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

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

  1. anon_user anonymous member

    Jun 29, 2010
    Neat updates. I really appreciate the level of detail you've gone into here.
    Ah, good old naval mission rivalry. Incidentally, have you read this book?

    Did Finland send aid to Norway in OTL?
  2. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Oh yes, we will get to Simo alright :) - plus a few other Finnish snipers :)
  3. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Not that book no. I want it, but it's hugely expensive. Going to see if I can get it thru the local library.

    OTL, Finland didn't send any aid to Norway. But in this ATL they will, in spades. You're gonna feel sorry for the Germans (and the British expeditionary force) by the time the Finns finish with them both (the Germans gets dealt with, the Brits get "trained" by the Finns. It's a long way from where we are tho.

    Glad you're enjoying the detail :D

  4. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Haukka II

    I should also mention that, OTL, the Ilmavoimat bought the Gloster Gamecock rather than the Haukka II. They bought 17 Gamecocks. I've matched the 17 and then added a further 23 a couple of years later for a total of 40. Further explanation on the ramifications in my next post
  5. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    The Ilmavoimat in the 1920's - continued....

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

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

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

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

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

    Ilmavoimat Blackburn Ripon preparing to take off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    De Havilland Moth Primary Trainers - ordered 1928

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

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

    Standard Ilmavoimat de Havilland Moth Basic Trainer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Taken from the movie Meidän Poikamme Ilmassa (1934), this excerpt shows some basic flying training at Kauhava airbase. The plane is the Smolik S-218.

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

    Junkers W34 Maritime Aircraft – first ordered 1930

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

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

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

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

    Ilmavoimat Junkers W-34

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

    The Ilmavoimat in 1930

    And here, immediately prior to the 1931 Military Review, is a good point to leave the Ilmavoimat temporarily and go on to take a look at other aspects of the 1920’s that we haven’t yet touched on.
    Last edited: May 17, 2011
  6. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Finnish Coastal Defences Part I

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

    Finnish Coastal Defence in the 1920s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Russian warships overwintering in Helsinki during the first world war.

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

    The General Principles of the Russian Fortifications in Finland

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

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

    An example of a Coastal Artillery Battery

    An Example of a Fort - Mäkiluoto

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Coastal Fortifications after 1918

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

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

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

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

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

    Åland Archipelago Positions

    Fortresses from Hanko to Helsinki

    The Estonian Archipelago Positions

    Positions in the Inner Gulf of Finland

    The Fortesses of Viipuri and Krondstadt

    The Sea Fortresses of Krepost Sveaborg (guarding Helsinki)

    The Land Defences of Krepost Sveaborg (guarding Helsinki)

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

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

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

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

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

    Fortresses around Helsinki

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Landward Defensive Lines

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

    Field Fortification Installations

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

    Permanent Fortifications

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

    A concrete defensive position at Paloheinä

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

    Sea Island Fortifications

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

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

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

    Armament of the Sea Front Batteries - Outer Line Island Batteries

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

    Armament of the Sea Front Batteries - Inner Line Island Batteries

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

    To be continued in Part II............
  7. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    And just for fun .... how does this approach to the war grab you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Nov 26, 2009
    This was pretty good. This style is nice read though I don't know how it would work for a higher level overview. Probably a combo of both types would do it.

    You've got a great timeline going here and I'm enjoying it very much.
  9. tchizek Well-Known Member

    Dec 28, 2008
    Halfway between Detroit and Chicago
    I like this style for the action sequences, but keep the "history book" style for any over-view/high-level posts.

    If I haven't said recently - Great timeline!
  10. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Thx for the feedback...

    Thx for the feedback Tzichek and Wet Coast, happy to know you're enjoying this. I'll keep the format mostly as it has been with some "action" bits and pieces thrown in as it moves ahead, probabl starting from the mid-1930's with the "action" sequences.

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

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

  11. Jukra Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2007
    Tuborg at Uborg
    Since the outfit would be platoon or company sized, it might be in Finnish WW2 -speak something like Osasto Kuha, Os. Kuha (Detachment Kuha or whoever officer is in charge of it), or 11. Erillinen rannikkotiedustelukomppania, 11.Er.Rann.Tied.K. (11th Independent Coastal Reconnaissance company, or whatever number one wishes).
  12. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Finnish Coastal Defences of the 1930’s

    OK, I'm going to jump ahead of myself here. I was intending to finish off the section on Coastal Defences before I posted this, but this section is finished so I'm going to post it, then return to complete the intervening sections on Coastal Artillery, which may take a while to get done.

