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  #361  
Old September 6th, 2011, 04:56 PM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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Originally Posted by Julius Vogel View Post
I am amused by the fact that you seem to have captured a readership (myself included) that devotes itself to reading long, detailed expositions on Inter War Finnish economy and society!
Well, I'm quite surprised too. I wasn't sure if the style would appeal to anyone besides myself - I read alternative history novels and I'm always far more interested in the appendices which set out all the background history and development. So when I started to have a go at writing an "alternative winter war novel", I started with the appendices first to set out all the background and developments in detail that would otherwise have rated a mere reference. That said, the appendices have kind of taken on a life of their own and I'm finding out all sorts of information - like all this stuff on the Finnish forestry industry. And thinking thru "now how do you tweak that to give Finland an advantage" - take the Body Armour for example, unless you know the Finnish forestry industry was a world leader, the resin-based body armour seems implausible - but once you know all the details, its actually quite feasible... and ice roads ... and a few more things in the pipeline...

All of that aside, I'm happy people are enjoying it and that there are others out there with the same fascination with an alternative approach to the Finnish Winter War

Quote:
Originally Posted by Julius Vogel View Post
I am greatly enjoying it all the same, but I can't quite tell if it is an elaborate and masteful troll; a strange but determined combined marketing campaign by the Finnish Tourism Authority, Ministry of Industry and the Canadian-New Zealand-Finland Friendship Society*; or very useful and interesting background information for the Main Act.

*If so, it sort of worked, as I visited to Finland on the back of this and another Finnish timeline
Now that's funny!!!! But think of it as very useful and interesting background information for the Main Act. With a side-bar being a "kind-of" education in Finnish history, economics, government and society - altho many of the tweaks are obscure enough that if you're not Finnish (or have a good knowledge of all of the above), you may never get them. I'm thinking now I should forward your comment to the Finnish Tourism Authority and make a plug for sponsorship .
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  #362  
Old September 6th, 2011, 05:30 PM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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Flame Throwers in the Suoment Maavoimat

Flame Throwers in the Suomen Maavoimat

Interestingly enough, it was the Finnish experience with forest fire fighting techniques that led to a number of military programs and weapons which we will first summarise here and then go onto to look at each in detail in turn. When looking at the introduction of these weapons and pieces of equipment, it’s also important to keep in mind the continuous cross-fertilisation of ideas and techniques between the military and civilian organisations. With a large percentage of Finnish men actively involved in the Suojeluskuntas, particularly in rural areas where farming and forestry was the primary occupation, and with an openness to experimentation and a willingness to consider ideas and tactical techniques and innovations originating from the bottom, rather than imposed from the top, there was always an avenue for even the strangest of proposals to receive at least some consideration. And some proposals that made their way up the chain were strange indeed….

Perhaps the first serious proposal to come out of the milieu of forest fire fighting was one regarding the military use of flamethrowers. In fighting forest fires, a technique that is often used is the controlled backburn. This is where firefighters set fire to an area ahead of a raging forest fire, aiming to burn up combustible material that could feed the wildfire but under controlled conditions. The backburn creates a manmade firebreak that aids in containing the fire. An early way of starting backburns was with a flaming piece of wood or brush, but by the 1920’s, a drip torch was more commonly used.


The Drip Torch – from this and an academic knowledge of WW1 Flamethrower Weapons, the Suomen Maavoimat began to experiment with military flamethrowers in the 1930’s

Prior to the early 1930’s the Suomen Maavoimat, as with most armies of the time, had no real experience with Flame Throwers as a combat weapon. Flame Throwers were of course known from World War I, where they were used in trench warfare, but the Maavoimat in the early 1930’s had no real experience or institutional knowledge of flamethrowers as a weapon. Once the Finnish military began to examine the Flame-Weapon proposal in detail, as they did in 1933, it rapidly became obvious that this was an existing weapon that had been used effectively in the First World War but which, post-war, had faded from view. Some initial research by Finnish Military Attache’s (who found themselves doing this kind of “real” work more and more through the 1930’s), produced the information that this weapon had actually been invented by the German engineer Richard Fiedler in 1900, and tested in secret by the Imperial German army the following year. By 1912 the German Army had formed a Flammenwerfer regiment (of three battalions, with twelve companies in total). Each was equipped with man-portable flame-throwers consisting of a steel cylinder tank that was worn on the back attached to a 6-foot (1.8-metre) rubber tube and nozzle. The tank was subdivided into two: an upper reservoir containing a compressed gas to provide the pressure, and a flammable liquid (usually oil) in the lower. The gas propelled the liquid down the hose, which was ignited at the end of the nozzle by a wick. Flame could be projected for 20 yards (18 metres) for about two minutes, or shorter bursts could be obtained by igniting a cartridge for each burst, as with a shotgun. This principle of design has not changed since.


French soldiers make a gas and flame attack on German trenches in Flanders, Belgium, during WWI.

The weapon had been tested in action against the French in February 1915 in the Verdun sector, but was more famously used against British troops at Hooge, near Ypres, on the night of 29-30 July 1915. The six throwers that were used formed only a small part of a larger attack, aimed at inexperienced troops of the British New Army. Achieving complete surprise, the British trenches doused with flame were quickly taken, and the attack also had a great psychological effect on other defenders. The effect of the dangerous nature of the surprise attack proved terrifying to the British opposition, although their line, initially pushed back, was stabilised later the same night. In two days of severe fighting the British lost 31 officers and 751 other ranks during the attack. With the success of the Hooge attack, at least so far as the Flammenwerfer was concerned, the German army adopted the device on a widespread basis across all fronts of battle. The Flammenwerfers tended to be used in groups of six during battle, each machine worked by two men. They were used mostly to clear forward defenders during the start of a German attack, preceding their infantry colleagues.

They were undeniably useful when used at short-range, but were of limited wider effectiveness, especially once the British and French had overcome their initial alarm at their use. Quite aside from the worries of handling the device - it was entirely feasible that the cylinder carrying the fuel might unexpectedly explode - they were marked men; the British and French poured rifle-fire into the area of attack where Flammenwerfers were used, and their operators could expect no mercy should they be taken prisoner. Their life expectancy was therefore short. The British Army also experimented with flame-throwers. However, they found short-range jets inefficient. They also developed four 2-ton throwers that could send a flame over 30 yards built directly into a forward trench constructed in No Man's Land a mere 60 yards from the German line. These were introduced in July 1916 but within a couple of weeks two had been destroyed. Each was painstakingly constructed piece by piece, although two were destroyed by shellfire prior to 1 July 1916 (the start of the Somme offensive). The remaining two, each with a range of 90 yards, were put to use as planned on 1 July. Again highly effective at clearing trenches at a local level, they were of practically no wider benefit.

Although these large flame-throwers initially created panic amongst German soldiers, the British were unable to capture the trenches under attack. With this failure, the British generals decided to abandon the use of flame-throwers. Similarly the French developed their own portable one-man Schilt flamethrower, of a superior build to the German model. It was used in trench attacks during 1917-18. The Germans produced a lightweight modified version of their Flammenwerfer, the Wex, in 1917, which had the benefit of self-igniting. During the war the Germans launched in excess of 650 flamethrower attacks; no numbers exist for British or French attacks. By the close of the war flamethrower use had been extended to tank-mounted flamethrowers. The advantage of a tank-mounted flamethrower was two-fold – the size of the tank meant that powered pumps could be used, rather than using pressureized gas – this extended the range of the weapon considerably, and the tank offered far greater protection to the crew operating the weapon.

Thereafter flame-throwers entered the arsenals of modern armies, usually as “pioneer” or “engineer” weapons, but as they had failed to achieve a spectacular success during WWI, they were not widely used. The lessons of late-WW1 with regard to tank-mounted flamethrowers were largely forgotten – only to be rediscovered, largely independently, by the Red Army in the 1930’s. The Red Army would go on to use flamethrower tanks against the Maavoimat in the Winter War. The Finns however, had not been taken by surprise by this weapon. Military Intelligence had identified that the Soviets were working on flamethrower type weapons, including designing a flamethrower tank, and Maavoimat soldiers, particularly the anti-tank gunners, had been informed and trained to identify and deal with these tanks as soon as possible.
The Maavoimat itself had initiated its own research and development program into Flamethrowers in 1936, concentrating on man-portable versions as being more suited to the type of warfare the Maavoimat intended to fight. German expertise was sought and with the assistance of two of the engineers who had worked on the development of these weapons in WW1, an adequate design was soon forthcoming, with certain Finnish-inspired modifications. Among these were camouflaging the weapon by designing the firing mechanism to look like the standard Mosin-Nagant Rifle and the fuel tanks with a military knapsack-like appearance, thus reducing the chances of the operator being easily identified. In addition, early tests under the harsh conditions of a Finnish winter led to a problem unforeseen by the German designers, in that it was too cold to light the fuel. The production model incorporated a revised system which eliminated the problem.


The rifle-shaped flamethrower was an idea the Red Army would later copy from the Maavoimat.

These Finnish manufactured man-portable flamethrowers were capable of 10 “bursts” with a maximum range in the region of 120 feet. They used a version of jellied gasoline and had an 18 Liter fuel tank which used a container of pressurised nitrogen gas as a propellant. The mechanics of the device were fairly simple – two side by side tanks, one containing the fuel, the other containing the gas propellant. The two substances were mixed as they passed through a valve, the force provided by the compressed gas. The mixture was directed through a pipe and out through a nozzle. At this point the concoction was ignited and the sheet of flame produced. The flammable material was mixed with an adhesive which meant it would stick to whatever it hit, flesh included. The nozzle was fitted with a 10-chambered cylinder which contained the ignition cartridges. These could be fired once, each giving the operator 10 bursts of flame.

In practice this gave 10 one-second bursts. It was also possible to spray fuel without igniting it to ensure there was plenty splashed around the target, then fire an ignited burst to light up the whole lot. The flamethrower kit weighed some 64 pounds (29kg) making it somewhat heavy to carry and reducing the agility of the operator considerably. Unlike the flamethrowers of most other countries during World War II, the Maavoimat were perhaps the only ones to consciously camouflage their flamethrowers from the start, with the flamethrower "gun" disguised as a standard issue Mosin Nagant Rifles, and the fuel tanks disguised as a standard infantryman's rucksack, to try to stop snipers from specifically targeting flamethrower operators. The vulnerability of the operator was compounded by the need to close to within pistol range of the enemy to be used effectively, meaning that generally the weapon was used when assaulting formations were up against fortifications such as pillboxes which were otherwise difficult to capture or destroy.

The Maavoimat did not plan to use the man-portable flamethrowers defensively, the range was generally too short, the operator too vulnerable and the weapons had limited fuel. Finnish soldiers fighting on the Karelian Isthmus found them very effective against Red Army positions when the Finns took the offensive, as they often did tactically even when falling back. The Maavoimat used fire as both a casualty weapon and as a psychological weapon. They found that Russian soldiers would abandon positions in which they fought to the death against other weapons. Prisoners of war confirmed that they feared the flame-throwers more than any other weapon utilised against them.


A Finnish Army soldier operating a Flame-Thrower on the Karelian Isthmus during the Spring 1940 counter-offensive

As the pressure from the Soviet Union grew over the course of 1939, the Suomen Maavoimat determined that while units were equipped with these Flamethrowers they were not in numbers that were considered sufficient (only some 400 were in service, with some 1,000 being the goal). While these were on order and were being built at the rate of some 20 per month, with war looming on the horizon there was no time for half-measures. Manufacturing capability was limited, with many different priorities being addressed and in the greater scheme of things the Flamethrowers were low on the list of overall priorities. A decision was therefore made to purchase these weapons. An approach was made to Germany in June 1939, but for reasons that were at the time unclear (but which would later, in August of the same year, become all to clear), the Germans refused to manufacture or sell any to Finland.

On the other hand, the Italians had portable flame-throwers on a large-scale (some 1,500 being used by Italian Army as of 1940) and were quite willing to do business with the Finns. Consequently, the Suomen Maavoimat decided to acquire additional flame-throwers from Italy and ordered 500 portable flame-throwers of the type Lanciaflamme Spalleggiabile Model 35, which the Suomen Maavoimat subsequently named Liekinheitin M/39 (Flame-thrower M/39). These flamethrowers were not delivered prior to the Winter War breaking out, but were delivered as a priority with the first wartime shipments dispatched from Italy, arriving in Norway in December 1939 and being railed to Finland through Sweden where they entered service in January 1940. These flame-throwers were promptly issued to Engineer Battalions of the Suomen Maavoimat and saw extensive combat use. The Italian Liekinheitin M/39’s had a range of 60 feet, weighed 25.5kgs and could fire 20-30 bursts of 1 second each.


