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

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by CanKiwi, Feb 23, 2011.

  1. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Zemsta Za Nóż w Plecy - The Polish Volunteers in Finland

    Zemsta Za Nóż w Plecy - The Polish Volunteers in Finland

    In an earlier Post, it was mentioned that in November 1939, there were already two foreign contingents in Finland that had been formed in Finland from Polish soldiers evacuated by the Merivoimat from Lithuania and Latvia in late September and early October after the fall of Poland. The Merivoimat had, in the face of direct opposition from both the USSR and Germany, done what nobody else could have done, and evacuated some 30,000 Poles from Latvia and Lithuania to Finland. In addition, Polish warships, submarines and a number of Polish Airforce aircraft had found safety and refuge in Finland. With the agreement of the Polish Government-in-Exile in London, the warships and aircraft had been incorporated into the Finnish military until such time as they could be transferred to the UK and France to resume the fight.

    Arrangements were in progress through October 1939 to have the men themselves shipped out of Finland via Petsamo to the UK, from where they could join the British or French and resume the fight. However, with the rapid escalation of the situation between the USSR and Finland through October and November, events overtook the plans and under the circumstances of the Soviet attack on Finland, the Polish Government-in-Exile agreed that all Poles in Finland who volunteered to fight could stay. Almost to a man, the vast majority of the Poles in Finland had volunteered. The Poles with air force or naval experience were allocated to the Ilmavoimat or Merivoimat as appropriate, while the soldiers were assigned to six Regimental Battle Groups, loosely grouped into two Divisions. These two Divisions would be joined in April 1940 by the Polish Second Infantry Fusiliers Division (15,830 soldiers), shipped in from France and commanded by Brigadier-General Bronisław Prugar-Ketling. In une 1940, after the Allies retreated from Narvik, the Polish Independent Highland Brigade under Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko would join the Polish Volunteers in Finland.

    Where we have not already done so, we will now look at these units as well as the Polish warships and Polish aircraft that would fight with the Finns against the USSR in the Winter War.

    The Polish Navy-in-Exile in Finland

    With the fall of Poland to both Germany and the Soviet Union in September 1939, a number of ships and submarines of the Polish Navy had escaped to Finland – something that had quietly been arranged between the two governments earlier in 1939 as a somewhat remote contingency plan that neither country expected to eventuate. The Polish Navy in 1939 was not large. The coastline was relatively short and included no major seaports. In the 1920s and 1930s, such ports were built in Gdynia and Hel, and the Polish Navy was built up under the leadership of Counter-Admiral Józef Unrug (CO of the Fleet) and Vice-Admiral Jerzy Świrski (Chief of Naval Staff), with ships acquired from France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and the Navy.

    The Naval War Plan was primarily focused on securing Polish supply lines in case of a war against the Soviet Union and it was wih a war with the USSR in mind that most Polish war planning had been carried out. By September 1939 the Polish Navy consisted of 5 submarines, 4 destroyers, and various support vessels and mine-warfare ships. This force was no match for the large German Navy and in the event of war with Germany an alternative strategy of harassment and indirect engagement was planned (the “Peking Plan”). In the case of a war with Germany, the Polish Naval base at Gdynia was clearly likely to be overrun or rendered useless by air attack and the Peking Plan was created in order to remove the Destroyer Division (Dywizjon Kontrtorpedowców) from the immediate operational theatre and needless loss in the event of war with Germany. The Kriegsmarine had a significant numerical advantage over the Polish Navy and the Polish High Command realized that the ships which remained in the small and mostly landlocked Baltic were likely to be quickly sunk by the Germans. Also, the Danish straits were well within operation range of the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe, so there was little chance for the plan to succeed if implemented after hostilities began.

    Originally intended to cover the withdrawal of three destroyers of the Polish Navy, the Burza ("Storm"), Błyskawica ("Lightning"), and Grom ("Thunder") to the United Kingdom, this Plan had been amended in early 1939 as a result of negotiations conducted between Marshal Mannerheim, the Polish Prime Minister, Major General Składkowski and the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Forces, Marshal Edward Smigly-Rydz. While the early version of the Plan had focused on moving the newer Destroyers to the UK, the revisions made following the informal agreement with Finland made provision for the smaller warships and submarines to escape to Finland, something that was within their capabilities, whereas escape from the Baltic entirely was not (with the exception of the submarines). This agreement was undocumented and informal, but the arrangement was that in the event of either country being involved in a war with the USSR, each would assist in whatever way they could and provide a refuge for the others ships, aircraft and soldiers in the event of defeat.

    The mounting strain in European politics reached a new tension-point in March 1939, with the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia - first, with the German-inspired secession of Slovakia, and then with the Bohemia "protectorate" enforced upon her at a gun-point. Soon after the "independent" Slovakia also asked to become a German protectorate, and Hitler, at the peak of his diplomatic successes, extorted Klaipeda from Lithuania, and voiced territorial claims in Poland, to which Poland answered with stern refusal. On 18 March 1939, three days after the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, while German preparations to annexate Klaipeda were under way, the Polish Navy was put on partial alert. The alert concerned primarily the destroyer squadron and the submarine squadron - the only forces of the Polish fleet of considerable combat value, which could be actively engaged in hostilities. Another large Polish warship, the heavy minesweeper Gryf, was kept in reserve. The Polish measures were not entirely unjustified - on 23 March a strong convoy of German ships heading for Klaipeda passed closely along the Polish coast en route from Germany to East Prussia. Under the escort of destroyers and trawlers, the battleship Deutschland carried the Chancellor of the Third Reich himself. After Klaipeda was incorporated into the Reich, the convoy returned along the same route, sparking fears that Hitler, intoxicated with another easy success, would decide to enter Danzig and triumphantly proclaim the return of the city and the whole territory of the Free City of Danzig to Germany. Polish naval ships remained on alert and the Polish outpost on the Westerplatte peninsula in Danzig was also readied to repel any hostile actions of Danzig Nazis. However, this time the German fleet returned to its bases.

    In April 1939 political tensions eased and the Polish warships also returned to their bases for maintenance. The submarine squadron was reinforced by a new unit – the submarine Sęp, twin-sister of the Orzeł, had been commissioned in February 1939 amidst an enthusiastic reception following her arrival from the Netherlands. Sęp arrived unfinished, since the Polish command was afraid that on the outbreak of a war she might be trapped. The Poles anticipated that Sęp would return to Rotterdam for further fitting out as soon as the strains in the political situation were eased. Also at this time work on fortifications along the Polish coast and on the Hel peninsula were started. The Polish government opened talks with France and Italy concerning delivery of modern coastal artillery (230mm guns) and also consulted with the Finnish Coastal Defence Forces, whose expertise in this area was well known. As the talks stalled, the Poles approached the British asking them to send a monitor fitted with 381mm guns to the Baltic, but that initiative also failed.
    In the summer of 1930, the activities of the Kreigsmarine in the Baltic intensified, as did the volume of merchant shipping between Germany and East Prussia.

    The commander of the Polish destroyer Wicher, Captain Stefan de Walden, noted on this occasion:
    “At that time our ships conducted round-the-clock duties in turns, during which the task of the ship on duty was to observe the activities of the German ships on the routes leading to East Prussia, as well as estimate, if possible, the type and quantity of the cargo they carried. Needless to say, we also closely observed the movements of the warships, and used to send detailed reports to the Fleet Headquarters immediately after passing the duties to the next ship. In their turn Polish ships, and especially the ship currently on duty, were under close observation of the swastika-marked aircraft, and it used to happen that this or that destroyer or cruiser showed interest in a Polish ship, which could be detected from their manoeuvres and general behaviour.

    During such encounters both ships, as a rule, were on alert, having guns and torpedo tubes aimed at the counter-part. Simultaneously they minded respectful distance, which did not require a gun-salute, which could have grave consequences in the circumstances, when both ships aimed at each other. To use a rough naval saying - we were "sniffing" each other. It was an excellent opportunity to train the crews in bearing the elements of a target; a target, which at any time, at any second, might become a real combat target.”

    The Polish Navy’s submarines were also kept busy with training and on various exercises preparing them for war, whose inevitability the Navy - due to constant contact with the soon-to-be enemy - was generally expected. While at sea, Polish submarines often found them-selves being used as targets for simulated attacks by German aircraft or submarine chasers – it was no wonder that their crews more often than their colleagues in the surface ships, or in other service branches, had the feeling that open war was just a matter of time.

    Captain Włodzimierz Kodrębski thus summarized the atmosphere of those days:
    “It rarely happened that ships stayed in ports; switching services to wartime routine ("combat watches"), patrolling and anti-air alert were permanent, and leaves were granted only by day, and only for few hours. Everybody gradually started getting weary of the wartime service conditions, without any satisfaction, since it was forbidden to shoot annoying planes and boats, which followed us everywhere. We were similarly helpless, when we watched Germans sending regular convoys of ships full of troops and war materials to East Prussia. And the real berserk got to all of us one morning, when from the Hel roadstead we saw the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein entering Gdańsk upon the consent of the government of the Republic of Poland, and greeted cheerfully by the hitlerised townfolks.”

    Photo sourced from: http://www.militaryfactory.com/ships/im ... lstein.jpg
    The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein entering Gdańsk The German battleship was ostensibly on a courtesy visit, but her real task was to take part in the invasion of Poland, according to the Fall Weiß plan. The Germans expected that the war with Poland would be a local conflict, since a Polish-Soviet rapproachment had never taken place and the Western democracies showed no real determination to commit to the Polish cause.

    Prior to Poland being attacked by Germany, Mannerheim had, outside the normal government channels, contacted both Składkowski and Smigly-Rydz and informed them that Finland considered the arrangement to include the current situation. Lacking numerical superiority, Polish naval commanders decided in late August to execute the Peking Plan. The Burza ("Storm"), Błyskawica ("Lightning"), and Grom ("Thunder") were ordered to escape the Baltic and make for Lyngenfjiord or Petsamo, while the Wicher (“Gale”) and the heavy minelayer ORP Gryf were ordered to make for Finland in company with the Polish navy’s smaller Minelayers and Minesweepers, the frogman support ship ORP Nurek, the school of naval artillery ship ORP Mazur and two mobilized patrol boats of the Border Guard, the ORP Batory and the ORP Kaszub. The orders came as somewhat of a surprise to the ships Captains and crew - For six months then they had been preparing for the defence of Polish territorial waters, and now they were to abandon them. The Polish Navy’s five submarines were ordered to undertake whatever action against the Kreigsmarine was possible and then proceed to either the UK or Finland at the CO’s discretion.

    Initially, Marshal Edward Smigly-Rydz, Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Forces had resisted the implementation of the Peking Plan but he finally agreed., largely due to the plan for a Romanian Bridgehead. It was hoped the Polish forces could hold out in the southeast of the country, near the common border with Romania, until relieved by a Franco-British offensive. Munitions and arms could be delivered from the west via Romanian ports and railways. The Polish Navy outside the Baltic would then be able to assist in escorting the ships delivering military supplies to Romanian ports. As the tensions between Poland and Germany increased, the Commander of the Polish Fleet, Counter Admiral Józef Unrug signed the order for the operation on 26 August 1939, a day after the signing of the Polish-British Common Defence Pact; the order was delivered in sealed envelopes to the ships. On 29 August, the fleet received the signal "Peking, Peking, Peking" from the Polish Commander-in-Chief, Marshall Śmigły-Rydz: "Execute Peking". At 1255 hours, the ships received the signal via signal flags or radio from the signal tower at Oksywie, general quarters were sounded the respective captains of the ships opened the envelopes, and departed at 1415.

    The Fleet split into two. The destroyers Błyskawica (commanded by Komandor porucznik Włodzimierz Kodrębski), Burza (commanded by Komandor podporucznik Stanisław Nahorski) and Grom (commanded by Komandor porucznik Włodzimierz Hulewicz) weighed anchor, formed and line and steamed towards Hel at 23 knots, heading for the Baltic exit under the command of Komandor porucznik Roman Stankiewicz. As soon as the squadron made away from the coast and the range of the observation posts, it changed its course again, making towards Bornholm in an attempt to evade German observation. This didn’t work - the German submarine U-31 (Lt.-Cdr. Johannes Habekost) from the squadron detached to trace the movements of the Polish fleet, spotted the Polish destroyers some 30 miles north of Rozewie and - undetected by the Poles - radioed their position to the German command in Swinemunde. Secondly, on the way to Bornholm the Polish destroyers passed a German passenger liner from the Seedienst Ostpreußen transporting German troops to East Prussia. It is not known whether the transport reported the position of the Polish ships, but since the encounter took place in broad daylight, there is little doubt that they were spotted.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... Peking.jpg
    Polish destroyers during execution of the Peking Plan. View from ORP Blyskawica of ORP Grom and ORP Burza / Polskie niszczyciele płynące do Wielkiej Brytanii w ramach planu "Peking" - widok z rufy ORP Błyskawica na ORP Grom i ORP Burza.

    As the Polish destroyers approached the Danish straits, another encounter took place close to the Falsterborev lightship, this time with unidentified warships steaming from the straits southward. Although the Polish commanders agreed that these might be Danish ships (a gunboat and a torpedo boat), the ships were blacked out, which aroused understandable concern and called for caution. The outbreak of the war was expected momentarily, a potential enemy could turn into a real one any time, and torpedoe tubes on the Polish destroyers were kept ready in case of any attack. Nevertheless, the two squadrons passed each other and disappeared in the darkness. It was not until many years later that it became known that the ships the Polish squadron encountered on that night of 30/31 August 1939 were actually the Kreigsmarine cruisers Köln and Königsberg with an escort of destroyers. What is more, the Germans knew whom they had encountered, while the Poles were left to more or less guess that the encountered squadron might be German, although they were not able to identify them positively.

    The Polish warships passed the Falsterborev and around midnight entered the Øresund, full of shallows and banks, forcing a reduction in speed to 16 knots. It was the most difficult stage of the voyage, since the Poles were forced by the Danish regulations regarding foreign warships steaming in Danish territorial waters to take the more difficult of the sea routes through the Sund: the Flintrinne passage. Soon after, when only a few miles away from the Skagen lighthouse, the Polish squadron was spotted by German aircraft which followed until nightfall, when the Poles turned towards the Norwegian coast, and from there headed out into the North Sea. In the evening of 31 August the Polish squadron was also spotted from the German submarine U-19. The German conduct was correct and without any provocative action as there still was no state of war between Germany and Poland.

    The small squadron changed course towards Norway in order to shake off the pursuit during the night. The ships entered the North Sea, and at 0925 on the morning of 1 September learned about the German invasion of Poland. At 1258 that day, they encountered the Merivoimat destroyer FNS Jylhä which had been sent south from Lyngenfjiord to meet them. Each of the three destroyers received a Merivoimat liaison officer together with Merivoimat signals personnel and were reflagged under the Merivoimat Naval Ensign. The crews were immediately sworn in as Finnish Citizens (with a special dispensation as per the Act of the Parliament passed on 1 Sepetember 1939, permitting dual Polish-Finnish citizenship for members of the Polish military). Two days later, at 17:37 on 3 September 1930, they dropped anchor in Lyngenfjord. Thoughtfully, the first deliveries to the three ex-Polish destroyers were complete sets of Merivoimat dinnerware for the Officers Messes.

    Merivoimat dinnerware - plate

    Merivoimat dinnerware – plate backstamp – manufactured by the Arabia Porcelain Factory

    Photo sourced from: http://www.polishgreatness.com/sitebuil ... 72x269.jpg
    The Polish Destroyer ORP Blyskawica anchored in Lyngenfjiord harbour – October 1939. ORP Blyskawica was commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Włodzimierz Kodrębski.

    Photo sourced from http://img.audiovis.nac.gov.pl/PIC/PIC_1-W-2090-1.jpg
    Photo from August 1935: Wizyta niemieckiego krążownika "Konigsberg" w Polsce: Przedstawiciele załogi krążownika "Konigsberg" oraz witający ich wojskowi przed samolotem na lotnisku Okęcie. Widoczni m.in. komandor Hubert Schmundt (4 z lewej), niemiecki attache wojskowy gen. Max Schindler (2 z lewej), komandor Kodrębski (1 z prawej) / Visit of the German cruiser "Konigsberg" to Poland: Representatives of the crew of the cruiser "Konigsberg" being welcomed. Visible among others are Captain Hubert Schmundt (4th left), the German military attache, General Max Schindler (2nd left), Commander Kodrębski, Polish Navy (1st, right)

    Photo sourced from: http://www.polishgreatness.com/sitebuil ... 18x319.jpg
    The Polish Destroyers ORP Blyskawica and ORP Grom tied up together in Lyngenfjiord. ORP Grom was commanded by Komandor porucznik Włodzimierz Hulewicz. The Polish Navy’s Grom-class destroyers built by the British company of J. Samuel White, Cowes.They were laid down in 1935 and commissioned in 1937. The two Groms were some of the fastest and most heavily-armed pre-World War II destroyers. Despite having ordered its previous pair of destroyers (ORP Burza and ORP Wicher) from France, a country with which it had strong ties, Poland decided to acquire the second pair from the United Kingdom, possibly in recognition of the excellence of British destroyer designs at the time. The selected design resulted in large and powerful ships, superior to German and Soviet destroyers of the time, and comparable to the famous British Tribal class of 1936. The main armament was changed from the 130 mm used on the Wicher-class destroyer to the standard British destroyer calibre of 4.7 inch (120 mm). However, the guns were not British, but rather the Swedish Bofors 50cal QF M34/36, the same as those used previously on the minelayer ORP Gryf.

    As was mentioned in an earlier Post on the Merivoimat, Finland had licensed the design for the Grom-class destroyers from the Polish Government even before construction of the Polish orders had started, an arrangement that suited both parties, although the Finnish Navy modified the design somewhat, reducing the number of 120mm guns and substantially increasing the anti-aircraft armament. The Finnish Navy Grom-class destroyers Jylhä and Jyry were commissioned in 1936 and 1937 respectively. Jymy and Jyske were delivered in mid-1938, Vasama and Vinha in mid-1939 and Viima and Vihuri in late 1939. A further 6 destroyers of this class would be constructed following the end of the Winter War and prior to Finland’s re-entry into WW2 in early 1944.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.computerage.co.uk/navy/pic/burza.jpg
    The Polish Navy’s Wicher-class destroyer ORP Burza (Storm), commanded by Komandor podporucznik Stanisław Nahorski, en route to Lyngenfjiord: ORP Burza and her sister ship, ORP Wicher, were ordered on 2 April 1926 from the French shipyard Chantiers Naval Francais. She entered service in 1932 (roughly 4 years after the scheduled delivery date), and her first commander became Kmdr Bolesław Sokołowski. On 30 August 1939 the Polish Navy’s destroyers and submarines were ordered to execute the “Peking Plan”, and headed for Lyngenfjiord or Finland as their orders indicated. Burza fought with the Merivoimat against the Soviet Navy in late 1939. In April 1940 she was part of the Helsinki Convoy Escort as the Convoy entered the Baltic. She saw action againts the Kreigsmarine and then served as part of an FNS Baltic Convoy Escort Group for the remainder of the Winter War. After the Winter War, Burza became a Merivoimat Training Ship and then in 1944 she was transferred back to the Polish Navy and became a submarine tender for Polish submarines. At the end of WW2 she returned to Gdynia where she was later overhauled, remaining in serviced until 1955. In 1960, she became a museum ship. After Błyskawica replaced her in that role, she was scrapped in 1977.

    Photo sourced from: http://img.audiovis.nac.gov.pl/PIC/PIC_1-W-353.jpg
    Komandor podporucznik (Lieutenant Commander) Stanisław Nahorski, Captain of ORP Burza.

    The remainder of the Fleet, led by the destroyer Wicher and under the overall command of Wicher’s CO, Stefan de Walden, steamed for Finland on the same day, with the minelayers hastily deploying their final loads of mines to augment the minefields already laid. Accompanying the Wicher were the heavy minelayer ORP Gryf commanded by Stefan Kwiatkowski, the six small ships of the Minelayer/Minesweeper Flotilla (Flotylla Minowców), composed mostly of the so-called birdies (ptaszki, a nickname coined after the fact that all of the Jaskółka class ships were named after a different species of bird), the frogman support ship ORP Nurek, the school of naval artillery ship ORP Mazur, a small patrol boat of the Border Guard, the ORP Batory and two obsolete gunboats, the ORP Generał Haller and ORP Komendant Piłsudski. It was a sizable little flotilla and at the maximum speed of the slowest ship,

    Photo sourced from: http://www.biurodabrowski.republika.pl/wicher.jpg
    ORP Wicher at speed in the Baltic Sea, 30 August 1939: ORP Wicher was commissioned into the Polish Navy on 8 July 1930 and was the first modern ship of the Polish Navy. During the Interbellum, Wicher served a variety of roles, mostly political. For instance, on 15 June 1932, she was sent to the port of the Free City of Danzig (Gdańsk) to meet two British destroyers entering the port and to underline the Polish political influence in that city. In March 1931 she sailed to Madeira, from where she brought the Marshal of Poland Józef Piłsudski and his family back to Poland. She also visited Stockholm in August 1932, Leningrad in July 1934, Kiel in June 1935 and Helsinki and Tallinn the following month.

    Photo sourced from: http://aj-press.home.pl/images/rekl/eow28_s_85.jpg
    ORP Wicher and her sister ship ORP Burza side by side at Tallinn (Estonia) harbour during the goodwill visit of July 1935.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... finder.JPG
    Range-finder of the Polish destroyer ORP Wicher. Photo from 1931. Wicher could reach a maximum speed of 33.8 knots, had a crew of 162 and was armed with four 130 mm Schneider-Creusot Model 1924 guns (4xI), two 40 mm Vickers - Armstrong AA guns (2xI), four torpedo tubes 550/533 mm (2xII), two depth charge launchers, two Thornycroft depth charge throwers and 60 mines. By the late 1930s it was apparent that the armament was insufficient. The French guns had a low rate of fire and the ship had inadequate protection against aerial bombardment. To partially solve the problem, in the autumn of 1935 two additional double 13.2 mm Hotchkiss heavy machine guns were added.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... P_Gryf.jpg
    The heavy minelayer ORP Gryf (Griffin), commanded by Stefan Kwiatkowski. Laid down in 1934 at the French shipyard Chantiers et Ateliers A. Normand in Le Havre, she was launched in 1936. Built to Polish specifications, she was intended as a large minelayer with an armament close to that of a destroyer. Powered by two Sulzer 8SD48 engines of 6,000 horsepower (4,500 kW) each, she was capable of 20 knots (37 km/h/23 mph), fast for her size. She also had a remarkably long range of roughly 9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h). As the Polish Navy was small and no other state expressed a need for such a vessel, she remained the only ship of the class. Whiler her usual complement of crew was 162, she also served as a school ship and could take on board up to 60 additional students. Her armament consisted of 6 × 120 mm (4.7 in) Bofors wz. 34/36 guns (2 × 2 and 2 × 1) in four turrets, 4 × 40 mm (1.6 in) Bofors wz. 36 AA guns (2 × 2), 4 × 13.2 mm (0.52 in) Hotchkiss wz. 30 HMG's (2 × 2) and 8 × naval mine racks, with up to 600 mines. With her heavy load of mines, she would prove a remarkably useful addition to the Merivoimat in the Winter War.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... taszki.jpg
    The Polish minesweepers OORP Rybitwa, Czajka, Mewa, Jaskółka in 1937 The six small ships of the Minelayer/Minesweeper Flotilla (Flotylla Minowców) were of the Jaskółka class, built during the 1930's. They were the first sea going warships to be built in Poland and were of a versatile design allowing the ships to serve in the role of either a minesweeper, small minelayer or a sub chaser. All were named after birds, therefore the class was nicknamed: ptaszki (birdies) in Polish. The first 4 ships of the class were built at Gdynia in the Modlin shipyard. After they entered service they proved to be a good design so a further 2 were ordered in the mid 30s. They had a maximum speed of 17.5 knots, displaced 183 toms, had a crew of 30, were powered by 2 shaft diesel engines, 1040 BHP with a length of 45m and a beam of 5.5m. They were armed with 1 x 75mm or 76mm, 2 x 7.92mm machineguns and could carry 20 mines or depth charges.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... el_bok.jpg
    A model of ORP Jaskółka in the Pomorskim Muzeum Wojskowym. Jaskółka was under the command of Captain Tadeusz Borysiewicz. Of the other warships in this class, ORP Żuraw was under the command of Capt Mjr. Robert Kasperski, ORP Rybitwa was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Kazimierz Miładowski. The CO’s of Mewa, Czajka and Czapla are not recorded.