    Part IV - Finnish Coastal Defences of the 1930’s

    While the Coastal Defence Divisions and Coastal Artillery Batteries and fortresses were focused on the defence of the coastline against any attempt at seaborne invasion, another outcome of the 1931 Military Review was the identification of the need for an offensive capability in the seas and on the islands surrounding Finland, particularly along the shore and archipelagoes of the Gulf of Finland. This capability should be not just defensive, but capable of taking the tactical initiative and attacking the enemy anywhere along the Baltic littoral, but with an emphasis on the Gulf of Finland. The decision was made that an elite Division, the Marine Jaegers (Rannikkojääkärit) would be formed to fufill this need and that this Division would be part of the Suomen Merivoimat (Navy) rather than the Army. Also anticipating potential command and control disputes, the decision was also made that the Marine Jaeger Division would have it’s own integrated Air Arm dedicated to close support and protection of the Marine Jaeger Division in combat.

    The Marine Jaeger Division

    Established in late 1934 by a direct order of Marshal Mannerheim’s, the Finnish Marine Jaegers (Rannikkojääkärit) were formed as the elite marine infantry arm of the Finnish Navy. Their insignia was the head of a sea-eagle in gold.The objectives of the Rannikkojääkärit were laid out as being:

    (1) To conduct counter attacks against enemy landings in the Finnish archipelago, an environment known for its many small islands and skerries,
    (2) To carry out raiding attacks from the sea on enemy held positions and
    (3) To carry out full-scale attacks from the sea in support of Army operations.
    (4) Anticipating that the Gulf of Finland may become completely frozen over, allowing flanking attacks by the enemy across the Ice, to prepare for and be capable of fighting major defensive actions on the Ice while at the same time being capable of taking the tactical offensive against the enemy;

    An additional Battalion-sized unit Rannikkojääkärit formation (separate from the Marine Division itself) was to be trained as an elite unit for unconventional warfare, beach and coastline reconnaisance and reconnaissance behind enemy lines. This unit was also tasked with developing the capability to operate in and from the many lakes and swamps of Finland, and to train the Marine Division and Army units in these techniques. (A subsequent Post will examine this unit in

    A small integrated Merivoimat Air Arm was formed up at the same time, with an allocated Table of Organisation of Two Fighter Squadrons, Two Dive Bomber Squadrons, One Reconnaisance Squadron and One Transport Squadron – although initially there were no aircraft or personnel. This would come later.

    Selection and Training

    While all Finnish males performed compulsory military service, only volunteers were accepted for the Rannikkojääkärit. The Division’s new training base was constructed at Nylands, near Ekenäs. After completion of the initial 6 months of Army Basic Training that all conscripts carrying out compulsory military service were required to complete, conscripts could voluntarily apply for service in the Rannikkojääkärit. Entry was by way of a tough 8 week selection course, with an emphasis on physical fitness, ability to operate in a maritime environment and cross-training. Interestingly, about 85% of volunteers passed the selection process – the Rannikkojääkärit Training Instructors were both tough and stubborn, and a strong emphasis was put on “encouraging” candidates who weren’t up to standard. Basically, it was a whole lot easier to get into the Rannikkojääkärit Selection Course than it was to get out of it, and over time the implacability of the Selection Course Instructors, and the pain and suffering experienced by candidates who were initially “below standard” became part of the Rannikkojääkärit “Myth.” Following the 8 week Selection Course, a further 4 months of specialized training was undertaken. Conscript volunteers were selected for NCO training during the initial 8 week Rannikkojääkärit Selection Course, while candidates for Rannikkojääkärit Officer Training were selected during the 8 week long Stage 1 of NCO training. About 10-20% of Stage 1 NCO candidates became officer candidates.
    Rannikkojääkärit Trainees on Parade during Selection: Parades and Drill were not an important part of the Selection Course, but they did occur.

    After completing the 6 months of Army Basic Training, it was expected that all volunteers for the Rannikkojääkärit were fit, capable of handling all army weapons and had all the basic military tactical skills. The first 4 weeks of the 8 week selection course therefore focused on achieving an increasingly higher level of physical fitness with a strong emphasis on endurance - for example, a Rannikkojääkärit candidate was more likely to spend his time marching with a heavy rucksack than doing push-ups. Marches were usually carried out with "full field equipment" (meaning 40-60kg depending on the task of the soldier) and could often be as long as 80-90km. The ability to operate in a maritime environment was also tested in this first stage. There was a very heavy emphasis on the development of military swimming skills, “drown proofing,” long distance swimming and small boat skills. Generally, conscripts who had completed the admittedly tough Army Basic Training thought they were pretty good. The Rannikkojääkärit Selection Course “gently” disabused them of this notion. It was pointed out from the first day that the Rannikkojääkärit were the elite, the best unit in the Finnish Military – and to be worthy of admittance, you had to be the absolute toughest and the best.

