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CanKiwi2
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Last Post on the Atholl Highlanders

Post by CanKiwi2 » 17 Apr 2012 22:07

Major Jack Churchill – Rifle Company CO – “B” Company

While there were many more Volunteers who fought with the Atholl Highlanders in Finland, and many of these would men would go on to make a name for themselves in one way or another in WW2, we will restrict ourselves at this stage to covering one final Volunteer - John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming "Jack" Churchill, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar (16 September 1906 – 8 March 1996), nicknamed "Mad Jack" for reasons which will become apparent. Romantic and sensitive, Jack Churchill was an avid reader of history and poetry, knowledgeable about castles and trees, and compassionate to animals, even to insects. He was also a colorful and adventurous British military officer who volunteered to fight in Finland, stormed beaches and led attacks on enemy positions whist playing the bagpipes, who used a Scottish Claymore in battle and who once took 42 Germans prisoner at swordpoint. He may also well be the last soldier in a European army to kill an enemy with a longbow.

"Jack" Churchill was a professional soldier, the son of an old Oxfordshire family. His father, Alex Churchill, was on leave from the Far East, where he was Director of Public Works in Hong Kong and later in Ceylon when “Jack” was born on Sept 16 1906 in Surrey. After education at the Dragon School, Oxford, King William's College, Isle of Man, and Sandhurst, Churchill graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1926 and was commissioned into the Manchesters Regiment and gazetted to the 2nd Battalion, which he joined in Rangoon. The Regiment had battle honors dating back to the 18th century, having originally been raised as the 63rd and 96th Regiments of Foot and had shed blood fighting for Britain across the world. Forty-two battalions of the Manchesters served in World War I alone. Churchill’s younger brother, Tom, also became a Manchesters officer, and in time would rise to major general, retiring in 1962. Another younger brother, Buster, opted for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm and died off Malta in WW2.

That Jack Churchill was somewhat of a “free spirit” was obvious from the beginning of his army service, even in an army rich in such men. As just one example, while serving in Burma before the outbreak of WW2, he attended a course in signals at Poona in India. It might appear odd to some that Churchill rode his Zenith motorcycle most of the way from Rangoon to Poona, but it did not seem at all remarkable, at least to Churchill, to return the 1,500 miles from Poona to Calcutta—whence he was to take a ship for Rangoon—riding his motorcycle. Along the way he lost a contest with a large and hostile water buffalo but returned to his unit in time to serve in the Burma Rebellion of 1930-32. Unusual hazards and difficulties never meant much to Churchill. On the same motorcycle he had traveled the 500 miles through Burma from Maymyo (a Hill Station in Shan State in the north of Burma) to Rangoon, a trip substantially complicated by an absence of roads. He therefore followed the railroad line, crossing the dozens of watercourses by pushing the bike along a rail while he walked on the crossties. Everything in life was a challenge to him. Included in the challenges to which he rose was mastering the bagpipe, a peculiar attachment for an Englishman. His love affair with the pipes seems to have originated in Maymyo, where he studied under the pipe major of the Cameron Highlanders.

Back in England in 1932, Churchill kept on studying the pipes, but the peacetime army had begun to pale for him. Churchill was one of those unusual men designed to lead others in combat, and such men are often restless in time of peace. And perhaps, as his biographer commented, “certain eccentricities—brought on no doubt through frustration—such as piping the orderly officer to the Guard Room at three o’clock of a morning, and studying the wrong pre-set campaign in preparation for his promotion exam, precluded any chance of promotion for the time being and made the break, after a chat with his commanding officer, inevitable.” When Churchill managed to get himself reprimanded for using a hot water bottle, a distinctly non-military piece of equipment, he circumvented this nicety of military protocol by substituting a piece of rubber tubing, which he filled from the nearest hot water tap. And then there was the day on which he appeared on parade carrying an umbrella, a mortal sin in any army. When asked by the battalion adjutant what he meant by such outlandish behavior, Churchill replied “because it’s raining, sir,” an answer not calculated to endear him to the frozen soul of any battalion adjutant.

But when the regiment returned to Britain in 1936, he became bored with military life at the depot at Ashton-under-Lyne and for whatever reason, after 10 years of service Churchill resigned his commission and turned himself to commercial ventures. A job on the editorial staff of a Nairobi paper did not please him, and so he turned to other tasks. Among other things, he worked as a model in magazine ads and as a movie extra. He appeared in The Drum, a movie of fighting on the Northwest Frontier in which he played the bagpipes. And because he had rowed on the River Isis, he won a cameo in “A Yank At Oxford”, in which he pulled the bow oar in the Oxford shell, with movie star Robert Taylor at stroke. Meanwhile, he continued his piping and in the summer of 1938 placed second in the officers’ class of the piping championships at Aldershot. It was an extraordinary feat, since he was the only Englishman among the seventy or so competitors. During these years out of harness, Churchill practiced another skill as well—archery. He had first tried it only after returning to Britain from Burma. His expertise with the bow got him work in the movies “Sabu” and “The Thief of Baghdad”. And with typical Churchillian determination, he became so good with the bow that he shot for Britain at the world championships in Oslo in 1939. By then, however, the long ugly shadows of war were stretching across Europe.

As the German Army smashed into Poland, Churchill returned to the British Army and a commission with the Manchester Regiment. “I was,” he said later, “back in my red coat; the country having got into a jam in my absence.” He was obviously happy to be soldiering again. After the enlistment of volunteers for Finland was announced, he volunteered for the Atholl Highlanders and service in Finland, unsure of what it was all about but interested because it sounded dangerous and “Wingate was crazy, but he was crazy like a fox, which made him an interesting chap to fight under.” Like appeals to like and Wingate accepted Churchill immediately, giving him a brevet promotion to Major and placing him in command of “B” Company.

Before embarking, Churchill had Purle of London (one of the finest traditional bow and arrow makers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) make him an 85-pound bow of Spanish yew and a quantity of broadhead aluminum hunting arrows. The arrows were expensive, and the money came out of Churchill’s pocket, as it had been several hundred years since the War Office had taken responsibility for archery supplies. The weapon was silent, accurate to 200 yards and lethal in Churchill’s hands. As befitted his love of things Scottish he also acquired a Scottish broadsword, a traditional Claymore (technically a cCaybeg, the true claymore being an enormous two-handed sword).which he would carry with him into battle in Finland and for the remainder of WW2. When Wingate questioned him about the sword, he immediately replied "any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly armed." Wingate, who was somewhat of an aficionado of the use of cold steel himself, merely laughed. As CO of “B Company, Churchill began rigorously training his men from the moment he took command. On arrival in Finland, he took to the intensive and fast-paced Maavoimat training program like a duck to water, leading his men as they were trained in survival, land navigation, close quarter combat, silent killing, signaling, demolitions, tactical assaults and retreats and shooting, where they learned to use every type of weapon the Maavoimat had in use as well as some of those that they would be likely to encounter in Red Army hands.

OTL Note (Churchill actually volunteered and was accepted for the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards but I’ve moved him to Wingate’s battalion).

On first being posted to the rear lines on the Karelian Isthmus, Churchill volunteered to lead Platoons of the Atholl Highlanders on short stints at the front where the objective was to allow the men to gain combat experience against the Red Army on a “quiet” sector. Perhaps a little frustrated, “Captain Churchill decided on a symbolic gesture that he thought would not only give him great satisfaction but might also create a certain alarm, despondency, and bewilderment in the enemy lines. In his biographers words, “On April 15, while on patrol in no-man’s land, he stealthily made his way to about 50 to 80 yards from the Russian positions and fired three arrows in quick succession. Churchill was quoted as saying “There was a sudden commotion in the enemy’s position, and from the shouting and the confusion it sounded very much as if perhaps one of my broadheads had found a better mark than an inoffensive stag or bushbuck. Anyway, it is pleasant to think so.” The words of the Red Army commander on learning that one of his men had been spitted by a broad-head arrow have not been recorded but may be guessed at.

Churchill was an aggressive leader and trainer, especially fond of raids and counterattacks, leading small groups of picked soldiers against the advancing Red Army and a firm believer in the Maavoimat’s axiom of extracting the maximum cost from the enemy as they attacked, whilst keeping the losses of one’s own men to a minimum. Three days after his first use of the longbow in action, he would lead another Section from one of his Company’s Platoons in an ambush of a Red Army patrol. He presented a strange, almost medieval figure at the head of his men, carrying not only his war bow and arrows, but his sword as well. After ensuring his men were in position to ambush the route the Red Army patrols were using, Churchill gave the signal to attack by silently cutting down the enemy Sergeant with a broadhead arrow, following which the ambush team took out the rest of the enemy patrol. The war-diary of the Maavoimat Regimental Combat Group, to which Churchill’s Company was temporarily attached whilst gaining experience, commented on this extraordinary figure. “One of the most strange sights of the war to date was the sight of Major Churchill of the British Volunteer Battalion passing through the lines with his men and carrying a bow and arrows and a sword. His spitting of Red Army soldiers with his bow and arrows … were a great source of amusement to the men.”

When Wingate volunteered the Atholl Highlanders to augment the Maavoimat ParaJaeger Division on the airborne landings that sowed confusion and chaos in the Red Army rear during the Spring Offensive on the Karelian Isthmus, Churchill leapt at the new challenge. The training period was short, and Churchill reveled in it. He was at home in the Finnish forests and swamps, in the snow and rain and the mud. He lived and breathed training, leading, driving, setting the example, praising excellence, and damning sloth and carelessness. His ad hoc lectures to his soldiers were couched in the plain language his men understood and liked, for instance: “There’s nothing worse than sitting on your bum doing nothing just because the enemy happens to leave you alone for a moment while he has a go at the unit on your flank. Pitch in and support your neighbor any way you can.…” There was also a bit of a downside to Jack Churchill. On those happy occasions when the Company was not in the field doing night training, he was sometimes given to awakening everybody in the Camp as he shattered the night with pipe music. No piper could possibly understand why some of the world would rather sleep than listen to martial piping however expert, and he was no exception. His comrades could only grit their teeth and hope that he would soon tire or think of something rather quieter to do. The training period ended in late April 1940, as the Maavoimat’s brilliantly successful assault down the length of the Karelian Isthmus began.

Churchill commanded “B” company in the attack, and Wingate had put “B” Company in the vanguard of the drop, believing that both Churchill and his Platoon Officers, Lt. Tatham-Warter, 2nd Lt David Vere Stead and 2nd Lt Patrick Dalzel-Job were all “thrusters”. Tasked with seizing two key road junctions and a critically important bridge, the Atholl Highlanders were to seize these at dawn on the first day of the offensive. “B” company would advance straight from the glider landing zone to the bridge while the rest of the battalion took the two road junctions. The initial landings were largely unopposed and the various Companies formed up quickly. Tatham-Warter set up the Battalion rendevous using smoke and lamps, before the order to move off came just after 6am. B Company was in action almost at once; ambushing a small Red Army recce group near the drop zone before moving off through the woods toward the river road, with each platoon taking turns to lead. Tatham-Warter led the vanguard one mile from the dropzone to the bridge at a cost of only one killed and a small number of men wounded whilst having killed something like 150 Russians.

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Sourced from: http://www.davidrowlands.co.uk/images/f ... e/1cha.jpg
“B” Company were the only Company of the Atholl Highlanders to wear Kilts into action on the Karelian Isthmus in April 1940. Being unable to acquire genuine Atholl Highlanders kilts before their departure for Finland, Churchill had been given kilts by his old friends in the Cameron Highlanders. His men wore the service dress jacket, the kilt and khaki hose and puttees. No kilt aprons or sporrans were worn. The scene of the action in the painting is the fighting on the Isthmus near 1940. At the left can be seen a gun of the attached anti-tank section. In battle order, the small haversack was worn on the back. Above it was the anti-gas cape, held by two thin white tapes. The respirator was worn on the chest.
In the assault that took the Bridge, Churchill led the charge, his pipes screaming “The March of the Cameron Men.” Churchill and his men killed the Red Army soldiers guarding the bridge and, whilst still fighting off a heavy Red Army counter-attack, Churchill’s signal to Battalion Headquarters was terse: “Bridge captured. Casualties slight. Red Army counter-attacks in progress and being driven off. Churchill.”


The March of the Cameron Men

Withdrawn two days later as the attacking 21st Pansaaridivisoona reached their positions, the Atholl Highlanders would re-equip and regroup over a two day period, following which they would make a further drop on the Isthmus, this time tasked with attacking and eliminating a Red Army Divisional Headquarters. Dropping into the midst of the Divisional Headquarters at 1am in the morning using a combination of the ParaJaegers highly secret JMW-110 Assault Glider-Gyrocopters (dropped in earlier to set out a landing area and landing lights for the main drop) and the JMW-100 and rather larger JMW-200 Gliders, the entire Battalion descended in silence on a drop zone within a mile of the targeted Divisional Headquarters. Their mission was to both eliminate the Divisional Headquarters and to capture or destroy nearby Red Army artillery batteries that could hold up the advance. The 4am attack on the Divisional Headquarters met immediate and ferocious, if uncoordinated, resistance and the Battalion found itself fighting Red Army line infantry. Casualties were heavy, but the Atholl Highlanders beat down an uncordimated Red Army defence and moved rapidly to secure their objectives and destroy the Divisional Headquarters, working from detailed maps prepared from Ilmavoimat reconnaissance photos.

For Churchill, the high point of the fighting was the attack made by his Company on the Red Army Artillery Regiment. He organized his men into three parallel Platoon-sized columns and, since the heavy undergrowth ruled out any chance of a silent advance, sent them charging through the darkness shouting the Finnish Army battle cry of “"Hakkaa päälle!” that the Atholl Highlanders had enthusiastically adopted. The yelling not only minimized the risk of the Atholl Highlanders shooting each other in the gloom, but also confused the Russian defenders, to whom this fierce shouting seemed to come from all directions in the blackness of the night. The attack carried all its objectives and resulted in the capture of 36 x 152mm Howitzers together with all their ammunition stockpiles and most of the transport in an undamaged condition. The men of the Red Army Artillery Regiment were slaughtered piecemeal, with fierce but ineffective resistance. In the morning light, the position was found to be carpeted with Red Army dead.

Churchill himself was far in front of his troopers. Sword in hand, accompanied by a corporal named Ruffell, he had advanced as far as a large Divisional Supply Depot. Undiscovered by the enemy, he and Ruffell heard Red Army soldiers digging in all around them in the gloom. The glow of a cigarette in the darkness told them the location of a Russian sentry post. What followed, even Churchill later admitted, was “a bit Errol Flynn-ish.” The first Russian sentry post, manned by two men, was taken in silence. Churchill, his sword blade gleaming in the night, appeared like a demon from the darkness, ordered “Pуки Bверх!” (Hands Up) and got immediate results. He gave one Russian prisoner to Ruffell, then slipped his revolver lanyard around the second sentry’s neck and led him off to make the rounds of the other guards. Each post, lulled into a sense of security by the voice of their captive comrade, surrendered to this fearsome apparition with the ferocious mustache and the naked sword. Altogether, Churchill and Corporal Ruffell collected 42 prisoners, complete with their personal weapons. Churchill and his claymore then took the surrender of ten men in a bunch around the Supply Depot HQ. He and his NCO then marched the whole lot back to the Company HQ before detaching a Platoon to secure the Depot.

They were the only prisoners taken in the attack. He later had to dissuade Wingate from having them shot out of hand. “Wingate’s reason was we were behind enemy lines and couldn’t afford the men to guard prisoners. But as we were already being reinforced with a Finnish Battalion coming in on Gliders and we had Close Air Support on call and our own Artillery in range and we were expected the Finnish Army to arrive within the day I dissuaded him from this course of action. I’d always thought Wingate was rather a ruthless sort of chap and this convinced me completely. I wasn’t at all happy about the order, although of course if we had been in any danger I would have had them shot. As it was, after the War ended the Finns handed the Red Army prisoners back to the Russians and the NKVD of course had almost all of them shot, so in the long run there was no real difference for them.” The Red Army would again launch a number of confused and uncoordinated counter-attacks throughout the next day, all of which were driven off. As the advance elements of the Maavoimat broke through to the Atholl Highlanders position, Churchill greeted the advancing Finns with another tune on the bagpipes, one of his favorites – “Will Ye No Come Back Again.” Long after the end of the war, Churchill was pleased to hear that the Finnish account of the fighting and the relief of the Atholl Highlanders described his lonely piping as “the doleful sound of an unknown British musical instrument.”


“The doleful sound of an unknown British musical instrument.”


“Will Ye No Come Back Again”- the Atholl Highlanders picked up the somewhat mournful song from Jack Churchill and would often sing it in the aftermath of beating off yet another Red Army attack.

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Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... rchill.jpg
Major “Mad Jack” Churchill, CO “B” Company, Atholl Highlanders (Note the Maavoimat Parajaeger wings on the right shoulder of his uniform). Leading his unit into combat for the second time in Finland in Spring 1940, Churchill played “The March of the Cameron Men” on his bagpipes as his glider approached the landing site – near a Red Army Divisional Headquarters. He was determined to be the first man into action and was stowing his bagpipes when his glider touched down and two of his men pushed past him. He quickly leapt out and ran ahead, his sword in one hand and pistol in the other. The Company met disorganized resistance which was quickly overcome by the simple expedient of shooting every Red Army soldier in sight and overwhelming any attempt at serious resistance with instant attacks. In the course of the attack a hand grenade exploded and a fragment gashed Churchill’s forehead. The wound was painful and very obvious but not serious, and got him much sympathy when he visited Viipuri on a short leave after his Company returned to the rear to recover and regroup. Churchill later claimed that it began healing too quickly and had to be touched up with borrowed lipstick to keep the “wounded hero” story going for the remainder of his short leave.

Churchill would later lead “B” Company in a series of deep-penetration raids behind the Red Army lines, in the course of which he continued to carry his trademark Scottish broadsword slung around his waist and a longbow and arrows around his neck and his bagpipes under his arm. The raids allowed him to give full vent to his martial inclinations and he delighted in the destruction of Red Army supply depots and rear area units as well as in ambushes of Red Army units. Perhaps the highlight for Churchill was the overrunning and destruction of a major artillery depot in the Red Army rear. “It was enormous, just thousands and thousands of artillery shells and hardly any guards. It was so far in the rear they obviously weren’t expecting us and we took them by surprise, killed all the guards and then spent a day setting all the demolition charges. We were miles away when they went off and it was the biggest explosion I’ve ever seen, literally mind-boggling. And then on the way back we were following a road which we shouldn’t have done and we ran into a truckload of Red Army soldiers coming towards us. We didn’t want any noise so after we stopped the trucks we piled in and bayoneted the lot of them. We’d just finished when another truck came round the corner and we realized it was the lead truck of what seemed to be a Battalion of Red Army troops. So we started to shoot them up, charging on foot down the side of the trucks killing as many as we could before they got organized. I sent B/3 Platoon to cut through the forest and take them in the rear and at the same time we got on the radio and called in Close Air Support from the Ilmavoimat. The Henley’s turned up inside half an hour and just blew them away, I don’t think there were any survivors. We had quite a party when we got back to our own lines.”

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... _sword.jpg
Jack Churchill (far right) leads men of “B” Company from a Finnish-built Higgins-designed Eureka boat on Lake Äänisen in an assault on Red Army positions, sword in hand.

Jack Churchill returned to Britain in late 1940 together with the remaining men of the Atholl Highlanders and promptly volunteered for the Commandoes. Training in Scotland with the Commandoes produced an unexpected dividend for Churchill. There he met Rosamund Denny, the daughter of a Scottish ship building baronet. They were married in Dumbarton in the spring of 1941, a happy marriage that would produce two children and last until Churchill’s death 55 years later. In 1941 he was second-in-command of a mixed force from 2 and 3 Commandos which raided Vågsøy, in Norway. The aim was to blow up local fish oil factories, sink shipping, gather intelligence, eliminate the garrison and bring home volunteers for the Free Norwegian Forces. Before landing, Churchill decided to look the part. He wore silver buttons he had acquired in France; carried his bow and arrows and once again armed himself with a broad-hilted claymore; and led the landing force ashore with his bagpipes. Although he was again wounded, the operation forced the Germans to concentrate large defensive forces in the area. For his actions at Vågsøy, Churchill received the Military Cross. After recovering, Churchill was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel commanding No 2 Commando which he took through Sicily (leading with his bagpipes into Messina) and then to the landings at Salerno in 1943.

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Photo sourced from: http://www.commandoveterans.org/cdoGall ... alerno.jpg
Jack Churchill at Salerno, 15th Sept. 1943: Jack is nearest the camera, the hilt of is claymore above his haversack.

In 1944, he led the Commandos in Yugoslavia, where they supported the efforts of Tito's Partisans from the Adriatic island of Vis. A series of successful raids by Commandos and partisans hurt the Germans, and in May 1944, a more ambitious attack by British and Yugoslav personnel was planned on the German-held Yugoslav island of Brac. It was here that Jack Churchill’s luck at last ran out. The operation required attacks on three separate hilltop positions, dug in, mutually supporting, protected by wire and mines, and covered by artillery. Several Allied forces would have to work in cooperation. One of these, a reinforced Commando unit plus a large contingent of partisans, Jack Churchill would lead himself. While partisan attacks on the main German position got nowhere, 43 (Royal Marine) Commando went to the attack on the vital hill called Point 622. Pushing ahead in clear moonlight through wire and minefields, 43 Commando carried the hilltop but was forced to fall back with heavy casualties. Churchill now sent 40 Commando—also Royal Marines—in against the hill, and led them himself, playing the pipes. The leading troop went in yelling, shooting from the hip, and overran the German positions on 622.

But between casualties on the way up the hill and more casualties from very heavy German fire on the top, Churchill quickly found himself isolated with only a handful of defenders around him. There were only six Commandos on the hilltop, and three of those were wounded, two of them very badly. “I was distressed,” said Churchill with memorable understatement, “to find that everyone was armed with revolvers except myself, who had an American carbine.” Still, the little party fought on until the revolver ammunition was gone and Churchill was down to a single magazine for his carbine. A German mortar round killed three of his little party and wounded still another, leaving Churchill as the only unwounded defender on the hilltop. It was the end. Churchill turned to his pipes, playing “Will ye no come back again” until German grenades burst in his position and he was stunned by a fragment from one of them. He regained consciousness to discover German soldiers “prodding us, apparently to discover who was alive.”

Churchill would play his pipes one more time, at the funeral of the 14 Commandos who died on the slopes of Hill 622. He and his surviving men escaped killing by the Gestapo under Hitler’s “commando order” through the chivalry of one Captain Thuener of the Heer. “You are a soldier, as I am,” the captain told Churchill. “I refuse to allow these civilian butchers to deal with you. I shall say nothing of having received this order.” After the war, Churchill was able to personally thank Thuener for his decency and to help him stay out of the hands of the Yugoslav Communists. Churchill was flown to Sarajevo and then on to Berlin, there apparently being some thought that he was a relative of Winston Churchill. There is a story that on leaving the aircraft, he left behind a burning match or candle in a pile of paper, producing a fire and considerable confusion. During the inquiry that followed, Churchill innocently told a furious Luftwaffe officer that the army officer escorting Churchill had been smoking and reading the paper on board the aircraft. Churchill spent some time in solitary confinement, and in time he ended up in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. That infamous prison was only one more challenge to Churchill, however, and in September 1944, he and an RAF officer crawled under the wire through an abandoned drain and set out to walk to the Baltic coast. Their luck was not in, however, and they were recaptured near the coastal city of Rostock, only a few miles from the sea.

In time, they were moved to a camp at Niederdorf, Austria. Here, Churchill watched for another opportunity to escape, keeping a small rusty can and some onions hidden in his jacket in case a sudden opportunity should present itself. On an April night in 1945, it did. The chance came when the camp’s lighting system failed. Churchill seized the moment and walked away from a work detail, disappearing into the darkness and heading for the Alps and the Italian frontier. Liberating vegetables from Austrian gardens and cooking them in his tin can, he walked steadily south. Keeping off the roads, he crossed the Brenner Pass into Italy and headed for Verona, some 150 miles away. On the eighth day of his escape, hobbling along on a sprained ankle, Churchill caught sight of a column of armored vehicles. To his delight, their hulls carried the unmistakable white star of the United States Army. He managed to flag down one vehicle and persuade the crew that in spite of his scruffy appearance he was indeed a British colonel. As he later told his old friend and biographer, Rex King-Clark, “I couldn’t walk very well and was so out of breath I could scarcely talk, but I still managed a credible Sandhurst salute, which may have done the trick.”

Churchill was free but frustrated. The European war was almost over, and he had missed much of it, including the chance for further promotion and perhaps the opportunity to lead a Commando brigade. Nevertheless, hope sprang eternal. “However,” he said to friends, “there are still the Nips, aren’t there?” There were. And so Churchill went off to Burma, where the largest land war against Japan was still raging. Here, too, however, he met frustration, for by the time he reached India, Hiroshima and Nagasaki had disappeared in mushroom clouds, and the war abruptly ended. For a warrior like Churchill, the end of the fighting was bittersweet. “You know,” he said to a friend only half joking, “if it hadn’t been for those damned Yanks we could have kept the war going for another 10 years.” The abrupt departure of Japan from the war was a distinct disappointment to Churchill, especially since he had risen to the command of No 3 Commando Brigade in the Far East. Still, there were other brushfire wars still smoldering, and in November 1945, he reported home from Hong Kong, “As the Nips have double-crossed me by packing up, I’m about to join the team vs the Indonesians,” who were by then casting covetous eyes on Sarawak, Borneo, and Brunei. British and Commonwealth troops killed or expelled the invaders, but Jack missed this little war as well.

By the next year, he had transferred to the Seaforth Highlanders and then completed jump school, where, at 40, he qualified as a paratrooper. He made his first jump on his 40th birthday, and afterwards commanded the 5th (Scottish) Parachute Battalion, thus becoming the only officer to command both a Commando and a Parachute battalionHe took a little time off in 1946, this time for the movies. Twentieth Century Fox was making Ivanhoe with Churchill’s old rowing companion Robert Taylor and wanted him to appear as an archer, firing from the wall of Warwick Castle. Churchill took the assignment, flown off to the job in an aircraft provided by the movie company. In 1948 he ended up in Palestine as second-in-command of 1st Battalion, the Highland Light Infantry. Back in Britain, he was for two years second-in-command of the Army Apprentices School at Chepstow before serving a two-year stint as Chief Instructor, Land/Air Warfare School in Australia, where he became a passionate devotee of the surfboard.

Back in England, Churchill joined the War Office Selection Board at Barton Stacey and during this period he was the first man to ride the River Severn’s five-foot tidal bore and designed his own board. His last post was as First Commandant of the Outward Bound School. In retirement, however, his eccentricity continued. He finally retired from the army in 1959 but went right on working as a Ministry of Defense civilian overseeing the training of Cadet Force youngsters in the London District. One of his old friends wrote later that Churchill liked the job not only because of his association with the enthusiastic cadets, but also because the job gave him an office in Horse Guards at Whitehall, and a window from which he could watch troopers of the Household Cavalry mounting guard in a courtyard below him.In his last job he would often startle train conductors and passengers by standing up, opening the train window and throwing his attaché case out of the train window, then calmly resume his seat. He later explained that he was tossing his case into his own back garden so he wouldn’t have to carry it from the station.

He also devoted himself to his hobby of buying and refurbishing coal-fired steam launches on the Thames; he acquired 11, making journeys from Richmond to Oxford with Churchill decked out in an impeccable yachting cap and Rosamund giving appropriate sailing orders to her husband. He was also a keen maker of radio-controlled model boats, mostly warships, which he sold at a profit and which are now sought-after collectors’ items. He also took part in motor-cycling speed trials. Churchill passed away peacefully at his home in Surrey in the spring of 1996, but he left a legacy of daring that survives to this day.

His biography, “Jack Churchill: Unlimited Boldness” by Lieutenant-Colonel Rex King-Clark is not so easily available second-hand but if you can get it, its well worth a read, even though its fairly short at only 28 pages.

As it turned out, “Mad Jack” Churchill did leave something of a legacy in Finland. The Atholl Highlanders had worked closely on the Karelian Isthmus with the 21st Pansaaridivisoona and at some stage the tankers had acquired somewhat of a liking for the bagpipes, eventually forming their own Pipe Band. In the video below, we can see the Division’s Pipe Band leading a Maavoimat parade through one of the few areas of Königsberg (in East Prussia) still standing after the RAF bomber raids of 1944. This parade was shortly after the city fell to the Maavoimat. (Although Hitler had declared Königsberg an "invincible bastion of German spirit", the German military commander of Königsberg, General Otto Lasch, had surrendered the city and the foreces under his command without a fight. For this act, Lasch was condemned to death in absentia by Hitler). Post capture by the Maavoimat, Königsberg would become a haven for German refugees in East Prussia and Poland and the location of a major Maavoimat POW and internment camp for captured members of the German military. Königsberg would also be a major bone of contention in the post-war negotiations as the ruling Soviet triumvirate wanted a year-round ice-free harbor.


Elements of the 21st Pansaaridivisoona parading through Königsberg in early 1945, led by the Maavoimat’s one and only Divisional Pipe Band. Sadly, in the post-war years, this Military Pipe Band has disappeared and the only traces now of the Bagpipes in Finland are a small number of civilian pipe bands.


Hamina Tattoo - Helsinki Pipes and Drums – a last trace of the Atholl Highlanders in Finland

Post-War Note: At the end of World War II in 1945, the Soviet Union demanded the annexation of the city of Königsberg and the surrounding areas of East Prussia as as part of the Russian SFSR, pending the final determination of territorial questions at the peace settlement as agreed upon by the Allies at Yalta. At the Potsdam Conference, the Conference examined a proposal by the Soviet Government regarding Königsberg and East Prussia. The President of the United States and the British Prime Minister declared that they would support the proposal of the Conference at the forthcoming peace settlement and stated that they agreed in principle to the proposal of the Soviet Government concerning the ultimate transfer to the Soviet Union of the city of Koenigsberg and the area adjacent to it as described above, subject to expert examination of the actual frontier.

The Finnish and Polish Governments stated in their turn that East Prussia was in the Finnish Zone of Control and no such agreement would be recognised by Finland or Poland, just as no movement of the eastern Polish border would be countenanced and just as the Soviet claims to the Baltic States as a result of the agreements signed under duress in 1940 were not recognised. Inevitably this led to a long period of tension in the immediate aftermath of WW2 and into the years of the Cold War. As a result of the Finnish refusal to back down to the Soviet Union, and the terrifying reputation of the Finnish military at the time (including their willingness to take on Red Army combat formations many times their size and annihilate them, as had occurred a number of times in the last few months of the war), the post-war delineation of Baltic borders resulted in the independent state of Baltic Prussia being formed and recognised, with its capital being Königsberg. A magnet for German refugees from the rest of Eastern Europe and from Poland, Baltic Prussia became a hub for the rapid post-war recovery of the Baltic States and today is a small but prosperous state closely aligned with Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.

OTL Note: Many people fled Königsberg ahead of the Red Army's advance after October 1944, particularly after word spread of the Soviet atrocities at Nemmersdorf. In early 1945 Soviet forces under the command of the Polish-born Soviet Marshall Konstantin Rokossovskiy besieged the city. In Operation Samland, General Baghramyan's 1st Baltic Front, now known as the Samland Group, captured Königsberg in April. [On April 9 — one month before the end of the war in Europe — the German military commander of Königsberg, General Otto Lasch, surrendered the remnants of his forces following a three-month-long siege by the Red Army. For this act, Lasch was condemned to death in absentia by Hitler. At the time of the surrender, military and civilian dead in the city were estimated at 42,000, with the Red Army claiming over 90,000 prisoners. About 120,000 survivors remained in the ruins of the devastated city. These survivors, mainly women, children and the elderly and a few others who returned immediately after the fighting ended, were held as virtual prisoners until 1949. A majority of the German citizens remaining in Königsberg after 1945 died of either disease, starvation or revenge driven ethnic cleansing. The German population was either deported to the Western Zones of occupied Germany or into Siberian labor camps, where about half of them perished of hunger or diseases The remaining 20,000 German residents were expelled in 1949–50. Resettled by Russians, Russian Kaliningrad and the surround area is now a blighted and impoverished region with very few redeeming features.

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CanKiwi2
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The Boer Volunteers of the De La Rey Battalion

Post by CanKiwi2 » 19 Apr 2012 21:57

OK, this is a bit out of sequence but what the heck......

The Boer Volunteers – the De La Rey Battalion

The De La Rey Battalion was an oddball unit from within the British Commonwealth, but it was a unit which refused point-blank to fight alongside any of the British units or under any British officers or British Commonwealth commanders at any level. This was the De La Rey Battalion, a unit of South African Boer volunteers who were all members of the Ossewabrandwag. The Ossewabrandwag had started out as an organisation dedicated to the preservation of Afrikaans culture but had rapidly evolved into a highly motivated politically militant organisation, with a membership in the hundreds of thousands.

The Boer militants of the Ossebrandwag were hostile to Britain, opposed South African participation in WW2, even after the Union of South Africa declared war in support of Britain in September 1939 – but they were strongly sympathetic to Finland, seeing many parallels to their own situation (where the Republiek van Transvaal and the Oranje Vrijstaat had been attacked, conquored and annexed to South Africa by the British) in the attack on Finland by the USSR. Staunchly religious, the Boerevolke had much in common with the congregations of more conservative Lutheran churches in Finland such as the Pietists and were strongly anti-communist.

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The Ossebrandwag was strongly anti-communist and this, together with their seeing many parallels to their own situation at the hands of the British in the plight of Finland let to the dispatch of a sizable volunteer contingent to fight for Finland.

Not only did they have much in common, there were also long-standing ties between Finland and the Boers – ties that had faded a little from popular memory in both countries by the late 1930’s but which were rapidly resurrected in South Africa at least, and most strongly by the Ossebrandwag. These ties went back to the 1899-1902 Boer War (in Afrikaans, die Tweede Vryheidsoorlog, the “Second War for Freedom.” The official term in the Afrikaner historiography for the wars against the British Empire in 1880-1881 and 1899-1901 were the First and Second Wars for Freedom).

Eighty-five odd years ago, on December 11th, 1924, the Republic of Finland celebrated a very special anniversary - the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Magersfontein, part of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. The state and the military establishment hosted this anniversary at the Officers’ Casino Building in the Katajanokka neighborhood of Helsinki and among the guests of honour were Lauri Malmberg, the minister of defense, and Per Zilliacus, the chief of staff of the Civil Guard. The Suojeluskuntas (Finnish Civil Guard) also sent a wreath tied with blue-white ribbons to South Africa, where it was laid at the monument on the battlefield of Magersfontein. (the Battle of Magersfontein was the second of the three battles fought over the “Black Week” of the Second Boer War. It was fought on 11 December 1899 at Magersfontein near Kimberley on the borders of the Cape Colony and the independent republic of the Orange Free State. General Piet Cronje and General De la Rey's Boer troops defeated British troops under the command of Lieutenant General Lord Methuen, who had been sent to relieve the Siege of Kimberley).

The conservative Finnish newspaper “Uusi Suomi” (New Finland) advertised the event on its front page, and the periodicals of the Suojeluskuntas published anniversary articles on the conflict between the Boer republics and the British Empire. The celebration opened with the Finnish Naval Orchestra’s performance of “Kent gij dat volk,” the South African anthem.


“Kent gij dat volk” - the National Anthem of The Transvaal

The reason that independent Finland in 1924 celebrated a battle fought in a British colonial conflict in South Africa a mere 25 years previously was straightforward. Finnish volunteers had fought in the battle as soldiers of the Scandinavian Corps of the Boer forces. The Scandinavian Corps was founded in Pretoria on September 23rd, 1899, supposedly as a testimony of loyalty felt by the Scandinavian immigrants towards the South African Republic. It included 118 men; 48 Swedes, 24 Danes, 19 Finns, 13 Norwegians and 14 other miscellaneous nationalities, mainly Germans and Dutch. In addition, three Swedish women served as nurses in a separate ambulance unit. The Scandinavians fought in the siege of Mafeking and in the battles of Magersfontein and Paardeberg; of these battles, Magersfontein was the most significant.