“Fire and Ice” - The Lanciaflamme Spalleggiabile Model 35 (which the Suomen Maavoimat subsequently named Liekinheitin M/39) in action on the Karelian Isthmus

Organisationally, each Regimental Combat Group generally had a light Engineering Battalion (Pioneeri Joukkue) attached as part of its combat strength, and among other types of units, the Pioneeri Joukke included a separate Liekinheitin Joukkue (Flame-thrower Platoon) with a strength of 40 men in 3 Sections of 12 with a 4-man Platoon Command group. Two of these Sections had 4 Flame-Thrower Crews (with 3 men in each crew) with 2 Flamethrowers assigned to each Crew for a theoretical total of 16 flame-throwers to a Platoon (although in practice it was usually less than this as even with the Italian order filled the weapons were in short supply. Having two flame-throwers per crew was a standard tactical approach. Once a flame-thrower crew had run out of fuel in their first flame-thrower, they would simply take their second flame-thrower and continue fighting. The third section looked after maintenance, logistics and refueling. The flame-throwers needed to be re-fueled only after the 2nd flame-thrower had run out of fuel. Where necessary, portable flame-throwers were usually repaired in Weapons Depot 1 (located in Helsinki), although the Maintenance Section in practice during the War usually looked after basic repairs. Flamethrower Crews were generally assigned to combat for specific missions, where they fought under the command of the unit to which they were temporarilt attached.

An interesting variation also introduced by the Maavoimat was the “One Shot Flamethrower”. One of the issues the Maavoimat always faced was that where Specialist units were created, the effect was that soldiers were removed from front-line infantry units and placed in units where they might only ocassionally be utilised effectively. To this end, the Maavoimat consciously limited the number of specialised flamethrower units but solved the need to have such a weapon readily available by designing and manufacturing what was in effect a disposable one-shot flamethrower weapon that could be carried and used by ordinary infantry where fortifications or enclosed defensive positions were expected to be encountered. The disposable weapon fired a half-second burst of flame of up to 27 metres (89 ft).


The Maavoimat’s One-Shot Disposable Flamethrower


But as always, the Maavoimat’s soldiers found more useful ways to utilise the weapon…officially known as the Kertakäyttöinen Liekinheittäjä (One-Shot Disposable Flamethrower) but unofficially referred to as the “Liekki” (slang for cigarette lighter)

The Kertakäyttöinen Liekinheittäjä was designed and trialled in 1939 and began to be manufactured and stockpiled late in the same year. It was not used during the defensive phase of the Winter War, but as the Maavoimat moved over to the offensive on the Karelian Isthmus in Spring 1940, it was widely issued. It proved particularly useful to the troops as they whittled the Red Army out of their defensive positions and came to be a much-loved weapon. Small and relatively light, it was heavily used although later in WW2 it was considered more useful as a cigarette lighter or as a fire-starter.
A third version, which was a larger and less portable version of the infantry flame-thrower, was used in defensive positions and to defend bunkers on the Mannerheim Line. These flame-throwers were usually carried into position on sleds or carts and had both a greater range and a far larger fuel capacity, with a 30 liter fuel tank. They were normally mixed in with other mines or emplaced behind barbed wire and could be command detonated or triggered by tripwires or other devices. The mine consisted of a large fuel cylinder 53 centimetres (21 in) high and 30 centimetres (12 in) with a capacity of 29.5 litres containing a black viscous liquid made up of a mix of light, medium, and heavy oils. A second, smaller cylinder, 67 millimetres (2.6 in) in diameter and 25 centimetres (9.8 in) high, was mounted on top of the fuel cylinder. This contained the propellent powder which was normally either black powder or a mixture of nitrocellulose and diethylene glycol dinitrate. A 50 millimetres (2.0 in) flame tube was fixed centrally on top of the fuel cylinder, risimg from the centre of the fuel cylinder and curved to extend horizontally approximately 50 centimetres (20 in).


A photo of a US soldier in Finland posing with a Suomen Maavoimat static flamethrower / flamemine. US Soldiers in Finland received some cross-training on Finnish weapons and this was likely taken at such a course sometime in 1943, after the first American and British units began arriving in Finland.

When the mine was triggered, a squib charge ignited the propellant, creating a burst of hot gas which forced the fuel from the main cylinder and out of the flame tube. A second squib ignited the fuel as it passed out of the end of the flame tube. The projected stream of burning fuel was 4.5 metres (15 ft) wide and 2.7 metres (8 ft 10 in) high with a range of about 27 metres (89 ft), and lasted about 1.5 seconds. The mines were large and fairly heavy. They could not be moved rapidly but could be pre-positioned and used with the fixed direction discharge tube which could be dug-in and integrated with conventional mines and barbed wire in defensive works. When the mine was buried, normally only the flame tube was above ground and generally this too was well conceled, leaving only an inch or so of the muzzle exposed. In winter, this could be blocked by snow and ice and care therfore had to be taken to position the devices where they could be kept clear. This limited their effectiveness somewhat in winter. However, where a number of them were used together as part of a pre-prepared and integrated defensive position they proved to be highly effective. The Maavoimat had limited numbers of these devices and used them only in conjunction with critical defensive positions on the Mannerheim Line. They came as a most unwelcome surprise to the Red Army infantry attacking these positions.

Flamethrower Tanks

Conversely, the Red Army’s flamethrower tanks were not welcomed by the Maavoimat soldiers who faced them. In the 1930's the Soviets had developed a series of flame tanks based on the T-26 light tank. Aware of the threat, the Maavoimat anti-tank gunners tended to target these as soon as they were identified. Early in the Winter War, the Maavoimat captured a number of these tanks from the Red Army. The Maavoimat itself did not however develop a Flamethrower Tank. Tanks within the Maavoimat were in short supply and it was felt that the tanks that were in service were better used as standard tanks equipped with high-velocity guns.

However, enough Red Army Flamethrower Tanks were captured to allow for the creation of a small number of Flame-thrower Tank Platoons (Liekinheitinpanssarijoukkue), each of which was assigned to an Armoured Battalion (Panssaripataljoona) as a specialist unit. The only modification made by the Maavoimat before these tanks entered service in the Maavoimat was to repaint and to fit a Radio. Generally each of these Platoons was equipped with four of the captured Flamethrower Tanks and a strength of 23 men (one officer, eight non-commissioned officers and 14 men). Generally, the direction given to the use of these tanks was that they should only be used for specialist tasks which would benefit from their use in combat in offensive actions. In the Spring 1940 Karelian Isthmus, these Liekinheitinpanssarijoukkue were used with a high degree of effectiveness against Russian soldiers dug in in bunkers and strongpoints.


Knocked out Soviet OT-130 flame tank. The knocked out tank in the background is a Soviet BT-5. (Photo source Pala Suomen Historiaa website) Notice the "bulges" on top of the hull next to turret - these are the tops of the flame-thrower fuel tanks.

The OT-130 (the Soviet "OT" is an abbreviation for Ognemetniy Tank = Flame-throwing Tank and is supposedly post-war but mentioned in war-time Finnish documents) had a Crew of 3, weighed 10 tons, had a length of 4.65 meters, width of 2.44 meters and a height of 2.08 meters. The engine was a 90hp GAZ T-26 4-cylinder gasoline engine. Front Armour was 15mm, deck and turret top was 10mm, Ground clearance was 38cm and ground pressure was 0.61kg/square cm. The tank’s range was 170kms on road and 110 km off-road.


Advancing Suomen Maavoimat troops pass a knocked out Soviet OT-133 flame tank during the 1940 Spring Offensive on the Karelian Isthmus. Notice the rear turret machinegun and typical Soviet flame tank markings (0 in a box on side of the turret) on this particular tank.

(All information on Soviet Flamethrower Tanks and Photos is courtesy of, the Jaeger Platoon Website - http://www.jaegerplatoon.net – context and date of photos has been altered for this ATL – thx once again, Jarkko - and any mistakes are mine....)

During the 1940 Spring Offensive down the Karelian Isthmus additional large numbers of Red Army tanks and vehicles were captured (in addition to those that were destroyed). As one Suomen Maavoimat Regimental Combat Group commander was quoted in a British newspaper as saying in response to a question as to what the British could do to help further: “Ask Stalin to send more Red Army tank units, we’d like to add more tanks to our Armoured Divisions.” Overall though, the Suomen Maavoimat wasn't overly impressed with the Soviet flamethrower tanks. Their flame-throwers were unreliable and somewhat ineffective and were also considered wasteful in their use of fuel and the gun-tanks were considered more useful and versatile. As a result, after the Karelian Isthmus was recaptured, the Maavoimat decided to convert the ex-Soviet flamethrower tanks into gun-tanks, a task which was carried out by the Armour Centre (Panssarikeskus) and Lokomo Works (Lokomon Konepaja).

The main effort involved in this conversion was replacing the flame-thrower with the usual captured Soviet 45-mm tank gun. In addition to this the conversion work consisted of:
• Removal of flame-thrower fuel tanks, pressurised air tanks and their tubes.
• Installing seats for crew (the seating arrangement in the Flamethrower Tanks was bit different from the standard gun-tank and an extra seat for the 4th crewmember was fitted in most of these converted tanks) and adding ammunition racks (for main gun ammunition and for magazines of the DT-machineguns).
• Adding necessary optics (gun sights and periscopes).
• Removal of rear turret machinegun, if the tank had previously been equipped with one.

Most of the converted tanks were also equipped with an additional hull-machinegun and a fourth crew member (hull machinegunner) was added to the crew. After Finland entered WW2 against Germany, these older captured Soviet Tanks were retained for training purposes only.

Next Post…. The Development of Fire Watching and it’s military applications within Finland
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  #363  
Old September 7th, 2011, 02:06 PM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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Got a request to make here - need some help with doing some graphic art

I'm hopeless at drawing, was wondering if anyone whose been following this thread is any good at graphic art - I've been working on the Ilmavoimat's gyrocopter program and it would be great if there was someone out there who could turn my ideas into a good sketch or piece of computer art. If there is anyone interested, please PM me, I'd be eternally grateful.

Kiitos..........Nigel
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  #364  
Old September 9th, 2011, 06:54 PM
Karelian Karelian is offline
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The way you have "borrowed" my text and pictures to the last letter without asking permission (which I had gladly granted had you been polite enough to ask ) while presenting them as your own work is just plain rude and outright intellectual theft. Shame on you.

An example: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/...1#post10041695

http://www.alternatehistory.com/disc...0&postcount=13
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Old September 9th, 2011, 09:44 PM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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Originally Posted by Karelian View Post
The way you have "borrowed" my text and pictures to the last letter without asking permission (which I had gladly granted had you been polite enough to ask ) while presenting them as your own work is just plain rude and outright intellectual theft. Shame on you.

An example: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/...1#post10041695

http://www.alternatehistory.com/disc...0&postcount=13
Apologies for that my friend. Been borrowing stuff from here, there and everywhere, as well as digging up photos fro anywhere I could find them - as far as written content, mostly with permission or asking and with credit. I missed your one and for that, consider this an abject apology. Some of this I have been stringing together for quite some time and it was all too easy to lose track of what was sourced when.

Please note also that I have posted a "mea culpa" and an apology on the forum.axishistory site where this thread is also posted.

Kiitos.........Nigel

Last edited by CanKiwi; September 9th, 2011 at 10:00 PM..
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Old September 11th, 2011, 09:28 AM
Karelian Karelian is offline
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Originally Posted by CanKiwi View Post
Apologies for that my friend. Been borrowing stuff from here, there and everywhere, as well as digging up photos fro anywhere I could find them - as far as written content, mostly with permission or asking and with credit. I missed your one and for that, consider this an abject apology. Some of this I have been stringing together for quite some time and it was all too easy to lose track of what was sourced when.

Please note also that I have posted a "mea culpa" and an apology on the forum.axishistory site where this thread is also posted.

Kiitos.........Nigel
As I noted on Paradox forum, you're free to use those pictures and my text as long as you don't represent it as your own. Keep up the good work and apology accepted.
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Old September 12th, 2011, 05:51 PM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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The development of Fire Watching and its military applications within Finland

The Development of Fire Watching and it’s military applications within Finland

Sustainability has been the guideline for Finnish forest use even before the modern concept of “sustainable development” was coined. Forests were carefully managed and measures taken to prevent or reduce the impact of forest fires. Prior to the twentieth century however, such containment measures were localized and where they did occur, were on a small scale. Forest fires occurred on a regular basis and little could be done to identify and contain them barring efforts by local farmers, villagers and farm-labourers – efforts which were both manual and limited in the resources available to the immediate locality. As a result of the work by forest professionals, from the turn of the century on there was a greater understanding of the economic impact of forest fires, and more and more in the way of national and private resources dedicated to reducing the effects. Early efforts generally focused on basic measures such as firebreaks and controlled or prescribed burning (burning off during the cooller months to reduce the amount of flammable material available for major forest fires, thereby decreasing the likeliehood of more serious and hotter fires). Deliberate controlled burns early in the fire season substantially reduces the risks of stronger late summer forest fires.


1928: Kulotus käynnissä metsässä. Kuva liittyy metsäylioppilaiden harjoitteluun Hyytiälän metsäasemalla. "Samoin" (alkuperäinen teksti), viittaa tekstiin "Metsä palaa!" / Prescribed burning under way in a forest by Forestry Students training at the Hyytiälä Forest Station. "Similarly," (original text), the text refers to "the forest on fire!"