    To this end, the Selection Course also emphasized the Finnish military's KKT unarmed combat system. Phsyical and mental aggression and the ability to deal with this was continuously developed, daily KKT sessions took place – these emphasized fear control (including methods of fear control and use of fear energy so as to master the “fight or flight” response and to eliminate inhibiting blocks to instant action in a crisis), encouraged a combat-ready mindset and “attack mindedness”, situational awareness, interactive tactics, attack mindedness, necessary ruthlessness, desensitization to inflicting injury, immunity to surprise or shock when and if injured oneself and so forth. And while the physical side of Selection was tough, most Rannikkojääkärit candidates found the mental part of the training most challenging. Not only were the physical requirements high, but candidates were required to learn and memorize a startling amount of information. Instructors went out of their way to put as much mental pressure on the soldiers as possible without actually breaking them and this was combined with high levels of sleep deprivation. The end result was that most candidates that failed selection, failed in these first four weeks. The second four weeks of Selection continued to emphasis physical endurance and maritime environment skills together with the main elements of Rannikkojääkärit training – maritime environment combat training and small unit tactical skills, weapons handling, tactical mobility and small boat operations. At the end of the 8 week Rannikkojääkärit Selection Course, candidates were subjected to a one week evolution which came to be termed “Paska Week” (‘Shit Week”). This was a one week period of continuous running, swimming, short tactical exercises, gym tests and small boat exercises with as little as 8 hours sleep over the one week period which was designed to test the candidates physical and mental endurance to the maximum.

    After five days of this, the final two days of “Paska Week” involved a march of approximately 70km in length over which the Rannikkojääkärit candidates had to navigate themselves carrying 40-45kg of combat equipment. Every 5-10km the candidates were stopped to complete tasks given to them by instructors. Typical tasks were medical evacuation of "wounded" soldiers, shooting, weapons handling or map reading. At one point of the march candidates were put on a boat and transported to an unknown location from which they had to locate themselves on a map and find their way back to the route of the march. The remainder of the candidates who failed selection (usually a further 10-15%) usually failed in the first five days of Paska Week – the final two days were generally an endurance test – if you made it to the end of the two days and completed the march, you passed, although the candidates never knew this. At the end of the two day route march, candidates were told the evolution was over and they had passed selection. After a weekend recovery period, they were awarded the Rannikkojääkärit green beret with the golden sea eagle cap badge at a formal Passing Out Parade.

    Exhausted looking Rannikkojääkärit Candidates at the end of the two-day Endurance Test – tired and sore, but still going. Note the folding boat to the right, used earlier on the exercise

    The much prized Green Beret. One of the hardest-won Berets in the world.

    Continuation Training then started. For soldiers, this consisted of a further 4 months where the emphasis was on developing and practicing marine warfare skills. Officers and NCO’s for these jääkärit were those who had completed Officer and NCO training from the previous intake. The training period for Officers and NCO’s was longer – they completed a six month Officer and NCO Training Course at the Amphibious Warfare School, which was considerably tougher and with a wide scope. This was then followed by a four month period commanding conscripts doing their Continuation Training. At all times during this period, Officers and NCO’s could fail – even in the last week of the four month Command and Leadership evolution – and the pressure was considerable. All in all, Rannikkojääkärit training was, along with Paratroop Jaeger training, the toughest given to any type of infantry in Finland. The results in the Winter War spoke for this.
    A Rannikkojääkärit Officer supervises a live-firing exercise in the field (note the Officer is wearing the Rannikkojääkärit Green Beret), Summer 1939

    Rannikkojääkärit training came to include operations from the new Motor Torpedoe Boats and the even newer Fast Assault Boats that came into service in the late 1930’s

    Rannikkojääkärit Training with Small Boats. Once volunteers passed Selection and entered Continuation Training, the emphasis was on the development of military combat skills and not on etiquette or the meeting of standards for uniforms – note the miscellaneous collection of clothing and headgear.

    From 1936 on, Lotta volunteers were also accepted into the Rannikkojääkärit in support and non-combat positions. Female volunteers completed the same training as males, including KKT, but with a lower standard of physical strength and endurance set. Female volunteers were trained separately from males.
    Female Rannikkojääkärit volunteers in training - 1937

    Divisional Structure

    (See US Marine Corps Report and Assessment of the Finnish Marine Division dated 1935 in section below).

