Hosted by Juha Tompuri
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(1) the Finnish Army and Air Force through the 1920's (largely historical but with some minor points of departure from the OTL which will have ramifications later on in the 1930's, with consequences on the outcome of the Winter War)
(2) the Suojeluskunta / Lotta Svard organisations throught the 1920's, largely as background as these organisations play an important role in the 1930's and into the Winter War
(3) development of the Finnish arms industry and weapons used by the military through the 1920's (again, largely historical but with some early points of departure from the OTL)
(4) internal Finnish politics (again, largely background but some points of departure from the OTL)
(5) foreign affairs and attempts to negotiate treaties and agreements with neighboring and other countries. The relationship(s) with Estonia and Poland take a twist here (refer back to the purchase of the Polish Grom Destroyer design in the Naval-related posts and consider the implications of a closer Finnish-Polish relationship as well as stronger ties with the other Baltic States - Latvia and Lithuania).
(6) a summation of where we are at the end of the 1920's - industrially, financially, economically, politically and militarily.
After which, I will move on to the 1930's, where we will start to really get interesting. I'm currently considering two approaches to the 1930's - one a year by year progression, the other treating each of the major themes running through this What If as an entity for the period 1930-1938 and addressing them one by one, with a summary putting together where we are as of the 1938 Munich Crisis. Opinions what's the best approach are actively solicited - this is my first real What If and a lot of you guys have way more experience writing these than I do - so I'd like to know what you think.
And just as a hint of things to come......
Eino Ilmari Juutilainen won all his victories flying an Ilmavoimat Merlin-engined Heinkel He 112 Fighter. In his biography, he described his first combat flights against the Soviet Bombers attacking Helsinki on the first day of the war. "We were scrambled by Fighter Control early on the 1st of December. The Controllers vectored us onto the Soviet Bombers heading for Helsinki. I had some trouble with my engine, and so I got a little behind the rest of my Squadron. When I was close to Helsinki, I got a message from Control of three enemy bombers approaching and was vectored onto them. After about half a minute, I saw three Soviet bombers approaching. I was about 1,500 feet above them and started the attack turn just like in gunnery camp at Käkisalmi. Despite the engine problems, which meant I did not have full power, I closed with them quickly. The Soviet aircraft immediately dropped their bomb loads and turned back. I shot the three rear gunners, one by one. Then I started to shoot the engines. I followed them a long way and kept on shooting. One of them nosed over and crashed almost immediately. The two others were holed like cheese graters but continued in a shallow, smoking descent until I closed in again to finish them off. Then they went down. I had spent all of my ammunition, so I turned back. There was no special feeling of real combat. Everything went exactly like training."
The Merlin-engined Heinkel He112 was one of the better Fighters operated by the Ilmavoimat in the Winter War.
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When the victorious Government that emerged from the Finnish Civil War begun to organize a new national army in 1918, this new force drew much inspiration from the previous Finnish national army that was, paradoxically, much older than Finnish independence. Previous to being ruled by Russian, Finland had been under Swedish rule for centuries and as far back as the Thirty Years War, Finnish Regiments had been recruited into the Swedish Army. By 1636 for example, the Wunsch, Wrangel and Ekholt Cavalry Regiments and the Vyborg, Wrangel, Essen, Grass, Horn and Burtz Infantry Regiments were Finnish unit sserving under the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus in his campaigns in Germany. When Charles XII set out in 1700 to enlarge his Empire, the Finnisg Rehbinder Cavalry, Knorring Dragooons and Tiesenhausen, Lode and Gyllenstrom Infantry Regiments were part of his Army.However, in the decisive Battle of Poltava, Russia’s Peter the Great had destroyed Charlesd XII Army, the Finnish Regiments were decimated and Finland was temporarily overrun by Russia in 1713 (and in the overrunning, Finland’s population decreased from 400,000 to 300,000).
In 1788, the King Gustav III had taken advantage of Russia’s war with Turkey to march on St Petersburg. Afraid their country would be partitioned between the two protagonists, some Finnish Officers formed the Anjala League to promote seperation from Sweden and the formation of an independent Finland under Russian protection. Gustav III’s execution of some of these Officers resulted in his assassination, ending the war. Although Finland was little affected by Gustav III’s war, disaster accompanied the war of Gustav IV. The Swedish Army, whose troops at this stage were mainly Finnish, withdrew under the orders of their Swedish Generals, were defeated and in 1809 Finland was declared to be part of the Russian Empire as a Grand Duchy. The Finnish Regiments, trained in Swedish military techniques, were disbanded. However, the war against Napoleon led the Tsar to allow Finnish volunteers to form three Regiments in 1812.
Throughout the suceeding century, the strength of the Finnish Armed Forces had fluctuated with the diplomatic situation. Within the Russian Army, 8 Finnish Regiments and 3 Jaeger Battalions were maintained. Finnish troops took part in crushing the Polish Uprising in 1830-31 and the Russo-Turkish War if 1877-78. Although the Russian Army was responsible for Finland’s defence, a general conscription law passed in 1878 had provided for a force of 6,000 men for local defence. Rifle Battalions had been formed in 1881 to carry out the training specified by the new law. Reserves were trained within local companies. By 1900, Finland had it’s own Army of 8 provincial battalions, a Regiment of Dragoons and the Finnish Guard, all commanded by a Governer-General answering to the Tsar. Each military province had 4 Reserve Companies.
However, following the uprisings throughout the Russian Empire after the fiasco of the 1905 Russo-Japanese War, the Tsar had begun a policy of Russification in Finland and the last units of the Army of the Grand Duchy of Finland were decommissioned (also in 1905). Many Finns however either continued, or went on to serve, in the Tsarist Russian Armed Forces. Mannerheim was one of these And many of the former officers trained in the (originally Swedish) military academy of the Hamina Cadet School started a new career as the first commanders of the new Finnish Army. These men were still firmly in charge in the General Staff when the outlines of Finnish Army were being drawn.
Following the successful conclusion of the Civil War (in which, incidentally, Mannerheim had strongly opposed an agreement reached between the Finnish Government and the Germans to send a German Expeditionary Force to assist the Finns, believing the White Forces were strong enough to defeat the Reds without German help – a position which he was later able to parley into support from the victorious Allies and diplomatic recognition for the new State in May 1919) Mannerhem had resigned in May 1918, disapproving of the inordinate influence of the Germans and the German-trained Finnish Officers in the organization of the Finnish Army.
After the Civil War ended, the Suojeluskunta were officially turned back into a semi-independent paramilitary organization in February 1919. While the leadership of the Suojeluskunta movement wanted to regain their freedom to operate and develop their organization as they saw fit, the newly formed Finnish Army (Maavoimat) was seeking a way to become a truly national army for the war-torn nation - a force based on the other side of the Civil War would have surely been unable to win over any respect from the supporters of the Reds. Army leaders aimed to turn the military into a guardian of a new national consensus, and carefully sought to keep it away from daily politics while turning the conscription system into a way of indoctrinating new age-classes of conscripts into reliable citizen-soldiers of the young Republic. In September 1919, in the middle of the turbulent years of the Heimosodat (the Kinship Wars that we have covered earlier), the legal framework for the Army was finally ready.
The highest authority was reserved to the President of the Republic as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, with the Chief of Staff and the Head of the Army both under his command, controlled by the new War Ministry. In 1922 (after the threat of getting involved to the Russian Civil War was removed and Treaty of Tartu was signed) the legal framework was expanded further when a new Conscription Act made military service compulsory for every able-bodied adult male, starting from the age of 18 and releasing the reservists from the last reserve category at the age of 65. The basis for the new conscription system was a cadre system. A small professional core group of Officers and NCO’s and a small standing Army would train reservists, who would remain in training for a period that would generally last a year, with three months of additional extra service in the Air Force, Cavalry, Technical and Supply units. The new system drew it’s inspiration from pre-war Russian methods due to the influence of the Russian-trained General Staff Officers, but some parts of the system were also copied from Germany due the insistence of influential Jaeger officers.
This reform was the first time (but certainly not the last) when internal conflicts between the two different schools that would determine the status and development of the Army during the 1920s emerged: The disagreements over methods between German-trained Jaegers and the Russian-trained “Old Guard” on the one hand, and between the Army and Suojeluskunta on the other would continue. However, one area that was agreed on quickly was Mobilization. This was a problem for Finland as the country was both large and sparsely populated, with considerable time required to mobilize and concentrate the Reserves. With the Soviet Union on the other side of the border, it was imperative that mobilization occur rapidly. The Cadre mobilization system was used in the Finnish army from April of 1918 to April of 1934. Just as in later mobilization systems, the whole country was divided into military districts and upon mobilization a certain number of units would be formed in each of these districts. In this system (based on the German mobilization system) each of the wartime Army Regiments had an active peacetime battalion-sized unit as a cadre, around which the wartime unit ,when mobilized, would be formed by filling up the ranks with reservists. The first ambitious mobilization plan made in 1918 would have required forming 9 divisions (with a total of 27 infantry regiments), but at that time Finland didn't even have half of the needed trained troops or weapons for an the Army of that size.
Training of recruits through the 1920s followed a similar pattern to other European countries. The Finnish Army was largely infantry based and conscripts were taught the basic infantry skills – drill, discipline, shooting, fitness and small unit tactics with an emphasis on the tactical skills being developed for Finnish conditions.
Recruits Marching in to Camp for Basic Training
Recruits being trained on the Mosin-Nagant Rifle
Recruits training on the Maxim Machinegun
Advanced Recruit Training – out on Summer Manoeuvers
Advanced Recruit Training – out on Winter Manouvers
The plan was revised somewhat in 1919, being based on a more realistic 3 Infantry Divisions, a Jaeger Brigade and other units. As more conscripts went through training and the trained Reserves grew in strength, the planned size of the Army on mobilization grew steadily year by year. In 1921 the mobilization force was re-set to 6 divisions and 1 Jaeger Brigade, but the Finnish military had come to the conclusion that 10 Divisions would be needed to adequately fight a defensive war. In 1927 Finland finally had the trained reserves to form 7 Divisions on mobilization, but the Defense Revision of that time suggested a future wartime Army of 13 Divisions would be needed. The constantly growing size of the mobilized Army meant that more equipment was constantly needed, and through the 1920’s there was a constant race between the ability of the Army to provide arms and equipment with a very limited budget, and the growing numbers of trained reserves to whom equipment would need to be issued on mobilization.
To a certain extent the Army managed this situation by limiting the number of Conscripts to be trained through stringent medical exams, eliminating many who might have been trained (a situation that was to be recitified in the 1930’s). This meant that a balance between equipment and trained reserves was maintained, but it also meant the number of trained reserves was less than it might have been. The budgetary battles also meant there was very little expenditure available for anything other than basic military equipment. Weapons used by the Finnish Army were largely those left over from the Civil War or inherited from the Russians and the Germans. The Russian Mosin-Nagant M/1891 was the principal Rifle, the Maxim M.1909 was the principal Machinegun.
While the old Mosin-Nagant remained in production in the Soviet Union as it was, Finns took this battle-proven weapon as the starting point and, in the 1920s, reverse-engineered it to produce a new family of more accurate and reliable service rifles.
OTL Note: The Russian Mosin-Nagant M/1891 was a manually operated bolt-action, magazine fed rifle. It fired 7.62 mm ammunition, fed from an integral, single stack magazine, loaded from clip chargers, with a capacity of 5 rounds. The Mosin-Nagant had a maximum range of around three kilometers but was only capable of effective aimed fire out to ranges of 400-500 meters. The rifle is striker-fired, and the striker was cocked on the bolt open action. The positive aspects of the Mosin rifles were the reliability and simplicity of both manufacture and service. They were reasonably effective infantry weapons. Fairly good shooting can be done with them at combat ranges, although their sights do not lend themselves to fine degrees of accuracy. On the other side, this rifle had some serious drawbacks. The length made the rifle awkward to maneuver and carry, especially in woods and trenches. The horizontal bolt handle was short by necessity, so, in the case of the cartridge case being stuck in the chamber, a lot of strength was required to extract it. They suffered from an overcomplicated bolt, but in other respects were relatively simple to service and maintain. The safety, in that it was extremely hard to engage and disengage, represented a major shortcoming of the weapon.
The Mosin-Nagant rifle was developed in the late 1880s and early 1890s, and was officially adopted for service by the Russians in 1891. During the official trials, two designs were selected - one by a designer from the Tula arsenal - Mosin - and another by the Belgian brothers Emil and Leon Nagant. The final design, adopted by the Commission utilized features from both. The action of the rifle was developed by Colonel S.I. Mosin, and the magazine was developed by the Nagants. Along with the rifle, a new, small-caliber cartridge was adopted. This cartridge had a rimmed, bottlenecked case and a jacketed, blunt nose bullet. The rimmed case design, which at that time had already started to became obsolescent, was largely driven by the low technical capabilities of the Russian arms industry. This decision kept this obsolete, rimmed cartridge in general service with Russian army for more than 110 years.
The Mosin-Nagant was one of the earliest small-caliber battle rifles developed in the late 19th century. Its rugged design and construction are borne out by the fact that the only changes ever made to its basic design were to shorten and lighten the rifle as ammunition improved and battle conditions changed. This venerable design is arguably the longest-lived and is also one of the most widely-produced and copied firearm in the world. This design saw action in almost every major conflict of the twentieth century, from WWI, the Russian Civil War, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and even in Grenada. The standard North Korean and Chinese rifle of the Korean War was the Russian-designed Mosin-Nagant M1891/1930. The 1891/30 was found on many North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. Thousands of these obsolete but deadly weapons were given to the Viet Minh and later to the Viet Cong. As the war continued, these were replaced with the AK-47 rifle. Up to 1943, Soviet infantry was primarily armed with the bolt-action 1891/1930 Mosin-Nagant rifle with iron sights. It was accurate to 400 meters. The scoped Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle was accurate to 800 meters. During WW2, the Soviet Union replaced the infantry Mosin-Nagant rifles with submachine guns.
The Mosin-Nagant can be used as a sniper rifle if it is fitted with a telescopic sight. Sniper rifles, based on the M1891/30 rifles, were issued with scope mounts on the left side of the receiver and with bolt handles bent down. Red Army snipers hunted in pairs, one spotting and one firing. Both were armed with the Mosin-Nagant 1891/1930 rifle that fires a 7.62x54mm rimmed round. The rifle’s four-power scope mount also allowed the sniper to use the standard open sights for closer-in shots. The Mosin-Nagant rifle was in use for more than sixty years by half the world's military forces. Developed in 1891, it was last manufactured in Hungary and China in the mid-1950s.