Kulotusta / Prescribed Burning


Männikön läpi kulkeva osastoraja, joka samalla toimi palokatuna / A Firebreak in the Pine Forest, which at the same time was the Border (with the USSR)

Risk reduction is one thing, but while controlled burns reduced the risk and firebreaks helped to contain fires once started, the single best way to stop a forest fire once it has started is to spot it early and attack it at the source before it has the chance to spread. On a hot, dry, windy day a fire can be up and rolling within minutes after the first spark. On days like this, a fire needs to be sighted almost as soon as it starts and its location reported by the fastest means available. The race to beat a fire before it grows too big was the impetus behind the drive to find better, faster methods of detection. As managed forestry grew in importance, and reforestation programs took place, fires multiplied. Land clearing, farming, lumbering, railroad construction, mining, prospecting, even hunting and fishing all added to the fire hazard. The State Forest Service and the large forestry companies took the first initiatives in the late nineteenth century, with regular forest fire patrols in managed forests. Fire rangers traveled alone or in pairs and were continually on the move, patrolling the forests for signs of fire. Terrain dictated the method of travel.

Fire rangers patrolled on foot through the bush, blazing and clearing their own trails. They scrambled up hills and climbed trees to get a better view. Sometimes they built a small platform or 'crow's nest' in a tall tree to survey the area. When river or lake systems wound through the patrol area as they often did, rangers patrolled by boat - negotiating wind, weather, current, and portages. Small steamboats were utilized for fire patrol on large bodies of water. Later, rangers patrolled in motorboats. Fire rangers also patrolled in horse-drawn buggies or on bicycles, if roads or trails or trail systems were good enough. Later as roads and technology improved, horseless carriages - cars, trucks, or motorcycles - were used to patrol, meaning the fire rangers could cover considerably more distance with a fraction of the effort. But no matter how a ranger patrolled his territory, one thing is certain. He knew his territory inside out. A fire ranger had to know the location of:
- High-value, high-risk areas: the places ready to explode into fire with one careless spark;
- Quickest routes to a fire: all the roads, trails, railroads and communication lines;
- Closest bodies of water: lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds and their proximity to timber stands, communities and other important areas;
- Fire fighters and equipment.
The grueling day-to-day patrols provided the ranger with the practical information he needed to find, fight, and prevent fire.
With the expansion of the Rail Systen, fire rangers were hired to detect and put out fires caused by sparks from the stack and the ash pans of steam locomotives. By 1900, these rangers were stationed at intervals of some eight miles along the Finnish State Railway’s rail tracks. Their equipment consisted of a shovel, canvas pail and axe. Most of the patrolling was done on foot along the tracks by the railroad, but they could ride any train when necesary.


Railway Fire Patrol: As a rule, patrollers would ride one way and walk back. In addition to detecting and putting out fire, rangers worked to prevent fires through posters and public education.


State Forest Service fire patroller on his trusty "leg powered" speeder


Rail patrols began well over one hundred years ago. The early steam locomotives were coal-fired. They spewed embers from the boiler, and sparks from the smokestack, igniting numerous fires along the right-of-ways. At first rangers patrolled sections of track on foot, equipped with a water pail and shovel. Later velocipedes and motorized speeders replaced foot patrols.

When a fire was found, the rangers job was to either put it out (if small) or report it (if too large to be dealt with single-handedly). In putting out fires, the early forest rangers faced major obstacles. If the fire was still small, the fire ranger's crude tools - shovel, axe, hoe and canvas water pail - might be enough to put it out. Hand tools had almost no impact on large fires and in these cases, getting fire fighting teams onto the fire to control it was the most urgent priority. When the fire moved too fast for one man to handle, the ranger had to dash back to base, report the fire, round up a fire crew, and get back to the fire site. No matter how he traveled - on foot, by canoe, on horseback, or even by rail car - precious time was lost. Rangers on rail patrol had it easier. They patrolled the right-of-way along either side of the track, looking for fires caused by sparks from steam locomotives. The chances of catching fire in the early stages were better, but the fire ranger still had to hustle to beat the fire.

Fire patrols were tests of strength and endurance. Rangers trudged over rugged terrain shouldering heavy packs, rowed and portaged boats, rode horseback over narrow forest trails, hand pumped railcars over miles of track, dug out fire break trenches, and hauled pail after pail of water to put out a fire. They coped with bugs, bad weather, accidents and wild animals. A fire ranger had to keep his bearings in the forest. He had to be able to use an axe to clear trails, set up camp, cook over an open fire, keep warm and dry, and treat any injuries he might suffer. And he might be required to handle a boat, or ride horseback. Loggers and trappers were ideal candidates for fire ranging because they had the necessary forest skills - but rangers did not always fit the mould and “city-boys” sometimes took on the job quite successfully. In the late 1920’s, major changes in technology and in communications began to transform the role of the Forest Service’s fire rangers. When telephone lines were built into the forested areas, rangers could report a fire quickly if a phone line was located in the area. Or they could carry a portable phone, and tap into a telephone line if one was available. Telephone lines also led to a new source of detection - public reporting of forest fires.


Phone-Tapping

The use of motor vehicles meant patrols could cover far larger areas and also that fires could be responded to by teams of fire-fighters far more rapidly than in the past. The mid-1920's also brought additions and improvements to fire fighting equipment. Previously only hand tools were available. Axes, shovels, brooms, crosscut saws and canvas pails were commonly used. Equipment to transport and utilize water was not yet invented or adapted to forest fire fighting. Gasoline powered pumps were one of the biggest changes during the period. There were several types purchased and used, but improvements were continuous, reliability was constantly improving and over the years the pumps themselves could move much larger volumes of water. The pumps themselves were used all year round – generally reserved for fire-fighting service over the summer months, they were used to pump water for ice roads in the winter logging season.


Gasoline-powered water pump – 1920’s


Introduced in 1925 was a rather unique pump being demonstrated here that had no connected power source. Instead, this pump, operated by means of a belt drive off the wheel of a vehicle or motorcycle as shown here.


In 1924 the State Forest Service added the first piece of mechanized fire fighting equipment to its inventory. It was simply a heavy framed Ford truck with a gasoline-powered pump, four large barrels of water and several hundred feet of hose. The unit was in a rather loose sense self-contained. It was the forerunner of the modern day "slip-on unit" that would be developed years later.

The early fire rangers moved to higher ground whenever possible to increase their range of vision, scrambling up hilltops, mountaintops, and trees. Yet ground patrols were not good enough. Wildfires continued to inflict terrible economic losses and Fire lookouts evolved to meet the need for speedier, more effective fire detection. The first fire lookouts were generally used on a temporary basis. Fire Rangers might stay for a few days looking for fire. Then they moved on to continue their patrol.


The first fire lookouts evolved from whatever was at hand and could sometimes be quite ingenious, such as this old boat that had been grounded on the shore of a lake.

The late 1920’s saw the setting up of permament Fire Watchtower systems which were built and then manned throughout the fire season. The first fire tower lookouts were wooden and erected at the turn of the century and after WW1. Most of these were about 35 ft. high. As the forest trees grew in height many of these were abandoned and 80 ft. towers were put up in their place in the 1920's and 1930's. The towers over time were grouped into Fire Districts. Towers were arranged over the years in specific spots to get the best view possible between each tower. Usually the best bet was to put a watch tower on top of a naturally high elevation like a sloping hill. State Forest Service or Forestry Company employees would then erect each in the span of two-three weeks. This was not a job for the faint-hearted or those afraid of heights.


Metsähallitus rakennuttaa palotornia, urakoitsija Aukusti Häyrynen. Kiiminki.; Aukusti Häyrynen / Metsähallitus (the State Forest Service) is building a fire tower. The contractor is Aukusti Häyrynen - I


Metsähallitus rakennuttaa palotornia, urakoitsija Aukusti Häyrynen. Kiiminki.; Aukusti Häyrynen / Metsähallitus (the State Forest Service) is building a fire tower. The contractor is Aukusti Häyrynen – II

Towers were erected by State Forest Service or Forestry Company workers or contractors hired to do the job. Some pieces were were brought in by horse in the spring and often timber was cut on-site. It would take about 2 weeks to assemble from the ground up, starting at the cement block base. The top cabin or cupola was hoisted up piece-by-piece and bolted at the joints. The towers were certainly well engineered considering the fact that during high winds they would never shift although the odd one that wasn't put together properly blew over, fortunately never with anyone inside.


Metsähallituksen rakennuttama 25 metriä korkea palotorni Yli-Kiimingin Patsaalassa Kuusamontien varressa.; Aukusti Häyrynen / Metsähallitus (the State Forest Service) building a 25 meters high fire tower - Kiiminki Patsaalassa Kuusamo road.; contractor Aukusti Häyrynen


The completed Fire Tower


This photo gives a relative idea of the size and height of the towers

A sharp eye, an alert attitude, and a detailed knowledge of the lookout area were the lookout observer's most important tools - just as they are today. Once a smoke is spotted, the observer has to make very sure it is a fire. The smoke could be from an industrial smokestack - or it could be dust kicked up from behind a speeding truck along a gravel road. Back in the days of steam locomotives it might have come from the smoke-stacks of the train itself. All lookouts were equipped with fire finders, maps, binoculars to spot fire, and telephones to report fires. The fire finder, or alidade, is fitted over a map, to help the observer pinpoint the location of the fire. If two or three fire lookouts report bearings for the same fire, the fire can be located accurately at the point where the bearings intersect. Binoculars are useful for scanning the horizon, although they are limited by their narrow field of vision. Most scanning is done with the naked eye. The observer reports the fire by telephone (in the early days lookouts were equipped with telephones only but Radios replaced the telephone when it proved to be a more reliable form of communication). In hilly areas, the towers were placed on the tops of hills but where the terrain was flat, toweres up to 30 meters (100 feet) in height literally “towered” above the trees.


The view from the Fire Tower – accommodation can be seen below

Being a towerman was seasonal work starting May 1st and ending Oct. 1st depending on weather conditions. They worked long daylight hours, especially in the summer months when there was a high fire risk – when lookouts were staffed all day, every day. All lookouts were equipped with fire finders, maps, binoculars to spot fire, and telephones to report a fire. Most fires were located by using two towers giving the location of a fire on their map based on a 360 degree radius and with several towers pinpointing the direction to get the exact location of a fire. The tool they used to spot a smoke was called an alidade. It was mounted on a circular table with a map of the area and a degree ring to plot fire direction. The tower was plotted exactly in the centre of this map. The observer reported the compass direction, distance and size of the fire to headquarters by 'bush phone lines' in the early years and by two-way radio in later years. If other towers reported the fire then a 'fix' could be plotted on the map at headquarters. At headquarters there was a larger map of their assigned area and every tower was marked by a point which was circled by a larger compass index.


When the ever-watchful eye of the lookout discovers a spiral of smoke, he locates the fire by means of an alidade and protractor. Other lookouts do likewise. From the directions sighted, the watchman can locate the fire and dispatch forest fire fighters to the scene.


This is how the Alidade Fire Finder looked before it was placed on the towerman’s round map table.


A fire guard reporting fire to headquarters by means of telephone. May 1931. The installation of “forest phone-lines” and telephones meant a vast improvement in the efficiency and coordination of responses to fires.

Most towermen were supplied with live-in bunkhouses where they lived all summer. The towers were often so far back in the forest that commuting wasn't an option. It goes without saying that being married or raising a family was not always a part of a towerman's life during their tower tenures. Very occassionally however, wives and families accompanied the towerman. According to one wife of a towerman, "As far as I know I was the only wife who got to spend the summer at a fire tower. I cooked on a little wood stove and met visitors to the tower. We raised our son there in the summer and he climbed the 85 ft. tower by the age of one. We only got to go into town for food and pay once a month during a rainfall." To “city-folks” it could seem like a romantic life, spending months at a time on the deep forests but paradoxically, the two most difficult aspects of the job were isolation and the height of the lookout towers.

Isolation was the most difficult aspect of the observer's life - or paradoxically - the best part. It all depended on the person concerned. Frequently the fire observers lived and worked alone from May to October (with the exception of occasional visitors). Local trappers or loggers were considered ideal candidates for the job. They were used to the country, and accustomed to being alone. Quiet, introverted people who enjoyed months of solitude in the wilderness, were a natural fit - yet quite a variety of people took on the job and thrived - men and women - young and old, introverted and sociable. The fear of height was also a major difficulty for untried lookout observers. In forested country, the tower observer had to climb straight up a vertical ladder every morning, and down every evening. The prospect of climbing a 30-meter (100-foot) ladder could strike fear into the boldest heart. So can one look at the ground below before descending.

Towermen were expected to keep logbooks of their daily activities, and they also had guestbooks available for any adventurous folks who decided to climb to the top for the views. These were handed in to the head office in Helsinki at the end of the season. Men and women could climb up the tower if they wished, even when the towerman was on duty. It wasn't an easy climb though. Going up was the easy part, but when one came to the opening of the cupola (the tower's top housing) things weren't so easy when one tried to manoeuver through the bottom opening. For many, the hardest part was the fear of going back down. The towerman would sometimes have to use a long rope to tie around the person's waist to lower them back down to the ground.


And of course, not all lookout personnel were men.