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Boer War volunteers from Finland & Scandinavia

Those Finns who volunteered to fight in the Boer forces were, of course, immigrants to the Transvaal, people who had come to the gold fields of Witwatersrand in search of wealth and a better life. Some had arrived directly from Finland, others came via the United States. The uptick in immigration to the Transvaal had been one of the causes of the war, and the British guest-workers and settlers — the so-called “uitlanders” — formed a fifth column through which the British Empire sought to strengthen its grip over the Boer republic. As a political and military strategy, the British attempt to control the Transvaal via migration failed utterly. After the outbreak of the war, most of the British immigrants were either deported or decided to leave on their own, rather than fight the Boer governments. Worse yet (from London’s perspective), the non-British immigrants — Germans, Dutch, Italians, Irish, Russians, and obviously Scandinavians, including Finns — decided to stay and support the Boer war effort.

There is a further irony in the fact that most of the Finns in South Africa were Swedish-speaking, from coastal Ostrobothnia. This was an era of bitter language strife in Finland, when the rural Swedish population sought to present itself as a separate ethnic group of “Finland Swedes.” Nevertheless, the Finnish immigrants to South Africa identified closely with their former homeland, and set up a separate Finnish platoon rather than merging with the Swedish nationals who made up the majority of the Scandinavian Corps. Of the eighteen men who served in the Finnish platoon, only three spoke Finnish as their first language, but it appears that all of them regarded themselves as Finns. Matts Gustafsson, one of the volunteers who wrote poems, later noted, “Och wi voro finnar hwarendaste man,” which translates as, “And we were Finns, every single man.”

Although there was a lot of sympathy for the Boer cause outside of the British Commonwealth, there was little overt government support as few countries were willing to upset Britain, in fact no other government actively supported the Boer cause. There were, however, individuals who came from several countries as volunteers and who formed Foreign Volunteer Units. These volunteers primarily came from Europe, particularly Germany, Ireland, France, Holland and Poland. In the early stages of the war the majority of the foreign volunteers were obliged to join a Boer commando. Later they formed their own foreign legions with a high degree of independence, including the: Scandinavian Corps, Italian Legion, two Irish Brigades, German Corps, Dutch Corps, Legion of France, American Scouts and Russian Scouts. While the vast majority of people involved from British Empire countries fought with the British Army, a few Australians fought on the Boer side as did a number of Irish, the most famous of these being Colonel Arthur Lynch, formerly of Ballarat, who raised the Second Irish Brigade. Lynch, charged with treason was sentenced to death, by the British, for his service with the Boers. After mass petitioning and intervention by King Edward VII he was released a year later and pardoned in 1907. However the free rein given to the foreign legions was eventually curtailed after Villebois-Mareuil and his small band of Frenchmen met with disaster at Boshof, and thereafter all the foreigners were placed under the direct command of General De la Rey.

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General Koos de La Rey, die Leeu van die Wes Transvaal

After the war, a special Scandinavian monument was constructed on the battlefield of Magersfontein. The monument consisted of four cornerstones, representing the four Nordic countries, each decorated with the Scandinavian valkyrie and national symbols of each country.

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The verse on the monument is from Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s March of the Pori Regiment, these days the official Finnish presidential march: “On valiant men the faces of their fathers smile.” The names of the fallen soldiers are engraved on the shield. Emil Mattsson died at Magersfontein; he was buried on the battlefield. The British captured Henrik Hägglöf, who died from his wounds at an infirmary near the Orange River. Johan Jakob Johansson — whose name is mistakenly written “Jakobsson” — died at the British prison camp on St. Helena and is buried in grave number 18 at the Knollcombe cemetery on the island. The name of Matts Laggnäs, another Finnish volunteer who died in captivity on St. Helena, is missing.

The foreign volunteers who fought with the Boer forces — John MacBride perhaps being the most famous example — utilized their talents in later conflicts in their own homelands. The “flying columns” invented by the Boer commandos became a standard tactic in the Irish Republican Army. In Finland, the Boers served as an example to both the Civil Guards, who formed the White forces in the Civil War of 1918, and their Red Guard opponents. Lennart Lindgren, the commander of the Oulu Red Guard in 1918, was a veteran of the Boer War, and even Väinö Linna’s “Under the North Star” — something of a modern national epic in Finland, and recently made into a movie for the second time — includes a reference to Finnish Red Guardsmen “reminiscing about the stories of the Boers, which they had heard from their parents as small boys.”

What was the significance of the Finnish Republic’s 1924 commemoration of its citizens’ participation in the Boer War? Perhaps most importantly to Finland, the Boer resistance against the British Empire set an example for national movements of the time and this explains the Finnish fascination with the Boers. At the time of the war, the Grand-Duchy of Finland had become a target of Russian imperial reaction. The February Manifesto of 1899 began a Russian attempt to abrogate Finnish autonomous institutions and integrate it into the Russian Empire. The Boer resistance to Britain aroused sympathy in beleaguered Finland, and the participation of the Finnish volunteers in the battle on the Boer side became a source of pride. Arvid Neovius, one of the organizers of the underground opposition to Russia, wrote an article where he spoke of the “intellectual guerrilla warfare” and argued for modelling Finnish passive resistance to Russia on Boer hit-and-run-tactics. The South African national anthem became a popular protest song that eventually found its way into Finnish schoolbooks. Finnish participation in another country’s war of national liberation was thus very much alive and supportive of the Afrikaner “liberation struggle” in 1924, only seven years after Finland gained its independence.

Finnish author Antero Manninen later described the view of the Boer War with the following words: “Over forty years ago, as the 19th century was drawing to a close, two small nations became targets of unjustified pressure and attack by their greater and more powerful neighbors. One of these was our own nation, whose special political status was singled out for elimination in the so-called February Manifesto; the other one were the Boers, living on the other side of the globe. This common experience between our nations was the reason why the people of Finland, like the entire civilized world, followed the Boers and their struggle for independence with special sympathy, and rejoiced for the successes they gained in the early stages of the war.” The situation was paradoxical, because Russian popular opinion in 1899-1902 was also very sympathetic towards the Boers. Consequently, the Russian press could write with official state endorsement articles espousing a pro-Boer and anti-British postion .... while at the same time, the Russian Governor-General would censor similar articles in Finnish newspapers.

During the inter-war era, the memory of the Boer War was invoked in Finland on many occasions. As mentioned, the old Transvall national anthem, “Kent gij dat volk” was translated in Finnish and included in elementary school songbooks. The festivities of 1924 were followed by a Scandinavian shooting contest named "In Memory of Magersfontein" in Helsinki in the summer of 1925. A Finnish encyclopedia from 1938 contains a page-length article on the Finnish volunteers in South Africa, as a prologue to the history of the Finnish independence struggle. It was definitely considered an important historical event. The memory of the Boer War was also used in domestic Finnish political rhetoric. Perhaps the most famous example is Juho Kusti Paasikivi, who was the chairman of the conservative National Coalition party in the 1930s, and became the President of the Republic after WW2. At the height of the extreme right-wing reaction and the activities of the Lapua movement, Paasikivi sought to actively distance the right-wing conservatives from the extremist elements and established himself as the right-wing champion of parliamentary democracy. On June 21st 1936 he travelled to the town of Lapua in Ostrobothnia, to the very cradle of Finnish right-wing extremism, and gave a speech entitled "Freedom", in which he defended parliamentary democracy and civil liberties, urging the locals to abandon extreme right-wing radicalism. As a historical example to be followed, he invoked the memory of South Africa, and made a reference to a speech where Jan Smuts had also defended parliamentary form of government: "As I was thinking of my presentation, I re-read one speech, made two years ago by a freedom fighter who, even though he lives and operates far away from our country, is a Western man by his opinions and character - the leading general and statesman of the Boer nation in South Africa, his name is Jan Smuts. As we all know, those Boer farmers, who served their God and fought for their freedom far away in the southern lands, share the same mentality as the people of Ostrobothnia..." The Union of South Africa was thus invoked as a model of democracy by the inter-war Finnish champions of democracy.

Finnish views were not however wholly one-sided in support of the Boers. At the time of the Boer War, the Finnish press did express some criticism towards the Boers. The one newspaper which stood out was the venerable Conservative-Fennoman Uusi Suometar ("New Finlandia" - , Suometar translates as the feminine embodiment of Finland), at the time the leading national newspaper with the widest circulation. Already during the autumn of 1899, Uusi Suometar adopted a critical tone towards President Krüger's confrontational policy, and criticized the government of the Transvaal for a lack of realism. As far as is known, they were also the only Finnish newspaper which criticized the Boer actions towards the native African peoples in any way. The newspaper also expressed understanding for British interests, attempted to portray the war in a "fair and balanced" fashion, and expressed a hope that Britain would be willing to grant tolerable peace terms to the Boer republics. This position was essentially a reflection of those same arguments which the newspaper advanced with regard to the question of Finnish autonomy and relations with Russia. As a conservative paper, the newspaper advocated Finnish acquiescence and compliance towards Russian imperial interests, in order to avoid excessive imperial reaction; while at the same time, they were also reluctant to criticize Britain, because they considered British goodwill and sympathy important in the international campaign for Finnish autonomy.

(For details on the internation campaign on behalf of Finland, you may check the address “Pro Finlandia”, signed among others by Florence Nightingale, Émile Zola and Anatole France. The year 1899 was an important year for many small nations, and Finland was a small cause célèbre for European intellectuals for a short period). Uusi Suometar was the largest newspaper, but it was probably an exception in its moderate approach to the conflict. Other Finnish newspapers were rather more openly pro-Boer. The constitutional Päivälehti ("Daily Newspaper", a direct predecessor of today's Helsingin Sanomat, "Helsinki News") was very pro-Boer, although they also remembered to mention hat Britain should be considered as the "supporter and guardian of Finland in Europe". Not surprisingly, this newspaper was also the favourite target of Russian censorship. The socialist Työmies ("Worker"), which was censored by both the Russian and Finnish authorities, was overtly pro-Boer, and regarded the conflict as an imperialist war initiated by the British capitalists. Swedish-language Finnish newspapers were in a class of their own, because they were the only ones which mentioned the race factor openly. Nya Pressen, which advocated constitutional resistance towards Russia, condemned the British actions in South Africa precisely because of their nature as actions against another white nation. The newspaper made it specifically clear that they wholeheartedly approved colonial rule over "inferior" people, but the Boers were "representatives of European culture". This was a clear reflection of the newspaper's own view of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland as the "bulwark of Scandinavian civilization" standing against the Russian influence.

The other Scandinavian newspapers were equally divided in their opinions. The conservative Svenska Dagbladet was pro-British, but the liberal and social democratic Swedish newspapers were pro-Boer. The Norwegian Aftonbladet and Verdens Gang were pro-Boer, but also tried to avoid excessive criticism of Britain. The Norwegian reasons for this moderation were somewhat similar to Finnish motives; they were reluctant to jeopardize British support for Norway at a time when the termination of the union with Sweden was becoming topical. In their views, the Finnish newspapers were more or less part of the Scandinavian mainstream in their opinions and in their differences of opinion. The Russian opinion, however, was adamantly and absolutely pro-Boer and anti-British all across the political spectrum, from Tolstoy all the way to Lenin. As the war continued, even Uusi Suometar gradually adopted a more pro-Boer stance. The decisive factor in this change of opinion were the British actions towards the end of the war, the scorched-earth tactics and the concentration camps, which aroused absolute horror even in Finland. The large scale deaths of Boer women and children in the British concentration camps evoked protests world-wide, as did the conditions in the island prisons of Ceylon and St. Helena, the latter of which housed Finnish prisoners for nineteen long months. The reason was simple. The British Empire was regarded as a liberal, responsible and humane great power, and if they could resort to such methods, what was going to prevent the other, more callous great powers from taking equally harsh actions with other small nations? Because of the Russian censorship, the Finnish newspapers could not openly mention that the British actions had ignited their fear of Russia, but the message was clear from between the lines.

In 1924, these memories were still vivid in the minds of many Finns. The young people who lived in the inter-war era sang the Finnish translation of “Kent gij dat volk” in schools while in Church they would light a candle and recite the words “De God onzer voorvaden heeft ons heden een schitterende overwinning gegeven.” Even after the successful gaining of indepoendance from Russia, the clash between a few amateur Finnish riflemen and the elite Scottish soldiers of the British Army continued to hold a national symbolic importance in Fimland.

South Africa and the Winter War

By 1925, Finnish diplomatic representation in South Africa consisted of honorary consulates in five South African cities – Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London. The duties of the honorary consuls involved mainly trade and maritime affairs. Finnish nationals were preferred for the posts but when they were unavailable, Scandinavian nationals were somewhat reluctantly appointed. The Finnish foreign ministry held (understandably) suspicions that Scandinavians might promote exports from their home country rather than Finnish exports. The Great Depression of the 1930’s forces the intensification of cooperation between the Finnish foreign ministry and Finnish exporters in the search for new markets and South Africa became one of the targets. From 1925 to 1939 exports to South Africa averages 1.45% pf the total value of Finnish exports annually. Although the figure is small, South Africa was a large market for Finnish sawn timber and was the number one source of imported timber for South Africa, ahead of both Canada and Sweden. Many of the Finnish firms which later achieved prominent positions in South African markets established their trading relationships at this time. Wool, tannic acids and fruits were in turn the top South African exports to Finland. However, even with the growing trade between the two countries it was not until 1937 that a Finnish consulate in Pretoria was actually established.

When the USSR attacked Finland on 30 November 1939, the reaction in South Africa was as strongly pro-Finnish as in almost all other countries worldwide. As the Finns had sympathized with the Afrikaners on the Boer War, so the South Africans were supportive of Finland. South Africa donated 25 aircraft (Gloster Gauntlets that South Africa had purchased but which were still in the UK) and public donations of 27,000 pounds were raised within days. In an additional gesture of goodwill, South African wine growers donated 24,000 litres of brandy. Initially, the South African Government had decided little more could be done to assist Finland – there were greater concerns within the country as, as on the eve of World War II, the Union of South Africa found itself in a unique political and military quandary. While it was closely allied with Great Britain, being a co-equal Dominion under the 1931 Statute of Westminster with its head of state being the British King, the South African Prime Minister on September 1, 1939 was J.B.M. Hertzog – the leader of the pro-Afrikaner and anti-British National Party. The National Party had joined in a unity government with the pro-British South African Party of Jan Smuts in 1934 as the United Party.

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James Barry Munnik Hertzog, better known as Barry Hertzog or J. B. M. Hertzog (3 April 1866 near Wellington, Cape Colony – 21 November 1942 in Pretoria, Union of South Africa) was a Boer general during the second Anglo-Boer War who later went on to become Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa from 1924 to 1939. Throughout his life he encouraged the development of the Afrikaner culture, determined to protect the Afrikaner from British influence.

Hertzog's problem was that South Africa was constitutionally obligated to support Great Britain against Nazi Germany. The Polish-British Common Defence Pact obligated Britain, and in turn Britain’s Dominions, to help Poland if it was attacked by the Nazis. After Hitler's forces attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, Britain declared war on Germany two days later. A short but furious debate unfolded in South Africa, and particularly in the South African Parliament, pitting those who sought to enter the war on Britain's side, led by an Smuts, against those who wanted to keep South Africa neutral, if not pro-Axis, led by Hertzog. In this view, Herzog was reflecting the majority Afrikaner viewpoint – and he was also acutely conscious of the political threat to the National Party by the "Purified National Party" of D. F. Malan, which had broken away from the National Party when the latter merged with Smuts' South African Party in 1934 and which was by this time perhaps the chief vehicle of Afrikaner nationalism. On September 4, the United Party caucus refused to accept Hertzog's stance of neutrality in World War II and deposed him in favor of Smuts. Hertzog himself, together with a number of supporters, left the United Party and merged with Dr D.F. Malan’s National Party in a party called the Herenigde (Reconstituted) National Party under Hertzog’s leadership. But while Malan supported Hertzog with enthusiasm, the more radical nationalists in the north constantly undermined him. Hertzog’s real commitment was to a form of democracy that was modeled on that of the old Boer republics and after a showdown at a party congress Hertzog withdrew from the party and Malan became leader in 1940. Hertzog himself was now a disillusioned and embittered man but even so, he discouraged militant action against the war effort. To future entrepreneur Anton Rupert and some other Afrikaner students who privately asked his advice about militant resistance, he suggested they return to their studies. The Afrikaners would take over after the war by way of the ballot booth, he assured them. Hertzog died in 1942.

Upon becoming Prime Minister, Smuts declared South Africa officially at war with Germany and the Axis. He immediately set about fortifying South Africa against any possible German sea invasion because of South Africa's global strategic importance controlling the long sea route around the Cape of Good Hope. Smuts was also invited to join the Imperial War Cabinet in 1939 and in May 1941 was appointed a Field Marshal of the British Army, becoming the first South African to hold that rank. The Afrikaner Ossewabrandwag movement and other Afrikaners strongly objected to South Africa's participation in World War II and ultimately, Smuts would pay a steep political price for his support for the War, his closeness to the British establishment, to the King, and to Churchill. All of these would combine to make Smuts highly unpopular amongst the Afrikaners, leading to his eventual downfall in the immediate aftermath of WW2.

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General Jan Christiaan Smuts (24 May 1870 – 11 September 1950) was a prominent South African statesman, military leader and philosopher. In addition to holding various cabinet posts, he served as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948. He served in the First World War and as a British Field Marshal in WW2.. He led Boer commandos in the Second Boer War, fighting for the Transvaal. During the First World War, he led the armies of South Africa against Germany, capturing German South-West Africa and commanding the British Army in East Africa. From 1917 to 1919, he was also one of five members of the British War Cabinet, helping to create the Royal Air Force. He was the only person to sign the peace treaties ending both the First and Second World Wars. At home, his preoccupation with the war had severe political repercussions in South Africa. Smuts's support of the war made him unpopular amongst the Afrikaners and this together with D F Malan's pro-Apartheid stance won the Reunited National Party the 1948 general election. Smuts, who had been confident of victory, lost his own seat in the House of Assembly and retired from politics.

In late 1939, the South African population consisted of two million whites of which there were about 250,000 men in the military age group of 18 to 44. At the time of the declaration of war against Germany in September 1939, the South African Army Permanent Force (PF) numbered only 3,353 regulars, with an additional 14,631 men in the Active Citizen Force (ACF) which gave peace time training to volunteers and in time of war would form the main body of the army. The commando units had a strength on paper, of about 122,000 men, but of these only about 18 000 men were properly armed and many of these were not properly trained. Furthermore, it had to be borne in mind that not all PF, ACF or Commando members were in favour of the Union's participation in the war. The declaration of war on Germany had the support of only a narrow majority in the South African parliament and was far from universally popular. Indeed, there was a significant minority actively opposed to the war and under these conditions conscription was never an option and thus the expansion of the army and its deployment overseas depended entirely on volunteers. In addition, pre-war plans did not anticipate that the army would fight outside Southern Africa and it was trained and equipped only for bush warfare.
In the view of the Government, all of this precluded any substantial assistance to Finland beyond what had already been extended. South Africa simply did not have the industrial capacity to offer any meaningful assistance to Finland. In this however, the Ossewabrandwag (the “Ox Wagon Sentinels”) begged to differ. As has been mentioned, the Ossewabrandwag was a highly motivated and politically militant organisation dedicated to gaining power for the Afrikaners and to the preservation of Afrikaans culture. In 1939, when the white population of South Africa numbered some two million, of which around half were Afrikaners, the membership of the Ossewabrandwag numbered around one hundred thousand. And the Ossewabrandwag were not only politically militant. Members of the Ossewabrandwag refused to enlist in the South African forces, and sometimes harassed servicemen in uniform. They also formed a paramilitary wing, the Stormjaers (Assault Troops), one of whose “generals” was the future South African Prime Minister, Balthazar Johannes Vorster (December 1915 – 10 September 1983),

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Ossewabrandwag Guard of Honour for its leader, J F J Hans van Rensburg

In December 1939, the news that South Africa’s traditional foes on the Rugby field were sending a Battalion of Volunteers made headline news in South Africa. Within Afrikaner political circles, a fierce debate raged. The assistance given by the small number of Finns to the Boer Commandoes in die Tweede Vryheidsoorlog was raised, as was Finnish support in the war that in 1939 was well within living memory. Within the Ossewabrandwag, the debate centered on whether Boer volunteers should go to Finland, and if so could this be seen as assisting Britain in any way. Vorster himself, one of the young firebrands of the Stormjaers, was firmly of the opinion that a Boer Volunteer force could and should assist Finland and that this should be done regardless of Britain’s actions. The actions of the Finnish volunteers in fighting for the Boer Republics was a debt that should be repaid, Vorster repeated in speech after speech, and in this he and his mentor, Johannes Frederik Janse 'Hans' van Rensburg, who was in complete agreement on this point, carried the day.

Over January 1940, the Ossebrandwag organised a group of some 1,100 volunteers, almost all of whom were already members of the Stormjaers (the paramilitary wing of the OB). After heated negotiations (conducted by Hertzog on behalf of the OB) with the government of Jan Smuts, whom the members of the Ossebrandwag regarded as a traitor to the Afrikaaner cause, it was agreed that the South African government would provide a ship to transport the volunteers to Finland together with individual military equipment (uniforms, webbing, basic kit, Rifles, machineguns and ammunition). Many of the Boer volunteers had limited military experience from the Commandoes, enough had military training that they could provide sufficient officers and men for the unit, and almost all had grown up on the veld, shooting since they were old enough to stand up unaided. As with their fathers and grandfathers from the Boer War, many were crack shots and all were used to living rough. They were tough men, used to an outdoor lifestyle, used to living rough and not afraid of a good fight. By popular acclaim, they named their unit the De La Rey Battalion, after the Boer Was hero, General Koos de la Rey. The nature of the Stormjaers of the De La Rey Battalion was evidenced by the oath sworn by the volunteers as they signed on to fight for Finland: “As ek omdraai, skiet my. As ek val, wreek my. As ek storm, volg my” ("If I retreat, kill me. If I die, avenge me. If I advance, follow me").



Op 'n berg in die nag lê ons in die donker en wag
in die modder en bloed lê ek koud,streepsak en reën kleef teen my
en my huis en my plaas tot kole verbrand sodat hulle ons kan vang,
maar daai vlamme en vuur brand nou diep, diep binne my.


On a mountain in the night, we lie in the darkness and wait
In the mud and blood I lie cold, grain bag and rain cling to me
My house and my farm burnt to ashes, so they they could capture us
But those flames and that fire burn now deep deep within me.

De La Rey, De La Rey sal jy die Boere kom lei?
De La Rey, De La Rey
Generaal, generaal soos een man, sal ons om jou val.
Generaal De La Rey.


De La Rey, De La Rey will you come to lead the Boer?
De La Rey, De La Rey
General, General as one man, we’ll fall in around you.
General De La Rey.

Oor die Kakies wat lag,'n handjie van ons teen 'n hele groot mag
en die kranse lê hier teen ons rug,hulle dink dis verby.
Maar die hart van 'n Boer lê dieper en wyer, hulle gaan dit nog sien.
Op 'n perd kom hy aan, die Leeu van die Wes Transvaal.


And the Khakis that laugh, just a handful of us against their great might
With the cliffs to our backs, they think its all over for us
But the heart of a Boer lies deeper and wider, that they’ll still find out
At a gallop he comes, the Lion of the West Transvaal

De La Rey, De La Rey sal jy die Boere kom lei?
De La Rey, De La Rey
Generaal, generaal soos een man, sal ons om jou val.
Generaal De La Rey.


De La Rey, De La Rey will you come to lead the Boer?
De La Rey, De La Rey
General, General as one man, we’ll fall in around you.
General De La Rey.

Want my vrou en my kind lê in 'n kamp en vergaan,
en die Kakies se murg loop oor 'n nasie wat weer op sal staan.


Because my wife and my child lie in a Hell-camp and perish,
And the Khakis vengeance is poured over a nation that will rise again

De La Rey, De La Rey sal jy die Boere kom lei?
De La Rey, De La Rey
Generaal, generaal soos een man, sal ons om jou val.
Generaal De La Rey.


De La Rey, De La Rey will you come to lead the Boer?
De La Rey, De La Rey
General, General as one man, we’ll fall in around you.
General De La Rey.

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

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CanKiwi2
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 22 Apr 2012 15:31

...a Finnish board game developer (http://www.mikugames.com) is almost ready to release the Finnish Trilogy 1939-1945® - this consists of two wargames and one expansion, in an operational level, that will be about the Finnish struggle during various parts of the Second World War. This HUGE three-game project started back in 2003 and the developers first intention was to develop the Winter War Campaign only. The Continuation War and the Lapland War were added and at that point the project became a trilogy.

Work is in progress on all three games, but the focus is more on the first volume, The Winter War 1939-1940, which will be for sale in June 2012. There are already a few games around, that cover the Winter War Campaign, but none that completely covers the Continuation War or the Lapland War. Even though it is a very challenging task, the goal of mikugames is to make the best and most historically accurate games on these three campaigns so far. The game also includes potential French, British, Polish, Hungarian, Italian and Canadian units intervening as well as Swedish

Personally, I have been waiting for this game for some considerable time - my intention is to pick it up, modify it and game out my What If scenario.

If you are interested in taking a look, the website has a lot of fairly detailed information on the games.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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The Boer Volunteers – the De La Rey Commando

Post by CanKiwi2 » 25 Apr 2012 21:56

The Boer Volunteers – the De La Rey Commando

The Boer Volunteers, mostly men from the Northern Transvaal and from the Orange Free State, gathered outside Cape Town over the month of January 1940, trickling into the Camp in small groups. By late January 9104 some 1,100 volunteers had gathered, almost all with at least some form of training from the Commandoes and all undergoing basic military training under the instruction of those with prior military experience or training. NCO’s and Officers had been selected, largely following the old Boer tradition of the men selecting their own leaders. The Commando CO was selected in the same way, with 24 year old Ossewabrandwag Stormjaer “General”, Balthazar Johannes Vorster (who would go on to become Prime Minister of South Africa in 1966) being elected as the commanding officer. The Union Defence Force provided the volunteers with individual military equipment (uniforms, webbing, basic kit, Rifles and rifle ammunition) and machineguns and mortars for training but little else.

The Commando was the basic unit of organisation of the Boer militia with the term coming into English usage during the Second Boer War. The Commando system had its origins as early as 1658, when fighting had erupted between the Dutch settlers of the Cape Colony and the local Khoi-khoi tribes. In order to protect the settlement, all able bodied men were called up to fight and at the conclusion of this war, it was decided that all men in the colony should be liable for military service if needed – and all were expected to be ready on short notice. By 1700, the size of the colony had increased hugely in geographical size and the small military garrison at Cape Town couldn't be counted on to react swiftly in the distant border districts. It was at this time that the commando system was expanded and formalized. Each district had a Kommandant who was charged with calling up all burghers in times of need. In 1795, with the First British Occupation and again in 1806 with the Second British Occupation, the commandos were called up to defend the Cape Colony. At the Battle of Blaauwberg (6 January 1806), the Swellendam Commando held the British forces off long enough for the rest of the Cape Colony army to retreat to safety.

At the time of the Great Trek, the commando system was still in existence and was institutionalized by both the Boer republics – the Transvaal and the Orange Free State as well as by the short-lived Natalia Republic. The Great Trek itself is a central part of the Afrikaner culture and history – some 12,000 Voortrekkers (literally “those who trek ahead”) left the British-governed Cape Colony and trekked east and north-eastward into Africa and away from British control during the 1830’s and 1840’s. The reasons for the mass emigration from the Cape Colony have been much discussed over the years. Afrikaner historiography has emphasized the hardships endured by the frontier farmers which they blamed on British policies regarding the treatment of the Xhosa tribes, who often attacked the Boer farmers. Other historians have emphasized the harshness of the life in the Eastern Cape (which suffered one of its regular periods of drought in the early 1830s) compared to the attractions of the fertile country of Natal, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Growing land shortages have also been cited as a contributing factor. The true reasons were obviously very complex and certainly consisted of both "push" factors (including the general dissatisfaction of life under British rule) and "pull" factors (including the desire for a better life in better country.)

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Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... rtrait.jpg
Trek Boers in the Karoo

The Great Trek itself led to the founding of numerous Boer republics, the Natalia Republic, the Orange Free State (Oranje-Vrystaat) and the Transvaal being the most notable. The Orange Free extended between the Orange and Vaal rivers - between 1817 and 1831, the country was devastated by the Zulu chief Mzilikazi and his Matabele and almost all this area had been largely depopulated. In 1824 the Voortrekkers from the Cape Colony who were seeking to escape the British settled in the country. They were followed in 1836 by the first parties of the Great Trek. These emigrants left the Cape Colony from various motives, but all were animated by the desire to escape from British sovereignty. In December 1836 the emigrants beyond the Orange drew up in general assembly an elementary republican form of government. The Boers did not escape collision with Matabele raiding parties who attacked Boer hunters who had crossed the Vaal. Reprisals followed, and in November 1837 Mzilikazi and his Matabele were decisively defeated by the Boers and thereupon fled northward. After the defeat of Mzilikazi the town of Winburg (so named by the Boers in commemoration of their victory) was founded in late 1837, a Volksraad elected, and Piet Retief, one of the ablest of the Voortrekkers, chosen "Governor and Commandant-General."

Retief proposed Natal as the final destination of the Voortrekker migration and selected a location for its future capital, later named Pietermaritzburg. The Voortrekkers migrated into Natal and negotiated a land treaty with the Zulu King Dingane, who then double-crossed the Voortrekkers, killing their leader Piet Retief along with half of the Voortrekker settlers who had followed them to Natal. Other Voortrekkers migrated north to the Waterberg area, where some of them settled and began ranching operations. Another Boer leader, Andries Pretorius, filled the leadership vacuum left by the death of Piet Retief and entered into negotiations with Dingane, demanding that in return for peace Dingane would have to restore the land he had granted to Retief. When Dingane sent an imp (armed force) of around twelve thousand Zulu warriors to attack the local contingent of Voortrekkers in response to the demands, the Voortrekkers defended themselves at the Battle of Blood River fought on 16 December 1838. In the Battle, the vastly outnumbered Voortrekker force of 470 men defeated 10-15,000 Zulu warriors. This date has hence been known as the Day of the Vow as the Voortrekkers made a vow to God that they would honor the date if he were to deliver them from what they viewed as almost insurmountable odds.


The Battle of Blood River - The victory of the Voortrekkers was considered a turning point by the Boers. The Natalia Republic was set up in 1839 but was annexed by Britain in 1843 whereupon most of the local Boers trekked further north joining other Voortrekkers who had established themselves in the Transvaal.

At the same time as the Boers were establishing their republic, the British Cape Colony Government was making treaties with African chiefs, recognising native sovereignty over large areas which Boer farmers had settled, and in doing so seeking to keep the Boer emigrants under British control and to protect both the natives. The Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir George Napier, also maintained that the emigrant farmers were still British subjects. The effect was to precipitate collisions between all three parties. Shortly afterwards hostilities between the Boers and the Griquas broke out. British troops were moved up to support the Griquas, and after a skirmish at Zwartkopjes (May 2, 1845) the administration of the territory was placed in the hands of a British resident, a post filled in 1846 by Captain H. D. Warden. The place chosen by Captain (afterwards Major) Warden as the seat of his government was known as Bloemfontein, which subsequently became the capital of the Orange Free State. Extending between the Orange and Vaal rivers, its borders were determined by the United Kingdom in 1848 when the region was proclaimed as the Orange River Sovereignty by Sir Harry Smith, the Governor of the Cape.

The Boers did not recognize British rule, with the volksraad at Winburg during this period continued to claim jurisdiction over the Boers living between the Orange and the Vaal and as a result, relations between the Boers and the British were in a continual state of tension. There was an armed clas at Boomplats on August 29, 1848, in which the Boers were defeated. The Sand River Convention of 1852 acknowledged the independence of the Transvaal but left the status of the Orange River Sovereignty untouched, but in January 1854 the British abandoned all claims to the Sovereignty. A convention allowing the independence of the country was signed at Bloemfontein on the 23rd of February by Sir George Clerk and the republican committee, and in March the Boer government assumed office and the republican flag was hoisted. The Orange Free State was declared a Republic. This did not bring peace, as the Transvaal Boers wished to unite the two states in a confederation. The commando’s of the two sides met but did not fight, the end result being each state acknowledging the absolute independence of the other. Fighting with the Basuto did however go on for some time before the Basuto were defeated and the Basuto country (present day Lesotho) taken under British protection.

The second of the two Boer states, the Transvaal (or, more properly, The South African Republic / Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek) was established in 1856. In 1817 the region had been invaded by Mzilikazi, originally a lieutenant of the Zulu King Shaka, who was pushed from his own territories to the west by the Zulu armies. Mzilikazi and his warriors virtually emptied the Transvaal of the previous inhabitants in a series of wars and raids. From 1835 to 1838, Boer settlers began to migrate across the Vaal and came into conflict with Mzilikazi. Early in 1838 Mzilikazi fled north beyond the Limpopo (to current day Zimbabwe where he founded what is now Matabeleland), never to return to the Transvaal. Andries Potgeiter, one of the Boer leaders, after the flight of the Ndebele, issued a proclamation in which he declared that the country which Mzilikazi abandoned was forfeited to the emigrant farmers. After this, many Boer farmers trekked across the Vaal and occupied parts of the Transvaal. On 17 January 1852, the United Kingdom signed the Sand River Convention treaty with 5,000 or so of the Boer families (about 40,000 white people), recognising their independence in the region to the north of the Vaal River, or the Transvaal. In December 1856 the name Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic) was adopted as the title of the state

In 1877, before the 1886 Witwatersrand Gold Rush, Britain annexed the Transvaal. The Boers viewed this as an act of aggression, and protested. In 16 December 1880 the independence of the republic was proclaimed again, leading to the First Boer War. The Pretoria Convention of 1881 gave the Boers self-rule in the Transvaal, under British oversight. Kruger was elected president in 1883 and the republic was restored with full independence in 1884 with the London Convention, but not for long. The Gold rush also brought an influx of non-Boer European settlers (called uitlanders, outlanders, by the Boers), leading to a destabilisation of the republic. Kruger was re-elected president in 1888 and 1893, each time defeating Piet Joubert.

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Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... VA0952.jpg
State President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic at his fourth inaguration in 1898

In 1895, Cape Premier Cecil Rhodes planned to support an uitlander coup d'état against the Transvaal government. Leander Starr Jameson carried out this plan, without publicly-acknowledged British authorisation, in December of that year – in the ill-fated Jameson Raid. After the failed raid, there were rumours that Germany offered protection to the Boer republic, something which alarmed the British. Kruger won another presidential election in 1898, but the following year British forces were gathering on the borders of the Boer Republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State and fearing Britain's imminent annexation, the Boers launched a preemptive strike against the nearby British colonies in 1899, a strike which became the Second Boer War. The Second Boer War was a watershed for the British Army in particular and for the British Empire as a whole. It was here that the British first used concentration camps in a war setting. By May 1902, the last of the Boer troops surrendered, mourning the deaths of 26,000 women and children who died in British internment. The independent Boer republic became the Transvaal Colony, which in 1910 became the Transvaal Province of the newly created Union of South Africa, a British Dominion.

Thus, as we have seen, even prior to the Boer War, the Boers were no strangers to conflict or to fighting both the British, the african tribes or each other for that matter. There was a long tradition of a citizen militia where every able-bodied man fought, and in this fighting had evolved the “Commando” system. Both the Orange Free State and the Transvaal republics issued commando laws, making commando service mandatory in times of need for all male citizens between the ages of 16 and 60. During the Anglo-Boer War ( 1899–1902) the Boer Commandoes formed the backbone of the Boer forces. Each commando was attached to a town, after which it was named (e.g. Bloemfontein Commando). Each town was responsible for a district, divided into wards. The commando was commanded by a Kommandant and each ward by a Veldkornet or field cornet (equivalent to a senior NCO). The Veldkornet was responsible not only for calling up the burghers, but also for policing his ward, collecting taxes, issuing firearms and other material in times of war.

Theoretically, a ward was divided into corporalships. A corporalship was usually made up of about 20 burghers. Sometimes entire families (fathers, sons, uncles, cousins) filled a corporalship. The Veldkornet was responsible to the Kommandant, who in turn was responsible to a General. In theory, a General was responsible for four commandos. He in turn was responsible to the Commander-in-Chief of the Republic. In the Transvaal, the C-in-C was called the Commandant-General and in the Free State the Hoofdkommandant (Chief Commandant). Other auxiliary ranks were created in war time, such as Vleiskorporaal ("Meat Corporal"), responsible for issuing rations.