    Photo sourced from: http://forum.valka.cz/files/orp_nurek_2_509.jpg

    Photo sourced from: http://www.computerage.co.uk/navy/pic/jaskolka.jpg
    ORP Jaskółka in action with the Merivoimat, Gulf of Finland, Summer 1940

    The Polish Navy’s diver support ship ORP Nurek, a small ship, displacing only 110 tons and with a length of 26.5m and a beam of 5.8m. Her maximum speed was 10 knots. In the early 1930's the Navy with decided to build a modern ship to support naval divers, who made do with an old and battered support boat (a British M-52, purchased from surplus, which has been given the name "Nurek" (Diver) in 1922). After long deliberation, a design from engineer A. Potyrała was accepted. In the second half of 1935 construction started at the naval shipyard in Gdynia. This was an indication of the development of this yard, only a few years earlier, all orders received had of necessity, to be completed in the Gdansk Shipyard. In July 1936 the ship was completed. By order of the Minister of Defense she was named ORP "Diver". Her entry into service took place on 1 November 1936. The ship was equipped with a decompression chamber of Polish construction, a diving pump, winch and radio. Her commander was Warrant Officer W. Tomasiewicz. Until the outbreak of war and the execution of the Peking Plan, the ship served as a base for underwater work and training of Polish Navy divers.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... /Mazur.jpg
    ORP Mazur was a former German torpedo boat (V-105). Originally built in 1914 by Stettiner Maschinenbau A.G. Vulcan in Stettin, Germany to meet an order for the Netherlands Navy (as Z-1, along with three sisterships Z-2, Z-3 and Z-4), she was confiscated by Germany and commissioned as torpedo boat V-105. During the division of German naval ships in December 1919, Poland was assigned only six torpedo boats, largely due to a reluctance of the British to strengthen new born navies. The V-105 was first assigned to Brasil, but then bought by a British dockyard and finally exchanged with Poland for another torpedo boat, the A-69, in 1921, for an extra charge of £900 to the Poles. Poland also received her sistership, V-108 (later the Polish ORP Kaszub), and four smaller torpedo boats. V-105 was in bad condition and after some repairs in Rosyth, in September 1921 she was towed from Great Britain to Gdańsk. After a refit, she was commissioned in the Polish Navy on August 2, 1922 under the name ORP Mazur. She served in the Torpedo Boat Unit (Dywizjon Torpedowców) with the identification letters MR. In 1931 she was rebuilt as a gunnery training ship and her armament was updated. In 1935 she underwent a modernization program and was returned to service in 1937. She displaced 421 tons fully loaded, had a length of 62.6m and a beam of 6.2m, had a maximum speed of 27 knots and a range of 1,400 nautical miles (2,600kms) at 17 knots. With a crew of 80, she was armed with 3 × Schneider 75 mm (3.0 in) guns, 1 x Vickers 40,, AA gun and 2 machineguns.

    Photo sourced from: http://img.audiovis.nac.gov.pl/SM0/SM0_1-P-3549-9.jpg
    14 July 1937: Prezydent RP Ignacy Mościcki na mostku kapitańskim na ORP "Mazur". Widoczni także m.in.: kontradmirał Jerzy Świrski (na lewo za prezydentem), adiutant prezydenta RP kapitan Stefan Kryński (na lewo od kontradmirała Świrskiego), dowódca Zamkowego Szwadronu Żandarmerii kpt. Jan Huber (stoi przed kpt. Kryński) / Polish President Ignacy Mościcki on the bridge of ORP "Mazur". Also in the photo are: Admiral Jerzy Świrski (to the left of the president), the Polish President's adjutant, Captain Stefan Krynski (left of Admiral Świrski), the commander of the Squadron Castle Police Cpt. Jan Huber (standing in front of Cpt. Kryński)

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... r_75mm.jpg
    The two bow 75 mm guns of the Polish artillery training ship ORP Mazur (a former German torpedo boat) ater her refit in 1937

    Photo sourced from: http://images.okazje.info.pl/p/sport-i- ... -wz-39.jpg
    ORP Mazur under attack by Soviet aircraft, December 1939, Gulf of Finland.

    Picture sourced from: http://wielkamalaflota.blox.pl/resource ... 01x558.jpg
    One of the remaining warships in the small flotilla consisted of a small patrol boat of the Border Guard, the ORP Batory. She had been built by the State Engineering Works shipyard in Modlin, launched on 23 April 1932, and entered service with the Border Guard exactly two months later at Hel. Her main task was to suppress smuggling in Gdańsk Bay. She was the biggest and fastest vessel of the Border Guard, classified also as "pursuit cutter" (kuter pościgowy). Prior to the German invasion of Poland, the Batory was mobilized into the Polish Navy, and escaped to Finland, where she would serve as a harbour Patrol Boat based out of Turku for the remainder of WW2. She would return to Poland on 24 October 1945, where she was returned to the Border Defence Army service. She is now in the Polish Navy Museum in Gdynia, where she is going to be restored. She displaced 28 tons, had a length of 28m, was powered by 2 petrol and 1 diesel engine with a speed pf 24.3 knots (45kph) and a range of 245 nautical miles at 11 knots and 145 nautical miles at 24 knots. With a crew of 10, she was armed with 2 machineguns.

    Picture sourced from: http://facta-nautica.graptolite.net/sit ... 47x579.jpg
    ORP General Haller: The remaining warships of the small flotilla heading towards Finland consisted of two obsolete gunboats, the ORP Generał Haller and ORP Komendant Piłsudski. Both ships were Filin-class guard ships originally built for the Imperial Russian Navy at the Crichton-Vulcan naval yard in Turku, Finland. They were later acquired by the Polish Navy and served as school ships and minelayers. Under the command of Stanisław Mieszkowski, General Haller sucessfully escaped to Finland where she served with the Merivoimat until sunk in action in a Soviet air raid in the last stages of the Winter War. The General Haller displaced 342 tons, was 55m in length with a beam of 7m, had a maximim speed of 14.5 knopts and a crew of 60. Armament consisted of 2 x 76mm guns, 4 machineguns and 30 mines. ORP Komendant Piłsudski also escaped to Finland and was lost in action against the Kreigsmarine when minelaying off the Latvian coast in mid 1944 after Finland declared war on Germany.

    Within the Baltic, on 14 September 1939 the Polish submarine ORP Orzeł (Eagle) reached Helsinki and over the next four days a further 3 of the 4 remaining Polish submarines – the Orzel-class sub ORP Sęp (Vulture) and the Wilk-class subs ORP Ryś (Lynx) and ORP Żbik (Wildcat) all arrived at various Finnish ports. Of all the Polish submarines, only the ORP Wilk (Wolf) would escape the Baltic and make it to the UK.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... _Orzel.jpg
    ORP Orzeł was the lead ship of her class of submarines serving in the Polish Navy. Orzeł was laid down 14 August 1936 at the Dutch shipyard of De Schelde; she was launched on 15 January 1938, and commissioned on 2 February 1939. She was a modern design (designed by Polish and Dutch engineers), albeit a bit too large for the shallow Baltic Sea (she displaced 1,473 tons submerged). She had a surface speed of 19.4 knots, a submerged speed of 9 knots and a crew of 60. Armament consisted of 1 x Bofors 105mm gun, 1 x double barrelled Bofors 40mm AA gun, 1 x 13.2mm machinegun and 12 torpedo tubes (4 aft, 4 riudder, 4 waist). She carried 20 torpedoes.

    At the start of hostilities Orzeł was on patrol in her designated sector of the Baltic Sea. After expending almost all her torpedoes on attacks on German ships, Orzel was unable to return to the Polish naval bases at Gdynia or Hel. Following orders, the now critically ill Captain of the Orzel ordered the executive officer, Lt.Cdr. Jan Grudzinski, to make for Helsinki. En-route in the Gulf of Finland, she torpedoed a Soviet merchant ship, sparking a major naval incident between the Soviet Navy and the Merivoimat. Following her arrival in Helsinki, both the Germans and the Soviets insisted that the Orzel be interned. Finland refused and instead, “seized” the submarine and granted the crew Finnish citizenship, as they did with all Polish military personnel who arrived in Finland at this time. Both the Soviet Union and Germany expressed outrage. Finland was unmoved.

    In service with the Merivoimat as FNS Orzel, she was assigned (with her Polish crew) to the 1st Submarine Flotilla based out of Helsinki and patrolled the Gulf of Finland where sank one, possibly two Soviet submarines as they attempted to break out into the Baltic. In early April 1940, she was part of the Merivoimat submarine task force that was sent south to assist in safeguarding the “Helsinki Convoy.” When the convoy was attacked by a Kreigsmarine flotilla, the FNS Orzel aggressively attacked, launching four torpedoes, two of which hit and sank a Kreigsmarine destroyer. She evaded repeated depth charge attacks and as darkness fell, surfaced and ran head on into the Kreigsmarine flotilla, now returning after taking a beating from the Merivoimat in what would become known as the “Battle of Bornholm.” Orzel managed to launch a further torpedo attack in the darkness and observed a single hit, but was forced to dive before any actual damage could be confirmed.

    She returned to Helsinki and on 23 May 1940 departed on her seventh patrol of the Gulf of Finland. No radio signals were received from her after she had sailed, and on 5 June she was ordered to return to base. She never acknowledged reception, and never returned to base. 8 June 1940 was officially accepted as the day of her loss. It was suspected she might have run into a minefield, of which there were many in the Gulf, but the true cause of her loss remains unknown even today. Her remains have never been located.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... _1939.jpeg
    ORP Sep (Vulture) anchored somewhere in the Finnish Archipelago shortly after her arrival, late-Spetember 1939

    The second Polish submarine to arrive was also the second Orzel-class submarine in the Polish Navy. ORP Sep (Vulture) was built at the Dutch shipyard Rotterdamse Droogdok Maatschappij, laid down in November 1936 and launched on 17 October 1938. In early 1939 the Polish team supervising the building of the ship noticed a significant slowdown in her construction, which it attributed to the action of German agents. Because of fears that German pressure on Holland would prevent that country from delivering the ship into Polish hands, it was decided to bring the ship to Poland earlier than scheduled. On April 2nd, the ship left for deep water sea trials in Horten, Norway, with a crew of Polish sailors and Dutch technicians, under the Dutch flag. After completing the trials, the Polish crew took control of the ship (against the will of the Dutch technicians on board), raised the Polish flag and left Horten to rendezvous with the Polish destroyer ORP Burza outside the harbour. All but two Dutch workers were left ashore in Norway. From Burza the submarine received additional crew and supplies, then sailed under her escort to Poland. On the way the ship ran out of diesel fuel and had to be taken in tow by the destroyer. On April 18 Sęp arrived in Gdynia, entering the harbour on her electric engines, and was officially commissioned into the Polish Navy. The remaining two Dutch technicians were released and allowed to return home.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.1939.pl/uzbrojenie/polskie/o ... dowa01.jpg
    ORP Sep shortly prior to being launched

    The fitting out of the ship continued in Poland, with parts arriving from Holland after relations with the Dutch were repaired following the "hijacking." Work was not finished before the war broke out, hence the ship was not at full readiness by September 1939. A visit to Rotterdam to finish the fitting out was contemplated but the outbreak of war prevented this. Sęp sailed into the naval port of Hel a few days before the war started, commanded by Kmdr ppor. Władysław Salamon. On 1st September 1939, the first day of the war, the submarine took up her patrol sector in accordance with the Worek Plan. On 2 September she attacked the German destroyer Friedrich Ihn (Z14) with a single torpedo which missed. The destroyer responded with heavy depth-charging which damaged the submarine, causing water leaks. On 3 September Sęp was attacked again and suffered more damage, which caused more leaks. With her position clearly revealed to the enemy, the submarine left her assigned sector and began to sail in the direction of Gotland Island. Over the next few days she operated without contact with the enemy in the vicinity of Sweden, her crew trying to repair the damage, and her captain requesting permission to return to base in order to carry out more repairs, which was denied.

    On September 13 the submarine received orders permitting her to sail to England if possible and otherwise to proceed to Finland. The crew at first decided to sail for England but over the next few days the ship's condition deteriorated further with serious leaks when submerged, and the submerging itself taking up to 30 minutes, unacceptably long if the ship was to successfully pass through German patrols on the way to the UK. On September 15 her commander decided to sail for Finland. On September 18 the submarine appeared off Turku and requested permission to enter the harbor. With the political furore over the Orzel still in progress, ORP Sep was discretely moved at night to an offshore island where she was hidden until the fuss had died down, after which she was promptly moved into the Crichton-Vulcan yards and repair work started. Work was completed over the winter and she re-entered service in March 1940. Survi9ving the Winter War, she would be again officially commissioned into the Polish Navy on 1 May 1944, shortly after Finland re-entered WW2 as a belligerent. In a 1959 Polish film the ship was used to portray her twin, ORP Orzeł. In 1959 the submarine became a training ship. She remained the largest submarine of the postwar Polish Navy until 1962. In 1964 she suffered a serious fire (8 crewmembers died), after which she was repaired, but was not fully operational. In 1969 the ship suffered another accident while submerged. The ship was decommissioned on 15 September 1969 and subsequently scrapped in 1972. In 2002 the Polish Navy commissioned the second ORP Sęp, a Kobben class submarine obtained from Norway.

    Over the next few days, two of the Wilk-class subs, ORP Ryś (Lynx) and ORP Żbik (Wildcat) would arrive at various Finnish ports. ORP Wilk (Wolf) would leave the Polish coast after deploying her mines and unsuccessfully attacking German shipping, successfully passing the Danish straits (Oresund) on September 14/15, escaping from the Baltic Sea and arriving in Great Britain on September 20. ORP Wilk undertook nine patrols from British bases, without success. The last patrol was between 8 and 20 January 1941, after which the submarine was assigned to training duties. Due to her poor mechanical shape, ORP Wilk was decommissioned as a reserve submarine on April 2, 1942. Because of her poor condition, she was towed to Poland only in October 1952. She was declared unfit to service, decommissioned from the Polish Navy, and scrapped in 1954.

    Of the remaining two submarines, ORP Ryś (Lynx) took part in the Worek Plan for the defense of the Polish coast. After suffering battle damage, the submarine withdrew to Finland and was taken into the Merivoimat, along with her crew. After serving through the Winter War on Baltic Patrols from Ahvenanmaa (the Åland Islands), she was officially returned to the Polish Navy on 1 May 1944 where she served until 1955. She was scrapped in 1956. ORP Żbik also took part in the Worek Plan for the defense of the Polish coast. According to the plan she laid her mines, one of which sank the small (525 t) German minesweeper M-85 on 1 October. After suffering battle damage and shortages of fuel, the submarine withdrew to to Finland and was taken into the Merivoimat, along with her crew. After serving through the Winter War on Baltic Patrols from Ahvenanmaa (the Åland Islands), she was officially returned to the Polish Navy on 1 May 1944 where she too served until 1955. As with her sistership, the Ryś, she was scrapped in 1956.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... P_Lwow.jpg
    The Polish submarine ORP Zbik together with the Polish sail training ship Lwow. On the outbreak of WW2, the Zbik was commanded by Lieutenant M. Zebrowski.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.weu1918-1939.pl/kmw/podwodne/zbik/zbik_5.jpg
    ORP Zbik: The ORP Ryś and ORP Żbik were Wilk class submarines of the Polish Navy, with their design based on that of the French submarine Pierre Chailley, which had been laid down in 1917 and was in service from 1923 to 1936. Wilk, Ryś and Żbik were all laid down in 1927 at Chantiers Augustine Normand shipyard at Le Havre in France. Launched in 1929, they were commissioned into the Polish Navy in 1931 and 1932. The Wilk-class submarines displaced 1,250 tons submerged, were 78.5m long with a beam of 5.9m, had a range of 3,500 nautical miles (4,000 miles), a surface speed pf 14.5 knots and a submerged speed of 9.5 knots. They had a crew of between 46 and 54 and were armed with 1 x 100mm deck gun, 2 x 23.2mm machineguns, 4 bow tubes, 2 rotating midship tubes and carried 16 torpedoes (6 in the tubes and 10 reloads) and 40 mines.

    Finland refused demands from the Soviet Union and Germany that these submarines and ships and their crews be turned over to them. Rather than interning the ships and their crews as international law demanded, Finland (again, with the prior agreement of the Polish Government), announced that the ships were being “seized”, re-flagged and integrated into the Finnish Navy, while their crews were granted immediate Finnish citizenhip by special Act of Parliament. As a result, Finland's neutrality was strongly questioned by both the Soviet Union.and Germany over the same period. The protests from both Germany and the Soviet Union were not muted. On the other hand, with Finnish Intelligence knowing what they knew of the secret clauses to the Soviet and German Agreement, Finland simply ignored the protests. Particularly as the 4 Destroyers and 4 Submarines together with the smaller ships were a very useful addition to the Finnish Navy’s strength for a war that the Finnish High Command was almost certain was coming regardless of how Finland acted.

    The two Grom-class Destroyers were a known quantity and were excellent destroyers – the Merivoimat had used the design as the basis for their own Destroyers, even calling the class by the same name. The two Wicher-class Destroyers were another story. They were modified versions of the Bourrasque class destroyers built for the French Navy. The Wicher class had severe problems: the destroyers were relatively slow, had a large silhouette with three large funnels, and were inadequately armoured. Additionally, flaws in the design resulted in poorly designed water-resistant chambers and pipelines, which could result in the ship being immobilized after only minor damage. Also the ships suffered from poor stability due to fuel tanks being located high up on the superstructure just below the bridge. Nevertheless, they were destroyers, thay had guns and they could fight. And they would see a great deal of action with the Merivoimat over the course of the Winter War.

    Next Post: The escape of remnants of the Polish Air Force to Finland
  2. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    The escape of Remnants of the Polish Air Force to Finland

    The escape of Remnants of the Polish Air Force to Finland

    Contrary to what many people believe, the Polish Air Force was NOT destroyed on the ground in the first few hours of the conflict and, despite being numerically and technically inferior to the German Luftwaffe, managed to put on a brave defence. German Quartermaster General’s reports admitted the loss of 258 planes throughout the Polish Campaign, and it can be stated with absolute certainty that more than 100 of these aircraft were shot down by Polish fighter pilots. Here’s a brief history of this gruelling battle against all odds....and of the escape of the remnants of the Polish Air Force to Finland.

    The Luftwaffe order of battle included Luftflotte 1 and Luftflotte 4 which on 1st September 1939 consisted of 1,538 combat aircraft. Of these, 339 were Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, mostly the 109E (Emil) variant, 82 Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters and 258 Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers. The remainder were various subtypes of Heinkel He 111 and Dornier Do 17 bombers, there was also a Staffel of Henschel Hs 123 ground attack planes. Additionally, some 102 Bf 109 fighters formally assigned to the defence of the Reich were also used, though on limited scale. Some 200 reconnaissance aircraft were assigned to the army units involved in the offensive, which brings us to a total of 1,942 combat aircraft used operationally against Poland. Replacements and reinforcements of over 100 aircraft in total were brought in at various stages of the campaign.

    The Polish Lotnictwo Wojskowe order of battle included two large units, the Pursuit Brigade (Brygada Poscigowa) and the Bomber Brigade (Brygada Bombowa), both under the command of the General Staff, as well as the Army Air Force (Lotnictwo Armijne) which consisted of individual wings (dywizjony) and squadrons (eskadry) assigned in groups to seven different Polish Army commands. During the mobilization waves of March and August of that year, all peace-time units were deployed to airfields throughout the country and attached to respective commands of the Air Force, Naval Air Service and squadrons supporting each of the Polish armies. In the last stages of the air campaign, whole units coordinated all actions in the fight against the invaders.

    The Pursuit Brigade comprised five fighter escadrille’s grouped into 2 Squadrons with a total of 53 aircraft (43 PZL P.11a and P.11c, and 10 P.7a) and was given the task of defending Warsaw and its environs.

    The Bomber Brigade, commanded by płk obs. Władysław Heller was equipped with 36 excellent PZL P.37 Los medium bombers, and 50 PZL P.23 Karas light bombers and consisted of 9 Escadrille’s grouped into 4 Squadrons. The Brigade constituted a considerable force, but outdated concepts of air warfare adhered to by the Polish command severely limited its effectiveness.

    In addition to the above mentioned units, Squadrons and Escadrilles of the Polish Air Force were attached to land units of corps- and army-size. They were to provide necessary support to the Army in all roles. Aircraft consisted of Fighters, Reconnaissance aircraft and Observation aircraft. In all, various units of the Polish Army had 288 planes at their disposal, including 246 combat planes and 42 support planes.

    In total, in its hour of need, Poland was able to muster 404 first-line aircraft, of which some 308 had combat value. Of these, 128 were PZL P.11 fighters, all 3 to 5 years old which, sturdiness and maneuverability notwithstanding, had very limited performance compared to their German counterparts. The rest of the fighters in first-line units – 30 PZL P.7a aircraft – were totally obsolete. The 36 P.37 Los bombers were the only equipment on a par with the Luftwaffe, and the 114 P.23 Karas reconnaissance/light bomber aircraft could be considered barely adequate for the time.

    Map sourced from: http://warandgame.files.wordpress.com/2 ... polish.jpg
    Location of Polish Air Force Units on 1 September 1939

    The first clash between Luftwaffe and Polish fighters took place on September the 1st, shortly before 7 am over the secret Polish airfield of Balice, near Cracow. A three-airplane section of 121 Eskadra was surprised during take-off by three Ju 87s and Capt. Medwecki, the Commanding Officer of the Cracow Army Fighter Wing was killed. 2nd Lt. Wladyslaw Gnys managed to evade the attack, and damage one of the Stukas. A few minutes later, having climbed for altitude, he attacked two Do 17s returning from a raid on Cracow, scoring several hits on each of them. After his second dive, he lost visual contact with them and returned to the airfield not knowing that he had just scored the first two victories over the Luftwaffe in World War 2. The two German bombers collided with each other after his attack and fell to the ground near the village of Zurada.

    Meanwhile, a far bigger engagement was to take place over the outskirts of Warsaw. Forewarned by a well-organized network of observation posts, the Pursuit Brigade in full force (52 aircraft) intercepted a large formation of He 111 bombers from KG27 escorted by Bf 110s of I/LG1. As a result of well-executed attack, six He 111s were shot down at the expense of one P.11c, which crashed during a forced landing. What was supposed to be Der Spaziergang uber Warshau – a “stroll over Warsaw” – turned into a bitter escape for the Luftwaffe bomber crews. During the fighting, 2nd Lt. Borowski of 113 Eskadra shot down a stray Bf 109, which became the first aircraft of that type destroyed in World War 2.
    Heavy fighting over Warsaw resumed in the afternoon, when second large German raid, escorted by both Bf 110 and Bf 109 fighters, was intercepted by the Pursuit Brigade. This time the escorts were able to engage Polish fighters before they reached the bombers, and soon first German bombs fell on Warsaw. Before they were able to enter the fight, four P.7s of 123 Eskadra were shot down in a surprise attack by Bf 110s of I/LG1. Capt. Olszewski, the C/O was killed and the other three pilots bailed out, two of them shot at and heavily wounded by the Germans after opening their parachutes. These were the first victories for German fighter pilots in World War 2.The fighting was fierce, and Germans lost two Bf 109s, one of them shot down by Lt. Col. Leopold Pamula, deputy C/O of the Brigade, who himself had to bail out soon afterwards. Polish losses amounted to three P.11s.

    In the following days, the Luftwaffe changed its tactics. Taking advantage of the superior characteristics of its aircraft (German twin-engined bombers were faster than Polish fighters), it used small groups of bomber aircraft approaching the target from several directions at different altitudes, while Bf 109s and Bf 110s flew sweeps in the area. These tactics proved quite successful – despite valiant efforts, the Brigade was unable to prevent German bombs from falling on Warsaw. Its pilots managed to shoot down 47 German planes from 1 to 6 September, but combat attrition was very high, and on September 7 the remnants of the Brigade were moved to the Lublin area, leaving the capital virtually defenseless against heavy Luftwaffe raids (Warsaw was never captured by the Germans – it was to be bombed into submission during 20 days of successful defence against German assault).

    In other parts of the country the Army fighter units fought with varying degrees of success. As they were lacking the observation facilities of the Pursuit Brigade, they either flew sweeps, or detached small formations of fighters to improvised airfields with the task of intercepting sighted German aircraft. The latter tactic, called ‘ambushes’, was soon abandoned, as the P.11 fighters were usually unable to intercept their targets, no matter how quick the take-off.
    The often desperate situation of Polish ground units sometimes resulted in equally desperate measures taken by the supporting air forces. On September 2nd, the Pomorze Army Fighter Wing was ordered to strafe a German motorized column making a rapid advance into Polish territory near Grudziadz. As the P.11 fighters were totally unsuitable for the task, armed only with two (a few aircraft had four) 7.92mm machine guns and offering no armor protection, the C/O, Capt. Florian Laskowski decided that while he would lead 141 Eskadra to attack the troops, 142 Eskadra would fly a regular fighter sweep. When nine P.11s of 141 Eskadra approached the target, they were met by heavy machine gun fire and three planes were shot down, with their pilots killed. Among the casualties – and first to be downed – was Capt. Laskowski. Another pilot had to make a forced landing; all the other planes took scores of hits. Needless to say, the effect of the attack on the Germans was marginal at best. Meanwhile, 142 Eskadra intercepted two unescorted German raids in succession and claimed 7 victories, with no losses on its part.

