913 guns. However, at the time of the Russian revolution of 1917, these were still under construction and were not finished.

The Coastal Fortifications after 1918

Following independence, the coastal defence positions falling within Finland’s borders became a critical component of the defences of the new nation (and many of these positions remain so today, incidentally). The Coastal Artillery became a component branch of the Finnish Military, falling under the aegis of the Merivoimat (Navy). At first Russian fortification principles continued to be used, because most of the Finnish Coastal Artillery officers had been trained in Russia. Positions were in many cases strengthened, new positions were built, artillery was added or relocated and a new defense line was built along the northern shores and islands of Lake Laatoka (Ladoga), with new batteries with two guns being built. The guns were still only 20-30 metres apart. The gun positions and casemates were made of concrete, often of a poor quality. The gun positions were open with no cover at the rear. The magazines were built some tens of metres behind the batteries. The casemates were often not as thick as those built by the Russians. Normally no shell hoists were used. The fire control posts were built as in the Russian time at the ends of the casemates. Normally the coastal defences built in the 1920s had to be partly reconstructed in the 1930s or later.

In the 1930s a new generation of officers were in charge, and their way of thinking was different from that of the old generation. The guns were not emplaced close to each other, but several hundred metres apart. The guns were often modernised to give them a full 360 degree azimuth. Some of the gun positions were installed in the old Russian fortifications, some were rebuilt. Because the guns were improved to give a much longer range than during the Russian times, the old fire control posts were not high enough. A network of new, higher fire command posts was built. In addition, over the 1930’s, defensive ties with Estonia were renewed and strengthened with a considerable emphasis placed on tieing together the Coastal Artillery defences of the two nations, but now with an emphasis on bottling up the Soviet Baltic Fleet in Krondstadt rather than on protecting it.

Thus by the Second World War the former Russian coastal artillery had been extensively modernised. However, the old fortifications were almost all used as such either in their original function or slightly rebuilt. Overall, the Russian-made fortifications proved to be well made. Without the Russian "heritage" a small country like Finland would never have had the necessary resources to develop such a strong coastal defence network. In addition, it also made Finland use "traditional" coastal defence, i.e. based on guns and not missiles, longer than most countries in the world and even today most of the Russian-built coastal defences are still ine use by the Coastal Artillery.

Maps showing the Coastal Artillery Defence positions as of Nov 1917.

The following are a series of Maps showing the Tsarist Russian Coastal Artillery Defence positions located in Estonia and Finland and around St Petersburg as of Nov 1917. It was these positions that formed the basis for the Finnish and Estonian Coastal Defences of 1939.
Map: Russian coastal fortresses in the Gulf of Finland and northern Baltic 1917. Note: At this time Finland and Estonia were still part of Russia. Dots are batteries and arches are approximate firing sectors. (Some battery firing sectors and ranges are unknown, there sectors are drawn based on rough estimates). Range of small caliber cannon and anti-aircraft guns are excluding the map.

Åland Archipelago Positions

Fortresses from Hanko to Helsinki

The Estonian Archipelago Positions

Positions in the Inner Gulf of Finland

The Fortesses of Viipuri and Krondstadt

The Sea Fortresses of Krepost Sveaborg (guarding Helsinki)

The Land Defences of Krepost Sveaborg (guarding Helsinki)

And n the 1920’s, Finland made a major effort to build sea defences along the coast and islands of Lake Laatokka

Krepost Sveaborg - The Land and Sea Fortress of Helsinki During WWI

In this section, we will take a detailed look at Krepost Sveaborg (the Fortress of Sveaborg). The fortress covered the area of present day Helsinki and part of the cities of Espoo and Vantaa. Today the name Sveaborg or Suomenlinna means only six small islands outside Helsinki harbor. The building site of Krepost Sveaborg during WWI was one of the biggest construction sites ever in Finland. The building of the fortifications was supervised by Russian engineering officers. Most of the workers were Finnish wage workers, but there were not enough local workers for the building sites after the war industries started gearing up for war production. More employees from the Finnish countrysidewere coerced into working on the site. Prisoners were also used as lumberjacks and for other manual labor. It is impossible to say with any exactitude the total number of fortification workers in the Helsinki area, but one calculation is that 15,000 workers were used.

The fortification work slowed after the revolution in Russia in March 1917. Finland declared independence 6 December 1917 but work on the mainland front defenses continued until early 1918. After the Civil War broke out in Finland, the Helsinki fortifications were controlled by the Finnish Red Guard. German troops supported the Finnish White Army and landed in Hanko in April 1918. When the German troops attacked towards Helsinki, the Red Guard manned the western land fortifications of the fortress. There was some fighting, but soon German troops together with White Army soldiers captured Helsinki. Most of the Russian forces had left the city earlier (Russia had made separate peace with the Central Powers in March 1918). After the Civil War, the sea front batteries with all other accessories like search lights etc. were transferred to the control of the Finnish Coastal Artillery. While the fortified islands kept their strategic importance, the landward fortifications lost their significance and the landward facing artillery was transferred to the Finnish Army. Some of the landward facing fortifications where sold where possible as scrap. Many parts of the fortress have disappeared under the new suburban areas and roads. Despite that, everywhere in the Helsinki district can still be found trenches, shelters and fire positions.