The commando was made up of volunteers, all officers were appointed by the members of the commando, and not by the government. This gave a chance for some exceptional commanders to emerge, such as General Koos de la Rey and General C. R. de Wet, but also had the disadvantage of sometimes putting inept commanders in charge. Discipline was also a problem, as there was no real way of enforcing it. Without straying into a history of the Boer War, the Commandos made up the armed forces of the Boer Republics over the Boer War – in which the fiercely independent Boers had no regular army. When danger threatened, all the men in a district were formed into commandos and elected officers. Being civilian militia, each man wore what they wished, usually everyday neutral or earthtone khaki farming clothes such as a jacket, trousers and slouch hat. Each man brought his own weapon, usually a hunting rifle, and his own horses.

The average Boer citizens who made up the commandos in the Boer War were farmers who had spent almost all their working life in the saddle, and because they had to depend on both their horse and their rifle for almost all of their meat, they were skilled hunters and expert marksmen. Most of the Boers had single-shot breech loading rifle such as the Westley Richards, the Martini-Henry, or the Remington Rolling Block. Only a few had repeaters like the Winchester or the Swiss Vetterli. As hunters they had learned to fire from cover, from a prone position and to make the first shot count, knowing that if they missed the game would be long gone. At community gatherings, target shooting was a major sport and competitions used targets such as hens eggs perched on posts 100 yards away. The commandos became expert light cavalry, making use of every scrap of cover, from which they could pour an accurate and destructive fire at the British with their breech loading rifles which could be rapidly aimed, fired, and reloaded.

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Boer Commando, Pretoria, 1899

Over the course of the Boer War, 50,000 Boer Commando’s faced over 400,000 British and Dominion troops. The Boers were mostly farmers without any formal military training, fighting what was perhaps the greatest power in the world. While the match was uneven from the start, the Boers were fighting on their home ground and used unconventional guerilla tactics to good advantage. They achieved some early victories over the British but in failing to take advantage of their early victories, they gave Britain time to bring overwhelming numbers to the war, whereupon the tide slowly turned against the Boers despite the huge casualties they were inflicting on the British.

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Boer Commando’s at Spion Kop, 1900

Now fighting a defensive war, the Boers lived off the land with help from sympathetic farms. The British responded by removing this advantage. When Kitchener succeeded Roberts as commander-in-chief in South Africa on 29 November 1900, the British army introduced new tactics in an attempt to break the guerrilla campaign and the influx of civilians grew dramatically as a result. Kitchener initiated plans to flush out guerrillas in a series of systematic drives, organised like a sporting shoot, with success defined in a weekly 'bag' of killed, captured and wounded, and to sweep the country bare of everything that could give sustenance to the guerrillas, including women and children.... It was the clearance of civilians—uprooting a whole nation—that would come to dominate the last phase of the war. As Boer farms were destroyed by the British under their "Scorched Earth" policy—including the systematic destruction of crops and slaughtering of livestock, the burning down of homesteads and farms, and the poisoning of wells and salting of fields—to prevent the Boers from resupplying from a home base, tens of thousands of women and children were forcibly moved into the concentration camps.

The camps were poorly administered from the outset and became increasingly overcrowded when Kitchener's troops implemented the internment strategy on a vast scale. Conditions were terrible for the health of the internees, mainly due to neglect, poor hygiene and bad sanitation. The supply of all items was unreliable, partly because of the constant disruption of communication lines by the Boers. The food rations were meager and there was a two-tier allocation policy, whereby families of men who were still fighting were routinely given smaller rations than others. The inadequate shelter, poor diet, inadequate hygiene and overcrowding led to malnutrition and endemic contagious diseases such as measles, typhoid and dysentery to which the children were particularly vulnerable. A report after the war concluded that of around 100,000 Boer prisoners, 27,927 Boers (of whom 24,074 (50 percent of the Boer child population) were children under 16) had died of starvation, disease and exposure in the concentration camps. In all about one in four (25 percent) of the Boer inmates, mostly children, died.

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Lizzie Van Zyl - a Boer child deliberately starved to death in a British concentration camp for Boer women and children. Some 50% of all Boer children died in the British Camps.

At the time of the Boer War, Emily Hobhouse told the story of the young Lizzie van Zyl who died in the Bloemfontein concentration camp: “She was a frail, weak little child in desperate need of good care. Yet, because her mother was one of the "undesirables" due to the fact that her father neither surrendered nor betrayed his people, Lizzie was placed on the lowest rations and so perished with hunger that, after a month in the camp, she was transferred to the new small hospital. Here she was treated harshly. The English doctor and his nurses did not understand her language and, as she could not speak English, labeled her an idiot although she was mentally fit and normal. One day she dejectedly started calling for her mother, when a Mrs Botha walked over to her to console her. She was just telling the child that she would soon see her mother again, when she was brusquely interrupted by one of the nurses who told her not to interfere with the child as she was a nuisance". Quote from Stemme uit die Verlede ("Voices from the Past") - a collection of sworn statements by women who were detained in the concentration camps during the Second Boer War (1899-1902).


Late in the war, Lord Kitchener attempted to form a Boer Police Force, as part of his efforts to pacify the occupied areas and effect a reconciliation with the Boer community. The members of this force were despised as traitors by the Boers still in the field. Those Boers who attempted to remain neutral after giving their parole to British forces were derided as "hensoppers" (hands-uppers) and were often coerced into giving support to the Boer guerrillas. (This was one of the reasons for the British ruthlessly scouring the countryside of people, livestock and anything else the Boer commandos might find useful.) Even well after the Boer War, the attitude of the Boers to those who cooperated with the British is well illustrated in the following short story, “The Affair at Ysterspruit” by Herman Charles Bosman.

“The Affair at Ysterspruit” by Herman Charles Bosman

It was in the second Boer War, at the skirmish of Ysterspruit near Klerksdorp, in February 1902, that Johannes Engelbrecht, eldest son of Ouma Engelbrecht, widow, received a considerable number of bullet wounds, from which he subsequently died. And when she spoke about the death of her son in battle, Ouma Engelbrecht dwelt heavily on that fact that Johannes fought bravely. She would enumerate his wounds, and, if you were interested, she would trace in detail the direction that each bullet took through the body of her son.

If you like stories of the past, and led her on, Ouma Engelbrecht would also mention, after a while, that she had a photograph of Johannes in her bedroom. It was with great difficulty that a stranger could get her to bring out that photograph. But she usually showed it, in the end. And then she would talk very fast about people not being able to understand the feelings that went on in a mother’s heart.

“People put the photograph away from them,” she would say, “and they turn it face downwards on the rusbank. And all the time I say to them, no, Johannes died bravely. I say to them that they don’t know how a mother feels. One bullet came in from in front, just to the right of his heart, and it went through his gall-bladder and then struck a bone in his spine and passed out through his hip. And another bullet…” So she would go on while the stranger studied the photograph of her son, Johannes, who died of wounds received at the skirmish at Ysterspruit.

When the talk came round to the old days, leading up to and including the second Boer War, I was always interested when they had a photograph that I could examine, at some farm-house in that part of the Groot Marico District that faces towards the Kalahari. And when they showed me, hanging framed against a wall of the voorkamer – or having brought it from an adjoining room – a photograph of a burger of the South African Republic, father or son or husband or lover, then it was always with a thrill of pride in my land and my people that I looked on the likeness of a hero of the Boer War. I would be equally interested if it was the portrait of a bearded commandant or of a youngster of fifteen. Or of a newly appointed veld-kornet, looking important, seated on a riempies-stoel with his Mauser held upright so that it would come into the photograph, but also turned slightly to the side for fear that the muzzle should cover up part of the veld-kornet’s face, or a piece of his manly chest. And I would think that the veld-kornet never sat so stiffly on his horse – certainly not on the morning when the Commando set out for the Natal border. And he would have looked less important, although perhaps more solemn, on a night when the empty bully-beef tins rattled against the barbed wire in front a a blockhouse, and the English Lee-Metfords spat flame.

I was a school-teacher, many years ago at a little school in the Marico bushveld, near the border of the Bechuanaland Protectorate. The Transvaal Education Department expected me to visit the parents of the school-children in the area at intervals. But even if this huisboek was not part of my after-school duties, I would have gone and visited the parents in any case. And when I discovered, after one or two casual calls, that the older parents were a fund of first-class story material, that they could hold the listener enthralled with tales of the past, with embroidered reminiscences of Transvaal life in the old days, then I became very conscientious about the huisboek.

“What happened after that, Oom?” I would say, calling on a parent for about the third week in succession, “when you were trekking through the kloof that night, I mean, and you had muzzled both the black claf with the dappled belly and your daughter, so that the Mojaja’s kafirs would not be able to hear anything?” And then the Oom would knock out the ash from his pipe on his veldskoen and he would proceed to relate – his words a slow and steady rumble and with the red dust of the road in their sound, almost – a tale of terror or of high romance or of soft laughter.

It was quite by accident that I came across Ouma Engelbrecht in a two-roomed, mud-walled dwelling some little distance off the Government Road and a few hundred yards away from the homestead of her son-in-law, Stoffel Brink, on whom I had called earlier in the afternoon. I had not been in the Marico very long then, and my interview with Stoffel Brink had been, on the whole, unsatisfactory. I wanted to know how deep the Boer trenches were dug into the foot of the koppies at Masgersfontein, where Stoffel Brink had fought. Stoffel Brink, on the other hand, was anxious to learn whether, in regard to what I taught the children, I would follow the guidance of the local school committee, of which he was chairman, or whether I was one of the new kinds of school-teacher who went by a little printed book of subjects supplied by the Education Department. He added that this latter class of school-master was causing a lot of unpleasantness in the bushveld through teaching the children that the earth moved around the sun, and through broaching similar questions of a political nature.

I replied evasively, with the result that Stoffel Brink launched forth for almost an hour on the merits of the old-fashioned Hollander school-master, who could teach the children all he knew himself in eighteen months because he taught them only facts. “If a child stays at school longer than that,” Stiffel Brink added, “then for the rest of the time he can learn only lies.” I left about then, and on my way back, a little distance from the road and half-concealed by tall bush, I found the two-roomed dwelling of Ouma Engelbrecht. It was good, there.

I could see that Ouma Engelbrecht did not have much time for her son-in-law, Stoffel Brink. For when I mentioned his references to education, when I had merely sought to learn some details about the Boer trenches at Magersfontein, she said that maybe he could learn all there was to know in eighteen months, but he had not learnt how to be ordinarily courteous to a stranger who came to his door – a stranger, moreover, who was a school-master asking for information about the Boer War.

Then, of course, she spoke about her son Johannes, who didn’t have to hide in a Magersfontein trench, but was sitting straight up on his horse when all those bullets went through him at Ysterspruit, and who died of his wounds some time later. Johannes had always been such a well-behaved boy, Ouma Engelbrecht told me, and he was gentle and kind-hearted. She told me many stories of his childhood and early youth. She told me about a time when a span of red Afrikaner oxen got stuck with the wagon in the drift, and her husband and the kafirs, with long whip and short sjambok could not move them – and Johannes had come along and he had spoken softly to the red Afrikaner oxen, and he had called on each of them by name, and the team had made one last mighty effort and had pulled the wagon through to the other side.

“And yet they never understand him in these parts,” Ouma Engelbrecht continued. “They say things about him, and I hardly ever talk about him anymore. And when I show them his portrait, they hardly even look at it, and they put the picture away from them, and when they are sitting on that rusbank where you are sitting now, they place the portrait of Johannes face dopwn beside them.” I told Ouma Engelbrecht, laughing reassuringly the while, that I stood above the pettiness of local intrigue. I told her that I had already noticed that there were all kinds of queer undercurrents below the placid surface of life in the Groot Marico. There was the example of what had happened that very afternoon, when her son-in-law, Stoffel Brink, had conceived a nameless prejudice agsinst me, simply because I was not prepared to teach the school-children that the earth was flat. I told her that it was ridiculous to imagine that a man in my position, a man of education and wide tolerance, should allow himself to be influenced by local Dwarsberge gossip.

Ouma Engelbrecht spoke freely, then, and the fight at Ysterspruit lived for me again – Kemp and de la Rey and the captured English convoy, the ambush and the booty and a million rounds of ammunition. It was almost as though the affair at Ysterspruit was being related to me, not by a lonely woman whose some received his death-wounds on the vlaktes near Klerksdorp, but by a burgher who had taken a prominent part in the battle.

And so, naturally, I wanted to see the photograph of her son, Johannes Engelbrecht.

When it came to the Boer War (although I did not say that to Ouma Engelbrecht) I didn’t care if a Boer commander was not very competent or very cunning in his strategy, or if a burgher was not particularly brave. It was enough for me that he had fought. And to me General Snyman, for instance, in spite of the history books’ somewhat unflattering assessment of his qualities, was a hero, nonetheless. I had seen General Snyman’s photograph somewhere: that face that was like Transvaal blouklip: those eyes that had no fire in them, but a stubborn and elemental strength. You still see Boers on the backveld with that look today.

In my mind I had contrasted the portrait of General Snyman and Matts Gustafsson, the Finn who had come all the way from Europe to shoulder a Mauser for the Transvaal Republic. Gustafsson, poet and romantic, last ditch champion of the forlorn hope and the heroic lost cause. …. Oh, they were very different these two men, Gustafsson, the Finnish gold-miner and poet and Snyman, the Boer. But I had an equal admiration for both of them.
Anyway, it was well on towards evening when Ouma Engelbrecht, yielding at last to my cajoleries and entreaties, got up slowly from her chair and went into the adjoining room. She returned with a photograph enclosed in a heavy black frame. I waited, tense with curiosity, to see that portrait of that son of hers who had died of wounds at Ysterspruit, and whose reputation the loose prattle of the neighborhood had invested with a dishonour as dark as the frame about his photograph.

Flicking a few specs of dust from the portrait, Ouma Engelbrecht handed over the picture to me.

And she was still talking about the things that went on in a mother’s heart, things of pride and sorrow that the world did not understand, when, in unconscious reaction, hardly aware of what I was doing, I placed beside me on the rusbank, face downwards, the photograph of a young man whose hat-brim was cocked on the right side, jauntily, and whose jacket with narrow lapels was buttoned up high. With a queer jumble of inarticulate feelings I realized that, in the affair at Ysterspruit, they were all Mauser bullets that had passed through the youthful body of Johannes Engelbrecht, National Scout.


Notes: Rusbank is Afrikaans for couch. The Boers generally used Mauser Rifles and the National Scouts were a unit of Boers who fought for the British. To say they were not liked by the Boers who fought on against the British is somewhat of an understatement as the following short article illustrates all too well.

"Betrayal"

Troopers John Beck and Frederick Nel, amongst other National Scouts were killed in action by their former friends of the Heidelberg Commando on 24 July 1901 at Braklaagte. They were buried next to each other in the Kloof Cemetery, Heidelberg. During the same action Scheepers, Danie Maartens' brother-in-law, was badly wounded. Scheepers and a group of National Scouts had turned his (Danie Maarten’s) sister and her daughter out of their house in nightclothes before burning it. They then drove them into the freezing veld in front of their horses for a kilometer before abandoning them. Danie found his wife and child the following morning in a critical condition from the cold.

After the Braklaagte action Danie demanded to see the wounded Scheepers, who was under armed guard. Scheepers crawled towards Danie, begging for mercy. “Danie told him that he wished to hear nothing, but wanted to shoot him between the eyes. He aimed, fired, then climbed on his horse and rode away." Two other former friends captured during this action, Piet Bouwer and Roelf Van Emmenes, were tried and later executed. This was a particularly emotional execution as it was carried out by blood relatives, friends, and ex-pupils of the Schoolmaster, Piet Bouwer.


The Second Boer War cast long shadows over the history of the South African region. The predominantly agrarian society of the former Boer republics was profoundly and fundamentally affected by the scorched earth policy of Roberts and Kitchener. The devastation of the Boer population in the concentration camps and through war and exile were to have a lasting effect on the demography and quality of life in the region. Many exiles and prisoners were unable to return to their farms at all; others attempted to do so but were forced to abandon the farms as unworkable given the damage caused by farm burning and salting of the fields in the course of the scorched earth policy. Destitute Boers swelled the ranks of the unskilled urban poor competing with the "uitlanders" in the mines. It’s certainly easy to see why the Boers had no love for the British and why most Boers opposed any entry into either WW1 or WW2 on the side of the British.

After the end of the Boer War in 1902, the Commandos were disbanded, although many Boers formed themselves into clandestine "shooting clubs" – commandos in all but name. With the white population of the newly-formed Union of South Africa existing in still heavily-armed rival English and Afrikaans-speaking factions, and the new army tried to channel these aggressive tendencies and in 1912, the Commandos were reformed as an Active Citizen Force in the Union Defence Force. When the First World War broke out, the Union sent an expeditionary force of 67,000 men into neighboring German South-West Africa and overwhelmed the tiny German garrison there. The army also showed its loyalty to the British Empire by quickly crushing an attempted Boer revolt, using many Afrikaans-speaking troops in the effort. Britain officially removed its garrison from South Africa in 1921, turning over responsibility to the Union Defence Forces. New legislation in 1922 re-established conscription for white males over the age of 21 for four years of military training and service. UDF troops assumed internal security tasks in South Africa and quelled several revolts against South African domination in South-West Africa. South Africans suffered high casualties, especially in 1922, when an independent group of Khoikhoi – known as the Bondelswart-Herero for the black bands that they wore into battle – led one of numerous revolts; in 1925, when a mixed-race population – the Basters – demanded cultural autonomy and political independence; and in 1932, when the Ovambo population along the border with Angola demanded an end to South African rule.

As a result of its conscription policies, the UDF increased its active-duty forces to 56,000 by the late 1930s; 100,000 men also belonged to the Active Citizen Force, which provided weapons training and practice. The permanent army however remained small and under-funded, and during the 1930s served mostly as a job-training program for unemployed young men. Several times it deployed against striking industrial and railway workers. In 1939, Britain’s declaration of war against Germany caused a serious political upheaval in South Africa. For three days debate raged, until the World War One hero J.C. Smuts split the ruling United Party to oust prime minister J.B.M. Hertzog, an Afrikaner nationalist who wanted to keep South Africa neutral. Smuts rammed through the declaration on 6 September, but anger over his action smoldered for years afterwards, as has been previously commented. The army quickly began to expand, but under some limitations. At first South Africa began conscripting all young white men aged 17 to 21, but this led to political unrest amongst many of the Boer communities. In February, 1940, the army reorganized itself, separating the conscripts into those with a responsibility to serve only within the Union and volunteers who took the “Africa Oath” and could serve anywhere on the continent — but not elsewhere. These men made up the Active Citizen Force, and these units would form the South African divisions in Egypt.

Nevertheless, as has been mentioned, a considerable percentage of the Afrikaners opposed entry into WW2, opposed conscription and refused pointblank to fight for the British. The Ossewabrandwag were by no means the most extreme of this group. However, where the Ossewabrandwag were unique was in their desire to assist Finland in their fight against the Russians. To the volunteers, the parallels were obvious. A small nation which desired nothing more than independence and to be left alone was fighting a great power which sought to conquer and occupy them. And not only that, this was a small country from whence volunteers had come to help the Boers fight their own war. And while the Boers had lost their war, perhaps with enough assistance the Finns could win theirs and a debt of honour could be repaid. For the government of Jan Smuts, the desire of the Ossewabrandwag to send volunteers to Finland was a godsend. Rather than opposition to fighting alongside the British, here was an opportunity to divert the attention of the Boers who opposed fighting the Germans into the support of a war that everyone saw as just and behind which all South Africans could unit in praising the volunteers.

Smuts committed the South African Government to wholeheartedly supporting the De La Rey Commando by any and all means possible. And so, the De La Rey Commando answered the Call for volunteers to assist Finland with the backing of the entire nation.


Blood River’s Calling: The spirit of the Boer Volunteers was driven by the memories of the Boer War and the warrior spirit that had led the Boers to fight against heavy odds for almost their entire existence as a nation. (Note: I’m going to be editing the video with photos that better fit the ATL, but in the meantime….)

The De La Rey Battalion embarked on the SS Mariposa (Matson Lines) and sailed for Belfast in early March 1940 after two months of hard training, in company with the New Zealand ship SS Awatea and their escort, the light cruiser HMNZS Achilles. After a six weeks of training with the Maavoimat, the De La Rey Commando moved up to the front in mid-May 1940, where they found themselves responsible for a sector on the Syvari River, the frontline with the Red Army that ran from Lake Ladoga to Lake Onega. The soldiers of the De La Rey Commando called their sector “Die Kaplyn” – “The Cutline” – due to the wide band of forest that had been cleared along the banks of the Syvari in order to offer a clear field of fire. Their task was to patrol and guard their sector of the Cutline against any incursions and river crossings by the Red Army. For three long months the Commando guarded the Syvari, four weeks on the front followed by two weeks in the rear. The fighting was of low intensity, patrols and skirmishes, raids across the river into the Red Army positions to take prisoners and gain intelligence, ambushing Red Army patrols and Red Army raids across the river, always on guards, always taking casualties in the ones and twos. The ongoing small scale fighting and the constant casualties made an impact on the Boer volunteers, many of them young men aged from eighteen into their mid-twenties.


“Die Kaplyn” (“The Cutline”) – Bok van Blerk

Tussen bosse en bome, Tussen grense wag ons almal vir more
Maar op agtien was ons almal verlore, Hoe kon ons verstaan
En wie weeg nou ons lewe, Want net God alleen weet waarvoor ons bewe
Want op agtien wou ons almal net lewe
Net een slag toe was jou lewe verby

Between bushes and trees, Between borders we all wait for tomorrow
But at eighteen we were all lost, How could we understand
And who weighs our lives now, Because only God alone knows why we quiver
Because at eighteen we all just wanted to live
Just one flash and your life was gone


Roep jy na my, Roep jy my terug na die Kaplyn my vriend
Deur die jare het die wêreld gedraai, Toe ons jonk was hoe sou ons dit kon raai
Soek jy na my, Soek jy my nou in die stof en jou bloed
Jy’t gesê jy hoor hoe God na jou roep
Toe’s dit als verby…

Are you calling me, Calling me back to the 'Die Kaplyn' my friend
The world has turned over the years, When we were young how could we have guessed
Are you searching for me, Searching for me now in the dust and your blood
You said you heard how God was calling you
Then it was all over…


Na al hierdie jare, Ver verlore dryf ons rond in ons dade
Net soldate leef met grense se skade, Hoe kan julle verstaan
Want daai bos vreet ons spore, In die donker bos was broeders gebore
In die donker saam gebid vir die more
Maar met net een slag jou lewe verby

After all these years, Far gone do we drift around in our deeds
Only soldiers live with damage caused by borders, How can you understand
Because the bush gobbles our tracks, In the dark bush brothers were born
In the dark we prayed together for tomorrow
But in one flash your life was over


Roep jy na my, Roep jy na my terug na die Kaplyn my vriend
Deur die jare her die wêreld gedraai, Toe ons jonk was hoe sou ons dit kon raai
Waar is jy nou, Is jou naam dan op ons mure behou,
Jy was nooit vereer en niemand gaan nou, Oor jou lewe skryf en wat jy nog wou…,
En by daai muur, Staan ek vir ure,
Maar waar’s jou naam nou my vriend, Kan hull nie verstaan…
Jong soldate vergaan…, Sonder rede dra hulle die blaam…

Are you calling me, Are you calling me back to ‘Die Kaplyn’ my friend
The world has turned over the years, When we were young how could we have guessed
Where are you now, Is your name then retained on our walls
You were never honoured and no one will, Write about your life and what you still wanted…
And at that wall, I stand for hours
But where’s your name now my friend, Can they not understand
Young soldiers perish…, Without reason they carry the blame…


In August 1940, the small scale skirmishing, raids, ambushes and patrols came to an abrupt end. The De La Rey Commando was taking its turn at the rear when the great Red Army offensive of late Summer 1940 crashed down on the Maavoimat units guarding the Syvari. The two Irish Battalions who formed two thirds of the Regimental Combat Group were hammered hard by the Red Army’s onslaught as waves of tanks and infantry supported by massive artillery barrages crashed into their positions. The Irish Volunteers withdrew in some disorder after taking heavy casualties, losing all their anti-tank guns and losing contact with the Regimental HQ which had been hit hard in a Red Army artillery barrage (more by luck rather than deliberate targeting, it must be said). In the rear, the De La Rey Commando was hastily assembled and, as the nature and scale of the Soviet attack was identified, Kommandant B J Vorster issued orders decisively to his men and to the nearby Maavoimat anti-tank, artillery, engineer and other miscellaneous rear area units he commandeered to augment his unit (and who, in the best traditions of the Maavoimat as a fighting army, themselves responded rapidly and with decision). It was at this time that Vorster made a speech to his men that has become immortalised in Afrikaner history and that epitomised the fighting spirit of the Boers.


Afrikanerhart - Kommandant (Lt. Col.) B J Vorster’s speech to the men of the De La Rey Commando as they braced themselves for the Red Army’s attack has gone down in Afrikaner history – As Vorster said to his men, “Kom boerekrygers wees nou helde. Die dag van rekenskap is hier. Die Vyand jaag nou oor ons velde. Staan jou man teen kanon se vuur. Al breek die hel agter ons los. En al stort die hemel neer. Hou die lyn en staan jou man. Dis hier waar ons hul kan keer. Staan vas Suid-Afrika” – “Come Boer warriors, be heroes now. The day of reckoning is here. The enemy is running over our land. Stand your ground against cannon fire. Even if hell breaks loose behind us and even if heaven falls down, keep the line and stand your ground. It is here where we can stop them. Stand firm South Africa.” Much of this speech to his men was later immortalised in song – in Bok van Blerk’s “Afrikanerhart”.

In vuur en bloed vind ek my nou
Soos elke boer en kind en vrou
‘n Oormag kwyt nou oor ons land
Staan gewapen tot die tand

In fire and blood I find myself
As every Boer and child and wife
A superior power now rules our land
Standing armed to the teeth


Sy skadu val ‘n donker wolk
Oor die toekoms van ons volk
En veg ons nie sal ons verdwyn
By Magersfontein, by Magersfontein, by Magersfontein
Trek ons die lyn

Its shadow falls like a dark cloud
Over the future of our people
And if we don’t fight we will vanish
At Magersfontein, at Magersfontein, at Magersfontein
We draw the line.


Kom boerekrygers wees nou helde
Die dag van rekenskap is hier
Die Vyand jaag nou oor ons velde
Staan jou man teen kanon se vuur

Come boer warriors, be heroes now
The day of reckoning is here
The enemy is running over our land
Stand your ground against cannon fire


Die kakies wil ons volk verower
Belowe pyn en smart
Maar as jy skiet, skiet my deur
Maar as jy skiet, skiet my deur
Maar as jy skiet, skiet my deur my Afrikanerhart

The kakies want to defeat our people
They promise pain and suffering
But if you shoot, shoot me through
But if you shoot, shoot me through
But if you shoot, shoot me through my Afrikaner heart


As jy my vra sal ek jou sê
Hoë my hart se wortels lê
As jy my vra sal ek jou wys
Dis my grond hier in my vuis

If you ask me, I will tell you
How deep the roots of my heart lie
If you ask me, I will show you
It’s my soil here in my fist


Al breek die hel agter ons los
En al stort die hemel neer
Hou die lyn en staan jou man
Dis hier waar ons hul kan keer
Staan vas Suid-Afrika
Staan vas Suid-Afrika

Even if hell breaks loose behind us
And even if heaven falls down
Keep the line and stand your ground
It is here where we can stop them
Stand firm South Africa
Stand firm South Africa


The De La Rey Commando stood firm and was the rock on which the one of the four spearheads of the Red Army’s assault broke. In doing so, the Commando and associated units took extremely heavy casualties. However, in doing so they brought the Red Army offensive they faced to a standstill. This in turn allowed Maavoimat units to reinforce the defense whilst other Maavoimat and Foreign Volunteer units launched fast moving counter attacks which crossed the Syvari, catching the Red Army in a series of pincer movements the result of which was that the attacking Red Army Groups were encircled and virtually annihilated in fast-moving encounter battles.

With that, we shall leave the De La Rey Commando for now, returning to them when we begin to cover the fighting of the Winter War itself. However, before moving on, there is one last aspect of the Boer Volunteers to be covered.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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Herman Charles Bosman and the Winter War

Post by CanKiwi2 » 25 Apr 2012 22:05

Herman Charles Bosman and the Winter War

Herman Charles Bosman (February 3, 1905 – October 14, 1951) is widely regarded as South Africa's greatest short-story writer. He studied the works of Edgar Alan Poe and Mark Twain and developed a style emphasizing the use of irony. His English-language works utilize primarily Afrikaner characters and highlight the many contradictions in Afrikaner society during the first half of the twentieth century. The poet Roy Campbell called him "the only literary genius that South Africa has produced". Bosman was born at Kuils River, near Cape Town, to an Afrikaner family. But he was raised with English as well as Afrikaans. While Bosman was still young, his family moved to Johannesburg where he went to school at Jeppe High School for Boys in Kensington. While there he contributed to the school magazine. When Bosman was sixteen, he started writing short stories for the national Sunday newspaper (the Sunday Times). He attended the Johannesburg College of Education and submitted various pieces to student literary competitions.

After graduation, Bosman accepted a teaching position in the Groot Marico district in an Afrikaans-language school. The area and the people inspired him and provided the backdrop for his best-known short stories, the Oom Schalk Lourens series (featuring an old Afrikaner character named "Oom Schalk Lourens"), and the Voorkamer sketches. Over the school holidays in 1926, Bosman visited his family in Johannesburg. During an argument, he shot and killed his stepbrother. Bosman was sentenced to death for the crime and was sent to Death row at the Pretoria Central Prison. His sentence was later reduced to ten years with hard labour. In 1930 he was released on parole after serving half his sentence. His prison experiences formed the basis for his semi-autobiographical book, Cold Stone Jug. Bosman then started his own printing-press company and was part of a literary set in Johannesburg, associating with poets, journalists, and writers. Needing a break, he then spent nine years overseas, mostly in London. The short stories that he wrote during this period formed the basis for another of his best-known books, Mafeking Road.

At the start of the Second World War, Bosman was still in London and on hearing that a Boer Volunteer Unit was being sent to Finland to fight against the Russians, he volunteered to join them as a journalist. He would join the Boer volunteers on their ship in Glasgow and sail with them to Finland. Not in the best of health, he remained with the De La Rey Commando Headquarters Company through much of the War, seeing some fighting and witnessing most of the events that the Commando participated in. He wrote regular dispatches for the Afrikaans and South African newspapers over the Winter War. After the end of the Winter War, shaken by what he had seen, he returned to South Africa and worked as a journalist. During this time he wrote “Another Country Through My Eyes - Stories of the Winter War Commando in Finland”, a collection of short stories about the De La Rey Commando in Finland of which perhaps the best is “Snow on the Syvari”.

He went on to translate the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam into Afrikaans. In 1947, after "Mafeking Road" was published, the stories were broadcast on the B.B.C. under the auspices of the South African poet, Roy Campbell, who considered them to be the best stories ever to come out of South Africa. These stories were ingrained with an acute irony, interspersed with caustic humour. He describes the rural world of the Afrikaner from the beginning of the 20th century, using very South African English flavoured with the occasional Afrikaans word. The force of the style of Bosman lies in the unexpected outcome of the story, which thwarts the expectations of the reader. Sometimes this reversal takes place in the last line.

Bosman went on to marry Ella Manson. The couple were renowned for their bohemian lifestyle and parties, which featured witty conversation and usually ended well after midnight. After a housewarming party in October 1951 Bosman experienced severe chest pains and was taken to Edenvale Hospital. On admission he was asked for his birthplace. He replied, "Born Kuilsrivier - Died Edenvale Hospital." He was discharged and collapsed at home a few hours later. Bosman died as he was being rushed back to hospital. He is buried in Westpark Cemetery in Westdene under a triangular headstone that reads "Die Skrywer, The Writer, Herman Charles Bosman, b 3.2.1905, d 14.10.1951." Only three of his books were published during his lifetime: Mafeking Road, Jacaranda in the Night and Cold Stone Jug. Because many of his stories were originally published in long-forgotten magazines and journals, there are a number of anthologies by different collators each containing different selections.

Image
Photo sourced from: http://zar.co.za/images/bio/bosman/bosman1.jpg
Herman Charles Bosman – perhaps the best writer to emerge from South Africa

“Snow on the Syvari” by Herman Charles Bosman - from “Another Country Through My Eyes - Stories of the Winter War Commando in Finland”


Another Country – Mango Groove

If we could reach beyond the bounds of blame
And make history blind
And peel away the easy balm of words
This is all we’d find:
A mothers cries, fear in an old man’s eyes,
A child’s blood on the walls
No easy price to pay, no harder way to fall

Another time, another place
Another country, another state of grace
You’ll walk beside me, I’ll tell you no lies
And then you’ll see another country in my eyes

There is a place for anger, things we won’t forgive
And I know its not enough to face your shame with words you’ll never live
But let’s begin to look within, to where the future lies
And find the strength to live beneath another country’s skies

Another time, another place
Another country, another state of grace
You’ll walk beside me, I’ll tell you no lies
And then you’ll see another country in my eyes

“Snow on the Syvari” by Herman Charles Bosman

Russians? (said Schalk van der Walt). Yes, I fought in Finland with the De La Rey Commando. I know them. And they’re all the same. I fear the Almighty, and I respect His works, but I could never understand why He made the kaffir and the hottentot and the Russians and the rinderpest. The hottentot and the kaffir are a little better than the Russian. When you shoot a Hottentot or a Kaffir and kill them, they will stay dead. That is where the Russian is different. If you do not shoot them just right, the Russian will pretend to be dead and when your back is turned then they will sit up and shoot you. That was how Piet van der Merwe died, when a dead Russian sat up and shot him in the back. After Piet, we always made sure we shot the dead Russians a time or two more to make sure that they stayed as dead as they were supposed to be.

Still, sometimes we came across a good Russian, who behaved as he ought. I remember one Russian, by the name of Mikhail. How we got him was after this fashion. It was when we were first moving up to the frontline on the Syvari. It was early in the Spring, when there was still snow on the ground and we were marching up to the front. For us Boers, it was terrible. It was cold. Every day it snowed. We were trekking south from the railway line with most of our equipment on wagons pulled by horses as the Finns did not have trucks to spare. And our Kommandant told us the walk would do us good. One morning we came to a Russian village, where our veld-kornet bargained a roll of Finnish tobacco which we did not like that much for some fresh rye bread which we liked very much, enough for our whole Platoon. A Russian boy about my own age, perhaps a little younger, was standing in front of one of the houses and he looked at us all the time and grinned. But mostly he looked at my older brother Hendrik. And that was not a wonder, either. In those days my brother Hendrik was careful about his appearance, and he always tried to be dressed as the Army expected. He polished his boots every night and sometimes he even wore socks.

The Russian boy helped hand out the rye bread and after we had finished, Hendrik gave him a cigarette, one of the ones we had brought with us from South Africa. Unlike the rest of us, Hendrik still had some left. He rationed his cigarettes very carefully. The Russian boy grinned even more, so that we could see every one of his teeth, which were very white. He lit the cigarette and began to smoke it. Then we all laughed. The Russian boy looked just like a puppy that has swallowed a piece of meat, and turns his head sideways, to see how it tastes.

That was in the morning. We walked right on until late afternoon, for the Kommandant wanted to reach the frontline as soon as possible, where we were going to show the Finns how to fight. It was very late in the afternoon when we started to outspan. Just as I was getting my pack off the wagon, I looked around and saw something jumping quickly behind a bush. It looked like some kind of animal, or maybe it was a Russian soldier that we had been warned were still fighting behind the front where they had been left behind by their own Army, so I was afraid and I told my brother Hendrik, who took up his rifle and walked slowly towards the bush. We saw, directly afterwards, that it was the Russian boy whom we had seen that morning in the village. He must have been following behind us for twenty miles. He looked dirty and tired but when my brother went up to him he began to grin again, and seemed very happy.

We didn’t know what to do with him, and one of the old soldiers who had fought with the British in the War of 1914-1918 said that he might be a Russian spy, for the Russians were known to have spies. We weren’t sure whether to believe him, as he had fought for the British and so was not entirely trustworthy, but in case of doubt it was best to be careful and so Hendrik shouted at the boy to go home and started throwing stones at him and then threatened to shoot him if he did not leave. But the veld-kornet was a merciful man, and after he listened to the interpreter that Finns had sent along with the Commando, he told the boy he could stay with us but he must be good and not tell lies or steal from us, like the other Russians we had met. Mikhail told us in Russian, which the interpreter understood, that his father had gone away to fight in the Red Army and his mother had been killed by the NKVD, who sounded as bad as the kakhies so we felt sorry for him, and that he was living with his uncle who he did not like, but that he liked my brother Hendrik and that was why he had followed us.