    Not surprisingly, combat attrition proved high for Army fighter squadrons, and by September 10 all but one of the fighter wings were moved east of Vistula, where a futile attempt to rebuild the Pursuit Brigade and charge it with the defence of Lublin area was being made. Faced with fuel and spare parts shortages, devoid of any organized observation network, these pilots fought only isolated skirmishes with the Luftwaffe, claiming only 5 victories till September 17th. On that day the Red Army crossed Poland’s eastern borders, and all the remaining aircraft were ordered to fly to either Finland or Romania. The only Dywizjon that remained with its Army was the Poznan Army Fighter Wing. Under the excellent command of Mjr. Mieczyslaw Mumler, it was able to fight effectively, up to September 17th, scoring no fewer than 36 kills throughout the campaign. This in spite of the fact that on 9th September Mjr. Mumler was forced to disband 131 Eskadra and transfer its remaining aircraft to 132 Eskadra, (it was also reinforced by three pilots from the disbanded unit, the rest simply had no aircraft to fly).

    While their colleagues of the fighter squadrons were busy trying to fight off swarms of enemy aircraft, the crews of the Bomber Brigade spent the first two days of September in readiness, waiting for orders to take-off – which never came. There was a great deal of confusion in the Brigade headquarters, and aside from reconnaissance no missions were flown. As the Polish command had promised their West-European allies not to bomb any targets on German territory, it was decided that the Brigade would support ground troops by attacking enemy motorized and Panzer columns. Little thought was given to attacking enemy airfields or supply lines, which would definitely have been more effective in delaying German advance. Thus, beginning on September 3rd, the Brigade’s P.23s and – on the next day – P.37s started flying bombing missions against advancing German troops.

    Picture sourced from: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5j6bgPsLaF4/T ... 390913.jpg
    Polish Air Force PZL 37’s in action – 13 September 1939

    Surprisingly enough, these actions enjoyed a reasonable success. Attacks on German Panzer columns near Radomsko on September 3rd, carried out by some 30 P.23s of the Brigade, stopped their advance for about two days. While other actions weren’t nearly as successful, over all the attacks proved enough of a nuisance that the Luftwaffe was forced to provide fighter patrols to cover the advancing troops. However, the tactics of nuisance attacks in small formations (usually of three aircraft) and strafing the columns after dropping the bomb load (crews had specific orders to do so) in aircraft unsuitable for the task quickly proved very costly. Devoid of fighter escort, many bombers fell to the guns of patrolling Bf 109s, while more yet were shot down or heavily damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Even so the missions were carried out till the Brigade was left with virtually no aircraft. On September 1, 1939, Poland had had about 86 PZL.37s in service. On September 17th only 17 P.37s of Brigade’s initial strength of 86 aircraft were left. With Poland on the verge of defeat and under attack from both Germany and the Soviet Union, twenty-seven PZL.37s (17 from the Bomber Brigade and ten training aircraft) loaded as many of their squadron personnel as was possible into the aircraft and flew north to Finland.All their P.23 Karas bombers had been either destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

    Photo sourced from: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5j6bgPsLaF4/T ... _karas.jpg
    The PZL.23 Karaś was a Polish light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft designed in the mid-1930s by PZL in Warsaw. It was the main Polish bomber and reconnaissance aircraft at the start of WW2. The aircraft was a low-wing cantilever monoplane of all-metal, metal-covered construction. The crew consisted of three: pilot, bombardier and a rear gunner. The bombardier's combat station was situated in a gondola underneath the hull, where he could also operate an underbelly machine gun. The fixed undercarriage was well spatted, but despite a massive look, it was not suited for rough airfields. Bombs were carried under the wings: the maximum load was 700 kg (1,500 lb) (6 x 100 kg and 2 x 50 kg). The aircraft were equipped with one of the following engines: Bristol Pegasus IIM2 normal: 570 hp (425 kW), maximum: 670 hp (500 kW) - PZL.23A; Pegasus VIII normal: 650 hp (485 kW), maximum: 720 (537 kW) - PZL.23B. Regardless of the engine, the aircraft had a two-blade propeller.

    Forty PZL.23As were delivered to the Polish Air Force in late 1936. A total of 210 PZL.23Bs were delivered to the Air Force from 1937. By 1939, the aircraft was obsolescent. Its main deficiency was its low speed but a lack of manoeuvrability was also a problem (it was noted, that the maximum speed of the PZL.23B was 189mph, but it was forbidden to exceed 319 km/h due to dangerous flight characteristics). At the outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939, during the invasion of Poland. Some aircraft were also used in wartime improvised units, 114 PZL.23Bs were deployed in combat units (a further 75 PZL.23B’s and 35 PZL.23A’s were in air schools, held in reserve or under repair). The PZL.23B’s were operational in five bomber squadrons (Eskadra Bombowa) of the Bomber Brigade and seven Army reconnaissance squadrons, each with 10 aircraft.

    Life wasn’t much different for the Army reconnaissance squadrons which, armed with the same P.23 light bombers as the Brigade, often took up ground support missions, trying to relieve at least some of the relentless pressure experienced by the ground units. Again, these actions did enjoy a limited success. On September 2nd, P.23s of 24 Eskadra escorted by 6 P.11s from 122 Eskadra – an extremely rare comfort for Polish bomber crews – totally surprised a German column near Czestochowa, causing many casualties and heavy confusion. On the next day crews from the same Eskadra successfully bombed German Panzer column near Rabka, scoring direct hits on several tanks. Only one P.23 was lost in these attacks, but that, again, was to prove an exception rather than the rule. In a similar attack on September 3rd, 31 Eskadra – even though it’s six P.23s caught the Germans unaware during a rest period and caused heavy casualties – losing two aircraft; the remaining four were more or less seriously damaged. Reconnaissance missions, usually flown by single aircraft, were also dangerous – the Luftwaffe’s dominance in the air was evident and the crews could rarely count on help from Polish fighters. In general, combat attrition was extremely high and only 21 of the P.23s made it to Finland on September 17th.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.airwar.ru/image/idop/bww2/pzl23/pzl23-8.jpg
    Polish Air Force PZL.23 Karaś on arrival in Finland: 17th September 1939

    A small number of other Polish Air Force aircraft managed to fly out to Finland around the same time. Given the choice between probable internement in Romania, versus flying out to Finland as they were ordered to do if they had a chance, most of the airmen with aircraft still capable of flying the distance opted for Finland. Among these were some 36 PZL P.11 fighters, a dozen PZL P.7a Fighters and 10 RWD-17 trainers which flew to Finland after a refueling stop in Sweden (the Swedes wanted to avoid any part of the conflict and quickly refueled the aircraft and sent them on their way, eager to be rid of the troublesome Poles).

    Picture sourced from: http://images.wikia.com/turtledove/imag ... -11caa.jpg
    A Polish Air Force PZL P.11 Fighter: The PZL P.11 was designed in the early 1930s by PZL in Warsaw. The aircraft was conventional in layout, with high wings, all-metal, metal-covered. The cockpit was open. An internal fuel tank in a hull could be dropped in case of fire emergency. The armament was two 7.92 mm machine guns on hull sides, though a third of the P.11cs had two additional machine guns in the wings. It was briefly considered to be the most advanced fighter aircraft design in the world and served as Poland's primary fighter defence in the Polish campaign of 1939. By that point it was outdated due to rapid advances in aircraft design – especially in comparison to more advanced contemporary fighters, including the Hawker Hurricane and Messerschmitt Bf 109. Production of the P.11c started in 1934 and 175 were produced. Such limited production may appear irresponsible on the part of the Polish government, with Red Army aviation reaching into the thousands and Germany ramping up production at an unprecedented scale.

    Even without the new WP2 plant at Mielec, the PZL works could produce at least 10 fighters every month. However, the Lotnictwo Wojskowe (Military Aviation) command was still studying different concepts for the use of fighters and bombers, while the Polish design bureaus were also developing very advanced fighter designs. The untimely death of the aircraft designer Zygmunt Puławski also complicated the matter. When the P.11 entered service in 1934, as a contemporary of the British Gloster Gladiator and German Heinkel He 51 it was arguably the most advanced fighter in the world. However, due to the rapid progress in aircraft technology, the P.11 was obsolete by 1939, overtaken by cantilever designs with retractable landing gear such as the Soviet Polikarpov I-16 and German Messerschmitt Bf 109. Together with the older P.7, the P.11 remained the only Polish fighter in service, with about 185 P.11s available, distributed within six air regiments and the aviation school in Deblin.

    Although aware that the P.11 was outdated, the Polish Air Force had pinned their hopes on the new PZL.50 Jastrząb, which suffered extended delays. When it became apparent that the PZL.50 would not be in widespread service in time for a war that was clearly looming, consideration was given to producing an updated P.11 version with the 840 hp (626 kW) Mercury VIII and an enclosed cockpit, known as the P.11g Kobuz. Only the prototype of the P.11g with a maximum speed increase to a still-slow 390 km/h (~240 mph) was flown before the war, in August 1939. In light of the unavailability of PZL.50, the only hope of replacing the obsolete P.11 lay in acquiring modern fighters from abroad. In 1939, after receiving the necessary credits, Poland ordered from France 120 Morane-Saulnier M.S.406s, and from Britain, 14 Hurricane Is (the P.11's chosen replacement), plus one Spitfire I for testing, in addition to 100 Fairey Battle light bombers. None of these aircraft were delivered to Poland before September 1939, however some of the Polish orders would be delivered to Finland to equip the Polish Air Force units fighting with the Ilmavoimat.

    On 1 September 1939, the Polish Air Force had 109 PZL P.11cs, 20 P.11as and 30 P.7as in combat units. A further 43 P.11c aircraft were in reserve or undergoing repairs. Only a third of the P.11c’s were armed with four machine guns, the rest had only two, even fewer had a radio. The P.11’s were used in 12 squadrons, each with 10 aircraft (two squadrons constituted a group, in Polish: dywizjon). Two groups - four squadrons - were in the Pursuit Brigade deployed around Warsaw, the rest were assigned to Armies. All of them took part in defense during the Invasion of Poland. Apart from combat units, several P.11 aircraft, including a prototype P.11g, were used in improvised units. During the Polish campaign, the P.11 fought against more modern German bombers and fighters. Not only were the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Bf 110 faster and better armed, but also most German bombers were faster. Since the P.11 fighters had seen years of intensive use before the war, their maximum speed was even lower than the theoretical 375 km/h. The P.11a’s were in an even worse condition. Another serious deficiency was their small number which meant that missions involving groups larger than about 20 aircraft were rarely undertaken and reserve machines were practically unavailable.

    On the other hand, the Polish fighter aircraft had better manoeuvrability and because of their design, had much better vision from the cockpit than the German aircraft. The P.11 had a strong construction, good rate of climb and could operate from short fields, even rough ones. It was also of a very durable construction and could dive at up to 600 km/h without risk of the wings falling apart. Theoretically the only limit in manoeuvres was the pilot's ability to sustain high g forces. Despite the German superiority, the P.11 managed to shoot down a considerable number of German aircraft, including fighters, but suffered heavy losses as well. Most of the P.11s were destroyed in 1939, though 36 were flown to Finland and taken over by the Ilmavoimat. Due to their obsolescence, these veteran aircraft were only initially used in combat – as the experienced Polish pilots were allocated new aircraft, the old P.11’s were instead assigned for training.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.elknet.pl/acestory/foto1/p11_1.jpg
    PZL P.7a Fighter: designed in early-1930s, on forst entering service this was s state-of-the-art aircraft, one of the first all-metal monoplane fighters in the world, in 1933–1935 it was a main fighter of the Polish Air Force. It was replaced in Polish service by its follow-up design, the PZL P.11c. More than 30 P.7 fighters remained in service in the Polish Defensive War of 1939, scoring several kills despite their obsolescence. On 1 September 1939, the Polish Air Force still had 30 PZL P.7a fighters in combat units. A further 40 were in air schools, 35 in reserve or repairs – a total of 106 available aircraft. The P.7as were used in three squadrons, each with 10 aircraft. The 123rd Squadron was in the Pursuit Brigade, deployed around Warsaw, the 151st and the 162nd Squadrons were assigned to land Armies. Despite being obsolete, they took part in the defense of the country. Apart from combat units, at least 18 P.7a fighters were mobilized in units improvised at air bases in Dęblin and Ułęż. Most of the P.7a fighters were destroyed in 1939, in combat or on the ground, some dozen were withdrawn to Finland but were not used in combat there.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.aviastar.org/pictures/poland/rwd-17.jpg
    RWD-17 trainer: Originally designed to meet an order of the LOPP paramilitary organization, this was an interim trainer aircraft between a primary trainer RWD-8 and a single-seater aircraft, The first prototype was flown in August 1937 in Warsaw. After state trials in 1937, it was accepted for production, and in 1938 a short series of RWD-17 was produced (23 serial RWD-17 were in the Polish registry). There were plans to order 50-120 aircraft, with a likely designation RWD-17bis, but they were not built due to outbreak of the war. Ten RWD-17s flew to Finland with a transit stop in Finland, and continued to be used as trainers within the Ilmavoimat until the late 1940s. None returned to Poland after the war, and none have survived to today.

    The pilots that flew their surviving PZL P.7a’s and PZL P.11’s to Finland were blooded combat veterans by mid-September, having survived daily combat with the Luftwaffe. Their experiences provided a useful lesson to the Ilmavoimat, some of whose Pilots had their own experiences in air combat from the Spanish Civil War. The lessons learned by the Polish Air Force fighter pilots would also be studied and absorbed by the Ilmavoimat.

    1 September 1939 over Warsaw - The first air battle of WW2

    Before the beginning of the Second World War, which started on 1 September 1939, the Polish Air Forces had seven fighter squadrons (Dywizjon Mysliwski) equipped with about 20 planes each. These squadrons were grouped in two Eskadra (sections) in each Squadron. In operational use at that time were mainly the PZL P.11 fighters in either the 'a' or 'c' versions. Only three Eskadrilles were armed with the older version - the PZL P.7 fighter. Most fighter squadrons were allocated to support and defend the Army's ground forces. Only the units of the 1st Warsaw Air Regiment (Sq No: III/1 and IV/1) were allocated to the Brygada Poscigowa (Pursuit Brigade) with the assigned task of the defence of the Polish capital.

    Just before the German attack, the IV/1 Squadron was strengthened with the addition of the 123rd Eskadra Mysliwska (Fighter Eskadrille) of the 2. Krakow Air Regiment. This fighter Eskadrille was equipped with P.7 fighters. Colonel (Col.) Stefan Pawlikowski, a veteran of the French skies in the period of WW1 and the Polish-Bolshevist war of 1920, took command of the Brigade.

    On 1 September 1939, at 6:30 A.M., from observation points in Mlawa city, there arrived at the Brigade HQ a message about incoming enemy bomber groups attacking Warsaw. Colonel Pawlikowski ordered the launch of the entire Pursuit Brigade. After take-off, the Polish fighters joined formation over Legionowo. At about 7:00, in the Bugo-Narew area, the Brigade attacked a group of about 80 He 111s of the LG 1 and KG 27 "Boelcke". This German bomber formation was given fighter protection by 20 Bf 110s from the I(Z)/LG 1. In this very intense aerial engagement, which lasted over a 40 minute period, combat took place between 154 aircraft from both sides.

    The first Polish pilot to engage the enemy formation was from the section led by Lieutenant (Lt.) Aleksander Gabszewicz, the tactical officer of IV/1 Squadron. After machine-gun fire from both Gabszewicz and Corporal Andrzej Niewiara, one of the damaged He 111s came down in a northerly direction and soon crashed during an emergency landing, hitting one of its wing in a tree. In the area of Wyszkow, Second Lieutenant (Sec.Lt.) Jerzy Palusinski attacked a formation of twelve (12) Luftwaffe bombers. After shooting down one of the bombers Palusinski was wounded in the hand, his wrist-watch saved him from more serious injuries. Palusinski was forced to make an emergency landing near the village of Kobylka. There were also other Polish fighter pilots that achieved their first kills. Some of those that scored aerial victories were Captains (Cpt.) Adam Kowalczyk, commander of IV/1 F.Sq, and Juliusz Frey, the Escadrille leader. Second Lieutenant Hieronim Dudwal also gained his first victory, which would amount to four in the September campaign.

    In this first aerial combat there were only three P.7 fighters from the 123rd Eskadrille that took part. The reason for so few P.7 fighters to be committed to this first combat was because the commander of IV/1 FS decided to check the ability this old fighter's ability in air combat against the Luftwaffe. Pilots from the Krakow Regiment attacked a group of seven He 111 bombers. Second Lieutenant Jerzy Czerniak, together with Corporal Stanislaw Widlarz shared one of the He 111 bombers. The Polish side did not avoid losses. Boleslaw Olewinski bailed out from his flamming P.11 fighter, both with injuries and burns. Second Lieutenant Stanislaw Szmejl was forced to amke an emergency landing with a damaged fuel tank. A number of the Polish planes received combat damage from machine-gun and cannon fire and needed service and repair. On the German side in these combats, Major (Maj.) Walter Grabmann, one of the famous "Legion Condor" from Spain and the commander of I(Z)/LG 1, was wounded.

    At about 12:00 P.M., another group of German bombers flew in the direction of Warsaw. Two sections of P.11 fighters from the 112nd Escadrille took off to intercept the German intruders. The two groups clashed over Wilanow. A formation of nine Do 17 bombers were intercepted by the Polish fighters and a running fight ensued. The German planes attempted to escape in the direction of East Prussia. After the attack of Lt. Stefan Okrzeja, one of bombers exploded in the air. Evidence of Okrzeja's victory was established when small pieces of the exploded bomber were found between the cylinders of his victorious P.11's engine.

    The second big air combat that first day of the war started in the Modlin area about 16:30. This time Polish aviators battled against 30 He 111 and Do 17 bombers and nine Ju 87 Stukas, which were escorted by 20 Bf 109 and Bf 110 fighters. Second Lieutenant Jan Borowski was patroling over teh Las Kabacki (Kabacki Forest) area. Borowski intercepted a single Bf 109 piloted by Oberst (Colonel) Henschke, another veteran of the "Legion Condor". Another Bf 109 was shot down by Cadet Jerzy Radomski, who after landing reported that he shot down an "avionette" (a sporting light plane!). Not so luckily were Cadet Janusz Macinski, who emergency landed near Sulejowek, and Lt. Gabszewicz, who was forced to bail out. Hanging from his parachute, Gabszewicz was attacked by an agressive Bf 110 fighter. The attacking German fighter left a lot of holes in his parchute. Flying nearby was Sec.Lt. Tadeusz Sawicz, who arrived with help and at the last moments saved Gabszewicz's life. The German pilot was forced to retire from the scene. Bofore reaching ground surface defenseless Gabszewicz was covered by another pilot, Wladyslaw Kiedrzynski.

    Because these morning missions were so successful, the pilots of the 123rd Escarlille, flying P.7 fighters, decided that the next time they started on aerial combat missions, they would not fly with just sections, but all their planes. On this unit's next combat mission they were bounced by Bf 110s. During the initial attack, Cpt. Mieczyslaw Olszewski, the Escadrille commander was killed. Olszewski's P.7 crashed near Legionow. Other pilots that survived this combat by parachute were: Sec.Lt. Stanislaw Czternastek, Sec.Lt. Feliks Szyszka and Cadet Antoni Danek. Stanislaw Czternastek, the first pilot just mentioned above landed safely in the Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki area. The other two pilots were attacked by the Luftwaffe pilots. Szyszka, while hanging in his parachute, was hit sixteen times and landed on the bank of the Wisla river. After receiving help from civilians Szyszka was transported to the hospital. Another two P.7 pilots, Sec.Lt. Erwin Kawnik and Corp. Henryk Flamme were forced to emergency land near Zakroczyn in heavily damaged planes. The Luftwaffe's adversaries, Bf 110s of I.(Z)/LG 1, claimed 5 PZL-fighters shot down - 3 by Hauptmann Fritz Schleif, one each by Unteroffizier Sturm and Unteroffizier Lauffs.

    In another aerial combat Lt.Col. Leopold Pamula, second commander of the Pursuit Brigade, also took part. Pamula arrived directly from HQ and immediately ordered one of pilots to leave the cockpit of his fighter. Lieutenant Colonel Leopold Pamula directly entered the battle. In a duel with two Bf 109s he was shot down and bailed out. Also wounded during this aerial combat was also pilot Zdzislaw Horn, who entered into a comma just after returning, upon landing Horn could not exit his cockpit. Over Praga Cpt. Gustaw Sidorowicz, commander of the 111 F.Esc., clashed with pair of Bf 109 fighters. The result of this combat was 1:1 -- one of the Germans was probably shot down, but the injured Sidorowicz was forced to make an emergency landing.

    During most of the day of 1 September 1939, most of the German bombers were not able to reach their targets of the Polish capital city. The German bombers were forced to drop their bombs on fields near Warsaw and then made their return to East Prussia. In Warsaw itself, very few bombs fell on the city. During the entire day's combats, the Pursuit Brigade lost one pilot killed, and another eight were hospitalized. Ten aircraft were lost, while another 24 were heavy damaged. At 20:00, the Brigade had only 20 fighters ready for take off. Aviators of the Brigade downed twelve Luftwaffe planes and four were shared with the 152nd Escadrille pilots, which took part in the afternoon battle. Another five kills were claimed as probable and ten enemy planes were damaged.

    The pilots of the 152nd Fighter Eskadrille awaited for their take off signals since the early morning. The first message about enemy aerial activity arrived at about 16:00, with a large formation of Luftwaffe aircraft coming toward the direction of the Modlin area. To defend the city immediately, nine P.11 fighters took off. When the Polish pilots spotted the enemy group they forgot about their main task, the defence of the city. Sections led by Lt. Marian Imiela and Sec.Lt. Anatol Piotrowski entered in pursuit. The Polish fighters caught the German planes far of Warsaw, in the Jablonna and Legionow area. First to attack was Sec.Lt. Piotrowski who bounced a He 111 with a good targeted series of shots. The German plane went down, however the defencive gunner's fire hit the Polish fighter. The P.11 came down in an attempted forced landing. Unfortunately for Piotrowski, Bf 109s then come out from clouds, and at a very low altitude, they flammed the defenceless P.11. The Polish pilot had no chance so survive. Another aviator of the 152nd Eskadrille was Sec.Lt. Jan Bury-Burzymski. In a vertical atack in the Buchnika area, Bury-Burzymski was able to down a He 111. This Eskadrille, together with the Pursuit Brigade, scored four additional kills. After this battle, which lasted over one hour, the Polish pilots returned to their airfield.

    Of about 2000 aircraft used against Poland, the Luftwaffe lost 258 to all causes, and of an additional 263 damaged only 40% made it back to the front-line units after repairs. An estimated 230 aircraft were destroyed in action, primarily by Polish fighters and anti-aircraft artillery. About 400 aircrew were killed or missing, and an additional 120 wounded. Of 217 German tanks destroyed and 457 seriously damaged in the campaign, a significant proportion can be attributed to the Bomber Brigade and the P.23s of the Army reconnaissance squadrons.

    The Lotnictwo Wojskowe lost 333 aircraft, 260 as the result of enemy action. Of these, around 100 were destroyed in combat and a further 120 as the result of sustained damage. Only 25 combat aircraft (as opposed to many training and civilian airplanes) were destroyed on the ground. Aircrew killed numbered 61 with 110 were missing and 63 wounded. When comparing the combat potential of both sides, this is by no means a bad result for the Polish Air Force.
    An interesting observation was that, throughout the campaign, more than 30 Polish aircraft were shot down by Polish anti-aircraft fire. This sad testimony to the efficiency of Polish AA gunners (who also took a heavy toll – considering the small number of AA guns available – of the Luftwaffe) is easy to explain. Constantly harassed by the Luftwaffe, mauled by the horrifying Stuka attacks, Polish ground troops fired at anything that flew. Polish aircraft were indeed a rare sight in those days, thus, when they did appear, they were almost automatically assumed to be German. Probably the worst incident happened on September 8th. When P.11s of III/2 Dywizjon were chasing a He 111 formation near Pulawy, Polish AA opened fire, and shot down four aircraft, killing two pilots – one of them the C/O of 121 Eskadra – and wounding one. More frequent, though, were cases of downing Polish liaison and reconnaissance aircraft, which, because of German mastery of the air, usually kept close to the ground and were often hit by Polish machine gun or even small arms fire. In debriefing the arriving Polish airmen, this was a lesson that the Ilmavoimat would take to heart, with a strong emphasis placed on aircraft recognition training for Maavoimat AA gunners.