As we have seen, numerous coastal defense positons were contstructed along the Gulf of Finland. The importance of Helsinki however was it’s use, along with Tallinn (Reval) as a forward naval base. With the growing strength of the German and Swedish Fleets in the Baltic, and the loss of the Imperial Russian Baltic Fleet to the Japanese Navy at Tsushima in 1905, the fortifications of Helsinki (and Tallinn) were a key component in the defensive system for Saint Petersburg (then the capital city of Russia). (The Finnish city of Viipuri was also protected with mainland fortifications).

Fortresses around Helsinki

In the middle 1700's, when Finland was part of Sweden, the fortress of Sveaborg was built on the six small islands outside of Helsinki by the Swedish Army to protect the important naval base. Sveaborg surrendered to the Russians in 1808 and Finland was occupied by Russia in 1809. During the following decades the fortress was developed into a modern naval fortress. The fortress expanded from the main islands of Sveaborg to include several further islands of the Helsinki district. On the outbreak of WWI in 1914 Sveaborg still defended the naval port of Helsinki but the defences were incomplete and there was an urgent need to finish the fortification work that had been started on the islands. There were also some new battery building sites. New concrete batteries were finished rapidly and recieved the proper armaments. The building of field fortifications was started on the hills around the city. The fortification line’s distamnce from the naval port was approximately 7 kilometers but this was found to be too short distance. There was a fear that an enemy army could fire on the harbor in a siege as had happened in Port Arthur ten years earlier in the war with Japan.

The naval port area is located north from the main islands of Sveaborg (below). The main naval base is in the end of the cape (upper left corner). (Russian topographic map from 1911).

At the end of the first year of war, the Gulf of Finland was so strongly fortified and mined that it was improbable that the Germans could have landed near St Petersburg. It was however anticipated that German forces could land from the Gulf of Bothnia on the west coast of Finland. As a result, fortifications were built on the main traffic junctions of southern Finland facing west. The idea was that a defending army could slowly withdraw to south-east Finland while fighting a delaying action and wait for help from Russia. In this kind of situation it would be very important to keep Helsinki in the defenders possession.

The field fortifications in Finland at the end of 1917: Note that these are west-facing – after Independence, these fortification lines all faced in the wrong direction and were of no use as defensive positions against the new threat – Soviet Russia.

As a result of the fears for Helsinki, the land defences were enlarged. The new fortification line was 10 kilometers distant from the main islands of Sveaborg and the harbor. Also a third fortification line on the north and east side of the city was built during the war. The pace of work on the fortifications slowed after the Russian revolution of March 1917, however work continued even after the Finnish declaration of independence on 6th December 1917 and was ongoing evn in early 1918.

Krepost Sveaborg - the sea and land Fortress of Helsinki during WWI. Main roads and railroads are marked. The Naval port is marked by an anchor.

Landward Defensive Lines

Frontlines of different periods. Red lines - old roads, dash lines – railroads

Field Fortification Installations

The first fortifications around Helsinki were temporary field fortifications. Banks were built on the higher hills using sand, stones and soil and small pits were dug into the banks for machine guns. Artillery batteries were temporary field batteries. Therefore there are no battery positions left from that fortification period. Twenty batteries were planned to be built around the city. The strongest guns were planned to be the 229mm (9") artillery type mortars. After the strategic importance of Helsinki was increased the Russians decided to abandon the line on which work was started in 1914. It is unclear how many of the planned batteries were built.

Permanent Fortifications

Atthe beginning of 1915 the Russians decided to build the fortifications further from the city. It was also realized at this time that the fortifications should be stronger and made for permanent use. Wood and stone blocks were the most important building materials before concrete began to be widely used. Towards the end of 1915 there was a decision to build a third defense line on the northern and eastern side of the fortress. Building of that line was started at the beginning of 1916.
A trench is reinforced using stone wall.

A concrete defensive position at Paloheinä

The positions were completed gradually. Plans and methods of constructions continually evolved developed during the war. The philosophy of fortification constructions is that the work never ends and defense lines can be continually strengtheed. During the war, more attention was paid to building stronger firing positions and shelters and the last positions built towards the end of the war were strong systems with several meter thick concrete roofs. When the Russian revolution of 1917 slowed work on the fortress there were only a few unfinished positions. By this time the landward line was divided into three sectors: the eastern, northern and western fronts, with 36 key forts. There were approximately 55 batteries (the exact number cannot be determined) with about 200 artillery pieces.

Sea Island Fortifications

When WWI broke out in August 1914, most of the sea front batteries dated from the end of the 19th century. The sea front started from the island of Melkki and continued through the old Sveaborg (Viapori) to Santahamina. Batteries had been constructed using stones, bricks, soil and sand. The first concrete batteries dated from the beginning of the 20th century. The guns were old, from the 1870's. There were less than a dozen modern 152 mm (6") Canet cannons and 57mm (6 pounder) rapid fire cannon.
The 152 mm (6") 190 puds coastal artillery gun was the most common artillery piece in the fortress of Helsinki. During WWI most of these guns were moved from the sea front to the land front. The picture is from the Sveaborg Fortress Museum on the island of Kustaanmiekka.)