Finnish Recruits training on the Mosin-Nagant
The Russian Maxim M.1909, the principal Machinegun of the Finnish Army of the 1920s, was another sound weapon that formed the core of the direct firepower of Finnish infantry units. Finnish usage of machineguns was directly copied from German methods and then adapted to local circumstances and terrain features. Fire from automatic infantry weapons was mainly provided by MGs. To maximize the effectiveness of these weapons Finnish prewar training manuals stated that they should; 1) have clear fields of fire, 2) be located in protective positions, 3) be positioned to give flanking fire (the goal being to catch the enemy in the crossfire of multiple MG’s) and 4) be able to cover any defensive obstacles (tank & infantry obstacles) with their fire. Importance of flanking fire was further emphasized by stating that "Flanking effect can be achieved by either fire, movement or a combination of both. A weaker force can hope to achieve success against numerically superiour opponent by attacking to the flanks. Flanking fire multiplies the effectiveness of fire, and when used together with tactical surprise and fire from other directions it has a paralyzing effect to the enemy, who is therefore forced to direct his attention and actions to multiple directions.*"
*Infantry Manual II, 1932
The Maxim M/32-33 was a Finnish modification of the old Great War MG from 1932. It had a faster rate of fire (up to 850 RPM vs roughly 600 of the original model), German-styled metallic ammunition belt and most importantly an improved cooling system with a snow hatch on the top of the barrel cooler. This little feature enabled the crews of the weapon to keep it operational and firing in winter conditions for extremely long periods of time if necessary.
The Maxims were gathered into special Heavy Machine Gun Companies in each Infantry Battalion. However, by the late 1920s, the analysis of earlier fighting in the Kinship Wars, the Civil War and the latest field exercises all clearly showed that the Maxim as a weapon was too heavy for successful mobile warfare in difficult forested terrain, where the limited visibility dictated that weapons had be located far forward, capable of delivering massive firepower while simultaneously remaining light enough to be quickly displaced when necessary. While suitable for static defensive warfare, a lighter and more mobile automatic weapon was needed. This was a demand that would only be addressed in the 1930s.
Finnish Artillery was largely inherited from the Russians, with many older artillery pieces that were already semi-obsolete by the early 1920s. Due to budgetary constraints, these weapons were kept in service, although many, even in the 1920s, were used only for training. The only half-way modern artillery pieces in service were the Putilov M.02 76mm Field Guns, with a range of 11,000m and firing a 6.5kg shell, and the Schneider Mle.1913 105mm, with a range of 11,000m and firing a 15.9kg shell.
Note: Artillery and Coastal Artillery will be addressed in more detail in a subsequent Post.
Finnish artillery of the 1920’s - 1877-vintage: Through the 1920’s and into the early 1930’s, the abysmal material condition, aged guns and chronic ammunition shortage of the Finnish artillery arm would haunt the Army. This would change through the 1930’s as the Finnish Army re-equipped with modern artillery, built up substantial ammunition stockpiles and trained using the pioneering methods of the Army’s Russian-trained artillery specialist General Nenonen.
More Finnish artillery of the 1920’s
The supply system of the Finnish Army was almost exclusively based on horse-drawn supply convoys since mobility in roadless terrain was deemed vitally important - not that Finland in the 1920’s could have afforted even a modest motorization of it´s forces. Should mobilization of the Field Army be needed, the law forced the agrarian nation to give up most of the civilian horses for the use of the Army.
The new Finnish Army was founded upon old military traditions, drawing influence from Sweden, Russia and Germany. This mixing of different traditions and approaches caused internal friction within the new Army, but also ensured that there was an atmosphere where innovative new ideas could be freely discussed, as opposing camps of the Finnish military establishment were pitted against one another again and again during the defense policy debates of the postwar decades in the 1920s and 1930s. Studies of infantry tactics were a key part of the development of the Finnish military during the two decades between the Civil War and the Winter War. The developers of the first training manuals were men who had been trained by the German system, where competent NCO leadership emphasizing individual initaitive was encouraged, while their war experience was a unique mixture of the trench warfare on theEastern Front followed by the experiences of the Finnish Civil War and the Heimosodat (Kinship Wars) in Estonia, Ingria and Eastern Karelia. The fast-paced and relatively mobile (by WWI standards) small unit combat stressed the importance of rifle marksmanship, camouflage and most importantly the use of terrain. The ambushes, hit-and-run raids and constant maneuvers that had defined these conflicts were now taken to use in Army training schemes. As noted before, the emphasis for flanking manouvres and seizing the initiative were deemed important. And as paradoxical it may sound, the legacy of German-trained Jaeger officers ensured that tactical attack became the most favoured fighting style.
While this may seem a suicidal tactic for a nation of 3.7 million bordering a superpower that was known to possess more trained reserves than the total population of Finland combined, it served the political mission of the Army rather well. As the emphasis in Finnish foreign policy was focusing on neutrality and the other Scandinavian and Baltic countries in the new era of "Red Earth"-coalitions of the SDP and the Agrarian League, the Army was seen more and more as the guarantee for the territorial neutrality of Finland in the event of a new European war. And since the peacetime army was in fact a mere delaying force with a primary mission of buying time for the mobilization of the field army (since the most expected scenario was that the enemy would launch a surprise attack), the ability to tactically harass and delay the advancing foe was deemed important.
Furthermore, the majority of the the almost roadless Eastern Karelian border areas between Finland and the Soviet Union were considered to be terrain where division- or even regimental-sized formations would be unable to operate due the lack of the necessary infrastructure to supply them. Therefore the defense of the borderzone northwards from the shores of Lake Laatokka (Ladoga) became the task of 25 lighly armed and equipped Independent Battalions (Erillinen Pataljoona). Before the war these units were planned to be used by sending them to Soviet territory to conduct guerrilla (Sissi) warfare in Eastern Karelia, thus forcing the Red Army to divert men and material away from the Karelian Isthmus in order to defend the Murmansk Railway.
It was generally agreed that WWI-styled attritional trench warfare was a situation that should be avoided at all costs, since it was precisely the type of combat where the potential opponent excelled and would be able to use its material superiourity to the fullest extent. Instead, the planners believed that bold attacks at the right time and place could lead to success. Delaying actions were planned to be executed in an active manner, and any passive defense was to be only temporary and something that had to be resorted to while preparing for an offensive action elsewhere. All these tactical schemes were devised in the firm knowledge that the potential foe would certainly have massive artillery and air superiority, and therefore operations in open terrain were consider impossible. Forests were considered to be the best terrain to conduct attacks, as even a large numerical and technical superiority was considered to be indecisive due to the possibilities open for small-unit manouvres and the fact that a large force would be unable to bring its total firepower to bear.
The offensive mentality was further supported by peacetime military exercises, which were usually focused only on attack or delay-attack scenarios. While taking the offense tactically, the Finnish strategic thinking was firmly based on a defensive mindset. One of the key reasons for this was the influence of French military schools and military theories. Being widely seen as the strongest land army in Western Europe during the 1920s, France was a natural place to send talented young officers for training. A large number of the officers who had received their military education in France were in key leading positions in later phases of Finnish history. At this time, Army planners became increasingly interested in fixed fortification zones and the possibilities they offered. The first fortification efforts in the Karelian Isthmus were, however, a short-lived project in the mid-1920s and after this time the idea of building prepared defense lines was not priorized - global economical crisis soon ensured that Army was operating with a budget that barely allowed it to maintain training and exercises, and thus nothing could be spared to grand construction efforts (the Mannerheim Line fortifications will be covered in detail in a later post as we cover developments in the 1930s).
In addition to their ideas of strategic defense and fortifications, the French-trained officers also brough home military ideas that were far older than the experiences of the Great War. When a young Finnish Captain named Akseli Airo was studying in the École Supérioure de Guerre, he was fascinated by the thoughts and ideas of one of his course books. He bought a copy for himself, and kept reading it and rereading it, making markings, notes and sidenotes up to and including the much later period when Airo led the operational planning of the Finnish Army.
The book Airo and many other prominent Finnish military theorists praised and kept reading over and over again was nothing less than L'art Militaire - DansLl'antiquité Chinoise, an old French translation and commentary on the Chinese classic "Art of War." Later in his life Airo commented in an interview: "The art of war itself has remained unchanged. I have a French book that contains a compilation of the Chinese wisdom of military leadership and warfare, and the theses presented there are still valid today...it contains the whole art of war, and it was written two millenia ago. Naturally equipment and weapons change and will change in the future as well, but the principles are still the same and they will remain the same."
Aside from the development of strategy and tactics suited to Finnish terrain and the strengths and weaknesses of the Finnish Army, there were two areas in which the Finnish Army were “early adopters.” The first was in the formation of experiemental “elite” units and the second was in the adoption of Tanks and experiments with Combined Arms forces.
Bicycle Battalions (Polkupyöräpataljoona) were the first experimental light infantry units. Two were formed in the early 1920s and later on renamed the 1st and 2nd Jaeger Battalions (Jääkäripataljoona.) These units consisted of selected, physically fit conscripts and they were led by the "rising stars" of the Finnish Officer Corps. The Jaeger units were designed to be the spearhead of counterattacks, act as a delaying unit in the border zones in a surprise attack situation and generally to provide the HQ with light, mobile and well-trained fighting units. Later on the men trained in these units would form the future core group of the best divisions in the Finnish Army and would also lead the development of other “elite” combat units in the 1930s. These elite units would go on to play a decisive part in many of the strategic and tactical decision points of the Winter War – but all had their roots in the early Polkupyöräpataljoona.
The Elite of the Finnish Army in the 1920’s
In 1919 the newly created Finnish Armed Forces were shopping for new weaponry in France and, as a part of the initial spirit of experimentation within the Army, bought 32 modern Automitrailleuse à Chenilles Renault FT Modèle 1917 Tanks from the French in 1919 (with a further 2 in 1920), ensuring that the Finnish Armored Forces got off to a roaring start. The FT 17 tanks were shipped from Le Havre to Helsinki on the S/S Joazeiro and issued to the Finnish Army on the 26th of August 1919. The price of these tanks was 67 million Finnish Marks. All 32 tanks were factory-new, manufactured in 1918 – 1919 and had French register numbers in between 66151 – 73400. 14 of them were equipped with 37-mm tank guns and 18 had been equipped with 8-mm Hotchkiss M/1914 machineguns. The Finnish Army decided to call the version with the tank gun koiras (male) and the version with machinegun as naaras (female). For transporting the tanks on roads the Finnish Army also bought six Latil tractors with their trailers, these arrived on the same ship as the tanks.
Tanks, tractors and trailers were all issued to the newly formed (15th of July 1919) Hyökkäysvaunurykmentti (Tank Regiment), which had its garrison in the Santahamina military base at Helsinki. Following the French model, theTank Regiment was early on considered part of the field artillery and organised accordingly as artillery battalions and artillery batteries, which size-wise were the equivalent of companies and platoons. Since this was the first Finnish military unit of its type, in the beginning there were no Officers with the appropriate training. Early on, the most likely tactics for tanks were considered to be modernised cavalry tactics of sorts, so seven out of the first dozen officers of the Tank Regiment were transferred from the Cavalry. Recruits for this new military unit were selected with a preference for those with technical training and/or technical experience of any kind. To get the training going a French team of nine men lead by Captain Pivetau arrived to Finland in 1919 and trained the Finnish personnel in the basics of tank maintenance and warfare. In light of the political situation in 1919 and the geographic location of Finland, the FT 17 tank deal wasn’t exactly lacking in ulterior motives.
France apparently had political plans of its own in relationship to selling the Renault FT 17 tanks to Finland in 1919. The main intent of these plans was encouraging Finland to actively join the battle against the Russian Bolshevik government. The Finnish Government had no real interest in supporting the White Russians, since their leadership refused to accept Finland’s independence, so Finland refused to join the war, but this didn’t stop the French. Soon after delivery of the FT 17s, the French government exerted diplomatic pressure and demanded that Finland loan two of these tanks (one male and one female) to General Nikolai Yudenich’s North-Western Russian White Army, which in 1919 was operating from Estonia and advancing towards Petrograd (St. Peterburg). Ultimately the Finnish government gave in to political pressure on this matter.
On the 17th - 18th of October 1919 the two tanks were shipped to Tallinn, from where they moved to Narva two days later. They served with French-Russian crews and took part in the attack towards Kipi on the 27th - 31st of October 1919. Yudenich's North-Western Army failed in its attack towards Petrograd in October 1919, retreated to Estonia and was disarmed there before being evacuated. Estonia used the two tanks for training its tank crews before returning them to Finland on the 9th of April 1920. Both of them proved to be in poor condition on return. Because of this the French government as compensation sent Finland two new additional Renault FT 17 tanks, which arrived n the S/S Ceres on the 21st of April 1920. (The French registration numbers for these additional tanks were 66614 and 67220). Arrival of these two new additional tanks increased the total number of Renault FT 17 tanks with the Finnish Army to 34 tanks.
Two Renault FT 17 tanks of the Finnish Army taking part in war games in the 1920's. Koiras (gun-tank) with octagonal riveted turret is passing a partially smoke-covered naaras (machinegun-tank) version
While budgetary constraints through the 1920s kept the force small, it was kept up to strength (some additional used units were purchased from France in 1926) and used largely as an experimental unit. While the British were the first to introduce a tank into combat use, for many the Renault FT 17 is the first modern tank. It was certainly the first to have the basic layout still found in most tanks today – the driver in the front part of the hull, the engine in the rear and weaponry in a rotating turret located on top of the hull. While obviously smaller than other tanks introduced during World War 1 it proved a surprisingly good design. By the end of WW1, French manufacturers had delivered 3,700 of the FT17s, many of which would remain in service with the French Army through to WW2.
While the French Army was the main customer for these tanks, they were also widely exported after World War 1. Export customers included Belgium, Brazil, China, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, Manchuria, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, USA and Yugoslavia. They were also provided as a military assistance to White Russians during Russian Civil War (1917 - 1923) and saw use in variety of other wars like Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939), Franco - Thai War (1940 - 1941), Chinese Civil War (1927 - 1937 and 1946 - 1950) and Chinese - Japanese War (1937 - 1945). Many of the Renault FT 17 tanks delivered to Russia ended up being captured by the Soviet Red Army, while some were taken over and used by Estonia until 1940. That same year the USA delivered some of them to Canada. In addition Italy (FIAT 3000), the Soviet Union (KS, MS-1 and MS-2) and the USA (6 Ton Tank M1917) started manufacturing either copies or their own tanks based on the FT 17 design.
The FT17 did have its limitations - the modest 35-horsepower tank engine was too weak for armoured vehicle of this size, giving it a very slow top speed (about equal to walking infantry). While it had a rather large (95-litre) gasoline tank, the maximum range was limited to a mere 35 kilometres. The two-man crew consisted of a driver and a very much over-burdened gunner/tank commander while the only signal equipment used in typical FT 17 tanks were signal flags, which the tank commander would wave when necessary. For Finland, like for many of the export customers for the FT 17 tanks, this was the first tank in use and the starting point for an Armored Corps in their Armed Forces.
The Finnish Army was an early adopter of Armored Units and would later link these with the light Jaeger brigades, Mobile Artillery and Air Support in a combined arms unit which would, in the 1930’s, become the 21st Armored Division, but few people were aware of this before the Winter War.