    Another interesting statistic is the number of defensive kills by Polish bomber and reconnaissance crews – 14 – as compared to the number of these aircraft shot down by German fighters (31). As Polish bombers had a relatively weak defensive armament (three 7.92mm guns) and no armor, even assuming top-quality gunnery on part of the Polish crews, there is no escaping the conclusion that many German fighter pilots were only learning their trade (by comparison: the Pursuit Brigade claimed 38 victories over German bombers and lost only 4 fighters to their defensive fire).

    The Ilmavoimat incorporated all of these aircraft and personnel immediately and they went on to fly in Polish Volunteer Squadrons in the Winter War. Polish flying skills were well-developed and the Polish pilots and aircrew flying for Finland in the Winter War were regarded as fearless bordering on reckless. Success rates were very high, on a par with the Ilmavoimat pilots in point of fact. German war booty from Poland also included 50 brand new PZL Pegasus engines that were sold to Sweden – these were promptly resold by Sweden to Finland for use by the Ilmavoimat as spares.

    Polish Air Force PZL 37 Łoś aircraft on a bombing mission during the Winter War. After the Winter War started, the Polish aircraft reapplied the Polish insignia and fought as a “Polish Air Force unit attached to the Ilmavoimat” during the Winter War, considering themselves at war with the USSR. A considerable number of Polish Air Force personnel managed to find their way to Finland over the course of the Winter War, as eager to continue the fight against the USSR, which had "stabbed Poland in the back" as they were to also fight Germany. This attitude would not change throughout WW2, the Poles would always regard the USSR as an enemy as real the Germany.This was something the British and Americans would not understand (or which they refused to understand) until after the end of WW2.

    Next Post: Escape from Latvia and Lithuania – the Polish Army’s miraculous “Dunkirk”
  3. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Escape from Latvia and Lithuania – the Polish Army’s Dunkirk

    In September 1939, the Polish armed forces had battled the Germans for two weeks before being blindsided by the Soviet Union’s attack from the east. With only minimal help from Poland’s allies, France and Great Britain, and with most of his forces fighting the Germans, Poland’s commander-in-chief Marshal Edward Smigly-Rydz ordered his soldiers in eastern Poland to withdraw south into Romania or Hungary, hoping to save them for future battles. By the end of the month, some 90,000 Poles had made their way into those two countries. Another 30,000 members of the Polish Army and Polish Aior Force escaped the Red Army and the Heer by crossing the border into Latvia and Lithuania where they were disarmed and interned.

    In 1939, Latvia shared a common border with Poland of some 100kms in length and the attack on Poland by Germany coaused widespread concern (as it did to a lesser extent in Lithuania). To fully understand the attitude of the Latvian Government to Poland and to the internment of Polish military personnel crossing into Latvia in 1939, we must briefly look at the international situation. In 1919 the Baltic states, Poland and Finland had started working intermittently towards creating an agreement for joint defense – we will cover this and other efforts in a subsequent post, suffice it to say that nothing concrete came from these efforts. Latvia's subsequent attempts to create an alliance, at least with Estonia and Lithuania also came to nothing (the 1923 military convention concluded with Estonia was more of a formality than a concrete treaty, and an agreement in 1934 provided only a diplomatic cooperation, which in the years 1939-1940 did not lead to any solid military cooperation, giving the USSR, one of the pretexts it used for the occupation of the Baltic states in June 1940). Attempts to obtain guarantee of independence from the Western powers also failed. In such circumstances, in early September 1939, the only hope of the authoritarian governments of the small Baltic states remained a policy of neutrality and respect towards the potential aggressors - the Germans and the Soviet Union.

    Following the outbreak of war between Poland and Germany, Latvian President K. Ulmanis issued a statement on September 1st affirming the neutrality of Latvia, and on September 3rd the government once again stated: "In this troubled time the government kindly requests all citizens to dutifully and unanimously support the policy of neutrality determined by the President of the State, which the Government will implement in all areas of business. Calmly and with dignity, without giving anything away and not giving in to panic, the whole nation will continue its work and will overcome all the difficulties and limitations that war between foreign states can also bring to our land. The sense of responsibility and sense of duty should be strong in every citizen, and everyone should know that the government expects an active and judicious support from all citizens. We will work together, to pray for peace for the peoples who today raise weapons one against another, and together we will give all our strength to strengthen and honor our homeland. God, bless Latvia! "

    Photo sourced from : http://blogs.krustaskola.lv/wp-content/ ... sdiena.jpg
    Latvian President Karlis Ulmanis: Kārlis Augusts Vilhelms Ulmanis (September 4, 1877 in Bērze, Bērze Parish, Latvia — September 20, 1942 in Krasnovodsk prison, Soviet Union) was a prominent Latvian politician in independent Latvia from 1918 to 1940. Ulmanis studied agriculture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and at Leipzig University. He then worked in Latvia as a writer, lecturer, and manager in agricultural positions. He was politically active during the 1905 Revolution, was briefly imprisoned in Pskov, and subsequently fled Latvia to avoid incarceration by the Russian authorities. During this period of exile, Ulmanis studied at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the United States, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture. After working briefly at that university as a lecturer, Ulmanis moved to Houston, Texas, where he had purchased a dairy business. Ulmanis returned to Latvia from exile in 1913, after being informed that it was safe to return due to the declaration of a general amnesty by the Russian tsar. This safety was short-lived WWI broke out one year later.

    Ulmanis was one of the principal founders of the Latvian People's Council (Tautas Padome), which proclaimed Latvia's independence from Russia on November 18, 1918. Ulmanis was the first Prime Minister of a Latvia which had become independent for the first time in 700 years. He also served as Prime Minister in several subsequent Latvian government administrations during the period of Latvian independence from 1918 to 1940. In addition, he founded the Latvian Farmers' Union, one of the two most prominent political parties in Latvia at that time. On May 15, 1934, in order to protect the country from a coup by right-wing extremists led by Lt. Col. Voldemārs Ozols, Ulmanis as Prime Minister dissolved the Saeima (Parliament) and established executive non-parliamentary authoritarian rule. Officers from the Army and units of the Aizsargi loyal to Ulmanis moved against key government offices, communications and transportation facilities. Many elected officials were illegally detained, as were any military officers that resisted the coup d'etat.

    Ulmanis was a popular leader, especially among the farmers, during whose leadership Latvia recorded major economic achievements. During Ulmanis' rule, education was strongly emphasized and literacy rates in Latvia reached high levels. The United Kingdom and Germany became Latvia's major trade partners, while trade with the USSR was reduced. The economy, especially the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, were micromanaged to an extreme degree. Ulmanis nationalised many industries and there was rapid economic growth, during which Latvia attained a very high standard of living. At a time when most of the world's economy was suffering, Latvia could point to increases in both gross national product and in exports of Latvian goods overseas. This, however, came at the cost of liberty and civil rights. Ulmanis was a Latvian nationalist, who espoused the slogan "Latvia for Latvians". As the result, the economic share of minorities - Germans, Jews, Russians, Lithuanians - declined. However, Ulmanis didn't allow any physical violence or unlawful acts towards minorities and dealt harshly with right- and left- wing extremists, and with both Nazi and Communist sympathisers. Latvia was also open to refugees and many from both Germany and the USSR found refuge in Latvia between 1920 and 1938.

    In June 1940, when Latvia was completely occupied by the Soviet Union, Ulmanis ordered Latvians to show no resistance to the Soviet Army. The phrase "I will remain in my place and you remain in your places" from his radio speech on this occasion is still famous. On July 21, 1940 Ulmanis was forced to resign and he then asked the Soviet government for a pension and to allow him to emigrate to Switzerland. Instead, he ended up in Stavropol in the USSR, where he worked in his original profession for a year. In July 1941, he was imprisoned. A year later, as German armies were closing in on Stavropol, he and other inmates were evacuated to a prison in Krasnovodsk in the present Turkmenistan. On the way there, he contracted dysentery and died on 20 September 1942. His grand-nephew, Guntis Ulmanis was elected President of Latvia in 1993.

    Although in some publications, the press (especially in the first week of the war) expressed not-so-well-hidden sympathy for the Police, officials and newspapers tried to maintain strict neutrality. For example, on September 1, Polish MEP S. Klopotowski gave an interview to the Latvian press, but the Foreign Ministry prohibited its publication, giving the press a hint that in the case of similar interviews, the texts must be agreed prior to publication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On September 4th the PAT Correspondent in Riga approached the Director of the State Telegraph Agency, indicating that the Polish press office would provide the latest news about the war to the Latvian press. The Director politely replied that "given the neutral position, we will supply only official announcements”. Simultaneously the Latvian government through diplomatic channels desperately tried to determine the basis of rumors of the liaison pact between Germany and the USSR which had been made on August 23. The Baltic states, however, received only vague answers from the representatives of both countries.

    Meanwhile the Latvian-Polish border was not entirely peaceful. From the beginning of September, Poles had begun seeking refuge in Latvia (few were returned back) and Latvia Poles were crossing the other way, seeking to join the Polish Army. Polish border guards by September 3rd had already sent back to Latvia two young Poles from Daugavpils (Daugavpils), who wanted to join the Polish Army (other Polish-Latvian volunteers made it to Wilno). This situation changed abruptly on September 17th, when hundreds of refugees began flooding into Latvia. In a meeting of the government, a proposal was made by President K. Ulmanis and the Foreign Minister V. Munters to suspend diplomatic relations with Poland. September 21 Munters invited the Polish envoy, Kłopotowskiego to a meeting and read him the note. Trying to ease the tenor of the note, Munuters advised that " if the Polish government will start operations again, then - we'll see what comes next", but the conversation "was a tragic moment". On the same day (21 September) in accordance with the Foreign Ministry statement that "relations with the Polish military attaché have been interrupted" – the Polish embassy was refused a permit for an attaché, Major F. Brzeskwińskiego, to visit the internment camp for Poles that had been set up.

    In attempting to placate Germany and the USSR, Latvia had ceased to be a neutral party. In turn, the governments of Estonia and Lithuania were in s similar situation. Polish relations with both Lithuania and Latvia were interrupted in a milder form in October. Other neutral countries, especially Scandinavian countries, had not considered this possibility and the Polish delegations continued their diplomatic work. The Latvian Government and Foreign Ministry on September 25 justified this step to representatives of Britain, and later to France, both of whose representatives gave expression to their displeasure. The Polish embassy building in Riga and the Polish consulate building in Daugavpils were at this stage taken over by representatives from Finland, who quickly acted to set up a Polish affairs section and from which they began to work to assist Poles in moving out from Latvia and Lithuania to Sweden and Finland. In early October (5 October) Latvia was forced to sign an agreement with the Soviet Union, authorising the deployment of Soviet garrisons. The number of soldiers in the Soviet military garrisons was close to or even exceeded the number of soldiers of the national armies of each of the Baltic states. However, by the time the Red Army garrisons arrived, Finland had already acted and the Poles at least were gone.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.occupation.lv/images/items/2 ... 44076p.jpg
    The signining of the Latvia-USSR Mutual Assistance Pact in Moscow on 5th October, 1939. The signatories: Seated, Molotov. Standing (from left): USSR political representative to Latvia I. Zotov, Stalin, the Latvia Foreign Minister Vilhelms Munters, the Latvian envoy to the USSR Fricis Kocins and the USSR’s First Assistamt Foreign Affairs Commisar V Potjomkin.


    On the evening of September 17 the flood of Polish refugees crossing the border began in earnest. Rail traffic was stopped between stations in Poland and Latvia and on September 18 border security in the region was strengthened with local aizsargów (members of the paramilitary Aizsargi). Refugees gave the Latvian officers weapon. One of the interned Poles, M. Zawiło, recalled that the border had been strengthened and that “we could see a lot of cavalry and infantry patrols on the railway line. Poles gave up their arms and ammunition. The railway station waiting room had several tables where the personal data of Polish soldiers was recorded. Then we were taken to Daugavpils in passenger cars. At the border taking pictures was strictly forbidden, the whole area was closed to civilians.”

    On September 18 and 19 83 Polish aircraft arrived and the crews were interned: these aircraft consisted of 38 RWD-8, 35 PWS-26, 1 PZL-11A, 2 RWD-10, 2 RWD-17 RWD-21 1, 2 Lublin R XIII, 1 R XIIIC Lublin, Lublin R-XIV 1. Mostly these were training aircraft from north-eastern Polamd, which in the first half of September centered on Wilnoi. The only combat units that arrived were 3 RWD-8’s from Pinsk. Aircraft landed at the airport in Daugavpils, but in some cases it was necessary to use anti-aircraft artillery fire and machine guns to force the aircraft to land. On September 19 an aircraft which did not want to land and flew of in the direction of Jēkabpils was shot down near Daugavpils. Afterwards, 20 RWD-8’s were used as instructional aircraft in the Latvian Army aviation regiment, and six aircraft were handed over to Aeroklubowi Latvia, while several went to the Aviation Aizsargi. The greater number remained in warehouses in Riga.

    Correspondent daugavpilskiej "Daugavas Vēstnesis" was in Wilno in September. On the morning of 18 September he was at the Wino airport and observed the situation. There was nervousness, the weather was not favorable, but some pilots flew to Latvia. Shouts accompanied each aircraft flying out. At least four pilots flew together with their wives. The airmen interned most came from the fifth Lida Aviation Regiment, some from the fifth Regiment in Torun, some from the Wilno flight school and a few from the 1st Aviation Regiment. They were relatively well armed. The number of pilots along with the technical personnel of air regiments escaping to Latvia reached several hundred people. The same correspondent describes the situation of Polish refugees on the Polish-Latvian border, which he witnessed: “When I arrived at the Zemgale station there remained in the Polish side a long line of cars, and many refugees. It did not last long. By September 21 the influx of refugees was over, but there had as yet been no contact with Red Army Border Protection units.” The border was closed by Soviet units on the evening of September 22, by which time many thousands of Poles, both military and civilian, had sought refuge in Latvia.

    The official registration and the initial internment work took place in Daugavpils where refugeers received medical care. Refugees behaved calmly and seemed reconciled to their fate. By September 20 most of the first arrivals had been sent to the newly formed camp in Liepaja, later many were sent to camps in Sigulda and Valmiera. The camp in Daugavpils was temporary, with Liepāja becoming the main internment centre. Further camps were set up at Liten and Lilaste and the Latvian military assigned one company of Aizsargi to supervise each camp. (When the time came for Finland to act, this facilitated the evacuation as the Finnish Suojeluskuntas had close ties with the Aizsargi and these were used from the start). By October 7th no refugees remained in Daugavpils.

    Within the internment camps, good order prevailed. Wake-up call was scheduled for 7.00, followed by breakfast, working, learning, walking in the courtyard from 9:00 to 12:30 pm and later - lunch, after which there was free time for dinner (18.00) and then at 21.00 the call for evening, and from 22.00 lights out. On holidays, waking up was an hour later. Officers and others - each in their own particular time could bathe in the lake in the territory of the camp, but the water temperature was to be no lower than 18 degrees (a doctor measured the temperature at 7.00 in the morning). Radio could be listened to in the camp throughout the day. In the Liepaja Camp, Col. E. Perkowicz served as senior officer, and received orders directly from the Latvian camp commander. Already by early October there was offered the opportunity to learn Latvian, Russian, English, German and French, to continue their primary and secondary education, participation in agricultural courses, drainage and cultivation of bees. Playing of sports was encouraged (the Latvian Red Cross donated for this purpose footballs, skates, as well as chess, checkers and dominoes).

    Guests could visit every day from 12.00 to 20.00. Within one week you could send a post card at no charge (postage was paid by the International Red Cross). Those who in Latvia had friends or relatives were able to leave camp two times a month, to get 2 days off to visit family in Sigulda, a civilian refugee camp, or to visit relatives in Riga (once per month). In fact, the internees, regardless of whether they had relatives in Latvia or not, got leave frequently. Everyone had to sign a declaration that outside of the camp they would behave impeccably and that in the event of default all internees would loose the right to leave. From 11th of October 1939 the internees were allowed to meet with people who were their spouses, relatives or relatives of their spouses, but - judging from the entries in guest books - to obtain a formal statement of the meeting was enough to establish a relationship with the internees.

    Starting as early as 21-22 September, the Latvian authorities began to pay interned Polish Officers and NCO’s. The Latvian Polish community also banded together to help the internees. Some internees began plans to escape while the Latvia government debated what to do with the Polish internees. According to the Polish military attache in Lithuania, Leon Mitkiewicz, he received an instruction from General Mieczyslaw Norvid-Neugebauer on 23rd September, 1939, instructing him to send large groups of the internees to France …… by railroad. Mitkiewitcz recorded that the instruction was somewhat naive and he had some doubts about the geographical knowledg of the author of the instruction. Needless to say, it was not complied with. Between September 10th and October 15th about 400 internees got French and British visas, but only about 150 left, all via Sweden. The Swedish Government was very reluctant to give visas, even for transit.

    However, unknown to the Polish internees in Latvia and Lithuania – and to the British, French and the Polish Government-n-Exile, such as it was in late September and early October 1939, Finland was already planning the evacuation of the Poles in Latvia and Lithuania for her own reasons. As has been previously noted, Finnish Intelligence (and key Government Ministers and senior Military Commanders) were aware of the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, of which they had been made aware from two sources – a sympathetic source in Germany (where Finland had many well-wishers) and also personally to the Finnish Ambassador in the US from US President Roosevelt himself. After the immediate invasion of Poland and the Soviet pressure on Finland and the Baltic States, Finland took this seriously and was moving rapidly to a full war footing. As such, 25-30,000 Polish military personnel were a valuable asset, either as additional soldiers should that eventuate or as additional leverage with the British and French. Not that the Finns counted on this, just as they did not count on Stalin’s goodwill and his abiding by any agreement signed.

    Thus the decision to act. In the decade of the 1930’s, the Merivoimat had made considerable progress, both in size and in the ability to plan and act rapidly. On the 20th September 1939, the Government instructed the Navy to begin planning for the evacuation of Polish military personnel from Latvia and Lithuania in a rapid and secret move. Reserve personnel for the Merivoimat, including the three Rannikkojääkärit Regimental Battle Groups, had already been mobilized and this additional troop and ship movements were not surprising. Scattered in various locations, a number of cargo and passenger ships departed Finland on the evening of 13 October 1939 and steamed south at an average speed of 20 knots. They had been preceded by five Merivoimat Submarines who were already well on their way. Early the next morning (14 October), a naval task force consisting of four of the Merivoimat’s Grom-class destroyers, six of the ASW Corvettes and some twenty five Motor Gunboats headed south at thirty five knots, linking up south of the Aland Islands and continuing as a single force. By nightfall they had joined the cargo and passenger ships off the Latvia coast and in the early evening, they began to enter Latvian waters and dock.

    Starting in the early evening on 14 October 1939, covert operations soldiers of the Finnish Intelligence Service based from the Finnish Embassies in Lithuania and Latvia began to activate the plans that had been prepared with their paramilitary contacts in Latvia and Lithuania. Trucks and Buses [acked with Poles from the internment camps began to roll down the Lithuanian and Latvian roads. Confused Poles began to be packed into Finnish ships as Marines of the Rannikkojääkärit moved ashore in local displays of force – just in case any misguided Police or local Army units attempted to intervene. At the same time, the Finnish Ambassadors in each country paid a midnight call on the respective Presidents and advised them that in six hours there would no longer be any issues they need concern themselves with over Polosh internees. The high-handed Finnish move was not welcomed, but neither was it resisted.

    One of the Polish soldiers who escaped from Latvia in the Evacuation was Henryk Wroblewski, a serving member of the Polish Air Force. Henryk was born in St. Petersburg in 1921. His mother was a maid in the household of a Russian general, his father was a member of the Czar's Palace Guard. Although his father had been regarded as too old to fight against the Finns in 1914, the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 persuaded the family to return to Poland. In 1922 when Henryk was aged one, the family settled in Vilno. Here is Henryk's account:

    (see http://www.polandinexile.com/henry.htm for the real story...)

    “On the 17th September 1939, early on a Sunday morning, Soviet Russia invaded Poland. A small Polish unit was leaving town (Vilno). With a few of my colleagues from the Air Force, we joined this unit as volunteers. Equipped and armed, we marched west, but did not get very far as Soviet troops had cut us off. On 20th September we decided to cross the Latvian border where we knew we would be interned. We were dis-armed and interned temporarily in a barbed-wire surrounded camp at Dyneburg.

    After a few weeks I was sent to a camp at Liepaja, a port on the Baltic Sea, where there were about 8,000 Poles from all the services. At the camp, we were well treated by the Latvian guards, but there was little to do. We all knew about the demanded from the USSR that the Baltic countries allow the USSR to establish military bases and station troops on their soil for the duration of the European war and this worried us – we had heard many stories about what was happening back in Poland. Latvia signed an agreement on 5 October 1939 that gave the USSR bases at Liepāja, Ventspils, and Pitrags and allowed the Red Army to garrison 30,000 troops in Latvia as well as build airbases and that really worried us. We all wanted to somehow get to France or Britain where we had heard Polish military units were being reformed. But we had no contacts and no way that we knew to escape from Latvia.

    Map sourced from: http://www.chessbase.com/news/2005/liepaja01.gif
    Liepaja: the Latvian Port from where some 20,000 of the 30,000 Poles in Latvia and Lithuania were evacuated on the morning of 14th October 1939 in a well-planned and organized operation by the Merivoimat.

    Things changed for us very suddenly on the morning of 14th October 1939. At 1am in the morning, we were woken by men of the Aizsargi, the Latvian “Guards” organisation and told to assemble with whatever we possessed. At 3am, the Aizsargi began directing us on to an assortment of trucks and buses while other groups were started off on foot. We were told we were being taken to the Port area from where we would be shipped out of Latvia. Lots of rumours flew around as we moved out, among them that we were bring shipped off to Germany or the the USSR, but nobody paniced and tried to run – there were a lot of Aizsargi, and they were all armed and besides, where could we go? In my case, I was lucky enough to be packed into a truck – standing room only – so at least I didn’t have to walk like many of the others did.

    We got to the port and were driven directly onto a wharf next to a large ship. We were told to get off the truck and line up with the others already waiting and we did, after which the truck left immediately and the next took its place. There were some large groups of men stationed along the wharf at intervals in strange looking uniforms and armed with rifles and submachineguns that were different from anything we had seen. They wore German style helmets which caused a certain amount of concern, but the rest of their equipment was unlike anything we’d seen in photos of Germans or of the Red Army. We wondered who they were and rumours flew around that it was the Swedes or the British or even the Americans. We’d only been there 5 minutes, and head of us we could see rows of men filing up gangplanks onto the ship. Further down, we could see another ship and then another with the same thing happening. It seemed every Pole in Latvia was there. Which was not quite correct as it turned out – it was every Pole in Lithuania plus all of us that were at the camp outside the city.

    We could see the group next us was being addressed by someone in wearing that German style helment, after which they started to move onto the ship and then he walked over to us. Every eye was on him. He started to address us in very badly accented Polish. Very very badly accented and very broken Polish, Well, he might not have spoken good Polisg but his first words bought a huge relief to all of us. “We are from Finland. All of you keep quiet and listen.” He had that sort of Senior NCO voice that commands instant obedience. Even in bad Polish! Nobody made a sound. “You will make No Noise. There Will Be No Questions. Listen and follow instructions. I am from the Finnish Navy and we are here to evacuate you to Finland. From this moment you are under the protection of the Finnish Navy. You will board the ship as instructed and take the places you are told. Do it quickly and do not argue. Follow all instructions. We are sailing for Finland as soon as everybody is safely on board. We must move quickly before the Germans or the Russians become aware of what is happening.” He gestured to the man standing next to him. “Ylivääpeli (that’s Master Sergeant to you) Sinkonen will take over and see you onto the ship. Do not argue with him, he does not speak Polish.” “Neither do you,” I thought but didn’t say. Without any further word he turned and moved on to the next group.