Work on the building of new batteries started a couple of weeks before WWI broke out. New batteries were located on the outer islands of Pyöräsaari, Miessaari, Rysäkari, Katajaluoto, Harmaja, Kuivasaari, Isosaari, Itä-Villinki and the cape of Skatanniemi. The older 19th century batteries belonged to the inner sea front. Some islands also had rapid fire guns and anti-aircraft guns of the 57mm and 75 mm calibre. Older guns were moved to the land front after new guns arrived for the sea front batteries. Most of the Russian troops left the islands in 1918. The Sea Front batteries with all equipment were transferred to the Finnish Coastal Artillery. The fortified islands have retained their strategic importance almost to the present and most of the islands are still military areas. However a few batteries are in public areas - the older batteries on the island of Harakka and in the Sveaborg-Suomenlinna museum area and some newer concrete batteries on Skatanniemi and Pihlajasaari.

Sea Front islands during WWI. The main fairways are marked, as are the Artillery Batteries.

Armament of the Sea Front Batteries - Outer Line Island Batteries

Pyöräsaari - 2 batteries – 2 x 57/48 Nordenfelt 6 pounder quick fire coast defense gun.
Miessaari – 4 x 152 mm (6") Canet 45 caliber coastal guns. Also land front battery number 115 with 6 x 152 mm (6") 22 caliber guns model 1877 (barrel weight 190 puds) on the Durlacher coastal carriage.
Rysäkari – 4 x 254 mm (10") Durlacher 45 caliber coastal guns.
Katajaluoto – 4 x 254 mm (10") Durlacher 45 caliber coastal guns.
Harmaja - 4 x 152 mm (6") Canet 45 caliber coastal guns.
Kuivasaari - 4 x 254 mm (10") Durlacher 45 caliber coastal guns and 4 x 75 mm anti-aircraft guns
Isosaari – 2 batteries: One of 4 x 254 mm (10") Durlacher 45 caliber coastal guns and one of 4 x 152 mm (6") Canet 45 caliber coastal guns.
Itä-Villinki - 4 x 254 mm (10") Durlacher 45 caliber coastal guns and 4 x 57mm (6 pounder) quick fire Nordenfelt coast defense guns.
Vuosaari, Skatanniemi (unfinished) - 4 x 152 mm (6") Canet 45 caliber coastal guns

Armament of the Sea Front Batteries - Inner Line Island Batteries

There were changes in the armament of the inner line batteries between 1914-1917. Some batteries were disarmed and the guns moved to the land front.
Melkki (later moved to Itäinen Pihlajasaari) – 4 x 75 mm anti-aircraft guns
Itäinen Pihlajasaari – 4 x 75 mm anti-aircraft guns
Harakka – 4 x 152 mm (6") Durlacher 22 caliber gun, model 1877 (barrel weight 190 puds) and 4 x 57mm (6 pounder) quick fire Nordenfelt coast defense guns.
Länsi-Mustasaari – 4 x 280 mm (11") coastal guns (model 1867 or 1877), 4 x 152 mm (6") Durlacher 22 caliber gun, model 1877 (barrel weight 190 puds) and 4 x 57mm (6 pounder) quick fire Nordenfelt coast defense guns.
Kustaanmiekka – 3 x 280 mm (11") coastal guns (model 1867 or 1877) and 4 x 57mm (6 pounder) quick fire Nordenfelt coast defense guns.
Vallisaari - 4 x 280 mm (11") coastal guns (model 1867 or 1877) and 4 x 57mm (6 pounder) quick fire Nordenfelt coast defense guns.
Kuninkaansaari 4 x 280 mm (11") coastal mortars, model 1877.
Santahamina – 2 Batteries, each of 4 x 152 mm (6") Durlacher 22 caliber gun, model 1877 (barrel weight 190 puds).
Vasikkasaari - 75 mm anti aircraft battery

To be continued in Part II............
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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

And just for fun .... how does this approach to the war grab

Post by CanKiwi2 » 19 May 2011 21:43

I'm planning on going from "historical background" to "action" when the war starts. How does this grab you for style and approach. And would you prefer this or "history" or a combination of both?

30 November 1939 – The Finnish border with the USSR, Karelian Isthmus

The bunker was cold. Not as bitterly cold as it was out in the open. But minus forty was minus forty, even when you were dug deep into the ground in a bunker lined and roofed with six feet of logs, granite rocks and sandbags and on top of that a few more feet of well-packed earth in front and on top. Alikersantii (Corporal) Martti Oksanen peered out through one of the firing slits across the snow-covered fields that sloped gently down to the narrow ice-covered river that, here, was the border with the USSR. It was his turn on watch, along with one of the two Sotamies (Privates) who’d recently passed Selection and who were now part of his four-man fire-team. Young Marko Lindberg was watching out of another slit, his eyes scanning the border slowly and methodically. Martti glanced at him and nodded slightly in approval, Marko was a young guy who took his duties seriously. Here on the border, if he hadn’t, Martti would have had his ass out of the team so fast he wouldn’t have had time to fart.