Mikhail remained with us. He was a very good Russian and we all became attached to him and he to us. But he worshipped my brother Hendrik. As he learnt some Afrikaans, the veld-kornet, who was a Dopper and very religious, sometimes spoke to him about his soul and explained to him about God. But although he told the veld-kornet he understood, I could see that whenever Mikhail thought about God, he was really only thinking of Hendrik. We reached the front after a week of marching and we fought the Russians on the banks of the Syvari, which was a river in Russia that the Finns said was a good place to fight. It did not appear that way to us at first. But the Finns showed us how to survive in the snow and we showed them how to shoot Russians, so both the Finns and the Boers were happy that things were going well. Next to us on the line were the Irish, who were Papists and not very good at shooting Russians, so we sent Piet Reilly, whose grandfather was Irish and who was a Papist despite the best efforts of the veld-kornet, to teach them how to shoot. But Piet came back and said it was waste of time and it would be better to give them machineguns because when he pointed out targets to them they couldn’t even see them.

After a few weeks, we were moved to the rear to rest for a while so as to give another unit a chance to fight the Russians. We did not think we needed a rest. Shooting the Russians had been very relaxing and they were very poor soldiers who did not seem to know how to fight properly. It seemed very different to the stories our fathers told us about fighting the kahkies and of course for that we thanked the Almighty, for we had all expected that many of us would die fighting the Russians, as had happened when we fought the British. It was while we were in the rear that we got news that Hermanus Potgeiter and his whole section had been killed by a Russian unit that had got across the Syvari. They also said that after killing him, the Russians cut off old Potgeiter’s ears and inflicted other indignities on his body. It was very wicked of the Russians to have done that and the whole Commando was called out to go and attack the Russians, who were still on our side of the Syvari, and teach them to have some respect for us Boer’s – and above all, to have some respect for Boer bodies. We packed a great deal of ammunition, for we expected some hard fighting. The next morning we set out towards where some of the Irish Battalion and some of our Commando had the Russians surrounded. We were accompanied by Mikhail, whom we took along with us to look after the cooking and keep the tents warm. The veld-kornet gave us some good advice before we started out.

“Don’t forget to read your Bible every night boys,” he told us. “Pray to the Lord to help you, and when you shoot, always aim for the stomach.” These remarks were typical of the veld-kornet’s deeply religious nature, and he also knew that it was easier to hit a man in the stomach than in the head: and it is just as good, because no man can live long after his intestines have been shot away. Well, the whole Commando left, my older brother Hendrik and me and the rest of the Platoon with Mikhail behind us leading a pack horse with extra food and ammunition, because as experience had taught us, there were very many Russians and shooting them all required many bullets. At the end of the day, we reached the Irish headquarters and some of the Commando were already there. Mikhal had just made the fire and boiled the coffee when one of the Van Rensburg brothers, who were in another Company but whom we knew well because they were our neighbours back at home, came up and invited us over to their bivouac. They had shot a deer and were roasting pieces of it on the embers of their fire.

We all shook hands and said it was good weather for spring in Finland as there was only a few inches of snow fallen that day, and that it was perhaps time that more Boer volunteers came to Finland to help as there seemed to be no end of Russians and it was unfair of us to shoot them all, and that the deer tasted very fine when roasted on the coals. Then they told us about what had happened with the Russians. After Potgeiter and his section had been killed, the rest of the Company had come quickly and after firing a few shots the Russians had all fled into bunkers on a hill. The bunkers had been built by the Red Army early in the war, before the Finns pushed them over to the other side of the Syvari. And there were very many of them and they were connected by tunnels underground. So as our Company could not storm the bunkers without taking many casualties, they had surrounded the hill and requested reinforcements and in particular, the flamethrowers that the Finnish Army had that were very useful for clearing out bunkers. So we were hopeful that we could kill off most of the Russians without wasting ammunition or losing too many men.

Many Russians had been killed when they tried to break out and cross back across the Syvari and it was thought they had little food left, and no water except what they could get from snow. Already, when the wind blew towards us, the stink was terrible despite the snow and the cold. We would have camped further back, but all of us were worried that if we camped to far back, the Russians might escape us. The next morning I saw for myself the first time why we couldn’t drive the Russians from their bunkers, even though our Commando was a thousand men. All over the hill, through the rocks and trees, we could see the small black openings of the bunkers. And everywhere there were dead bodies lying. But there were still a lot of Russians who were not dead, and them we could not see. But they had guns, and they shot at us whenever we came within range. And all the time there was that stench of decaying bodies.

We waited there for two days while the Kommandant and the officers decided what to do. Then we heard that our Kommandant, Barry Vorster, and one of the Company Kommandants, Danie Cronje, had quarreled. Cronje wanted to attack the Russians immediately and finish the affair, but Vorster said it was too dangerous and he didn’t want any more of us killed than was necessary. In this, it must be said, many of us agreed with Kommandant Vorster, who seemed a sensible leader with the best interests of his men at heart. Vorster said that the hand of the Lord lay heavy on the Russians and in another couple of days, more of the Russians would be dead from the cold and starvation and that by then the flamethrowers would have arrived and we could burn the Russians out easily. But Cronje said that it would be even better if the hand of the Lord lay still heavier on the Russians in the meantime. Eventually, Cronje obtained permission to take fifty volunteers and storm the bunkers from one side, while Piet Potgeiter, who was Hermanus Potgeiter’s brother, was to advance from the other side with two hundred men to distract the attention of the Russians. Cronje was popular with the men and nearly everyone volunteered to go with him. So he picked fifty men among whom were the Van Rensburgs and my brother. Therefore, as I did not want to stay behind while my brother was fighting, I had to join Piet Potgeiter’s force.

All the preparations were made and early the following morning we were ready to attack. My brother Hendrik was very proud and happy at having been chosen for the more dangerous part. He cleaned his gun, one of the Suomi sub-machineguns the Finns had given us and which were very good for shooting Russians, very carefully and polished his boots and I noticed that he was also wearing his socks. Then Mikhail came up and I noticed that he looked very miserable. “My baas,” he said (his Afrikaans was getting better all the time and he had certainly learnt how to respectfully address a good Boer soldier) to my brother Hendrik, “you must not go and fight. They’ll shoot you dead.” My brother shook his head. “Then let me go with you Baas,” Mikhail said, “I will go in front and look after you.” Hendrik only laughed. “Look here Mikhail,” he said, “I am a soldier and you are not. You can stay behind and cook the dinner. I will be back in time to eat it.”

The whole Commando came together and we all knelt down and prayed. Then Barry Vorster said we must sing Hymn Number 23, “Rest my Soul, thy God is King”. Furthermore we sang another Hymn and also a Psalm. Most people would have thought that one Hymn would be enough. But not so Vorster. He always made quite sure of everything he did. Then we moved off to the attack. We fought bravely, but the Russians were many, and they withdrew into tunnels at the back of the bunkers and shot at us without our being able to see them. While the fighting lasted it was very bad. And the stench inside the bunkers and tunnels was terrible. We tied handkerchiefs around the lower part of our face but that did not help. Also, since we were not Englishmen, many of us had no handkerchiefs. Still we fought on, shooting at an enemy we could not see. We rushed many of the bunkers and cleared them and even got some distance inside some of the tunnels that led deeper underground, but our assault leader, Piet Potgeiter lost heart and ordered us to retire. When we returned from the fight, we found that the other attacking party had also withdrawn. They had shot many Russians, as had we, but there were many more left. “Perhaps it is better to wait for those Finnish flamethrowers,” was all Danie Cronje said as we assembled afterwards. Kommandant Vorster said nothing, which was also for the better as he had a quick temper and quick tempers lead to harsh words.

I went back to our bivouac. There was only Mikhail, sitting on a rock outside the tent with the falling snow coating him, his face on his arms. An awful fear clutched me as I asked him what was wrong. “Baas Hendrik,” he replied, and as he looked at me in his eyes there was much sorrow. “Baas Hendrik did not come back.” I went out immediately and made inquiries, but nobody could tell me anything for sure other than Hendrik had not come back. The Van Rensburgs remembered quite well seeing my brother Hendrik as they stormed the first bunker. He was right in among the foremost of the attackers. When I heard that, I felt a great pride in my brother, although I also knew that nothing else could be expected of a son of my father. But no man could tell me what had happened to him. All they knew was that when they got back he was not among them. There were also others that had not come back.

I spoke to Kommandant Vorster and asked him to send out a party to seek for my brother and for the other missing. But Vorster was angry. “I will not allow one more man,” he replied. “It was Cronje’s doing and I was against it from the start. Now men have been killed who were better soldiers than Cronje and all his Dopper clique put together. If any man goes back to the bunkers I shall discharge him from the Commando.” But I didn’t think that was right of Vorster, for Cronje was only trying to do his duty as an Officer and besides, we had all volunteered – and as the Kommandant, Vorster could have made it an order not to attack so in this I thought he was wrong, although later in South Africa in the elections I would vote for him. But at that time, I was not happy with Vorster. It was eleven o’clock when I again reached our part of the camp. Mikhail was still sitting on the rock and I saw that he had carried out my brother’s instructions, and that the pot was boiling on the fire. The meal was also ready, but my brother was not there. The sight was too much for me, and I went and lay down alone under a bush with my blankets and my coat.

I looked up again, about half an hour later, and I saw Mikahil walking away with a water bottle and a small pack strapped on his back. He said nothing to me, but I knew he was going to look for my brother Hendrik. Mikhail knew that if his baas was still alive he would need him. So he went to him. That was all. For a long while I watched Mikhail as he crept through the rocks and the bushes. I supposed it was his intention to lie in wait near one of the bunkers and then crawl inside when night came. That was a very brave thing to do. If the Russian soldiers saw him they would be sure to kill him because he was helping the Boers against them. The evening came, but neither my brother Hendrik nor Mikhail. All that night I sat with my face to the caves and never slept. Then in the morning I got up and cleaned my rifle and loaded my magazines and took some additional grenades. I said to myself that if Mikhail had been killed in the attempt there was only one thing left for me to do. I myself must go to my brother.

I walked out first into the forest, in case one of the Officers saw me and made me come back. Then I walked along a small ridge and got under cover, hiding in the bush and behind the rocks, so that I came into the Russian positions where Cronje had launched his attack from and where things were now more quiet. I got to within two hundred yards of a bunker. There I lay very still behind a big rock, to find out if there were any Russians watching. Occasionally I heard a shot being fired from one of our rifles. Afterwards, I fell asleep, for I was weary with the anxiety and through not having slept the night before. When I woke up it was snowing again and very cold. I thought of my brother Hendrik and shivered. I looked towards the bunkers. Inside, it seemed as if something was moving. A minute later I saw that it was a Russian soldier coming stealthily out of the bunker. He appeared to be looking in my direction and for fear that he should see me and call more Russians, I quickly shot him, aiming at the stomach. He fell over like a sack of potatoes and I was thankful for the veld-kornet’s advice.

But I had to act quickly. If the other Russians heard the shot they would all come running. And I didn’t want that to happen. And I didn’t like the look of the snow either. It was coming down more and more heavily. Accordingly I ran as fast as I could towards the bunker and rushed right into it, so that even if the Russians did come I would take them by surprise and shoot them first. But inside there were no more Russians. In the bunker, I lay in a corner and waited. But as no Russians came, after a time I crawled slowly down the dark passageway that led deeper underground from the rear of the bunker. The tunnel split and I felt my way on, trying to make sure I would remember my way back and not get lost. In the distance, I could hear muffled voices and I knew the Russians were near. I also knew that finding my brother would be difficult but something seemed to tell me he was near. So I was strong in my faith and I knew the Lord would lead me aright. And I found my brother Hendrik and he was alive. It was with a feeling of great joy that I came across him. I saw him in the dim light that came from a small hole in the roof of the underground room that he was lying in.

He was holding his leg and trying not to groan. I saw afterwards that he had been shot in the leg and the bone was also broken but he had managed to bandage the wound. So great was my brother Hendrik’s surprise at seeing me that he almost shot me with his Suomi submachinegun, and after that at first he could not talk. He just held my hand and laughed softly, and when I touched his forehead I knew he was feverish. I gave him some brandy from my flask and in a few words he told me all that had happened. When they stormed the bunker he was right in front and as the Russians retreated down the tunnel, he followed them. But they went different ways and he got lost and found himself alone and when he tried to find his way back he ran into some Russians and shot them all but one of them managed to get a shot off which injured him. After bandaging himself he tried to crawl on but the pain was so bad he had crawled into a corner of an underground bunker and remained there, with the danger and the darkness and the cold and his pain. But the worst of all was the stink of the rotting bodies.

“Then Mikhail came,” my brother Hendrik said.
“Mikhail?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he replied. “He found me and gave me food and water and dragged me this far. Then the water gave out and I was very thirsty. So Mikhail took the bottle to go and fill it with some snow from outside. But it is very dangerous out there and I am frightened the Russians may kill him.”
“They will not kill him,” I said. “Mikhail will come back.” I said that, but in my heart I was afraid. For the bunkers were many and the Russians were mad with fear and hunger. And the Commando would soon be returning to the attack with the Finnish flamethrowers and Mikhail did not look like one of us. It would not do to wait. So I took Hendrik under his arms and dragged him through the tunnels towards the bunker and the exit. He was in much pain but he did not cry out.

“You know,” he whispered as we reached the bunker I had entered from and I prepared to carry him over my shoulder, for he could not walk, “Mikhail was crying when he found me. He thought I was dead. He has been very good to me – so very good. Do you remember the day when he followed behind our wagons. He looked so very trustful and yet I – I threw stones at him and threatened to shoot him. I wish I did not do that. I only hope that he comes back safe. He was crying and stroking my hair.”

As I said, my brother Hendrik was feverish.

“Of course he will come back,” I answered him. But this time I knew that I lied. For as I came through the entrance to the bunker with Hendrik over my shoulder I kicked against the Russian I had shot there. The body sagged over to one side and I saw the face for a moment before the blowing snow covered it again.

OTL Note: this book is invented for this ATL - the story that follows is based on an actual Herman Charles Bosman story (Makepan’s Caves, if you’re interested) that I’ve adapted. All else I have written about Bosman - other than this story, the fictional book that it is set in and Bosman’s involvement in the Winter War - is true. He’s an incredibly good writer and for any non-South African who wants some insight into the Afrikaner psyche, his books, especially those containing the "Oom Schalk Lourens", and “Voorkamer” stories, are well worth reading.

In both South Africa and Finland while the historical memories of the Finnish volunteers who fought for the Boer Republics in the Boer War and of the contribution of the De La Rey Commando in the Winter War have largely been forgotten, perhaps fittingly, the one remnant trace of the presence of the Boer Commando in Finland is a song performed here by Laila Kinnunen (herself born on November 8, 1939, only days before the start of the Winter War).


Sarie Marais, performed by Laila Kinnunen

My Sarie Marais is so ver van my hart,
Maar'k hoop om haar weer te sien.
Sy het in die wyk van die Mooi Rivier gewoon,
Nog voor die oorlog het begin.

My Sarie Marais is so far from my heart
But I hope to see her again
She lived in the area of Mooi-river
Before the war began


O bring my trug na die ou Transvaal,
Daar waar my Sarie woon.
Daar onder in die mielies
By die groen doringboom,
Daar woon my Sarie Marais.

Oh bring me back to the old Transvaal
There where my Sarie lives
There by the maize
By the green thorn tree
There lives my Sarie Marais


Ek was so bang dat die Kakies my sou vang
En ver oor die see wegstuur;
Toe vlug ek na die kant van die Upington se sand
Daar onder langs die Grootrivier.

I was so scared that the Kakhis would catch me
And send me far across the sea
That I fled to the sand banks of Upington
There next to the Groot-river


Chorus:

Die Kakies is mos net soos 'n krokodille pes,
Hulle sleep jou altyd water toe;
Hul gooi jou op n skip vir 'n lange, lange trip,
Die josie weet waarnatoe.

The khakis are just like crocodiles
They always drag you to the water
They throw you on a ship for a long long trip
Who knows where they're taking you


Chorus:

Verlossing die kom en die huis toe gaan was daar,
Terug na die ou Transvaal;
My lieflingspersoon sal seker ook daar wees
Om my met 'n kus te beloon.

Salvation came and it was possible that we could go home
Back to the old Transvaal
My loved one will probably also be there
To reward me with a kiss


Chorus:


Although with all due respect to Laila,this is more like what it should sound like

The origins of the song lie in the Boer War, with the tune taken from a song called Ellie Rhee dating to the American Civil War, (itself probably a version of the traditional folk song The Foggy Dew,) and the words translated into Afrikaans. This song was sung by Americans working in the Transvaal gold mines, and heard there by Afrikaans journalist and poet Jacobus Petrus Toerien, who re-wrote the song in Afrikaans, substituting the name of Ellie Rhee with that of his own beloved (Susara Margaretha Maré). The song changed and got more verses as time went on. This accounts for the reference to the Kakies (or khakis), as the Boers called the British soldiers during the Boer War. The reference to being taken for a long long ride across the water is to the Boer prisoners being taken to camps on St Helena and Ceylon. Susara Margaretha Maré (Sarie Maré) was born in Suikerbosran, Transvaal on 15 April 1869. Suikerbosrand was at that time in the Ward Mooirivier. She married journalist (and later a well-known poet) J.P. Toerien. She died 22 December 1939 in Bloemfontein.

And a postscript: Renewed Defence Ties between Finland and South Africa

After a hiatus of some 65 years from the Winter War, Finland is once again creating new defence links with South Africa. In May 2007, the South African company, Denel Land Systems, was awarded a contract to build an improved version of the Patria AMV, with a high level of ballistic and mine protection for the South African National Defence Force. The Patria AMV will replace the old South-African designed and built Ratels as part of "Project Hoefyster" (Horseshoe). Five different versions are included in the contract: Command, Mortar, Missile, Section and Fire Support vehicles and some 264 Patria AMV infantry fighting vehicles will be built in total. Armscor plans to place phased orders over a 10-year period as key milestones are achieved, with follow-on support work after delivery. The first vehicles will be manufactured in Finland, after which the production will gradually be transferred to South Africa.

Image
Photo sourced from http://media.defenseindustrydaily.com/i ... nel_lg.jpg
Hoefyster / Badger based on Patria AMV- Denel concept

Next Post: Further British Assistance for Finland....
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Re: The formation of the Polish Volunteer Units in Finland

Post by Seppo Koivisto » 29 Apr 2012 17:05

Seppo Koivisto wrote:
CanKiwi2 wrote: Image
Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... Zubr_2.png
Emblem of the 5th Kresowa Division (5 Kresowa Dywizja Piechoty), worn as a shoulder patch and painted on vehicles
Lentolaivue 46 had very similar emblem. I remember reading that it came from a Polish vodka bottle.
Image
http://forum.valka.cz/viewtopic.php/p/396189#396189
The newest issue 3/2012 of Siivet aviation magazine has the story behind the Mylvivä härkä (Roaring bull) emblem. 25 personnel were sent to Warsaw in November 1941, to be trained and fetch the 15 Dornier Do 17 bombers. However, the aircraft were used by German units and it took longer than expected to deliver them, giving the men good time to get acquainted with local drinks. Several bottles of Vodka Zubrowka were also taken as souvenirs. The squardon emblem was drawn with some inspiration from the vodka bottle label. Today the roaring bull is the emblem of the Lapland Air Command.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapland_Air_Command

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Re: The formation of the Polish Volunteer Units in Finland

Post by CanKiwi2 » 09 May 2012 23:25

Seppo Koivisto wrote:The newest issue 3/2012 of Siivet aviation magazine has the story behind the Mylvivä härkä (Roaring bull) emblem. 25 personnel were sent to Warsaw in November 1941, to be trained and fetch the 15 Dornier Do 17 bombers. However, the aircraft were used by German units and it took longer than expected to deliver them, giving the men good time to get acquainted with local drinks. Several bottles of Vodka Zubrowka were also taken as souvenirs. The squardon emblem was drawn with some inspiration from the vodka bottle label. Today the roaring bull is the emblem of the Lapland Air Command.
Thx Seppo, thats too good to pass up, I HAVE to work this in somewhere. Any chance you could scan and post the article. No translation needed, I should be able to figure it out :)

And now, a translation question.

For this alternative history, I was trying to figure out an alternative name for the second part of the Finnish involvement in WW2, where Finland goes at it with Germany. In which case Continuation War is a bit of a misnomer as it is not Round 2 vs the USSR.

My general theme at that stage is going to be Finland turning that against the Germans. As in, those bastards sold
us out and told the Russians it was fine to gun for us, so now that we have sorted the Russians, we are going to settle accounts with those bastards (the Germans) too. Definitely Sisu with overtones of malice there. And down the Baltic littoral the Maavoimat, Merivoimat and Ilmavoimat come ..... equally happy to gun down the Germans or the Russians...

So, excuse my attempt at Finnish here, but could one use a word such as pahansisuinensota as a kind of slang description for this war?

My dictionary says paha sisu means malice combined with ruthlessness and implacability: it means relentless strive for mischief, persecution and vengeance. It is in a sense the mirror image of good sisu. Finnish expression pahansisuinen implies "audacious", "implacable", "full of affrontery", "malevolent" etc with aggressive overtones. This is kind o'f where I was going with the theme.
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 10 May 2012 09:22

Copied across from alternatehistory site - I kindof like Vihan Sota - has the right feel to it!

Nicaeus

Cankiwi,
The correct way to spell that would be Pahansisuinen Sota. I suppose it could work as a name, but might Kostosota ("War of Revenge") be better, since it is easier to say and so would propably be used more. Also if Finns are going to war out of revenge, naming the conflict like that would be a decisive way to show it.

On the other hand, JRR Tolkien named one war in his books in a way that could easily be borrowed in this instance. Vihan Sota, War of Wrath. That would imply nicely that Finns are going nowhere before they have kicked down the German house of cards.

Keep up the good work with this TL, after all you got me to quit my lurking and actually post something.
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by Seppo Koivisto » 10 May 2012 22:24

To me pahansisuinen sota sounds a bit like grumpy war. War of Wrath sounds more like the continuation of the Greater Wrath. (I´ll see what I can do with the article.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Wrath

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

Post by CanKiwi2 » 11 May 2012 03:46

Seppo Koivisto wrote:To me pahansisuinen sota sounds a bit like grumpy war. War of Wrath sounds more like the continuation of the Greater Wrath. (I´ll see what I can do with the article.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Wrath
OK, grumpy war I do not want! War of Wrath still sounds OK to me but the connotations that go with the Greater and Lesser Wrath make it a bit questionable. I guess War of Revenge is left unless anybody has some suggestions for something that sounds appropriate in Finnish.
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 14 May 2012 19:27

Further British assistance with the supply of War Materials and Armaments

Despite the pre-war buildup and the emergency programs of 1938 and 1939, now that war with the Soviet Union was a fact, the Finnish Defence Forces were finding that munitions were being used up at a rate that surpassed the most generous estimates. And aside from munitions and explosives, the most pressing need was for aircraft, both fighters and bombers, mines, grenades, fuel and specialist military equipment that Finnish industry could not supply in sufficient quantity. Additional problems were being experienced as a result of the call-up of manpower – Finnish war-planning had made provision for retaining industrial personnel critical to the wear effort in the factories and mines, but even with women and teenagers taking over many of the jobs, there were still major manpower shortages and gaps.

The acquisition of materials was of great concern to the Finns, and when the Finnish Lieutenant-General Enckell arrived to petition the British government on this point at the start of February 1940, Gibson and the Finnish Aid Committee also made their own appeals to the War Cabinet. Lord Davies and Harold MacMillan went on a fact-finding mission to Finland soon after this, and reported back to the Committee on the “dire situation” there (the Finns deliberately understated their manufacturing capabilities in an attempt to leverage as much aid as possible from both Britain and France). Gibson used this report as leverage to write to the Prime Minister, requesting that “every effort should be made to supply the material which is now asked for”. Gibson also discussed the situation with the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress Sir Walter Citrine – who had been part of a Labour delegation recently returned from Finland – to whom he “urged that the Labour Party should do all that they could to secure for Finland the guns and planes which would make all the difference between victory and defeat”.

According to a report from Gibson, satisfactory progress had been made on fulfilling a number of the Finnish request at the end of February 1940. In addition to the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion and the raising of the Atholl Highlanders, artillery and munitions had already been sent (the 60 QF 18pdrs and 240,000 shells shipped to Finland with the ANZAC Battalion) together with a shipload of gas masks, hand grenades, both anti-tank mines and naval mines and additional artillery shells for the 18pdr Field Guns, more of which had been promised. In addition, a “substantial” number of aircraft had been, or were in the process of being, dispatched to Finland. Altogether, 22 Blenheim Bombers, 12 Hurricane Fighters, 28 Gloster Gauntlets, 20 Gloster Gladiators, 33 Blackburn Roc “fighters”, 17 Lysander observation aircraft and 80 Hawker Henley’s (of the 200 the RAF had in service) had already been sent, or were in the process of being sent, to Finland. In addition, the RNZAF had dispatched a squadron of 30 Vickers Wellington bombers together with all necessary personnel and the RAF was putting together a volunteer Squadron of 24 Hurricane Fighters which would arrive in Finland in March.

In January 1940 the British would dispatch a sizable Volunteer Ambulance Unit, a Volunteer Fire-Fighting unit would be sent to Helsinki, some 6,600 industrial personnel would be recruited from among the refugees in Britain to be sent to Finland to work in Finnish industry. Britian would be instrumental in arranging for some 2,000 Canadian loggers to be recruited and shipped to Finland to help keep the Finnish lumber industry in business (numbers of Loggers from the USA would travel to Canada to enroll in this scheme also). New Zealand and Australia would send eleven sizable cargo ships loaded to capacity with tinned meat, frozen mutton and grain (these ships in the end would form part of the Helsinki Convoy – incidentally joined by 2 shiploads of tinned beef donated from Argentina and Uruguay together with a shipload of coffee similarly donated from Brazil) which were donated to Finland by their respective governments, people, or a combination of both. Aid was sent by other smaller countries as well – on 14 March 1940 a shipment of aid sent by Portugal and carried on the SS Greta included 19,902 crates of sardines, 956 crates of onions, 157 crates of canned fish, 27 crates of pineapples, a crate of rubber hot water bottles, a crate of wool sweaters and strangely enough a crate of skis. Also shipped would be numbers of the “Boys” Anti Tank Rifle, 20 million rounds of 7.62-mm rifle ammution and 10 million 9-mm rounds for pistols and submachineguns. After the fall of France, large volumes of rifle, 9mm and machinegun ammunition together with artillery shells would start arriving from the USA.

A List of Material sent in one shipment from Britain (23 January 1940) includes a range of items, eg. Light Machine Guns (Lewis), 3 inch Mortars, Anti-Tank Rifles, Very Pistols, Field Telephones, Bell Tents, Small Arms Ammunitions, Mortar Rounds, Anti-Aircraft Ammunition, Field Stoves, Anti-Gas Capes, Saddles and Horse Blankets, etc. A request for a transit license made to Sweden from the Finnish embassy in Stockholm lists 600 mines with an ETA of January 2 1940 to Bergen, Norway, ransiting Charlottenberg - Haparanda (in the same shipment, 12 x 114mm Howitzers are also listed). One shipment included a railroad wagon dispatched from Bergen express (as part of a passenger train) directly to Col.Reginald Sutton-Pratt, British Military Attache in Stockholm (this may have been the Boys guns, which had been urgently requested). (Col. Sutton-Pratt was appointed Military Attache in Stockholm on 2nd January 1939, when he was promoted from Major to Temp. Lt.Col “whilst so employed”.)

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Brigadier Reginald Sutton-Pratt (1898-1962, Royal Signals, retired as Brigadier in 1947). In 1938, he was with the British Legation in Czechoslovakia, from 1939-1947 he was British Military Attache to Sweden (from 1939-1940, he was also British Military Attache to Denmark and Norway). Over the early part of the Winter War, he was the key person in arranging transit of British military supplies through Sweden and Norway.

Between January and May 1940, Finland also received a total of 60,000 British Anti-Tank mines called initially "Hyökkäysvaunumiina m/40 (engl.)" and later "Panssarimiina m/40 (engl.)" of which 5, 000 had already arrived in January 1940. (These were the mines accompanied by Malcolm Munthe, mentioned earlier in the writeup on the Atholl Highlanders.

The following two lists are from a list dated 3 January 3 1940 and are part of a document sent to Sahlin (Swedish Minister in Helsinki) from Bagge (Foreign office)

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List of military equipment being sent to Finland from Britain through Sweden, January 1940. Note Demolition gear, Mines and four boxes containing tanks – possibly some of the Vickers 6-ton tanks that were sent to Finland at the last moment!

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Another list. “Kolly” = Crate, so as you can see there where a fair number of crates of grenades and mines.

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The 100 Brandt mortars, 5,000 LMG's and 10M cartridges for them came from France.

British Ordnance QF 18 Pounder ("84 K/18" in Finnish service)

As has been mentioned in relationship to the ANZAC Battalion, the New Zealand and Australian governments had paid for 60 British 18 pdr Field Gun’s, the Mk II along with 240,000 rounds of ammunition for the guns, these had been donated to Finland and were transported to Lyngenfjiord on the MS Batory together with the ANZAC Battalion. The guns were the model 1918 with pneumatic tires and had been all equipped for motorised towing (which is how they were towed in Finland). With a range of 6.5-10.7 kms and capable of firing ten to twelve 8.16-8.40 kg HE rounds per minute, they were an effective artillery piece. Some 216 18pdrs had been sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force and of the 126 that remained in the UK, 60 were sent to Finland. They were designated the "84 K/18" in Finnish service and 30 were assigned to Field Artillery Regiment 8, 17th Division. The remaining 30 were assigned to a Field Artillery Regiment of the “International Volunteer Division”, of which the ANZAC Battalion was a component unit.

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The British Ordnance QF 18 Pounder: This gun was the standard British Army field gun of the World War I era and formed the backbone of the Royal Field Artillery during the war. It was produced in large numbers and calibre (84 mm) and hence shell weight was greater than those of the equivalent field guns in French (75 mm) and German (77 mm) service. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s. The first versions were introduced in 1904 and later versions remained in service with British forces until early 1942. This is the updated version with pneumatic tires and equipped for motorised towing as supplied to Finland.

OTL Note: The Finns received 30 of these from Britain. They arrived in March 1940, too late to be of use in the Winter War, but they did see use in the Continuation War. The 30 guns received were assigned to Field Artillery Regiment 8, 17th Division.

The Friends Volunteer Ambulance Unit in Finland

Please note that the information below is by and large sourced from http://www.ourstory.info/library/4-ww2/ ... 01.html#1b – with some modifications as required for this ATL.

The Friends Volunteer Ambulance Unit was a British Quaker Volunteer unit that was dispatched to Finland shortly after the Winter War broke out. The unit had its antecedents in WW1, first as the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit and later as the Friends Ambulance Unit. Trained at Jordans, quiet Buckinghamshire village, it worked on ambulance convoys and ambulance trains with the French and British armies. It numbered over a thousand men in France and Belgium. In 1919 it had broken up but had reemerged between the Munich crisis and September 1939 as the clouds were gathering over Europe. On 22nd October 1938, soon after Munich, members of the old Unit had held their reunion at Friends House and their discussions had included the possibilities of war and their responsibility, should it come, to those of the new generation who would not take up arms. The result was that small committee was set up which would become in due course the nucleus of the Council of the new Unit. In May 1939 the Military Training Act came into force in the UK, providing for compulsory service for young men between the ages of twenty and twenty-one. The administration of the Act was in the hands of the Ministry of Labour--a significant departure from the First World War, when the whole field of military service was handled by the War Office. The Act provided for the recognition of conscientious objection, and the Ministry was given power to set up Local and Appellate Tribunals.

Conscription meant that from the Society of Friends (Quakers) and others of like mind would be conscientious objectors. In July 1939, Paul S. Cadbury, a member of the old WW1 Ambulance Unit and Chairman of the new committee, wrote his first letter to the Ministry of Labour exploring alternatives for a voluntary scheme or schemes." On 28th July he and John W. Harvey, also a member of the committee and Chairman of the already existing International Voluntary Service for Peace, saw Mr. G. H. (later Sir Godfrey) Ince. In the Quaker weekly journal, The Friend, for 1st September 1939, appeared a letter signed by Paul Cadbury and John Harvey. It was a long letter, putting forward details of procedure. It read in part: “We are concerned that young Friends and others who wish to undertake civilian service at the present time shall be able to do so. Meeting for Sufferings has decided that the Society as such shall not organize a scheme for this purpose. It is probably right that no action should be taken by the Society's Executive Committee which might appear to identify it with any special form of service. There are, however, an unknown number of our members of military age who wish to give positive proof that, although they register as conscientious objectors, they have no wish to be exempt from a period of constructive labour as a result of their convictions. If, however, there is a real demand, we believe that it may be right for a group of individuals acting on their own responsibility to start a scheme of work which would be approved by the Minister of Labour as meeting the requirements of this Sub-Section of the Act . . . . If war comes such a scheme could be rapidly developed to train men for relief and ambulance work."

Days later, Britain was at war. The following week 300 applications had been received to join a Friends Ambulance Unit. It was agreed that membership of the First Camp (as the training course was named) should be confined, with few exceptions, to members and attenders of the Society or those who had been at Friends' schools. Preference would be given to men between twenty and thirty years of age. By 12th September six pioneers had arrived at Manor Farm (which had been made available to the Unit) to convert farm buildings into a camp. On Wednesday, 27th September, fifty-eight men began their training. The name adopted was the old name from WW1, the Friends Ambulance Unit. In the early days of the war some tribunals showed a tendency to direct men into the F.A.U. and to use it as a lever when the cases of some conscientious objectors presented difficulties. As soon as it was obvious that at least one tribunal was specifying the Unit as the only alternative service which a conscientious objector might undertake, the Unit itself represented to the authorities that it could not accept members merely because a tribunal gave an applicant no further alternative. The Ministry of Labour gave an assurance that their representative at each tribunal would in future object to any such close definition.

For the Unit would not accept men under direction. It insisted on retaining its freedom to accept or reject applicants, after interview, according to their convictions and suitability for membership. In fact, of the 65,000 conscientious objectors of the war, 5,000 enquired about membership at some time or other, and 1,300 actually joined. The men who joined the Unit were not prepared to refuse to do the work which they felt it right for them to do; but they were anxious that their work should not be used to prejudice their fellow pacifists who felt that they were called to a different type of work and witness. Manor Farm became the training location of the Unit, with some twenty successive training camps being run. There were converted cow-sheds and stables for bunkhouses, and a large barn for lectures ; there were fields and woods, a stream and lake, ideally placed by nature for awkward manoeuvres with stretchers and mock casualties. The First Camp set the pattern.

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“Training in First Aid”

There was a Commandant, Richard Early from Witney, and a Quartermaster, Peter Hume from York. Later camps introduced a Training Officer. There were six sections, each with its appointed leader and its own stable or cowhouse. Members were unpaid, and so they would remain throughout their Unit service, receiving from the Unit only the essentials of life. From a special Mutual Assistance Fund, organized at the First Camp among the members themselves, those who required it received a small allowance of pocket money. There were lectures in first-aid from a Dr. Rutter, who served the Unit to the end and showed more briskness in retirement than most men do in their working lives, while Sister Gibbs from Bournville, combining charm and unembarrassed firmness, taught many an awkward youth the intricacies of envelope corners on the beds, of Nelson inhalers and roller bandages. There were lectures from members of the old Unit; there were route marches and P.T. and runs and manoeuvres and tea with local Friends on Sunday. In the evenings, silent devotionals after the manner of the Friends helped to bring spiritual cohesion.