As with so many events in the 1930’s, there was a certain amount of serendipity in the hiring of a small number of women to work as forest fire lookouts. Even in the late 1920’s, the Lotta Svärd organisation already trained some members in Aerial Surveillance and it was perhaps pure chance that a small number of these were hired as forest fire lookouts. What was not chance was the proposal that resulted from one such member for the Lotta Svärd organisation to take on the responsibility for Aerial Surveillance for the entire country and train Lotta Svärd personnel to take on this role. The Fire Watch system provided a backbone on which this organisation could be built, utilizing the existing Fire Watchtowers and communications system and expanding this into areas not covered under the guise of improving forest fire monitoring.

Following the decision to adopt this proposal, Finland was divided into 52 Air Surveillance Areas, with each are having numerous air-surveillance posts (Ilmavalonta-Asema) and an Area Air Defence Centre (Ilmapuolustusaluekeskus or IPAK for short). All Ilmavalonta-Asema were to be manned by trained Lotta Svärd air-surveillance personnel, as were the area IPAK’s. Provision was made in the event of war for the rapid construction and linking in to the network of additional air-surveillance posts and sites were chosen and in many cases prepared and maintained through the last half of the 1930’s. This was a popular role for young women members of the Lotta Svärd, giving them an independent and important role in the country’s air defence and the air surveillance units were fully-staffed from the very start.


Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta members on exercise, Summer 1938


Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta members on exercise, Summer 1938


An improvised Observation Post high in a tree, together with the Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta Spotter Team responsible for manning the position, Summer 1938


The mood turns more serious - Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta members on exercise following mobilization, Summer 1939


The Lotta Svärd Aerial Surveillance Badge – worn by all members who had passed the air surveillance course. This was no sinecure, training was tough and Observers were expected to identify all types of aircraft accurately, as well as being able to determine speed, height and direction.

Accurate, concise and rapid reporting was emphasized. Aircraft recognition was a highly prized skill, with accurate identification of the wide range of aircraft in Finnish service as well as those used by the USSR being of crucial importance. Lotta Svärd Ilmavolonta personnel realised that there existed in this field a chronic skills deficiency, and the profile of aircraft recognition was raised within the ranks of the organisation. Aircraft recognition training material, consisting of aircraft silhouettes and other data, was introduced almost entirely under the auspices of the Lotta Svärd Ilmavolonta organisation and as this skill obtained official recognition, both the Maavoimat and Merivoimat requested training courses for their reservist personnel be conducted by the organisation. With the outbreak of war, trained Ilmavolonta personnel were in high demand as it was realized that despite such courses for Reservists, a shortage of well-trained personnel was leading to too many “friendly fire” instances where AA guns opened up on Ilmavoimat aircraft. Many Ilmavolonta volunteers were accordingly detached from rear-area posts and assigned to units near (and even in some cases on) the front-lines. These volunteers were generally replaced at the rear with teenage Lotta Svärd Ilmavolonta members who carried out the job with admirable dedication.


Observation Tower built in late-1939. Unlike the Fire Watchtowers, an attempt has been made to camoflauge this tower by constructing it around and through an existing tree.


A direction circle used by Finnish air surveillance observers at air raid warning posts during the Winter War and World War II. Photograph from the "Winter War - 70 years" exhibition in the Military Museum of Finland.


Mobilization and War – mid-November 1939: A Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta Spotter Team about to leave for their Observation Post deep in the forests of Eastern Karelia. As the Maavoimat advanced into Soviet territory, more such teams would be dispersed through the occupied areas to build and staff isolated observation posts. All such Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta Spotter Teams were at risk from Soviet partisan activity and Red Army stragglers who had been cut-off by the Maavoimat’s advance and were thus heavily armed. Such teams in the occupied areas were usually larger for security purposes than the spotter teams within Finland itself.


Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta Spotter Team member on duty during the Winter War. She stands next to the directin finder.


At the height of the Winter War, January 1940: a Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta Spotter Team on watch. Very little moved in Finnish air space without the Ilmavalonta Spotter Teams identifying, reporting and tracking them.

In 1932, following a Lotta Svärd proposal to the Ilmavoimat and an Air Defence Working Group initiative undertaken as a result, the formation of a Lotta Svärd Unit under Ilmavoimat command responsible for the visual detection, identification, tracking and reporting of aircraft over Finland was approved. Thus unit would be come known as the Air Surveillance Corps. Finland had no real experience in such an organisation, and a number of small study teams were sent abroad to investigate and report on the experience of other countries in WWI – primarily Britain, France and Germany. In the event, most was learnt from the British, who had to a certain extent maintained the experience and skills of the WWI Metropolitan Observation Service with their networks of observations posts and associated anti-aircraft hardware (although much of this had been decommissioned in 1920, by 1932 efforts were underway to resurrect the Observer Corps, it’s experience and expertise).

The British were cooperative in sharing their knowledge and expertise in this area with the Finns, and a great deal of useful information, both current and historical, was made available, together with numerous suggestion as to applicability for Finland. On the various teams returning to Finland, information was pooled and a working group rapidly set up an effective Air Surveillance infrastructure that would remain largely unchanged up until the end of the Second World War.

Each Observation Post was to be manned by a Lotta Svärd Sergeant and six other personnel. Through the 1930’s the number of air surveillance posts continually increased until by 1936 there was a continuous thick belt of observation posts along the southern borders, along the coast of the Gulf of Finland and throughout the coastal archipelago. A rather thinner belt stretched northwards long the Gulf of Bothnia. The interior of the country was also well-covered in the south but thinned somewhat in the North, with only scattered coverage in Lapland. At the end of September 1938 the political crisis which culminated in the Munich Agreement had led to the Air Surveillance Corps being mobilised for a period of one week. This single act proved to be invaluable as it highlighted a number of organisational and technical shortcomings, and provided the impetus for the development of solutions to resolve these. A series of exercises held throughout 1939 provided opportunities for the fine tuning of improvements made to command and control functions.

Operational procedures would continue to evolve throughout the war, a process facilitated by the enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism which Lotta Svärd volunteer members, coming from every walk of life, brought with them to the Corps. High quality Merivoimat-issue binoculars were issued to observers, whose observation posts in the country areas usually consisted of nothing more than a wooden tower or a platform hidden in the top of a tree, with a telecommunications link with a control centre, often via a manual switchboard at local telephone exchange. In urban areas, observation posts were usually located on the rooftops of public buildings and factories and were often substantial brick built structures, protected by sandbags, which due to their often having being constructed by Air Surveillance Corps personnel themselves meant that no two posts were identical.


Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta Spotter Team on the job – Summer 1940


A young Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta Spotter Team on the job – August 1940: as the war continued and demands on manpower increased, large numbers of teenage-girl members of the Lotta Svärd were called on to fill Svärd Ilmavalonta Spotter Team positions – a role they filled capably and with superb dedication. Over 1939 and 1940, Finland brought a whole new meaning to the term “Total War” with the largest proportion of her population under arms of any country in WW2.


A “Press Photo” of a Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta observer taken for release to the foreign press, sometime in Summer 1940. Finland played the propaganda war with great effectiveness throughout the Winter War, and opportunities for “photogenic” shots were not passed up on…..


And Observers were not without other “protection.” Trained war-dogs often accompanied Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta Teams into isolated positions. Friendly to their “pack,” they provided an excellent early-warning system and were also trained to fight.


An Area Air Defence Centre (Ilmapuolustusaluekeskus): Tellers on the balcony overlook the plotting table and vertical long-range handover board. At the end of the balcony a Leading Observer acts as Post Controller. Note that Area Air Defence Centre’s included a small number of Ilmavoimat personnel.

The headquarters of each Ilmapuolustusaluekeskus operated from a Control Centre, responsible for and controlling between 30 and 40 observation Posts each of which would be some 10 km to 20 km from its neighbour. In 1935, as mentioned previously, there were 52 Ilmapuolustusaluekeskus covering Finland, controlling in total some 1,920 posts – and with each post manned on average by some 8 Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta personnel, the entire organisation had a strength of approximately 20,000 personnel.

In order to monitor aircraft, observers used a simple but effective mechanical tracking device. Where the approximate height of an aircraft is known it becomes possible, by using a horizontal bearing and a vertical angle taken from a known point, to calculate the approximate position of that aircraft. Posts were equipped with a mechanical sighting device positioned over a post instrument plotter consisting of a map grid. After setting the instrument with the aircraft's approximate height, the observer would align a sighting bar with the aircraft. This bar was mechanically connected to a vertical pointer which would indicate the approximate position of the aircraft on the map grid. Observers would report the map coordinates, height, time, sector clock code and number of aircraft for each sighting to the aircraft Plotters located at the Ilmapuolustusaluekeskus. Positioned around a large table map, plotters would wear headsets to enable a constant communications link to be maintained with their allocated Cluster of posts, usually three in number.

The plotting table consisted of a large map with grid squares and posts being marked. Counters were placed on the map at the reported aircraft's position, each counter indicating the height and number of aircraft, and a colour-coded system was used to indicated the time of observation in 5 minute segments. The table was surrounded by plotters, responsible for communicating with their allocated cluster of posts. Over time the track of aircraft could be traced, with the system of colour coding enabling the extrapolation of tracks and the removal of time expired (historical) data. From 1942, long-range boards were introduced into centre operations rooms, with Tellers communicating with neighbouring Ilmapuolustusaluekeskus groups in order to handover details of inbound and outbound aircraft tracks as they were plotted on this map.

Specific duties in the centre operations room included those undertaken by:
• Plotters - responsible for updating the plotting table and long range board
• Tellers - responsible for communicating with neighbouring ROC groups, Fighter Command Group and Sector controls, anti-aircraft batteries and searchlight units
• Alarm Controllers - responsible for liaising with the Police, the National Alert System, the Väestön Siviilisuojelu (or Civil Defence of Citizens) and with local industrial facilities
• Interrogator - responsible for liaising with ground controlled interception (GCI) radar units
• Duty Controller - together with an Assistant Duty Controller and Post Controller, responsible for supervising both the centre plotters and group observation posts .

While the early Finnish radar defence system was able to warn of enemy aircraft approaching some areas of southern Finland and the Gulf of Finland coast, once having crossed the coastline the Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta organisation provided the only means of tracking their position. Throughout the Winter War and the remainder of the Second World War, the Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta organisation continued to complement and at times replace the defensive radar system by undertaking all inland aircraft tracking and reporting functions, while the radar and radio-monitoring systems provided a predominantly coastal and southern border-oriented, long-range tracking and reporting system.

On 1 October 1939 Mobilisation Notices were issued to all members of the Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta organisation. From 3 October 1939, observation posts and area control centres would be manned continuously until 12 May 1945, four days after VE Day and the network itself would be continually expanded so that by VE Day it covered Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Finnish-Polish controlled zones of Poland and Germany. During this period, the Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta organisation was at full stretch operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, plotting enemy aircraft and passing this essential information to Ilmavoimat Fighter Command Groups and Air Defence Sector Controls. The organisation provided vital information which enabled timely air-raid warnings to be issued, thereby saving countless lives and forming a cornerstone of Major-General Somersalo’s air defence system. In December 1940, Somersalo would write: "It is important to note that at this time they (the Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta organisation) constituted the whole means of tracking enemy raids once they had crossed the coastline or the border. Their work throughout was quite invaluable. Without it the air-raid warning systems could not have been operated and inland interceptions would rarely have been made."

In 1943 and 1944, during preparations for the invasion of Estonia, a request for volunteers from within the ranks of the Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta organisation produced 1,094 highly qualified candidates, from which 796 were selected to perform aircraft recognition duties as Seaborne Observers. These Seaborne Observers undertook specialist training prior to being temporarily seconded to the Meroivimat. The Seaborne Observers continued to wear their Lotta Svärd uniform, but in addition wore a "SEABORNE" shoulder flash and Merivoimat brassard. During the E-day landings, two Seaborne Observers were allocated to all participating Meroivoimat vessels and Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships. The Seaborne Observers assumed control of each ship's anti aircraft batteries with the intention of reducing the incidence of friendly fire between Merivoimat vessels and allied aircraft. The success of the Seaborne Observers in undertaking this role can be measured by a signal sent by Major-General Somersalo after the landings had been successfully accomplished, who stated that:

"The general impression amongst the Fighter wings, covering our land and naval forces over and off the beach-head, appears to be that in the majority of cases the fire has come from allied forces on shore and not from our ships. Indeed I personally have yet to hear a single pilot report that a Merivoimat or merchant vessel had opened fire on him"
During the landings a total of two Seaborne Observers lost their lives, several more were injured and twenty two survived their ships being sunk. The deployment of Seaborne Observers was regarded as an unqualified success and in recognition for their contribution to the success of the landings, Marshal Mannerheim approved the permanent wearing of the SEABORNE shoulder flash on the uniforms of those individuals who had taken part. Following the invasion, the head of Ilmavoimat Fighter Command wrote a message which was circulated to all Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta personnel:
"I have read reports from both pilots and naval officers regarding the Seaborne volunteers on board naval and merchant vessels during recent operations. All reports agree that the Seaborne Ilmavolonta volunteers have more than fulfilled their duties and have undoubtedly saved many of our aircraft from being engaged by our ships guns. I should be grateful if you would please convey to all ranks of the Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta organisation, and in particular to the Seaborne observers themselves, how grateful I, and all pilots in the Expeditionary Air Force, are for their assistance, which has contributed in no small measure to the safety of our own aircraft, and also to the efficient protection of the ships at sea.
The work of the Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta organisation is quite often unjustly overlooked, and receives little recognition, and I therefore wish that the service they rendered on this occasion be as widely advertised as possible, and all units of the Air Defence of Finland are therefore to be informed of the success of this latest venture of the Lotta Svärd Ilmavalonta organisation."
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Old September 13th, 2011, 08:37 PM
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Fire Fighting, Aerial Surveillance and the origins of the ParaJaegers

Fire Fighting and Aerial Surveillance

As the Finnish Forestry industry expanded through the 1920’s, the early identification of forest fires became, as we have seen, an issue of greater economic importance than previously. While networks of Fire Watchtowers were built and fire patrols undertaken, a small group of aviation enthusiasts began to advocate the use of aircraft for aerial surveillance of forests in order to spot forest fires. It was a case of technology, enthusiasm and economics converging. The end of WW1 saw large numbers of war-surplus aircraft on the market. Even in Finland, somewhat isolated as it had been from the mainstream of WW1, there were young air enthusiasts in small numbers making a case for any area where aviation could be applied and where they could fly and make a living from it. And at one and the same time, the forestry industry was beginning to expand again in the aftermath of WW1. Finland was ready to take to the skies to detect forest fires.