    Development of Doctrine

    The major influence on the Rannikkojääkärit was the US Marine Corps. As mentioned earlier, in late 1931, Marshal Mannerheim had arranged for a number of Officers to be attached to the Marine elements of a number of countries – generally half a dozen officers to each country’s forces. These included the British Royal Marines, the US Marine Corps, the French Troupes Coloniales, the Italian San Marco Battalion, the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps and the Spanish Infantería Marina (lest you doubt, this unit enjoyed success during the Third Rif War in its innovative Alhucemas amphibious assault in 1925, when it employed coordinated air and naval gunfire to support the assault – in 1931 it was officially determined to be a "colonial force" by the Republicans and was denounced as “an instrument of imperialism”. It was sentenced to extinction by the Spanish republican government in 1931 but was still in existence in 1932 when the Finnish Officers were attached to it briefly. From all these various units, the Finns absorbed a wide range of techniques, skills and doctrine.

    While many countries were reducing or eliminating their Marine forces in the aftermath of WWI, the US Marine Corps had established their reputation of ferocity and toughness in the battles on the Western Front, including Belleau Wood. Between the World Wars, the Marine Corps was headed from 1920-29 by Commandant John A. Lejeune and under his leadership, the Corps presciently studied and developed amphibious techniques that would be of great use in World War II. At the period the Finnish Officers were attached, the Commandant was Major General Ben H Fuller (1930-33) who was a strong advocate of the Marine Fleet Force concept – essentially, combined arms operations for the Marines. Fuller went out of his way to facilitate the education of the Finnish Officers and initiated an exchange program in 1933 whereby Finnish Officers were attached to the US Marine Corps while US Marine Corps Officers and experienced NCO’s were attached to the Finnish Rannikkojääkärit. The largest group of US Marine Corps Officers and NCO’s served with the Rannikkojääkärit over 1934 and 1935, greatly facilitating the initial establishment of the Rannikkojääkärit, the development of training programs and both strategic and tactical doctrine suited to the Finnish strategic and tactical environment. These officers, together with a small team of US Marine Corp pilots and aircrew who assisted with the Helldiver training, were influential in the development of the combined arms combat techniques and doctrine which were used to great effect in the Winter War and during Finland’s involvement in the Second World War.

    1935 Report on the Finnish Marine Jaeger Division prepared for the US Marine Corps (Authored by US Marine Corps Major (deleted), commander of the US Marines Training Detachment on attachment in Finland)


    In 1934, the Finnish Navy established a Marine Division and requested assistance from the US Marine Corps in establishing structure and organisation, strategic and tactical doctrine and in the establishment of training programs. The Finnish Marine Division is loosely based on the US Marine Divisional organisation, but is strongly influenced by the Finnish Army’s “Combined Arms Regimental Battle Group” structure. The Division is heavily combat-oriented and is structured with far less “tail” than a US Marine Corps Division.

    As with all Finnish military units, the Marine Division is largely a Reservist Unit, with the greater part of the personnel being Reservists who have completed their training during their period of Conscript Service. Reservists generally participate in a limited number of weekend training days throughout the year, as well as a one to two week Annual Exercise which is usually carried out at the Battalion level. As of the time of writing this report, 3 Trainee Intakes have completed training and the Division is at approximately half-strength. The Finnish Commanding Officer (Marine Division) estimates that by 1938, the Division will have trained sufficient Marines to be able to operate at full Divisional strength in the event of mobilization.

    Selection of Personnel.

    Selection of initial Officer and NCO Cadre was made from a combination of appointments by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and volunteers from Army Cadre. All other personnel are volunteers doing their compulsory Conscript Service and these fill almost all positions within the Division. Finnish Marine policy is that all trainees must have completed their six month Army Basic Training successfully, and must be volunteers. The first Intake of trainees commenced in 1934, from Volunteers who had just completed their six months of Army Basic Training and consisted of 2,500 men and 350 women.

    (Of Note is that the Finnish Marines accept women volunteers for service in non-Frontline positions – generally, women soldiers fill all rear-area service, clerical, support and quartermaster/stores positions. Women complete the same training as male Marines including all-arms combat training – albeit with lower physical fitness standards. Of particular note is that this releases large numbers of male Marines for combat unit roles, something the Finns emphasized was important given their limited manpower. Also of note is that ALL women Marines are always armed with personal weapons and are trained in their use).