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Dr Rutter at Manor Farm

It was assumed that by the time the camp was over work abroad would be there. But work abroad was elusive. There were discussions with the War Office, with the joint War Organization of the Red Cross and St. John; there were plans and ideas but no definite task. There were, of course, difficulties. Sixty pacifists in camp together would discuss everything in heaven and earth. There were conflicting ideas on discipline, on how military the Unit should be in its organization. These were questions which dogged the Unit throughout its existence but they rarely interfered with the work that had to be done. Training came to an end and there was no sign of work in France due to the nature of the “Phoney war”. On 13th November the personnel from the First Camp moved to London. On the 15th the Second Camp moved in. In London, the Unit found a home in the evacuated Ophthalmic Wards of the London Hospital. The members divided into six sections, working in six hospitals---the London Hospital and the L.C.C. hospitals of Bethnal Green, Mile End, Hackney, St. Leonard's and St. Peter's. "We had no beds, only mattresses on the floor, and sixty of us slept in the two Ophthalmic Wards in what we thought then was absolute luxury for wartime. Our hospital work developed very gradually. At first the time on duty dragged out slowly, and we did our best tidying beds, shifting screens, and endeavouring to explain to uncomprehending nurses just who we were. Gradually, however, we wormed our way into hospital life.

First one hospital, then another, began to allow us into the operating theatre to watch operations. We were still anxious to make sure that we could stand the sight of bad wounds, quite apart from the added interest of seeing a case go through the hospital from the beginning. The training was excellent, and all of us got plenty of practice in all types of nursing. In the meantime we were looking for other spheres of service which we could undertake when off hospital duty. East End children were supposed to have been evacuated, and the schools were closed. Some of our professional teachers therefore were able to work in keeping these youngsters off the streets. Others helped in boys' clubs, teaching life-saving, plaster modelling, or perhaps even their newly-acquired knowledge of first aid. Gradually, as the need became very apparent, a few were taken off hospital work and put on full time social work."

Whitechapel brought useful work and excellent training, but it was a disappointment too. Always round the corner was that work overseas, much talked of but never to be found. Meanwhile applications for membership were pouring in. No one knew who first suggested it, but after being discussed at supper one evening in Whitechapel the suggestion became assumption. The Unit was going to Finland. There were speeches about it at the Second Camp. It filled the minutes of the Council. On 1st December 1939 hostilities had broken out between Russia and Finland. Much later in the war, when office arrangements, contacts with officials, and all the preparations for an expedition overseas became matters of routine, the Unit found it hard to realize what obstacles had to be surmounted in those days when a group of young conscientious objectors wanted to go and help in someone else's war. Money had to be raised, ambulances bought, equipment provided and all in a race against time.

The first step was to visit the Georgian mansions of Grosvenor Crescent and talk with that august body, The Joint War Organization of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The Joint War Organization had been approached before the First Camp began, for in the war of 1914-1918 the Unit was affiliated to it, the men wore its uniform and carried its Geneva Convention cards and brassards. Otherwise as civilians they could not enter fighting zones for ambulance work. Over the next few days interviews abounded in Birmingham and London. At last a further interview with Sir John Kennedy, Vice-Chairman of the Joint War Organization, and Madame Peggy de Gripenberg, wife of the Finnish Minister in London and herself in charge of the Finnish Red Cross in London, produced a cable for the Finnish Red Cross: "WOULD YOU ACCEPT VOLUNTARY MALE QUAKER AMBULANCE UNIT CONSISTING FIFTY TRAINED PERSONNEL TWENTY AMBULANCES ONE OR TWO DOCTORS STOP UNIT WOULD REQUIRE NO PAYMENT STOP WOULD YOU PROVIDE FOOD LIVING QUARTERS AND PETROL STOP WOULD GO OUT UNDER BRITISH RED CROSS BUT WOULD WORK WITH FINNISH RED CROSS CABLE REPLY IMMEDIATELY."

More meetings followed. The Foreign Office, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Economic Warfare, all had a finger in the pie. The Joint War Organization had been helpful and encouraging and had approved members of the Unit wearing the Red Cross uniform and working under their general sponsorship, but on their own responsibility. They could give no financial support since Britain was not itself directly involved in the Russo-Finnish War. It was also mentioned that as no war had officially been declared, it was doubtful how much allegiance to the Geneva Convention could be expected from the combatants. A letter in The Times appealed for money; through it and many other ways £10,000 of an estimated cost of £14,000 had soon been. Meanwhile Lord Phillimore was organizing a general Finland Fund, promised funding and the separate Unit appeal was withdrawn.

December 1939 passed and there was no reply to the telegram sent to Finland. The men became impatient. How could the Finns be so long in accepting the proffered help? At long last, early in January 1940 came a reply by cable: "WE REGRET NOT FOR SERVICE WITH THE ARMY BUT THE GOVERNMENT MEDICAL BOARD AND OUR RED CROSS PLEASED RECEIVE THEM FOR HELPING THE CIVILIAN POPULATION."

Plans had gone ahead in the meantine; officers had been appointed – with Richard Early as Commandant; twenty Ford ambulances, a kitchen-car and a repairs car ordered; the Swedish railways and a steamship company had promised to take the equipment free of charge and personnel at half cost. On 6th January 1940 Alan Dickinson, the Adjutant, and Michael Mounsey left by air for Finland, to make advance arrangements. Within three days of leaving England Alan Dickinson and Michael Mounsey were in Vaasa on the west coast of Finland, now the headquarters of the Finnish Red Cross. They made their first acquaintance with modern war: crowds moved in and out of the city, Russian planes roared overhead. They saw the Finnish Red Cross Chairman, Baron Wrede. Contrary to the cable which had been sent to London, they were now told that work under army direction at the front was assured. With preparations made, they returned to Oslo to await the arrival of the main party. In Oslo they first met Harold Delphin, an old friend of Alan's; he appears and reappears throughout the party's records, giving the help which experience and knowledge can give to the strange and ignorant. He helped them in the buying of skis and ski boots, windproof jackets and all that was needed to combat the northern cold. From Oslo they moved to Bergen and there waited.

Meanwhile back in the UK, the main body of the Unit had assembled, with a further medical and fitness training program being undertaken. On the 18th of January ten white ambulances, a repairs lorry, stores lorry and two staff cars with twenty-seven men, the first half of the Unit, drove north from London. In a violent snowstorm on the Great North Road they drove to York and the next day reached Newcastle. Leaving their vehicles to be shipped later, they boarded the S.S. Iris. On 22nd January they landed in Bergen and met Dickinson and Mounsey. The ambulances arrived three weeks later and while in Oslo they bought equipment; they learnt to ski; they indulged in Finnish saunas, a kind of steambath produced by pitching buckets of water on enclosed stoves with proceedings ending with a roll in the snow. An additional refinement was the whipping up of the circulation by self-inflicted chastisement with bundles of green twigs. A lorry was borrowed for driving practice for the less experienced drivers.

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Ready for Departure: The Finland Party

On 8th February two ships arrived in Bergen with four of the vehicles; A third transport with the rest was expected at Oslo in two days but became stuck in the ice off Kristiansand. The party divided; Richard Early with the Doctor, John Gillespie, and six others, moved off with two ambulances and the stores lorry. They reached Stockholm on the 14th of February. Their route lay north along the east coast of Sweden for 630 miles to Haparanda, the last point in the country at the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia. The journey took four days on glassy roads, on which, although the wheels wore chains, skids were frequent and inevitable, particularly as the ambulances, of a normal English type, were too light on the road for such conditions. Here they were joined by Nils Hahl, their interpreter and liaison officer. He was to prove himself of great value to the Unit, for he spoke Finnish, Swedish, English and French, and stayed with them to the end. A soldier and a Finn, he became a close friend; he developed a warm sympathy with pacifists and more than most could see their point of view.

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Nils-Gustav Hahl: Helsinki, August 7, 1904 - September 3, 1941 Bromarv) was a Finnish-Swedish art historian and critic. Hahl's parents were Professor Carl Hahl and Karin Maria Emilia Åkerman. He graduated from the Helsinki Swedish School in 1922 and graduated with Master of Arts degree from the University of Helsinki in 1929, majoring in art history. Hahl wrote articles and reviews in Finnish and Swedish newspapers from 1928. Hahl was involved in the Finnish-Swedish cultural group who were interested in modernism, art, architecture and literature. He was involved in organizing international art exhibitions in Finland, as well as presentations of Finnish art abroad, including at the Brussels World's Fair of 1935 and in Stockholm in 1936.

In 1935, Hahl co-founded the famous design company Artek together with architect Alvar Aalto, his wife Aino Aalto, and visual arts promoter Maire Gullichsen. The founders chose a non-Finnish name, the neologism Artek was meant to manifest the desire to combine art and technology. This echoed the main idea of the International Style movement, especially the Bauhaus school of design, to emphasize technical expertise in production and quality of materials, instead of historically-based, eclectic or frivolous ornamentation. As Artek's first general manager, Hahl aimed to follow the example of the Swedes and develop sensible and reasonably-priced furnishings for a broad spectrum of the public. However, as a result of pressure from the Aaltos the firm's range became exclusive in relation to the average Finnish standard of living and concentrated on furniture and glassware designed by the couple; this resulted in quarrels with the idealistic Hahl.

When the Winter War broke out, Hahl volunteered as a Medical Orderly and was appointed volunteer liaison with the British Quaker Ambulance Unit. He would later die in action, his death bringing the dispute with the Aalto’s to a dramatic end. Hahl's conduct underlined the relative indifference of the Aaltos towards social ideals, especially when his quiet heroism was set alongside Aalto's almost hysterical concern for his own safety and his shirking of wartime military assignments.


At Haparanda the Ambulance Unit learnt where their work was to be. The map of Finland shows north-east of Lake Ladoga a tissue of straggling lakes, indicated in an atlas by bright blue patches which suggest sunlit lagoons rather than sheets of solid ice swept by winter blizzards. They were to cross this region and work at the front near Lake Ladoga. Anxious to begin their task, they crossed the long bridge from Haparanda to Tornio, and found themselves in Finland. At Tornio they loaded their vehicles on to the train and had some sleep ; two stayed up all night to start the engines at regular intervals to stop them freezing. Next day they set off themselves by train in a passenger coach of great antiquity heated by a wooden stove, the replenishment of which was happily entrusted to the passengers. They passed through the important junction of Iisalmi to Kuopio, where they unloaded the cars and drove them south. As they came nearer to the front, lights could not be used. Snowdrifts concealed the ditches, which were dug deep to carry away the melting snows when the thaw came but were now completely hidden, so that cars would slither gently into them, coming to rest at an angle of 45°. They soon became adept at the use of a block and tackle to retrieve the vehicles from their resting places.
At Joroinen they found the road impassable; so the trucks and cars were loaded on to a train again, and they reached Savonlinna, where they were billeted in a lake steamer frozen into the ice on Lake Hanki. They met Major Wegelius, the doctor in charge of foreign ambulance units from Sweden, and received instructions; they were to go a hundred miles farther on to Sortavala on Lake Ladoga. They passed on and reached the lake. John Gillespie, the doctor, stayed at Sortavala to work in the hospital, while the rest went on to the north-east and eventually reached their destination, Leppasyrja. They reported to Divisional Headquarters. The journey from Britain to their destination in Finland had taken them five weeks.

Meanwhile, the Main Party, under the Transport Officer, Oswald Dick, had been left at Oslo, waiting for the S.S. Ek which had been frozen into the ice off Kristiansand. The boat could not reach Oslo, but at last put in at Kristiansand, and the ambulances arrived by train. On the 15th of February this party drove off: sixteen men with eight ambulances, repairs lorry and a staff car, with Harold Delphin as interpreter. With only one ditching they reached Stockholm and, on the 18th, followed the previous party's route to Haparanda. In temperatures of -35° centigrade, engines had to be kept running all night. They talked on the telephone with Richard Early and cabled England for two more men who were to be left behind as liaison officers, since it was thought that cable communication from the Ladoga front to England would be impossible. In fact this proved untrue, and when the two arrived they were absorbed into the main party. Six days later, after a wait at Luleå for overhauls, they crossed the frontier at Tornio, and there entrained. They reached Savonlinna by a different route. Two days later the train bringing their ambulances arrived, and they found their first job in unloading an ambulance train newly arrived from the front. Despite the Finnish Air Force’s dominance of the air war, they came in for a heavy air raid, with further raids along the way, but on 2nd March 1940 they joined up with the advance party at Leppasyrja. The Finnish Major Jokela arrived to inspect them and consult about their work.

The plan was that the party should be divided into three groups for work on the Ladoga front. Based at headquarters was Richard Early with fourteen others. Ralph Smith took three men and an English speaking Swedish-Finn to Soanlahti. Alan Dickinson, with five and Nils Hahl, moved off to a base some distance north. For the first group at headquarters a steady job developed. They set to work transporting wounded, visiting P.S.P.s and J.S.P.s, the Finnish equivalent of Casualty Clearing Stations and Regimental Aid Posts. They drove along narrow roads with deep ditches, generally in the dead of night. They met convoys of sledges carrying dead. They drove up to the J.S.P.s, returned their patients to the P.S.P.s and thence to base hospitals. At night headlamps had to be dimmed or extinguished altogether; by day they were on a constant look out for Soviet aircraft. Two members had an uncomfortable experience early on. The Finnish tents were like bell tents but had a wood-burning stove in the middle, with the iron chimney serving as a tent-pole. "For once the Finns had left the fire smoking when dawn broke. The tent, well camouflaged and hidden by the wood itself, was noticed by a Russian aeroplane on account of the smoke, and the inmates were woken by machine-gun bullets passing through the upper part of the tent and hitting the chimney." Towards the end of their time the tempo of the work increased. All ambulances were out at once all night. Bombs dropped so near their headquarters that they began to wonder if the Russians had located it.

The second party found less work to do. There were few wounded to be transported where they were. Their records speak mostly of their relations with the Finns, especially with the doctor, Captain Flo, a melancholy gentleman whose pastime was to have them read portions of the New Testament to him. “We have had one or two snowstorms recently, but not heavy ones. The weather is not very cold, but I fancy we are getting used to it, as it is about -15° Centigrade most of the time. But it does not seem unpleasantly cold. A fine day or a bright night is greeted with apprehension and a cloudy day or night is welcomed, especially if it is snowing, as it means less chance of air activity." One of their constant difficulties was to find the well-camouflaged P.S.P.s. On one occasion two ambulances missed one by mistake and were turned back by horrified sentries three hundred yards from the Russian lines. It was the third section that had the busiest time. Their two ambulances, in the next few days, travelled 1,000 miles, which meant hard work and long hours under those conditions. Their driving too was done mostly at night for safety. Overhauling had to be done by day, so that sleep was a problem.

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"Pit and Graham collected blankets from the ambulance and, fortified by tea flavoured by paraffin and miscellaneous throat pastilles" (the Finns had a habit of handing throat pastilles round like cigarettes) "followed a Finn down the path into a long low wooden building half sunk in snow. They were shown a shelf on which to sleep. About 8.30 a.m. a Finn prodded Pit's leg and indicated that coffee was served on a log table beneath them. After drinking more than was good for them, the problem arose, what was there to do cooped up in a shack with a lot of lorry drivers who spoke no English; luckily Graham had brought a pack of greasy cards along with him, so they played German whist until the magic word “Soppa” told them that food was ready. Soviet aircraft came roaring overhead every, few minutes, but thinking themselves secure in their hut, they went on discussing personalities in the Unit, until even that topic was worn out."

Returning now to England, Brandon Cadbury and twenty-four members of the Unit had stayed behind at Buckhurst Hill to await the second group of ambulances. They were there until 19th February. At last they set off: they too had ten ambulances, a kitchen-car and a Ford Utility. In the north there were further delays. Then they embarked at Newcastle on 6th March 1940 in company with survivors from a Norwegian ship and some Belgian volunteers for Finland. They arrived at Oslo on the 12th and in two days they reached the Swedish capital. Here the Finnish Red Cross urged them on and they followed the same route north. When they reached Umeå, more than halfway up the east coast of Sweden to Haparanda, they were disappointed to find that the ice in the Gulf of Bothnia made it impossible to drive straight across to Vaasa on the ice-road. There had been a blizzard raging for four days, and the road across the ice was a foot deep in water and three lorries were already stranded in the middle. So they made for the north, and, on the evening of the 25th, met Oswald Dick and Nils Hahl in Tornio. They drove south and reached Kuopio. Here they waited for consultation with Richard Early, who had meanwhile gone to Helsinki to confirm that work with the Army was the most useful function that the Unit could perform.

The Unit now joined the Main Party. Their quarters consisted of what had been a shooting lodge belonging to the Civil Guard. Two large Swedish Army tents, bought in Stockholm but not previously used, were also pitched, and a thick layer of spruce tops laid to serve as a communal mattress in each tent. Furniture was made---folding chairs and tables which could be packed away in the ambulances and taken elsewhere. On 3rd April the whole Unit transferred bodily to the new quarters, except for a group of seven which remained at Tohmajärvi for another fortnight. The party settled down once more to the routine of Unit life. They soon fell into the routine of travelling to the frontline P.S.P.s and J.S.P.s to evacuate soldiers, although there was one awkward moment when they were pressed to use their ambulances for the transport of uninjured soldiers, a use of the ambulances which the Geneva Convention would not allow. But there were so many civilians and soldiers convalescent after hospital to be moved that the problem solved itself. Over the next twelve days a Unit transport service worked to a rota with a round trip of twenty hours between the front and the Field Hospital they were based at. 35,000 miles were covered, and 2,500 casualties were moved. The figures in terms of British mileage, on tarmacadam roads, are not impressive, but the cars were constantly on the roads - roads which had been like ice-rinks, but now resembled mud baths. The mechanics worked night and day; there was something wrong with the brakes, or the plugs, or the lights, or the clutch, every time a truck came in. The normal apparatus of Unit life began to appear. Orderly and leave rotas were drawn up. There was a nightly devotional, with a longer meeting for worship every Sunday.

Food became more satisfactory. The Unit had its own cooks, who stayed up half the night to provide food and hot drinks for the returning drivers. There were so many varieties of hard and soft bread that one member started a bread museum which he intended to bring back with him. But it became difficult to prevent members eating the museum if it was more readily accessible than the general supply. Members made progress with Finnish; their inability to speak the language had been a severe handicap, but earlier it had been impossible through lack of time. And then there was the ramp. The ramp necessitated much tree-felling and sweated labour. No doubt the ramp still stands, an object of astonishment and reverence to the Finns who wonder of giants could have raised so vast a pile. It was intended to make it easy to work beneath the cars. Unfortunately, the gradient was too steep, so that the cars could not mount the length of it. Moreover, it was unhappily made to the measurements of Paul Roake and not of Sam Evans, so that even if one of the vehicles had succeeded in mounting it, any mechanic except Paul himself would have had to stand on a chair to reach it. At the same time vast quantities of snow had to be cleared away to make a park for twenty-six cars.

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“Vast quantities of snow had to be cleared away.”

And so it went on. There was amazing stillness in the heart of the Arctic forests as their ambulances plied to and fro. They learnt the bumps on the road by heart and tried not to throw the patients off their stretchers, a difficult job on a road with ruts which fitted the gauge of the Finnish vehicles but not the British. The frontline rapidly moved deeper and deeper into the Soviet Union and the units moved forwards with the front, until eventually they found themselves near the Syvari River. The sound of Soviet and Finnish artillery was a constant background noise and when it grew to a crescendo, there was more work, more casualties to be evacuated and now these were not just Finnish. They found themselves carrying casualties from some of the foreign volunteer units that were fighting now with the Finnish Army. The spring thaw made conditions worse than in winter. Deep mud made movement slow. Corduroy roads that Finnish Engineering units seemed to construct in mere days made it even more difficult not to throw the patients off their stretchers. The constant wear on the vehicles lead to more and more breakdowns. Conditions were easier in Summer, although the fighting itself intensified as the battles along the frontline raged.

For the Ambulance Unit, this was the job they had volunteered for and all the work justified the laborious and hectic preparations and the long journey to this northern front. In early September 1940 came the news of the Ilmavoimat’s raid on Baku, the consequences of which were not known until much later, and then only days later came the momentous bombing raid on Moscow and all Finland held their breath as the news of Stalin’s death, along with much of the Soviet leadership. Then, on the last day of September, came the announcement of the Peace Treaty and the end of the war. "At breakfast time we heard that there was great likelihood of peace, but the only foundation seemed to be that someone couldn't hear the guns, which might have been because the wind had changed. Then our interpreter came in and said, “It is peace,” but added, “It is nothing to rejoice about.” We found out that many of the Finns we served alongside were upset that much of the areas they had captured from the Russians, that they considered part of Finland, were being given back to the USSR as part of the Peace. However, the Karelians that lived there were going to be permitted to move to Finland if that was what they wanted. And many of them did so."

In the areas that were to be returned to the USSR, soon the contents of the houses were to be seen piled up at the sides of the road waiting to be removed to the new and slightly larger Finland. Houses were set on fire; cattle were slaughtered to be taken away. There followed scenes such as later became all too familiar to the Unit on many roads in Europe; Karelians leaving their homes, picking up what belongings they could take with them, making for the unknown refuge of Finland. "Yesterday we left the area of Karelia being returned to the USSR, twelve hours before the Russians reached the small village at which we had been staying. The roads are naturally in a bad state, owing to the vast amount of material passing over them. One journey we made was 35 miles in length and took us seven and a half hours to cover. All the time we were passing the withdrawing Finnish Army - hundreds and hundreds of horse-drawn wagons, large heavy lorries full of equipment or towing large guns, cavalry on horses, troops marching along the side of the road on foot. Our ambulances made the journey slowly. I was very struck with the efficiency of the Finns during the last few days. Convoy upon convoy of trucks, each convoy consisting of about seventy trucks, have been making journeys into Finland, taking with them every movable household article and piece of furniture and then returning for more. The roads are lined with these household goods wherever a house is in sight. Everything possible is being taken and nothing left to the Russians. None of the Karelians in this formerly Soviet area are staying in their homes. Apart from ourselves and twenty other Finnish ambulance men, the countryside is deserted."

For five weeks the Unit, now with its headquarters back at Joensuu and still responsible to the Finnish Army, remained to help with the transport of Karelian civilians towards the safety of Finland as well as carrying wounded soldiers evacuated from the front. Through November and December they worked on, now assisting with the movement of trainload after trainload of Karelian and Ingrian deportees who, as part of the Peace Treaty, had been freed from the Soviet Prison Camps in Central Asia and Siberia and were carried by train to the Finnish border, where they were summarily unloaded and forced across the border. None of them had any idea of what was happening or where they were being sent. Deported from Ingria and Karelia in the purges of the late 1930’s which decimated much of the original Finnish population of Ingria and Karelia, they had been rounded up and packed into the trains again, rather better fed this time than the last but still with no idea what was happening or where they were being sent. The reactions as many of them realized they were being sent to Finland were mixed, some were overjoyed, some were angry, some were fearful (particularly those who were from Finland originally and who had fled to the USSR after the Finnish Civil War) and some displayed no emotions at all. In all, some 150,000 Karelians and Ingrians were sent to Finland in this way, in addition to the many thousands of Karelians from the areas captured by the Finns who had chosen to move to Finland when the war came to an end. The Unit assisted with the movement of thousands of these refugees over the two months they spent on this task. Their resettlement and absorbtion into Finnish Society was a major post-war task in Finland, and one that we will look at in detail in a subsequent post.

By January 1941, it was decided that the Unit was no longer required in Finland and the question then became how best to return to Britain. With regular convoys now being run from Petsamo in the north of Finland as well as from Lyngenfjiord in the Finnish-occupied northern Norway, the best route seemed to be from one of these ports to the USA and from the USA to Britain. Travel was arranged and the vehicles and such equipment as was still in working order was presented to the Finnish Red Cross. However, in the meantime the British Red Cross Commissioner in Cairo had requested additional personnel and a considerable number of the Unit volunteered for this posting. As a result, the Unit split in two, with some members travelling by ship to the USA and thence to Britain, while the remainder, travelled to Leningrad from where they went by train to Moscow and thence by train to Odessa, by boat to Istanbul, on the Taurus Express to Aleppo, thence to Tripoli, Beirut and Haifa and finally to Cairo, where they arrived on the 21st of March 1941.
Something was achieved. Lives were saved and people helped; and that was after all what they had gone for. No doubt the Unit was not as well trained as later it became. Many who were expected to drive large vehicles under Arctic conditions had previously driven nothing larger than the family four-seater. They took their job seriously, but always, at least in retrospect, there was about Finland a gaiety and light-heartedness not always present later when the war became a grim struggle and teeth were set. It brought them into contact with men of other nations and other ways of thought. They experienced the friendliness and comradeship which overcame the barriers of language and different nationalities. They came across some of the difficulties, too, which were inevitable whenever pacifists worked alongside the fighting forces, but were rarely unsurmountable if bigotry and arrogance were not allowed to get the better of human understanding.

The Friends Ambulance Unit in WW2 was in many ways different to its WW1 predeccessor. No doubt those who came together at Manor Farm in 1939 and early 1940 thought that they would largely repeat the pattern of the previous war, but that was not to be. Finland fired the Unit's imagination at the time and gave it confidence. For the Unit in general it did two things. It established a tradition and made the Unit better known. The Unit was more likely to be asked to do other work in future, and, not unimportant for a voluntary society, it would make easier the raising of funds for further enterprises. For those who came later the Winter War Ambulance Unit attained a special status, a special place in the affections, which the first and pioneering effort always enjoys. Those who came back were heroes who livened an evening in camp or hospital with wonderful tales of Joensuu and Tohmajärvi, of brilliant Northern Lights and hazardous Journeys deep in the forests of Karelia. Meanwhile, France fell, and the war spread to the ends of the earth. To the ends of the earth the Unit took its work. Gradually, 1941 and onwards, it gathered strength and confidence and built up work which took in all over eight hundred of its members to see service in twenty-five different countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.

For an interesting book which covers the Friends Ambulance Unit and has a quite comprehensive section on the Unit’s activities in Finland, see
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Photo sourced from: http://www.sofo.org.uk/dyn/large_weaver ... ar_525.jpg
Weavers and War: a True Story by Richard E Early (CO of the FAU in Finland)

0.55 Inch “Boys” Anti Tank Rifle Mark 1, / 14 mm pst kiv/37 (14 mm antitank rifle M/37)

The Rifle, Anti-Tank, 0.55in, Boys commonly known as the "Boys Anti-tank Rifle" was a British anti-tank rifle in use during World War II. Some 400 of these Rifles were delivered to Finland early in the Winter War (in January 1940, amongst the first foreign aid to arrive) and were issued to front-line units, mostly to the Foreign Volunteer Units as the Maavoimat Regiments were generally already up to their TOE with the Lahti 20mm Anti-Tank Rifles on the outbreak of the Winter War. The Boys Anti-Tank Rifles were withdrawn from frontline use at the end of the Winter War, after which they were placed in storage. The Boys AT-Rifles didn't impress the Finnish soldiers that used them, their armour penetrating capability proved in general to be inadequate and their performance as a high-powered sniper rifle was not too remarkable either. In practical terms, when used against tanks their penetration capability was so poor that bullets had to be aimed at the crew members of the targeted tank as they could not penetrate the armour. Losses of these weapons was remarkably low in the Winter War as in the winter of 1940, some 336 of the original 400 were recorded as being placed in storage. After WW2 they remained warehoused until being sold in the United States in 1956.

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Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/e ... jpg/800px-
Boys_Mk_I_AT_Rifle.jpg

Boys Anti-Tank Rifle: A bolt action rifle fed from a five-shot magazine, the weapon was large and heavy with a bipod at the front and a separate grip below the padded butt. In order to combat the recoil caused by the large 0.55 inch (13.9 mm) round, the barrel was mounted on a slide, and a shock absorber was fitted to the bipod along with a muzzle brake on the barrel. The Boys had been designed with numerous small narrow-slotted screws of soft steel set very tightly into the body of the weapon, and its repair and maintenance proved a nightmare for ordnance repair crews. The rate of fire for this at-rifle varied at around 5 - 7 shots/minute. An empty magazine weighed 450-grams, while a fully loaded magazine weighed 1.2 kg. The rear sight was a diopter-type with settings to 300 and 500 yards/meters. Equipment included a magazine box, which contained 8 magazines. As typical to weapons of its class this antitank rifle had both a bipod and a muzzle brake. But even with the muzzle brake the muzzle flash was visible enough for Finnish military manuals to especially warn of this. Manuals also contain warning informing that the bolt didn't close on top of the empty magazine and replacing the magazine demanded first pulling bolt as far back as it goes.

The eponymous creator of this firearm was Captain H C Boys (the Assistant Superintendent of Design) who was a member of the British Small Arms Committee and a designer at the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield. It was initially called Stanchion but was renamed after Captain Boys as a mark of respect when he died a few days before the rifle was approved for service in November 1937. There were three main versions of the Boys, an early model (Mark I) which had a circular muzzle brake and T shaped monopod, built primarily at BSA in England, a later model (Mk I*) built primarily at Jonathan Inglis in Toronto Canada, that had a square muzzle brake and a V shaped bipod, and a third model made for airborne forces with a 30-inch barrel and no muzzle brake (the shortened version was issued in 1942 for issue to airborne forces and saw use in Tunisia, where it proved completely ineffective because of the reduced velocity caused by the shortened barrel). There were also different cartridges, with a later version offering better penetration. The cartridge was an adaptation of the .50 BMG, with a belt added, firing a 47.6 gram bullet. At its introduction, the weapon was effective in penetrating light armour (23.2 mm thick) at 100 yards (91 m) although the range from which this armour penetration could be achieved also varied according to the quality of the armour plate.

There were two main service loads used during the Second World War, the W Mark 1 (60 g AP at 747 m/s) and the W Mark 2 ammunition (47.6 g AP projectile at 884 m/s). The W Mark 1 could penetrate 23.2 mm of armour at 100 yards, about the thickness used on the frontal armour of a half-track or armoured car, or the side or rear armour of a light tank. Later in the conflict, a more effective round was developed, the W Mark 2, which fired a tungsten-cored projectile at 945 m/s. The Boys effective range against unarmoured targets (for example, infantry), was much greater. According to "Finnish Military Cartridges 1918 - 1944" the ammunition delivered to Finland seems to have all been the Mk I rounds. The Mk I ammunition was a 60.3-gram (930-grain) bullet with a steel jacket covered with cupro-nickel. The core of the bullet was of special steel with a thin layer of lead applied between the core and jacket. The muzzle velocity was around 745 - 760 metres/second. From 5 to 7 rounds per minute could theoretically be fired. However, despite its recoil slide and the cushioned buttpad, the recoil of the weapon (along with the noise and muzzle blast) was said to be terrific, frequently causing neck strain and bruised shoulders. Consequently, the Boys was almost never fired as a free weapon (that is, not affixed to a support) except in emergencies. This tended to reduce its effectiveness in a mobile battle considerably.

The Boys anti-tank -rifle was first issued to the British Army in 1937 and was used both by British Armed Forces and by Commonwealth troops during the early part of World War 2. Although adequate against lightly armoured tanks such as the Russian T-26 and the German Panzer I, Panzer II and early models of Panzer III, in the early part of the war, the Boys was ineffective against heavier armour and was phased out by the British Army in favour of the PIAT by mid-war. Around year 1942 the British delivered numbers of these anti-tank rifles to the Soviet Union, but the Soviets were so unimpressed by their poor armour penetration capabilities that they never bothered to even issue them. The Boys was so unpopular within the British and Commonwealth Armies that the Canadian government commissioned a Disney training film, “Stop That Tank”, to counter the rifle's poor reputation. In other roles the Boys saw some use against bunkers, machine gun nests and light-skinned vehicles but was rapidly replaced in British and Commonwealth service by the U.S. .50 BMG calibre M2 Browning machine gun as quantities of the latter weapon became available. Using armour-piercing (AP), armour-piercing incendiary (API), and armour-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) ammunition, the .50 Browning was just as capable in armour penetration and more devastating when igniting thin-skinned vehicles using incendiary rounds than the Boys, but the Browning could also serve as an effective anti-aircraft weapon.

Within the Maavoimat, the Tampere-manufactured Hispano-Suiza 20mm cannon filled the same role as the Browning did in the US, British and Commonwealth services. At the time of the Winter War, almost all Maavoimat armoured vehicles and a considerable number of non-armoured vehicles were fitted with the vehicle-mounted version of the HS-404/20mm and in the fighting that was to come, it would prove a lethally effective weapon. By early 1944, at the time Finland re-entered WW2 against the Germans, the HS-404/20mm was as ubiquitous in the Maavoimat as the 0.50 Browning was elsewhere.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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CanKiwi2
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Re: What If-Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 14 May 2012 19:28

British Ordnance QF 4.5 inch Howitzer Mk 2 (“114 H/18” in Finnish service)

The British Ordnance QF 4.5 inch Howitzer Mk 2 fired a 35lb shell with a range of 5.6–7.5kms and a maximum rate of fire of 6-8 rounds per minute. The Mk 1 version of this howitzer was designed at Coventry Ordnance Works and accepted to use of British Army in March of 1909. It proved quite effective during WW1, but battle-use also revealed some problems with the design. As a result the breech structure was reinforced and the earlier increasing twist rifling was replaced with universal twist rifling (in which the rifling twist continued the same for the entire length of the barrel). Reinforcing the breech supposedly made it stronger, while a change in rifling was introduced to make the manufacturing of the howitzer barrels easier. A version with all of these improvements was designed by the Royal Ordnance Factory and was introduced into production in the last year of World War 1 as the Mk 2. By the end of 1918 over 3,300 had been manufactured and after the war they were sold to several countries, including New Zealand, Canada and Australia. Large numbers of these howitzers were still either in service or in storage at the start of WW2. One of the first requests Finland made to Britain was for 80 of these howitzers together with large amounts of ammunition for them to be shipped to Finland. Great Britain’s initial response was to sell 24 howitzers together with 25,000 shells to Finland. These arrived in January 1940, while a further 30 howitzers arrived in March 1940 from Spain together with the Spanish Volunteer Division, the División Azul.

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Photo sourced from http://nigelef.tripod.com/45howPfr.jpg
The "Q.F. 4,5 inch Howitzer Mk 2" had a box trail with a hole in the middle to allow for parts retreating on recoil. The howitzer also had a vertical sliding block breech, a gun shield with foldable upper section and a hole for aiming direct fire. The British had replaced the original wooden wheels with steel hoops with new wheels with pneumatic tires for a large number of these howitzers. The wheels also had mechanical brakes. The recoil system had a combination of a hydraulic buffer and a spring recuperator located below the barrel. The sight used was the typical dial sight and the ammunition was the cartridge-seated type with 4 or 5 propellant charge sizes (varies depending sources). The original wooden wheeled howitzer was horse-towed with a recommended maximum speed of only 8 km/hour. Limbers used with the howitzer in Finland came in two versions, which had different ammunition capacity: The Spanish version carried 16 shots while British version carried 18. Maximum rate of fire was around 6 - 8 shots/minute.

The "Q.F. 4.5 inch Howitzer Mk 2" remained the main light howitzer for British Army until early World War 2. During WW2 the howitzer saw use with British and Commonwealth troops in Northern France in 1939-1940, in Eritrea and in the Western Desert around 1941 - 1942. After this the howitzer still remained in training use with Commonwealth units until being declared obsolete in September of 1944. Some of the howitzers were used in the Spanish Civil War. During WW2 the Germans captured numbers of these howitzers from Poland, from British troops in France and from the Soviet Union (some had been delivered to Russia during WW1 and the Soviets had captured some more when they occupied the Baltic countries). Britain sold a further 24 of these Howitzers together with 150,000 shells in March 1940 (these guns and the much-needed shells arrived in conjunction with the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards). In addition, Canada, which had retired a number of these guns and placed them in storage in 1938, donated a further 12. A further 36 guns arrived in March 1940 as part of the New Zealand Army’s 4 Field Regiment, which the New Zealand Government sent by ship in early February 1940 (some of the guns were from the New Zealand Army, some from the Australian Army, all had been extensively used but were in good condition). Without the impetus given by the presence of New Zealand, Australian and Canadian volunteers in Finland, it is unlikely that the guns from these sources would have been forthcoming, given the dire shortage of equipment their respective militaries faced on the outset of WW2. It says much for these countries that even with their own limited supplies of military equipment, that they were willing to donate this much to the Finnish cause.

All told, Finland acquired 125 of the QF 4.5 inch (114mm) Mk 2 Howitzers from the sources listed above, together with 175,000 shells. More shells would be ordered supplied from US manufacturers over the course of the war.
76 mm ItK/16 V, Vickers (76 mm Antiaircraft Gun M/16 Vickers / British Ordnance QF 3in 20cwt QF Mk 3 AA-gun)
Despite the increases in military spending through the 1930’s and the emergency defence program of late 1938 and 1939, there were many areas in which the Finnish defence forces lacked sufficient weapons or equipment. One significant gap was in AA defences. Priority had gone largely to equipping the Maavoimat with weapons and equipment, and to the Ilmavoimat for aircraft. AA Defences for military bases, airfields and industrial buildings, particularly those of importance to the war effort, had by and large taken second place. That said, there had been an ongoing effort to put in place AA defences that had started in 1935, with fund-raised efforts conducted by the Lotta-Svard organisation. The bombing of Guernica in April 1937 (as part of the Spanish Civil War) had raised public awareness of the threat posed by bombing from the air and had resulted in additional funds for AA defences being raised.