The first steps in aerial surveillance through the 1920’s were intermittent. It is often said that Finnish aviation began during the country’s civil war of 1918, when the Finnish Air Force received its first aeroplane as a gift from the Swedish Count Rosen. But aviation, be it floating by hot air balloon, flying a model aeroplane, gliding a sailplane or soaring in a motorized aircraft, was practised long before. The early annals of Finnish flight contain the names of numerous aviators whose efforts and sacrifices, successes and failures and above all, their burning passion for flight, paved the way for the development of aviation at the beginning of this century and onwards to the present day. One such aviator in the early 1920’s was Baron Kaspar Fabian Wrede of Elima. Kaspar Wrede was born on October 24, 1892 to a family of the “old” nobility. His parents were the District Judge, Baron Kasper Hjalmar Wrede and Anna Sophia Ihre of a Swedish noble family. In 1911, Kaspar and his 13 year old brother had built a hang glider neaf Turku which, pulled by a horse, rose to 5-6 meters above ground and glided “for significant distances.”

Kaspar Wrede graduated from the Helsinki Swedish Lyceum in 1913 and then studied at the Dresden University of Technology, Mechanical Engineering Department from 1913 to 1914. Wrede joined one of the first set of Jaeger volunteers who undertook military training in Germany and whose goal was the independence of Finland from RussiaHe enrolled on the 25 February 1915 and was placed in 1 Komppaniaan, but he was released from service due to illness on 15 April 1915. Returning home to Finland to convalesce, in 1915, he had flown a home-made monoplane of the ice of the Kymijoki river. In 1916, Kaspar Wrede travelled to Sweden and studied flying at the Thulin Ljungbyhed flight school. Later in 1916, he traveled to the United States and went to work in the Curtiss aircraft factory in Buffalo. At the same time, he continued his flying studies at the Newport News Airport over 1917-1918 and on 21 February 1917 the Aviation Club of America awarded him what was apparently the first Finnish International Airplane Pilot Certificate No. 661 This certificate was conditional on a test flight that was carried out in a Curtiss JN-4 aircraft.

Wrede returned to Finland in the autumn of 1918, after the civil war. He then served in the Finnish Army, was promoted to Sergeant on 12 October 1918, and was placed in the Hermanni flight department. He became a mechanic and later served for a short period in the Maintenance Unit at Utti airport, where he worked for a short time. He resigned from the army on 16 January 1919. His family had interests in the Forestry Industry and in April 1919 Wrede purchased a Curtiss Flying Boat and in May, after a number of familiarization flights, he made an initial flight in order to demonstrate the viability of using aircraft in fire surveillance. The Head of the State Forest Service offered to hire him but Wrede refused pay, saying that he wanted only the expenses of the aircraft reimbursed together with a salary of “many thanks.” Wrede flew almost daily in July and August 1919 as a flying fire warden over the forests of Eastern Karelia.


Kaspar Wrede’s second-hand Curtiss Flying Boat


Kaspar Wrede (seated) in the Curtiss hydroplane he used to spot forest fires, 1921

News of Wrede’s work quickly spread; Finnish Forestry magazine had an article about it in their September 1919 issue. However, among some foresters, reviews of the tool were mixed. The trial continued through the 1920 fire season but not as many fires were first spotted by the air patrol as had been hoped, and the lack of wireless radios for communication between pilot and ground crew slowed the fire reporting process down significantly. In addition, the Curtiss Flying Boat itself was a bit of a problem. While it provided the pilot with an excellent panoramic view, it had serious drawbacks, being notoriously unreliable and it was also not an easy plane to handle. The engine broke down regularly, forcing emergency landings on the closest body of water. If the engineer (who always accompanied the pilot) couldn't fix the problem, the crew had to walk out of the bush to get help - unless they had a messenger pigeon or a wireless transmitting set on board. It also needed lots of room to manoeuver - to take off, gain altitude, and descend. This left a very narrow margin for error in mountainous, or even hilly country. By the end of the flying season the H-Boat was waterlogged and unwieldy, since the wooden hull steadily absorbed water over the summer.

In September 1920, after a two-season trial, the Head of the Forest Service ended the program as not having proved itself particularly useful, and the Forest Service went on to concentrate on the Fire Tower construction program. Disappointed, Wrede sold his aircraft and traveled to Australia. He went on to rent a deserted island in Fiji, where he died on 16 October 1921 from a serious and hitherto undiagnosed illness. Thus, the first Finnish experiments in aerial fire surveillance ended – but they were not forgotten and would be resurrected a decade later. And as with many other initiatives, the resurrection in this case was sparked off by experiments being undertaken in the USSR.

Intermittent experiments in the use of aircraft in Finland took place of and on through the late 1920’s, when Ilmavoimat aircraft were occasionally used to patrol and detect forest fires. At this time also, various attempts were made to drop water and primitive foam mixtures on fires, using such devices as five-gallon cans, paper bags, and wooden beer kegs attached to parachutes. These early experiments met with little success but sporadic experiments with fire retardents continued and aerial surveillance did continue. During this same period, occasional non-emergency parachute jumps were being made by the military and a few thrill-seeking barnstormers.

However, as in so many other areas, Finland received a real and sharp impetus from events in the USSR. In 1931, the USSR had set up the Avialesookhrana organisation, an aerial patrol organisation for forest protection responsible for patrolling some 1.5 million hectares in the Nizhni Novgorod Province. The first group of Forest Engineers were trained as Pilot Observers and in that year 40 hours flying was logged, with some 16 fires detected. From 1932 to 1935 research on the use of aviation in forestry was conducted by the Leningrad Branch of the All-Union Research Institute of Agriculture and Forest Aviation. Furthermore, in 1934, the same institute started a project to investigate the feasibility of using parachutes in fighting forest fires. A number of tests were carried out on the delivery of both equipment and people to the sites of forest fires by air. In 1935, a team of three fire-fighters under the leadership of G.A. Mikeev carried out 50 parachute jumps for forest fire suppression from a U-2 (PO-2) aircraft using the PT-1 model parachute.


Soviet Avialesookhrana Aircraft, Patrols and Smokejumpers – 1930’s: In 1936 the Leningrad Branch of the All-Union Research Institue of Agriculture and Forest Aviation was reorganized into the State All-Union Trust of Forest Aviation (VGTLA) based in Leningrad. P. A. Tsetlin was appointed head of the organisation and all activities relatred to aerial forestry fire protection throughout the USSR were placed under the control of VGTLA. An Air Services Department was formed, with four Forest Aviation Detachments – Leningrad (headed by M.D. Artamonov), Northern (headed by V. S. Rekunov), Krasnoyarsk (headed by A. T. Hramtsov) and Tyumen (headed by S.Z. Beloborodin). These detachments were responsible for aerial forest fire protection, assisting with wood floating, aerial photography of forest resources, providing transportation and communications and carrying out general forest aviation functions. The areas patrolled and the number of flight hours grew rapidly and by 1939 the areas covered had increased by more than 45 times, reaching 95 million hectares, and the flight time logged had increased to 7,200 hours. The number of aircraft involved, primarily the PO-2, had climbed to approximately 110 overall.

In 1931, aware of the experiments in the USSR and also kept up to date on similar experiments in both the USA and Canada, the State Forest Service decided to conduct further experiments with aerial fire surveillance. A number of criteria were decided on, largely based on the North American experience. Most important was that detection aircraft should provide excellent visibility, be reliable, and handle well at slow speeds. Visibility was particularly important. Fire observers needed a wide, unbroken view of the land below, in order to spot that thin spiral of smoke that signals a fire. When a fire was spotted, the detection aircraft slowly circled over the fire. The observer would take a good look at the fire behaviour, note the closest source of water, and estimate the number of firefighters and the equipment needed to put it out. Within a year or two, the Forest Service would experiment extensively with air-to-ground wireless transmission, but in the first two years no patrol planes carried wireless equipment.

Planes without wireless followed these procedures.

Detection. When the observer detected a smoke, he passed a note to the pilot, or pointed. The roar of the engine made normal conversation impossible.
Information. The pilot flew to the spot and circled over the fire, while the observer plotted the location on a map. He studied the fire carefully, noting fire location, size, and rate of spread; timber type; topography; access routes; available water; and the equipment and numbers of fire fighters required.
Communication. Once the observer located the fire and sized it up, he had to get the information to headquarters as fast as possible. There were several options:
- Drop a message bag over forestry headquarters;
- Relay the message from a telephone or telegraph station, if the pilot could readily locate a nearby lake to land on;
- Use a portable phone, a time-consuming task. First, the pilot located a suitable lake to land on, close to a telephone line. Then the observer headed out on foot to the line. He threw a phone wire over the line to make contact, shouted into the phone until someone heard him, and reported the fire.
Reporting wildfire using these methods was not always 100% reliable, but it was incomparably faster than ground patrols.


State Forest Service patrol planes flying in close formation, Eastern Karelia, 1933.

The aircraft used in aerial fire surveillance over 1931-1933 were all borrowed from the Ilmavoimat – which loaned the Forest Service half a dozen IVL A.22 Hansa’s – while as a floatplane the aircraft was suitable, the Hansa was also a low-winged monoplane which was somewhat limiting in terms of visibility. After the first two seasons, with over 400 major fires detected and put out before they could do significant damage, and numerous smaller fires spotted and quickly put out bt fire response teams, the Forest Service declared the program a success and in 1933, the State Forest Service went ahead and purchased six De Havilland Moths which were fitted with floats on delivery. The Moth was light and maneuverable, reliable, and did not require the services of an in-flight engineer. On the Moth, the pilot doubled as the fire observer and everyone who flew the aircraft loved the Moth. According to one, it took to the air 'like a homesick angel'. The Moth went on to fly on fire patrols until the 1940s.


De Havilland Gypsy Moth floatplane – the State Forest Service used aircraft that were largely identical to the aircraft in this photo

The rumor that each Forest Service aircraft was equipped with a telescope and machine gun (which probably originated from the early use of the Hansa’s by the Forest Service) laos proved a powerful deterrant to arson and to timber theft. (An interesting cultural theme of the 1920’s and 1930’s was the popularity of books and films about logging – an early example being Erkki Karu’s 1923 film, “The Logroller’s Bride” with superb cinematography by Jäger and Oscar Lindelöf. A later movie was “Tukkijoella” (Log River – 1928). Films of this genre gave the Finnish cinema and the viewing public one of its most popular characters – the lumberjack (tukkijatka, tukkipoika, tukkilainen) who at his most heroic hour becomes the log-roller or the shooter of rapids (koskenlaskija). The significance of this character in Finnish cinema is comparable to that of the Cowboy on American cinema. He is the pioneer, the wandere, the adventurer. He negotiates the frontier, he is an embodiment of the conflict between wilderness and civilization. We meet this figure in “Koskenlaskijan Morsian” (The Logroller’s Bride), 1922, remade 1937), “Tukkijoella” (Log River, 1928 – remade 1937 and 1951) and in “Tukkipojan Morsian” (The Lumberjack’s Bride, 1931) as well as in others.