Over the 1920s, the Finnish military had plenty of opportunities for gathering experience with the tanks, which they did so to good effect. The French had originally suggested 20 kilometers as their maximum daily road march distance, but in 1925 this assumption was overturned by the successful performance of a 150 kilometre road mach. However this kind of test also revealed weaknesses in the design – the most problematic of which proved to be radiator fan belts, which for example needed to be replaced 21 times during the above mentioned 150 km road march. A Finnish-designed improved radiator fan belt introduced in 1926 had twice the working life of the original, but even its increased lifespan was too short to provide an answer to this problem. While replacing a broken radiator fan belt was easy and fast (for an experienced crew it took two minutes), the frequent breakages reduced the already limited march speed of the entire tank column. The engine also demanded constant maintenance - for example its oil had to changed after every 20 hours of use.
In 1926, Major Olavi Sahlgren reported that in addition to the already limited maximum road speed (7.5 km/h) of Renault FT 17: "On a road march, after only 50 - 60 kilometres the technical losses are around 25 % and frequent technical problems demanding repairs reduce the actual march speed of the Renault tanks on the road to only about 4 kilometres per hour."Because of this he noted that Renault tanks simply were not suitable for mobile warfare. Around 1927-28 the Finnish Army tested the old Renault FT 17 tanks in deep snow and against various kinds of antitank obstacles. In these tests the FT 17 performed surprisingly well in deep snow, but when it came to tightly packed snow-drifts or antitank-obstacles its capabilities proved much less spectacular. The design of the FT 17 had some obvious inbuilt limitations to begin with. These included the very slow maximum speed (making the tank an easy target for any antitank weapon), thin armour designed to provide protection only against small arms fire and shrapnel and a low-velocity 37-mm Hotchkiss SA-18) L/21 tank gun, which was a poor weapon against other tanks. When testing the armour-penetrating capability of this tank gun, its ammunition was noted as so poor that it was considered unable to reliably penetrate even 10-mm of armour plate from any useful distance.
The vehicle also lacked a radio (and had very limited room even for adding one) and the tank commander/gunner/loader was over burdened with his many tasks. Signalling between tanks took place using small flags, which the tank commander waved when necessary and internally through yelling, hand signals and physical contact. With signalling equipment as rudimentary as this, it is hardly surprising that the most commonly used message was "Do as I Do". In 1922 the Hyökkäysvaunurykmentti (Tank Regiment) shad uggested acquiring radio-equipment for eight tanks, which would have been reserved for company commanders and platoon leaders, but the suggestion was not approved due to cost.
The Finnish Army also experimented on a small scale with combined arms forces, tanks operating in conjunction with infantry, artillery and air support. The stated intent was to develop an effective method for counter-attacking any major attack on the Karelian Isthmus, the obvious direction for any major offensive from the Soviet Union. Finnish Officers of the Hyökkäysvaunurykmentti and of other units assigned to Combined Arms tactical experimentation were avid (and apt) students of foreign writings on this subject, as we will cover in more detail when we discuss the development of Finnish Armored doctrine through the 1930s and the highly effective use of Finnish Armor in the Winter War, both in the defensive phase over the Winter and in the Spring Offensive of 1940 that took the Kannaksen Armeija (Army of the Isthmus, under the command of Lt.Gen Hugo Viktor Österman) to the outskirts of Leningrad whilst virtually annihilating or capturing all the Red Army units they fought against.
When acquired by Finland in 1919, the Renault FT 17 was likely the most advanced tank in the world and remained an effective fighting vehicle through the 1920s, but as tank development in the 1930’s moved ahead at a rapid rate, it became seriously outdated. In 1932, the commander of the Hyökkäysvaunurykmentti reported to the Finnish Armed Forces General Headquarters that tank units equipped with Renault FT 17 tanks were unfit for modern mobile warfare. In 1933 the Finnish Army acquired several new tanks for testing, with results that we will see as we cover the Finnish military of the 1930s. Suffice it at this stage to say that as a result of ongoing experimentation with tanks and armored tactics through the 1920s, the 1933 Tank Evaluation Program, the Armaments Program of the latter part of the 1930’s, the Combined Arms Experimental Combat Program and the experiences of the Finnish Volunteer Division in combat in the Spanish Civil War, the Finnish Army had a well-trained and highly affective Armored Force in being on the start of the Winter War.
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The Merlin engined He-112 was a good idea, another sollution, among the German ones, might have been the French Hispano-Suiza 12Y engine, that could then later been replaced by Soviet Klimov M-105 engines a' la "Mörkö-Morane"
Another thing is the Mosin-Nagant rifles.
At least couple of years ago they still were at the FDF inventory - as a sniper rifles (eating 7.62x53 ammo).
AFAIK they are being phased out by more modern products
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Thx for the kind words. Funny you should mention the Hispano-Suiza 12Y -that's on my list along with a replacement program for the Mosin-Nagant - and wait till you see what happens to the Lahti-Saloranta LMG
Anyhows, it's the Suojeluskunta next and then a bit on the arms industry, followed by the Ilmavoimat and early aircraft construction.
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CanKiwi2 wrote:Measures taken included replacing the old “bulls-eye” targets with man-shaped pop up targets that fell when hit and repetitious “snap-shooting”.
These are actual Suojeluskunta rifle targets
from 1926 trainig and promotion film "Suomen suojeluskuntajärjestö".
Re-released recently on DVD along a few shorter documentaries by National Audiovisual Archive
http://www.kava.fi/julkaisut/dvd-julkai ... nyt-dvdlla
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Fliegende UntertasseFliegende Untertasse wrote: These are actual Suojeluskunta rifle targets from 1926 trainig and promotion film "Suomen suojeluskuntajärjestö".
Thanks a million - those are great photos. I'm going to be writing a bit more on the Suojeluskunta again soon - those photo's will fit in really well.
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Hi Markus,Markus Becker wrote:Any chance you post the TL on alternatehistory.com too?
I'll check out alternatehistory.com and do that. Be interesting to get two different sets of feedback, that's for sure.
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This section will, by way of background and as an aid to understanding the impact of the changes made in the 1930’s, take a brief look at the Finnish Army Training and Mobilization Plans of the 1920’s. Training will be split in two, with one (rather short) section covering Conscript Training, and the other covering Army Officer and NCO training. We’ll also cover the background to the basic Army structure (Cadre vs Militia), Conscription (and the background to Conscription) and take a very quick and high level look at divisional organisation and size, infantry weapons and some of the other equipment that was available – all in the 1920’s.
Hope you find it interesting ….. and keep in mind that while this is an ATL, this particular section is OTL and firmly grounded, historically speaking, on what actually happened and/or was actually available. As far as the Maavoimat (Army) and Ilmavoimat (Air Force) go (and Suojeluskunta for that matter) I won’t be playing fast and loose with the historical facts until we get to 1930. So, to move on with the story and give you a little more background…..
Suomen Maavoimat (Finnish Army) Training in the 1920’s
The diagram below provides a basic outline of Conscript Training. Generally, conscripts were kept in the Army for a period of 12 months. All conscripts completed an 8 week Basic Training Program, following which soldiers completed 8 weeks of Specialist Training and then 8 weeks of Unit Training. While soldiers were completing Specialist training, those conscripts selected for NCO Training completed the first phase of NCO training. Towards the end of this phase, Reserve Officers were selected from those in NCO Training. Reserve Officer and NCO Phase 2 training was completed in parallel, after which NCO’s and Reserve Officers rejoined the Soldiers for six months of training in war-time skills operating as a war-time unit.
The Suomen Maavoimat did not generally have regular privates (although the Border Guard did, as did the more technical branches of the forces) and the 30,000 man strength of the 1920’s Maavoimat was made up primarily of Conscripts, Conscript NCO’s and Conscript Reserve Officers. Not having data available for the 1920’s, the best I can do is quote a table from 1939 on the Cadre Army’s strength. Kronlund gives a figure of 2,182 Regular Officers, 4,311 Regular NCO’s and 26,435 "Miehistö" (Conscripts). The vast majority of the last were, of course, Privates doing their 350-day long military service and conscripts being trained as Reserve NCOs and Reserve Officers (Roughly 75/20/5%, respectively). Once the Finnish system was well-established in the late 1920's, everything was built upon the conscript service; that's where the reserves were trained and that's where the future NCOs and officers, career as well as reserve, were found.
After a period of basic training common for all, those chosen for a "leadership role" entered a period in a "NCO school" and after that those chosen entered a period in a "Reserve Officer School". Meanwhile the privates and reserve NCOs trained together and the reserve officers would finally join them to use their newly acquired wisdom in practise. There were slight variations, but since 1935 the lengths of the periods were 17, 17, 17 and 16 weeks. Last but not least, the reservists - privates, NCOs and officers alike - often recived valuable training either in their local Suojeluskunta or in "reserve training exercises". For instance, between 1935 and 1939, more than 180 000 men took part in these, usually 1-2 week long, exercises (which were more common in the later 1930’s, not common at all in the 1920’s).
Regular NCOs -- known as kapitulanttialiupseerit -- graduated from a school of their own. Regular Officers were either reservists who enlisted for a fixed period at some point after the end of their conscription period or graduates of the three-year military academy Kadettikoulu founded in 1919. Of course, only the latter had any career prospects, and often the 'regular reservists' were just biding their time to apply for the Kadettikoulu. Those wishing to become career officers or NCOs would usually first continue their service as temporary (i.e. reserve, with pay) Officers or NCOs for a duration, typically a summer or up to a year until they could apply for entrance to the two-year "Kadettikoulu" or in the six-month schools for NCOs.
In other words you couldn't become a career officer without succesfully finishing your military service and you couldn't enter the "Kadettikoulu" if you had failed to make it into the "reserve officer school" during your conscript service. There were educational requirements for officers, i.e. in principle you had to have done the equivalent of your A-levels/baccalauréat/Abitur, but it sufficed with less. The career path of a regular NCO was simply a very low climb in the ranks; exceptions were not made until after the Winter War. Both officers and NCOs served until retirement after 20(?) years of service, i.e. there were no short-service Cadre Officers or NCOs.
The system did not work as well as it could, though due to economic restraints. In the 1920’s, much of the conscripts time, up to a third or even a half, was spent in unessential work or guard duties and there were not enough Officers and NCOs to meet the actual training needs. The quality of career Officer and NCO applicants was often less than desired (due to the rather poor pay, drab living conditions etc).
Officer Training in the Early Years (1917-1920)
After the abolition of the “Finnish” Army in 1905, military training had not been available in Finland and those desiring to enter the military had either to enter the Tsarist Russian Army or turn to the military of other European countries. With growing opposition to Russian rule and a growing desire for independence, when WW1 broke out the eyes of many Finns had turned to Germany, which gave rise to the Jaeger movement. In the autumn of 1917, some 60 Finnish Jaegers arrived from Germany and began to organize military training of Suojeluskunta units. There were not enough trained Jaegers available to provide officers for all the Suojeluskunta units and the need was seen to quickly organize and train Suojeluskunta Officers and Platoon Leaders.
The first independent Finnish officer training course was held in the small rural town of Vimpelin, with the course lasting from 28 Decemeber 1917 to 13 January 1918. On 12 January 1918 it was decided, based on the experience of the Vimpelin training course, to organize an even larger military training course in the Ostrobothnian town of Vöyri., which would provide 700 Suojeluskunta members with NCO and Ryhmä (Section or Squad)-leader training. The first students arrived on 26 January, only a couple of days before the Civil War began. Over February-March 1918 the numbers of students increased as and when trainees were assigned from units at the front. The course was headed by Jaeger Captain JH Heiskanen.
After the war, a variety of officers courses were conducted, the most famous are probably the officer cadet courses held in "Markovilla-village" in Viipuri. This was the program which became the backbone for future reserve officer training. The first course started on 1 April 1920 with 143 students and was run by Jaeger Captain Kosti Sundberg. The participants of this course were proud of it, and called themselves "Markovilla Officers". The best known of them was the late General of the Infantry Sakari Simelius (who went on to become CIC of the FDF between 1959 – 1965.
Colonel Simelius as the CO of JR 4 (Infantry Regiment) Summer 1944:
War College Courses abroad
Following Independence and after the war, there was a shortage of trained General Staff Officers, which would continue until Finland had set up its own military academy to train General Staff Officers. In the early years, the General Staff was largely made up of ex-Tsarist Russian Army officers and Officers trained by the Germans (the “Jägers”), many of whom had had no General Staff training) and Officers trained abroad through the 1920’s by the victorious powers, mainly France and Italy.
The Chief of General Staff, Oscar Enckell, set strict conditions for foreign study in the early years, which resulted in problems for officers in training. Language skills were also a problem, as very few Finnish Officers could speak French or Italian. In addition, the diversity among the Finnish Officer Corps caused problems, as among them there were several groups of personnel with entirely different backgrounds and levels of training: those trained in Russia, Jäger officers trained in Germany, and those who had risen in the ranks from civilian to active officers during the Finnish Civil War.
The higher-ranking Jäger officers in particular felt that the former Russian Army officers who held many of the most senior positions in the Suomen Maavoimat discriminated against them when opportunities for training were available. There were preconditions set for studying abroad: holding Rank of at most, a Captian, being Single and having sufficient school education. For the young and married Majors and Lieutenant Colonels with a Jäger background, these conditions were impossible to fulfill. There was also a political question: in which country the General Staff training was to be arranged, as the Jäger officers were politically more oriented towards Germany than towards the Entente states. A General Staff course in Germany was a politically touchy issue, as in the Versaille peace treaty Germany was forbidden to give such education, and in addition Finland had officially severed its relations with Germany as the German Empire had collapsed. The Jägers however still sympathized with the defeated Germany that had helped them in their hour of need.
The young Kinship Activist, Major Paavo Sivén, had organized two privately funded General Staff courses for Finnish Jäger officers in Germany in 1921-1923 and 1923-1925. The Chief of the Military Academy, Jäger Major General Aarne Sihvo, in 1926 approved the General Staff Officer Diplomas from the first course in Berlin as corresponding with the two-year curriculum of the General Department of the Staff College, but the Diplomas of the latter course were not approved. A court case regarding the validity of the second Berlin Course Diploma went all the way to the Supreme Court, with the Diplomas finally being confirmed in early 1930. Altogether, 13 Finnish officers had carried out General Staff studies in Berlin, Germany. After the "officer crisis" was resolved, Finland sent a number of higher-ranking Jäger officer to foreign Military Academies. A total of 46 Finnish military officers, including the future Defence Force Commanders Erich Heinrichs and Aarne Sihvo, studied in French and Italian military academies.