The net result through 1936-1939 had been the purchase of a variety of AA guns, primarily Bofors 76mm and Bofors 40mm AA guns, but also approximately 50 of the British Vickers-manufactured British Ordnance QF 3in 20cwt QF Mk 3 AA-gun’s, known as the 76 mm ItK/16 V, Vickers in Finnish service. These guns had been 100% financed through public fund-raised and had been allocated to the defence of key industrial installations.

The gun was based on a pre-WW1 Vickers naval 3-inch (76 mm) QF gun with modifications specified by the War Office in 1914. These (Mk I) included the introduction of a vertical sliding breech-block to allow semi-automatic operation. When the gun recoiled and ran forward after firing, the motion also opened the breech, ejected the empty cartridge and held the breech open ready to reload, with the striker cocked. When the gunner loaded the next round, the block closed and the gun fired. Like all countries in beginning of World War 1, the British had no real anti-aircraft weaponry when the war begun. With the bombing threat to London posed by the German zeppelins in WW1, Churchill had arranged the guns to be transferred from the Royal Navy to the air-defence of London. Several versions of the gun were developed, as were several mount types: The first and most basic was a simple fixed mount for bolting the gun to ship, concrete floor or steel bed, later ones included two and four wheeled carriages and even installation on trucks. By the end of World War 1 the British had manufactured 541 of these guns.

A US Army report on anti-aircraft guns of April 1917 reported that this gun's semi-automatic loading system was discontinued because of difficulties of operation at higher angles of elevation, and replaced by "the standard Vickers-type straight-pull breech mechanism", reducing rate of fire from 22 to 20 rds/minute. In the context of the 16 pounder shell of 1916 a rate of fire of 16-18 rounds per minute would appear to have been the effective rate of fire found to be sustainable in action. Beginning in 1930, a new towed 4-wheeled sprung trailer platform was introduced to replace the obsolete lorries still used as mounts from World War I, together with modern new barrels, and equipment to connect the guns to the new Vickers No. 1 Predictor. Some 8 more Mks followed between the World Wars. By 1934 the rocking-bar deflection sights had been replaced by Magslip receiver dials which received input from the Predictor, with the layers matching pointers instead of tracking the target. Predictor No. 1 was supplemented from 1937 by Predictor No. 2, based on a US Sperry AAA Computer M3A3. This was faster and could track targets at 400 mph (640 km/h) at heights of 25,000 ft (7,600 m). Both Predictors received height data, generally from the Barr & Stroud UB 7 (9 feet base) instrument.

During the early part of World War 2 they were used by several countries. In 1939, Britain possessed approximately 500 of these guns. Initially most were in the heavy anti-aircraft (HAA) role until replaced by the new 3.7 inch gun. Some deployed as light anti-aircraft guns (LAA) for airfield defence, being transferred to the RAF Regiment when this was formed in 1942, until more 40mm Bofors guns arrived. However, it was discovered on mobilization that the 233 guns in the HAA reserve were missing various parts and were without Predictor instruments. Some 120 were sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force in November 1939, along with 48 of the modern QF 3.7 inch AA gun. (In the UK in 1941, 100 of the obsolete guns were converted to become the 3 inch 16 cwt anti-tank gun, firing a 12.5 lb (5.7 kg) armour-piercing shell. They appear to have been mainly deployed in home defence). The British military didn't declare them obsolete until 1946. The Germans also captured these guns from several countries and called them 7.5 cm Flak Vickers (e).

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Photo sourced from: http://www.jaegerplatoon.net/76ItK16_1.jpg
The 76-mm Vickers M/16 AA-gun. (Photo taken in Ilmatorjuntamuseo and courtesy of http://www.jaegerplatoon.net). The gun weighed 6,040 kg, had a maximum effective range of 4,000m and a fire-rate of 5-6 rounds per minute firing HE-incendiary or AA-shrapnel-tracer. Maximum vertical ceiling was 7,160 m.

Early in the Winter War, Britain donated 24 of these guns and a plentiful supply of ammunition to Finland. The guns were accompanied by 7 Vickers M/34 (Sub-versions Va and Vb) mechanical fire control computers, which were used with these guns for the duration of WW2. The guns, ammunition and Predictors arrived in Finland in March 1940 and saw heavy use in the defence of industrial plants against sporadic Soviet air raids through the remainder of the Winter War. All 50 of the guns purchased earlier, together with the 24 donated by Britain, were assigned to heavy AA-batteries serving on the home front. All guns were the fixed versions, rather than the mobile versions. The guns would remain in service to the end of WW2. The screw-breech and the old-fashioned ammunition which had arrived with the guns limited the rate-of-fire and caused large dispersions in the detonation times of the shells. With the end of WW2, the use of these guns as anti-aircraft weapons in Finland also ended. They were then assigned to the Coastal Artillery as they were still perfectly capable of shooting surface targests. The last of them remained in use with the Finnish Coastal Artillery into the late 1980's.

The Finnish military used two ammunition types with these guns, both types were British-made. The 76 itftkrv 51/61-199E was a high explosive incendiary (HE-incendiary) shell loaded with TNT (trotyl), but also containing 60g of white phosphorus. Its projectile weighed 6.15 kg and had a muzzle velocity of 633 m/sec. The 76 itsrv Vj8 - 51/61-199E was an anti-aircraft shrapnel shell with an 8 second tracer. Its projectile weighed 6.15 kg and had a muzzle velocity of 637 m/sec. The whole concept of using shrapnel-like ammunition (shell containing metal balls which burst outside it when the shell exploded and did the damage) for anti-aircraft use was rather typical during World War 1, but was seriously outdated by World War 2, the guns provided an effective AA defence against Soviet air raids over the course of the Winter War for a number of key factories. In the later Continuation War, where Finland fought Germany from early 1944 to the end of WW2, Ilmavoimat air superiority ensured that while the AA guns remained in service, they were very infrequently required as bomber attacks on Finland were rather low of the Luftwaffe’s list of priorities at that stage.
Acknowledgement: All (real) information on the Vickers 76mm AA gun in Finnish service is courtesy of http://www.jaegerplatoon.net – thx once again Jarkko! All ATL “history” and any mistakes are mine.

The RAF’s #263 Squadron dispatched to Finland

With the news reports from Finland filled with the successes being achieved by the Finnish Army against the Soviet Union, and favourable reports being received from Squadron Leader Bigglesworth regarding air combat against the Soviet Air Force, the British War Cabinet decided that a second Volunteer Squadron from the RAF should accompany the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards to Finland (more on this Battalion shortly). The Squadron earmarked for this role was RAF Squadron 263, which was permanently stationed at Filton and equipped with Gloster Gladiators. British sources mention that the Finns considered the armament and performance of the Gladiator as insufficient in combat against the armoured I-153 and I-16 aircraft. The British sources also remark about the squadron lacking arctic equipment. Nevertheless the decision was made and in mid-March 1940, the Squadron was instructed to prepare for a move to Finland.

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Official Squadron Badge Crest of No. 263 Squadron RAF: Moto – “Ex ungue leone” ("One knows the lion by his claws")

No 263 Squadron was a Royal Air Force fighter squadron which had first been formed in Italy on 27 September 1918 from flights of the Royal Naval Air Service after that service's amalgamation with the Royal Flying Corps to form the RAF. . It flew Sopwith Babys and Felixstowe F3s from Otranto reconnoitring for submarines escaping from the Adriatic Sea into the Mediterranean Sea. The squadron was disbanded on 16 May 1919. The squadron reformed as a fighter squadron at RAF Filton near Bristol on 20 October 1939, taking over some of 605 Squadron's biplane Gloster Gladiator Mk.Is. It became operational towards the end of the year and scrambled for the first time on 12 January 1940. Around this time the squadron received 22 Gloster Gladiator Mk.IIs to replace the Mk.Is. The Gladiator looked like a First World War aircraft, but while it had considerably better performance than its WW1 ancestors, as a fighter it did not compare well with the type of enemy aircraft it might expect to meet in Finland. With a maximum speed of 253mph, it was slower than the aircraft it would soon meet in combat over the skies of Scandinavia, the Tupolev SB-2 Bomber with its maximum speed of 283mph, the Polikarpov I-153 Biplane Fighter with its maximum speed of 280mph and the Polikarpov I-16 low-wing monoplane Fighter with its maximum speed of 326mph. It was a lesson the RAF Pilots would learn all too soon. On 20 March 1940, the aircraft were flown, via RAF Sealand, to Scapa Flow, Scotland where Fleet Air Arm pilots landed them on the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and 18 Gladiators sailed for Norway. On 22 March, after one days sailing, the Squadron flew its aircraft off the carrier to a landing strip in southern Norway, from where they flew to Sweden and then on to Finland.

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Picture sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... de_DFC.jpg
Artist's impression (by Seán Pòl Ó Creachmhaoil) of the Gloster Gladiator flown by Bermudian Flying Officer Herman Francis Grant "Baba" Ede, DFC, flying off HMS Glorious, destination - Finland. Ede was the first Bermudian killed in the Second World War, shot down over the Karelian Isthmus on 8 April, 1940. Ede was one of numerous Bermudians who served as aircrew in the Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, and the Royal Canadian Air Force during the war.

With fighting on the Karelian Isthmus heating up as the Finns beat back the final Red Army Offensive of the winter, 263 Squadron was thrown into the battle. Sadly, the RAF Pilots were too learn all tlying Officer o quickly that both their tactical doctrine for air combat and their aircraft were obsolete as they lost almost all their aircraft and half their Pilots in a week of aerial combat. They would be the heaviest losses of any squadron with the Ilmavoimat over the course of the Winter War and after that single week, the Ilmavoimat took the decision to with draw the Squadron from combat until more suitable aircraft could be supplied, either from Britain or from Finnish sources. The RAF pilots meanwhile were put through advanced fighter training by the Ilmavoimat, with a strong emphasis on the application of Ilmavoimat tactical doctrine in aerial combat. The British Air Ministry struggled to arrange for replacement Fighters to be flown to Finland along with Pilots to replace those lost. Initially it was intended that a full squadron of Hurricanes be sent but Fighter Command made very strong representations as to the wisdom of this move when all too many fighter squadrons were already being sent to France, putting the air defence of the UK in jeopardy. Accordingly, it was decided to send only a small number of Hurricanes initially, with eighteen Hurricanes arriving in Finland in late April, flown by RAF Replacement Pilots who had volunteered for service in Finland.

Among these Volunteers were Canadian Pilots Sgt John W. Jenkins, WO J. S. Walker, Lt (Res) John C. McMaster and Capt. Edward Waller, Australian Pilot E. H. Brown, Irish Pilot Peter M. Farragut and RAF Pilots 2Lt’s Kenneth Armstrong, Barrington, D. N. Dalton and Raymond Dixon, Lts. M. P. E. Harrison and M. H. Wellmon, Capt. A. S. Lace and Sgts M. R. Butt and Sgt McKay. Also included were Sgt Richard Welford Aitken-Quack, RAF Volunteer Reserve pilot 2Lt Prince Emanuel Galitzine and last and by no means least a New Zealand Fighter Pilot, Flying Officer E. J. Kain. Following are some brief biographies of the Pilots on whom information (other than their names) exists. Sadly, many have faded into obscurity and little is now known of them.

Flying Officer Prince Emanuel Galitzine (Edward M Graham)

RAF Volunteer Reserve pilot Prince Emanuel Galitzine came to Finland using the assumed name of Edward M. Graham. Among all the upper-class personalities in the wartime RAF, Prince Emanuel Galitzine occupies a place of his own. A Russian emigrant, he was no less than a great-grandson of Emperor Paul I, himself a son of Catherine the Great. His mother was a daughter of Duke George Alexander of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Galitzine was born in the declining tsarist Russia in 1918, but soon the Bolshevik revolution forced his family to escape – under the most dramatic circumstances.

They settled in London, where Emanuel received the best of educations. Having reached the age of 21 at the outbreak of war, Galitzine began to dream of flying with the RAF. Before he made his final decision to enlist, the Soviet attack on Finland in 1940 made him convinced that he must fight the Communists who had dispossessed his family. Having been accepted by the Finnish Air Force, he was just settling in when Mannerheim, the inspirational Finnish leader and an old friend of Galitzine’s father, personally told him that his mother had been killed in the London Blitz. He would join up and fly with 263 Squadron in Finland and fly as a member of the Squadron through to the end of the Winter War, after which he was to return to the UK. Having travelled to Finland originally under an assumed name, his return to England was an odyssey rather more challenging than those of his fellows from the RAF who had been dispatched rather more officially. First sent with a Finnish passport to Boston, he was refused entry to Britain. Then he went to Canada, where he was again refused help. So he signed on as an ordinary seaman with a shipping line across the Atlantic and reached Scotland, where he was promptly arrested on suspicion of being a spy. Not before Galitzine’s father who was working for British intelligence learned about his fate was he cleared. The way was finally clear for him to be commissioned into the RAFVR. He was posted in November 1941 to No. 504 Squadron in Northern Ireland.

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In due course, F/O Galitzine was posted to the experimental Special Service Flight in Northolt. Disguised under this name was an experimental unit aimed at countering the threat of German pressurized high-altitude Ju 86P bombers which began to operate over Britain. The available Spitfires Mk. VI had inadequate ceiling to counter the Germans operating at altitudes in excess of 40,000 feet. The improved high-altitude Spitfire Mk. VII was not yet ready for production. This unit received a pair of then-new Spitfires Mk. IX of the batch of Mk. Vc airframes converted to the new mark by Rolls-Royce at Hucknall. These aircraft obviously did not have pressurized cockpits, but the performance of Merlin 61 looked promising, so it was decided to convert them for high-altitude duties. The aircraft were stripped of everything not required for the role of high-level interception, lightening them by 450 lb each. Machine guns were deleted, leaving only cannon armament. The aircraft were repainted with, according to Galitzine, “special light-weight paint”.

On 12 September 1942, BS273 flown by Galitzine successfully intercepted a Ju 86R above Southampton at 41,000 ft. The ensuing battle went up to 43,000 ft and was the highest recorded air combat of the war. Unfortunately, Galitzine could only barely use his armament; his port cannon froze solid and, whenever he fired a burst with the remaining starboard cannon, the aircraft fell out of the sky or became engulfed in an excessive vapour trail of the shells which completely obscured the target. The German bomber escaped safely with just one hit to its port wing, but having proven to be vulnerable to the RAF at high altitudes, the Luftwaffe launched no further high-altitude attacks against England. Galitzine’s career continued and he would fly Spitfires until the end of the war. However, he always recalled the BS273 as the sweetest of them to fly.

Battle in the Stratosphere

Further to the combat report for Pilot Officer Galitzine, here is a further study of the encounter

Shortly before the outbreak of war the German Junkers company had begun work on the Junkers 86P, a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft developed from the obsolescent Ju86 bomber. In fact, the new reconnaissance variant bore little resemblance to the earlier bomber: the open gun positions were faired over; there was a pressure cabin for the two-man crew; extra panels fitted to the outer wings increased the span by just under ten feet to 84 feet and turbochargers fitted to the two Jumo compression-ignition diesel engines improved the aircraft’s high-altitude performance. With these changes the Junkers 86P was able to cruise at altitudes around 40,000ft, beyond the reach of fighters during the early part of the war.

The first Junkers 86P was delivered to the Luftwaffe in the summer of 1940 and during the latter half of the year the type operated at irregular intervals over the British Isles on high-altitude reconnaissance missions. At that time the British radar chain was unable to track such high-flying aircraft once they had crossed the coast and the flights went almost unnoticed by the defences. In the winter of 1940-41 the Ju 86P was used in clandestine missions high over the Soviet Union as part of the reconnaissance effort in preparation for the German invasion in June 1941; these flights continued after the campaign began.

In May 1942 a few Junkers 86s were delivered to the 2 Staffel of Long Range Reconnaissance Gruppe 123, based at Kastelli on Crete, from where they flew high-altitude missions over the Cairo and Alexandria areas. These flights continued unhindered until August 24th when Fg Off G Reynolds flying a stripped-down Spitfire Mk V armed with two .50 cal machine guns succeeded in intercepting one of the Ju 86s. He scored hits on the starboard engine and set it on fire; the Junkers dived away and he lost it. There is some evidence that this was the action in which the commander of 2 Staffel, Hauptmann Bayer, was shot down into the sea, he and his observer ditched in their Ju86 and were later rescued by seaplane.

Some accounts state that Reynolds had taken his Spitfire Mk V up to 42,000ft to engage the Junkers; others have spoken of later interceptions of Ju86s by Spitfire Vs in the same area at 45,000ft and even 50,000ft. After a careful examination of the available evidence the author is inclined to disregard reports of Spitfire Vs intercepting enemy aircraft at altitudes much above 40,000ft, no matter how many pieces had been taken off the aircraft to lighten it, a Merlin engine with single-stage supercharging would not have developed enough power to enable a Spitfire to manoeuvre at such an altitude, moreover, above 45,000ft a pilot in an unpressurised cabin even breathing pure oxygen would have suffered such severe physiological problems that he could have achieved little. The interceptions of the Junkers did take place but it is probable that the German aircraft were flying at or below 40,000ft. An explanation for the excessive altitudes stated, if they did indeed come from the pilots, could be altimeter errors or mis-readings by pilots suffering from a measure of oxygen starvation.

In the spring of 1942, the R version of the Ju86 appeared. This was a P version modified at the factory to have its wing span further extended, this time by more than 20ft to almost 105ft and with slightly more powerful diesels with nitrous oxide injection to increase the high-altitude performance still further. As a result, these improvements gave the Ju86R altitude performance of over 45,000ft.

Prince Emanual Galitzine's wife died 21 Sept 2011

The death notice has appeared for Princess Gwendoline Galitzine. She died this past Wednesday (21 Sep) at age 91. Born Gwendolene Rhodes, she was the widow of Prince Emmanuel Vladimirovich Galitzine (1918-2002). He was a Romanov descendant as his great-grandmother was Grand Duchess Catharina MIkhailovna, granddaughter of Emperor Paul. She leaves 3 sons, Princes Nicholas, Michael, and Emmanuel Galitzine. The youngest, Emmanuel, is married to the former Penny Allen, granddaughter of Prince Dmitri Alexandrovich (one of Nicholas II's nephews).

RAF 601 Squadron, Malta 1953: Front L to R: F/O L. Brett, F/O M. Norman, F/Lt J. Bryant, P/O J. Evans, F/O C.Axford, F/O E. Galitzine, F/Lt P Vanneck, F/Lt P. Edelston, S/Ldr C. McCarthy-Jones, F/Lt G. Farley, F/Lt D. Smerdon, P/O H. Davidson, F/O T. Moulson, P/O D. Shrosbree, P/O F. Winch, P/O J. Spence, F/O D. Norman
Middle L to R: F/Lt J. Merton, F/Lt H. Harmer, F/lt K. Askins, F/Lt A. Button, P/O E. Goss, S/Ldr N. Leyton, F/Lt N. Nicholson, F/Lt T. Lanser, F/Lt F. Triptree
Back Left: Ground Crews, Regulars - Back Right: Ground Crews Auxiliary
Note: CO's Metor WK722 Malta 1953


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601 Squadron, Malta 1953: L to R: Harold Harmer, Peter Edelston, Clive Axford, John Hardie, Teddy Lanser, Emanuel Galitzine, Norman Nicholson, Tim McElhaw, Jock Spence, Tom Moulson, ?.

Reequipped with Hurricanes, 263 Squadron would re-enter the air war over Karelia with rather more success.

Second Lieutenant Richard Welford Aitken-Quack

In the list of British Volunteers, Richard Welford Aitken-Quack has his occupation listed as Accountant. Born in 1913, Aitken-Quack received a short service commission as an Acting Pilot Officer on probation with effect from, and with seniority dating from, 23rd December 1935 (London Gazette 7 January 1936). He lost his short service commission in mid-1936 due to unauthorized leave (London Gazette 11th July 1936) after which he went to Spain and flew in the Spanish Civil War – a note in Squadron 609 ORB from 1 December 1943 states “…A veteran of the Spanish Civil War, in which he flew Boeing fighters V. general Francos forces (and possibly did battle against P/O Comte de Grunne, another 609 pilot who was in that war)”. Given that the Republicans only had one Boeing P-26 fighter (a single example was demonstrated in Spain before the civil war, and was requisitioned by the government on the outbreak of war. It was shot down in 1937, after which compensation was paid to the Boeing company) this needs a little more research to verify.

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Photo sourced from http://www.airwar.ru/history/aces/ace2w ... aitken.jpg
Richard Welsford Aitken-Quack – a British Pilot with a very colorful biography. He fought as a volunteer Pilot for the Republicans in Spain from the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. He signed a contract with the government to fly for a monthly salary of 200 pound). Of his military operations, very little is known. He himself said that he flew a number of flights in the Boeing P-26.

After the Spanish Civil War, Atitken-Quack had volunteered to fly for Finland in the Winter War as one of the first groups of British Volunteers to leave for Finland. Instead of being sent to Finland, he had been put to work on Ferry Flights over February and March, after which he was assigned as a replacement Pilot to 263 Squadron, flying out one of the replacement Hurricanes. He remained with the Squadron in Finland for the remainder of the Winter War, returning to the UK in late 1940 when it was decided that the RAF pilots and other squadron personnel were no longer necessary.

OTL Note: Atitken-Quack volunteered to fly for Finland in the Winter War, where he was assigned to T-LentoR 2.

After returning from Finland, Richard Aitken-Quack (re)enlisted in the ranks of the RAF as an AC2 but soon became a Sergeant Pilot (F/Sgt. Richard Welsford Aitken-Quack, 1805819) and was posted to No. 609 Squadron on 6th April 1943, as a Sgt, as per the Squadron ORB. The Squadron was flying Typhoons, and, again from the Squadron ORB of 19 November, 1943: “F/Sgt Aitken-Quack today interviewed pending posting to Training Command. He becomes one of 3 (out of about 50) selected as Fighter Controller (Invasion). This automatically implies a commission, previously rejected because he once overstayed leave before the war.”

Aitken-Quack was shot down on 1 December 1943 near Roubaix (south of Valenciennes, northern France) in France whilst flying from Lympne in a Hawker Typhoon 1b (JP924 PR-S). The concluding paragraph of the 609 Squadron ORB entry for 1st December 1943 states: “F/Sgt Aitken-Quack, who was on probably his last operational sortie before leaving the squadron, was one of its more picturesque characters. A veteran of the Spanish Civil War, in which he flew Boeing fighters V. general Francos forces (and possibly did battle against P/O Comte de Grunne, another 609 pilot who was in that war) he had also been in Finland during the Russo-Finnish War. He could thus speak several languages fluently, and it is hoped that these and his general buccaneering experience may get him back to this country before very long.”

Aitken-Quack parachuted from his aircraft, which fell to the ground at Beaudigeis near Valenciennes. On landing, he was picked up by the French Resistance and brought to Guise, where he was probably looked after in the home of the veterinarian, after which he was brought by Marcel Nicolas of Le Quesnoy to his own home on the 13th of December 1943. He left on the 18th of January for Creil where he was handed over to the “JO” repatriation organization. (Excerpted from the notes of Capt. Étienne Dromas. Capt. Dromas was the head of the Chauny Escape Line in the department Aisne). Aitken-Quack initially evaded capture, but was caught in Paris on 5th February 1944 and became a POW for the remainder of the War.

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Pilots of 609 "West Riding of Yorkshire" Squadron, photographed at Manston ( 22 July 1943 ). Standing, from Left to Right: Sgt Georges Watelet (Belgian), Sgt B.L.J. Foley (Australian), Sgt R.O. Ellis (British), F/O J.R. "Johnny" Baldwin (British), F/O A.S. Ross (American), F/O F.J. Reahill (British), P/O Georges "Poupa" Jaspis (Belgian), F/Sgt H.W. McMann (Canadian), Sgt R.W. Aitken-Quack (British), Sgt J.G. McLaughlin (Australia), Sgt F.J. Bryan (Canadian).

Seated, from Left to Right: F/O W.F. Watts (British), F/Sgt G.K.E. Martin (Australian), F/O J. Niblett (British), F/O E.R.A. Roberts (British), F/Lt L.E. Smith (British), S/Ldr A. Ingle (British),
F/Lt E. Haabjørn (Norwegian), F/Sgt Andrea " le Men " Blanco (Belgian), F/O I.J. Davies (British), W/O R.E. Bavington (Australian), F/O Joseph Renier (Belgian), Sgt Joseph Zegers (Belgian).


Released at the end of the war he remained in the RAF until December 1946, when he left the service with the rank of Warrant Officer. His later years were spent in Papua, New Guinea, and Darwin, Australia. Richard Welford Aitken-Quack died in Australia – his funeral notice was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 3 January 1966, with the funeral taking place on the 4th of January and mentioning that he was “Late of Potts Point.”

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See: “The Flyers: The Untold Story of British and Commonwealth Airmen in the Spanish Civil War and other Wars from 1919 to 1940” by Brian Bridgman, Upton-upon-Severn: Self Publishing Assoc., 1989 - p.184.

Flying Officer Edgar James “Cobber” Kaine

Edgar James Kain, DFC (27 June 1918 – 7 June 1940) was a New Zealand fighter pilot. Nicknamed "Cobber", Flying Officer Kain was the first RAF air ace of WW2, and also the first recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross in the Second World War. He fought in the Winter War and died in a flying accident the day he was to return to the UK.

Kain was born in Hastings, New Zealand the son of Reginald G. Kain and Nellie Kain. He went to Croyden School, Wellington and Christ's College, Canterbury where he studyied under Professor Von Zedlitz. While at school he played rugby, cricket and excelled at athletics. Kain then worked as a clerk in his father's warehousing business. An interest in flying came early, Kain joining the Wellington Aero Club and securing his “A” pilot's licence at Wigram in 1936. After earning a private pilot's licence, he applied for a short-term commission in the Royal Air Force. Upon acceptance by the RAF, Kain arrived in the United Kingdom in November 1936 and, receiving his short-term commission in December, he was enrolled as a pupil pilot at Blackburn, Lancashire. After further training at RAF Sealand and RAF Ternhill, he was posted in November 1937 to No. 73 Fighter Squadron, then equipped with the Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter. In 1938, the squadron converted to the new Hawker Hurricane. Kain was made Flying Officer in 1939.

Before the start of hostilities, No. 73 Squadron RAF was mobilised on 24 August 1939 as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF). Appointed a section commander Kain flew on 80 fighter and escort operations over Le Havre, Louvres, Rheims, Verdun and other parts of enemy-occupied territory - No. 73 Squadron was one of the first RAF units to engage the Luftwaffe. Four days after war was declared, 73 Squadron’s 16 Hurricane fighters flew across the Channel to France. On 10 September 1939, Kain flew his first operational patrols. His first victory occurred on 8 November 1939 during a defensive patrol. Kain had spotted a Dornier Do 17 from reconnaissance unit 1(F)/123 above and ahead of him. As the Do 17 began to climb to 27,000 ft with Kain in pursuit, he made two attacks but saw no result. With his Hurricane showing signs of strain, he attacked again and the Dornier dived steeply. Kain followed but pulled out when he saw fabric peeling off his wings. The Dornier crashed into the small village of Lubey northwest of Metz, exploding on impact and killing the crew. On 23 November, near Conflans, Kain shot down another Do 17, from 3(F)/22. Due to bad weather there was little flying in December, January and February but on 1 March 1940, Kain fought an action with two Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters. His Hurricane was already damaged when he shot the first Bf 109 down in flames. The second Bf109 continued to attack him, stopping the Hurricane’s engine with a cannon shell but then flew off, leaving Kain to glide 30 miles from 20,000 feet to reach French territory. When his engine caught fire, Kain prepared to bail out but had to re-enter the cockpit when he realized his parachute strap was not in position. Fortunately the flames went out and Kain glided on to a forced-landing at Metz aerodrome.

In March 1940, Kain was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a particularly daring action. While flying on operations, he sighted seven enemy Bf 109 fighters above him at 5,000 ft. Immediately giving chase and while pursuing them back towards the German lines, Kain discovered another enemy fighter on his tail. Attacked from behind, and with his own Hurricane fighter badly damaged, he engaged the enemy fighter and shot it down. With his cockpit full of smoke and oil, he managed to bring his Hurricane down behind the Allied lines. The citation for the award referred to "the magnificent fighting spirit Kain displayed in outmanoeuvring his enemy and destroying him." On 26 March, Kain destroyed a Bf 109 and probably a second Bf 109 of JG 53 but then with his own engine on fire he bailed out, with shell splinters to his left leg, a bullet-grazed left hand and burns to the face. Kain went on leave to England on 2 April and before he returned, his engagement was announced. Back with the squadron he damaged a Messerschmitt Bf 110 on 23 April. From September 1939 to March 1940, Kain shot down five aircraft.

After recovering from his injuries, Kain volunteered to fight in Finland as one of the group of Replacement Pilots being sent to that country with new Hurricane Fighters. Arriving in Finland, and after some familiarisation training with the Ilmavoimat, Kain began combat patrols almost immediately. Over the 10 days from 10 May to 20 May 1940, as Soviet forces attempted a series of counter-attacks on the rapidly advancing Finnish forces on the Isthmus, Kain destroyed five more enemy aircraft including an unusual victory on 15 May where an enemy bomber crew was seen to bale out when Kain had attacked in a head-on pass. He probably destroyed or damaged another five Soviet aircraft. On 25 May he destroyed a Soviet bomber but had to make an emergency landing in his damaged Hurricane. He subsequently destroyed a further Soviet bomber on 26 May and another on 27 May. On 5 June, he shot down a Soviet fighter aircraft. He continued to fly combat patrols but by mid-June the Ilmavoimat’s control of the skies was such that very few Soviet aircraft were encountered and he had no more kills.

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“Cobber” Kain and three fellow RAF Pilots (unknown) from 263 Squadron, Finland, July 1940

With 17 confirmed kills, Kain was the RAF’s top fighter ace and had become a household name back in Britain for his exploits in Finland. Based on his exploits in the air as well as an engaging, friendly manner, "Cobber" (New Zealand slang for "pal") Kain was treated as a popular hero by the RAF as well as in the media. In late July 1940, with what would become known as the Battle of Britain underway, the RAF asked for Kain to be released from duty in Finland and return to the UK. The Finnish Government agreed at once and on 5 August 1940, Kain was informed he would be returning to the UK the next day. The following morning, a group of his squadron mates gathered at the forward airfield here they were based to bid him farewell as he took off in his Hurricane to fly to Immola to collect his kit. Unexpectedly, Kain began a "beat-up" of the airfield, performing a series of low level aerobatics in his Hurricane. Commencing a series of "flick" rolls, on his third roll, he misjudged his altitude and hit the ground heavily in a level attitude. Kain died when he was pitched out of the cockpit, striking the ground 27m in front of the exploding Hurricane. Kain is buried in the Hietaniemi Cemetery, Helsinki.

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You can read about Cobber Kain in the biography by Michael Burns

Fairey Battles and additional Hawker Henley’s for the Ilmavoimat

Perhaps the last major shipment of equipment to Finland by the British came on the eve of the Battle of France. With the British War Cabinet anxious to assuage the public desire to visibly and significantly assist Finland without impeding the war effort against Germany, the Air Ministry was instructed to come up with an aircraft type that could be sold to Finland in reasonable numbers without impacting Britain’s air fighting strength significantly. Under heavy political pressure (news of the Battle of Bornholm, where the Merivoimat had escorted a large convoy into the Baltic and north to Helsinki, fighting a successful battle against the Kreigsmarine along the way) had filled the headlines and public support for Finland was at an all-time high. Consequently, the Air Ministry responded in there own inimitable fashion, selling another batch of the more or less unwanted Hawker Henley’s together with a batch of older Fairey Battles, which were available in large numbers, to Finland.

Shipping out Hawker Henley’s to Finland was an easy option. While there were around 120 odd left in service with the RAF after the previous sale of 80 Henley’s to the Finns, the RAF was using them for target tugs, they were fairly easily replaced and the RAF and the Air Ministry, who had no real idea how the Ilmavoimat were using these aircraft, were as pleased to be rid of them and have them replaced with new target tugs as the Ilmavoimat were to acquire them. Consequently, in mid-April 1940, a further 20 Henley’s were hastily crated up and dispatched by fast Finnish cargo ship, escorted by two Finnish Destroyers, to Lyngenfjiord in northern Norway. It was a sale that made both parties happy – the RAF would be getting brand new target tugs paid for by Finland to replace aircraft that were proving not entirely suitable for the task. The Ilmavoimat would be getting 20 aircraft that could quickly be converted into close support aircraft that had more than proved their effectiveness with the Ilmavoimat already

Included in the shipment with the Henley’s were 40 Fairey Battles. This would be the last significant shipment of military equipment from Britain to Finland in the Winter War – the debacle in Norway, the Fall of France and Dunkirk would see to that. And in Ilmavoimat use, the Fairey Battles would prove to be far more effective in combat than they would prove to be with the RAF – an effectiveness which once more would demonstrate the usefulness of a tactical doctrine that was battle-tested and well thought out.

The Fairey Battle

The Fairey Battle was originally designed to Specification P.27/32 as a two-seat day bomber, to replace the ageing Hawker Hart and Hind biplane bombers, and to act as an insurance policy in case heavier bombers were banned by the 1932 Geneva Disarmament Conference. The light bomber that emerged was a single-engined, all-metal, low-wing cantilever monoplane equipped with a retractable tail wheel landing gear. It was powered by the same Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engine that gave contemporary British fighters their high performance. Its clean design with its long and slim fuselage and cockpit for three (pilot, navigator and gunner) seated in tandem with a continuous glazed canopy, was similar to a large fighter rather than a bomber. However, the Battle was weighed down with a three-man crew and a bomb load.

The armament and crew were similar to the Blenheim: three crew, 1,000 lbs standard bombload and two machine guns (1× .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine gun in starboard wing and 1× .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine gun in rear gunner position), although the Battle was a single-engine bomber, with less horsepower available. The Battle's standard payload of four 250 lb (110 kg) bombs was carried in cells inside the wings - an additional 500 lb (230 kg) of bombs could be carried on underwing racks. As the engine took up the nose area, the bomb aimer's position was under the wing center section, sighted through a sliding panel in the floor of the fuselage using the Mk. VII Course Setting Bomb Sight. Maximum speed was 257mph, range was 1,000 miles and the service ceiling was 25,000 feet. Despite being a great improvement on the aircraft that preceded it, by the time it saw action it was slow, limited in range and highly vulnerable to both anti-aircraft fire and fighters.

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Photo sourced from: http://www.binbrook.demon.co.uk/images/battles.jpg
Fairey Battles in formation while training

Designed and initially built by the Fairey Aviation Company, in total, 2,185 Fairey Battles were built during the machine's production life; 1,156 by Fairey and 1,029 by the Austin Motor Company. A further 18 were built under licence by Avions Fairey at Goselies, Belgium for service with the Belgian Air Force. The prototype Battle first flew on 10 March 1936. When the RAF embarked on the pre-war expansion programme, the Battle became a priority production target, with 2,419 ordered and an initial production order placed for 155 Battles built to Specification P.23/35. The first of these aircraft was completed at Hayes, Middlesex in June 1937 but all subsequent aircraft were built at Fairey's new factory at Heaton Chapel, Stockport and tested at their Manchester (Ringway) facility. Subsequently the Austin Motors "Shadow Factory" at Longbridge manufactured 1,029 aircraft to Specification P.32/36. Total production was of 2,185 machines, as production lines were closed in advance of the planned date, in September 1940. Production Battles were powered by the Rolls Royce Merlin I, II, III and V, and took their Mark numbers from the powerplant (for example, a Battle Mk II was powered by a Merlin II).