Poster for Tukkijoella


Erkki Karu, founder of Suomen Filmikuvaamo (later to become Suomi-Filmi) and then Suomen Filmiteollosuus: He also directed the most important films of the era and was the prime figure of Finnish cinema before his early death in 1935. His “The Village Shoemakers” (1923) is the essential silent masterpiece, a freshly told folk comedy after Aleksis Kivi's play with mildly experimental camerawork by German Kurt Jäger. Other notable films by Karu include: Koskenlaskijan Morsian (The Logroller's Bride) (1923), with superb cinematography by Jäger and Oscar Lindelöf, and also the first Finnish film distributed widely abroad; When Father Has Toothache (1923), a short and surrealistic farce; and Our Boys (1929), a patriotisic forerunner of many military farces. Audiences of the agricultural country were affected by Suomi-Filmi's rural subjects. Dealing with deeply national countryside stories remained as company's policy through the silent era. Occasionally there were some attempts to make more urban, or more "European" films like Karu's Summery Fairytale (1925), but the public stayed away. Another important director at Suomi-Filmi was Puro, who made the company's first feature “Olli's Years of Apprenticeship” (1920) and one of the few Finnish horror films, “Evil Spells” (1927). An interesting oddity of the last two silent years was Carl von Haartman, a soldier and an adventurer, who had worked as a military advisor in Hollywood. Because of this he was considered capable of directing films. His two upper-class spy dramas, The Supreme Victory (1929) and Mirage (1930), were quite passable, but didn't attract the public. We will see more of Carl von Haartman as this Winter War history progresses….


Poster for “Tukkipojan Morsian” (The Lumberjack’s Bride, 1931).


And a Poster from a later remake of Tukkijoella

In the mid-1930’s, the State Forest Service also contracted aircraft from Veljekset Karhumäki for aerial fire surveillance patrols and also for aerial mapping. It was through these contracts that the State Forest Service became aware of the Noorduyn Norseman, first introduced into Finland in July 1937 by Veljekset Karhumäki. Impressed by the aircraft, the State Forest Service’s Aerial Surveillance and Fire Fighting Unit purchased eight Norseman aircraft from Noorduyn towards the tail end of 1937, taking delivery in 1938 in time for the start of the Fire Season. Originally designed and constructed to handle the harsh flying conditions of the Canadian bush, the Norseman was not intended to be a detection plane but was to be used as a reliable, all-purpose utility machine, a “half-ton truck with wings”. The Norseman had phenomenal STOL: short take-off and landing capabilities and this capability made all the difference on loaded fire patrols carrying firefighters and equipment. Even on a small lake, or in a tight spot, a heavily loaded Norseman needed very little room to land, or to take off. (Incidentally, the eight Norseman purchased by the State Forest Service, together with Veljekset Karhumäki’s five and the Ilmavoimat’s twenty five, gave the Ilmavoimat thirty eight of these very useful utility aircraft as of the start of the Winter War. Able to carry 10 passengers each and with a range of 810 nautical miles, thirty five of these aircraft gave a significant air-lift capability to the Finnish military all on their own).


State Forest Service Noorduyn Norseman flying through mountains on the Norwegian Border – near the Finnmark


State Forest Service Fire Surveillance Patrol utility aircraft: Transferring fire equipment from a fire truck to a utility aircraft. Use of the utility aircraft greatly speeds up the transportation of equipment and supplies. The Norseman aircraft can carry 10 men and equipment into fires for initial attack thus saving many hours of time necessary to cover the same distances by boat, portage & hiking. Arriving at a fire soon after it starts means that often the fire can be put out while it is still small.


State Forest Service patroller checking a fire cache on an island. The availability of utility aircraft meant added capability for the fire fighting teams responsible for fighting forest fires.


Forest Fire Fighting Noorduyn Norseman dropping fire tools near a fire

Fire Fighting and the Origins of the Forest Service Smokejumpers (Savusukeltaja)

Over the early 1930’s the use of aircraft for Fire-Spotting over the summer months proved effective, with a large number of fires in remote areas being spotted, enabling teams to be dispatched to get them under control. With the emphasis on a fire exclusion policy (complete fire suppression) in forests nationwide, improvements were being continually made to firefighting tools and techniques. However, forest fire fighting teams still had to hike for miles into a fire area with heavy equipment and then work frantically to fight the fire once they arrived on the scene. They would dig trenches or cut fire lines to clear an area down to the soil. By leaving nothing to fuel the advancing fire, they hoped to keep the fire from spreading further. In the early days these “firefighters” were any men the Forest Service could recruit to work and it often took long periods of time for the firefighters to hike to fires. And despite this, some fires nevertheless did get out of control before the teams could get there.

With larger passenger aircraft now flying regularly around Finland, in early 1935 Erik Rasmussen, head of the Forest Services Fire Fighting Department received a proposal from one of the Regional Fire Fighting Teams proposing that Forest Fire Fighters be parachuted in to remote fires as a means to provide a much quicker initial response. By parachuting in, self-sufficient firefighters could arrive fresh and ready for the strenuous work of fighting fires in rugged terrain. The Forest Services Fire Fighting Department asked for advice from the Ilmavoimat, who responded that “….parachuting into forests is dangerous and impractical and should not be attempted other than as an emergency measure….” However, after meeting with the Team that had proposed the technique, who almost unanimously were strongly in favor of giving it a go, Rasmussen went ahead and authorized an experiemental program which began in early 1934. Much time was spent on the development of special parachutes and equipment, with the first actual jumps made in the summer of 1935. Pictured below is the first team of Forest Service Fire Fighting Parachutists.


The first team of Finnish Forest Service Fire Fighting Parachutists – Summer 1935

The first jumps were made from whatever aircraft were available. The first team consisted of eleven fire fighters, all of whom were self-taught. As Henrik Garvar, a founding member of the first Savusukeltaja team and one of the first ParaJaegers - and who would later go on to command a ParaJaeger Battalion by the end of the Winter War, recollected in his biography, “Savusukeltaja” (Smokejumpers) (Otava, Helsinki, 1951), “Our training consisted of our Team Leader saying: ‘This is your parachute. You know what a fire is. We jump tomorrow.” We were all volunteers of course, and we all jumped. Later, we developed a training program but to start with, it was all self-taught and we had some problems we hadn’t really thought about too well. Like how to get down if you got hung up in a tree.”


Equipment was almost all hand-made with the exception of the Parachutes. Here, a member of the first Fire Fighting Parachutist Team, suited up in a complete Fire Fighter-Parachutist's outfit, Summer 1935.


Savusukeltaja taking a last glance at his objective before leaving the plane. Note right hand gripping ripcord. (Reflection shows in plane window).


The view from inside the aircraft as the Savusukeltaja prepare to jump


Forest Service Fire-Fighter–Parachutist about to leave the plane on his descent to a small forest fire. Note right hand gripping ripcord.


Forest Service Fire-Fighter–Parachutist has jumped but not yet pulled the Ripcord. All jumpers used Ripcords – Static Lines were not used. Given that jumping was from a fairly low height to avoid drifting away from the fire, this added a further element of risk to what was an already hazardous occupation


Forest Service Fire-Fighter–Parachutist soon after leaving plane with the pilot 'chute completely distended and the 30-foot canopy unfolding.


Forest Service Fire-Fighter – Parachutist immediately after leaving plane before parachute is completely distended. Forest fire is at lower left.


Aerial view of wildfire, smoke columns with Forest Service smokejumpers with parachutes on ground.


Forest Service Fire-Fighter – Parachutists dropping towards the fire. The aircraft used in these photos was a chartered Ford Trimotor.

With hand tools, explosives, and the ability to think fast on their feet, Forest Service Fire-Fighter Parachutists had one job – to contain the fire they were dropped to extinguish. First, they had to get there by parachuting into often unchartered territory and treacherous forests and hills – with the risk of dropping into a lake or river to contend with as well. Often, they were the only hope to stop a fire burning out of control, and they rapidly became the most important line of defense against one of the deadliest of natural disasters. Success meant saving valuable forests, but failure could mean losing lives, property and millions of dollars in damage.

With a successful first season, the Forest Service Fire-Fighter Parachutists expanded rapidly and for the 1936 Fire Season, some 250 forest fire fighters were trained in parachuting techniques. By this time, the first team had set up a training program based on their experiences over the first season, and budding Fire-Fighter Parachutists were recuited and trained early on, before the high-risk fire season period started. They rapidly became a news story, with papers carrying headline stories about the courageous “Savusukeltaja” and their exploits in fighting fires in the depths of the remote forests.


The first Smokejumper Base; ca. 1937. Building on the left is the parachute maintenance building (loft not visible). The middle building is the accommodation barracks. The building on the right is the fire-fighting equipment cache.


Early Parachute Training simulator, designed and built by the first Forest Service Fire-Fighter Parachutist Team. Smokejumper trainees learnt the control, feel and turning characteristics which closely simulated those of smokejumper parachutes.


A Forest Service Fire-Fighter Parachute Instructor-Rigger instructing a prospective smokejumper in the use of a "drop rig". This simulated landing when a chute was caught in a snag or other obstacle and trained the candidate in the use of a landing rope.


A trainee Smokejumper leaving a 30-foot platform used for training jumps.


A trainee Smokejumper leaving a 30-foot platform used for training jumps.


1936 Smokejumpers – this Team was the first to graduate from the Smokejumpers School in 1936. This particular team, led by Henrik Garvar, made up largely of Suojeluskuntas members, were also the first soldiers in the Maavoimat to parachute into a military exercise and all those pictured here went on to become founding members of the first Maavoimat experimental Parajaeger unit – the forerunner of the Parajaegerdivisoona.


Unlike the first Smokejumpers, who learnt on the job by parachuting straight into the forest, subsequent Smokejumpers got to learn by jumping into clear areas that were obstacle-free


This made learning a little less dangerous


A Safe Landing… Henrik Garvar showing the “newbies” how it’s done


And a more typical tree landing encountered by Forest Service smokejumpers. The Smokejumper has released risers from the shoulder snaps of his harness, and has lowered himself approximately 6 feet down by means of the 75-foot let-down rope carried for this purpose in the leg pocket of the jumper's suit.


April 1937: Chute near top of 125 foot Douglas fir where it was purposely guided by the jumper (Henrik Garvar demonstrating again…) as a demonstration for Candidate Smokejumpers. The Canopy is caught on branches ten feet below the tip. The Jumper descended on his rope with relatively little difficulty.


A Smokejumper in a rather more difficult but not unusual situation on landing


Savusukeltaja, suited up, loading into Ford Tri-Motor.


Savusukeltaja in a Ford Trimotor plane about to jump. This practice jump is being made with a static line, which became the preferred technique by the late 1930’s, and which went on to become adopted by the Maavoimat’s ParaJaegers. Note webbing on the parachute which is hooked by a snap catch to a wire line stretched at the side of the doorway.


Savusukeltaja descends with his parachute, nearing the tops of the trees. This photo from Erkki Karu’s 1938 film “Savusukeltaja”. The film made the term a household word and did much to make the newly forming ParaJaegerdivisoona a much sought after unit by young conscripts. The image of the “Savusukeltaja”more or less overwhelmed the inherent Finnish dislike for authority and being told what to do that made conscript service undesirable for many young Finnish men. The ParaJaegerdivisoona would go on to capitalize heavily on the“Savusukeltaja”image with young men from the rural areas.


Savusukeltaja at end of descent about to free himself from chute, remove protection suit, and start for fire. Much of his equipment is similar to that used at the battlefronts, since he encounters many of the same perils.

The Forest Service Savusukeltaja pioneered the way for military parachuting within Finland. From their early origins, they went on to develop the techniques, parachuting equipment and training that the Maavoimat’s ParaJaegerdivisoona would go on to adopt and adapt. They would also pioneer and test variations in parachute design. The first Maavoimat ParaJaeger units started from a core of Forest Service Fire-Fighter Parachutists who went on to teach volunteers from the Maavoimat combat parachuting skills. When we come to look at the Maavoimat in detail, we will further examine the evolution, structure and training of the Maavoimat’s ParaJaeger units.

Next: Radios and Waterbombers....
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  #369  
Old September 26th, 2011, 02:29 PM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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Been a while since I did the last post on this so as an FYI to readers, I'm working on the next post on Finnish Radios and Signals equipment - but it requires almost all the source material to be translated from Finnish (funnily enough, there's not much in English on Finnish Radio and Signals equipment...) and it's going to take me at least another week, maybe more to get thru the translations and have something I can use to work from. So "it's coming but it's going to take me a few more days to complete." In the meantime, I may post a couple of other snippets that will be a bit out of sequence, just to keep the thread flowing.....

On the other hand, once it's done, you'll know more about the subject than anyone except the Finns......

Cheers..........Nigel
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  #370  
Old September 26th, 2011, 02:50 PM
Hyperion Hyperion is offline
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Not to be mean or anything, but when are we actually going to see the Winter War.

I've actually not been reading much beyond the first two or three pages to be honest. Some of this information is interesting in and of itself, but I see now real way how things like smoke jumping will help Finland fight the Soviets in 1940.
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  #371  
Old September 26th, 2011, 03:05 PM
Jotun Jotun is offline
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*sigh* Smoke jumpers --> Paratroopers with a lot of grit, uh, sisu...(for example).
Every single info CanKiwi took pains to present ITTL is going to have a direct military application that is going to help kick Soviet butt. In spades.

Last edited by Jotun; September 26th, 2011 at 04:14 PM..
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  #372  
Old September 26th, 2011, 04:25 PM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hyperion View Post
Not to be mean or anything, but when are we actually going to see the Winter War.
Actually, I hate to say it but it's going to take me a while to get there - still got a whole chunk to do on Ilmavoimat doctrine, Foreign Affairs, the Maavoimat and it's equipment, the Mannerheim line and then post-Munich Crisis developments. And then the events of Sept-Nov 1939. Based on the fact that it's taken me about 10 months to get this far, I'd say another 10 months before we get to the war itself......