Kadettikoulu / Officer Training School (1919…)
There were many Officers without formal training and there was a real need for an Officers Training School. A Committee headed by Major General Hannes Ignatius was set up on 4 January 1919 to come up with recommendations for Officer Training. The Committee worked quickly and the new Finnish Officer Training School began operations on 25 January 1919. The new Academy was located in Helsinki and the initial length of the Officers Training was set as eighteen months. From 1930 (through to 1962 when it was further lengthened), the course took two years to complete. Specialized training was conducted in military schools organized and run by the Specialist Branches. Navy Officer-candidates were educated at the School until 1930, and Air Force Officer-candidates until 1929.
In 1930, the requirement to enter the Kadettikoulu (Officer Training School) was that the applicant had to be less than 25-years-old, have passed the Matriculation Examination, have a good reputation, be physically fit and in a good state of health as well as fit for the particular branch of the defense forces being applied for, and suitable for promotion as a reserve officer, but those requirements were interpreted loosely. From 1919 to 1923 the Kadettikoulu was located in what is now the Museum of Natural History. The building had previously served as a Russian Gymnasium. From 1923 to 1940 the Military Academy was located in Helsinki Munkkiniemi and then in Santahamina from 1940. The first Director of the Military Academy was Colonel Victor Rafael Schauman. The first three directors were all former students of the Finnish Cadet School [of the Imperial Russian Army, (acting 1821–1903)]. Jaeger Officers acted as teachers at the Kadettikoulu until 1945. The first three directors of the Finnish General Staff College were all former students of the Kadettikoulu.
Major General Victor Rafael Schauman, Kadettikoulu Director 1919
Major General A Lucander, Kadettikoulu Director 1919-20
Major General S Hjelmman, Kadettikoulu Director 1920-25
Colonel and Magister of Philosophy H Nurmio, Kadettikoulu Director 1925-27
Infantry General and Candidate of Philosophy T Laatikainen, Kadettikoulu Director 1927-33
Major General E A Vihma, Kadettikoulu Director 1934-36
General Staff Colonel I Salmio, Kadettikoulu Director 1936-45
By year 1939 the Kadettikoulu had been training junior Officers for 20 years and there were plenty of them. However, the highest positions in the defense forces were firmly in the hands of the Jägers, the graduates of "Viipurin Upseerioppilaskurssi" of 1919 and some who had served in the old Imperial Russian army (prominent among these were Mannerheim and Nenonen). The only Officer who had graduated from the Kadettikoulu after 1919 to command a division (10.D) in WW2 was Colonel Kai Savonjousi. Savonjousi was also the first Kadettikoulu officer to reach Major-General's rank (in 1949) although before him another Kadettikoulu officer, Svante Sundström, had been promoted to Kontra-Amiraali (rear-admiral) in 1943.
Maavoimat Taistelukoulu / Army Combat School (1927 on…)
The Army Combat School was set up in 1927 at a location north-east of Vyborg to conduct military leadership, battle training and combined arms combat courses for company commanders and platoon leaders. The school’s courses were based on the tactics taught at the Staff College, and were taught by Jaeger Maj. Hannes Olkkonen, who was also the school's first director. Students were generally Captains and Lieutenants, as well as NCO’s who acted or might have to act as Company Commanders and Platoon Leaders. All Infantry Officers attended this course.
Sotakorkeakoulu / General Staff College (1923…..)
In 1919, direction was given to establish the Sotakorkeakoulu (General Staff College) in order to provide General Staff training for higher ranking Officers. In those uncertain times, the institute was not founded immediately but instead, several officers, including Jäger Major A. E. Martola, were sent to study at foreign Staff Colleges. The project of establishing the Staff College resurfaced in 1923. A Committee was set up to consider advanced officers' training. The report of the Committee of May 1923 proposed the establishment of a Sotakorkeakoulu, one of the reasons (among others) being the need to develop original tactics applicable to Finnish circumstances and terrain. At the same time, Colonel V. P. Nenonen, the Inspector of Artillery, had taken the initiative to organize a higher military-technical educational program at the Institute of Technology. This initiative had progressed rapidly and in the autumn of 1923, some 18 Officers began studies at the Institute of Technology in Helsinki.
The actual establishment of the Sotakorkeakoulu gained new momentum when in April 1924 the Defense Revisions Committee presented a strong statement in support of higher military education. The petition resulted in the Government agreeing almost immediately to the motion for the establishment of a temporary Sotakorkeakoulu. The Sotakorkeakoulu began teaching in Helsinki on 11 March 1924 in the former barracks of Uusimaa Marksmen Battalion at Liisankatu. The General Staff College’s first Director was Colonel Aarne Sihvo, who at the time was actually studying at the Italian Military Academy. Major General Nenonen was initially nominated as the interim Director, with General Staff Major Martola as his Assistant. The school's tenured teachers were all foreign: from Sweden, Italy, France and Great Britain. 34 officers were assigned to the first course. In addition, those students who had started their studies at the Institute of Technology continued their education at the Sotakorkeakoulu from the autumn of 1925.
The selection criteria for the Sotakorkeakoulu was stringent and students had to work extremely hard. Accordingly, the graduates were considered the intellectual elite of the Defense Forces. At some point after graduation the successful students were granted the status of Yleisesikuntaupseeri (General Staff Officer) and were allowed to add the prefix Yleisesikunta- before their rank, for example Yleisesikuntaeversti for a Colonel (or just Ye-eversti for short). OTL, before World War II the Sotakorkeakoulu had trained 370 General Staff Officers in 15 General Department courses, five Military Technical Department course, two Naval Department courses and one Air Warfare Department course. (46 officers also carried out corresponding studies abroad, mainly in Sweden, Germany, France and Italy). Courses were generally of two years' duration, but the Military Technical Department Courses lasted four years. The Sotakorkeakoulu was made a permanent institution in 1930.
Former Military Academy in Kruununhaka, Helsinki, Finland
Suomen Maavoimat Military Schools through the 1920’s
Sotakorkeakoulu (SKK) (General Staff College) Helsinki
Taistelukoulu (TK) (Combat School) Viipuri
Kadettikoulu (Kad.K) (Officer Cadet School) Munkkiniemi (Helsinki)
Sotateknillinenkoulu (STK) (Military Technical School) Helsinki
Merisotakoulu (MSK) (Naval Combat School) Suomenlinna (Helsinki)
Ilmailukoulu (Ilm.K) (Aviation School) Kauhava
Reserviupseerikoulu (RUK) (Reserve Officer School) Hamina
Aseseppäkoulu (ASK) (Gunsmith School) Helsinki
Kengityskoulu (Keng.K) (Shoeing School) Hämeenlinna
Sotilashallinnollinenkoulu (SHK) (Military Administrative School) Helsinki
Kaasusuojelukoulu (Kss.K) (Gas Protection School) Viipuri
Part of the education was also arranged within the specialized branches of the defence forces, e.g. Combat Engineer, Signals, Artillery, Quartermaster, etc. who had also developed internally their own specialised training courses in addition to their responsibilities for conscript training. There was a shortage of everything as funding was scarce and all sorts of improvisations and innovations were used to compensate for the lack of resources. But the new Officer Corps was highly motivated and had a pioneering spirit, hence the system was not rigid but rather was adaptive. For example, the famous motti tactic of the Winter War was not invented by theorists or taught at the pre-war Staff College, it was created in combat by innovative thinking and boldly utilizing opportunities that arose (an approach which had still benefited from sound professional officer training and correct appraisals of the situation and the opportunities).
A perhaps-typical example would be General Jarl Lundqvist, who completed the following courses:
Field Artillery School (Tykistön Ampumakoulu) in 1920
Course at "Ecole Militaire de l'Artillerie de Fontainebleau" between 1 October 1920 and 20 August 1921,
General Staff Course in gas protection (Ylemmän Päällystön Kaasukurssit) in 1927,
Course at "Centre d'Etudes Tactiques d'Artillerie" in Metz between 1 June - 9 July 1928,
Course "Ecole Superieure de Guerre" in Paris between 1 November 1928 - 6 June 1930 and
Observer Training in France in 1934
Lundqvist was promoted from Captain to Major in 1920, to Lieutenant Colonel in 1925, to Colonel in 1928, to Major General in 1936.
Mobilization Plans of the 1920’s
The Cadre mobilization system was used in the Suomen Maavoimat from April of 1918 into the 1930’s. Just as in later mobilization systems, the country was divided into military districts. On mobilization a number of units would be formed in each of these districts. In this system (which was based on the German mobilization system and had been introduced by German Officers assisting the Finns immediately after the end of the Civil War) each of the wartime Regiments had an active peacetime Armed Force battalion sized unit as Cadre (this Battalion was made up of a core of Regular Army Officers and NCO’s with the bulk of the men being Conscript Officers, NCO’s and Soldiers) around which the wartime unit ,when mobilized, would be formed by filling up the units and ranks with reservists.
The first (and ambitious) mobilization plan made in 1918 would have formed up an Army of 9 Divisions (with a total of 27 Infantry Regiments), but at that time Finland didn't even have half of the needed trained troops or weapons for an Army of that size. The early plans were then revised to a more realistic size of only three divisions. As the Maavoimat trained up additional Conscripts on a yearly basis, the numbers of trained Reserves progressively grew larger and the Army structure and mobilization plans were revised to match. In 1921 the Army strength on mobilization was re-set to 6 divisions and 1 Jaeger brigade, but the Finnish military planners had come to the conclusion that 10 Divisions would be needed in order to provide the capability for waging an effective defensive war. As indicated in the table below, the Maavoimat’s mobilization strength grew progressively through the 1920’s:
1919: 110,000 men
1925: 150,000 men
1930: 200,000 men
In 1927 Finland finally had the trained military resources for 7 divisions, but the Defense Review of that year indicated the need for a future wartime Army of 13 Divisions. As indicated earlier, the quantity of weapons available was always a problem, and due to limited funds being available for defence, weapons constantly lagged behind the numbers of trained soldiers available on mobilization. With every year, there were more and more trained soldiers for whom equipment needed to be issued upon mobilization. Prior to the early 1930’s, the numbers of men called up for compulsory military service at the age of 21 was restricted due to the limited military equipment available. While around 26,000 men were eligible each year, only around 10,000 per year were trained due to financial and equipment limitations. Soldiers and NCO’s were retained in the Reserve until the age of 40, Officers until the age of 60. A secondary (and mostly untrained with the exception of Suojeluskunta members) reserve existed of all young men (trained or untrained) between 17 and 21 years old.
Over the 1920’s, there was no active training of Reservists by the Maavoimat. This was a role that the Suojeluskunta filled with their training programs for members. In essence, the Suojeluskunta was the “active reserve” and maintained, as we will see when we look at the organisation, an active and fairly comprehensive training program that meshed more and more closely with Maavoimat training as time passed.
The Suojeluskunta played an important role in the Maavoimat mobilization plans throughout the 1920’s. Suojeluskuntas in border-areas were, in the event of war, to form up and fight against the invading enemy in their own areas, while the remaining Suojeluskunta units would have formed additional reserve units which would fight as units made up solely of Suojeluskunta personnel. Other non-Suojeluskunta Reserves would form up as regular Army units. There were problems with this mobilization system - it was centralized (large units were to be formed up in a small number of locations) and its ability to effectively mobilize an ever growing Army was questionable. Large numbers of troops and vehicles gathering for mobilization would have made good targets for an enemy air force and successful sabotage against some of the few large depots, in which the equipment was stored, could have been devastating.
Fortuitously perhaps, the mobilization system was to be changed in the early 1930’s, as we will see.
Suomen Maavoimat (Finnish Army) Infantry Weapons of the 1920’s
The story of the new service rifle of the Suomen Maavoimat is a good example of the internal situation within Finland, the relations between the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guards) and the Maavoimat and the way new innovations were ultimately taken and used. After the Civil War, Finland was filled with large numbers of captured Russian Mosin M1891 rifles, while significant numbers of other rifle types were also present. Unfortunately, while the numbers of 7.62mm Mosin-Nagant M/1891 Rifles in the Finnish inventory after the Civil War were large, many of the rifles in the depots were in very poor shape. In addition, the old "three line rifle" was deemed an unsatisfactory service rifle for the future by both the Maavoimat and the Suojeluskunta.
Meanwhile limited budgets and the antimilitaristic attitude of the SDP in the 1920’s ensured that the Maavoimat would not be able to purchase a totally new rifle for the whole army in the near future. In addition to constant purchases of these rifles from foreign sources through the 1920’s, a large scale re-fitting program was instituted and a new committee was set up and tasked with agreeing on upgrades to the Finnish service rifle based on the existing design. The aim of the project was not to develop a totally new weapon, but rather to develop a cost-efficient upgrade program that could be used to update the existing stock of rifles but utilizing as many of the existing parts of the Mosin-Nagant M1891 Rifle as possible.
While the old-model Mosin-Nagant remained in production in the Soviet Union, Finns took this battle-proven weapon as a starting point and then carried out a series of upgrades to produce a new family of more accurate and reliable service rifles. Finnish industry didn't make completely new rifles - for example receivers and bolt parts (with the exception of extractors and a small number of cocking pieces made by Sako) were never manufactured in Finland. Finnish industry basically manufactured parts for these rifles to allow replacing worn barrels, broken parts and assembling complete rifles from spare parts.
But while the Maavoimat bureaucracy’s progress lagged on the project due to a lack of funds through the early 1920s, the Suojeluskunta had initiated a similar parallel project of their own. the Suojelskunta had already established a new weapons workshop in the Riihimäki metallurgical industry area to assemble and produce their new rifle that could then be sold privately, no matter what the outcome of the project was. This new company was called Suojeluskuntien Ase-Ja Konepaja Osakeyhtiö (SAKO). With new barrels produced by Schweizerische Industrie-Gessellschaft, the old and venerable SIG and the new SAKO combined their expertice to produce the Finnish M/24, M/28 and then the M28/30 rifle that was in production between 1928-1933 (with a total production of roughly 30 000 weapons).
In parallel, the Army and the State Rifle Factory had been working together and had designed the M/27 Rifle included some notable practical differences from the Suojeluskunta/SAKO designs and which was produced by Tikkakoski and Valtion Kivääritehdas (State Rifle Factory) with a total production of 60 000 rifles. In many important details the development work done by Army and development work done by the Suojeluskunta were heading in very different directions - even the goals of their development work were somewhat different – the Army had its focus on getting a more practical service rifle, while the Suojeluskunta was more focused on developing as accurate rifle as possible. The best features of the Army and Suojeluskunta rifle design work were not united into the same rifle until the M/39 model.
The most important differences between theM/27 and M/28 were:
- Different front sight design: The M/27 could be adjusted using only a special tool, the M/28 (designed by Harry Mansner for Sako) could be adjusted with normal screw driver.
- Different rifle stock designs: The M/27 stock had several versions and early versions had durability issues, which resulted in the introduction of a heavier stock version. No such problems existed with the M/28 stock (althought the handguard of the M/28 stock was pretty flimsy).
- Differences in trigger mechanism: The M/27 rifle had the M/27 trigger, while the M/28 had its trigger model equipped with an additional spring (already added by Sako & the Suojeluskunta to the M/24 rifle) to provide a better two-stage trigger.