    The primary mission of the Finnish Marines is to take the tactical offensive in counter-attacking any attempted enemy attacks along the Finnish coastline and archipelagoes or in winter, across the frozen sea-ice of the Gulf of Finland. Secondary roles are Raiding attacks on the enemy and the support of Army operations. The objectives of the Finnish Marines were stablished as being:
    (1) To conduct counter attacks against enemy landings in the Finnish archipelago, an environment known for its many small islands and skerries,
    (2) To carry out raiding attacks from the sea on enemy held positions and
    (3) To carry out full-scale attacks from the sea in support of Army operations.
    (4) Anticipating that the Gulf of Finland may become completely frozen over, allowing flanking attacks by the enemy across the Ice, to prepare for and be capable of fighting major defensive actions on the Ice while at the same time being capable of taking the tactical offensive against the enemy;


    The Marine Division functions under the Advisor for Combined Operations (A.C.O.). The A.C.O. acts in an advisory capacity to, and executes the orders of, the Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Military (currently, Marshal Mannerheim). The staff of the A.C.O. consists of officers of the Maavoimat (Army), Merivoimat (Navy), Ilmavoimat (Air Force), and the Rannikkojääkärit (Marines). The Marine Division is commanded by a Major-General who has both an operational and an administrative staff. The Division, however, does not train, nor does it function normally as a Division, but as separate Regimental Battle Groups which are based in various parts of Finland. The Marine Division is entirely serviced by the Navy.

    At this time, approximately 2,500 to 3,000 trainees undergo a six month training period, with two six-month Training Courses run in each year. At the end of the six month training period, Enlisted Marines have completed their compulsory period of military service and are released, at which time they move to “Reserve” status and are required to participate in a limited number of weekend training days together with a short Annual Camp. Current plans are to continue training at this level for the next two years, by which time the Division will have a sufficient number of trained Reservists to fully man the Division in the event of mobilization. At this stage, Marine Selection will become more stringent and selective, with the objective being to train replacement personnel on an ongoing basis.

    There are no Direct Entry Officers in the Marines. Every Conscript enters as an Enlisted Man and completes six months of Army Basic Training. There are no exceptions to this requirement. Volunteers for the Marines then complete a two month Selection Course, during which potential Officers and NCO’s are marked by the Training Cadre. On successful completion of Selection, these Officer and NCO candidates are requested to volunteer for Officer and NCO Trainng, which requires 18 months of service overall rather than the 12 months completed by Enlisted Men. Men cannot apply for Officer and NCO Training – they must be selected by the Training Cadre based on their performance during Selection. Following completion of training, additional courses are available to Reservist Officers and NCO’s, who are all members of the Finnish Civil Guard, the Suojeluskuntas, which now has a “Marine” component to it.

    The formal organisation of the Finnish Marine Division is as follows:

    The Marine Division is made up of 3 Regimental Battle Groups with a Divisional HQ and a Training Wing attached to the Divisional HQ. Divisonal HQ is largely administrative and aside from logistical support and administration, is responsible for the Training of Marines, with approximately 2,500-3,000 volunteers in a Training Intake in any one six month period. Over 1934 and 1935, some 8,000 Marines have successfully completed training and are formed up into the 3 Regimental Battle Groups (currently these are all at approximately half strength. It is anticipated by the Divisional HQ that by year-end 1937, sufficient Marines will have been trained for all 3 Regimental Combat Groups to be up to strength on mobilization. In the event of mobilization, plans call for the current training Intake to be held back as “replacements” for casualties and for the next twelve months Intake Class to be called up and trained in one Intake, possibly to form a fourth Regimental Battle Group on completion of what would be “accelerated” training.

    Regimental Battle Group
    o Regimental HQ
    - HQ
    - Security Company
    - Signals Company
    - Recconaissance Company
    - Pioneers Company (Engineers)
    o Marine Strike Battalion I (Iskupataljoona – xxxx men)
    o Marine Strike Battalion II (Iskupataljoona – xxxx men)
    o Marine Strike Battalion II (Iskupataljoona – xxxx men)
    o Heavy Weapons Battalion
    - 2 x Field Artillery Battalions (12 Field Guns each, 24 in total)
    - Anti-Aircraft Company (12 AA Guns)
    - Mortar Company (12 x 81mm Mortars)
    o Regimental Tail
    - Supplies Company
    - Ammunition Supply Company
    - Transport Company
    - Field Kitchen Company
    - Field Hospital + Ambulance Platoon
    - Vehicle Repair and Fuel Supply Unit
    - Field Hospital for Horses
    - Field Post Office
    - Clothing Depot

    Note that the Regimental Battle Group, as it is termed in Finnish military nomenclature, is a fully self-contained organisation with its own integral artillery battalions together with all necessary support, including logistics. Strategic assets are controlled at Corps or Military HQ level rather than subdivided down into Divisional assets.