    Ylivääpeli (we eventually got used to Finnish ranks but it took a long time) Sinkonen looked at us and smiled. He was 6 feet six and looked like he could carry a pine tree under either arm. His smile might have been friendly, it was hard to tell. While he did not speak Polish but his instructions were obvious. We fell in at the rear of the group ahead of us and filed up the gangplank and onto the ship as fast as we could. There was no delay. Finnish sailor’s were every few feet and they pointed and pushed us in the direction we were to go in. The ship must already have been fairly full. We were directed upwards and then packed into cabins. It looked like a passenger ship, maybe a ferry of some sort and we were packed in like sardines. Nobody complained. There was not one protest – we were all elated that we were leaving Latvia. There were 30 of us packed into a small cabin with 6 bunks but at least we had a porthole that could open and let fresh air in. Two hours after we had boarded, the ship began to pull away from the berth and head out to sea. From our porthole, we could see other ships as crowded as ours, even the decks were packed and we could see warships as well. “Finnish destroyers,” someone said as one raced past us, visible through our small porthole. Because it was getting lighter, we could make out the large Finnish flag and see that all the guns were manned and it was ready to fight. That was very reassuring.

    Photo sourced from: http://seattlehistory.org/media/images/ ... /39200.jpg
    Polish soldiers lined up on the wharves at the Latvian port of Liepaja and filing aboard Finnish transport ships. Operatives of the secretive covert action wing of the Finnish Intelligence Service coordinated the move with the Latvian Aizsargi and Lithuanian paramilitary organisation, the Lietuvos Šaulių Sąjunga. Some 30,000 Poles were moved over a period of two days from Camps in both Latvian and Lithuania to the Latvian ports of Liepaja, Ventspils and Riga, from where they were embarked on Finnish transports. Loading started at midnight on 14th October and had been completed by midday on the 15th, after which the ships were on the move.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.vilnaghetto.com/gallery2/d/2 ... 26+-+2.jpg
    Lithuanian Men of the Lietuvos Šaulių Sąjunga (photo from 1926): The Lithuanian Riflemen‘s Union was a nationalistic paramilitary organisation similar in many ways to the Finnish Suojeluskuntas (and indeed, in the interwar decades had established ties with the Suojeluskuntas). Being a member was seen as prestigious, and a "šaulys" was regarded as a defender of the state, with many state officials such as Police and Foresters being members of this organisation, which was some 60,000 strong in the 1930’s. Following the Soviet occupation of June 1940, many members of the Lietuvos Šaulių Sąjunga would pay with their lives for the assistance they had given to the Poles in escaping to Finland.

    Latvia: Men of the Aizsargi (Guards) paramilitary organisation. As in Lithuania, many of the Aizsargi that helped the Poles escape paid with their lives after the Soviet occupation. Some would escape to Finland before the Soviet vice clamped down irrevocably, and the Finns would clandestinely rescue many between June and September 1940 as well as over the period of the Soviet and German occupations. These men would become the core of the Latvian Regiments that would fight in the Maavoimat-led Liberation of Latvia in 1944.

    Shortly after that the ship picked up speed and we could see the other ships moving with us. Passenger ships crowded with fellow Poles, Destroyers and small fast warships of some type we had never heard of – but they were very fast. We could feel the ship’s engines vibrating the whole vessel and it seemed like she was going as fast as she could. It was a wonderful feeling and everybody was talking – at least until the sea got rougher and some started feeling seasick. Shortly after, the same Finnish Senior NCO who could speak Polish stuck his head in our cabin. “Listen,” he barked, and we all fell silent. It was that tone of voice again. “It will take us twenty hours to get to Finland. We will bring food and water round later, but there are 2,500 of you on a ship built to carry 700, it will take a while. In meantime, you stay in your cabins. There are bathrooms down the passageway. Only leave to use them and come right back. A sailor is on duty in the passageway to make sure you obey. He does not speak Polish so don’t bother asking him anything. I am only Finn on this ship that speaks Polish and I have all of you to talk to. Don’t waste my time asking questions. All I know is we take you to Finland with your Government’s agreement.” He looked around. “Do not make trouble on this ship. You will not enjoy the results.” Then he smiled at us. “Finland will welcome you.”

    Finland did. We had left Latvia early in the morning of the 14 of October and we arrived in Helsinki on the morning of the next day, all 30,000 of us in one day in a small convoy of fifteen passenger and cargo ships. God knows how the Finns had done it but us Poles, we were all elated. We had escaped! Tired as we were, we could not stop talking, nobody wanted to sleep, we all just wanted to find out what was happening and where we were to go. At last, after three hours in our cabin, a real genuine Polish Officer stood in the doorway or our cabin, with a Finnish soldier next to him. He looked us over and grinned. “Welcome to Finland,” he said. “You are going to follow this NCO off the ship. The Finns have set up camps for us and you will stay there for now until we can arrange for you to be shipped out to Britain to join the Polish Army and continue the fight.” We all cheered, this was the best news we could imagine. After we quietened down, he continued, “It may take some time to organize, but in the meantime, do not cause any trouble and be on your best behavior. We are all guests here and the Finns have helped us more than anyone else. I have to go now to the next cabin but the NCO here will take charge of you.” He gave us another grin and left.

    Photo sourced from: http://img85.imageshack.us/img85/4372/stlouishavana.jpg
    Polish soldiers being evacuated from Latvia and Lithuania to Finland – packed into and onto Finnish transports and escorted by almost the entire Merivoimat, 30,000 members of the Polish military were evacuated to Finland in a move that took both the Germans and the Soviets by surprise. It was a mammoth logistical and naval effort involving some 15-20 transport ships and 25 warships that took place with a flawless precision that was evidence of the complete professionalism and expertise of the Merivoimat. The Rannikkojääkärit Regimental Battle Group that supplied the “land force” component of the move operated with a precision and élan that reinforced this impression to any observers (of which, outside the Latvians, Lithuanians and Poles, there were none….).

    The Finnish NCO looked at us and said something incomprehensible, then gestured to us to follow him. We did, all thirty of us filing out of the cabin and following him through the ship like a group of school children on an outing. As we came onto the deck, we paused. It seemed like the entire population of Helsinki was lining the wharves and cheering. There were even Polish flags being waved. It was enough to bring tears to the eyes, and more than one of us was crying openly at the welcome. Filing down the gangplank, “our” NCO first led us towards a row of Field Kitchens and trestle tables staffed by rows of Finnish women in uniform with armband that read “Lotta.” It was our first experience of the Finnish womens paramilitary organisation, the Lotta Svard. It would not be the last. We were handed large mugs of coffee and told to drink up, then given sandwiches to eat on the truck which we were promptly gestured to get in. From the back of the truck, we got a good luck around as we were driven out of Helsinki and into the countryside, one of a long line of trucks and buses going in both directions – which seemed to indicate we weren’t going far.

    Within the hour we were being offloaded at a Finnish military camp. Our group of thirty was allocated to three ten man tents with bedding. Our Finnish NCO remained with us, taking us to eat in a large mess hall which seemed to be serving food non-stop, then to a warehouse where we were issued with new clothing. “Our” NCO remained with us for the next two weeks, by which time we were being reorganized into “Polish” units. It was at that stage that I was moved into a Polish Air Force unit within the camp, saying goodbye to my Army comrades with whom I had made the trip from Latvia and spent my first two weeks in Finland. By then, we were all in love with Finland. While we were being reorganized, we were allowed out of Camp and we made a number of trips to Helsinki. The Finnish Army even paid us and the Finns in Helsinki welcomed us with open arms. It was difficult to even pay for a meal or a drink and we often found ourselves guests in Finnish houses. After Latvia and Lithuania, where we were tolerated but not welcome, it was a refreshing and invigorating change.

    Peripherally, we were aware of the ongoing tensions between Finland and the USSR – and we none of us had any love for the USSR, which had stabbed Poland in the back as we fought the Germans. Thus, as tensions in Finland rose and we saw the Finnish military being mobilized and moving to the frontiers, with even women and teenagers amed and ready to fight, many of us asked our Officers what we could do to help the country that had rescued us. It was in late October as I recall that we were paraded as a unit and our CO told us that Finland had formally asked the Polish Government for our help – and that our Government had replied that any Pole who volunteered to fight for Finland could do so with their official blessing. The CO asked for volunteers to step forward and as one man, our entire “Squadron” moved forward. The situation was the same across evyer Polish Camp in Finland. With very few exceptions, we all volunteered.

    Next Post: The formation of the Polish Volunteer Units.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2012
  4. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Amended my previous Post - additional chunk on internees in Latvia added in at the start along with a couple of photos....
  5. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    The formation of the Polish Volunteer Units in Finland

    The formation of the Polish Volunteer Units in Finland

    The first Polish units to be absorbed into the Finnish military were, as has been previously covered, the Polish warships that escaped to Finland. Reflagged, absorbed into the Merivoimat, their crews sworn in as Finnish Citizens and members of the Merivoimat, the requirements of international law that warships of a foreign belligerent in a neutral port be impounded and their crews interned was bypassed. In this way, Finland added 4 Destroyers, 4 Submarines and a number of smaller warships to the Merivoimat’s naval strength. This strategy, as with that for Polish Air Force aircraft and personnel arriving by air, had been previously discussed and agreed on by both Finland and Poland at the highest political and military levels as a remote contingency measure. At the time these measures were taken, Poland was collapsing under the combined German-Soviet onslaught and neither of Polands “Allies”, Britain or France, were consulted or involved in any way. In the event there was no reaction at all from France, and a very muted one from the UK – the Admiralty’s view was that three Polish destroyers were of no real consequence to the Royal Navy, and their location in the remote Norwegian port of Lyngenfjiord was of no relevance whatsoever to the Navy’s war against Germany.

    In the same way, we have noted that a number of Polish Airforce aircraft made it to Finland in mid-Spetember. These consisted of twenty-seven of the modern PZL.37 Łoś bombers, 21 P.23 Karas light bombers / reconnaisance aircraft, 36 PZL P.11 fighters, 11 PZL P.7a Fighters and 10 RWD-17 trainers. The Ilmavoimat began to form these aircraft into 4 additional Squadrons – one of the PZL.37’s, one of the P.23’s and two of the PZL P.11 Fighters. The P.7’s and RWD-17’s were assigned to Ilmavoimat training units. The two P.11 Fighter squadrons were used as “second-line” fighters and patrol aircraft. Their performance was insufficient to catch the Soviet bombers but if flown well, they could at least take on the Soviet fighters with a chance – and if they had altitude on the Soviet bombers they could catch them by diving. However, the Polish pilots were also seasoned survivors and they were provided with more modern fighter aircraft as soon as these were available (after which the surviving P.11’s were also relegated to use as advanced trainers), flying these to great effect over the course of the Winter War, as we will see.

    The 27 PZL.37 Łoś bombers were formed into a single squadron and immediately assigned to the same bomber group as the Ilmavoimat’s Swedish-built PZL.37 Łoś’s, 12 of which had been delivered and were in service by November 1939. From October 1939 on, the Ilmavoimat began to modify the Polish aircraft to resemble the Ilamvoimat’s P.37’s – replacing the glazed nose with a solid nose with 4 machine guns and a single 20mm cannon under each wing root in an external blister, adding armour to the pilots position, fitting additional fuel cells into two of the wing bombbays, eliminating the Radio Operator / Ventral Gunner position, removing the ventral gun and upgrading the rear gun position to two machineguns. By the outbreak of the Winter War, some aircraft had had modficatins completed, some had not. The remaining squadron of P.23’s would be used primarily in an observation and reconnaissance role in the Winter War, flying in support of the 2 Polich Volunteer Divisions that would be formed from the Polish soldiers evacuated to Finland from Latvia and Lithuania.

    The political ins and outs and ramifactions of the formation of the Polish volunteer units in Finland will be covered in detail in a later Post. In this Post we will concentrate on the formation of the Polish volunteer units and their organisation and equipping.

    Of the 30,000 Poles who had been evacuated, some 5,000 were either suffering from injuries, had no prior military experience or were otherwise considered unfit for service or (very few) they didn’t volunteer. Almost all of these men would take up positions working in Finnish factories or on Finnish farms, where they would make an ongoing and valuable contribution through the war years. Many would end up remaining in Finland after the end of WW2. Of the remaining 25,000, some 2,000 men were members of the Polish Air Force and were assigned to newly formed squadrons within the Ilmavoimat. The remaining men were formed into a Polish Corps within the Maavoimat. The Corps was structured on the Maavoimat model of self-sufficent Heavy Brigade-sized battle groups loosely structured within a Divisonal organisation. Over the last half of October and most of November, further numbers of Poles managed to cross the borders into Latvia and Lithuania and once there, were moved north via a Finnish-managed clandestine escape network over roads to Estonia from where they were shipped across to Finland. An additional 7,500 Poles escaped via this network, and more would continue to trickle through up until June 1940. These men would be added to the strength of the Polish Corps.
    The Corps was commanded by Lt-Gen. Wladyslaw Anders, the senior Polish Officer in Finland. Major units and commanders included:

    Polish Corps Commander – Lt-Gen. Wladyslaw Anders
    Polish Corps Deputy Commander: Lt. Gen Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko
    Polish Corps Chief of Staff: Col. Kazimerz Wisniowski
    Polish Corps Engineers: Col. J. Sochocki
    Polish Corps Artillery: Maj. Gen R. Odierzynski

    663 Polish Air Force Observation Squadron (21 P.23 Karas reconnaisance aircraft)

    3rd Carpathian Division (3 Dywizja Strzelców Karpackich): Commander – Maj-General Bronislaw Duch

    Divisional Artillery: Col. K. Zabkowski (9 Polish Heavy Artillery Regiment - Mixed), 13 Polish Artillery Regiment, 8 Polish Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment)
    25 Wielkopolski Recon Battalion

    1st Polish Armoured Brigade Commander – Col. Walenty Peszek
    (1 Polish Armored Cavalry Battalion, 4 Polish Armored Battalion, 6 Lwowski Armored Battalion, 10 Polish Artillery Regiment, 9 Polish Field Troop – Engineers, Logistical and Support units)

    2nd Carpathian Rifle Brigade (2 Brygada Strzelców Karpackich): Commander – Col Roman Szymanski
    (4, 5 and 6 Carpathian Rifle Battalions, 11 Polish Artillery Regiment, Logistical and Support units)

    3rd Carpathian Rifle Brigade Commander – Lt.-Col G. Lowezowski
    (7, 8 and 9 Carpathian Rifle Battalions, 12 Polish Artillery Regiment, Logistical and Support units)

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... SK_CoA.png
    Emblem of the 3rd Carpathian Division (3 Dywizja Strzelców Karpackich), worn as a shoulder patch and painted on vehicles

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... w_Duch.jpg
    Bolesław Bronisław Duch (1885–1980). Polish Army Major General, Duch served during WWI in the Polish Legion. After Poland regained independence, he served in the Polish Army. In 1935-1938 he commanded the 73rd Infantry Regiment. At the outbreak of WW2 he became the de-facto commander of the 39th Reserve Infantry Division after it’s CO, General Brunon Olbrycht became too ill to command. After Poland was overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in September 1939, Duch managed to evade capture and escaped via Lithuania to Finland, where he was appointed commande of the 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division.

    5th Kresowa Division (5 Kresowa Dywizja Piechoty) Commander: Maj-General Nikodem Sulik

    Divsional Artillery – Col. J. Orski (7 Polish Horse Artillery Regiment, 78 Medium Artillery Regiment, 5 Kresowa AA Regiment)

    15th Poznań Uhlans Regiment (15 Pułk Ułanów Poznańskich): Commander: LtCol. Zbigniew Kiedacz

    4th Wolynska Infantry Brigade: Commander: Lt. Col. W Stoczkowski
    (10, 11 and 12 Wolynska Rifle Battalions, 2 Kresowa Field Artillery Regiment, 4 Kresowa Anti-Tank Battalion, 4 Kresowa Field Company - Engineers, Logistical and Support units)

    5th Wilenska Infantry Brigade – Commander: Col. Wincenty Kurek
    (13, 15 and 15 Wilenska Rifle Battalions, 5 Wilenska Field Artillery Regiment, 5 Wilenska Anti-Tank Battalion, 5 Kresowa Polish Field Company - Engineers, Logistical and Support units)

    6th Lwoski Infantry Brigade Commander: Col. Witold Nowina-Sawicki
    (16, 17 and 18 Lwowski Rifle Battalions, 23 Field Artillery Regiment, 5 Kresowa Anti-Tank Battalion, 6 Kresowa Field Company – Engineers, Logistical and Support units)

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... Zubr_2.png
    Emblem of the 5th Kresowa Division (5 Kresowa Dywizja Piechoty), worn as a shoulder patch and painted on vehicles

    Photo sourced from: http://www.okulicki.ipn.gov.pl/dokument ... 7-5673.jpg
    Lt. Gen Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko, L. Okulicki I, Maj-General Nikodem Sulik, CO of the 5th Kresowa Division (5 Kresowa Dywizja Piechoty)

    Formation and Training of the Polish Corps (Maavoimat)

    The rescued Polish soldiers were made up in many cases of entire units that had crossed the borders into Latvia and Lithuania to escape the Germans and the Soviets, as well as many who had successfully escaped while the occupation forces were still moving in to Poland. Many officers and NCO’s had also escaped either with their men or independently, and the Polish Army was fortunate in that many of these officers were excellent material, well-trained and capable. Many of them had also now had experience fighting the Germans and the Maavoimat took advantage of their experience to conduct in-depth debriefing sessions, the results of which were passed out through the Maavoimat.

    The Maavoimat officers assigned to work with the Poles moved rapidly, using the Polish officers and NCO’s to carry out the detailed organizational work necessary to select and allocate men to units as they were formed. Generally, the Poles were structured into units styled after the Maavoimat’s organizational structure. There were language and communication difficulties, with most of the communication being carried out in French, English or German – the languages common to both sides. The Poles had escaped without any weapons and the issuing of these, together with winter military clothing and equipment was the first priority. In this, the Maavoimat fell back on their stockpiles of reserve rifles, largely the old Mosin-Nagant’s that were being replaced within the Maavoimat by the new Lahtoi Salaranta SLR 7.62mm. Enough of these had entered service that there were more than enough rifles for the Poles.

    Likewise machineguns, mortars, anti-tank guns and artillery to equip the Polish units was cobbled together from older equipment and “war reserve” stockpiles that the Maavoimat and retained in storage for emergency use. Fortunately, there was enough of the older material available to fully equip the Polish units, but much of the artillery was the old guns the Finns had been retiring, the rest of the equipment was similar material, although the ant-tank guns were relatively new – almost all of them were the Bofors 37mm, supplemented with the Lahti 20mm Anti-tank Rifle.

    The Maavoimat strung together a series of intense training courses for the Poles which were started in November and which ended up running well into the early weeks of the Winter War. Still, this also allowed for war material to be shipped into Finland from overseas and the end result was that by the time the Polish Corps entered battle, they had experienced two and a half months of Maavoimat training and were a far more combat effective force than they had been when they arrived in Finland.

    Photo sourced from: http://katyncrime.pl/resize/w/640/galle ... ia/703.jpg
    General Władysław Anders, Commander, Polish Corps (Maavoimat) watching exercising Polish troops. Northern Finland: January 1940

    Polish Soldiers of the Polish Corps 5th Kresowa Division moving up to the front after completion of Maavoimat Training, early February 1940.

    The Polish Corps would move up to the front in early February 1940, taking part in the last great defensive battles on the Karelian Isthmus and then in the Spring Offensive on the Isthmus that shattered the Red Army and took the Maavoimat to the suburbs of Leningrad.

    Photo sourced from: http://img.audiovis.nac.gov.pl/PIC/PIC_37-658-1.jpg
    Gen. Kazimierz Sosnkowski, Gen. Bronisław Duch, Gen. Stanisław Kopański, Col Walenty Peszek (CO, 1st Polish Armoured Brigade – Outskirts of Leningrad, July 1940. Polish Army Divisions fought alongside the Maavoimat through both the Winter War and the Continuation War (the name the Finns came to use for the period from April 1994 through to the end of WW2 where they again fought in WW2, albeit for different reasons to the Winter War). The 1st Polish Armoured Brigade would be equipped with Renault R35 tanks that had been intended for Poland but which, after the Fall of Poland and the Soviet attack on Finland, were shipped to Finland to help equip the Polish units there.

    Photo sourced from: http://tyrannosaur.tripod.com/pol/renault-r35.jpg
    French-supplied Renault R-35 tanks of the 1st Polish Armoured Brigade roll through Viipuri prior to moving to the front – May 1940

    Photo sourced from: http://mbc.malopolska.pl/Content/12474/original/17.jpg
    The Polish Army was the first to fight in WW2 – men of the Polish Army would fight in many theatres of WW2 but as many of the survivors would say, they owed the freedom of Poland after 1945 to the Maavoimat and to the toughness of the Finns in first defeating the USSR in the Winter War, and then in ignoring the British and US agreements with the USSR as they and the Polish Divisions fighting with them surged southwards down the Baltic peripheral from mid-1944 in an offensive that took them to Wilno and the old Polish borders, and then to the Relief of Warsaw before turning East and driving into Germany.

    US General Patton and Polish Army General Anders review Polish troops in the Middle East in 1943. Late in 1943, these troops would be shipped to Finland in preparation for the surprise Finnish offensive on the Germans in April 1944. General Anders would again return to Finland with an enlarged Polish Corps, this time equipped by the Americans and British. General Patton would command the combined British/American Corps that fought with the Maavoimat and the Polish Army. Released from British/American political control and now under the command of Marshal Mannerheim, Patton would be given his head - and Patton, Anders and Kenraaliluutnantti Karl Lennart Oesch of the Maavoimat made a truely terrifying triumvirate of military commanders - Junkyard Pitbulls let off the leash was a simile later used by one military historian!

    Next Post: The British Commonwealth Volunteer Units
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2012
  6. foresterab Well-Known Member

    Mar 30, 2009
    Not much to add other than amazed at the level of detail you keep coming up with for each post.
  7. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Well, I started from the premise that when I read an alternative history novel I am always pissed off that the level of background information is always so cursory. Take The Peshawar Lancers for example. I like the novel, its a great ATL scenario - but I want to know everything about the ATL itself.

    So when I started this, I decided I was going to write it at the level of detail that I find interesting - all the sorts of things I would like to know if it was something I was reading. And I have to say, I find the whole exercise quite fascinating. When you start to dig, its amazing what you can find on the Internet. Weird little things like when the Germans converted those French 1897 Mle 75mm guns into anti-tank guns, they strengthened the barrels by shrinking 4 hoops over the barrel to reinforce them. Minor, but interesting to know how they did it.

    Likewise the Poles in Latvia and Lithuania. I had always wondered what had happened to them, seemed like a sad fate stuck there with no escape. Anyhow, is fun playing with all of this, thats all I can say. As longs as most of you enjoy reading it as well, I am happy :D.

    Anyhow, the next section on British Commonwealth Volunteers should be interesting too. .....

    AND ... I have not quite finished with the Forestry thing yet. After I finish with the volunteers, have to get back to the last couple of aircraft related topics and then its on to the next topics
  8. Just Leo Contrarian with a heart of gold

    Aug 19, 2009
    I enjoy reading this, but I love the pictures. Keep having fun.
  9. iddt3 Herald of the New Board Donor

    Jul 14, 2010
    You know, if you actually go into the post war world, it's gonna be kinda crazy. Finland has defeated not just the USSR, but Germany as well and appears to have it's own occupation zone. Finland didn't just punch above it's weight, it brought an assault rifle to the fight, threw in a flash bang, then shot the crap out of everyone. Everyone and there mother is going to have Military attaches in Finland, I suspect both the US and the UK will especially benifit, having had large numbers of troops serving alongside the hyper effective Finns whose effectiveness has been demonstrated to one and all, making the lessons impossible to ignore. The USSR will also focus on learning/stealing/countering everything the Finns have come up with. The end result seems likely to be 21st century level tactics by the 1960s. I would also think Finland is extremely likely to be a member of whatever NATO analogue emerges, and persue close relations with the US in the post war world, as well as easily taking the prize for most positively viewed ally, which in turn has huge butterflies for the Cold War.
  10. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010

    What I personally find quite fascinating is how much of what we think as 1960s / 1970s military technology and techniques already had precursors going back to WW1 or the 1920s and 1930s. Just, nobody put the dots together. Having ATL Finland do it all is a bit OTT but it does make for both a good story and an illustration of what might have been!'''''''''''
  11. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    OK, just tweaked my last Post with a link to a Youtube clip at the end. Some may enjoy the slight twist that has been thrown in for the future....
  12. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Couple of posts from the axishistory forum thread - thought they were worth copying over - will be weaving these in to the story later :D

    by Seppo Koivisto on Yesterday, 16:22

    Emblem of the 5th Kresowa Division (5 Kresowa Dywizja Piechoty), worn as a shoulder patch and painted on vehicles

    Lentolaivue 46 had very similar emblem. I remember reading that it came from a Polish vodka bottle.


    ..... and by Juha Tompuri on Today, 04:33

    Seppo Koivisto wrote: Lentolaivue 46 had very similar emblem. I remember reading that it came from a Polish vodka bottle.