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hyperion View Post
I've actually not been reading much beyond the first two or three pages to be honest. Some of this information is interesting in and of itself, but I see now real way how things like smoke jumping will help Finland fight the Soviets in 1940.
As Jotun pointed out, Smokejumpers=origins of Paratroops. You have to be close to nuts to parachute straight down into a forest to fight fires. Speaking as one who has done the NZ Army's Para course many many years ago, military jumping is scary enough, jumping into a forest is plain nuts! Jumping into a forest that's on fire is beyond nuts in my personal and unprofessional opinion - but people do it! Marry that kind of craziness up with Finnish Sisu and what do you have - well, at least as far as the Red Army is concerned, it's the Paratroopers from Hell!!!!

Also, think about Radios (the subject of my next post). A radio is pretty useful if you're part of a small team jumping in to fight a forest fire. Where do you get such radios? From the military. But what of the military doesn't have them? You work with the military to take one of their radios to make it man-portable and robust enough to throw out of a plane with a smokejumper and survive. What do you have then? A radio that's good for pretty much any military use as of 1939 and pretty much top of the line. And good small unit comms gives you improved tactical coordination in near-real time, as well as the ability to call in artillery and air support (hence all the detail earlier on forward artillery and air control aircraft). It kind of all works in together to create a synthesis thats far greater than the whole from many small pieces.

Take ice roads - all that verbage on forestry among other things pre-positions the whole concept of superb tactical mobility in winter conditions. Now combine that mobility with radios, artillery, air support and a bunch of other stuff which we will cover later and the end result is going to be interesting indeed. Now, none of this stuff was impossible - so far, everything I have thrown in existed at the time in question - but it's all in the detail. I'm not just stating "the Maavoimat had a Paratroop Division" - I'm explaining how and when the concept evolved. And when we get to the Maavoimat and it's equipment, we'll get into strategic and tactical doctrine and that kind of thing as well.

Speaking of doctrine, a good example would be the Ilmavoimat. I'll be doing a post on doctrine and tactics after I finish with the forestry stuff. An air force is not just aircraft and people, it's also strategic and tactical doctrine and methods of training and fighting. The Ilmavoimat did really well with what they had in both the Winter War and the Continuation War OTL (a Finnish Fighter Squadron was the top-scoring fighter squadron in WW2 - far surpassing those of all other countries in WW2), and that was the result of some factors which we will go into in detail.

All I can say is, enjoy! And if the detail's too much, just skim over it , we'll get to the fighting .... eventually!
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Old September 26th, 2011, 04:33 PM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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Originally Posted by Jotun View Post
*sigh* Smoke jumpers --> Paratroopers with a lot of grit, uh, sisu...(for example).
Every single info CanKiwi took pains to present ITTL is going to have a direct military application that is going to help kick Soviet butt. In spades.
Just so! Take that throwaway on movies for example. What relevance does that have? Well, it's something we'll get to eventually but keep in mind that in the late 1930's and beyond, the easiest way to get propaganda in front of an audience was in the shorts that were shown before the main feature. Or in a movie itself, which was why I included that throwaway line on the Smokejumper movie.....(completely fictional OTL, but I thought it fitted in and would have been the kind of movie that was made....). Also, when we get to the Winter War, we'll see Suomi Films appearing now and then.... presenting the heroic Finns and the vile Russians to the world.....
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Old September 26th, 2011, 04:59 PM
Hyperion Hyperion is offline
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Don't get me wrong, I think a lot if this stuff is interesting.

That being said, there is so much and so much detail, I'm actually having a time figuring out what is important and what is considered filler information.

If you can keep it up, continue. That being said, if you feel the need to trim the fat occasionally, do so. I have seen more than my fair share of writters here and on other boards who, despite being skilled writters and researchers, eventually ended up burning out, or ended up deluding a timeline with a lot of information that while informative, wasn't necessarily critical to the overall plot.
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Old September 28th, 2011, 04:16 PM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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The development of Radios for the Forest Service and the Maavoimat

The development of Radios for the Forest Service and for the Maavoimat

While the growth of the Fire Watching network and other fire-fighting initiatives were underway in the late 1920’s and eatly 1930’s, there were a number of parallel developments which would go on to be increasingly utilized by Forest Fire Fighters as their benefits were realized. One of these developments was the increasing use of wireless transmissions, which were beginning to revolutionize communications. While Fire Watchtowers were connected to local exchanges using bush telephone lines to allow the calling in of fire reports, the stringing of such lines was both expensive and time-consuming, and in some cases the distance was prohibitive. In cases where the distance was prohibitive, radios began to be used almost from the start. The radios were sourced from the military, who had the most knowledge and experience with such technology at the time, and who supplied the Forest Service fore watchers with the training needed.


Forestry Service Radio Technician installs a towerman's radio in the 1930s

The early radio sets used were large and cumbersome, which was not an obstacle when they were located statically in Fire Watchtowers. Early aerial surveillance aircraft also began to utilize wireless transmissions. Aerial patrol crews could transmit fire reports to headquarters on the spot. The tapped out the fire report using Morse Code. It was one-way communication only, from aircraft to base – but the wireless equipment was costly and comptent operators were hard to find so more often that not it was Ilmavoimat personnel who were “borrowed” for this work. The first major milestone was in 1929 when positive steps were taken to formulate and develop a new series of wireless sets for Forest Service patrol aircraft which became available in 1930. This series was a great improvement on the then obsolete World War I pattern equipment.

The standard process that was followed was that when the aerial fire surveillance crew detected a fire, they sent a wireless message to their base who in turn notified the nearest ranger station by phone and alerted local Fire Fighting Teams. The aircraft would often return to the site of the fire and monitor it from above, communicating with the teams on the ground by dropping hand-written messages. Teams could communicate with the aircraft using a combination of panels laid on the ground as signals or markers. However, this was a rudimentary form of communication at best and Fire Fighting Teams asked for radios to be provided to enable them to communicate from the fire site to their base and to assisting aircraft and the early portable radios were built in response to this demand.


This model was among the first of the portable radios, built to Forest Service specifications, about 1930. They greatly improved communications in the control of forest fires. Not a backpack radio, but a step in that direction.

With the introduction of the Forest Service Savusukeltaja teams, the demand for a useful and robust portable and backpackable radio became even more pressing as these teams operated in more remote locations. These radios needed to operate in severe environmental conditions while maintaining acceptable radio communication, being used to help establish command posts and supply depots as well as to control operations, and communicate with aircraft dropping supplies and additional fire-fighters. The Forest Service again worked closely with the Maavoimat and the Finnish Radio industry to design and build such a radio, a prototype of which was in use by Savusukeltaja teams in 1937.


Forest Service Fire Fighter operating an emergency radio station on the fire line, 1937

The ability to communicate rapidly and effectively was seem as a critical military requirement and the Maavoimat was quick to adopt the Savusukeltaja radio itself. As a result, thanks to a combination of factors, the Suomen Maavoimat entered the Winter War with what was, at the time, probably the most robust and effective military radio system in service in the world. A comprehensive network of Corps, Divisional, Regimental Combat Group, sub-unit, Artillery, Vehicle and Aircraft Radios existed in parallel to an older but equally comprehensive Field Telephone network. A rear-area communications network of Civil Defense and Air Surveillance Radios and Telephone links also existed, as did a uniqley capable specialist radio for Sissi and similar units that today we would call “Special Forces”. Within the Maavoimat, every Infantry Unit down to the Company level (and in some select units down to the Infantry Platoon level) was equipped with a man-portable radio with an effective range of up to 8 miles. All Artillery Units were equipped with Field Radios, as was every armored fighting vehicle in service. And all this was at a time when the French High Command was equipped with no radio whatsoever, relying on land-lines for communications.

As has been mentioned, Maavoimat doctrine emphasized a combination of strategic defensive and tactical offensive – with an added emphasis on mobility, quick withdrawals, even more rapid counter-attacks and high-speed flanking maneouvers all combined with effective artillery and close air support. In modern terms, the Maavoimate aimed to be “inside the enemy’s decision loop” at all times, out-thinking and out-fighting them, and acting and reacting faster than the enemy could counter. What made this doctrine even more effective was the Maavoimat’s radio communications network which reached down to each infantry company (and in some cases down to each Platoon), with a radio in each artillery battery, in each aircraft and in each tank or armoured vehicle. This communications network allowed the Maavoimat commanders to control their forces effectively, and to utilize their artillery and close air support destructively and efficiently. Radio allowed Maavoimat commanders to rapidly advance with their forces, see the battlefield with their eyes, not just on the map, and so achieve much greater control of the situation and much better use of their forces. Radio also enabled the Maavoimat senior commanders to efficiently control their mobile forces, more than ever before in history, allowing large scale cooperation and effective unity of command.

As a side-note, the Suomen Maavoimat had also developed a remarkably effective signals intelligence organisation within the military, derived in part from their research work, in part from experience in Spain and in part from their own assessment of what was needed. We will not consider signals intelligence in these Posts (apart from mentioning this and that the subject will be covered in detail in a later Post as we study the Maavoimat in detail).

The Maavoimat’s radio and landline communications network did not emerge from thin air in 1939. It had been a full decade in the making, an evolution which we will follow through in detail in the next Post where we will start by looking first at the early military use of radios, then at the military usage and evolution of radios in WW1, followed by the formation and evolution of the first Suomen Maavoimat Signals units. We will then go on to look at Maavoimat Signals equipment – both Field Telephones and Radios – and the Finnish (and Estonian) companies which designed and manufactured the equipment used by the Maavoimat – among then Helvar Oy Ab, Nokia Oy Ab and the Estonian Tartu Telefonivabrik AS (which had become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Finnish Nokia in the mid-1930’s). In this, the Maavoimat was benefitting from the remarkably advanced state of Finnish radio and telephone technology in the 1930’s.

Finnish radio technology in the 1930’s was surprisingly advanced.

As we covered in an early post, in 1927, three companies, which had been jointly owned since 1922 (Finnish Rubber Works-Suomen Gummitehdas Oy, Finnish Cable Works-Suomen Kaapelitehdas Oy and Nokia Company- Nokia Aktiebolag) were merged to form a new industrial conglomerate named Nokia Oy. In the 1920s and 1930s, the world telephone markets were being organized and stabilized by many governments. The fragmented town-by-town systems which had grown up over the years, serviced by many small private companies, were being integrated and offered for lease to a single company. Finland was no exception and in 1932, Nokia was awarded the contract for Finnish Telephone Services nationwide. Within two years, Nokia had expanded into Estonia, purchasing Tartu Telefonivabrik AS and had begun selling telephones and switches to the other Baltic States and to Poland. As part of the trade deals with the USSR, in 1935 the Government secured a contract for the delivery of automated switches to the USSR, a minor order for the established European and American manufacturers but a significant sale for Nokia. By 1935, the Finnish Cable unit of Nokia was securely established as a small (by world standards) telephone equipment designer and manufacturer. And in 1935, influenced by Finnish Cables success in the communications field, the Defence Forces signed a research and development contract with Finnish Cable and Helvar Oy Ab to form a joint R&D Team to design and develop a number of military communications devices for the Maavoimat and Ilmavoimat. These will be discussed in the next post, but suffice it to say at this stage that the Finnish radio industry had close ties to Germany – and German radio technology in the inter-war period was a full 20 years ahead of all other countries in many cases.

What was the key to the superiority of German radio technology of that time? CERAMICS. German engineers of the Hescho Porcellain Fabrik, developed ceramic substrates with stable dielectric properties patented as Calit / Calan. The Lorenz Company introduced magnesium-aluminum die-cast techniques for chassis construction, which considerably improved the specifications of their new products. Hans Vogt invented low-loss iron dust-core materials. Construction became modular and sectional. The standard 19 inch rack was invented and used for the first time. The Köln E52 series of receivers were constructed with modules that plugged into a "motherboard". These devices are examples of the best engineered and most aesthetically appealing technology produced by engineers during that era and with their close ties to the German telecommunications industry (and also having their own specialist company in ceramics – the Arabia Porcelain Factory that we covered in a very early post, started in 1874 in Helsinki and producing a wide variety of porcelain and earthernware articles including technical porcelain) the Finnish radio and telephone industry was among the most capable and advanced in the world – and has remained so to the present as evidenced by the superb Nokia cellphones (commercial plug – Julius Vogel, please note I will be invoicing Nokia appropriately… ).

As will see, not only did the Finnish Communications industry produce telephones, radios and cables for the Maavoimat prior to the war, they also proved capable throughout the Winter War of making good losses and also manufacturing additional equipment, to the extent that by the end of the Winter War, the Field Radio communications network had been extended down to every Infantry Platoon. This was not an overnight development, but one that had taken a decade to evolve and build, with some trial and error along the way. But as we have seen, the core of the communications network, the man-portable tactical radio used at the Infantry Company and Infantry Platoon level, had its origins in the Forest Service Savusukeltaja Fire Fighting Teams of the early to mid 1930’s.