- Bolt connector wings and modification (grooves) made to rear receiver for this in the M/27.
- Different nose cap (the M/27 had two versions, early and late) and barrel ring versions in the M/27 and M/28.
- Barrel diameter: The M/28 has a notably thicker barrel than M/27.
This was perhaps the only significant weapons project of the 1920’s, and as we have seen it only really got off the ground in the late 1920’s. However, there was one private project which we will look at in a little more detail (and cover more fully in a later section on the weapons development and acquisition programs of the 1930’s). This was the design and early development of what was to become known as the Suomi M-31 SMG. This was the work of Aimo Johannes Lahti, a self-taught gunsmith and the leading weapons designer in Finland between the wars.
Aimo Johannes Lahti was a self-taught gunsmith and the leading weapons designer in Finland between the wars. He and his design team either improved existing obsolete Tsarist-era weapon systems or developed new ones. During WWII the Suomen Maavoimat (Finnish Army) used his designs for it´s official pistol, service rifle, MG, LMG, SMG, antitank rifle and also several other less common weapons his group had designed.
An aside on Aimo Johannes Lahti, of whom we will see more in later posts…..
Aimo Johannes Lahti (April 28, 1896, Viiala - April 19, 1970, Jyväskylä) was a self-taught Finnish weapons designer. Out of the 50 weapons that he designed, the best known is the Suomi M-31 SMG. Other well-known weapon designs include the Lahti-Saloranta M/26 LMG, Lahti L-35 pistol, and Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle. His work is considered decisive in defending Finnish independence and increasing trust in the reliability of domestic weapons produced there.
Aimo Lahti was born in Viiala in 1896, to a family of five. He had a safe but apparantly somewhat wild childhood. Lahti did not enjoy school and left after the 6th year of elementary school. He started working in the Viiala glass factory when he was 14 years old. In the same year, he bought his first weapon, a Berdan rifle, with five marks he had earned working in the factory. Lahti was fascinated by the rifle’s mechanism and visited a local gunsmith with whom he examined the weapon closely. Aimo Lahti visited him any number of times, becoming familiar with weapon mechanisms. He served his conscription in central Finland’s regiment over 1918 and 1919. On October 20, 1919 he married his wife, Ida, with whom he had his only child. His son, Olavi Johannes Lahti, was later a pilot in the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) and died in 1944.
After working for the railways, Lahti joined the Finnish Army as a Master Armorer in 1921. He was influenced in this decision by a Captain Rosenholm. In 1922 he started to design the Suomi M-31 SMG after examining the Bergmann MP18, which had many design problems as well as being expensive. The new design was revolutionary due to the excellent reliability, accuracy and rate of fire. The first prototype of the Suomi SMG was completed in 1922. About 100 Suomi M/26 submachineguns were manufactured in 1925 – 1926 but manufacturing of Suomi M/31 submachinegun didn't start in earnest until 1931 (this will be covered in more detail in a subsequent series of posts on weapons design, manufacturing and procurement). After the prototypes were made, Lahti was ordered to work under the control of the Ministry of Defence and to design a light machine gun, which eventually would become the Lahti-Saloranta M/26. He then improved the Mosin Nagant rifle (as we covered earlier) which later was issued to the Finnish Army as their service rifle.
Looking ahead a little, in 1932 Lahti and the Ministry of Defence signed two important agreements regarding Lahti's earnings and other economic benefits. It also gave the government the rights to use and sell his designs. In the same year, he had had an offer to move to an American weapon company. He was offered a check for 3 million marks and a 5% commission on the weapons that would have been produced in the USA. On the same day the Ministry revised his older contract so that Lahti received more benefits and rights to his inventions and he therefore felt that moving to the USA was noy enough of a better offer to justify accepting it. Aimo Lahti enjoyed a Finnish Army’s Major General’s pension until his death in 1970 in Jyväskylä at the age of 74.
And a quick take on the Early History of Mortars in the Finnish Army
The Mine-thrower was the predecessor of today’s mortars, with a history starting with the Russian-Japanese war of 1904-1905. During that war, the Japanese military not only proved that mortars were well suited for destroying fortifications, but they also were the first ones to use a weapon which could be considered a mine thrower. This first mine thrower had a reinforced bamboo tube loaded with small charge of black powder and it was used to fire explosive charges into Russian trenches. The introduction of this weapon was noted n other countries and inspired the Germans to start development work based on this concept. The first German mine-thrower was introduced in 1908. When World War 1 started, the German military had 44 heavy (250-mm) and 166 medium (170-mm) mine-throwers in its use. The German Army considered its minenwerfer demolition weapons, so they were issued to engineer units. During World War 1, German mine throwers proved extremely successful so their numbers were considerably increased.
By the time World War 1 ended the German military had issued some 1,200 heavy (180-mm, 240-mm and 250-mm) mine-throwers and about 2,400 medium (170-mm) mine throwers. Besides being effective against enemy infantry, both heavy and medium mine thrower proved effective also against field works of various types. The most numerous of the mine throwers in German use during World War 1 proved to be the light (76-mm) mine thrower developed only during the war - some 12,400 were manufactured before World War 1 ended. Practically all other counties taking part in World War 1 developed their own mine-throwers or at least adopted mine thrower designs developed by their allies.
During the Finnish Civil War of 1918 a few Russian 91-mm mine-throwers saw use. The Finnish White Army captured four of these mine-throwers early on and used them to equip a Miinaheitinyksikkö (Mine Thrower Unit). This unit fought in Vilppula and Ruovesi in February and took part in the White offensive towards Tampere until they ran out of ammunition. Also, the Finnish Red Guards and Russian troops may have used some mine throwers in Finland, but no evidence of this remains. In 1918, Finland bought 18 German 76-mm mine throwers, which remained in Finnish use until replaced with 81-mm mortars before World War 2.
Stokes Trench Mortars and Brandt-Stokes Mortars
For practical purposes the mortar is a lighter and simpler infantry weapon that was based on the mine-thrower. While the Germans had been the ones to develop the first mine throwers, the basic design of classic mortars was based on the design work of the British World War I era designer, Wilfred Stokes. Stokes was the manager of a successful engineering company called Ransomes and Rapier, which had concentrated on the construction of farming machinery and steam engines prior to WWI. In 1915 he started developing a trench mortar design of his own. While most mine-thrower / trench mortar designs of that time were either light but primitive, or useful but heavy, the design that Stokes come up with was both light and exceptionally effective. His three inch trench mortar consisted of only three parts – the design still found in most mortars today - barrel, base plate and bipod.
The barrel rested on a base plate, which took the recoil, and the whole weapon was supported by a bipod, which contained the elevation adjustment in the form of screw elevation gear. The lower end of the barrel was closed and had a fixed firing pin, which fired the primer for the propellant charge when the mortar bomb was dropped down the barrel. The Mortar Bomb was cylinder shaped and made from cast iron. It's rear end held the basic propellant charge - which was packed in a 12-gauge shotgun shell. The original fuse used in the bombs was time-delay fuse with a delay of nine seconds and the fuse was based on that originally used in the Mills bombs (British hand grenades). The three-inch Stokes trench mortar went through a series of tests and after some improvements it was introduced into use by the British Army in August 1915. It proved an exceptionally good weapon and soon gained popularity among British soldiers, being produced in large numbers before the end of World War 1.
Stokes continued developing fuses for mortar shells and introduced a 4-inch version of this trench mortar, which was adopted for use by the British Army during the war. While Stokes trench mortars were the best of the mine throwers and trench mortars used in World War 1 they still had room for improvement. The biggest problem of the Stokes trench mortar was the wide dispersion of bombs. After WW1 development continued with the m/1920 and m/1921 Stokes mortars, both of which proved commercially unsuccessful. Finally in 1924 French engineer Edgar William Brandt developed a new kind of mortar shell and also further improved the Stokes mortar. The newly introduced mortar shell had an accuracy dispersion of only about 1%, so it was more then satisfactory for use. This new mortar became known as the Stokes-Brandt model 1924-1925 mortar and sold extremely well. By World War 2 81-mm Brandt-Stokes mortars and their derivative offspring had become part of the standard weaponry for armies of practically all combatant countries.
Initial Purchase of Stokes-Brandt Mortars for the Finnish Army
In Finland the new 81-mm Stokes-Brandt mortar attractedthe attention of Major General Vilho Petteri Nenonen in 1924. Thanks to his friend, the British General Sir. W.M. Kirke, and reading about the test shooting results of the mortar Nenonen became interested in the Stokes-Brandt mortar. Once he familiarized himself with the weapon he soon realised that the Stokes-Brandt mortar was just what Finnish infantry needed as a light support weapon. He organised for two 81-mm mortars and some ammunition to be bought and tested over the spring and summer of 1926. In these tests the 81-mm Brandt-Stokes mortar proved so useful and effective that it confirmed his determination to acquire them for the Finnish Army. However, as the Stokes-Brandt mortar was a relatively new weapon, doubts existed among some of his fellow officers. Their was a very real danger was that the whole idea might end up being buried in some committee (as happened with so many planned weapons purchases of the Finnish Armed Forces at that time). In the autumn of 1926 Nenonen got his chance, when he was pointed as substitute commander for the Finnish Army. He used his position as substitute to effectively cut through the red tape and personally ordered the purchase of 70 Stokes-Brandt mortars and ammunition for them. Once these first 81-mm mortars (the 81 Krh/26) had been introduced into use by the Finnish Army they were followed by several Tampella-manufactured versions. Over the next few years the 81-mm Stokes-Brandt mortar became a household name in armies all over the world.
Finland sold these 72 mortars abroad before World War Two. Officially they were sold to Estonia in 1936, but they may have ended up elsewhere (there were strong suspicions among the Left that these Mortars had somehow made it off the Army books and journeyed to Spain with the Finnish Volunteer Division, a suspicion that was never actually confirmed). They provided an important starting point not only for Finnish Army, but also to Tampella, which got into the development and manufacturing of Mortars due to this. And thanks to Nenonen, the Finnish Army became one of the first armed forces in the world to include 81-mm mortars as part of its standard weaponry - but did this have any real significance? As we will see in later posts, the early adoption of the morat certainly gave Finnish Army enough time to test, learn and thoroughly hone its methods for using mortars in forests and on the Karelian Isthmus to near perfection before World War 2. In addition, the use of Mortars in the Spanish Civil War by the Finnish Volunteer Division resulted in the Army learning a number of practical lessons, including the need for a heavier Mortar, a lesson which resulted in the Tampella designed and manufactured 120mm Mortar being introduced – again, something that will be covered in more detail as we look at weapons design, manufacturing and procurement in the 1930’s).
Next Post, a brief look at the Maavoimat (Finnish Army) structure and at Conscription and it’s background within the Finnish context.
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Finnish Artillery of the 1920’s was largely inherited from the old Tsarist Russian Army. During World War 1 Russia build several fortification lines in Finland as forward defences for the capital, which at that time was St. Petersburg (rather than Moscow). The fortification lines needed artillery and as Russia had a serious shortage of modern artillery they were mostly equipped with older guns. During the Finnish Civil War of 1918 large numbers of these guns saw battle with the both sides. In less then five months the Finnish White Army had won the Civil War and captured all the guns which the Russian military had left behind. It was these guns, together with a small number bought towards the end of WW1 that formed the bulk of the Finnish Army’s Artillery strength through the 1920’s. There were some purchases through the 1920’s, but these were generally limited due to the budgetary constraints the Maavoimat was under.
In this section, we will summarise the artillery on a gun type by gun type basis, and finally take a quick look at the overall artillery strength towards the end of the 1920’s. This will serve as the prelude to a later post on the buildup of Finnish Artillery strength through the 1930’s. A separate post will cover Coastal Artillery specifically.
All photos and OTL historically accurate details in this section are used courtesy of the Jaeger Platoon Website (Kiitos Jarkko) (http://www.jaegerplatoon.net/MAIN.html - this is a great website with a mountain of detailed information and photos on Finnish weapons – you name it, it’s there, however obscure) – and of course, any mistakes are mine.
Finnish Artillery of the 1920’s Part I: Ex-Russian Guns with No Recoil Systems
As the heading states, these older Guns had no recoil systems. The old Russian fortification lines had needed artillery and as Russia had a serious shortage of modern artillery they were mostly equipped with older guns, which had no recoil systems. Because of this the guns demanded first building well-prepared positions with ramps and recoil-effect reducing equipment before shooting with the guns could begin. Even then their rate of fire was not usually comparable to modern quick-fire artillery pieces, which had proper recoil systems. The firing rate varied from one shot per two minutes to two shots per minute, the rate-of-fire depending calibre of the gun, ammunition, training level of crew and the equipment used with the gun.
OTL and as a point of historical interest, many of these guns were actually used in the Winter War, by which time they were in a pretty sorry state with their ammunition being well beyond it’s "use-by date", this led to a much larger number of misfires than average. As if this was not bad enough, during Winter War about 40 % of the remaining ammunition was old-fashioned shrapnel, which in earlier tests had proved to be quite ineffective. Ammunition used in these guns was of the bagged type - meaning that the gunpowder came in bags and was loaded separately from the projectile and primer. So the ammunition had no cartridge case of any type. Ammunition used with the 87-mm guns had only one propellant charge size (the propellant charge came in single bag), so their propellant charge size could not be adjusted.
During the Winter War some of the guns had not been equipped with wedges and other recoil dampening equipment, this led to these guns being given nicknames such as "Hyppyheikki" and "Hyppyjaakko" (Jumping Henry). The nicknames spread and became widely-used nicknames for all kinds of guns without recoil systems within the Finnish military. The stories and jokes exaggerated the "jump”, in reality with the proper equipment and techniques the guns simply rolled a bit backwards on their wheels and because of ramps returned back pretty much to their earlier position. When it comes to the opinions of Finnish soldiers concerning these guns there seems to have been two basic lines. The Finnish Military leadership and HQ's often didn't value the old guns too much and loosing a few of them wasn't seen as much of a loss, while the rank-and-file soldiers using the guns or getting fire support from them were grateful for the little they had.
Example of a typical Finnish joke concerning guns without a recoil system:
Q: Why does "hyppyheikki" need two observers?
A: The first observer checks where the projectile goes and the second observer checks where the gun goes.
Anyhow, back to the history…….
87 K/77 (87 mm Model 1877 / Polevaja lehkaja pushka obr. 1877 g.)
This was a Russian-built 87mm gun firing bagged ammunition that had been manufactured in the 1870’s firing a 6.8kg shell and with a range of approx. 6km. These were captured and used in large numbers in the Finnish Civil War of 1918, after which they were used as a training weapon in the 1920's before being retired. Both versions (standard and cavalry) had been designed as horse-towed. In 1918 a large number of these guns had been positioned in fortifications which the Russians had built in Finland to guard against a possible German attack. At the end of 1918, the Finnish Army had 144 of these guns in use. After the Civil War ended, the guns were found to be simply too old and too worn for further military use.