    Marine Strike Battalion (Iskupataljoona)
    o Battalion HQ
    - HQ
    - Security Platoon
    - Signals Platoon
    - Recconaissance Platoon
    o Strike Company I (Iskukomppania – 124 men)
    o Strike Company II (Iskukomppania – 124 men)
    o Strike Company III (Iskukomppania – 124 men)
    o Support Company
    - Mortar Platoon (4 x 81mm Mortars)
    - Pioneer Platoon (Engineers)
    - Anti-tank Platoon (4 x AT Guns)
    - AA Gun Platoon (4 x AA Guns)
    - Heavy Machinegun Platoon
    o Logistics Company
    - Transport Platoon
    - Ammunition Supplies Platoon
    - Supplies Platoon
    - Boat Platoon
    - Medical Platoon
    - Battalion Admin Section

    Marine boat transport varies as the Marine Division has no purpose-built boats (although planning has begun to acquire these, this is not expected to be completed in the short-term future). Marines are generallycarried to their destimation on Navy boats where these are available, otherwise civilian motor launches and fishing boats are used. Generally, each launch or boat is capable of transporting 1 to 2 sections of Marines and when I use, is fitted with a Maxim machinegun in the bow for fire support. The maximum speed of these boats is modest by military standards and the pace is usually set by the slowest boat of the group. Where motor boats are not available, rowing boats are used, and canoes are often used by the Reconnaissance Platoons.

    While the TOE calls for large numbers of Mortars, Anti-tank Guns, AA Guns and Machineguns, these are generally not available. The Finnish Military have various acquisition programs underway and the apparent target is to have the TOE up to strength over as five year period. Much of the current strength in equipment is however only on paper.

    Marine Strike Company ((Iskukomppania – 124 men)
    o Company HQ (29 men)
    - Company Commander
    - Command Squad (6 man Sigs/Messenger Section, 4 man Sniper Section, 9 man AT Section)
    - Supplies Section (1 Sgt, 7 men)
    o Strike Platoon I (Iskukomppania – 32 men)
    - Platoon Command Squad (1 Officer, 1 Sgt, 1 Sig, 2 Messengers, 1 Medic, 2 man Sniper Team)
    - Rifle Squad I (Corporal, 2 man LMG Team, 2 SMG Men, 3 Riflemen)
    - Rifle Squad II (8 men, as above)
    - Rifle Squad III (8 men, as above)
    o Strike Platoon II (Iskukomppania – 32 men)
    o Strike Platoon III (Iskukomppania – 32 men)

    Strike Companies are generally heavy on automatic firepower, with provision in the TOE for numerous light machineguns and submachineguns. The Marines also put a heavy emphasis on the use of Snipers (6 x 2 man Sniper Teams within the Company strength of 124 men). Provision is also made for 4 x 2 man Anti-Tank Rifle Teams under the control of the Company Command Squad, although at this time it should be noted that Anti-Tank Rifles are not available). The Marines also put a great deal of emphasis on Signals and communications. Plans are apparently underway for units down to the Platoon-level to be equipped with Radios at some stage (these are apparently under development in a secret project, details of which were not divulged – at present Field Telephones and Messengers are used). There is one Medic in each Platoon Command Squad and usually at least one man in each Section has also completed Medic Training. All Marines are expected to qualify as Expert Marksman, and Sniper Training is encouraged. Also noted was that the standard Section strength of 8 men is exactly suitable for embarking in the small Dory-type boats that the Marines use in training.


    Although the establishment (Tables of Organization) provides a definite allowance and allocation of weapons, neither the numbers of weapons nor their distribution is rigidly adhered to. In every case the distribution of weapons is made according to the tactical requirements of the particular mission to be performed. Each Regimental Battle Group has a separate store of extra weapons and thus extreme flexibility in armament is assured. A typical store contains:
    Maxim Machineguns; Suomi Submachineguns; 81mm mortars and a supply of both smoke and HE shell for each; defensive (fragmentation) hand grenades; smoke pots; Flare pistols; knuckle dusters; explosives for demolitions of all types.

    Normally each Platoon is allocated one Maxim machinegun and one Suomi submachinegun per section. The allocation of the 81mm mortars is left entirely to the Commander who employs them according to the requirements of the situation. As indicated above, additional weapons are available in stores and may be assigned. The important point to note is the extreme flexibility in armament and the degree of initiative permitted Platoon and Company leaders in its distribution.

    Clothing and Equipment.