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Fairey Battles under construction

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Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... 938%29.jpg
Fairey Battles under construction in 1938

Replacing the RAF's Hawker Harts and Hinds when it entered service in 1937, the Battle was obsolescent even then as fighter technology had outstripped the modest performance gains that the light bomber possessed over its biplane antecedents. The Battle was armed only with a single Browning .303 machine gun fixed ahead and with a trainable Vickers K in the back; this was desperately inadequate. Moreover it lacked an armoured cockpit and self-sealing fuel tank. The Battle had the distinction of becoming the first operational aircraft to enter service with a Merlin engine, beating the Hawker Hurricane's debut by a few months. The Battle was obsolete by the start of the Second World War, but remained a front-line RAF bomber owing to a lack of a suitable replacement. On 2 September 1939, during the "Phoney War", 10 Battle squadrons were deployed to France to form the vanguard of the Advanced Air Striking Force. In air combat, the Battle was hopelessly outclassed by Luftwaffe fighters, being almost 100 mph (160 km/h) slower than the contemporary Bf 109 at 14,000 ft (4,300 m).

When the Battle of France began, Battles were called upon to perform unescorted, low-level tactical attacks against the advancing German army. This put the aircraft at risk of attack from Luftwaffe fighters and within easy range of light anti-aircraft guns. In the first of two sorties carried out by Battles on 10 May 1940, three out of eight aircraft were lost, while, in the second sortie, a further 10 out of 24 were shot down, giving a total of 13 lost in that day's attacks, with the remainder suffering damage. Despite bombing from as low as 250 ft (76 m), their attacks had little impact on the German columns. By May 1940 Battle squadrons were suffering heavy losses of well over 50% per mission. By the end of 1940 the Battle had been withdrawn from combat service and relegated to training units overseas. Despite its prewar promise, in RAF service the Battle was one of the most disappointing of all RAF aircraft.

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Photo sourced from: http://www.stevenheyenart.com/Battles%2 ... %20web.jpg
"Unquestionable Courage": This painting by Steve Heyen depicts a famous raid by Fairey Battles on the bridges over the Albert canal near Maastricht in May 1940. Flying Officer DE Garland and his observer, Sergeant T Gray, in the lead Battle, were posthumously awarded VCs after the attack by aircraft of the RAF’s No 12 Squadron. (http://www.stevenheyenart.com)

By way of contrast, the 40 Fairey Battles sold to Finland proved surprisingly effective in combat, entirely due to doctrinal differences. The Ilmavoimat had gained extensive combat experience in the Spanish Civil War and also in military exercises pre-war, and were well aware of the risks involved in close air support and in low-level bombing missions. Hence, after the Battles entered service with the Ilmavoimat in May 1940, they were used in conditions where Ilmavoimat air superiority reigned and were provided with fighter escorts. With the Ilmavoimat, the Battles were not used in missions where AA fire could be expected, that was better done by other aircraft better equipped to take out AA positions. Their forte became night-bombing and follow-up attacks in targets that had been “prepared”. As time permitted, protective armour for the crew and self-sealing fuel tanks were added. Under such conditions, losses were considerably lighter in combat than with Battle squadrons in the RAF and the Battles remained in use until the end of the Winter War, after which the survivors were relegated to a training and at times a maritime patrol role. Some thought was put into conversion of the aircraft to a torpedo bomber but no actual work was put into this as it was considered that, overall, the Battle just did not have that much flexibility in use built into its design.

In general, Ilmavoimat pilots liked the Battle, praising its maneuverability and sturdiness. Some pilots commented that it was “just too easy” to fly. The cockpit arrangement however was consider to have left something to be desired, the pilot tending to roast while the crew in the back shivered in the drafts blowing through. Also the lack of armour protection for the crew was a sore point, and the lack of speed and defensive firepower was seen as a major weakness. All in all though, an Ilmavoimat Battle aircrew stood a far better chance of survival than did the RAF personnel assigned to Battle squadrons.

P-36 Mohawk’s – the last assistance received from Britain in the Winter War

As you may recall from an earlier Post, in 1937 the Ilmavoimat had ordered 40 Curtiss Hawk Model 75 Fighters, which were delivered to Finland in 1939. On the Fall of France, Britain came into possession of 229 Hawks comprised of shipments diverted from occupied France, aircraft flown to Britain by escaping French pilots and another 10 captured in Persia and still in crates. Obsolete by the standards of the European theatre, 72 Mohawks were planned to be sent to the South African Air Force while the bulk of the remainder were to be sent to Canada to be used as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. With both South Africa and Canada having sizable volunteer contingents in Finland, the South African Government requested that a number of the aircraft intended for South Africa instead be sent to Finland, and Canada made the same request. Consequently, in July 1940, some 25 Curtiss Hawks were shipped to Lyngenfjiord on a fast Finnish cargo ship. Arriving in Finland in early August, they were only just beginning to enter service in late September 1940, shortly before the Winter War came to an end. Nevertheless, they served to replace aircraft lost in aerial combat in the heavy fighting that had taken place over the summer months leading up to the end of the Winter War. Given the crisis that Britain faced over the summer of 1940, the Finnish Government expressed its deep appreciation to Britian for the additional assistance received at a time when Britain itself was fighting alone against Germany and Italy.

And next, we return at last to the second of the two Battalions of Volunteers from Britain, the 5th Battalion (Special Reserve), Scots Guards – “The Snowballers”
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The 5th Battalion, Scots Guards

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 May 2012 22:15

And now, we return at last to the second of the two Battalions of Volunteers from Britain, the 5th Battalion (Special Reserve), Scots Guards – “The Snowballers”

One further, and rather remarkable, British Volunteer Unit was to be forthcoming in the Winter War. This was the 5th Battalion (Special or Supplementary Reserve – both terms are used in references to this unit), Scots Guards, known rather irreverently to its personnel as “The Snowballers”. The formation of this Battalion again seems to have been the work of the somewhat mysterious Harold Gibson, head of the “Finnish Aid Bureau”, man with a finger in many pies and, as has been mentioned, a senior officer within the British SIS. There is very little detailed documentation on this unit available but from what is documented, rather more thought seems to have gone into the creation of this unit than had gone into the raising of the British Volunteers for Finland. The general intent seems to have been that this was to be a “special battalion” trained in skiing and mountaineering and able to fight in the snow and ice of the Arctic north of Finland, in preparation for the planned large-scale British and French intervention in Scandinavia. As such, volunteers were called for from men, primarily serving officers, with mountaineering and skiing experience. Volunteering seems to have been “by invitation only” as one quote, taken from a very brief press clipping from the period states “We, the would be skiers, were summoned to Bordon and invited to give up our commissions (for the time-being) and re-enlist as Scots guardsmen.” Many well-known names joined the ranks, “including Freddy Spencer-Chapman, who designed our equipment including lang lauf skis, archie tents and sledges.” In due course, they travelled across France to Chamonix to train under the Chasseurs Alpins. “It was all very hush-hush, but the day we arrived in Chamonix, Lord Haw-Haw announced it on the radio.” Another account mentions that the 5th Battalion was “recuited from experienced volunteers, civilian and military, called for in telegrams dispatched by the War Office all over the world.”

The Battalion was filled with interesting characters, starting from the CO - the British bobsleigh champion Lt-Col J S Coats and with Polar Explorer Martin Lindsay as assistant adjutant. One of the colour sergeants in the 5th would in time lead Ian Fleming’s commandoes – this was a stocky fair haired explorer named Quintin Riley, who had been with Lindsay on the British Arctic Air Route expedition of 1930-1 and had been the meterologoist on the British Graham Land Expedition to Antarctica of 1933-7 (A British Army regular NCO was puzzled by Riley’s Polar Meda with Antarctic Clasp – How can you get a medal for playing Polo?” he asked). Other members of the Battalion included the mountaineers Edmund Wigram, the Everest climbers Jim Gavin and Edmund Wigram and “Freddy” Spencer-Chapman (who would later spend three and a half years behind the Japanese lines in the Malayan jungle). Others included David and Bill Stirling, Bryan Mayfield. Cyril Rofé, Sir Rupery William John Clarke, Sir Ivar Iain Colquhoun, 8th Baronet, Lt Col the 8th Lord Wynford, Major Charles Frederick Howard Gough, Earl Jellicoe (SAS / SBS), Brigadier James Michael “Mad Mike” Calvert (Chindits and later the SAS), Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser (Shimi Lovat), George John Patrick Dominic Townshend the 7th Marquess Townshend and many others, all of whom we shall cover in due course.

There were other nationalities from within the British Commonwealth as well - an article below from the Halifax Herald (Nova Scotia, Canada) from 1940 comments on Canadian volunteers who were members of the 5th Battalion. At least six Canadians who at the time were serving with the 2nd Manchesters in the British Army volunteered for this unit, as did a small number of other Canadians, some of whose names we know.

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Photo sourced from: http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.ph ... 6485;image
Article caption: “Canadian volunteers have had training during the last winter such as would fit them for service in Norway’s mountain areas, especially in winter. Here is a group of the first ski battalion in the history of the British Army. It was taken in the French Alps on the slope of Mount Blanc and included in it are Don Morrison of South Park Street, Halifax, Jack Foster, Halifax and probably other Nova Scotians. The training which also took place in Scotland was to fit the men to fight in the expeditionary force is to go to Finland.”

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Photo sourced from the personal collection of Chris Rooney and used with permission
5th Battalion Scots Guards training in Chamonix, 1940: This is the original of the photo reproduced in the Halifax Herald above, and was taken by Oswald Basil Rooney, one of the volunteers serving in the 5th Battalion.

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Photo sourced from the personal collection of Chris Rooney and used with permission
5th Battalion Scots Guards marching through Chamonix, 1940

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Photo sourced from the personal collection of Chris Rooney and used with permission
5th Battalion Scots Guards training in Chamonix: this picture has a few names - Munro was a a well known Skier, it is thought that Cyclops Bradley went to the Small Scale Raiding Force, OBR was Oswald Basil Rooney - later known as Mickey - at this stage he was a Guardsman but he would go on to join the SAS.

However it was done, and 70 years later the details are mostly unclear, it’s evident that the 5th Battalion was very much an elite unit, with many of the NCO’s and men being Officers who had taken a serious drop in rank to enlist in the Unit. Volunteers of all ranks came from every conceivable unit in the British Army, with the common denominator being that these men were made up of two types - the genuinely courageous who were itching to get at the throat of the enemy, and the restless who would volunteer for anything in order to escape from the boredom of what they were presently doing. Earl Jellicoe for example, was bored with sitting in a Depot in London and when he “suddenly found that there was a chance of joining the 5th Scots Guards, which was a skiing battalion, aiming eventually at Finland, to support the Finns against the Germans. Crazy idea, you know, we were going to send… well you can check on that, I don’t know, but it was the best part of a brigade, including a ski battalion, and I was a keen skier so I joined the ski battalion. We had a marvellous time. Two or three weeks in Chamonix. And I’ll always remember going out in Chamonix as a guardsman, had a lot of people in who were Lieutenants and things and a lot of people keen to join and they were quite prepared to go down to a non-commissioned, in the ranks….. I was a guardsman. I joined straight from Sandhurst as it were. Never finished my time at Sandhurst. I remember the trip out to Chamonix very well. And I think that people who had been interested in that would easily have known where we were because the champagne bottles were strewn along the railway line. Rather like the Russian fleet going out in 1905 round the Cape to take on Kyoto in 1905, the sea was full of champagne bottles then.

The Battalion returned to the UK from Chamonix on 11th March 1940 and just as promptly embarked on the Polish passenger ship MS Batory (now operating under the Finnish flag and busily shipping foreign volunteers to Finland). A week later the Battalion, a thousand strong, was disembarking in Petsamo. Their Maavoimat Liaison Officer and the Maavoimat Training Team sent to cross-train the Battalion recognized at once that this was a unit that was rather different from the other Volunteer Units that were already in Finland. The 5th Battalion Scots Guards were very much an “elite” unit, adaptable, motivated and eager to fight. The fact that many of the men were Officers who had dropped in rank in order to get into the unit also ensure that the Battalion was highly self-motivated, with very little in the way of the usual military discipline and control needed. After some discussion within the Maavoimat and then with the Battalion CO, Lt.Col. Coates, it was decided that the best use of this Battalion would be to attach the unit in its entirety to Osasto Nyrkki, the elite unit of the rather secretive Maavoimat “Special Forces” units. The decision made, the Maavoimat Osasto Nyrkki instructors began an intensive six week training program in skiing, Maavoimat weapons and equipment, combat tactics, shooting, combined arms operations with artillery and close air support, explosives and demolition, with the whole exercise culminating in an even more intensive one week parajaeger course.

The Maavoimat training was tough, but with very very few exceptions, the men of the 5th Battalion were made of stern stuff, a tough adventurous group prepared for any hardship and up to any challenge. They took to the intense Maavoimat training, absorbing everything they were being taught – and their instructors were all men who had spent the prior three months on the frontlines fighting the Red Army. They spoke with the voice of experience – and enough of them spoke at least rudimentary English or French that the lessons sank in. So did the impression of the tough Finnish soldier. On the cross-country military-skiing training, the British (who had largely learnt a very basic style of cross country skiing at Chamonix) found it impossible to keep up with their Maavoimat instructors to start with, a task made even more difficult by the heavy loads of equipment they began to have to carry and the tactical exercises they were tasked with. Likewise, the Maavoimat shooter training impressed all of the British. They took to the weapons the Finns issued them with – the Lahti-Saloranta 7.62mm SLR and the Suomi submachineguns as well as the Sampo machineguns and the new Maavoimat grenade launchers – at once, and were even more impressed by the Maavoimat combat range training, the close-quarter battle training, the Maavoimat’s man-portable radios, the ability to call on artillery and close air support, the tactical flexibility and speed of manouvre that was expected (and demanded). It was a radical change for the men of the 5th Battalion, but they absorbed their training and pushed on.

Leaving the story of the 5th Battalion in combat for another day, after the 5th Battalion returned from Finland in October 1940, some of the men resumed their ranks and returned to their old units. Many however had been so impressed by the effectiveness of the Maavoimat Osasto Nyrkki unit that they had been a part of that they agitated strongly for the British Army to form similar units. As many of the men from the 5th Battalion were influential, largely through the “old school tie” and the “club” networks, there were some immediate results. Perhaps the first was the formation of the Irregular Warfare Training Centre to train guerrilla leaders. This was Bill Stirling’s idea, but it was Lord Lovat who requisitioned the whole area from Fort William to Mallaig. Colin Gubbins got on to General Ironside, the GOC in C Home Forces and the formation of the Irregular Warfare Training Centre was authorised on 2nd November 1940. The first courses were about 30 strong and made up of Officers and Sergeants. They lasted three weeks and were heavily based on the Maavoimat training that the 5th Battalion had experienced - anybody who didn’t come up to scratch was returned to unit immediately. David Stirling, who eventually formed the SAS and Fitzroy MacLean, who joined Stirling in the SAS and then went to Yugoslavia to help Tito, both attended the first course. Fitzroy attended it in plain clothes (because he was not yet in the Army, he was still in the Foreign Office).

What were the courses like? First of all lets look at the instructors – almost all of whom had fought as volunteers in the Winter War. The Commanding Officer was Bryan Mayfield, the Chief Instructor was Bill Stirling, the Assistant Chief Instructor was Freddie Spencer-Chapman. Fieldcraft was taught by ‘Shimi’ Lovat who ended up commanding the Commando Brigade. The Assistant Fieldcraft instructor was Peter Kemp (from the Atholl Highlanders) and later David Stirling. Bill and David incidentally were cousins of ‘Shimi’ Lovat. Demolition training was carried under the instructions of Mike Calvert, Royal Engineers, who would go on to make a real name for himself in the Chindit campaign. Jim Gavin assisted him. Edmund Wigram would teach mountaineering skills. Gavin Maxwell, a crack shot with a pistol, would teach pistol shooting. Impressed as he had been by the Maavoimat’s hand to hand combat training, Mayfield sought to replicate this and brought in two very formidable Shanghai policemen, Eric Anthony Sykes and William Ewart Fairbairn, who concentrated on teaching the trainees a dozen different ways of killing people without making any noise [wrote a book on this - “A Hundred Ways to Kill a Man”). Sykes and Fairburn also designed the Fairburn-Sykes Fighting Knife, which was issued to the British Commandoes and later to the SAS as well as the US Marine Raiders and Army Rangers.

Fairbairn incidentally had joined the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) in 1907. During his service with the International Police in Shanghai, Fairbairn reportedly engaged in hundreds of street fights in the course of his duties over a twenty-year career. Much of his body, arms, legs, torso, even the palms of his hands, was covered with scars from knife wounds from those fights. After joining the SMP, he studied boxing, traditional jujutsu and then Chinese martial arts. He developed his own fighting system—Defendu—and taught it to members of that police force in order to reduce officer fatalities. He described this system as primarily based on his personal experience, which according to police records included some 600 non-training fights, by his retirement at age 55 from the position of Assistant Commissioner in 1940. Together with Eric A. Sykes he developed innovative pistol shooting techniques and handgun specifications for the SMP which were later disseminated through their book Shooting To Live With The One-Hand Gun (1942), along with various other police innovations such as riot batons, armoured vests and other equipment. In his work with the British Army through WW2, his background and approach was somewhat similar to those of the Maavoimat’s KKT school of unarmed combat as taught by Charles Lindberg.

While the approach to unarmed combat was in many ways similar, the major difference between the Lindberg and Fairbairn was that Lindberg placed a great deal of emphasis on dealing with the pyschological aspects of killing – and his training had permeated throughout the Maavoimat to every unit, while Fairbairn’s training ignored (or was more likely unaware of) the pyscholgical ramifications and his training was more or less confined to the “special forces” units, although in the end some of it did percolate down to the Battle Schools that the British Army would set up later in WW2. In this, Lindberg’s training, filtered down as it had to every soldier in the Maavoimat, had a much greater impact. It would probably be fair to say, by way of comparison, that the entire Finnish Army fought at an equivalent level to the British Commandoes, with the impact of the “conditioning” training that the Finnish soldier had undergone increasing their combat effectiveness and ability to “shoot to kill” to a degree unheard of in WW2.

Many of the men from the 5th Battalion and from the Atholl Highlanders would go on to form and lead almost all the British Army’s special forces units of WW2 – the Commandoes, the SAS, the SBS, the Chindits – as well as taking on command positons in units such as the Airborne Division. Many would also join SOE and serve in every theatre of the war. It is fair to say that the experience of all these men in fighting with Osasto Nyrkki against the Red Army in the Winter War taught them valuable lessons and opened their eyes to a whole new way of fighting that would go on to revolutionise modern warfare. Fortunately or unfortunately, these lessons did not percolate further – the Maavoimat was in its own way a rather insular fighting force, self-reliant to an extreme and unwilling to rely on others – with the sole exception being the many foreign volunteer units of the Winter War, most of whom took heavy casualties in the War and many of whom would later die fighting on the Russian Front alongside the Germans against the Soviet Union. Thus, perhaps the only foreign military that was there in force and which took away the lessons learned from the Winter War were the British, and in the SAS, the SBS, the Chindits and Commandoes, we can see the results of this education.

Returning now to the 5th Battalion, following is the Battalion Organisation, together with a list of Officers in Battalion Headquarters and Company Officers. After the list, there’s a brief biography of each of the Officers and/or NCOs and men for whom any information is available. For those not familiar with British Army conventions for Company naming, it’s a bit idiosyncratic and, as with much in the British Army, based on tradition. A battalion normally has three rifle companies, lettered A, B and C. (However some battalions are different, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers battalions have X, Y and Z Coys. The Scots Guards Battalions have Left Flank, Centre and Right Flank Companies. Others have numbered companies and some have companies named after battles. As ever in the British Army, tradition still counts for a lot.) Each company is organised identically with a Company HQ and three platoons. In the case of the 5th Battalion, with five rifle companies it was overstrength and the company naming seems to have been somewhat of a composite.

British companies are usually commanded by a Major, the Officer Commanding (OC), with a Captain or senior Lieutenant as Second-in-Command (2i/c). The company headquarters also includes a Company Sergeant Major (CSM) normally holding the rank of WO2 and a Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS) of Colour Sergeant rank, the two most senior soldiers in the company. In the case of the Table of Organisation below, the officers named seem to be the Company CO and the Platoon CO’s, with the Company 2IC not listed. A little later in this Post we will look at a complete listing of the men of the Left Flank Company, which will give a good idea of the overall structure and size of one of the 5th Battalions Rifle Companies. We’ll also look at a brief listing of “Other Ranks” who are known to have served in the unit but who are not listed in the Battalion Command positions below, nor in the Left Flank Company (the only one for which a complete list of the men is available).

5th (Ski) Battalion Scots Guards: as of 29th February, 1940 - On Embarkation for France

N.B. * Denotes SCOTS GUARDS Officer or Warrant Officer

Battalion Headquarters

Lieutenant-Colonel J.S. COATS, M.C., COLDSTREAM GUARDS - Commanding Officer
*Major B. MAYFIELD - Second-in-Command
*Captain W.D.M. RAEBURN - Adjutant
Captain M. LINDSAY, Royal Scots - A/Adjutant and i/c Ski equipment
*Major A.F. PURVIS, M.C. - Liaison Officer
*Lieutenant J. QUINN - Quartermaster
Lieutenant E.H.L. WIGRAM, R.A.M.C. - Medical Officer
Captain C.E.V. ROOKER, M.M., R.A.P.C. - Pay Adviser
*A.K. MADDEN - Regimental Sergeant-Major
*A. WILFORD - Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
*L. PARSONS - Orderly Room Quartermaster Sergeant

Right Flank Company

*Major A.D.B. CRABBE
Lieutenant K.R. ASHBURNER, Royal Fusiliers
Lieutenant N.E. MacMULLEN, 10th Royal Hussars
Lieutenant P.M.G. ANLEY, Royal Fusiliers
D.H. STACEY - Company Sergeant-Major

W Company

Captain J.L.M. GAVIN, Royal Engineers
Lieutenant J.P. HALL, Middlesex Regiment
Lieutenant C.W. SUTER, London Rifle Brigade
Lieutenant F.G. GOUGH, London Rifle Brigade
J. ROYLE - Company Sergeant-Major

X Company

Major L.C.D. RYDER, Norfolk Regiment
Lieutenant V.A.P. BUDGE, Grenadier Guards
Lieutenant R.N. CHARRINGTON, Suffolk Regiment
Lieutenant D.C. BAYNES, Queen's Regiment
?. RUSSELL - Company Sergeant-Major

Y Company

*Captain R.D.M. GUROWSKI
Lieutenant G.W.E. POTTER, Grenadier Guards
Lieutenant P.S. CHAPLIN, King's Royal Rifle Corps
Lieutenant M.R.G. HOWARD, King's Royal Rifle Corps
J.R. FRASER - Company Sergeant-Major

Left Flank Company

Captain C.J. STONE, East Surrey Regiment
Lieutenant J.R.G. BIRD, Sherwood Foresters
Lieutenant A.G. DICKSON, Cameron Highlanders
Lieutenant M.R.E. KEALY, Devonshire Regiment
J.A. LINDSAY - Company Sergeant Major

Next Post: The Officers of the 5th Battalion
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The Officers of the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 May 2012 22:38

The Officers of the 5th Battalion

Battalion Headquarters

Lieutenant-Colonel J.S. COATS, M.C., Coldstream Guards - Commanding Officer


Lt.Col. James Stuart Coats, 3rd Baronet, MC, was born on April 13, 1894 and died October 26, 1966 (aged 72). He married Lady Amy Gwendoline Gordon-Lennox (oldest daughter of the 8th Duke of Richmond (Charkes Henry Gordon-Lennox) on the 11th of December 1917 at the age of 23. He and his wife Amy, would go on to have 4 sons. He was well known as a British skeleton racer from the 1930’s and after WW2, would compete into the late 1940s. He finished seventh in the men's skeleton event at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz (at 53 years and 297 days, he was the oldest ever competitor at the Winter Olympics when he came seventh in the 1948 skeleton luge). He served as President of the St. Moritz Tobogganing Club from 1954 to 1956.

He was appointed CO of the 5th Battalion Scots Guards at some time in January 1940 and would go on to command the Battalion to great effect as it fought alongside the Finnish Army in the Winter War between Finland and Russia. After the Battalion returned from Finland and was disbanded, he commanded the Coats Mission, a special British Army unit charged with evacuating the royal family in the event of a German invasion. From 1941 to 1942 this special British army unit existed for the sole purpose of safely evacuating the King and Queen and their immediate family in the event of German invasion. Led by Lieutenant-Colonel James Coats, MC, Coldstream Guards, it comprised a company of the Coldstream Guards. There were five officers and 124 Guardsmen. They were equipped with ten vehicles - four armoured cars, two armoured Daimlers, and four Guy wheeled cars manned by the 12th Lancers and the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, in the Morris Detachment (commanded by Major W.A. (Tim) Morris, 12th Lancers).

They were based in Bushy Park, London. The Guy wheeled cars were at Windsor. The role of the unit, which supplemented the Guards battalions at London and Windsor, was to remove the Royal Family ahead of the advancing German army. It would be expected that the Royal Family would move from house to house as the strategic and tactical situation demanded. Several country houses in remote locations, reportedly including Newby Hall, North Yorkshire, Pitchford Hall, Shropshire, Madresfield Court (Earl Beauchamp's home in Worcestershire), and a fourth unnamed house (possibly Bevere Manor, Worcestershire), were designated as refuges. Madresfield Court reportedly replaced Croome Court, Worcester (the home of the Earl of Coventry) in 1940. It had also been a safe house for King George III in the late eighteenth century, in the event of an invasion by Napoleon. After 1942 the role was taken over by the Household Cavalry.

Major Bryan MAYFIELD – Scots Guards – Battalion Second-in-Command

Major Bryan Mayfield was the son of Alfred Mayfield. He married Rowena Lucy Hordern, daughter of Lt.-Col. Charles Hordern and Lucy Frances Woodbridge, on 20 March 1928 (they divorced in 1938). After service in the 5th Battalion, Mayfield would go on to command the Irregular Warfare Training Centre that was setup in Scotland to train guerilla leaders (organized by Colin Gubbins, who would go on to be the head of SOE). Mayfield would go on to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the the Scots Guards and by mid 1941 was commanding the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards. In 1944 he appeared in a movie, “The Way Ahead” as a military advisor (as Lt. Colonel B. Mayfield - Scots Guards). This film was released in the USAS as "The Immortal Battalion" - USA (cut version). The film itself stars David Niven (who had gone through the Irregular Warfare Training Centre when it was commanded by Mayfield).

Captain William Digby Manifold RAEBURN – Scots Guards - Adjutant

William Digby Manifold Raeburn, the son of Sir Ernest Raeburn, who was in the shipping industry, was born on August 6 1915. He was educated at Winchester and Magdalene, Cambridge, where he took a First in History. He originally intended to follow an uncle and his grandfather into the Navy, but he opted instead for the Scots Guards, into which he was commissioned in 1936. He was appointed Adjutant of the 5th Battalion Scots Guards in January 1940. After his return from Finland, he served as General Staff Officer Grade 3, General HQ, Middle East Land Forces, 1940-1941; HQ, Western Force, Greece, 1941; served with 2 Bn, Scots Guards and at HQ, 22 Guards Bde, 1941; General Staff Officer Grade 2, General HQ, Middle East Land Forces and HQ, 8 Army, 1941-1942; General Staff Officer Grade 1 (Intelligence), General HQ, Palestinian and Iraq Force, 1942-1943; Deputy Director of Military Intelligence, General HQ, Middle East Land Forces, 1943; 2 Bn Scots Guards, Italy, 1943-1944, and Germany, 1945;

In 1945 he was awarded the DSO for his part in an action which took place between April 1 and April 3 near the German town of Nordhorn. Raeburn was commanding the right flank of the leading infantry which, with a force of armour, had been asked to capture a bridge over the river Ems. During the advance his infantry were engaged in hand-to-hand fighting with the enemy as they protected the Allied tanks from a series of attacks. On reaching the river, two sections of the leading platoon of the right flank actually succeeded in crossing the bridge before it was blown up behind them. According to Raeburn's citation: "Throughout the entire action from Nordhorn to the Ems, Major Raeburn led his company magnificently and kept control at all times under the most difficult conditions. No operation of this nature, with tanks and infantry co-operating most closely in pitch darkness, had ever before been attempted and it was largely due to Major Raeburn's unfailing cheerfulness, his outstanding ability and his infectious optimism that complete success was obtained."

When peace came, Raeburn continued his Army career, attending the Staff College course from 1945-1946; serving as Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General, Guards Div from 1946-1947, 1 Bn, Scots Guards, Italy, 1947; 2nd-in-command, Guards Depot, 1948; Deputy Adjutant and Quartermaster General, London District, 1949; member of Directing Staff, Staff College, 1950-1952; served with the 2 Bn, Scots Guards, 1952-1955, becoming CO in 1953; member of Senior Directing Staff, Staff College, 1956-1957; Lieutenant Colonel Commanding Scots Guards in 1958; Commander 1st Guards Brigade Group in 1959; and Commander 51st Infantry Brigade Group in 1960. From 1963 to 1965 he was based at the Ministry of Defence in London as Director of Combat Development (Army), responsible for developing tactical policy. He then spent two and a half years (1965-1968) in Oslo as Chief of Staff to C-in-C, Allied Forces, Northern Europe.
This was a posting much enjoyed by Raeburn, who was a fine skier - as a schoolboy he had been selected for the British junior Olympic team, but Winchester refused to allow him to take time off from his studies. It was because of his skiing prowess that Raeburn became the first Chief of Staff to be invited to participate in Army exercises in the snowy wastes of northern Norway. The invitation came after he had joined in a more informal exercise in Oslo, a "competition" on skis involving officers from Norway, Germany, America, and Denmark. Raeburn, although he was already in his fifties, won. From 1968 to 1970 he was Chief Instructor (Army) at the Imperial Defence College (now the Royal College of Defence Studies) in London. Raeburn once said: "All through my service I have tried to stand between my superiors and my men. If things went wrong, I considered that I, and I only, was to blame." He retired from the Army in 1970 as a Major-General and was appointed CB in 1966, and KCVO in 1979.

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Major General Sir Digby Raeburn died in 2001 aged 86.

Immediately after his retirement from the Army, in 1971 he was appointed Governor of the Tower of London and Keeper of the Jewel House, positions he held for eight years. As Governor, Raeburn was in command of the Yeoman Warders; as Keeper of the Jewel House he was in charge of the separate corps of Curators and Wardens and responsible for the security of the Crown Jewels. With these appointments, which Raeburn held from 1971 to 1979 after his retirement from the Army, went residency at the Tower in the Queen's House, built by Henry VIII as a wedding present for Anne Boleyn (it was from the Raeburns' spare bedroom that Anne went to her execution, having carved her name three times in the stonework of the fireplace). He married Adeline ("Addie") Pryor, who skied for Britain in the 1956 Olympics at Cortina in 1960. Raeburn continued to ski into his seventies, particularly enjoying his trips to St Moritz.

Captain Martin LINDSAY, Royal Scots – Assistant Adjutant and i/c Ski equipment

Sir Martin Alexander Lindsay, 1st Baronet, CBE, DSO (22 August 1905 – 5 May 1981) was a British army officer and explorer. He came to fame in the 1930s leading a succession of expeditions to Greenland, and later went into politics; he was elected as a Conservative Party Member of Parliament after the Second World War. His father was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles, who sent his son to Wellington College. After leaving Wellington, Lindsay went to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1925, and two years later was seconded to the 4th Battalion, the Nigeria Regiment. During his time in Nigeria, Lindsay won the Nigeria Grand National horse race. At the end of his two years in Nigeria in 1929, Lindsay undertook his first expedition, travelling from West to East Africa through the Ituri Rainforest then in the Belgian Congo. In 1930 he was appointed Surveyor to the British Arctic Air-Route Expedition to Greenland, led by Gino Watkins. Lindsay later wrote up his experiences in a book called "Those Greenland Days" (1932), paying tribute to Watkins' team building. He was awarded the King's Polar Medal for the success of the expedition.

Lindsay enjoyed writing about explorers and in 1933 wrote "The Epic of Captain Scott" about Robert Falcon Scott. In 1934 Lindsay was the Leader of the British Trans-Greenland Expedition. The expedition aimed to explore and map a 350-mile long stretch of Greenland which had not previously been visited but contained the highest mountains in the Arctic Circle. Andrew Croft was the photographer for the expedition; Lt. Daniel Godfrey was in charge of survey and navigation. The expedition crossed Greenland from west to east, and succeeded in fixing the positions of many important features including Gunnbjørns Fjeld. On the return journey the team headed south-west to Amassalik (now Tasiilaq) and on their journey discovered the extent of the Kronprins Frederik Bjerge mountain range. Lindsay's expedition set a new world record after sledging for 1,050 miles (700 of which were through unexplored territory). Lindsay had written his report of the expedition for The Times and in 1935 wrote a book called "Sledge" based on these reports.

In 1936, Lindsay left the army. He had married a distant cousin, Joyce Lindsay, in 1932 and they had a young family. He moved to Lincolnshire where he was adopted as Conservative Party candidate for Brigg in June 1936. The constituency was held by Labour with a majority of only 203, and Lindsay began to attend social events in the constituency in an attempt to build up his chances of election. He was a Deputy Lieutenant of Lincolnshire from 1938. On the outbreak of the Second World War, Lindsay enlisted again, and served in a staff post in the Norwegian campaign in 1940 where he was mentioned in despatches. In July 1944 Lindsay was placed in command of the 1st Battalion The Gordon Highlanders, in the 51st Highland Division. He commanded sixteen parachute operations between July 1944 and May 1945, being again mentioned in despatches, wounded in action, and receiving the Distinguished Service Order. He ended the war as a Lieutenant-Colonel. As was already his pattern, he wrote up his experiences in "So Few Got Through: The Diary of an Infantry Officer" in 1946; this was followed by a recap of his Arctic exploits in "Three Got Through: Memoirs of an Arctic Explorer" the following year. Linday would much later marry Loelia Ponsonby, after whom Ian Fleming named James Bond’s delectable secretary. Following WW2, Lindsay was elected to Parliament and was an MP for many years.

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British former army officer and explorer Sir Martin Lindsay (1905 - 1981), Conservative MP for Solihull, 1962. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) - photo taken in 1962.

Major A.F. PURVIS, M.C. – Scots Guards - Liaison Officer

The London Gazette of 29 November 1917 mentions the FOOT GUARDS, Scots Guards and the promotion of Lt. A. F. Purvis, notified in the Gazette of the 8th. Feb. 1916, is antedated to 28th Jan. 1915, with precedence next below Lt. H. Atkinson-Clarke and above Lt. A. C. Hope.. The Straits Times of 12 September 1917, Page 2 in their List of British Casualties mentions 2Lt A F Purvis as being wounded. The London Gazette of 26 August 1918 refers to A. F. Purvis, M.C. being posted to the Scots Guards (Spec. Res.), from M.G. Gds as of 6 Apr. 1917 (the MG Guards, or Machine Gun Guards, was a regiment of the British Army. It was initially formed in 1915 when machine gun companies were formed in the Guards Division. In April 1917, the four companies were grouped together as a single battalion of the Machine Gun Guards, before being re-designated by Royal Warrant in May 1918 as the 6th, or Machine Gun, Regiment of Foot Guards).

The London Gazette of 19 May 1920 advises that the undermentioned officers from the Scots Guards (Spec. Res) are appointed to permanent regular commissions as follows. 20th May and includes Capt. A. F. Purvis, M.C., “but to rank for seniority from 19th Jan. 1920”. On 25th January 1929, The London Gazette mentions A. F. Purvis, M.C., to be Major from 8th Jan. 1929. The London Gazette 15 March 1935 mentions that A. F. Purvis, M.C., Scots Guards was to be Military Secretary to the Governer-General and C.-in-C.,. New Zealand from 16th Feb. 1935. On 29th March 1935, Major A. F. Purvis, Military Secretary to Lord Galway, Governor-General-Designate of New Zealand is listed as one of the passengers who arrived yesterday in Sydney on the R.M.S Orama.

From the somewhat limited information above, it would seem that Major Purvis had first served in WW1, where he was wounded and it is probable he acquired his MC. He also had diplomatic experience and this was no doubt a major factor in his appointment as Liaison Officer for the Battalion.

Lieutenant James QUINN – Scots Guards – Quartermaster

The London Gazette of 19 January 1940 reports the posting of Lt James Quinn (111593) from the Scots Guards to the R.Q.M.S. as a Lieutenant (Qr.-Mr.) on the 8th Jan. 1940. The London Gazette of 8 June 1944 reports the promotion to Captain (Quartermaster) of James Quinn (111593), Scots Guards. Capt. Quinn was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1944. One surmises he was an effective Quartermaster but perhaps not a rising star in the military.

Lieutenant E.H.L. WIGRAM, R.A.M.C. - Medical Officer

Edmund Hugh Lewis Wigram was born in 1911, the son of the Rev. Edmund Francis Edward Wigram, M.A. Camb., India Sec, C.M.S., b. 1864 ; m. 1904 and Violet Wigram (d. 1918), daughter of Sir Thomas Charles Dewey, ist Bart. He was a noted climber in the 1930’s, and was a member of the Fifth British Expedition (Reconnaissance) in 1935, a small post-monsoon expedition led by Eric Shipton. He was also on the Sixth British Expedition in 1936, along with with Hugh Ruttledge as Leader and the well-known climbers Frank Smythe, Eric Shipton and P. Wyn Harris.

Wigram was educated at Marlborough College. In 1929 he left Marlborough and came up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied medicine and qualified as a doctor. Edmund began his mountaineering career while still at school – his extended family were “devoted to the mountains and their family forgatherings were as large as the meet of a small club”. When he arrived at Cambridge, he was already an accomplished climber with a great deal of Alpine experience behind him. He joined the Cambridge University Mountaineering Club at once, and as an undergraduate he was also a rowing enthusiast, becoming a stalwart of the First Trinity Boat Club. In his second year he was elected Treasurer of the CUMC and the following year he became President (1931-32). Up to that the time the Club had by tradition held an Easter meet in Wales or the Lake District, and a Summer meet in the Alps. Wigram led the way in breaking new ground. The Easter meet was held in Glencoe and the Summer meet at Turtagro in Norway, two of the happiest and most successful meets ever organized by the CUMC.

After leaving Cambridge, Wigram continued with medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital, where he still found time for the Alps in Summer and for short visits to Wales, where Heyyg was always one of his favorite resorts. In 1935 he was invited to join the Fifth British Expedition (Reconnaissance) to Everest, a small post-monsoon expedition led by Eric Shipton. He was apparently an irrepressible member of the 1935 reconnaissance, during which he climbed 20 peaks above 20,000 feet (6100 m). He was also on the Sixth British Everest Expedition in 1936, along with with Hugh Ruttledge as Leader and Frank Smythe, Eric Shipton, P. Wyn Harris, E.G.H. Kempson, Dr. C.B.M. Warren along with two newcomers, P.R. Oliver and J.M.L. Gavin. Incidentally, Tenzing Norgay (who would go on to climb Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary) was on his second Everest expedition as a porter. For the first time, lightweight radio sets were taken to Everest. A large, strong, and experienced expedition with many hopes of reaching the top, it failed because of the early onset of the monsoon on May 25th. On the 1936 expedition Wigram got no further than the North Col owing to bad weather and illness.

In 1938 Wigram married Kathleen Maud Wigram, of Woodstock, Oxfordshire (she was also an M.D.) and settled at Oxford, where he was appointed to a post at the Radcliffe Infirmary. When WW2 came, he was commissioned in the RAMC – the London Gazette of 23 January 1940 records that as of 20th Dec. 1939: — Edmund Hugh Lewis WIGRAM, M.B. (114188) was commissioned in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Dr. He volunteered, as did many other notable mountaineers and climbers such as his old Everest climbing comrade J.M.L Gavin, for the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards and service in Finland over the course of the Russo-Finnish Winter War. On his return to the UK, he spent the remainder of WW2 in the training of troops for mountain warfare.

On December 1st, 1945 at the age of 34 Edmund Wigram was climbing on the Idwal Slabs, in North Wales with his wife when he slipped and fell a considerable distance, sustaining head injuries from which he died next day in Bangor Hospital. In the Himalayan Club proceedings of 1947, the first following WW2, the death of E H L Wigram (among other mountaineers) was noted. An Obituary in the 1945-26 Climbers Club Journal reads in part “It is difficult for one with no experience of real mountaineering to assess his ability as a climber. He was always a leader and nothing so much impressed those who followed him as his competence and reliability; there was nothing lashy about his performance and one felt always that he had in hand great reserves which he never had occasion to call forth. The memories that he leaves behind among his friends will in the first place be of his own character and good fellowship.
No party which included him could ever be dull. It often happened that on such parties were those whol followed the scholastic profession and who of necessity erected about themselves a façade of respectability during term time. This was a matter of great concern to Edmund, who feared that unless steps were taken this might become a permanent barrier between them and the freer outlook which he and others enjoyed. It was entertaining to see him at work, and when eventually success crowned his efforts – as it invariably did – no one seemed to be more gratified than the object of his attention. That he should have fallen on what was to him easy ground, and that just after the end of the war, makes his death the more tragic. Our sympathy must extend to Mrs. Wigram in her terrible experience and to her and to the children in their cruel loss.”

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Edmund Hugh Lewis Wigram by Bassano. Vintage Print, 18 December 1935

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And looking a little more hirsute on the 1935 Mount Everest Expedition

Captain C.E.V. ROOKER, M.M., R.A.P.C. - Pay Adviser
(No information found)

A.K. MADDEN – Scots Guards - Regimental Sergeant-Major
(No information found)

A. WILFORD – Scots Guards - Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
(No information found)

L. PARSONS – Scots Guards - Orderly Room Quartermaster Sergeant
(No information found)

Right Flank Company

Major A.D.B. CRABBE, Scots Guards – Right Flank Company CO

On the formation of the 3rd Battalion Scots Guards on 8th October 1940, Capt A D B Crabbe was appointed CO of the Right Flank Coy. The London Gazette of 22 March 1945 lists Lt.-Col. (temp.) A. D. B. Crabbe (24215) of the Scots Guards as attached to the RAF Regiment.

Lieutenant K.R. ASHBURNER, Royal Fusiliers, Platoon Commander
(No information found, although a number of Ashburners seem to have been associated with the Royal Fusiliers)

Lieutenant N.E. MacMULLEN, 10th Royal Hussars, Platoon Commander
(No information found)

Lieutenant P.M.G. ANLEY, Royal Fusiliers, Platoon Commander

The London Gazette of 29 August 1939 mentions that Lt. P M G Anley is promoted from Lt. to Captain, effective 27th August 1939. One surmises that as with almost all the volunteers for the mission, he took a drop in rank to Lt to serve in the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards. The London Gazette of 8th December 1961 mentions that Major (Hon. Lt.-Col.) P M G Anley (52563) of the Fusilier Brigade (Regular Army Reserve of Officers) having exceeded the age limit, ceases to belong to the Reserve of Officers as of 9th Decemver 1961.

D.H. STACEY - Company Sergeant-Major
(No information found)

W Company

Captain J.L.M. GAVIN, Royal Engineers, W Company CO

James Merricks Lewis Gavin, a mountaineer and soldier, was born on 28 July 1911 in Chile and died on 21 August 2000 aged 89 years. At the time of his death he was one of the last surviving climbers to attempt Mount Everest before WW2. A capable skier and sailor, he was also a distinguished soldier, who made a dramatic wartime escape from the Japanese, and later worked for the Special Operations Executive. Gavin was born in Chile, and educated at St Peter's School, in Santiago, and then in the UK at Uppingham school, Rutland. After attending the Royal Military Academy and receving a commission in the Royal Engineers (where he joined 1 Field Squadron, RE), he read Mechanical Engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1931, and took up climbing with the university mountaineering club, where he rook part in climb in the Bernese Oberland. He climbed with some of the best of his day - including Colin Kirkus and Frank Smythe - and his physical toughness so impressed Smythe that he suggested to Hugh Ruttledge, leader of the 1936 Everest expedition, that the relatively young lieutenant would be an asset on the mountain.

Two reconnaissance expeditions had earlier looked at Everest, and three fullscale attempts had failed to reach the summit, but the 1936 team looked strong on paper, with Gavin one of only two newcomers to a group that included Smythe, Eric Shipton, Charles Warren, Percy Wyn Harris and Edmund Wigram (who had also been on the 1935 expedition). Although Gavin had no Himalayan experience, he nevertheless helped Smythe open the route to the north col that season, raising hopes of an early summit attempt. Sadly, these were thwarted by the arrival of the monsoon. The following year, Gavin and his Cambridge contemporary, Ashley Greenwood, climbed together in Chamonix, attempting a traverse of the Aiguilles des Drus, during which a fellow officer had his dislocated shoulder reset in the middle of a steep mountain.

Gavin returned to Chamonix in 1940, having temporarily given up his commission in the Royal Engineers to join a Scots Guards skiing battalion. The plan was to enter and support Finland - then at war with the Soviet Union - via neutral Sweden; in the event, it came to nothing, and the skiers left in a hurry as the Germans took control of France. Gavin then embarked on a sabotage mission to Norway, but after his submarine was badly damaged by depth charges, the expedition was abandoned and Gavin moved to the mountain warfare school at Loch Ailort (Scotland) where he served as a Commando instructor through 1940.

In 1941, he was promoted to Lt. Col. and sent to Singapore to open a commando training centre (O.C. No 101 Special Training School, SOE) and launch a sabotage campaign in Malaya against the advancing Japanese. But little was accomplished, and he found himself, as a valued officer, with the chance to get out as Singapore fell in early 1942. He had, however, fallen in love with Barbara Murray and, with only wives allowed to accompany departing officers, they quickly married and flew to Sumatra. They would have 53 years together, and two daughters and a son.

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Captain J.L.M. GAVIN, Royal Engineers

The Japanese had destroyed much of the local Sumatra shipping, and Gavin and Barbara at first found themselves marooned. But as an engineer and a keen sailor, who had participated in the Fastnet race, he was able to rig up a tug, and together they sailed to Ceylon before embarking by train for northern India. It was during a riot on the train that Gavin suffered the heart attack that was to break his health, and leave him considerably weaker for the rest of his life. After recuperating in Kashmir, he returned to Europe to work on sabotage equipment for SOE (where he served with Force 133, SOE as a demolitions and sabotage advisor). In 1944, on the verge of being parachuted into northern Italy from his post in Cairo, he was transferred to General Eisenhower's allied headquarters (SHAEF) at Versailles.

Gavin went on to hold senior posts with the Royal Engineers, and became a general staff officer (GSO1, Intelligence) at the British joint services mission in Washington, between 1948 and 1951. He then commanded 36 Engineer Regiment at Ripon, was a general staff officer at Camberley, and commanded 11 Engineer Group at Osnabruck (1957-1959). He was CO of the Intelligence Centre at Maresfield (1959-1962) amd was Assistant Chief of Staff (intelligence) at SHAPE, the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers, Europe from 1964-1967. He ended his military career in 1967 as a Major-General and then spent 10 years as technical director of the British Standards Institution, working on the introduction of metrication, before retiring to Milland, near Liphook, Hampshire. After his wife died in 1994, he spent the remaining years with his daughter in Dorset.

Lieutenant J.P. HALL, Middlesex Regiment
(No information found)

Lieutenant C.W. SUTER, London Rifle Brigade

The first mention found of C W Suter is in the London Gazette of 25th August 1936 when he was promoted from 2nd. Lt to Lt in the 5th City of London Rifles (part of the London Rifle Brigade – this was a TA (Territorial Army) Battalion) effective 25th July 1936. The next mention of Suter is in the London Gazette of 28 July 1939 where C W Suter is one of “the undermentioned Lts. to be Capts. 1st May 1939.” From this, we can surmise that Suter took a drop in rank to serve as a Lt and Platoon Commander in the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards. Given that so many other officers in the Battalion had taken drops in rank to join the unit, one also surmises he must have been viewed as a very competent officer in order to have assumed a Platoon CO position.

The only other reference to Suter than I can find mentions that as of May 1942, he was a Captain in the 1stAir Landing Squadron (the Recconnaisance Company of the 1st Airborne Division) under the command of Major C.F.H “Freddie” Gough, also of the London Rifle Brigade and a fellow Platoon Commander in the 5th Battalion Scots Guards.

Lieutenant Charles Frederick Howard GOUGH, London Rifle Brigade

Charles Frederick Howard “Freddie” GOUGH (16 September 1901 – 19 September 1977) was born in 1901 at Kasauli in India, into a highly distinguished military family, the youngest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Hugh Henry Gough of the Indian Army. He received an education at Cheam School and then at the Royal Naval College, Osborne where he earned an “Honourable Mention”, later moving to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, before being granted a commission in the Royal Navy in 1917 as a Midshipman. Having served aboard the Battleship HMS Ramillies and then the Destroyer HMS Witherington but on the whole disliking the Navy, he was bought out of his commission in 1920 by his parents, whereupon he relocated to India to take up farming and horse breeding. Two years later he returned to England where he was employed with a firm of insurance brokers affiliated with Lloyds Insurance Brokers in London.

In 1924 Gough joined the London Rifle Brigade of the Territorial Army (where he served for five years) as a Lieutenant. In 1928 he was amongst the Guard of Honour to the future King George VI at the opening of the new Lloyds Building. In 1929 Gough married Barbara May Pegler, with whom he had a son and daughter, and in the same year he resigned his commission with the LRB. He later became the first person to qualify as a parachutist with the Royal Aero Club and was the first person to be issued with the Royal Aero Club Parachutist Certificate.

When the Second World War began, Gough was recalled from the Territorial Army Reserve of Officers and as a Captain rejoined the London Rifle Brigade, posted to H Company of the 2nd Battalion. However two months after the Russian invasion of Finland in December 1939, the British government expressed a desire to lend support to the Finns, and so Gough left the London Rifle Brigade to join the 5th (Ski) Battalion, Scots Guards. The adventurous Gough was not in the least deterred by obligatory loss of rank (in his case to Lieutenant) and was appointed a Platoon Commander. On his return to the UK, Gough joined the 1st Airborne Division in 1941, around the time of its formation, and was promoted to Major and given command of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron. They departed for North Africa with the Division in 1943 and were due to have played a part in the Sicily invasion, however due to a lack of tugs and gliders they were omitted from the operation. In September they sailed with the Division to Italy, where Gough won the Military Cross in connection with the landing at Taranto.

The look of the British 1st Airborne Recconnaissance Squadron is one of the iconic images of the Second World War - tough, battle-hardened British paratroopers racing to their objectives deep in enemy territory aboard their specially modified Jeeps. The recce squadron was easily identified by the Vickers K machine guns mounted to the bonnet of their Jeeps. Major 'Freddie' Gough had requested even more firepower with twin-mounted Vickers K guns but this request was turned down over concerns about transporting enough ammunition for these potent (950 rounds per minute!) machine guns. They would also carried standard infantry weapons including two 3" and 2" mortars, a Bren gun, Lee Enfield sniper rifles, a PIAT anti-tank weapon and a variety of hand grenades. Most men had a Sten gun and the Radio Operators a revolver.The Recce Squadron was not to be messed with lightly! What is little know is, as with David Stirling and the SAS as well as with Orde Wingate and the Chindits, just how much was owed conceptually to the time that these British Officers had spent in operations over the course of the Winter War fighting with the Maavoimat’s Osasto Nyrkki unit, absorbing the lessons of equipment, tactics, speed and firepower from the Finns – and indeed, as we will see, even the use of “Jeeps” in such operations.

During Operation Market Garden in September 1944, the Recce Squadron would be amongst the first units to be deployed - tasked as it was with the very important role as a coup de main force using their mobility to snatch the bridge before being relieved by units of the 1st Parachute Brigade following on foot. Though commander of a group of men whose rationale was speed, Gough was notorious for being highly unpunctual when it came to attending conferences, and the first briefing for Market Garden on Tuesday 12th September was no exception. Major-General Urquhart wrote "After the briefing had started, Freddie Gough, a cheerful, red-faced, silver-haired major, turned up with the air of a truant playing schoolboy and I laid into him afterwards for his unpunctuality. It was not the first time he had been very late for a conference." At Arnhem, the Reconnaissance Squadron was charged with the task of racing to the bridge in their Jeeps the moment they were unloaded from their gliders and holding it until the 2nd Battalion arrived on foot. In the heavy fighting that followed, Gough briefly commanding the forces at Arnhem Bridge after Lieutenant Colonel John Frost was injured. He was taken prisoner when the force was overrun, but he escaped in April 1945 and joined up with American forces in Bavaria.

By 1947 he had been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and had joined the Parachute Regiment, where he commanded the 11th (8th Middlesex (DCO)) Parachute Battalion of the Territorial Army, holding the post until the following year and earning the Territorial Efficiency Decoration in 1948. Eventually becoming a full Colonel, he was Honorary Colonel of the Sussex Yeomanry from 1959-63, and Honorary Colonel of the 16th (Volunteer) Independent Company, The Parachute Regiment from 1952-74, where he was awarded a Bar to his Territorial Decoration.

Whilst maintaining a prominent position within Lloyds up until 1970, he was also the Trustee of the Airborne Forces Security Fund, Vice President of the Lloyds Branch of the British Legion, Chairman of the Royal Aero Club from 1958-68, and President of the Federation of Sussex Industries from 1964-70. He took an interest in politics and was President of the South Lewisham Conservative Association, and from 1951-71 was Chairman of the Horsham Division Conservative Association. At the 1951 general election Gough was elected as Member of Parliament for Horsham, retiring at the time of the 1964 General Election. He also briefly occupied the posts of Governor of the Cutty Sark Society, Prime Warden of the Fishmongers Company, and was a Trustee of the Maritime Trust. Following his retirement, he lived in West Sussex, the same area as John Frost, where the two men renewed their friendship. Freddie Gough died on the 19th September 1977, aged 76. He lived to see the release of the film A Bridge Too Far, which he described as "[playing] ducks and drakes with historical facts in order to dish up an extravaganza fit for the American massed cinema market".

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Major Freddie Gough

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" Leading the way into Arnhem would be a motorised reconnaissance squadron of jeeps and motorcycles. General Urquhart was counting on Major 'Freddie' Gough's highly specialised force of some 275 men in four troops - the only unit of its kind in the British Army - to reach the highway bridge and hold it until the main body of the brigade arrived "

J. ROYLE - Company Sergeant-Major
(No information found)

X Company

Major L.C.D. RYDER, Norfolk Regiment

Major Lisle Charles Dudley Ryder was born on 31 August 1902 (probably in India as this is where a younger brother was born), the son of Colonel Charles Henry Dudley Ryder, CB, CIE, DSO, Surveyor General of India, and Ida Josephine Grigg. He had two brothers, Ernle Terrick Dudley Ryder (who died in captivity after the defence of Singapore) and Robert Ryder (who led the St. Nazaire Raid, codenamed Operation Chariot on 28 March 1942 and who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during this operation). He was educated at Cheltenham College, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. The London Gazette of 9 September 1924 advises that 2nd Lt. L C D Ryder is promoted to Lt in the Norfolk Regiment as of 31st August 1924. The next mention in the London Gazette is from 26 April 1932 advises that Lt. L C D Ryder is to be Adjutant if the Norfolk Regiment vice Lt. H Long as of 25th April 1932. He was a member of the British Graham Land Expedition (to Antarctica) of 1934-37 as a photo of the the “Fennier”, an old sailing ship hulk at Port Stanley in the Falklands taken in 1936 is recorded at the Scott Polar Research Institute as being taken during the British Graham Land Expedition 1934-37, with the photographer credited as Lisle Charles Dudley Ryder. At this time, his rank was recorded as Captain.

In looking at the records of the British Graham Land Expedition, they travelled on a small Breton fishing schooner purchased for the expedition (the Penola) to the Antarctic. The Captain of the Penola was none other than one R.E.D. Ryder and the second mate is listed as L.C.D. Ryder (some members of the expedition were military personnel seconded and paid, most were unpaid volunteers). Lisle Ryder also appears to have been something of an artist as the Scott Polar Research Institute also shows a considerable number of watercolour paintings of wildlife that he painted whilst on the expedition (see http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/museum/catalo ... y79.14.10/).

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L.C.D. Ryder with forge and pitch cauldron: Ryder stands on the base of a dry dock next to a metal bowl on a stand on which coal is alight. A metal bowl stands on the coal, smoking. Sea in the background: British Graham Land Expedition 1934-37, Photo taken in 1936 in South Georgia

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L.C.D. Ryder (left, holding a box of tools) and J.H. Martin (right, holding a shovel) stand on the snow-covered deck by a deck house on the sailing ship ‘Penola’.

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Portrait of L.C.D. Ryder smoking a pipe: from the British Graham Land Expedition 1934-37, photo taken 1937, Antarctica

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Photo sourced from: http://www.freezeframe.ac.uk/wp-content ... 11-img.jpg
Group sitting by sledge (E.W. Bingham, R.E.D. Ryder (holding a flask), L.C.D. Ryder and another expedition member (smoking a pipe)) all wearing parkas and hats, sit on the snow in front of a laden sledge. Snow-covered shore in the background: from the British Graham Land Expedition 1934-37, Photo taken in 1935.

After returning from the Antarctic, he married Enid Helen Constance Ralston-Patrick, daughter of Major Robert Ralston-Patrick, on 22 February 1938. Somewhere between the British Graham Land Expedition and early 1940, he was promoted to Major. After volunteering for the expeditionary force to Finland, Ryder was appointed CO of X Company. He would be killed in action fighting against the Red Army in late May 1940.

(OTL Note: Major Lisle Charles Dudley Ryder, along with 96 of his men from the Norfolk Regiment, was executed by members of the 14th Company, SS Division Totenkopf, under the command of Hauptsturmführer Fritz Knöchlein on 27 May 1940. They had surrendered after being cutoff and having run out of ammunition, with no possibility of relief. Knöchlein was found guilty of war crimes as a result of post-war investigations into this atrocity and was hanged in 1949).

Lieutenant V.A.P. BUDGE, GRENADIER GUARDS

The Straits Times of 12 December 1933 records that the RMC Sandhurst Rugby Team won their annual match against RMA Woolwich by eight points to nil. VAP Budge is listed as one of the Sandhurst players. The articles also mentions that Budge’s school was Blundell’s (a private school in Devon that dates back to 1604) - Ref http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Artic ... .2.97.aspx. The Army List records Lt V.A.P Budge being promoted to Captain (temp. 10/1/40). He ended the war as a (Temp) Major with a substantive rank of Captain.

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Sourced from: http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/ ... 00566.html
Lt. V.A.P. Budge with a Miss Hooper, from a 1937 issue of Flight Magazine: He is recorded as flying a Miles M.2H Hawk Major (G-ADIT). Budge was a member of the Cotswold Aero Club Ltd at Cheltenham and his aircraft was impressed on 19 December 1939.

Post-WW2, the London Gazette of 31 January 1947 records that “the undermentioned Capts. to be Majs.”, in the Foot Guards (Grenadier Guards) as of 1st Feb 1947 and lists (War Subs. Maj.) V. A. P. BUDGE (62571). In July 1957 Lt-Col V.A.P. Budge is recorded as being in Cyprus, where he took delivery of a 1957 Bentley S1 Standard Saloon, Chassis B95EK in sage and smoke green. The London Gazette of 13th August 1968 records that Col V A P Budge C.B.E., M.V.O. (62571) late Ft. Gds., retires on retired pay, 5th Aug. 1968. After leaving the Army, Brigadier V.A.P. Budge dedicated the remainder of his life to Nordic skiing and was a founding Council Member of the Skiers Trust.

Lieutenant R.N. CHARRINGTON, Suffolk Regiment

The only references found for Lt. R.N. Charrington are a series of announcements in the London Gazette. The first from 1935 in which R. N. Charrington is promoted from Lt. to be Capt. as of 21st Aug. 1935. Given the time it took to be promoted from 2Lt to Lt to Captain, one surmises that by the start of WW2, Capt. Charrington was an older Officer who took a drop in rank to Lt. to serve with the 5th Battalion in Finland. The London Gazette of 30 August 1940 mentions that R N Charrington of the Suffolk Regiment is promoted from Capt. to be Major as of 30th Aug. 1940. The London Gazette of 7 May 1948 records that Maj. R. N. CHARRINGTON (27164) of the Suffolk Regiment retires on ret. pay, as of 6th May 1948. The London Gazette of 2 May 1952 records that Maj. R. N. CHARRINGTON (27164) having attained the age limit of liability to recall, ceases to belong to the Res. of Offrs. as of 2nd May 1952.

Lieutenant D.C. BAYNES, Queen's Regiment

David Christopher Baynes was born in 1912 and after having been a L/Cpl in The Artists' Rifles (a Territorial Army unit, most of whose members went on to become Officers) was commissioned in the 2/7th Battalion, The Queen's Royal Regiment in July 1939 as a 2nd Lieutenant. He volunteered for service in Finland and must have been regarded as a very capable officer to have been appointed a Platoon Commander and a full Lieutenant when so many other officer volunteers were reduced in rank to NCO’s to even to Privates. In Finland, after Major Ryder was killed in action, Baynes was promoted to Acting Captain and given command of X Company.

(OTL, Baynes served with the 2/7th Battalion, The Queen's in France with the B.E.F in 1940 when as an Acting Captain, he was awarded the Military Cross.) He served continuously with the Battalion and became 2i/c towards the end of the North African Campaign. In late September 1943 he was appointed to command the Battalion and on 25 December 1943 he was promoted to a substantive rank of Major and (Temp) Lieutenant-Colonel. He was wounded in September 1944 but returned to command in October. He ceased to command in January 1945. For his fine leadership in Italy he was awarded the DSO and also Mentioned in Despatches. He was appointed Hon. Lt.Col. in April 1946, when he retired from the Army. He died on 12th April 1958.

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http://www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk/colo
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Lt Col D C Baynes, DSO MC TD

?. RUSSELL - Company Sergeant-Major
(No information found)

Y Company

Captain R.D.M. GUROWSKI, Scots Guards, CO – Y Company


Captain Count Richard Dudley Melchior Gurowski (47565) was born on 9 January 1910, the son of Count Dudley Melchior Beaumont Gurowski (High Sheriff of Berkshire 1914 and Hon. Major in the Kent R.G.A. Militia) and Caroline Hyacinthe von Essen (daughter of Baron Hans and Lady Mary Hyacinthe von Essen, of Tidaholm, Sweden). The family lived at Woolhampton Park, Berkshire and also at the Chateau de Montboron, near Nice. Richard Gurowski was educated at Eton, and the family received the royal license to bear and use their Polish title of Count in the United Kingdom in 1911. Captain Count Gurowski was a member of the Carlton Club and also of the Thames Yacht Club. He was well known within the Army as a leading Army boxer and a skilled exponent of bayonet-fighting. He married married Angela Mary Haig-Thomas, daughter of Peter Haig-Thomas and Lady Alexandra Henrietta Alice Agar and lived in West Amesbury, Wiltshire.

The London Gazette of 19 September 1933 mentions that 2nd Lt. (now Lt.) R. D. M. Gurowski
is seconded, for service under the Colonial Office from 4th Aug. 1933. The London Gazette of 24 November 1936 advices that “The undermentioned are restored to the Establishment as of 24th Nov. 1936: Lt. R. D. M. Gurowski.” By early 1940, Gurowski was a Captain in the Scots Guards and on volunteering for service in Finland, he was appointed CO of Y Company. After ski training in Chamonix, France, he led his company to Finland where he died in action on June 2nd 1940, when his Company position was bombed by Soviet aircraft. There were no other casualties in the attack.

OTL Note: At the end of May the Scots Guardswere called upon to provide embarkation officers on the beaches of Dunkirk. Captain R.D.M. Gurowski, and Second Lieutenants R.G. Rowe and R.H. Bull went out by motor-launch from Dover. After completing their duties they all returned safely, save for Captain Gurowski, who was killed on June 2nd 1940 when the ship in which he was a passenger was bombed off Dunkirk. His death was a severe blow to the Regiment.

Lieutenant G.W.E. POTTER, GRENADIER GUARDS
(No information found)

Lieutenant P.S. CHAPLIN, King's Royal Rifle Corps
(No information found)

Lieutenant M.R.G. HOWARD, King's Royal Rifle Corps
(No information found)

J.R. FRASER - Company Sergeant-Major
(No information found)

Left Flank Company

Captain C.J. STONE, East Surrey Regiment


The London Gazette of 29 May 1916 advises that “The undermentioned 2nd Lts. to be temp. Lts.: C. J. Stone. 10th Sept. 1915”. The London Gazette of 21 July 1922 records that Lt. C. J. Stone relinquished his commission, 28th, Feb. 1922, under A.O. 166/21, as amended by A.O. 332/21, and was granted the rank of Captain. The London Gazette of 26 September 1938 advises that Capt. C. J. Stone of the East Surrey Regiment was promoted from Captain to Major effective 20th Dec. 1938. The London Gazette of 15 December 1950 records that Maj. C. J. STONE (42004) having exceeded the age limit -for retirement, is placed on ret. pay, 29th Oct. 1950, and is granted the hon. rank of Lt.-Col.

Lieutenant J.R.G. BIRD, Sherwood Foresters
(No information found)

Lieutenant A.G. DICKSON, Cameron Highlanders

Alexander Graeme Dickson was born 23 May 1914. Educated at Rugby School and then at New College, Oxford University, Dickson started his working life as a journalist with the Yorkshire Post in 1936. Even at that early stage he devoted much of his spare time to voluntary work with young offenders and scouts. From the outset he attracted a degree of notoriety; combining work as a foreign correspondent with a deep concern for the slum children of Leeds and London. In 1937 he went to Czechoslovakia for the Daily Telegraph but when the Germans invaded he gave up journalism and started working with refugees in Prague. Indeed, his opposition to the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia led to his being placed 57th on the list of those to be arrested by the Gestapo in the event of an invasion of Britain. As WW2 loomed, Dickson joined the Army - the London Gazette of 6 December 1939 records that as of 8th October 1939 Alexander Graeme Dickson (102990) holds the rank of Lieutenant.

His obituary states that once war was declared he “served in the Army in Finland” (with the 5th Battalion, Scots Guards) and Abyssinia and then worked in Nairobi, where he organised a war propaganda unit which toured British East Africa. The London Gazette of 30 June 1942 records that Lieutenant A.G. DICKSON (102990) of the Camerons was attached to The King’s African Rifles. He was awarded the MBE in 1945. After WW2, he became a Civil Servant in the Colonial Office where in the late 1940’s he ran community development programmes in the Gold Coast, then a British Colony in West Africa. He met Mora Robertson in 1950 and in late 1950 he suggested that Mora might like to visit him in the Cameroons where he was then posted. To her mother's horror, she set off to see Alec unchaperoned; they were married in 1951. Soon overseas again, together they founded the Man O' War training centre in Nigeria, which ran outward-bound type courses for african young people. By 1956 he was working for the British Council of Churches and it was at the time of the Hungarian uprising that Dickson had the idea for Voluntary Service Overseas. He saw the impact of Western students in refugee relief and how much valuable work could be done by the young. To be 18 and untrained was, as far as Dickson concerned, a positive advantage. A letter from the Bishop of Portsmouth - in fact written by Dickson - to the Sunday Times calling for school leaver volunteers to work overseas led to the first 12 recruits leaving for Sarawak, Ghana and Cameroon.

Working from their kitchen table, Dickson and his wife Mora founded Voluntary Service Overseas in 1958, with Dickson being the Director through to 1962. When Dickson and his wife Mora first proposed Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) with the object being for young people from Britain to go out to developing countries for a year or more and help in such practical tasks as teaching, nursing and agricultural work, it received a cool reception in Whitehall. “It won't work Alec,” he was told, “It's radiologists and engineers in pre-stressed concrete they need overseas - not British school kids who have nothing to offer but their pimples.” Undaunted, Dickson dispatched VSO's first dozen eighteen-year-olds to Ghana, Nigeria and Sarawak in 1958, and this small trickle soon developed into a flood of thousands. VSO rapidly grew to become one of the largest voluntary organisations of its kind. Dickson was a visionary, and a crucial part of his vision was to see that when young people helped those worse off than themselves, the giver gained as much as the recipient. He had faith in humanity and a belief in young people and the power of trust.

The value of VSO was immediately seen in other countries which were thinking about the way to make voluntary aid to the emergent nations more effective. VSO's influence in the United States was seminal. The Americans were particularly keen on the VSO blueprint and in 1961 Dickson was summoned to the US to advise President John F. Kennedy and led to President Kennedy's setting up the American equivalent, the Peace Corps, in 1961. Dickson spent some time in the US in 1961 assisting and advising on the setting up of the Peace Corps. While he was away, in the USA however, criticism of Dickson's stewardship of VSO broke out into open revolt among his staff. Inevitably, as VSO had grown, the organisation had become more professional and policy differences had developed, based on the conflicting demands of Dickson's desire to send raw young people out to work overseas and the need in the recipient countries for those who were qualified – as those in Whitehall had commented originally. As the years had gone by, its volunteers had changed too, from school-leavers to trained graduates who often spent two or more years working overseas and were thus able to make a more valuable contribution to the voluntary effort. At VSO’s headquarters in London, it was felt that Dickson was stronger on inspiration than administration and that with the organisation growing larger by the month a more professional hand was needed at the helm. Returning home to Britain in 1962, Dickson found that he was no longer director of VSO.

At first he was totally disorientated. His life's work had been taken from him. But as he was later to say: “There were wildernesses and deserts here in Britain.” Dickson and his wife immediately went to work to set up Community Service Volunteers to give school-leavers the opportunity to spend some time living away from home, engaged in some socially useful work in their own country. Unlike the highly selective VSO, which had favoured the public school and the university volunteer, CSV was to be open to anyone who could possibly make themselves useful. Most of its volunteers were teenagers; some came from the young unemployed, from children in care, from those undergoing Borstal training, from the handicapped and from cadets on secondment from the armed services or the police force. They worked among Vietnamese boat people, in delinquency centres, in homes for the elderly and in psychiatric units. In many cases the year of voluntary service acted as therapy for those undertaking it, giving them a sense of self respect their previous institutionalised lives had failed to do. Again working from the kitchen table, and with nothing to guide him except the support of Mora and a conviction that it could be done, he sent the first volunteer from London to a Glasgow approved school in 1962. CSV now employs 3,000 volunteers a year; VSO has 1,700.

CSV was the first organisation of its kind anywhere in the world and aroused considerable international interest. President Johnson directly copied it when he set up Volunteers in Service to America in 1963 and Alec Dickson was in constant demand as a consultant and adviser to governments and volunteer organisations across the globe. Dickson, who remained as director of CSV from 1962 until 1982, when he became its honorary president (a position he held from 1982 to his death in London on 23 September 1994), was constantly coming up with new ideas and projects. He sought to persuade schools and colleges to link their curricula with the needs of the local community and pioneered tutoring schemes whereby older pupils helped younger ones in the classroom.

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Alec Dickson

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Alec and Mora Dickson

Lieutenant M.R.B. (Mike) KEALY, Devonshire Regiment

Lt. Michael Robert Bayley Kealy (“Mike”) was born on the 28th January 1912 and received his officers training at Sandhurst. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Devonshire Regiment on 28 January 1932 and promoted to Lieutenant on 28 January 1935. From 23 September 1936 to 27 August 1939 he served with the Royal West African Frontier Force. From 3 September 1939 to 2 December 1939 he was an Acting Captain, and from 3 December 1939 to 21 January 1940 a Temp/Captain, with promotion to Captain on 28 January 1940. He took a drop in rank to Lieutenant to serve with the 5th Battalion Scots Guards. After returning from Finland, he joined 8 Commando.

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By 1943, Mike Kealy was a Major in 2 SBS.

Over 1941-41 he was with 1 SBS in the Middle East, holding the rank of Acting Major / Temporary Major at various time between January 1942 and April 1946. He served with 1 SBS, attached L Det SAS from May 1942 and was with the 1st Special Service Regiment from July 1942, as well as with 2 SBS. He served with B Group, 2 SBS from 1944 to 1945, was promoted to Major 1 January 1946 and retired on 16 July 1949, when he was promoted to Hon. Lt Colonel. He was on the Regular Army Reserve of Officers until 28 January 1962, when he reached the age limit.

Imagehttp://www.commandoveterans.org/cdoGall ... d+1943.jpg
2 SBS, Hillhead 1943: L-r. F/Lt Roy Thompson,R.A.F. (Medical Officer);Major M.R.B. (Mike) Kealy (Devonshire Regiment);Lt Philip A. Ayton (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders); Major Roger Courtney (C.O.) (K.R.R.C.); Lt David Smee (Royal Artillery);Captain Douglas Sidders (Royal Welch Fusiliers); Commander Harold Wilkinson Goulding RNVR

J.A. LINDSAY - Company Sergeant Major
(No information found)

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

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CanKiwi2
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Left Flank Company, 5th Battalion, Scots Guards

Post by CanKiwi2 » 02 Jun 2012 17:50

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

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