87 K/77. Within the Finnish military the yellow colour usually marks the weapon as "for training only". Notice that the muzzle of the gun barrel has no bulge to strengthen it, unlike in French guns of the same era. (Photo taken in Tykistömuseo).
Even the Suojeluskunta artillery units of the 1920's, which used artillery of questionable quality, would not accept these guns for use. In the 1920's the Finnish Army used a small number of them for training but after that most of them were scrapped while a small number were used in monuments. (OTL: As a point of interest, the last ones were not removed from Finnish Army warehouses until the 1950's). ATL - unchanged.
87 K/95 (87 mm Model 1895)
This was a Russian-built 87mm gun using bagged ammunition manufactured in 1895 and firing a 6.8kg shell with a range of approximately 6km. These guns were fitted with an early recoil system (a flexible spur added in the end of the box trail which removed some of the worst kick of the recoil, but not enough) and were also fitted with another innovation, a simple traverse setting system allowing sideways aiming to be adjusted 4 degrees without moving the gun. The guns also had the de Bange type screw breech (as in the Obuhov-manufactured m/1877) and some were fitted with gun shields. During World War 1 the Tsarist Russian military had brought a large number of these guns to Finland. A large number were then captured during the Civil War and a further 12 were bought from Germany in 1918. Along with the older model 87 K/77 versions of the same caliber, they formed the back bone of the Finnish White Army artillery during the early part of the Civil War.
The Finnish Arny’s artillery inventory from late November 1939 includes 47x87 K/95 and 33x87 K/95-R guns. These had already seen plenty of use with the Finnish military with two guns having been used by Finnish volunteers in the Aunus Expedition of 1919 and another four guns having been sold to the newly established Estonian State where they were used by the 2nd Battery of the Finnish volunteer unit, Pohjan Pojat who were fighting in Estonia against the Bolsheviks. After the Estonian War of Liberation ended the Finnish volunteers left their four guns to the Estonians. However, the large majority of these guns emained in Finland, where they were transferred to the Coastal Artillery. However, some were soon transferred to the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) artillery, which used them as training weapons up until World War 2. During the Winter War about 50 of these were used by Coastal Artillery Units. ATL - unchanged.
107 K/77 (107 mm Model 1877, artillery battery version)
This was a Russian-built 107mm gun using bagged ammunition manufactured in 1877 and firing a 12.5kg shell with a range of approximately 5.3km. These guns had originally been designed and manufactured for Tsarist Russia by Krupp, but were later manufactured by the Obuhov factory in Russian. Because of this, during WW1 the Russian military usually issued the gun only as a direct fire gun, typically to coastal defence in such positions which allowed the guns to use direct fire in defending harbours and beaches.
107 K/77 Field Gun. The Breech block of this gun seems to be missing. Notice the very simple structure and that the muzzle of gun barrel has no bulge ring, unlike in French guns of the same era. (Photo taken in Tykistömuseo).
The Finnish Army captured 102 of these guns in 1918. Between the Civil War and the Winter War these guns saw some limited use, but by the Winter War the guns and ammunition for them was in very bad shape – and the number of fuses available for their ammunition was limited. OTL, some 80 of them were used in the Winter War. ATL, these were scrapped in the late 1930’s.
107 K/77 Piirk (107 mm Model 1877, siege gun version)
Tsarist Russia had selected a caliber of 107mm for the Army’s medium guns. For the Model 1877 guns, there were two versions – the Field Gun Version and the Siege Gun version. The Siege Gun version is easy to identify due to its high gun carriage and long barrel, with the wheels being made from wood with steel hoops. They fired an 8.3kg shell with a range of 8.3km.
107 K/77 Piirk cannon. Notice the equipment around wheels used to reduce recoil. Also notice the Krupp horizontal sliding block breech, box trail open from the top and metal plate under end of the trail. (Photo taken in Tykistömuseo).
Obuhov seems to have been the sole manufacturer of this gun. The Finnish White Army captured either 47 or 57 of these guns (depending on sources) with most captured in Helsinki and the rest in Viipuri. After the Civil War, these guns saw little use but with large amounts of ammunition in warehouses when the Winter War started, they were brought back into service. ATL - brought back into use for Coastal Artillery fortifications.
152 K/77-120p (152 mm Model 1877, 120-pud barrel version)
The Tsarist Russian military had two versions of the 152-millimetre siege gun m/1877 and this was one of them. The Russians separated the two versions by the weight of their barrel using a Russian unit of weight measurement – the "pud", which was about 16.38 kg. So, basically this 120-pud version had a notably shorter barrel than the other (190-pud) version. The gun had a box-trail, wooden wheels with steel hoops and the horizontal sliding block breech typical of large calibre Russian siege guns of the era. The trail used included a primitive recoil reduction mechanism. It seems that the Russian Obuhov and Perm factories were the only manufacturers of these guns.
The Finnish White Army captured 102 of these guns in 1918, but none were used in the Finnish Civil War. Immediately after the Civil War six of these guns were issued to three artillery batteries (with 2 guns each), which were created at Äyräpää, Metsäpirtti and Sakkola near the border on the Karelian Isthmus. The artillery batteries were to be crewed by local Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) units if needed and existed until 1921. The guns were also used as training equipment in Heavy Artillery Regiments until the early - mid 1920's.
152 K/77-120p field gun, notice the gun mount structure and relatively short barrel. (Photo provided by MK).
OTL: In the Winter War 12 guns were used by Heavy Artillery Battalion 5. During the Continuation War they saw some use with the Syväri Fortification Artillery Battalion 1. When Finnish troops retreated from the river Syväri/Svir in June 1944, the Battalion still had 23 of these guns. As the guns were so worn-out, outdated and difficult to transport, the Finnish troops left them behind. The Finnish military found these guns to be accurate and their projectiles powerful, but transporting these heavy old guns was problematic.
ATL: Placed in prepared positions within the Karelian Isthmus defences and fired until ammunition ranout or positions overrun, in either case they were destroyed in place.
152 K/04-200p (152 mm cannon model 1904, 200-pud barrel version)
This was the last, heaviest and most modern of the Russian 152-mm siege guns. The gun was manufactured by the Russian Obuhov factory and unlike earlier heavy siege guns had a de Bange screw breech. The wheels were the usual ones with wooden spokes and steel hoops and the gun also had the usual box trail, but also had a built-in system which somewhat reduced its recoil. The recoil reduction system was similar to ones used in Russian heavy mortars at that time and used a hydraulic axle anchored to the ground for dampening the recoil. The 152 K/04-200p fired a 41.1 kg shell with a range of 11.2km.
152 K/04-200p in the yard of the Finnish Artillery Museum. Notice the de Bange screw breech and recoil dampening system partly visible in the end of the trail. 155 K/77 in the background. (Photo taken in Tykistömuseo).
The Finnish White Army captured four of these guns at the beginning of the Civil War, but due to the size and weight, transportation was a problem. All four guns were later used in the Winter War, where they were issued to the Coastal Defence of Lake Ladoga, which used them to for fire support against Soviet forces. OTL, two of the guns are now in Finnish museums.
ATL: issued to Coastal Defence of Lake Ladoga, where they were used for fire support.
152 K/77-190p (152-mm cannon model 1877, 190-pud barrel version):
This was the other version of the 152-mm Russian m/1877 siege gun - the version with the slightly longer and considerably heavier barrel. These two versions had been named according to barrel weight, which was expressed in the Russian weight measurement "pud" (about 16.38 kg). As usual the gun had a box trail and wooden wheels with steel hoops. The gun also had a somewhat ineffective built-in recoil reduction system. 115 guns were captured in 1918, but the Finns never used any in battle. The Russian Obuhov and Perm factories had manufactured all of these captured guns. The 120-pud barrel version not only had better range because of more modern projectiles, but it also was handier and weighted less, so the Finnish military favoured it instead of this 190-pud barrel version.
ATL: issued to Coastal Defence of Lake Ladoga, where they were used for fire support.
229 M/77 (229mm Mortar Model 1877)
This was the 9-inch Russian coastal mortar model 1877. Using bagged ammunition, the Mortars fired a 122.9-135kg shell with a rage of 7.2-7.4kms. The mortar was designed for coastal forts and was anything but mobile. Six mortars were captured in 1918, but were not used in the Civil War and were placed in storage.
279 M/77 (279-mm mortar model 1877):
This was the Russian 11-inch coastal mortar. Similarly to its 9-inch cousin it was designed for coastal fortresses and moving one to another fire position demanded a laboured process of first dismantling the mortar and its fortification carriage, then assembling it again in the new position. The mortar had a wedge-block breech. Four or five of these mortars were captured in 1918. OTL, the only remaining mortar is nowadays in Suomenlinna.
ATL: all M/77 Mortars used to reinforce Coastal Artillery Fortifications.
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76 K/00 (76 mm Model 1900 / Trehdjumovaja poljevaja pushka obr. 1900)
During the Civil War, the Finnish White Army used only one of these guns, while the Red Guards used them in rather substantial numbers. The total number of guns captured in 1918 was 34, but only 21 of them were in somewhat usable condition. The gun fired shells of 6.6-6.7kgs with a range of 6.7-8.8 kms and with a variety of ammunition types (HE, AP, AP-T, APHE-T, shrapnel, incendiary). This gun, designed by Russian General Engelhardt, was the first modern Russian designed field gun. The structure of the recoil mechanism was that which one could expect from mountain gun. Somewhat unusually the parts of recoil system had been built into the gun carriage. The gun had a hydro buffer and a bar was used to transmit the rest of the recoil energy to the recuperator, which consisted of steel and rubber plates. Between 1901 - 1903 some 2,400 were manufactured in the Putilov, Sankt Peterburg, Obuhov and Perm artillery factories. During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 - 1905 this gun saw large-scale use with the Russian Army. The gun had the typical wooden wheels with steel hoops, screw breech, box trail and seats for two crewmembers to sit during transport. Originally the gun had only open sights (and thuse was suitable only for direct fire use), but later a simple optical sight was added. The gun had wheel anchors, so slight corrections to aim were often needed between shots
76 K/00 field gun. Notice the recoil system build inside the gun carriage and the frame seats on both sides of the barrel. (Photo taken in Tykistömuseo).
OTL: Of the 21 usuable guns, during the Winter War 16 were used by the field artillery and the rest were used for training.
76 K/02 (76 mm cannon model 1902 / 3-djujmovaja pushka obr. 1902)
During World War 1 this gun was the most numerous field artillery piece used by the Tsarist Russian Army. After World War 1 outside of Russia/Soviet Union the largest user of these guns was probably Poland, where over 400 guns were from 1926 on modified to use the same 75-mm ammunition as the French model 1897 and renamed 75mm wz. 02/26. Other countries also using these guns included Lithuania and Romania (Romania also had their guns modified to 75-mm field gun model 1902/36). In the Soviet Union the large majority of these guns were modified in 1930's to the 76,2 mm Pushka obr. 1902/30 g. but a relatively small number of unmodified guns also saw use with the Soviet Red Army during WW2.
This gun was based on earlier designs of the improved 76 K/00 by General Engelhardt and designed in the Putilov factory by L.A. Bishjakov, K.I. Lipinskij and K.M. Sokolovskij. Some ideas also seem to have originated from the French 75-mm field guns model 1897. The gun had a box trail, wooden wheels with steel hoops, a recoil system with hydro buffer and a spring recuperator under the barrel, a screw breech and no wheel anchors. Early versons didn't have a gun shield, but had seats for two crew-members instead. Later a straight vertical gun shield with foldable upper and lower sections was introduced and the seats were removed. Several sight models existed, the last and most common being Goertz dial sight. Because of the recoil system and lack of wheel anchors some of the recoil energy was not always removed - in these cases the aim of the gun had to be corrected after each shot. How well trained the crew was and if the gun was well laid had a large impact on the practical rate-of-fire - which varied between 8 - 15 shots/minute. When compared to sthe tandard of that time, the French 75-mm model 1897 the gun wasn't as effective, but it was also easier to manufacture.
76 K/02 field gun with upper shield part opened and lower part folded. Notice gun shield structure. (Photo taken in yard of Sotamuseo).
The Finnish White Army captured 159 of these guns in 1918 and bought an additional 20 from Germany. They fired a 6.3-6.5kg shell, with a range of 7.9-10.6 kms and with a variety of ammunition types (HE, AP, AP-T, APHE-T, shrapnel, incendiary). Maximum range in direct fire use was about 4 kilometres. Originally the gun had been designed as horse-towed, but it could also be towed with trucks or transported on the motor truck body. Maximum speed when horse-towed was around 10 km/h. When the gun was towed with horses, a limber carrying 40 shots was used with it.After the Civil War the 76 K/02 was selected as the main light field gun for the Finnish Army for a very simple reason: It was the most numerous of the captured modern field guns and readily available for free.
In 1931, Transbaltic Oy exchanged a number of older guns for eleven 76 K/02 field guns. ATL: Finland also bought 54 76/K02 guns from Germany in early 1939 (OTL, this occurred in late 1940) bringing the total number in service at the start of the Winter War to 244.
107 K/10 and 107 K/13 (107 mm cannon model 1910 and 107 mm cannon model 1913)
This 107-mm cannon was designed by the French Schneider factory for Russia and it was manufactured in both France and Russia. The gun was intended as a replacement for the old 107-mm and 152-mm heavy guns, which lacked a recoil system. The Russian manufacturers were the St. Petersburg artillery factory of Obuhov and the Putilov Factory. The cannon was modern for its time and the French military ordered their own 105-mm calibre version with a more durable (and heavier) gun carriage in 1913. This also lead to development of the 107 mm Canon mle 1913, which was basically the 107-mm Russian field gun with an improved gun carriage. Unusually for cannons of such a large calibre at this time the gun used fixed ammunition (manufactured with two propellant charge sizes). Otherwise the gun was typical with a box trail, screw breech, wooden wheels with steel hoops and a gun shield. Rate of fire was about 5 - 6 shots/minute. Unlike the French 107 mm Canon mle 191, the recoil system located under barrel was quite conventional.
107 K/10 field gun. (Photo taken in Tykistömuseo).
The Finnish Red Guards used a few 107 K/10 guns during the Civil War and, as usual, the Finnish White Army captured some of them (two guns in Helsinki and one gun in Viipuri). However, in this case the number of intact or repairable captured guns was quite small. Once the situation had settled down Finland purchased more from France (four guns), Poland (two guns) and Latvia (two guns) increasing the total number in service to eleven. Two of the guns were French-made 107 mm Canon mle 1913 aka 107 K/13, while the other the nine were Russian-made 107 K/10. In the 1920’s they served as training equipment for the Finnish heavy artillery units, being the only heavy field guns in Finnish use at that time.
Finnish Artillery of the 1920’s: Howitzers
Being capable of high-trajectory fire and also very mobile, light howitzers were ideal for Finnish terrain and climate. On the other hand World War 1 era light howitzers had only short range, which seriously limited their effectiveness – and in the 1920’s, Finland had only a very small number of ex-WW1 Howitzers in service.