    Clothing and equipment furnished Marines includes a variety of types thus permitting flexibility in dress and battle equipment. Normal clothing is "battle dress," a two piece woolen garment, stout boots and anklets (short leggings). In colder weather a sleeveless button-up leather jacket which reaches the hips is worn over or under battle dress. A two piece waterproofed denim dungaree-type coverall is also provided for wear over battle dress in damp or rainy weather. In addition to the ordinary hobnailed boots, a rubber soled shoe and a rope soled shoe are provided for missions that require stealthy movements over paved roads, through village streets, for cliff climbing, and so forth. A heavy ribbed wool jersey with long sleeves and turtle neck and a wool undervest and woolen hat and gloves are also available for cold weather wear. Overcoats may be worn at any time during training or operations in severe weather. A white “snowsuit” overall is worn during winter operations for concealment against snow or ice. All clothing is designed and worn with the sole purpose in view of comfort and utility under actual operating conditions. There are no specific uniform requirements for operations – again, this is at the discretion of the unit commander. No leather belts are worn either by officers or enlisted men. A fabric waist belt is provided for wear when deemed appropriate. Finnish Marines cold-weather clothing is highly effective and well-suited to the climatic extremes of the Finnish Winter. Marines are allowed to wear their own winter clothing beneath uniforms in Winter weather, with no requirement for uniformity. While the Marines look what we would term as “sloppy”, this in no way impairs their fighting effectiveness or unit and combat discipline, which is exemplary.

    Basically, every officer and man is provided with standard army field equipment similar to our own but this may be augmented or discarded as needed. In addition, certain special equipment is available in Marine stores and is issued to individuals or troops as the occasion requires. Principal items are listed below:

    Fighting knife; Individual cooker; Compass; Field rations; skiis and poles; individual life belt; Primus stoves; one gallon thermal food containers; gas cape; wristlets; 2 man rubber boat; plywood (sectionalized) canoe; collapsible canvas canoe; bamboo and canvas stretchers; 2" scaling ropes; 1" mesh heavy wire (6' x 24") in rolls for crossing entanglements (see under "Training"); Toggle ropes (see under "Training"); Transportation equipment for Reserve units (administrative) is generally civilian and the personal property of Reservists;
    Communication equipment: Radio sets (portable voice and key type, weight 36 lbs, voice range 5 miles), Semaphore flags, Blinker guns, Flare pistols and flares.


    Marine training is conducted along the following lines:

    It seeks the development of a high degree of stamina and endurance under any operating conditions and in all types of climate.
    It seeks to perfect all individuals in every basic military requirement as well as in special work likely to be encountered in operations viz: swimming, boatwork, wall climbing, skiing and so forth.
    It aims to develop a high percentage of men with particular qualifications, viz: motorcyclists, truck drivers, small boat operators, marine engine engineers, etc.
    It aims to develop self confidence, initiative and ingenuity in the individual and in the group.
    It seeks to develop perfect team work in operating and combat.

    All men volunteering for service in the Marines are personally interviewed by an officer.

    In its training the Marine Division is prepared to accept casualties in training rather than to suffer 50% or higher battle casualties because of inexperienced personnel. All training is conducted with the utmost reality and to the end that the offensive spirit is highly developed. Wide latitude is accorded commanders in the training methods employed, and thus the development of initiative, enterprise, and ingenuity in the solution of battle problems, and the development of new techniques is encouraged. A corresponding latitude is accorded unit commanders. Only the highest standards are acceptable and if officers and men are unable to attain them, they are returned to the Army immediately. Leaves are accorded Marine personnel during prolonged training periods in order to prevent men "going stale."

    An appreciation of the type of training conducted by Marines may be arrived at by brief descriptions of observed routine training executed by five different Marine Training Companies over a period of five days.

    Assault Course.

    All obstacle assault courses are not the same but vary in accordance with terrain and are generally constructed from whatever materials are available locally.


    All Marines are taught to swim, and lengthy sea-swims are a common occurrence – daily during Selection and at least twice a week during what the Finns call “Continuation Training.” Sea-swims of ten miles are not uncommon.

    Cliff and Rock Climbing.

    Marines receive special training in cliff and rock climbing and Marines are sent from time to time to appropriate regions for practice.


    A general course is given to all members of the Marines in demolitions and more detailed instructions are given to a demolition group within each Company. These specially trained groups are taught demolition as affecting bridges, rail installations, machinery, oil tanks, etc. They are taught how to crater and to blow buildings to provide temporary road blocks. At xxx on December 3 1934, during the course of a night problem (attack on a village), in which three Platoons participated, the following demolitions were employed: Explsove torpedoes for gapping wire, booby traps installed in likely avenues of approach, and well camouflaged piano trip wires set to explode land mines. The explosive torpedoes were real enough but booby traps and land mines were represented by detonators. Very few booby traps were exploded as men kept their wits about them and their eyes open. Sufficient training allowance of all types of high explosives, fuzes, and detonators is made available so that this important training is continuous. TNT amd Nitro-starch are employed as explosives.