The Border Guards were an elite unit, you had to be good to pass the selection course, which you could only do once you’d gone through Basic and Advanced Training with flying colours, and that meant that very few of those who made it this far in were a problem. And here and now, they were the first line of defence against the attack from the USSR that they had been warned was almost certainly coming. Martti felt a glow of pride in that, as well as a certain amount of trepidation. The rest of the Army had been slowly mobilised over Autumn and were busy training and preparing additional defences, as was half the population of Finland for that matter, but they were doing that behind the screening force of the Border Guards. Martti was proud of his Regiment and his Battalion, but even with the reinforced Mortar and Anti-tank Platoons and the additional Artillery Batteries attached to the Regimental HQ and the additional automatic weapons and the newly issued grenade launchers they’d been issued, he knew they were going to be outnumbered and outgunned right from the start if the neighbours decided to attack Finland. And Martti was right at the front of the frontline if that happened. Which when he thought about it seriously, made his guts churn!

They’d been here eight days now, taking turns standing guard overnight, as they had every night. Turn and turn about, two on, two off. There’d been no movement, no sound from the other side of the border for the entire time. Another couple of days and they’d rotate back to the rear for a break. That was something to look forward to. Fresh food, a few drinks, a sauna. Although it was kind of relaxing out here with no officers or sergeants around to hassle you through the day, when no movement of any sort was allowed outside the bunkers Behind Martti, from one of the bunks at the back of the bunker, Korpraali (Lance Corporal) Juha Virtanen snorted. “Take it easy Martti, aika hiljasta... (it ain’t gonna happen), the neighbors are just making noises like they’ve been doing for the last year.” Martti shrugged. “The Vänrikki (Second Lieutenant) told us yesterday that the High Command expected the neigbours to attack any time now. I’d rather not get my ass shot off coz I’m not looking.” Juha snorted again. “You’re a real Ilopilleri (pill of joy), you are. Ah well, another couple of days and I can get back to the rear and sweet talk that pretty blonde Lotta at the Field Kitchen into a walk in the woods.” From the other bunk, the other young Sotamie, Oskar Lehtinen, laughed. “The Sotanorsu, you mean, she’s got it hot for you Korpraali.” They all laughed at that. Even Juha chuckled.

The “War Elephant” was blonde alright, but she was, to put it mildly, “large boned.” About four times the size of Ilsa, the young blonde Lotta they all knew Juha really had the hots for. And about twice the age. She was also in command of the Field Kitchen attached to the Company HQ and she protected her girls from the Company troopies with all the fierceness of a real War Elephant. She was, in point of fact, a woman to be terrified of. Particularly as her personal side arm of choice was a sawn off Lahti-Saloranta 7.62 (the weapon more commonly known to the troopies as “the bitch” after that particular field modification). She’d picked “the bitch” up somewhere in an entirely unregulation fashion and she handled it like an expert. She could even shoot the bitch one-handed on semi-automatic. And hit the target. She’d been known to use the butt on more recalitrant troopies rather than calling for one of the Company NCO’s or Officers.

A movement on the edge of the woods across the river, on the Russian side of the border, caught Martti’s eye. He peered in the direction where he’d seen something move, then watched for a long moment of stunned disbelief as a line of brown-clad Russian infantry slowly emerged from the woods and plodded down through the snow-clad fields towards the small river that marked the border. They didn’t stop at the river either. They moved out onto the snow-covered ice in lines that stretched as far as he could see in either direction along the border, plodding slowly through the soft white knee deep snow in a formation that looked like it was out of a First World War photograph. Their brown uniforms stood out clearly against the pristine white of the snow. Another line followed them. And then another, each stretching across his entire field of vision. “Perkele!” he screamed after what seemed to be an eternity of frozen surprise but was in reality only a second or so. “Sillon liikkuu!!! (move move move). They’re coming. It’s for fucking real.” Already, the first line of Russian soldiers were over the small river and climbing up the near bank, onto Finnish soil, then moving slowly into the open fields towards the hidden Finnish bunkers dug in just below the ridgeline that were the forward line of the Finnish defence.

He remembered what the Vänrikki had said last night when he did his rounds of the Platoon. “The Marski expects the Red Army to attack soon, maybe tomorrow, maybe the next couple of days. When they do, remember your orders, as soon as they cross the border, call the Command Post and start shooting. Don’t wait for orders. As soon as they cross the border, they’re our’s to play with. Hold them as long as you can, then fall back to the next position. No heroics, no holding to the last man, remember what the Marski told us all back in October.” Martti remembered alright. It had been his first meeting with the Marski. Well, him and the rest of the Battalion. The Marski, Marshal Mannerheim, Finland’s overall military commander, had come, inspected them, made a short speech, then left. Martti still remembered that, the tall imposing figure, the sheer presence of the man as he inspected them. And his inspection hadn’t been cursory either. He’d checked every single man in the Battalion over, all 1,500 of them, pausing here and there, asking the occassional question. He’d inspected Martti’s rifle himself, actually stripped it down and then reassembled it, nodded and said “Good work soldier,” before moving on. Then he had given a short speech, the only part of it Martti really remembered apart from the Marski’s Finnish being heavily accented was the end, where he’d said “No soldier ever won a war by dying for his country, he won it by making the other bastard die for his…. Remember that men, if it comes to war, shoot straight, keep your heads down, fall back when you need to but don’t run away, just fall back like you’ve been training, use your initiative and if you get killed you’ll be put On Charge.”

They’d all talked about that afterwards. One of the older guys in Martti’s Platoon, a reservist in his early 40’s, an old and honest to God Red who always said he’d fought in the Civil War as a Red Guard, had grinned. The rest of them waited expectantly for him to criticise the Marski, he was well known for his Communist views and his dislike for the Capitalist Oppressors of the Working Class. All he’d said, slowly and thoughtfully, was, “Well, if it’s got to be war against the neighbours, all I can say is, I’m bloody glad we’ve got the Old Butcher in charge.” The rest of them had nodded agreement. Martti included, even though he didn’t like to hear The Marski called “the Old Butcher.” For that matter, Martti had no intention of dieing heroically despite the old songs he sang as enthusiastically as anyone after a few beers. And every intention of shooting as many of the neighbours as he possibly could if they did come across the border.

He knew he was a good shot, he’d qualified Sniper a couple of months earlier, which was one of the reasons he was here, in the Border Guards and right on the frontline. Facing the fucking Russians. Who were now level with the first markers on the Finnish side of the border. He looked sideways at Juha, who was up at the other firing slit peering out after having pushed Marko out of the way. Juja looked at him with equally disbeleiving eyes. “Paska (Shit!), what the fuck do they think they’re doing?” Juha asked. “No artillery, nothing, do they think we’re just going to lie down and give up?” Martti shrugged. “Beats me,” he said, “but…” He paused and peered out again. “They’ve crossed the border well and truly.” He grinned. More of a snarl than a grin, really. “Bastards, I never really thought they’d do it.” He looked over his shoulder at Oskar, who was already on the Field Telephone at the back of the bunker and speaking rapidly into the mouthpiece. “Tell them there’s thousands of the bastards over the border already. They’re at the first marker, remember to tell the Captain that too.” Oskar looked across at him, nodded and kept talking. Good boy, that young Oskar, he thought. He looked at Juha and swallowed nervously. “Well then, let’s start.” For all his bravado, he’d never actually shot someone before. It wasn’t a good feeling.

Juha grinned back as a Sampo machine gun began firing quick short bursts from off to their left. Brown-clad figures began toppling into the white snow from the very first burst. “Tiny’s first.” He turned to Marko, who’d been watching and listening. “Marko, keep your head well down and just feed me, OK. If I get hit, you take over the gun.” Marko nodded jerkily. He was already in position to feed the gun as Juha leaned into the butt of the Lahti-designed 7.62mm "Sampo" squad machinegun, settled down and immediately began firing short aimed bursts. With its wickedly high rate of fire, the Sampo had a vicious staccato snarl that was unmistakable once heard. Martti in turn settled down with his scoped Lahti-Saloranta 7.62 SLR, selected his first target and began firing single shots from the magazine-fed self-loadng rifle in a steady rythym.

If he’d thought about it at all at that moment, he would have blessed Finland’s Antti Lahti for designing both the first effective self-loading rifle in wide-spread military use in the world as well as the best light squad machine gun in the world. And the Marski for driving through the rifle’s manufacture and issue as a replacement for a lot of the old bolt-action Moisin-Nagant rifle used by the Finnish Army’s front-line infantry units faster than anyone in the Army had thought was possible. Although some of the older guys still preferred the old Mosin-Nagant, they used the same round so it didn’t really matter who had what. And there weren’t enough of the new Lahti-Saloranta 7.62 SLR’s for everyone to have one so nobody bitched when someone wanted to keep their old Mosin-Nagant. As it was, he didn’t think about it, he just breathed slowly in and out to calm himself, consciously worked against the tunnel vision that was setting in, then, quite calmly, telling himself they were just targets to hit, he focused, aimed and shot, aimed and shot, aimed and shot. One aimed shot every five seconds, 10 to 12 rounds a minute, slow and steady, just like on the range. With the scope, even at maximum range, he was hitting his targets nine times out of ten and with a pile of 20 round magazines sitting in a recess in the bunker wall next to him, he could change magazines in a couple of seconds. He quickly settled into a steady rythym and once he did, it was just like on the range except these targets wer easier to hit than the goddamn opoups he’d trained on. All along the breadth of the Company front, Sampo machine-guns, Lahti-Saloranta 7.62 SLR’s and Mosin-Nagant rifles were now firing. Soon enough, as the Russian infantry came closer, the thumping sounds of the recently issued shotgun-like single-shot grenade launchers (another new weapon, courtesy of Antti Lahti) that gave the “Rumpali” (Thumper) its nickname began kicking in as well. The Russians were going down in droves now, brown-clad bodies littering the white snow in small heaps scattered almost at random.