    Interesting, I never have thought about that.
    Thanks for the info.

    Seems that the Polish Zubrowka "Bison (grass) Vodka" would be a good candidate here.
    Zubr = (European) Bison/Wisent


    Here War-time (Soviet) production, photo form Chamberlain & Gander WW Fact Files Anti-Tank Weapons
  13. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    And here are a few video clips of the Polish ships and aircraft mentioned in the previous posts:

    Polish Navy 1918 - 1939

    1939 - The Polish Army on Maneuvers

    Poland mobilizes - 1939

    Polish military equipment as of September 1939

    ORP Blyskawica Polish Navy - Escape from the Baltic, August 1939, early action with the Mervoimat - Atlantic Convoy escort of Finnish convoys from North America to Narvik and Lyngenfjiord

    The Polish Navy submarine ORP Orzel in action against Soviet aircraft, Gulf of Finland, Spring 1940

    The Polish Destroyers ORP Grom and ORP Blyskawica in Lyngenfjiord - 1939 - Finnish newsreel - (the location was undisclosed, although probably known to the Germans and Soviets - filmreel made for the international audience and thus in English)

    These are a few videoclips of the Polish aircraft covered in the previous post, together with another on General Wladyslaw Anders. Included these as a bit of general background - particularly as the aircraft are little known and there is not a lot of info on them - and certainly not much visual info. Not really relevant to the main story, just background....... Enjoy!

    PZL P.37 LOS - in 1939, one of the better medium bombers in service anywhere

    PZL P.11 Fighter - in 1935, this was as good as anything in the world. By 1939, it was obsolete but it was the best fighter Poland had available and with these, the Polish Air Force shot down numerous Luftwaffe aircraft. Polish fighter pilots went through some of the toughest training in the world and they were good .... quickly improvising effective tactics to deal with the German fighter and bombers

    PZL P.23 Karas light bomber - obsolete and vunerable, almost all were shot down in action against the Germans

    Another clip on the Karas

    OK, this is a simulation, but a pretty good one

    General Wladyslaw Anders - Polish Army
  14. Julius Vogel So

    Sep 3, 2008

    Yes, we need more forestry updates
  15. iddt3 Herald of the New Board Donor

    Jul 14, 2010
    Oh god, you've gone and given them Patton. Besides being an epic (and I do not use this word lightly, I suspect this campaign will be literally the stuff legends are made out of), putting a general of Patton's caliber on the phone Finnish front will make it impossible to ignore for all and sundry, and will contribute to Finland having an outsized voice in shaping the post war settlement.
  16. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Coming soon ..... :D

    Thought it would make for an interesting twist. Sadly, we will not see any further mention of him for some considerable time, but he is lurking in the wings......

    And now, time for another Post......
  17. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    British Assistance to Finland.....

    British Assistance and The British Volunteers

    We will get into the intricacies of Finland's political relationships with the European powers in later Posts. Suffice it to say that Finland was in the invidious position of being a pawn in the political maneouvering between France, Britain and the USSR with regard to Germany. And a pawn that the UK and France were quite happy to lose if it meant an agreement with the USSR. Finnish Intelligence was well aware of this and this knowledge of the British attitude would play an important part in official and unofficial Finnish decision making throughout WW2. After being a spectator to the fate of Czechoslovakia (and having perhaps a greater understanding of what the loss of the Czechoslovakian arms industry to Germany meant to the balance of industrial power in Europe than did Chamberlain) those who were responsible for the defence of Finland in the period after the Munich Crisis were even more concerned than before. As has been noted, this resulted in Finland moving to a war-footing in late 1938, making it perhaps the first country in Europe to take such drastic steps. The result had been a surge in Finnish defence spending, in military training and in the acquisition of arms, munitions and aircraft as well as other military equipment considered essential.

    Following the German attack on Poland, Finland had stepped up its attempts to purchase weapons, aircraft and military material from every available source. While purchases from France and the US had been negotiated and concluded, a number of requests to purchase artillery and aircraft from the UK had been declined. Some, consisting of material consider non-critical by the British, were approved for sale to Finland but despite this, exports to Finland required further approvals to be exported according to British blockade orders. Though the blockade orders were relatively lenient, only one shipload of war material was shipped to Finland from the UK by the beginning of November, and this was from France. The Finnish Ambassador to the UK, Georg Gripenberg, expressed his frustration at the situation, stating that Finland was being blockaded far more effectively by British and French bureaucrats than by German submarines. However, neither of the Allied governments was, during the first weeks of WW2, sufficiently interested in Finland to facilitate its task of preparing for the worst.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.finlandun.org/public/downloa ... 5833&GUID={C726D9EC-69B0-43C5-9432-69EF95E2F6E7}
    Georg A. Gripenberg on his appointment as Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations on January 16, 1956. Transferred to the Mission from his post as ambassador in Stockholm, Sweden, Mr. Gripenberg began his duties in New York on April 17, 1956. As a diplomat with a notably aristocratic bearing he was a loner who strongly believed in his diplomatic right to make decisions relatively independent from the government he represented.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.hanko.fi/files/2928/340/mannerheimtrappa.jpg
    A photo of the Dutch Prince Hendrik's visit with General Mannerheim at Stormhällalla in 1929. The persons present: Mrs. Karin Ramsay, an unknown gentleman (who was a companion of Prince Hendrik – perhaps a bodyguard), Baroness Marguerite Gripenberg (Mannerheim's sister), Ambassador Saastamoinen (Finland's Ambassador to the Netherlands), Mayor Arvid Nordenstreng, Ambassador Georg Achates Gripenberg, Ms Saastamoinen, Dutch Prince Hendrik, Baron Johan Cronstedt , Baroness Eva Linder, General Mannerheim and the Baroness Eva Cronstedt (from Hanko Museum photo archive. Georg Achates Gripenberg (b. May 18, 1890 in St Petersburg, d.1975) was a Finnish diplomat, ambassador in South America 1929-1933, London 1933-1941, the Vatican 1942-1943, and ambassador in Stockholm, Sweden from 1943 to 1956. He then represented Finland at the UN. Gripenberg write two memoirs: Memoirs of the Finnish Ambassador and Finland and the Great Powers: Memoirs of a Diplomat. Gripenberg was also married to Mannerheim's sister, Marguerite.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.ukir.info/@Bin/118969/Kirja_Gripenbergi.jpeg
    Gripenbergs memoirs in Finnish - "Lontoo-Vatikaani-Tukholma" (London-Vatican City-Stockholm) - GA Gripenberg was the Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary, one of the independent Republic of Finlands most important diplomats, whose last role was to act as Finland's first UN ambassador from 1956 to 1958. Gripenberg was not only a professional diplomat, but possessed enormous amounts of information, was capable of elegant sarcasm and was a capable political analyst.

    Even the threat of redirecting to Germany Finland's now substantial nickel exports to the UK from Petsamo failed to grab the attention of the British government. Even as late as mid-November 1939, Whitehall had refused to deliver almost all the pre-war orders Finland had placed. Despite information on the Soviet buildup along the Finnish borders provided to the British Embassy in Helsinki, and by Gripenberg to Lord Halifax in London, the belief in a peaceful settlement was strong in London. The tone of the Soviet press and radio eluded London as well as Paris, and its increasingly hostile tone concerning Finland remained unnoticed by all except the Finns. Finnish orders for military equipment were refused and many existing orders (that the British had pressured Mannerheim to buy on his earlier visits to the UK over 1936-1938) had the equipment retained – this included a number of Vickers tanks, forty five Matilda II tanks and thirty Spitfire fighter aircraft – all retained on the grounds that Britain was preparing for war and needed all its production for arming herself and her allies

    In desperation, Gripenberg had visited the Foreign Office on 25th October 1939 and made it clear that Finland would accept arms from anywhere that she could get them, and was even negotiating with the Germans in the hope of selling nickel from Petsamo and steel from the Tornio Steel Mill in return for German weapons. Even this however failed to speed up German deliveries – few in Britain believed that the Germans were still interested in Finland. From the Finnish perspective, the situation was far from promising. German power was growing and Hitlers relations with the USSR were at their peak. German neutrality was proving illusory, instead of permitting the transit of war materials to Finland, Germany (according to Finnish Intelligence which had numerous sources in Germany as well as in the UK and France) was volunteering to assist Russian submarines which were to operate against Finnish shipping in the Gulf of Bothnia. This was the situation when the USSR attacked Finland on 30 November 1939.

    The British Admiralty and the War Office were not particularly concerned at the outbreak of war in the north. They entertained no illusions about the final outcome of the struggle but considered that it was possible that the Finns might delay the Red Army somewhat and show their Scandinavian neighbours how to defend themselves. France had no comparable interests in the Baltic and the Finnish situation consequently failed to arouse even as much attention in Paris as in London. What finally awoke both the British and French governments was a combination of the successful Finnish resistance through the month of December 1939 and its emotional appeal to public opinion – an emotional appeal in which the skilled work of the Finnish Military Press Relations Office played a large part.

    In London, the situation in Finland at first appeared obscure. The French Ambassador in the early days of the conflict expressed his view that the USSR was not actually fighting a war, but was rather trying to exert pressure in Finland in order to gain concessions. The appearance of the Terijoki Government and a statement given in Moscow on 2 December according to which the USSR was not at war with Finland but was merely assisting its democratic forces sufficed to prove the contrary. It was reported in London newspapers on 1 December that the Finnish government was about to surrender. The Evening Standard stated only half-jokingly that on the previous day the Finnish Headquarters had given their first and last communiqué. At the British Foreign Office as well as at the Quai d Orsay, Finland was at first considered virtually lost. The new head of the Finnish Government, Risto Ryti, met with the British Ambassador in Helsinki on his first day in office (the Cajander Government had resigned on the outbreak of the war) and asked urgently for war material from Britain, especially fighter aircraft and artillery. A similar request was made to France.

    As with most other countries world-wide outside of the USSR, public sympathy and support for Finland after the outbreak of the Winter War was strong. Britain was no exception to this, and British public opinion reacted spontaneously with much public support for Finland. The Press and Radio, suffering from a lack of war news, greeted the assault of the Red Army and Airforce on Finland with indignation. The Foreign Office argued that Finland should be supported and used against the Soviet Union. In a private letter dated 3 December 1939, Chamberlain observed that "the aggression against Finland had produced more indignation that Hitler's attack on Poland, though it is no worse morally and its development is likely to be less brutal." As well as opinion at home, Britain also had to reckon with that of the Dominions, the US and European neutrals. When the War Cabinet again addressed the question of Finland on 4 December, it was reported that anti-Soviet demonstrations had taken place in Rome the previous day – and in Fascist Italy this could hardly have taken place without government approval. On hearing this, the War Cabinet developed the idea of immediately approaching both Italy and Japan – the Axis friends and allies of Germany – and by appealing to their anti-Soviet feelings perhaps thus alienating them from the Third Reich.

    At the same meeting, the War Cabinet was made aware that the Government of New Zealand was in the midst of a flurry of telegrams and long distance calls between a New Zealander in Finland, one Colonel Hunter, the New Zealand High Commission in London and the Prime Minister’s Office in Wellington, New Zealand and the Australian Prime Minister’s Office in Canberra. As of 4 December the British government had not been consulted by either the New Zealanders or the Australians but it was reported that both Governments were leaning towards a more or less unilateral move to intervene, something that was completely unexpected and which was raised as a matter of concern. This was noted and Lord Halifax advised that the matter would be raised with the London representatives of the governments of both Dominions. Lord Halifax then went on to propose that the Government at once agree to the delivery of the thirty Spitfire fighters asked for by Finland. The Minister of Aviation replied that this was impossible and the Chief of Air Staff, who was also attending the meeting, did not hesitate to draw attention to a host of British military installations which were badly in need of fighter protection. Objections were silenced by the Prime Ministers dry remark that the Finns should be helped for "political reasons", and the first consignments of material assistance to Finland were thus agreed upon, at least in principle.

    It is easy to see in hindsight why the British high command considered armed assistance to Finland meaningless, not to say unnecessary. Few British or French military experts had any idea of the reality of war in the Arctic conditions of a Finnish winter or that, as the French military representative on the spot put it, that in Finland success depended on quality rather than quantity. Matters were not improved by the fact that senor officers like the French Military Attache in London, General Lelong, British Generals Gough and Lewin and indeed, General Ironsides, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, were all familiar with the arctic conditions of Northern Russia and Karelia, having served there during and after WWI, and even now were considered experts in this field. (In 1919, Gough had been head of the British Military Delegation to Finland, Lewin was Maynard's Chief of Staff in the Murmansk Force and both Ironside and Lelong were in Archangel in 1918-19).

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... onside.jpg
    Field Marshal William Edmund Ironside, 1st Baron Ironside GCB, CMG, DSO, (6 May 1880 - 22 September 1959) served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff during the first year of WW2. Ironside joined the Royal Artillery in 1899, and served throughout the Boer War, followed by a brief period spying on the German colonial forces in South-West Africa. Returning to regular duty, he served on the staff of a Regular Army division during the first two years of WW1 before being appointed as the chief of staff to the newly raised 4th Canadian Division in 1916. In 1918 he was given command of a brigade on the Western Front, but was quickly promoted to command the Allied Intervention Force in northern Russia in 1919, then an Allied force occupying Turkey, and finally a British force in Persia in 1921. He then commanded the Staff College, Camberley, where he became an advocate for the ideas of J. F. C. Fuller, a proponent of mechanisation. He later commanded a division, and military districts in both Britain and India, but his youth and his blunt approach limited his career prospects, and after being passed over for the role of Chief of the Imperial General Staff ('CIGS') in 1937 he became Governor of Gibraltar, a traditional staging post to retirement. He was recalled from "exile" in mid-1939, and appointed as Inspector-General of Overseas Forces, a role which led most observers to expect he would be given the command of the British Expeditionary Force on the outbreak of war. He held the post of Inspector for a few months, visiting Poland in July 1939 to meet with the Polish high command. Whilst his sympathetic manner reassured the Poles, the visit may have unintentionally given the impression that Britain was intending to provide direct military assistance. He returned able to report that the Polish government was unlikely to provoke Germany into war, but warned that the country would be quickly overrun and that no Eastern Front was likely to exist for long. His warnings, however, were broadly ignored.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... onside.jpg
    Ironside (centre) with Polish Chief of Staff General Waclaw Stachiewicz (left)

    However, after some political manoeuvering, Lord Gort was given this command, and Ironside was appointed as the new CIGS. He himself believed that he was temperamentally unsuited to the job, but felt obliged to accept it. In early 1940 he argued heavily for Allied intervention in Scandinavia and in Finland. Norway was the first time major British forces were committed to action during the war and the flaws in the command system quickly began to show. War Cabinet meetings were dragged out at great length to little effect, as did meetings of the Chiefs of Staff, both to Ironside's great frustration. He also found it hard to cope with Churchill's mood swings and insistence on micromanagement of the campaign, and a gulf began to grow between the men. Ironside's main contribution to resolving the campaign was to insist on a withdrawal when the situation worsened, and he pushed through the evacuation of central Norway at the end of April despite ministerial ambivalence.

    During the Battle of France he played little part. He was replaced as CIGS at the end of May and appointed Commander-in-Chief Home Forces, responsible for anti-invasion defences and for commanding the Army in the event of German landings. However, he served less than two months in this role before being replaced. After this, Ironside was promoted to field-marshal and given a peerage, as Baron Ironside; he retired to Norfolk to write. In late 1943, he was asked to become the Allied Military Representative to the Finnish Government in the lead up to Finland entering the war on the side of the Allies. He was based in Helsinki from December 1943 to December 1946 and endured a difficult situation, caught between the demands of Churchill and Roosevelt for accommodation of the USSR on the one hand, and the "rather stubborn attitude and outright evasion" regarding these demands by the Finns and the Polish Government-in-Exile on the other.

    Despite the fact that the Finnish armed forces had been purchasing aircraft and aircraft designs from the British, including the De Havilland Wihuri and the Miles M.20 Fighter and had advised British Intelligence of the inadequacies of aircraft such as the Swordfish, notions about the Finnish armed forces were not just faulty, they were wildly inaccurate and out of date, being based mostly on the reports of military attaches assigned to Helsinki who were mostly busy on the social circuit, or by professionals temporarily staying in or visiting Helsinki, but not on official information, of which the Finns provided none. The military attachés most recent experience of the Maavoimat had been from manoeuvres at Heinjoki near Viipuri in August 1939, exercises in which 20,000 men had participated. The foreign observers, as reported by the British Military Attaché Lt-Col. C S Vale (Report on Manoeuvres 7-12 August 1939), were impressed by the mens excellent physique and "his definite determination to defend his country", but they did not fail to notice the lack of modern armaments (very few anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns and dated artillery) or that large unit leadership was not impressive. (Due to his lack of command of Finnish and the failure to inform him in detail of the nature of the exercises being conducted, Lt-Col. Vale was unaware that the exercises being watched were in fact those of the graduating year of the High School Cadet Force, exercising with the training equipment they had been issued with, much of it obsolete and now issued to the Cadet Force. Almost all the AA and AT guns were with the reserve units which even then were being prepared for mobilization).

    Vale had also had the opportunity in June 1939, together with General Kirke's party, of getting acquainted with the fortifications on the Karelian Isthmus. Vale did not seem too convinced of the effectiveness of the defensive works, but added that they were executed mainly by enthusiastic volunteers, of which many were in evidence. "A very good indication", he observed, "of the national hatred and suspicion of the Soviet Union". Vale had seen only a small part of the defensive preparations, which on the Isthmus were far more extensive and in-depth than he had been led to believe, a reticence that was largely due to security concerns. The conclusions drawn by Vale and by the other military attachés were misleading, information on the Finnish militaries capabilities was almost non-existent and it was due to reports such as this together with the outdated experience of WW1 in northern Russia that the picture of this theatre of war, even among the top military leadership, was both unrealistic and distorted. The British also believed that the winter weather would prove a major hindrance to the Finnish defenders – had not the Russians always proved to be the best winter fighters in the past, and even Nicholas I had observed that Russia had at least two Generals on whom she could always trust – General Janvier and General Février?

    The British War Office also had little doubt that the Soviet Union would be able to use its superior manpower and material, regardless of physical impediments. The War Office estimated that at the outbreak of the conflict, the total Soviet strength consisted of some 140 Divisions, well over twenty of which, together with some 2,000 tanks, were posted to the Finnish front. Against this the War Office estimated that the Finns ten infantry divisions, with almost no armour and limited artillery, were far inferior in terms of manpower and equipment. The same assessment had been made of the relative strengths of the Finnish Air Force and Navy vis-à-vis the Soviets. In this, the War Office was as mistaken in their estimates as the Soviets were in there's. Among British and French military experts, and particularly among the press, Finnish news reports of the progress of the war in its first days – the slow fighting withdrawal on the Isthmus and the enormous casualties being inflicted on the attacking Red Army as well as on the Soviet Air Force – were met with skepticism and disbelief. As late as 19 December, Gripenberg noted in his diary that the press refused to believe that the Finnish Army had destroyed over 250 Soviet tanks in the first week of the war, and did not want to publish this news.

    In this, the Finns were playing a delicate game. On the one hand, they wished to influence the British and French to provide military equipment and aid by emphasizing the effectiveness of their defensive capabilities. On the other hand, an essential part of their strategy was to keep the Soviet leadership convinced that they were on the verge of victory if only the continued to push harder and more aggressively, whilst using the Soviets own aggressiveness to continue inflicting enormous casualties on the Red Army in particular. On the third day of the war, London was informed that the Swedish General Staff considered the Finns capable of fighting for at least six months, and possibly up to twelve months, if they were promptly supplied with arms and aircraft. The Foreign Office remained doubtful. However C.I.G.S. agreed with the Swedish view and told the War Cabinet that it would indeed, based on a reassessment of Finnish strength and capabilities, take the Soviets a long time to crush Finnish resistance. Gripenberg confirmed this view by transmitting to Lord Halifax on 11 December an estimate from Finnish Headquarters which projected that the Finns, with the resources available at the moment, could hold out from four to six months, "but if ….. certain much-needed supplies could be obtained now and increased in January and February, they could hold out almost indefinitely. "

    Once it was realized that the Finns could in fact resist the Red Army and that there was a willingness among the Scandanavians and others (the Italian Division, the flood of Hungarian volunteers and the expressed decision of Franco to send a Spanish Volunteer Division were all mentioned, as was the rumor that the Japanese were preparing to send some sort of assistance) to assist the Finns, attitudes changed. The "quite remarkable" decision by the Australian and New Zealand governments to send a Volunteer Battalion and the flood of public support for the move in the UK was discussed, as were the editorials in the British Press demanding that the British government do more to support "gallant little Finland". The War Cabinet decided that the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion would be officially supported by the Government and by the War Office and instructions were issued to this effect. (The decision to accept Australian and New Zealand volunteers was announced in the London papers on the 6th of December 1939, and on the next day the New Zealand High Commission had been deluged with volunteers, including many British). The War Cabinet also agreed, over the objections of the War Office, to the immediate sale of 60 British 18 pdr Field Gun’s, the Mk II and 240,000 rounds of ammunition for the guns, to the New Zealand and Australian governments which then donated these to Finland. It was intended that these guns and the ammunition be shipped to Finland together with the ANZAC Volunteers.

    At the same time, the handling of requests from Finland was speeded up by allowing the Finnish Ambassador to enter into direct contact with the War Office and with other Ministries. The Scandinavian countries were also given the opportunity to forward to Finland materials which they had obtained from Britain, on the promise that these items would be replaced by new British exports. Thus it was possible for them to deliver to Finland large quantities of fuel, especially aviation fuel, as well as other raw materials badly needed for the Finnish war industry. At the same time, the War Cabinet hurried along the direct deliveries of war materials. In addition to ten Gloster Gladiator fighters already agreed to, a further ten were added with the British Government guaranteeing payment to the Gloster Aircraft Company. Simultaneously the South African Government gave up twenty eight Gloster Gauntlet training aircraft which had already been bought from Britain and donated these to Finland. A Finnish cargo ship was loaded with these aircraft within days, together with large quantities of gas masks, hand grenades, both anti-tank mines and naval mines and additional artillery shells for the 18pdr Field Guns, more of which were promised.

    As has been mentioned earlier, the Ilmavoimat had purchased a number of Hawker Henleys which had been delivered in August 1938. So enthused was the Ilmavoimat with the performance of the aircraft that a further 20 had been ordered in early 1939. These were produced at the tail-end of the British order for their “target tugs” and were delivered in late summer 1939 – given that the Finns were supplying the engines and weapons, the order had been allowed to go through by the British even as they took over other orders. Within the RAF, the Henley was not proving to be a great success as a target tug. With some 200 in service, it was being discovered that the Merlin engine could not cope with high speed target towing. It was also soon discovered that unless the aircraft were restricted to an unrealistically low tow speed of 220 mph (355 km/h), the rate of engine failures was unacceptably high. This resulted in Henleys being withdrawn from this role and relegated to towing larger drogue targets with anti-aircraft co-operation units. Predictably, the Henley proved to be even more unsuited to this role, and the number of engine failures increased. Several Henley’s were lost after the engine cut-out and the drogue could not be released quickly enough. In September 1939, with war with the USSR looming unmistabably closer, the Finnish government had made an urgent request to the British government to purchase a large number of the Henley “target tugs” – and undertook let the British keep the Merlin engines and to pay for replacement Miles Master target tugs similar to those that had been built for them for glider towing by Phillips and Powis Aircraft Limited.

    The Finns already had assurances in hand that Phillips and Powis Aircraft Limited were able to produce the Miles Master tugs rapidly (the Finns also undertook to take the Henley’s minus their engines – they would fit their own) and this taken together with the obvious unsuitability of the Henley for use as a target tug, resulted in the British agreeing to trade 80 Hawker Henley’s to Finland. Approximately half had been crated and shipped in early November 1939 and arrived in Tampere some three weeks later, just prior to the attack on Finland by the USSR on the 30th of November 1939. A small stockpile of Hispano-Suiza 12Y engines had been built up and these were fitted after the shipment arrived. The other half of the order were refitted with Finnish supplied engines in the UK and flown to Finland “as is” in mid-December 1939 (after the Winter War had broken out) by Ilmavoimat Ferry Pilots, some of whom, to the amazement of the RAF and the delight of British newspapers, were women. One of the more memorable images, and one that resulted in a surge in public demand to assist Finland in the UK, the US, Canada and France as well as in Italy, was the photo of an Ilmavoimat Ferry Pilot, Anglo-Argentine Volunteer Maureen Dunlop. And it was this public pressure in the UK that resulted in rather more concrete steps being taken to assist Finland, largely to assuage the demand that something be seen to be done rather than for concrete strategic reasons. Finland was still very much a distraction, although a distraction with possibilities that were being discussed at the highest levels.

    Photo sourced from: http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2007/0 ... 68x704.jpg
    “She climbed out of the cockpit of her Hawker Henley Dive Bomber and became instantly famous. Wearing a summer uniform of white shirt, dark tie and sleeves rolled above the elbow, she slung a parachute over her shoulder and shook out her long blonde hair. Back-lit by the afternoon sun, Ilmavoimat Ferry Pilot Maureen Dunlop looked unbelievably glamorous. The pilot was actually an Anglo-Argentinian volunteer on her first delivery flight for the Ilmavoima. Maureen Dunlop had travelled from Buenos Aires to the UK where she had approached the Finnish Embassy and volunteered as a pilot. Desperately short of trained pilots and themselves already using women pilots for non-combat flights, the Finnish embassy accepted her after a single flight test. Her first assignment was flying a Hawker Henley to Finland. She went on to fly for the Ilmavoimat for the duration of the Winter War before returning to the UK, where she flew as a ferry pilot for the British Air Transport Auxilary.

    This was one of the more memorable photos of the Winter War and achieved widespread publication in the UK, the USA and France as well as in Italy and did much to boost the image of Finland as a courageous democracy fighting an all-out war against the Bolsheviks. The widespread publicity (the photo and accompanying article made the front page of all the UK newspapers including the Picture Post, all the right-wing French papers and the cover of Life in the US) generated a wave of public demand to assist Finland.

    The presence of the Italian Alpini Division, Regia Aeronautica squadrons and a small number of Italian naval warships in Finland for the scheduled winter exercise was also discussed. It had already been reported in the newspapers and on radio that Mussolini had grandiosely placed these men at the disposal of the Finnish government and military. Also being extensively covered in the press were the first arrivals by rail of Hungarian Volunteers on their way to Finland, with enthusiastic press coverage. The Spanish decision to send a division of Volunteers was also supported, with the Press demanding that the Government stop prevaricating on allowing the passage of ships carrying Spanish volunteers and permit the Spanish passage to Norway – something that was still being negotiated somewhat reluctantly – as was the passage of Italian ships which had been requested by the Italian Government. In the end, the War Cabinet would permit the passage of ships from Italy and Spain, but not without considerable debate. Meanwhile, the British public continued to demand action in support of Finland, both in sending military equipment and in the dispatch of volunteer units – with the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion being continuously held up as an example by the Press – as was the news that New Zealand was in the process of raising a second Battalion in New Zealand to send.

    The news reports also reported on the Scandinavian volunteers flocking to Finland and being formed into a Division, the Poles rescued from Latvia and Lithuania and now fighting with the Finns, the 20,000 additional Polish troops that were on their way from Hungary and Romania – and also that the French were in the process of sending an additional Division of Poles, the Polish Second Infantry Fusiliers Division, to Finland. "The French are sending 50 of their most modern fighter aircraft, the superb Morane Saulnier MS 406s to Finland as well as two modern Destroyers for the Finnish Navy and a squadron of Light Bombers and another 80 Caudron-Renault C.714 fighters ", The Times blared in a 3rd January 1940 headline (the day the French decision was announced). "Even a defeated Poland has sent four precious Divisions of her remaining soldiers to fight in Finland. Britain, the home of democracy has sent a mere twenty obsolete Gloster Gladiators and a few guns. Our Government must Do More!" The news that both South Africa and Rhodesia were also raising volunteers units was like adding petrol to a bonfire for the British Press and the pressure to "do something" became ever more vociferous.

    Leaving aside official Government policy and geo-political strategic concerns for the moment, in a Cabinet meeting on 4 January, 1940, the Lord Privy Seal Sir Samuel Hoare raised the possibility of sending volunteers to Finland. From the minutes of previous meetings it is clear that aid to Finland was an ongoing project, notwithstanding Britain’s notional neutrality in the Winter War. Munitions and aircraft had already been sent, for example, as well as ambulances to the cost of £15,000. But Sir Samuel’s comments were a new departure. "Italy and Germany had shown in Spain how the technique of non-intervention could be exploited as a serious military operation", the minutes of that meeting record. "[Sir Samuel] suggested we should examine the possibility of giving assistance on the Spanish precedent, but with the difference that personnel sent to Finland should be true volunteers and not recruited from the serving ranks of the Regular Forces, and as the example of the ANZAC Volunteers shows, this is possible". Unstated was that this would to a certain extent assuage the British Press and remove the pressure that was being placed on the Government. "In light of what the French are doing, we must also give consideration to providing rather more tangible assistance by way of aircraft and possibly even some form of naval assistance" Sir Samuel added.

    The growing caution in Scandinavia towards assisting Finland was ignored. Norway had now gone as far as forbidding public fund-raising for Finland and prohibiting its active service officers from enlisting in the Finnish Army as volunteers. Sweden had irritated the British by asking them, out of fear of the Germans as it eventuated, not to give Finland arms for free. The sympathetic attitude of Swedish royalty and of Sweden’s military leaders was not unnoticed in London (even after the rearrangement of Hansson’s Cabinet, where the main change had been the resignation of the actively pro-Finnish Foreign Minister, Rikhard Sandler).

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... C_1937.jpg
    Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Rickard Sandler on his way to meet King George VI in London in 1937. His wife Maja Sandler to the left. Sandler (29 January 1884 – 12 November 1964) was a Swedish Social Democratic politician. He served as Minister without Portfolio in the Swedish government from 10 March 1920 to 30 June 1920, Minister for Finance from 1 July 1920 to 27 October 1920, Minister without Portfolio from 13 October 1921 to 19 April 1923, Minister for Trade from 14 October 1924 to 24 January 1925, Prime Minister from 24 January 1925 to 7 June 1926, and as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 24 September 1932 to 19 June 1936 and again from 28 September 1936 to 13 December 1939. Sandler left the government over a disagreement with the Prime Minister about the Winter War. Sandler wanted Sweden to actively help Finland after the Soviet Union had attacked it on November 30, 1939, a stance the Prime Minister did not hold.

    As was soon found out, the enthusiasm which had prevailed in Oslo and Stockholm during the first days of December had been based on the premise that the outbreak of the Winter War had been an unpleasant surprise for the Germans and that they would not prevent the Scandinavians from giving even more assistance to Finland. The reasons for this illusion were vague indications, such as Goering’s stray promise to the Norwegians that Germany would not interfere with the delivery of war material to Finland, as well as the information that Germany might allow the transit of war material through its own territory (as in fact happened with a single shipment of some 30 Fiat G.50 Fighter aircraft that Germany allowed to transit by rail). Such news, and the suspected pro-German sympathies of certain influential Scandinavians such as Norway’s Foreign Minister Koht, caused the British Foreign Office to assume that it all amounted to a campaign led by Berlin aimed at ending the German-Allied war to the detriment of the Soviet Union. While Germany permitted transit to the initial shipment of Italian fighters, as well as the secret export of sizable quantities of German arms and munitions (in what became known as the Veltjens deal) early in the war, the German attitude soon changed. In late December, news of a second shipment of Italian fighters transiting through Germany was published in the French and Dutch Press – in Moscow, Molotov immediately summoned the German Ambassador, Schulenburg and bitterly complained that such transit did not comply with German benevolent neutrality. Ribbentrop arranged that the Italian fighter delivery was returned to Italy and the transit permit withdrawn. In addition, the Kreigsmarine seized two small Finnish merchant ships as they entered the Baltic and confiscated both their cargoes and the ships in what amounted to an act of piracy, as the Finnish Ambassador in Berlin pointedly commented to Ribbentrop.

    It would not be the low point of the Finnish-German relationship during the Winter War, even if Finnish Nickel, Steel, Copper, Timber and agricultural exports would continue. As a side note, the first shipment of Fiat fighters through Germany had actually been discovered by a Swedish reporter and had been about to be reported in a Swedish newspaper when the newspaper reporter met with an unfortunate and sadly terminal accident involving a Stockholm tram. On the same day the editor was brutally robbed and ended his day in hospital with both legs and both arms broken together with further fractures to the ribs and numerous contusions. The edition of the paper that was to be published was destroyed in a fire that consumed the entire printing plant. There were strong suspicions within Swedish Intelligence that the secretive Finnish Osasto Nyrkki unit was involved, but there was no proof and the matter was never investigated other than by the Police, with no results.

    Photo sourced from: http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6070/608 ... 7801c8.jpg
    Trams on Stureplan in Stockholm in 1939: site of the unfortunate accident which befell a misguided Swedish Journalist in December of that year. His last words were unrecorded. A number of further unfortunately fatal accidents would take place in Stockholm before leftwing Swedish journalists began to realize that discretion in reporting on Finnish military activities was, if not career-enhancing, at least life-prolonging.

    Some days after the news of the second shipment of Italian fighters transiting through Germany was published in the French and Dutch Press, there were a number of fatal accidents to editors and reporters in both countries, accompanied by a series of catastrophic fires in various newspaper offices. Again, there were some suspicions but no hard evidence and given that in France at least, the papers had been of the leftist persuasion, no real action or interest was expressed by the Police. However, the point was taken by those at whom the action was aimed and there were no more unfortunate revelations in the Press in Sweden, France or the Netherlands.

    Meanwhile, in Britain, such was the growing outrage at government inaction that steps were taken to alleviate the pressure in early January 1940. On 5th and 6th January there was a flurry of telegrams between the War Office and Wellington, New Zealand. In the Air Ministry two days of meetings took place during which the ways by which Finland could be assisted without seriously impinging on British war fighting capabilities were discussed. Churchill, once again First Lord of the Admiralty, continued to advocate the pre-emptive occupation of the neutral Norwegian iron-ore port of Narvik and the iron mines in Kiruna, Sweden while supposedly studying ways in which some form of naval assistance could be provided to Finland. The question of naval assistance was resolved in two ways, neither of which originated from Churchill’s activities. In the first of these, the New Zealand Government indicated that HMNZS Achilles, recently involved in the Battle of the River Plate and the sinking of the Graf Spee, could be made available to assist the Finnish Navy (the reflagging of the Polish Destroyers was mentioned as a modus operandi). The New Zealand High Commissioner in London, Mr William J. Jordan, confirmed that this was indeed the case and emphasized that this was a decision that had been made by the New Zealand Government and as such, was final. The Royal Navy was not strongly opposed at this time, and agreed that the Achilles could be quickly repaired and made available. Jordan also advised that the New Zealand Government had instructed that the RNZAF Squadron of Wellington bombers serving with the RAF was to be sent to Finland.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.nzetc.org/etexts/Gov14_12Rai ... lP002a.jpg
    The New Zealand High Commissioner in London, Mr. William J. Jordan: William Joseph Jordan, widely known as Bill, was born in Ramsgate, Kent, England, on 19 May 1879 and emigrated to New Zealand in 1904. By the time of his death in 1959, he had served nearly 14 years as a Labour member of Parliament, followed by a record 15 years as New Zealand High Commissioner in London. During the First World War he did not follow other prominent Labour politicians along the path of conscientious objection. Instead, in February 1917, at the age of 37, he enlisted in the army, rising to the rank of warrant officer second-class. He was first elected to Parliament in 1922 and in 1935, when Labour won the elections, Jordan might have expected (and perhaps did expect) a cabinet post, but instead he was appointed New Zealand high commissioner in London, a position usually filled – before and since – by former cabinet ministers from the party in office. In 1935 the high commissioner was the country's only diplomatic representative. He also spoke for New Zealand at meetings of the League of Nations, an organisation distrusted and neglected by previous New Zealand governments. The new government, however, was determined to take its own stand on international issues and this independent approach brought New Zealand into conflict with British policy on such issues as Spain and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) - and brought Jordan into corresponding public prominence. Jordan was a complex character who was noted for a ‘volcanic’ temper and clashed regularly with members of his staff, visiting political figures from home, fellow dominions' High Commissioners and even British dignitaries.

    So convinced was Jordan that another world war was inconceivable that he reported accordingly to the government and the New Zealand people and was unwilling to follow instructions inconsistent with this view. In September 1938 he wrote to the New Zealand prime minister, M. J. Savage, that, in his opinion, 'we shall not see war involving our Empire in our lifetime'. Just before war broke out he spoke in similar terms in a broadcast to New Zealand. As he said six months later, right up to that date 'I could not believe that the world was so mad as to go to war'. Jordan knew Colonel Hunter in Helsinki but the two men, while they maintained a cordial relationship were not what one would call friendly terms. However, when the Winter War broke out and Colonel Hunter booked a phone call with Jordan, Jordan was quick to support Hunters proposals and facilitated communication with Wellington. Once approval was given, Jordan would throw his heart and soul into the raising of the ANZAC Volunteer Battalion for Finland, expressed his wholehearted support for Finland and offered Gripenberg whatever assistance the New Zealand High Commission could provide. As New Zealand's representative on the League of Nation's council, he became exasperated by the Soviet representatives interminable delaying tactics during the debate on the Winter War and electrified the proceedings by rising from his seat and shouting "Here we sit listening to quack, quack, quack, hour after hour. We are sick of it." The press applauded. It was Jordan who suggested both the dispatch of HMNZS Achilles to Finland and also the dispatch of an RNZAF Squadron from within the RAF. And once approved by the New Zealand Government, it was Jordan who rammed these proposals through against the objections of the British War Office.

    Royal New Zealand Air Force Vickers Wellington Mark I Bombers (with the original Vickers turrets) at RAF Stradishall on the 10th of July 1939.

    The most modern aircraft of the RNZAF in mid-1939 were 30 recently purchased Vickers Wellington bombers. The New Zealand government had ordered 30 Vickers Wellington Mk1C bombers in 1938. RNZAF aircrew were sent to England to train on the new aircraft based at RAF Marham. It was intended that the crews fly the aircraft to New Zealand in batches of six. RAF official records name this group of airman as "The New Zealand Squadron." In August 1939, anticipating war with Germany, the New Zealand government loaned these aircraft and their (New Zealand) aircrews to the RAF. Shortly after the arrival of the ANZAC Battalion in Finland in early January 1940, the New Zealand Government dispatched the Squadron to Finland where they served with the Ilmavoimat, flying combat missions for the duration of the Winter War.

    As flown by the New Zealand Squadron, the Wellington had a Crew of 6, was powered by 2 × Bristol Pegasus Mark XVIII radial engines of 1,050 hp (783 kW) each with a maximum speed of 235mph, a range of 2,550 miles and a service ceiling of 18,000 feet. Defensive armament consisted of 6 to 8 .303 Browning machineguns (2x in nose turret, 2 x in tail turret and 2x in waist positions). A bombload of 4,500lb could be carried. The Squadron would fly to Finland in mid-January 1940, seen of by Jordan, who personally visited the Squadron to wish each man well and thank them for volunteering (for all the men had volunteered, both aircrew and ground personnel).

    The New Zealand Squadron’s motto was “Ake Ake Kia Kaha” ("For ever and ever be strong") and this, and the squadron badge, were painted on all aircraft.

    Two No.75 (New Zealand) Squadron Wellingtons returning to their forward base in Eastern Karelia from a mission, late January 1940.

    The Survivors: Personnel of No.75 (New Zealand) Squadron in front of one of their 18 remaining VickersWellington Bombers – 12 Wellingtons, slightly over a third of the Squadrons strength, were lost in action over the course of the Winter War). Photo taken at Immola Airfield, Finland, late August 1940.

    HMNZS Achilles en route to Lyngenfjiord, February 1940: HMNZS Achilles was a Leander-class light cruiser commissioned in 1933 and which served with the Royal New Zealand Navy in World War II. She first became famous for her part in the Battle of the River Plate, alongside Ajax and Exeter, then for her part fighting under the Finnish Flag in the Helsinki Convoy and the Battle of Bornholm – a naval encounter than enthralled the world as the Finnish Navy escorted a large convoy of vital war supplies through the Baltic in the face of German and Soviet opposition. Achilles was the second of five ships of the Leander-class light cruisers, designed as effective follow-ons to the York class. Upgraded to Improved Leander class, she could carry an aircraft and was the first ship to carry a Supermarine Walrus, although both Walruses were lost before the Second World War began. At one time she carried the unusual DH.82 Queen Bee which was a radio-controlled unmanned aircraft, normally used as a drone. She would serve with the Merivoimat in the Baltic for the remainder of the Winter War before leaving after the negotiated peace. The Germans would permit her departure under the Finnish flag, together with a small number of other Finnish warships which would proceed to Lyngenfjiord. As always, the Finns would use the supply of Nickel, Steel and Copper to Germany as a means to apply pressure.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.bluestarline.org/wallace_tri ... _index.jpg
    FNS Achilles (HMNZS Achilles under the Finnish Flag and serving with the Merivoimat) in action with the Helsinki Convoy against the Kreigsmarine force attempting to intercept the large Finnish Convoy entering the southern Baltic in the Spring of 1940. Achilles would take minor damage in the encounter, while news of the battle and the subsequent retreat of the Kreigsmarine from the encounter would enthrall New Zealand (and Britain) with the part played by the Achilles. She had a maximum speed of 32.5 knots, a range of 5,730 miles at 13 knots, a complement of 680 (some 60% of whom were New Zealanders) and her armament consisted of 8 x BL 6 inch MkXXIII naval guns, 4 x 4 in guns, 12 x 0.5in machineguns and 8 x 21in torpedo tubes.

    In addition to HMNZS Achilles, the Royal Navy transferred a single (damaged) Destroyer to the Finns. Rather than being directly donated or sold to Finland, the transfer was carried out through the auspices of the Polish Navy. The Destroyer, HMS Garland, was renamed ORP Garland and was a G-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1930s. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939 the ship spent considerable time in Spanish waters, enforcing the arms blockade imposed by Britain and France on both sides of the conflict. Shortly after WW2 began, she was badly damaged by the premature explosion of her own depth charges and required over some months of repairs. In January 1940, as these were being completed, Garland was transferred to the Polish Navy with the implication that she be used to assist the Finns. She accompanied Achilles to Lyngenfjiord and was used continuously on Atlantic Convoy escort duties for the remainder of the Winter War.

    Photo sourced from: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v94/m ... arland.jpg
    ORP Garland in Lyngenfjiord, July 1940 after escorting a Convoy across the North Atlantic. With a maximum speed of 36 knots, ORP Garland had a range of 5,530 nautical miles (6,360 miles) at 15 knots, a crew of 146 and was armed with 4 x 4.7in (120mm) guns, 2 x 4 barreled Vickers 0.5in machineguns, 2 x 4/21in torpedo tubes and 20 depth charges with 2 throwers. On entering service with the Polish Navy operating with the Merivoimat, she was immediately upgraded. The rear torpedo tubes were replaced by Bofors 40mm AA gun and the ship's short range AA armament was augmented by two Oerlikon 20 mm guns on her searchlight platform and another pair on the wings of the ship's bridge. The 'Y' gun was also removed to allow her depth charge stowage to be increased to 44 depth charges. A Nokia short-range surface search radar was also fitted and she also received a HF/DF radio direction finder mounted on a pole mainmast. All in all, she was a useful addition to the Merivoimats operational capabilities.

    As early as its meeting on 11 December 1939 the British War Cabinet has reached the conclusion that it was in Britains interests to help Finland as much as possible. All the same, until January 1940, the practical measures taken, as the Foreign Office pointed out, had amounted to no more than expressions of friendship and some limited support which could not be expected to influence the Wars final outcome. It was also pointed out somewhat sardonically that the Italians, Spanish, Hungarians and even the damned French were doing more to help the Finns than Britain. Certainly the War Cabinet had not acted with decision and speed, nor had they even in that first month of the war decided how extensive that support should be. While the public reaction had been vigorous and decidedly anti-Soviet, the Chamberlain Government adopted a "cool and calculating attitude towards the conflict" (although some at the time commented rather freely on the lack of decisiveness). Only after the first sensational defeats of the Red Army by the Maavoimat did the War Cabinet arrive at the conclusion, influenced strongly in this by the French attitude, that advantage should be taken of the situation by the Allies – that here was an opportunity to seize the initiative, win over world opinion, surround the enemy and win the war. From mid-December, this had been the line promoted in the War Cabinet by Churchill and Halifax. There was a view expressed that Stalin and Hitler could both be drawn in to Scandinavia where the decisive battles could be fought – and given the support for Finland from Italy and even from Japan (and the USA to a lesser extent), it was put forward that these countries could be drawn into a common front for the rescue of Finland and thus into direct conflict with both Germany and the USSR.

    Lord Halifax and Churchill however had different views on what should be done. Halifax had concluded that it was best for Swedish and Norwegian neutrality to be supported and he considered that neither was in imminent danger from the USSR as long as Finland continued to fight. Sweden was actively doing whatever it could to assist Finland and Norway was permitting Finland to virtually control the northern port of Lyngenfjiord, through which foreign military aid was beginning to flow. Halifax considered that it was in the Allied interest to prevent a more dangerous situation developing and advised that Finland had to be assisted by all possible means in order to make it an effective barrier between the USSR and the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, Churchill continued to develop his own proposals. "It was no in the interest of the Allies to keep Norway and Sweden outside the conflict, as Halifax had suggested, but to draw them into the war." Churchills strongly worded memo on Scandinavian policy and the Ministry of Economic Warfares report on the iron ore question turned the War Cabinets attention away from Finland and towards the western coast of Norway.

    We now know that this eventually led to the Allied intervention in Norway and the preemptive German strike – these are matters for a later Post. At this stage, suffice it to say that Allied attention became focused more on the possibilities of using assistance for Finland as a pretext for the seizure of northern Norway and the Swedish iron ore fields, and less and less on any really decisive intervention in Finland. However, the British War Cabinet decided that something further had to be done to assuage the growing outrage amongst the British public that nothing substantial was being done to assist Finland. The sending of the ANZAC Battalion, a few old aircraft and a couple of small warships had temporarily satisfied the public demand for visible action in December and early January, but as the Finns continued to hold on against the Red Army, with the Winter War dominating the headlines, the British public continued to demand action from their Government. The possibility of sending a Volunteer unit had, as has been mentioned, been discussed at the War Cabinet meeting of 4 January and by mid-January 1940, it was decided that something further must be done.

    The first move was to immediately make aircraft available to the Finns. As has been mentioned, twenty Gloster Gladiators and twenty eight (South African) Gloster Gauntlets had already been shipped off to Finland, and the 80 Hawker Henley’s the sale of which had been agreed on before the Winter War broke out went through, with all the Henley’s in Finland by late December 1939, where they would go on to be used with tremendous effect as single seat dive bombers and tank busters. Gripenburg had an extensive list of equipment and aircraft that the Finnish military wanted to augment existing equipment and on 8 January 1940, the first of this series of requests was approved by the Air Ministry. This was for 17 Westland Lysander observation aircraft (of the forty that had been requested). The first 9 were shipped to Gotherburg, Sweden on 24 February 1940. These were assembled at the Gotaverken factory in Torslanda and were flown to Finland between 21 March and 3 May. The rest of the order were supposed to be flown directly from the UK to Finland and 2 arrived on 8 March. The remaining Lysanders from the order left England in early March and arrived in Finland on the 15th of the same month although one crashed in transit. The Lysanders that entered service remained in use until 1945, although some were lost in action.

    A destroyed Ilmavoimat Westland Lysander LY-124 on the island of Buoy, close to Stavanger, Norway

    Ilmavoimat Westland Lysander in service in the Winter War. Maximum speed was 212 mph, range was 600 miles, service ceiling was 21,500 feet although in Finnish service the top 20,000 feet of this was rarely used, the aircraft usually few with a crew of 2 (Pilot and Observer).

    In Ilmavoimat service, the Lysanders would augment the existing Ilmavoimat observation aircraft which were in short supply, and were in fact allocated to the 4 additional Polish Divisions which had to be almost completely equipped from Finnish war reserve material – a large demand on the limited equipment stockpile which meant that in some cases, equipment which had been allocated to the Cadet units for training was brought back into service.

    Bristol Blenheims for Finland

    In December 1939 Britain had agreed to sell 12 British-manufactured Blenheims to Finland. These were flown to Finland, arriving on 17th January 1940, with one disappearing in transit and one being badly damaged on landing. In February 1940 Britain agreed to sell a further 12 Blenheims and these arrived on 26 Feb, 1940. Twenty Two Blenheims in all were delivered and made a useful addition to the Ilmavoimat’s bomber squadrons. For the first delivery of Blenheims, the RAFs 21 Squadron was asked for "volunteers for a dangerous mission". There was no lack of brave men stepping forward, although none of them knew what was involved. Their mission was to deliver twelve Blenheim Bombers to Finland for the Finns to use in their struggle against the Russian invaders. The mission was to be kept “top secret” owing to the delicate political situation with Russia at that time. This then is the background against which 36 young men set off for an adventure.

    Each man was given leave and told to speak to no one of their task. Civilian clothing was to be worn throughout the operation. “You are all released from the service”. This took the thirty six young men in the 21 Squadron Office at RAF Watton by surprise. There had been no shortage of men stepping forward. However, it would be much later before they learned of the full details. On return to their base they were issued with false passports and they were told “You will be provided with civilian clothing which you will take on leave with you today. In two days time you will travel to RAF Bicester with the provided rail warrants. You will carry nothing; I repeat nothing that will connect you to the RAF. Leave your identity disks here; from now on you are civilians. Are there any questions"? ...“Good”. Then “I’m sorry the details are sketchy, but this is, I stress, top secret and you must not discuss it with anyone, Good Luck.”

    Photo sourced from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stor ... 2796_1.jpg
    Sergeant Albert Williams (Observer) RAF no 580582: one of the RAF volunteers who flew the first 12 Blenheims to Finland

    Sergeant Albert Williams from Easton, Bristol was one of the men who volunteered at RAF Watton along with Aircraftsman 1st Class, Ray Trew another volunteer. Both men were puzzled but nevertheless intrigued. Albert was classified as an engineer on his passport. They sat quietly as the train wound itself across the Oxfordshire countryside toward Bicester. As instructed they had left their uniforms behind. They had also left behind tearful parents who thought their offspring were deserting, why else would they suddenly change into civilian clothing and apparently run away? Secrecy was maintained and the crews were not allowed ‘off base’ that night. They spent their time familiarising themselves with the aircraft, which had been stripped of armament and all non-essential equipment. This way they could fly faster and climb higher. Also to make matters worse the RAF roundels had been removed, and replaced by the blue swastika, the insignia of the Finnish Air Force. This had been hurriedly white washed over, but the emblem still showed through and was a concern for them. As one crewmember said, “We will be fair game for any fighter, ours or theirs”.

    At 6 am on the 23rd February 1940 all twelve took off for the first hop, from Bodney to Dyce Airport at Aberdeen in Scotland. The rain had removed the white wash off of the signs making them more visible. This made the mission even more dangerous, as the R.A.F. would quite likely suffer an attack in an aircraft displaying a swastika, and then the Germans would also interpret the Blenheim as a hostile aircraft. However, this part of the mission was completed successfully, and without mishap. Following an overnight stop and turn round by engineers they departed from Dyce in Aberdeen on the 23rd February 1940, and flew across the North Sea and arrived at Stavanger, Norway on the 24th February. Here they all had their passports stamped. Then on to Vasteras, Sweden on 25th February. The following day February 26th saw the last leg of the journey, they landed onto the frozen airstrip on Lake Juva in Finland; all twelve aircraft landed safely.

    They had been successful, they had managed to elude any sightings from the enemy aircraft or ground units that could have had the flight in deep trouble. Much of Europe was already coming under the Jackboot but, at this stage the Scandinavian countries were free. The reception these young aviators received from the local population was so warm that it more than made up for the arctic conditions they found on arrival on this frozen wasteland. Later, they went by bus to Helsinki, and were treated to a lavish luncheon party where each man was presented with a ceremonial dagger. From Helsinki the men were taken to the nearby Turko Abo airfield and on February 28th a Junkers 52 flew them to Stockholm in Sweden. Here, in this neutral capital they were a political embarrassment to the British Embassy. There were no restrictions; embassy staff only gave them the barest subsistence allowance. These eager young men fretted away the next two weeks until on March the 13th 1940, they were flown back to Perth in Scotland via Oslo, again in a Junkers 52 German built transport aircraft, but one with British markings!

    One must remember that many of these were young men, not long out of school, and who probably had not been abroad before, to them it had been a great adventure despite some of the offhand treatment they felt they had received from British Embassy staff. But, now the mission was over and all too soon they would be back in the fray as RAF fighting airmen. Some of the crew, like Aircraftman 1st Class Trew went on to complete many more operational flights, one 21 Squadron member, Leo Lightfoot earned the DFM for his part in downing an ME 109. Others like Sergeant Albert Williams were not so lucky. Not long after this secret mission, he was on another sortie, his aircraft was shot down following a successful bombing mission against a large tank formation at Fort du Gault, some miles to the east of Paris. On the 13th June 1940 all three crewmembers, Pilot Officer Lewis Mervyn Blanckensee, Pilot Sergeant Jack Guest DFM, Air Gunner and Sergeant Albert Williams, Observer, were killed. They are buried and remembered with honour at the St. Hilliers Communal Cemetry, Seine et Marne, France. They were all young men in their early twenties.

    Hawker Hurricanes to Finland

    (sourced from http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hu-fin-1.htm and a straight copy of an article written by Jussi Räty)

    Also in January 1940 the British agreed to sell 12 Hurricane fighters to Finland. The Finnish aircraft were from the first Gloster Hurricane series of 500 aircraft. They had the Merlin III engine and a Hamilton or a Rotol propeller. On the 29th of January 1940 the Finnish pilots selected to fly the fighters to Finland met at the Finnish Air Force HQ in Helsinki. The detachment leader was Lt. Jussi Räty, which led to the detachment being called "Detachment Räty". The other pilots were Ensigns Aarne Alitalo, Heikki Kaukovaara, Eino Mesinen, Erkki Mustonen, Paavo Myllylä, Aarne Nissinen and Tapio Taskinen, Sergeants Paavo Aikala, Uuno Karhumäki, Martti Laitinen and Pekka Vassinen. Lt. Räty was assigned from LeLv 26 (Air Squadron 26), while the other pilots came from the replacement regiment at Parola. The group took a commercial Aero Oy flight to Stockholm and proceeded to London via Copenhagen and Amsterdam. From London they proceeded to the RAF base St. Athan where they arrived on the 5th of February 1940.

    The training squadron where the Finns were to be trained was No.11 Group Fighting School commanded by Squadron Leader Tom Pinkham. The squadron was divided into three flights: A Flight commanded by Flight Lieutenant Adye, B Flight commanded by F/L Robinson and C Flight commanded by F/L Cox. Squadron Leader Pinkham told the Finns that he had been ordered to speed up the training and that they would fly a few flights in the Link Trainers and Harvards and then 10 - 12 hrs with the Hurricanes prior to the ferry flight to Finland. The British pilots were required to fly 40 hrs with the Link Trainers and 30 hrs with the Hurricanes and they normally had some 250 hrs solo time before the training. The squadron had a fully equipped Hurricane cockpit for ground training.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-08.jpg
    Ilmavoimat Hawker Hurricane

    Meeting the King and the Queen

    On the 9th of February 1940 King George VI and Queen Elisabeth visited St. Athan. The King had expressed his wish to meet the Finnish pilots and so Lt. Räty joined the group in the officers mess for lunch. After the lunch the King asked if the Finns had enjoyed their time in the RAF and if they had already flown. The King expressed the sympathy of Great Britain towards Finland and that it was a pleasure that Great Britain could help Finland in its fight for independence. He wished the pilots luck for the ferry flights.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-01.jpg
    No 11 Group Air Fighting School, C Flight instructors, students and the maintenance personnel. In the middle Flight Commander F/L Cox and instructors Pilot Officer Dowborn and Wahalmoot. Students on both sides of the propeller: from the left Laitinen, Karhumäki, Mustonen and Mertio.

    The weather stayed poor at St. Athan and the flight training was postponed until February 9, 1940. The additional days were used for extra Link Trainer training and studying the Hurricane fighter. Lt. Räty translated the pilots manual and made sure that all the Finns had rehearsed all the procedures in the squadron's Hurricane cockpit. This, combined with Finnish pilot training, resulted in the Finns having no mishaps during the Hurricane conversion training. The flight training in the Harvards started on the 9th of February and the training proceeded so well that already by the 20th the Finnish group had started to plan for the ferry flight to Finland. Squadron Leader Pinkham had been in touch with the Gloster Aviation Company and had received advice that he should send some of the Finns to Gloster's Brockworth factory on 21st of February to receive their aircraft. The first three Hurricanes (HU-451, HU-452 and HU-455) were delivered on the 21st of February at Brockworth. The next three (HU-454, HU-458 and HU-459) were delivered two days later. The Finns flew the Hurricanes to St. Athan, where they were rechecked and prepared for the ferry flight. The radios were tested, the machine guns were aligned and armed. Every Finn flew an acceptance test flight and tested the machine guns over the bay of Bristol. The wire grid covering the engine air intake was removed to prevent icing problems during the ferry flight.

    Ferry flights to Finland begin

    When it became obvious that it would take more than a week to get all the 12 aircraft into ferry flight configuration, Lt. Räty decided to divide the group into two. The first group would consist of: Lt. Räty (HU-451), Ensigns Nissinen (HU-452), Kaukovaara (HU-455), Mesinen (HU-458), Sergeants Aikala (HU-459) and Vassinen (HU-454). The British Air Ministry sent an escort plane, a long-nosed Blenheim to St. Athan on the 23rd of February with Squadron Leader Bushell as the pilot in command. The ferry flight started on the 25th of February. The first leg took the group over Wales, west of Liverpool and 2.5 hrs later to Grangemouth airfield 10 km (6 mi.) northwest of Edinburgh. After refueling the aircraft headed to Wick in Scotland, where they stayed the night. The base commander, a Group Captain told the Finnish pilots that the weather forecast for Stavanger, Norway looked good for the next day and the plan was to take off at 11.15 hrs local time. There were two Lockheed Hudson bombers and a Sunderland flying boat to escort the Finnish Hurricanes over the North Sea. The Sunderland was to pick up the pilots from the sea, if anyone had to ditch.

    The group took of from Wick and flew over the North Sea. At first the weather was according to the forecast, but then it became worse in the middle part of the leg. They had to fly at 15 - 20m (50 - 70 ft) over the waves for 15 - 20 min. The Sunderland wouldn't have been much help in that weather, if someone had ditched. There were problems in keeping in contact with the lead Lockheed Hudson, but the group still maintained formation even though they couldn't see more than the aircraft directly in front of them. When the group approached the coast of Norway the weather improved. The cruising speed was as low as 150 kts (240 km/h) because of the flying boat. After 2.5 hrs they crossed the coast close to Stavanger. It took two hours to cross the North Sea. When the lead Hudson didn't give the disengagement signal (wing rock) and kept flying back and forth south and north of Stavanger, the group disengaged themselves and landed at Sola airfield. They had been ordered to keep strict radio silence when leaving from Wick. The radio was to be used only during emergencies.

    The weather got worse at Stavanger and in the mountains so that the Finnish group had to wait until February 29 to continue to Västerås, Sweden. They left before noon, but when they got over Oslo Sgt. Aikala reported that he wouldn't have enough fuel to make it to Västerås. The group made a refueling stop at Forneby and continued on an hour later. After one hour they were over Västerås. The runways were covered with hard ice and landing was no problem. During the taxi Ensign Kaukovaara's Hurricane (HU-455) hit a soft spot and nosed over and as a result the propeller was bent. There were no spare parts and because there were a lot of Finnish pilots and technical personnel at Västerås assembling the Italian Fiat G.50 fighters, the Hurricane group decided to stay there for a week. During that time the Hurricanes were modified with an engine carburetor heater. The group would fly to Finland on the 7th of March and by that time the second Hurricane group would be there with them.

    The second group over the North Sea

    The second group was now ready at St. Athan. The pilots were: Ensigns Taskinen (HU-461), Alitalo (HU-457), Myllylä (HU-456), Mustonen (HU-453), Sergeants Karhumäki (HU-460) and Laitinen (HU-42). Lt. Räty had ordered Ensign Taskinen to be the leader of the second group and Sergeant Karhumäki to be the backup since he already had years of flying experience. The second group went to Gloster's Brockworth factory on the 26th of February. The fighters were being painted when they arrived. HU-460 was getting the blue Finnish Air Force swastika. Late that day the fighters were flown to St. Athan. During the next two days the aircraft were checked with the RAF maintainers, the machine guns aligned, radios tested and everything prepared for the ferry flight.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-02.jpg
    Finnish Hurricane HU-460 after acceptance at St. Athan RAF base in the UK. The ferry flight to Finland is about to begin. The pilot is Sergeant Uuno Karhumäki.

    The same Blenheim escorted the second group of Finnish Hurricanes from St. Athan on the 29th of February. The group flew to Prestwick in poor weather conditions. From there they flew to Wick via Grangemouth. During landing at Wick the right main gear of ensign Taskinen's HU-461 collapsed and he had to stay at Wick until the aircraft could be repaired, (after which he flew to Finland in company with the RAF Volunteer Squadron that left in early March 1940). The weather was reported to be good on the way to Stavanger on the morning of the 1st of March 1940. Two Lockheed Hudsons with long-range navigation gear were escorting the Hurricanes with the Sunderland flying boat. The weather forecast tuned out to be totally wrong, when the cloud base started to drop after some 30 min flight time. The group descended to 50 - 100 m (170 - 300 ft) over the waves in February rain over the North Sea. Half way to Norway the weather continued to get worse and the aircraft were only a few meters over the waves. The trailing Sunderland had been lost in the rain a while ago together with the other Hudson. The Hurricanes followed the lead Hudson and tightened the formation.

    After two hours of flying they spotted some islands and crossed the coastline. The Hudson kept a southerly heading between the islands and then turned north. When it did this twice the Hurricane leader realized that they were lost. Since the Hurricanes were getting low on fuel they disengaged from the Hudson and flew between the islands finally finding Sola airfield. The cloud base was at 30 m (100ft) and the only way to get to Sola was between two mountains. In a couple of minutes the Hurricanes flew through the mountain pass to the airfield and landed almost simultaneously on the crossing runways. During landing they realized that they were missing one Hurricane, Sgt. Laitinen's HU-462.

    The lost Hurricane, HU-462

    The flight from Wick to Stavanger had taken 3 h 10 min (45 min more than the first group's flight). The cruising speed was slow due to the flying boat. When the innermost aircraft in the formation had to reduce speed even further during turns Sgt. Laitinen had lost contact with the group flying furthest to the right in the extremely poor weather. He had entered the clouds without nobody noticing it. Only two hours after the landing at Stavanger did the group hear that an aircraft had crashed on the island of Eigeroy 60 km (45 mi.) south of Stavanger. The pilot had been taken unconscious to the nearby Egersund hospital.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-03.jpg
    Sgt. Laitinen's Hurricane, HU-462 at Eigeroy island 60 km south of Stavanger - 1

    Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-04.jpg
    Sgt. Laitinen's Hurricane, HU-462 at Eigeroy island 60 km south of Stavanger - 2

    The rest of the group traveled to Egersund on the next day. The pilot was recovering in the hospital. The Hurricane was destroyed. The group returned to Stavanger, where some RAF pilots were trying to land three Finnish Air Force Westland Lysanders in poor weather. They didn't make it to Sola and landed on rocky fields close to the airfield. One Lysander (LY-124) was destroyed during landing at Buoy Island. The remaining two RAF pilots suggested that they would join the Finnish Hurricane group on their way to Västerås, Sweden. The Lysander pilots preferred to circle the mountains to Oslo, but the Finns planned to cross the mountains and cut the leg by a third. Finally the Lysander pilots agreed and they decided to join the formation.

    The combined group took off on the 6th of March and refueled at Oslo. The whole group made it to Västerås the same day and now the Hurricane group was together, only Taskinen and Laitinen were missing. HU-462 was disassembled in Norway and the parts were sent to Finland as spares. When the first group landed at Västerås Hässlö airfield on the 29th of February, three British Hurricane technicians arrived there. They straightened the propeller of HU-455. After this 3/4 of the Hurricanes delivered to the Finnish Air Force were ready at Västerås to be ferried to Finland. The permission for the ferry flight was given only after the spare parts had arrived in Finland. On the 7th of March the green light was given and the first group took off in the morning. They could make it only to north of Stockholm, when the weather turned sour and they had to return to Hässlö airfield. In the afternoon they tried again and this time they succeeded in ferrying the aircraft to the Morane fighter base on a frozen lake at Säkylä.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-06.jpg
    Ensign Kaukovaara's Hurricane HU-455 at at Säkylä lake base after the ferry flight from Västerås on the 7th of March 1940.

    Detachment Räty's later actions

    Detachment Räty was initially based at Säkylä with Squadron 28 supporting the air defence of Turku (Åbo) with the Morane fighters. With the arrival of the RAF Volunteer Squadron commanded by Squadron Leader James Bigglesworth later in March, also flying Hawker Hurricanes, the fighters were grouped together into a single Squadron and assigned to provide fighter cover over the Karelian Isthmus from an airbase near Viipuri, from where they saw extensive combat up until the end of the Winter War in September 1940. Three British Hurricane technicians travelled to Finland to assist the Ilmavoimat service and maintain the aircraft. Of those Mr. Galpin (photo at Artukainen airfield outside Turku) and Mr. Martin trained the Finnish groundcrew in maintaining the Hurricanes and the weapons.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/hukfin-05.jpg
    Mr. Galpin at at Artukainen airfield outside Turku

    Finland bought 12 Hurricane I planes from England. It has occasionally been suggested that they were a gift, but all accounts point to the fact that the Finns paid hard cash for the aircraft, buying them from the Gloster factory. Gloster was a subsidiary of Hawker at the time. Of the 12 Hurricanes, five were lost, three in aerial combat and two to AA fire, with 4 pilots lost. The survivors were taken out of service in May 1944 as lend-lease aircraft flooded into Finland from the United States and Britain. Finnish Air Force Hurricanes did not actually enjoy very much success in combat in Finland, recording only 25.5 kills in action. The Hurricane, one of the heroes of the Battle of Britain, was outshone by the American Brewster Buffalo. Deemed a failure in the U.S., in the hands of Finnish pilots these planes shot down over 450 enemy aircraft for the loss of only fifteen of their own over the last six months of the Winter War.

    To give some idea of the support that was given to Finland relative to that later given to the USSR, following the involuntary entry of the Soviet Union into the war fighting the same enemy as the Allies, the Soviet Air Force received a total of 2,952 Hurricanes of various types under lend-lease agreements. The disparity did not go unnoticed by the Finns.

    Photo sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... ricane.jpg
    Suomen ilmavoimien Hawker Hurricane Helsingissä / A Finnish Hurricane from WWII in Helsinki

    Next Post: Assistance from Britain continued…….
  18. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Assitance from Britain continued.....

    Assistance from Britain continued…….

    The British Volunteer Squadron

    Finland would however receive the 36 Hurricanes that had been asked for towards the end of March. In addition to selling Blenheims, Hurricanes, Blackburn Roc’s and Hawker Henley’s to Finland, the Air Ministry (under political pressure it must be said) searched for additional ways by which Finland could be assisted in a way that would not result in any major impact on Britain’s ongoing defence buildup. The action that was settled on was the immediate dispatch of a full Squadron of RAF Volunteers. As a consequence of this decision, in mid-March 1940, the Air Ministry asked a noted Auxiliary Air Force pilot with extensive combat and leadership experience dating back to WW1, Squadron Leader James Bigglesworth, to from and lead this squadron of volunteers to fight in Finland."Biggles", as he was generally known to his friends, was well known in RAF circles and to the UK public as a noted fighter pilot from WW1, largely due to a series of books about his exploits written by his biographer, Capt. W. E. Johns (himself a former RFC Pilot and WW1 veteran). He accepted the request with remarkable enthusiasm.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.biggles.info/index_files/image001.jpg
    Born in India in May 1899, the son of an administrator in the Indian Civil Service and his wife (née Lacey), James was the younger of two sons. The young James had little contact with British culture, and commenced a lifelong affection for India, befriending the local Indian boys, exploring the countryside and learning to speak fluent Hindi. He retained a lifetime gift for languages, and as an adult spoke French and German fluently, with a "fair command" of various other languages. He had attended Malton Hall School in Hertbury, England but had left school in 1916 and joined the army as a subaltern in the Rifle Regiment (having conveniently “lost” his birth certificate). He transferred to the RFC and learned to fly in the summer of 1916, at No. 17 Flying Training School, which was at Settling, Norfolk, flying solo after two hours of instruction. He then attended No. 4 'School of Fighting' in Frensham, Lincolnshire. Posted to France with just 15 hours solo, he first flew in combat in September 1916 with 169 Squadron, RFC, (commanded by a Major Paynter). In late summer 1917, he was transferred to 266 Squadron RFC, commanded by a Dubliner, Major Mullen. With 266 Squadron, Biggles flew the Sopwith Pup and then the famed Sopwith Camel. He claimed at least 32 kills, and was shot down or crash-landed eight times. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross and bar. Between the wars Biggles, like many other WW1 pilots, worked as a freelance charter pilot and at times as an agent for British Intelligence.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.biggles.info/index_files/image018.jpg
    While had had first flown in 1916, Biggles was no stranger to modern air warfare, even at the age of 40. Like many of the Ilmavoimat pilots with whom he would fly, Biggles and some members of his Squadron had gained experience fighting in the Spanish Civil War, an episode in his life that was chronicled less than faithfully by his biographer, Capt. W. E. Johns. Working for British Intelligence, Biggles and a number of colleagues had actually flown and fought on the Nationalist side of the Spanish Civil War, in the process gaining much information for the RAF on German, Italian and Russian aircraft and air combat techniques. In doing so, they had also met and socialized at times with the Finnish volunteer pilots alomgside whom they would late fly and fight in the Winter War.

    In late March 1940, “Biggles” put together a squadron of pilots and groundcrew from RAF volunteers. The mission was initially kept “top secret” owing to the delicate political situation with Russia at that time. After the men had had the nature of the mission explained to them, they were asked to resign from the RAF after which they were told to report to the RAF base at St. Athan, the same RAF base from which the Finnish pilots had recently flown out from. “You will be provided with civilian clothing which you will take on leave with you today. In two days time you will travel to RAF St. Athan with the provided rail warrants. You will carry nothing, I repeat nothing that will connect you to the RAF. Leave your identity disks here; from now on you are civilians. Are there any questions"? ...“Good”. Then “I’m sorry the details are sketchy, but this is, I stress, top secret and you must not discuss it with anyone…” Meeting up in St. Athan, the 24 Pilots who had been selected (including Biggles himself) were given two days to familiarize themselves with their brand new straight-from-the-factory Hurricanes, after which they flew the Scotland-Norway-Sweden-Finland route over a period of a week.

    The ground crew were ferried across the North Sea to Norway in a series of flights by Sunderland flying boat, after which they travelled by Rail in sealed carriages through Norway and Sweden to Finland, eventually linking up with the Hurricanes at Turku, where they would spend four weeks conducting familiarization training and having the Finnish Nokia radios installed in place of the RAF radios. In early May, the British pilots and aircraft were assigned to the airbase outside Viipuri, where they were joined by the Hurricanes flown by Detachment Räty and grouped into a single large Squadron. Under the leadership of Squadron Leader Bigglesworth (“Biggles”), the RAF pilots quickly adapted to the Finnish air combat tactics, as well as to the “Finger Four” formation used by the Ilmavoimat.

    The combination of a tightly knit and highly skilled group of RAF pilots, many of whom, such as Biggles himself, already possessed considerable combat experience, together with the adequate performance of the Hurricanes as a fighter led to some spectacular successes against the Soviet Air Force as well as to some incongruous notes. Such as Hurricanes and (Spanish) Me109’s fighting side by side against the Soviet Air Force even as the aircraft fought each other over France. The RAF pilots lost very few of their number, 5 pilots from 24, with 2 of these lost to accidents in the extreme winter weather and only 3 shot down. In return, the 24 RAF pilots accounted for some 120 confirmed kills and a further 50 odd probables. Following the end of the Winter War, the surviving RAF volunteers would returned to fight in the UK.

    Photo sourced from: http://www.biggles.info/index_files/image020.jpg
    Bigglesworth’s biographer, WE Johns, gives a misleading account of this period in Biggles’ life in “Biggles in the Baltic.” Published as the book was in 1942, the British Government did not desire to broadcast the fact that British forces had actually fought against the USSR – by the time the book was published the USSR was an ally in the war against Nazi Germany.


    Half the Hurricanes of the British Volunteer Squadron en-route to Scotland: They were repainted with the Ilmavoimat insignia after arrival in Norway.

    Next: The Blackburn Roc’s
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2012
  19. Super Missile Well-Known Member

    Dec 6, 2011
    I have just finished your third update and I must say I admire you dedication to this. It's sometimes as if your hands can't stop typing. :)
  20. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Thx :)

    It's kind of addictive when you get going! I have a rough TOC for the whole thing out to Berlin and the end of WW2 - the rough TOC is around 7 x A4 pages and so far we are around half way through the 1st Page. And some of that TOC is pretty broad in scope. As for "hands can't stop typing" - well, sometimes I feel like that too. Being fast on the keyboard helps and I'm experimenting with some voice recognition software to try and speed things up more!!!!!