    Street Fighting.

    House to house street fighting is extensively practiced.

    Unarmed Combat and Combat with Knives and Hand Weapons

    The Finnish Military has evolved a specialized technique of hand-to-hand combat they call KKT. KKT utilizes a variety of fighting techniques together with the use of knives, machetes, entrenching tools and any other item that can be used as a weapon. The technique emphasizes an aggressive mindset and the ability to keep on fighting even if injured. Finnish Marines generally participate in lengthy KKT sessions on a daily basis, even when in the Field, and KKT techniques such as sentry removal are regularly practiced. It seems a highly effective fighting technique.

    Field Combat Firings.

    Both day and night field firings were observed. In one night firing exercise, a Platoon fired on low silhouette targets at a range of about 150 yards. The terrain was rolling countryside. A light rain was falling. Illumination was provided by flares fired from the flank. It was attempted to keep the flares 50 yards in front of the targets. Machine gunners posted on the flanks of each subsection fired with the subsection. Approximately 80% hits were scored out of an average 170 rounds fired per section.

    Much time is devoted to tactical problems ("schemes") in which live ammunition is fired by all weapons. The strikingly effective use of smoke in assault at night was shown.

    Last edited: May 30, 2011
  13. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Kiitos Jukra, it'll be a while before I get there but I'll be using this.
  14. zeppelin247 Well-Known Member

    May 1, 2010
    Northern Ireland
    just read this seems quite interesting really I think the Russians are going to have some serious problems as unless this build up is going to cause the Russians to be a bit prepared and I think the allies may now even try harder to get Finland as anally once they see its fighting capability and also how much longer till the war starts
  15. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Be a while before the war starts. Got another couple of posts on coastal defences, more on politics, the development of the Finnish military-industrial complex, Army weapons in the 1930s, army reorganisation in the 1930s, more on the airforce, special forces-type units, finances (how in hell does Finland pay for this....), foreign affairs, the Munich Crisis and its ramifications, last minute spending in late 1938 and 1939 as the panic button gets hit, Finnish involvement in the Spanish Civil War, the German-Soviet attack on Poland - and ONLY after all that does the war start. This is going to be longer than your average war history and with way more twists and turns.

  16. Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC

    Love the sound of all of that, really looking forward to seeing the changes mount. One very small question: does the arrival of all this equipment mean we won't be seeing large-scale use of ersatz materiale? Whither the Molotov Cocktail?
  17. trekchu Hangin' around since 2007

    Sep 5, 2007
    New Avalon, Federated Commonwealth
    Non-finlandized and Allied Finland? I like! Uncle Joe will not like this. Finland with a horde of Leo2s, that is something that KMW will like.
  18. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Well, the Molotov Cocktail as in the actual Winter War won't see too much use - with enough anti-tank weapons, it's not needed. HOWEVER! The Ilmavoimat weapons research program of the late 1930's will come up with the ... wait for it ... Molotov Cocktail ..... a 500kg special(?) .... air delivered ..... especially for use in starting large scale forest fires in summer .... with end results I leave to the imagination for now ....

    Also, you may recall that near the start I alluded to the terminal fate of Uncle Joe. Well...... I leave that part to your imagination until we get there :D but suffice it say, he ain't around when Babarossa kicks off.
  19. trekchu Hangin' around since 2007

    Sep 5, 2007
    New Avalon, Federated Commonwealth
    Hrm. Something like the OTL mollie is inevitable. If not in the Winter War then in Spain.
  20. CanKiwi ex Ngāti Tumatauenga

    Nov 24, 2010
    Uncle Joe meets a terminal end in THIS Winter War. He won't like the way he goes either :D

    Now as for the horde of Leo2's, that won't happen. But as you will see, the 21st Panssaridivisoona is formed in the late 1930's and is used very effectively in the Spring Offensive of 1940 on the Karelian Isthmus. Under Major-General Ruben Lagus.


    And you will also see the use of the 20th Parajääkäritdivisoona in the fighting, where the most terrifying effect of the use of paratroppers in battle occurs. This is, in its purest form, small groups of pissed-off 18 and 19-year-old Finnish Paratroopers who are well-trained, armed-to-the-teeth and lacking all serious adult supervision. They collectively remember the Commander's intent as "March to the sound of the guns and kill anyone who is not dressed like you..." ...or something like that. They happily do their best to fulfill the Commander's intent......