Martti knew the figures, they’d been drummed into them and they’d all seen it on the live-firing ranges with the mechanically-controlled targets. With 100 odd men in the firing line, the Infantry Company to which he belonged could put down around 1,000 aimed rounds a minute. And his company was well trained. All of them were proficient marksmen, many, such as Juha and himself, had been through Sniper School and were qualified Snipers. And then there were the Sampo machineguns and the Rumpalis, the new hand-held mini-mortar grenade launchers. “Best weapon of its type in the world, Only Weapon of its type in the world for that matter,” his instructors on the use of the Rumpali had told him, “light artillery for us grunts that we can carry”. Juha believed it. And lastly, they had the Suomi submachineguns, one or two in every bunker, fully automatic and ideal for using if the Russians got up on the wire close the the bunkers. And an absolute shit-load of ammo.

Martti had originally trained with the old bolt-action Mosin-Nagant rifle. His new LS-7.62 SLR with its optical sniper scope had the old Moisin-Nagant beat to shit. And with the 20 round mag, he could pump out the rounds as fast as he could aim and fire. Then again, he thought as he continued looking through his scope, there were thousands of the fucking neighbours out there. He wondered when the Mortars and Artillery would kick in. Within 60 seconds had been the objective in their exercises over early autumn. And they’d always been faster. They were this time too. Forty Five seconds after he’d started shooting, mortar rounds began falling onto the fields within his view. Actually, not really falling, more like raining, he thought with a slightly detached clarity that surprised him. Salvoes of them, each mortar bomb swathing down a circle of Russians. He’d trained on the mortars, most of them had, they all knew what they could do. The crews were firing steadily, 8 bombs a minute per barrel, and the Battalion had a whole Mortar Company allocated, and an over strength Mortar Company at that. But none of them had ever seen the whole Mortar Company firing together. They cut the Russians down in droves.

“Pick of the ones in front,” he screamed over the now deafening noise. Juha nodded without ceasing firing. Young Oskar glanced sideways at him and nodded. He’d moved up to the third firing slit, unnoticed by Martti, and was shooting with his Lahti-Saloranta 7.62, single shots, well spaced out, aimed. Good boy, Martti thought again, picking off another Russian and then, as his rifle clicked rather than fired, doing a quick mag change, cock, aim and fire again. And again. Despite the bullets and the mortars that cut them down in swathes and droves, the Russian soldiers just kept on coming. As fast as they could shoot, new lines emerged from the woods and plodded forward like automatons through the snow, across the river-ice which the mortars were now sweeping almost clean as fast as the Russians could make it onto the smooth surface. Enough made it past the mortars that Martti and Juha and the rest of the Company were kept busy picking them off. None of them had yet made it to the first lines of wire behind which were the minefields that protected the line of almost invisible bunkers and trenches that were the forward defense position.

In the back of his mind, Martti was noting that the bunker didn’t seem to be taking any hits. The Russians seemed to be shooting back here and there but he never did see any of them aiming towards their bunker. And there was none of the Russian Artillery that they’d been told to expect. For which, Praise the Lord, he was truly thankful. He’d seen the demos back at training, their log, sandbag, rock and earth bunkers could take even a direct artillery hit and most likely survive. But that didn’t make the thought of having Artillery land on you any more attractive. He did know their bunkers were pretty much invisible. They’d been built back in the mid 1930’s, some of the first to be constructed along the border, and the grass, shrubs and trees had long grown over them, the firing slits were tiny. He’d been down to the river, looked back, hadn’t been able to spot them himself and he had known where they were. But there was still an element of trust involved.

It didn’t stop him from keeping on shooting though. There was no end to the waves of Russians coming out of the trees and Martti was getting pissed at their stupidity. He changed mags yet again. Now some Russians were actually reaching the wire here and there, struggling to cut it, but none of them were making it any further than that. Yet. Over the barking rifles and the staccato snarl of the Sampo, deafening in the confined space of the bunker, he heard a shrieking wail. “Artillery,” he screamed. Not that any of them missed the sound. They all cringed and braced themselves. But it was the forest across the border that erupted in a maelstrom of high explosive that tossed trees into the air as if they were matchsticks. For two minutes, the full firepower of the regimental artillery concentrated on just their small piece of front before moving on. After the artillery moved on, there were no more lines of emerging Russian soldiers. Just remnants to be picked off. The firing gradually died away as the targets were used up. Martti shook himself and looked at the pile of discarded magazines in front of him. Counted them silently. And swore under his breath. He’d used up thirteen 20 round mags, 260 rounds in half an hour and he was sure he’d hit with a lot of them. And it had only been half an hour, although it seemed like longer. Far far longer. He only had two loaded mags left. He looked across at Oskar, who promptly passed him some full mags from his firing position and, without a word, collected both his and Martti’s empty mags and sat down with them at the back of the bunker next to the Field Telephone.