150 H/14j (150 mm howitzer model 1914, Japanese / 15 cm Meiji 38 howitzer)
In the Civil War, the Finnish White Army captured 12 of these howitzers. According to some sources the Finnish Red Guards and Russians had used them against the Finnish White Army before they were captured, but according to another source they were captured without battle use either at the Huopalahti Warehouses of the Russian Army or from the Russian Garrison in Södervik (Suvilahti) - both places are in the Helsinki area. Either way the White Army didn't use them during the Civil War. These dozen heavy howitzers might not see much but considering the weapons situation of the Finnish military in the 1920’s they were very important - all other heavy howitzer models in Finnish use at that time were even less numerous. Being the only howitzers numerous enough to arm a whole Heavy Artillery Battalion (of 12 guns/howitzers) they became the main training weapon for Finnish heavy field artillery before World War 2. In the late 1930's four of the howitzers were used by the Civil Guard (Suojeluskunta) artillery units for training, while eight remained with the Heavy Artillery Regiment (the principal heavy artillery training unit of the Finnish Army). The training use took its toll - ammunition for them was in short supply before the Winter War.
150 H/14j heavy howitzer. (Photo taken in Tykistömuseo).
This howitzer was the Krupp design known as 10,5 cm sFH 02 in Germany, manufactured in Japan as the Meiji 38 (model 1905) and fired a 40.5-43.0kg shell with a range of 7.2kms. The Japanese military bought the first of these howitzers from Germany during the Russian-Japanese War of 1904 - 1905 and later manufactured the howitzer under license. The howitzer remained in Japanese until the end of the World War 2. During World War 1 the Russian military had a shortage of artillery weapons, so Russia bought these howitzers from Japan. In fact, it is likely, that the model 1914 of the Finnish name for this howitzer model may originate from the year the Russians bought them.
Structure-wise this howitzer is pretty typical of the heavy howitzer of its era. It had the usual box trail with a hole in middle of it for more elevation, a recoil system with hydraulic/spring buffer/recuperator below barrel and wood wheels with steel hoops. It also had a screw breech and a dial sight but no gun shield. Ammunition was cartridge seated type and only HE-ammunition seems to have been used in Finland. The Finnish military used HE-projectiles with both TNT and ammonal (ammonium nitrate based high explosive) filling, these ammunition types were probably of Russian origin (since they were included in Finnish artillery manuals from 1925).
152 H/10 (152 mm howitzer model 1910 / 6 dm polevaja gaubitsa sistemy Schneidera)
In the Civil War the Finnish White Army captured nine of these howitzers. Most were captured in Helsinki and the rest in Viipuri. None saw battle use during the Civil War. Before World War 2 they served as training equipment for the heavy Field Artillery of the Army. The Finnish army used only one kind of ammunition with them: high explosive (HE). The ammunition was cartridge seated type with four propellant charge sizes. The usual HE-projectile weighed 43.5-kg, but according to the 1925 manual some HE-projectiles manufactured for the 152-mm Canet coastal gun could be used with these howitzers. They had a range of 7.7-6.0 kms.
152 H/10 heavy howitzer. (Photo taken in Tykistömuseo).
This howitzer was a Schneider design manufactured under license in Tsarist Russia and presumably manufactured by Putilov. The howitzer was in large-scale use with the Russian Field Artillery during World War 1. This howitzer is related to the 155-mm French howitzers that Schneider introduced during WW1. The howitzers were still in Soviet use during WW2 and the Germans captured some. Technically the howitzer was typical of its time: Box trail (with a hole in the middle), a breech mechanism with screw breech and recoil mechanism with hydraulic/pneumatic buffer/recuperator below the barrel. The gun shield had an inclined lower part and a hole for direct fire aiming with dial sight. The original wheels were wood with steel hoops, but later these were replaced with steel wheels covered with rubber tires. The howitzers were suitable both for motorised towing and towing with horses.
152 H/15 and 152 H/17 (152 mm howitzer model 1915 and 1917 / Canon de 155 C Mk 1915 & Mk 1917 Schneider (6'')
Four 152 H/15 and eight 152 H/17 howitzers were bought from France in the late 1920's. They fired a 43.6 kg shell with a range of 11.2kms. After WW1 French factory Schneider was ready to manufacture its WW1 era howitzers in various calibre for export. These howitzers had the same basic structure as in Schneider howitzer models 1915 and 1917, but were ordered in 152.4-mm calibre for ammunition compatibility with captured Russian howitzers. The 152 H/15 used the same cartridge cases for their cartridge-seated ammunition as the Russian 152 H/10’s captured in 1918. Twelve of these howitzers were delivered to Finland: Four 152 H/15 and eight 152 H/17. They arrived in several batches over 1925 - 1926 and 1929. In Finland all the twelve howitzers were used together and usually referred to collectrively as the 152 H/15/17.
Both howitzer models had the usual box trail, gun shield curved from its lower part (typical to Schneider designs), screw breech and recoil system with hydraulic buffer and pneumatic recuperator below barrel. Both howitzers also lacked wheel brakes. Barrels used in both howitzers was similar, but the ammunition was different (cartridge-seated for 152 H/15 and bagged for 152 H/17). The wheels were also different: Originally the 152 H/15 had wood wheels with steel hoops, these were later replaced with wheels which had rubber tires, while the 152 H/17 had wood wheels with steel hoops covered with a solid rubber layer. The 152 H/15 had also been designed as horse-towed while the 152 H/17 was more suitable to motorised towing. Before WW2 the howitzers were used as training equipment. In 1928 Italian Pavesi tractors were acquired and used as their towing vehicles.
Summary: Table of Finnish Artillery in the 1920’s
87 K/77 (87 mm Model 1877) - 144 (scrapped in the 1920’s)
87 K/95 (87 mm Model 1895) – 80
107 K/77 (107 mm Model 1877 – 80 (scrapped in the late 1930’s)
107 K/77 Piirk (107 mm Model 1877, siege gun version) - 47
152 K/77-120p (152 mm Model 1877, 120-pud barrel version) - 102
152 K/04-200p (152 mm cannon model 1904, 200-pud barrel version) - 4
229 M/77 (229mm Mortar M1877) - 6
279 M/77 (279-mm Mortar M1877) - 4
76 K/00 (76 mm Model 1900) - 21
76 K/02 (76 mm M 1902) – 179 (244 on outbreak of the Winter War)
107 K/10 and 107 K/13 (107mm M1910 and M1913) - 11
150 H/14j (150mm howitzer model 1914) - 12
152 H/10 (152mm howitzer M1910) - 9
152 H/15/17 (152mm howitzer M1915 and 1917) - 12
OTL: This is pretty much what Finland went into the Winter War with in the way of Artillery - about 500 guns, many of them obsolete. Makes you think a bit doesn't it.
ATL: Thanks to the Finnish Procurement Program of the 1930's, things will be somewhat different
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First, an acknowledgement. All photos and OTL historically accurate details in this section are used courtesy of the Jaeger Platoon Website (Kiitos Jarkko) (http://www.jaegerplatoon.net/MAIN.html - this is a great website with a mountain of detailed information and photos on Finnish weapons – you name it, it’s there, however obscure) – and of course, any mistakes are mine.
Second, this post is intended to be a reasonably accurate coverage of Finnish Anti-Aircraft strength in the 1920's, and not beyond, so guns purchased in the 1930's (not that there were many) are not covered. It's strictly historical with a couple of minor ATL tweaks (guns on the Icebreakers is about the only deviation from the historical).
And now, .....Finnish Army Anti-Aircraft Guns of the 1920’s
WW1 had introduced aircraft to War, and anti-aircraft guns were already an established part of Military organizations in the early 1920’s. The Finnish Army was no exception but, as with Artillery, almost all AA Guns in service in the 1920’s was ex-WW1 equipment although some guns were bought through the 1920’s.
The development of methods for using antiaircraft artillery started within the Coastal Artillery. While the actual anti-aircraft artillery units once created belonged to the Army, the Coastal Artillery needed to defend its fortifications against aircraft. While it did not have enough suitable guns it did its best to develop methods, which allowed its existing guns to be also used for anti-aircraft fire. This development work for these dual-use guns was improvised as these guns most certainly had not been originally designed for antiaircraft use. Two coastal gun models were adapted to such use – the 75-mm Canet gun and the 152-mm Canet gun.
When it came to the 75-mm Canet only some gun mount versions used had enough elevation for anti-aircraft use and the most important of these was the Zenit-Meller version described below. The other gun, the 152-mm Canet coastal gun, was the largest calibre Finnish gun known to have succeeded in intentionally downing enemy aircraft during World War 2. And this was no accident - it was also the largest calibre gun used by the Finnish military for anti-aircraft fire. The 152-mm L/45 Canet coastal gun was originally introduced to Russian use in 1895. Due to Finnish improvements made to the 152-mm Canet coastal guns the elevation achieved with certain mount versions was high enough for anti-aircraft use and in their new Finnish-build positions they had a 360-degree firing sector.
At the same time the changes made by the Finnish military for these guns also increased their maximum rate of fire considerably. Even if their anti-aircraft fire was not terribly accurate their over 40-kg high-explosive shells equipped with time fuses packed such a punch that their fire was dangerous to any bomber formation which came within range of the time fuses used in their shells for this use. The anti-aircraft shooting method for these guns were developed in the early 1930's and during World War 2 was in common use for those 152-mm Canet batteries, which had mounts giving their guns enough elevation for this kind of use. During WW2 these heavy coastal guns succeeded in downing several Soviet bombers and also at least one fighter aircraft.
And now, on to the guns........
20 ItK/23, 20 mm antiaircraft-gun M/23 Semag-Oerlikon
Reinhold Becker, a German, had patented a 20-mm automatic cannon in 1913. During World War 1 the Germans tried introducing this as a Zeppelin weapon, but it proved too unreliable and was re-issued as an antiaircraft-gun in 1917. However, the unreliability of the Becker cannon continued in this antiaircraft-gun role as well. After WW1, a Swiss company called SEMAG (Seebach Maschnenfabric AG) became interested in the Becker cannon and bought the patents. SEMAG further developed the design and managed sell some guns, but didn't manage to enjoy the fruits of this development before it went bankrupt in 1921. The SEMAG company was sold and changed name to Oerlikon AG in 1925. The Swiss themselves were first to adopt the gun for the use of their military in 1923 (hence the year-number in the Finnish name). The 20-mm Oerlikon guns were the most widely used 20-mm antiaircraft-guns before World War 2 and possibly also during it. They were exported to a large number of countries and at the same time license produced in the USA and Great Britain in huge numbers. The 20-mm Oerlikon gun was a large-scale commercial success before and during World War 2. Nowadays the company (now known as Oerlikon-Contraves) is one of the most well known developers and manufacturers of antiaircraft-guns.
20-mm Oerlikon M/23 AA-gun on its mount. (Photo taken in Ilmatorjuntamuseo)
Finland was among first customers for these guns when it bought four from SEMAG in October of 1924. The guns were delivered to Finland in the summer of 1925. Early on the Finnish military found the guns problematic, but once the proper methods were developed their reliability proved satisfactory. However, so little ammunition was bought with the guns that almost all was spent in test firing. This later severely limited the amount of live firing during training. Mounts used with these four guns were the fixed M/24 (Swiss designation) column/cone mounts. After test firing, these guns (with very little ammunition) were given to Suojeluskunta units for training purposes.
37/30 Ma (37-mm Naval gun Maxim) (1-pound pom-pom):
This water-cooled and belt-fed automatic-gun was the real granddaddy of automatic-cannons and first gained popularity in the Boer War. In Britain the gun was well known as the 1-pound pom-pom gun. Tsarist Russia bought a small number of these guns from the Maxim-Nordenfelt factory in the 1890's and during WW 1 the Russian Navy ordered 120 more from the Russian Obuhov factory. The Finnish company Ab H. Ahlberg & Co Oy also built about 60 of these guns during WW 1 and when the Civil War ended about half of these were still unfinished so they remained in Finland. The Finnish White Army captured total of 50 - 60 guns in the Civil War.
The mount for these guns was a column mount designed for naval use. It offered 360-degree traverse and about 70-degree elevation, so in theory these guns could be used as antiaircraft-guns. The Finns managed to get a bit over 30 of the captured guns into working order and they were used in warships and coastal artillery fortifications. The 37-mm Maxim automatic gun was never popular in Finnish use as it was unreliable and had quite a short range. The main reason for the short range was the 37 mm x 94R ammunition (with a moderate muzzle velocity of only about 440 m/sec), which didn't really have the ballistics needed for proper antiaircraft-use. As if this would not have been enough, the reliability of old fuses used in their high explosive shells also proved questionable.
OTL: During WW2 some of these guns were in coastal forts, where their unsuitability for anti-aircraft use became painfully obvious. However they were not totally useless - the guns proved somewhat reliable when fired with only a low elevation. This was likely because shooting with low elevation didn't stress their fabric ammunition belts quite as much as shooting with higher elevation. In either case, Finnish coastal defence decided to use them mainly as close range defence weapons of its coastal forts against surface targets and these old guns proved somewhat successful in this role. Still, since the coastal forts had a rather limited amount of anti-aircraft weaponry at best, sometimes these guns were also fired against enemy aircraft. At least once this produced results – the Humaljoki Coastal Battery downed a Soviet bomber with a 37-mm Maxim automatic gun on the 25th of December 1939. Anyway, by the end of World War 2 they were terribly outdated and the last remaining 16 guns were ordered to be scrapped soon after the Continuation War ended in 1944.
40 ItK/34 V (40 mm AA-Gun model 1934 Vickers) aka 40/40 V34 (40-mm Naval gun model 1934 Vickers): (2-pound pom-pom)
This belt-fed 40-mm automatic was manufactured under license by Vickers. In Britain it was more commonly known as the 2-pound pom-pom gun. The gun was based on the older 1-pound (37-mm) version, and was basically an enlarged version of the Maxim machinegun. The subsidiary company of Vickers in Italy was Vickers-Terni, which introduced the 40-mm version in 1915. Besides calibre and size these automatic guns had very similar characteristics to Maxim machineguns. Unfortunately these shared characteristics also included unreliability and short range (caused by the weak ballistics of 40 mm x 158 R ammunition). The unreliability was also partly due to the fabric ammunition belts used in them. After WW1, the development of the 40-mm Vickers automatic gun continued and they saw large scale use with the British Navy during World War 2.
During WW1, the Russian Army and Air Force ordered the guns, which were also used in ships of the Russian Navy. The Finns captured a few in the Civil War. The Finnish military had two names for these guns - 40 ItK/15 V (40 mm antiaircraft gun model 1915 Vickers) and 40/40 V15 (40-mm Naval gun model 1915 Vickers). During WW2 the Finnish military had four of these captured guns, for which Crichton-Vulcan had manufactured new column mounts in 1934. Vickers had continued to further develop the guns and was selling them actively in the 1920's and 1930's. In 1932 the Finnish Navy bought eight of these improved guns. They were called the 40 ItK/34 V (40 mm antiaircraft gun model 1934 Vickers) and 40/40 V34 (40-mm Naval gun mtodel 1934 Vickers).