Such portable radio transceivers were not inexpensive pieces of equipment. Once the early Savusukeltaja teams had proved the effectiveness of the prototype, the Maavoimat was quick to place a series of large orders for the Radios with Helvar Oy Ab and Nokia. In addition, many local Suojeluskuntas units saw the benefits of the radios and conducted their own fund-raising campaigns to purchase the radios for themselves, as did many Lotta Svard units, among them the Lotta Svard Ilmavalonta, Anti-aircraft and Searchlight units. Such was the popularity of the radios that Helvar Oy Ab and Nokia were unable to fill the orders quickly enough. The end result was that the Suojeluskuntas Headquarters established there own Radio Workshop dedicated to manufacturing the radio. It was this combination of study of technology and the military applications thereof from within the Maavoimat, the capabilities of Finnish industry and the individual dedication of many Suojeluskuntas and Lotta Svard members that resulted in the uniquely capable Maavoimat communications network and Signals units.

These we will look at in the next post, where we will start by looking first at the early military use of radios, then at the military usage and evolution of radios in WW1, followed by the formation and evolution of the first Suomen Maavoimat Signals units. We will then go on to look at Maavoimat Signals equipment – both Field Telephones and Radios – and the Finnish (and Estonian) companies which designed and manufactured the equipment used by the Maavoimat – among then Helvar Oy Ab, Nokia Oy Ab and the Estonian Tartu Telefonivabrik AS (which had become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Finnish Nokia in the mid-1930’s) and then at the overall state of Maavoimat Signals in late 1939, immediately prior to the Winter War.
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Old September 30th, 2011, 09:17 PM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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Bit of an interlude here from March 1940

Had this drafted up, seeing as my Sigs stuff is moving slowly, thought I'd slip it in out of sequence. More of a teaser than anything else. Working on the wording and style here, some of it's kindof borrowed from a couple of old air-war novels I read, the style of which I'm trying to emulate so the final version will change to be a bit more original. Call it practice - hope you enjoy anyhow.....

Airbase 53, Eastern Karelia. March 1940

The cold was physical in it’s intensity at the isolated forward maintenance base deep in the forests, lakes and swamps of Eastern Karelia. A bone-chilling body-piercing soul-destroying unrelenting ever-present freezing cold that had been present for weeks now. A cold that drilled right down to the marrow of the exhausted, bone-weary ground crew as they worked on the planes. Spit and urine froze before it hit the ground, then bounced. Skin froze on contact with anything metallic. The sun shone palely, when it shone at all, through the meager daylight hours. The ground-crew manning the airbase were doing so with a minimum of tools and equipment, priority for transport went to fuel and parts for the aircraft, bombs and ammunition and food for the men and women who manned the remote airbase. Not much else. As they had trained for again and again in peacetime, the ground crew had built their own revetments for the aircraft, built their own shelters and accommodation, the one thing that made life bearable were their portable sauna-tents and the seemingly endless stockpile of vodka that the Soviet Airforce had left behind at the former Red Air Force forward airfield, captured in the first weeks of the war and put to immediate use as soon as it was far enough in the rear not to be actually on the front-line.

This was now one of the forward maintenance airfields to which the old and battered and shot up aircraft which the mechanics and airmen at the forward combat airstrips could no longer fix came to be cannibalized or repaired or modified. The airbase was isolated. Connected only by ice-roads through the snow to the rear. Whatever roads that had existed were buried under snow and mostly ran towards the Front with the Red Army. The ground crew provided their own security. Finland had very few troops to spare to provide rear area security, certainly none for this small and isolated rear-area maintenance airbase. The men (and women, for almost 50% of the airbase personnel were women) guarded their own perimeter, sent their own patrols into the forest, slept with their rifles and submachine guns and pistols at their side. The Red’s had never attacked. Not even a raid. Not yet. No doubt they had other things on their mind. But for all its isolation, Airbase 53 was busy.

Aircraft flew in every day. Or were driven in on trucks in pieces. Despite having air superiority, the Ilmavoimat still took casualties, aircraft were still shot up or so badly worn out from the constant patrols and sorties that the mechanics and crews at the frontline bases couldn’t fix them up. When they arrived they were usually in bad shape. Shot to hell. Damaged from crashing on landing. Engines burnt out. Holes everywhere. Pieces missing. All the work the forward airstrips couldn’t handle, Airbase 53 did. Day and night. Seven days a week. Week in, week out. They took the planes, patched them, replaced parts, built parts, did whatever it took to get the precious aircraft back into the air again and back to the Squadrons that needed them desperately. Aircraft engines ran here all the time, snorting and choking, popping and howling, running low and slow, running to full power, screaming and growling and howling. It was a sound that was part of the men’s lives at any time of the short days or the long winter nights.

Aircraft engines these men and women knew. Intimately. They’d serviced them all. So it was strange that a faint intrusive hum of aircraft engines in the distance would gain their attention. They’d heard enough aircraft engines throbbing in the sky by now to know it wasn’t the neighbors come to pay them a visit, not that they did anymore. But it wasn’t an engine they were familiar with. Not the usual front-line fighters or the ground-attack aircraft that were their regular customers. And there was a subtle difference to this engine sound. It took an experienced man to detect it, but now, after three months of continuous war where they were outnumbered in the air and on the ground every hour of every day and they worked with engines day in and day out, the airbase was full of experienced men. Something about the sound drew the men and women one-by-one from their improvised workshops and the warmth of their shelters and their dugouts to peer into the cold winter’s sky.

The hum grew louder, louder still, and turned into synchronized thunder. A solid wave of sound that came from so many engines that it should have been garbled, discordant, grating even, but it wasn’t. And then they saw what some of them had begun to suspect they might see in the clear cold pale blue sky. Distant black twin-engined shapes. And with just that first glimpse they knew that this outfit was different from any other that had straggled into Airbase 53 in the eight weeks they’d been operational here. These aircraft were different, clearly recognizable as they grew rapidly closer. From the silhouette, unlike anything else in the Ilmavoimat, it was obvious that this was one of the famed Wihuri strike-bomber groups, and the watchers on the ground all wondered what they were doing, out here in the remoteness of Eastern Karelia.

Something grabbed the attention of the ground-crews, in a winter world where men and machines flew themselves to exhaustion and then staggered into the air yet again. And then again. And again. It was the way the aircraft were being flown. No one aircraft chased another. They flew in formation, tight, easily riding the thermals and the spinning slipstream of the great propellers and the vortices pummeling back from the wingtips. But other men, other pilots, also did that, so that wasn’t what called the attention of the men on the ground. There was some other invisible mark that etched this formation in the minds of the men watching. Men for whom damaged and shot up aircraft were an everyday sight. Men who lived with the ever-present bone-chilling soul-destroying cold and the knowledge that, whatever they did, the enemy still outnumbered them and would continue to do so whatever they did, whatever miracles they wrought, however good they were in combat. But despite all of that, the sight of these aircraft stirred a deep surge of pride in the watching men and women.

They flew with a precision that was so precise it was beautiful. And as the Wihuri’s continued their approach they could see ever more clearly just how beautiful that formation was. They flew as if one man touched the controls of all twenty aircraft, and the men watching from the ground, knowing that distance has a habit of glossing over imperfections, held their breath and wondered if closeness would mar what had grasped at their souls. But as the thunder of the Merlin engines swelled and the machines enlarged, as the distance decreased, they saw that there were no imperfections and they were holding it in tight, all bunched in together as if they were flying in a parade with the air soft and untroubled. The widening eyes of the men and women on the ground were joined by unaccustomed grins and startled exclamations. Everyone on the base who could hear and see was looking into the sky, squinting into the glare as they watched the twenty bombers come in low, just above the tree-tops, until the thunder of their engines was a massive pounding wave of sound and the watching men knew that the twenty pilots at the controls knew how good they were and were trying to impart their pride and their confidence and there just wasn’t any better way to do it than what they were doing, rushing now with furious speed, hammering sound waves over the trees and the snow.

The Wihuri’s flattened it out on the deck, smack down the runway, all twenty of them holding what by now everyone had to know was their combat strike formation, and as they swept by, just above the treetops, the watching men and women on the ground recognised the Squadron emblems on the aircraft and another collective gasp went up. Pommituslentolaivue 666, the “Devil’s Squadron”, the bomber wing who had led the attack on the Soviet Navy at Murmansk, who had attacked Soviet airbase after Soviet airbase, who had destroyed the Leningrad KV1 Works and who had led the revenge raid on the Leningrad People’s Military Hospital. The Ilmavoimat’s elite bomber squadron which had achieved the impossible again and again. The Wihuri’s passed by in a storm of thundering engines before hauling up in a sudden wild steep climb, the first twelve bombers in a vee of three vees, then the second eight and they were really hauling coal now, flashing before the sun as they rolled smoothly, beautifully, out of their climbing turns, their thunder more ragged now. They seemed to ease up into an impossible floating movement as the pilots let up on the power and from every bomber, virtually at the same moment, flaps were sliding back and down from the wings, the two legs of the landing gear of each bomber jutted stiffly into the wind, and as the watchers below strained to make out more details, the first four Wihuri’s had curved gracefully, like fighters, through the pattern of the airfield, and rolled around, sliding into final approach still in tight formation and staying tight and it was now obvious that they were going to land like that.

Landing in formation wasn’t something you did at Airbase 53. Maybe before the war started, but not now. The runway was all screwed up from the fighting and from the early Ilmavoimat bombing raids that had gotten through before the front passed over as the Maavoimat had advanced. It wasn’t that wide, it just wasn’t the place to pull off this kind of super-precision crap, but no-one had told the pilots up there that, and they were doing it, and every man on the ground who knew what the inside of a cockpit looked like knew also that the manifold pressure gauges and the revolution per minute and fuel pressure and oil temperature and the rate of descent and the air-speed needles and the gyro compasses in each plane were dead-on, every set of instruments in each plane like those of it’s companion aircraft. If the instruments worked of course. They came sliding down their invisible rail in the sky, glued together, all of them shimmering in the cold blue air, and as the runway came up to meet them the pilots set their trim just right and they flared, control yokes easing back with practiced skill, without deliberate thought, for this was rote and instinctive motion and the noise of each bomber came higher as they bled off air speed and ghosted their descent to earth. And on the ground, the watchers wondered what in hell’s name Pommituslentolaivue 666 was doing out here, down near the Syvari.


666 Wihuri's over Eastern Karelia

Last edited by CanKiwi; October 1st, 2011 at 08:54 PM..
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  #377  
Old October 1st, 2011, 08:28 AM
Jotun Jotun is offline
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My artistic bone (underdeveloped as it is) was tickled by the last post and led to what you can see below. Approved by CanKiwi, of course

Excerpt from "Quality is our Strength. Suomen Ilmaivomat. A history of the world's most remarkable air force 1918-2008" by Prof. Dr. mult. Michael Wolffsohn, department of New and Newest History at the University of the Bundeswehr at Munich, Berlin/Munich/Opladen 2010, pp. 311/312

"[...] Even today, the official crest of what has come to be regarded as the most efficient and respected deep-strike special operations bomber squadron in the world, surpassing in reputation even the famed USAF stealth bombers and the German Luftwaffe's JaBoG z.b.V. 71 which incidentally was formed after the founding of the FRG modeled on the 666th -the squadron's performance against the Soviet Union in general and the Third Reich in particular must really have made an impression- strikes certain more religiously inclined people as strange, even offensive.
Originally sketched free-hand in a rare moment of quiet shortly after the commencement of hostilities between the SU and (as it then seemed) little defenceless Finland by then-Yliluutnantti Erkki Tempponen, the B/N of the squadron CO's plane.
The Finns are not known for being a particularly light-hearted people so especially compared to other unit crests in other countries of that time and even Finland itself which were often displaying a humorous slant, at the same time taking into account the dire situation Finland found itself in and the unit's exhausting round-the-clock cycle of extremely dangerous strikes deep behind enemy lines, the crest was especially grim.
The original sketch - black ink and color pens - survived the war and was included in the official unit war diary. It was accepted in its original form and, in a rather more polished and exact version, found its way to the fuselages of every plane of the unit and the flight suits of the unit's members. Even today, "666" unit patches are a highly coveted and sought-after souvenir in most European and North American Air Forces.
Below is a scan of the paper sketch - Vodka stains and all - on display at the Finnish Winter War museum in Tampere."

EDIT: Changed the crest. Sadly, the glue I used soaked the paper and I had to make some amateurish corrections. Sorry for that.
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Last edited by Jotun; October 1st, 2011 at 01:50 PM..
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  #378  
Old October 1st, 2011, 09:46 AM
CanKiwi CanKiwi is offline
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Thx Jotun, I love it........
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Old October 1st, 2011, 10:58 AM
Jotun Jotun is offline
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You're welcome I just edited in a couple of sentences underlining the continued appeal of this rather special unit. How did you think of this in the first place? Too much exposure to Finnish heavy metal?
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  #380  
Old October 1st, 2011, 01:14 PM
Mikael Mikael is offline
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Love the story, just correcting spelling. It should be Pommituslentolaivue 666 (laivue=squadron). If you want term for equivalent of wing ( multiple squadrons) correct term is lennosto. For subunit of squadron, three or four planes, use term parvi.
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