Silently, Oskar began reloading from one of the ammunition boxes. Marko was busy laying out new belts for the Sampo. Juha was already breaking down the Sampo and field-cleaning it. Martti nodded at him and, keeping an eye out to the front through the slit, he broke down his Lahti-Saloranta and began cleaning it. After he’d finished, he did Oskar’s. Oskar was still loading mags, he restocked Martti’s firing position, and then his own. Then went to the back of the bunker and started up the small stove, then put the kettle of water on it to heat up. “Tuliasemakahvi?” he asked. “Fuck yes,” Juha said, reaching down for his canteen and taking a pull, rinsing his mouth out and spitting into the drainage hole. That made Martti realise how thirsty he was. And sweating, for all it was freezing cold. His hands were shaking. And he needed a piss. Badly. “Better report in,” he said, half to himself, “Juha, you keep watch.” Juha nodded. “Yes boss.” But he was already at the firing slit, peering out, his Sampo cocked and ready before Martti had moved away from his firing slit. Martti took a pull at his canteen and then pissed into the bucket lengthily before he headed for the Field Telephone.

It took him a couple of trys to get through. Jussi in Company HQ answered. He was one of the Sigs there. “Captain’s busy,” he stated, once he heard Martti’s voice. “Anything critical? Any casualties?” Martii gave him a quick sitrep. No casualties but they’d need more ammo. “You and everyone else,” Jussi told him. “Captain says we’ll get you more this afternoon, send up some new boys with a load for you.” He was about to say something else when Martti heard Juha. “Perkele, they’re fucking mad,” Juha swore, “here they come again.” Martti cut in on whatever it was Jussi was saying. “The Neighbours are attacking again, tell the Captain. Martti Out.” He dropped the handset and threw himself across the bunker to his slit, grabbing up his LS 7.62 on the way. Everyone else was already in position. He peered out. “Perkele!” This time it was his turn to swear. There were what looked like thousands more of the Russian fuckers all struggling out of the woodline. How the fuck had they managed that?

He took a deep breath, in, then slowly out, consciously relaxing, took another pull from his canteen, rinsed his mouth out and spat into the drainage hole. “Here we go again.” He looked round for Oskar. “Let the Captain know, there’s thousands more of the goddamn bunnies coming and then for fucks sake get back up here.” Peering out, he paused for a second, picking his first target as the staccato snarl of Juha’s Sampo began again. There were more of the Russians this time, no longer in neat lines, they were trying to move faster, but the knee deep snow and the windrows of bodies and the churned up earth and wood meant that just wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. On top of that, the ice covering the small river was badly smashed up and they were going to get their feet frozen. Although most of them wouldn’t live long enough for that to be real useful.

Oskar yelled out from beside the Field Telephone. “The Captain says to hold on but call him if we think we’re going to have to fall back.” Juha snarled. “Tell the Captain the bastards haven’t even reached the fucking river yet, we can hold them all day but we’re going to need more ammo. We’re going to start running low by tonight if they keep doing this. And the fucking mortars better start doing their stuff soon or we’re gonna be truly fucked.” Martti was snapping off shots as he yelled, knew he was shooting to fast, made a conscious effort to slow down, breath slowly, focus. They way they’d been trained. It helped that the Russians weren’t on top of them, they were only beginning to struggle across the river. “Where’s the fucking mortars?” Juha screamed. He sounded a bit panicky. Oskar screamed back. He sounded panicky too. “HQ says we gotta stop them without the mortars this time, there’s a major attack going on down the line.” “What the fucks this then?” Juha screamed. He hadn’t stopped shooting though. Martti swore. “Paska! Shut the fuck up all of ya, if there’s no mortars, there’s no fucking mortars.” He peered out. The Russians were getting closer, halfway to the wire and there were more of them. “Juha, shut the fuck up and just keep shooting. Oskar, take a Rumpali and a Suomi and get outside, start laying it down with the Rumpali. I’m with ya.” It was hard to shoot the Rumpali accurately through a firing slit, they had a couple of slit trenches out the sides for that. He grabbed one Rumpali from its rack by the bunker entrance and a pack of rounds, Oskar grabbed the other and they bolted out the door and down the narrow roofed-in zig zag to the firing pit.

Within seconds, both of them were laying down a barrage of the small grenade-sized mortar rounds. They’d both qualified on the Rumpali, they could put out 6 rounds a minute, they were firing at the maxium effective range, around 350m, and the Russians were in the open and the mini-mortar grenades had a lethal radius of around 5 meters and the new proximity fuses so they burst at waist height rather than burying themselves in the snow. Martti had no idea how the fuck they did it, but they worked. And worked well! Scattered along the ridgeline, the Company’s other Platoons and Squads manning the line of bunkers had obviously had the same idea. It was what they’d been trained to do and the training was kicking in. The ongoing barrage of grenades was almost as effective as the Mortars had been and Oskar whooped as he walked his grenades down the line of the advancing Russians. But “Almost as Effective” wasn’t actually the same as “As Effective” and the leading Russians were almost at the wire. Which was where Juha and the other Sampo gunners were now concentrating their fire. Which meant more of the fuckers were getting across the River and into the Fields. Martti took a moment to eyeball the situation. He figured that with the minefield, they could hold for a while longer even if the Russians did get through the first line of wire.

And they were starting to percolate through. Here and there, small groups had managed to cut gaps through the wire, more followed through those gaps. And in targeting them, other areas were left exposed and more gaps were cut. More Russians moved through. And more waves of the bastards were continuing to emerge from the woods across the border and move towards them. A white-clad figure loomed up in his peripheral vision. He glanced around quickly, almost shot the bastard but it was one of theirs. “Captain sent me up with ammo for the Sampo,” he screamed at Martti, his face white. “Where d’ya want me?” He’d pissed himself, Martti noted absently. He passed him the Rumpali. “Shoot out beyond the wire,” he screamed back as he picked up the Suomi, stuck his head up and began snapping off short bursts at the Russians inside the wire. The Newbie bought it in the last minutes of the attack. One second he was spraying grenades at the Russians far faster than the theorectical six rounds a minute. The next, his head blew apart in a spray of blood, bone and brains as a Russian bullet caught him in the forehead. Oskar looked at The Newbie and puked. Then started shooting again. Martti ignored him as he continued to use the Suomi to clear the Russians from in front of their position. God, the Suomi was good for closeup work. Like a bleeding firehose washing the bastards away wherever he pointed it………
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

User avatar
John Hilly
Posts: 2616
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 » 20 May 2011 13:36

Nigel... What could I say? "Eläköön, Eläköön, Eläköön"! :D :D :D
CanKiwi2 wrote:I'm planning on going from "historical background" to "action" when the war starts. How does this grab you for style and approach. And would you prefer this or "history" or a combination of both?
A combination of both, please! 8-)

With best regards
Juha-Pekka :milsmile:
"Die Blechtrommel trommelt noch!"

User avatar
Posts: 19
Joined: 24 Dec 2005 02:42
Location: USA

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

Post by O.O.D. » 24 May 2011 05:21

Great Thread!

This thread should be a Stickey in the Winter War & Continuation War section of the World War II And Inter-War Era. All replies to this thread should be refered to the What If section.

2 things from the old forum:

2000+ Lahti 20mm AT rifles with enough ammo to rip through Soviet tanks, aircraft and infantry collumns.

Finland purchasing a sufficient quanity of Russian weapons from the "Merchants Of Death" in the 20's & 30's.

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

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

Post by CanKiwi2 » 24 May 2011 16:18

John Hilly wrote:Nigel... What could I say? "Eläköön, Eläköön, Eläköön"! :D :D :D
CanKiwi2 wrote:I'm planning on going from "historical background" to "action" when the war starts. How does this grab you for style and approach. And would you prefer this or "history" or a combination of both?
A combination of both, please! 8-)

With best regards
Juha-Pekka :milsmile:
Hi Juha-Pekka, a combination of both it shall be..... :D
Not sure when the combination will start - probably around the mid-1930's here and there as we move ahead.

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

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

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

Post by CanKiwi2 » 24 May 2011 16:26

O.O.D. wrote:Great Thread!

This thread should be a Stickey in the Winter War & Continuation War section of the World War II And Inter-War Era. All replies to this thread should be refered to the What If section.

2 things from the old forum:

2000+ Lahti 20mm AT rifles with enough ammo to rip through Soviet tanks, aircraft and infantry collumns.

Finland purchasing a sufficient quanity of Russian weapons from the "Merchants Of Death" in the 20's & 30's.
Thx O.O.D. - there will indeed be suffient Lahti 20mm AT Rifles.

As for the "Merchants of Death", there will be a few purchases here and there plus some internal weapons development and construction (the "Finnish Military-Industrial Complex" alluded to here and there in earlier Posts which we'll get to soon). Loans from France and the USA will help too (earlier I mentioned a $15 million loan from France and a couple of $30 million loans from the USA. We'll cover these and what the money goes to soon as well. Mostly to the "Merchants of Death."

Anyhow, the next two or three posts are going to follow through on the Coastal Artillery and Coastal Defence Units. Plus a twist as we take a look at the Finnish Marine Jaegers (Rannikkojääkärit), formed in late 1934 in Divisional strength as the elite marine infantry arm of the Finnish Navy. And of course, their special relationship with the Italian Decimas Mas unit in the later part of the 1930's.

And a question for the Finnish-speaking. What WOULD you call a specialist Finnish Rannikkojääkärit frogman unit in WW2?

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

Mark V
Financial supporter
Posts: 3925
Joined: 22 May 2002 09:41
Location: Suomi Finland

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

Post by Mark V » 25 May 2011 19:41

CanKiwi2 wrote:And a question for the Finnish-speaking. What WOULD you call a specialist Finnish Rannikkojääkärit frogman unit in WW2?

Combat frogmen ?

I guess taistelusukeltaja, which means in english literally - combat diver.

Remember that during years immediately prior to WW2 Italians led the way in oxygen rebreather technology, and much of the equipment was not good for cold waters, especially suits they used. Baltic Sea is murky, very limited visibily underwater, and water is very cold year round. You need good equipment, and mostly it is drysuit operations for longer dives.

Last edited by Mark V on 25 May 2011 19:52, edited 1 time in total.

Return to “Winter War & Continuation War”