40/40 V34 Vickers Naval gun with its fixed column mount. (Photo taken in Ilmatorjuntamuseo)
ATL, the new 40/40 V34 guns were installed in the then brand new Finnish icebreakers which were being built. The guns proved as poor in wartime use as the peacetime experiences had already earlier suggested. So after the Winter War the guns were replaced with 40-mm Bofors and the 20mm Vickers were them used in coastal fortifications where they were mostly intended to be used used against surface targets, but occasionally they also were used as antiaircraft-guns.
75 mm Zenit-Meller.
The Tsarist Russian Navy had adopted the 75-mm Canet gun for use in 1891. During WW1 antiaircraft guns were needed and the Russians considered the 75-mm Canet guns basically suitable as a fixed anti-aircraft gun. However, the existing mounts didn't give enough elevation, so a new Meller-mount (named after its developer, a Captain Meller) was designed for antiaircraft-use. The first guns with the Meller mount were delivered in the autumn - winter of 1914. In Russia/Soviet Union, the 75-mm Zenit-Meller antiaircraft-guns were manufactured until the late 1920's and presumably some were still used in WW2.
The Finns captured a few of these guns in the Civil War of 1918 and the unofficial starting point of antiaircraft artillery practices in Finnish Armed forces originated with Captain Åke Törnroos of the Finnish Coastal Artillery taking command of the coastal fort on Kuivasaari Island outside Helsinki. On Kuivasaari Island he noticed two 75-mm Zenit-Meller coastal guns that the Russians had left behind in 1918 and he got interested about them. The Finnish military knew that the guns had been intended for shooting at Zeppelins and aircraft, but not much else. At that time the Finnish military didn't yet have antiaircraft weapons or methods for shooting at air targets. This got Captain Törnroos excited: the idea of having two weapons but no information on how to use them simply didn't suit him.
Törnroos started gathering information from all possible sources. Combining the information with his mathematical skills he developed the first rudimentary methods for shooting at air targets and tested it with the guns. He soon got support from Väinö Valve, who was Commander of Coastal Artillery at that time. This was the starting point for developing antiaircraft-weaponry and methods for shooting at air targets in the Finnish Coastal Artillery and later led to the establishing of the first Finnish antiaircraft-artillery units. In the 1920's the Finnish Coastal Artillery had 18 of these guns and the Navy had 10. The guns saw some use against air targets also during WW2, but their main influence on history was to be the weapons which started of the development of antiaircraft-warfare techniques in Finland.
76 ItK/14, Putilov (76 mm antiaircraft gun M/14 Putilov)
The first guns the Russians had used as antiaircraft-guns during World War 2 had been 76-mm model 1902 field guns installed on AA-platform, the platforms were fixed wooden structures on top of which the whole field gun was placed. The mounts allowed circling around the central point giving the gun a 360-degree traverse and a higher elevation adjustable with the field guns own elevation adjustment system. The system was rudimentary and had little chance of hitting anything but a slow moving Zeppelin or fixed observation balloon, so better anti-aircraft guns were desperately needed. During WW1 the French had developed an anti-aircraft gun version from their 75-mm model 1897 field gun, and this gave the Russians the idea for developing a similar kind of weapon.
In other words: this gun, the model 1914 Putilov, which was basically the Russian 76-mm field gun m/1902 barrel equipped with a half-automatic breech with sliding breechblock and installed on top of a column mount suitable for antiaircraft-use. Even the ammunition of this gun used the same cartridge cases as the Russian/Soviet field guns of this calibre. The designers of the gun were Captain V.V. Ternovskij and Engineer F. F. Lender, after whom the Soviets later named these guns "Lender's guns". They were manufactured in the Putilov Artillery Factory (later renamed the Kirov Artillery Factory by the Soviets) starting in March of 1915. However the Russians also soon developed an improved version that same year. The official Russian/Soviet name for the gun was 8-K. They installed it in fixed gun positions, on ships, horse-drawn carts, on top of trucks and also on the railway cars of armoured trains. The Soviets also modernised their 8-K guns in the 1920's and were still using them during World War 2.
76-mm Putilov M/14 AA-gun. (Photo taken in Ilmatorjuntamuseo).
The Finnish White Army captured 2 guns used on a Red armoured artillery wagon of the armoured train named Ukrainski Revolutsija (Revolution of the Ukraine) during the Finnish Civil War. After 1918 the armoured artillery railway wagon equipped with them had been dismantled and the guns had been forgotten in the Fredriksberg Engineering Works. On the 26th of July 1926 they were found there and become the first AA-guns issued to the first Finnish AA-artillery unit, which had been established on the 18th of June 1926. The ammunition used in these was the same as in the 76 K 02 field guns, so there was very little problem in getting ammunition for them. During the Winter War they were used as AA-guns with an improved aiming system and in 1945 they were finally warehoused for possible further use, which never came. The two guns now belong to the collection of the Anti-aircraft Museum.
The Bofors 76 mm antiaircraft gun series
In typical WW1-era fashion Bofors started its production of anti-aircraft guns by modifying an existing Swedish 75-mm naval gun to anti-aircraft use in 1914. After this the company modified more 75-mm naval guns suitable for anti-aircraft use for Norway starting in 1915. This was followed by a deal to manufacture some earlier ordered but not delivered Krupp-designed anti-aircraft guns for the Netherlands in 1919. Still, in the mid 1920's Bofors had no heavy anti-aircraft gun design of its own. In 1926 things started to change, when orders for test-guns arrived from the Swedish Royal Ordnance Administration and Netherlands. However the biggest heavy AA-gun order for that year was a Finnish order of eight 76.2-mm anti-aircraft guns.
Of these 8 guns, 4 were to be fixed guns (later named 76 ItK/27 BK) and other four were to be mobile guns (later named 76 ItK/28 B), which could be towed. All the eight guns were rather traditional and obviously based on earlier Krupp designs. However as these small production runs could well be considered a test-series of sort, both gun models had some notable differences. Later Finland ordered a second patch of four 76 ItK/27 BK’s and an additional four mobile (towed) 76 ItK/29 B’s. The first purpose-build Bofors-designed heavy AA-gun was the 75-mm anti-aircraft gun m/30, which was a further development based on guns bought in small numbers by China, Finland, Hungary and Persia in late 1920's.
The 76 ItK/27BK: (76 mm antiaircraft gun M/27 Bofors, fixed version)
This gun was a fixed version of the heavy Bofors anti-aircraft gun, which had a column mount bolted to a concrete structures in a ready fire-position. The breech mechanism of the gun was the typical semi-automatic (after firing the gun the breech would automatically remove cartridge case and stay open for loading of the next shell) vertical sliding block breech. The guns were also equipped with equipment for setting correct fuse settings fast. A well trained crew could achieve a rate-of-fire as high as 25 shots/minute for a short time, but long-term rate of rate-of-fire was only about 12 - 15 shots/minute. Both buffer and recuperator of the recoil system were located above barrel. Finland bought eight of these guns from Bofors. The first four were ordered in December of 1926 and arrived December of 1927. The other four guns were ordered in June of 1928 arrived in September of 1929. During the Winter War (and OTL Continuation War) the guns were used with the Vickers M/34 (subversion Vb) mechanical fire-control computer and were located as part of the air-defence of Helsinki. The 76-mm Bofors AA-guns proved very effective and remained in use until the end of World War 2.
76-mm Bofors M/27 fixed anti-aircraft gun. Many of the instruments are missing. Photo taken in middle of kite-flying competition, so there are two on the background. (Photo taken in Suomenlinna).
During World War 2 the ammunition chosen for these guns caused additional problems with regards to their ammunition supply. The cartridge cases used for them were unique - in other words not used in any other guns or any other country anywhere. As the number of these cartridge cases had been rather limited to begin with, once used they needed to be sent for reloading without delay.
76 ItK/28 B, Bofors (76 mm antiaircraft gun M/28 Bofors, mobile version)
These guns were the 76.2-mm mobile antiaircraft-guns Bofors Ab manufactured for Finland. Just like the fixed 76 ItK/27 BK and 76 ItK/29 B they belonged to a number of small production series Bofors manufactured for China, Greece, Hungary and Persia in the late 1920's. Finland ordered 4 of these guns in December of 1926 (at the same time as the four 76 ItK/27 BK), but they were not delivered until December of 1928. They were the first mobile heavy anti-aircraft guns in Finnish use. For transporting them a heavy one axle, two wheeled driving device was used. The mount type used is a column mount with four legs (cruciform-mount) typical of mobile anti-aircraft guns of that time. The gun was semi-automatic (after firing a shot, it removed the cartridge case and remained open for reloading) horizontal sliding wedge breech. In the recoil systems of these guns, both buffer and recuperator were located below the barrel.
76-mm Bofors M/28 AA-gun. Again many of the instruments are missing. (Photo taken in Ilmatorjuntamuseo).
In 1931 these four guns were transferred to the Helsinki Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard), which used them to train anti-aircraft gun crews before the Winter War. During Winter War (and OTL, the Continuation War) they were used on the home front with Vickers M/34 (subversion Va) mechanical fire control computers. These guns proved very effective and remained in use until end of World War 2.
76 ItK/29 B, Bofors (76 mm antiaircraft gun M/29 Bofors, mobile version)
Just like the 76 ItK/27 BK and 76 ItK/28 B, Bofors Ab manufactured also these guns by for Finland. All the three gun models can be considered as part of the test-series manufactured by Bofors in late 1920's. Finland bought 4 of these guns and they were delivered in November of 1929. For transporting the guns a heavy one axle and two wheeled driving device was used. The mount type used is column mount with four legs typical (cruciform mount) to mobile anti-aircraft guns of that time. The gun also has semi-automatic horizontal sliding wedge breech (which after firing the shot removed used cartridge case and remained open for reloading). In the ecoil system of these guns the buffer was located below the barrel and the recuperator above it. During Winter War and Continuation War the guns were used with the Vickers M/34 (subversion Vc) mechanical fire control computers. They proved very effective and remained in use until end of World War 2. These guns used exactly the same ammunition as the 76 ItK/28 B and 76 ItK/34 V.
76-mm Bofors M/29 AA-gun. As usual many of the instruments are missing. (Photo taken in Ilmatorjuntamuseo).
OTL, prior to the Winter War, Finland took delivery of 53 Bofors 40mm AA Guns in 1939 as well as a small number of Madsen 20mm AA Guns, 30 German Flak-30’s (just before the Winter War) and a small number of Lahti-designed 20 mm L-34 AA guns which were fitted to Finnish Coast Guard boats in the 1930’s. And that was the AA strength of the Finnish Army when the Winter War started.
In this ATL, things will proceed a little differently in the 1930’s.
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Re changes from OTL in general: The earlier posts on the Finnish economy largely combine inter-war and early post-war (1950’s) economic development into a 20 year period (1919-1939) of “accelerated” economic development which has the effect of giving Finland about double the GDP it actually had by 1939. Nothing impossible, and a lot of it was actually planned before WW2 (the hydro-electric plants in the North for example). The Oil Refinery and Tornio Steel Mills were in fact post-war, but adding them in pre-war in the 1930’s gives the economy a boost, as does the Ford factory (more vehicle/trucks, less reliance on horses on mobilization). You'll also note a small mention of "Nokia." The companies existed like that pre-war, as part of a conglomerate, but Nokia was actually founded post-war and was not involved in Telecoms at all until well after WW2. I've tweaked that, I want a telecoms capability for reasons which will be come apparant as we get into the Maavoimat R&D Program of the later half of the 1930's.
There’s a brief mention of potato and Hog farming in Lapland. That’s actually quite significant. In WW2, Finland suffered major food shortages, amounting to a famine, as the country was not self-sufficient and pre-war had relied on grain imports, which were cut off by the Soviet Union. Potato and Hog farming in Lapland (where the climate and soil post-war proved ideal for potato farming) enables Finland to be self-sufficient in food during the entire war period and even export hog-related products (sausages to Germany perhaps…..).
Nickel production is another POD. Actual nickel production from Petsamo maxed during the war when the Germans needed it badly. I’ve maxed it earlier, and also introduced a second major Nickel Mine (OTL, post-war). This enables Finland to play the Nickel card with both Germany AND the UK. And perhaps the USSR later on, we’ll see how that shakes out as the scenario proceeds. The Tornio Steel Mill is also a significant POD. OTL, Finland didn’t have anything on that scale. ATL, Finland does and that opens a few possibilities. Remember that Sweden was important to Germany for iron ore. We’ve just added a factor that could make Finland of added importance to Germany. Also, re the Maritime scenario described, Finland is building ships for the USSR as well as locomotives and telecom switches – OTL, this is post-war. ATL, it’s in the 1930’s and to a certain extent actually makes Finland a more attractive objective for the USSR – why not bring that capability under Soviet control?
The whole Finnish Navy (Merivoimat) scenario I outlined is, with the exception of the first few submarines, a POD. Finnish military history is pretty obscure to non-Finns, Finnish political and economic history even more so. Going forward, I’ll make a point of noting POD’s as well as giving a brief description of the significance of the POD.
Looking ahead somewhat, this is the basic outline of what you can expect to see over the next few weeks:
- Conscription in the 1920s and the Cadre Army vs the Militia Army
- The Structure of the Maavoimat (Army) and Unit Organisation
- The Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) and Lotta Svard in the 1920’s
- The Ilmavoimat (Air Force) through the 1920’s
- Finnish Government and Politics of the 1920’s
Note that all of the above will be largely OTL, with one or two POD’s that are seemingly minor but which will have ramifications going forward. Note also that I will generally describe organizations in “English/Finnish” format initially, and then, after giving you a chance to get used to it, it will be Finnish only. Ditto for military ranks going forward. Photo captions will be Finnish / Enhlish wherever possible. Also, wherever appropriate I will be inserting links to media clips – I find the visual / audio gives a much more real picture of people / culture / attitudes than mere words.
And then we will start to deviate increasingly from the OTL. A little at first, then more so.
- The Lapua Movement and the Rise of the IKL
- Another look at the rapproachment between the SDP and the Suojeluskunta
- The All-Party Defence Consenus of 1930: Mannerheim appointed Chairman of the Defence Council, Rudolph Walden appointed Minister of Defence (this is a major POD)
- Potted bios of Mannerheim, Walden and some other Finnish politicians we will see more of
- Finnish Govt and Politics of the 1930s
- The Guns vs Butter Debate
- Defence Funding through the 1930’s
- Attempts to create Mutual Defence Treaties through the 1920s and 1930s
And then the real fun starts……..
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About the English abbreviations.
It might be preferable to give us ignorants explanations e.g. of the followings: