Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Foreign volunteers of Winter War

Discussion in 'Winter and Continuation Wars' started by Kai-Petri, Jun 21, 2003.

  1. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    21,941
    Likes Received:
    992
    Location:
    Kotka,Finland
    http://www.geocities.com/kumbayaaa/finnishwinterwarvolunteers.html

    When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in 1939 the assault was condemned widely. In many countries the general opinion was very favourable to the Finnish cause but since none of the western democratic governments was ready to send regular troops to assist Finland, spontaneous volunteer movements started organizing volunteers to help the Finnish David against the Soviet Goliath. In December 1939 the Finnish government decided that volunteers would be accepted only from countries definitely friendly to the Finnish cause. This included e.g. Scandinavians, Hungarians, British and French volunteers. German and Russian volunteers were not permitted. Since the Finnish army lacked arms and equipment, the volunteers were to accepted only if they came with their own arms and basic military gear. Also, the volunteers were to be come as organized, trained units with own officers. In January 1940 after heavy losses among Finnish troops this decision was modified so that basically all able-bodied men were to be accepted at the discretion of Finnish embassies. Russian emigrants and Jewish refugees were, however, still excluded.

    The French and the British were planning to send an official expeditionary force, but the war ended before these plans could be realized. In fact, the expeditionary force probably would have had as its main task ensuring the supplies of Swedish iron ore and helping Finland would have been merely an excuse to send a military force to Scandinavia. The French policy was to discourage any potential volunteers since it was thought that all able-bodied men were needed in the French army. The Polish refugees who had joined the French army would have been anxious to fight against the Soviet Union in Finland but here, too, the French thought it more prudent not to let them go. Since Germany was allied with the Soviet Union at the time, the official German line forbade enlistment of German volunteers. Italy, another dictatorship, felt it had to toe a cautious line and forbade enlistment although Mussolini felt great sympathy for Finland. There were about 5000 Italian volunteers willing to come to Finland but the government denied them passports for leaving the country.

    Swedish volunteers:

    Swedes were the largest single nationality group. Around 8000 men served in different formations. The most important formation was the Swedish Volunteer Corps (Svenska Frivilligkåren) with three battalions and other units. The Volunteer Corps was formed in Finland, since the Swedish government felt they could not send volunteers over as a unit. In spite of this, it was made easy for active officers to get leave for volunteering in Finland. This policy suited well for the Swedish government since it would remain officially neutral but the general opinion willing to help Finland would also be taken to account. The Corps' commander was General Lieutenant Linder, a Swedish general born in Finland. General Linder, all three battalion commanders of the Corps and some other senior officers had experience from war in Finland after having fought as volunteers in 1918 in the Finnish Civil War.

    The Volunteer Corps took over the front-line in the northern part of the front in Salla area on February 28th 1940 and thus saw two weeks of action. Since this part of the front was quiet the Swedes were given purely defensive orders. Losses for the Corps were 28 KIA, ca. 50 wounded and 140 with frostbite.

    Another unit was the Flight Regiment 19 (Lentorykmentti 19, LeR19; 19. flygflottilj, F19). This unit flew with aircraft from the Swedish Air Force: Gladiators, Harts, Bulldogs and others. Altogether there were 25 planes. The unit was stationed in the north of Finland with the task of protecting the largest towns and communications network in the area. There were also Swedish anti-aircraft units in the area.

    Apart from the Volunteer Corps and LeR 19 there were Swedes in an anti-aircraft unit defending the city of Turku, coastal artillery units, navy, field artillery and in a construction unit with the task of building fortifications.

    After the war the Corps and other Swedes returned back home. In 1941, when the Finns were again in war against Soviet Union some of these men volunteered again to Finland.

    Norwegians:

    About 700 hundred Norwegians volunteered, but since their government would not release any senior officers, they were enrolled within the Swedish Volunteer Corps. When the Corps was disbanded, the Norwegians returned home and probably most of these men saw action against the invading Germans.

    When it was decided that also men without previous military training were to be accepted, a training system was created. According to this plan, a special unit for foreign volunteers was set up in Lapua. This unit was called Detachment Sisu, in Finnish Osasto Sisu. Sisu is a Finnish word for a national characteristic deemed unique for us Finns; it refers to something that might be called stubbornness in a negative context but we Finns prefer to think this characteristic as something positive: determination and pervasiveness. The unit's commander was a Finnish officer, Captain Bertil Nordlund. Detachment Sisu grew very slowly and when the peace treaty was signed and the war ended in March 13th there were only 153 volunteers from different countries. This figure excludes the Hungarians, who joined the detachment as a unit of their own. Even after March 13th the trickle of men continued so that at its peak in February 20th the unit consisted of 212 men.

    Hungarians:

    Only Hungarians sent volunteers as an organized unit according to the initial Finnish requirements. The unit consisted of 346 officers and men with one month of training in Hungary. These men reached Finland in March 2nd and were stationed to Lapua for further training . Their commander was Captain Imre Keméri-Nagy, a right-wing activist with experience from the fighting that ensued when Hungary occupied parts of Slovakia in 1938.

    Apart from this battalion there were about twenty Hungarians who had volunteered on individual basis. Most of these men were sent to Detachment Sisu and some of these later joined the Hungarian company when the company arrived in Lapua.

    After the war the Hungarians were sent for a while to the Lappeenranta garrison and finally returned home in May 1940.

    British:

    When the war ended there were only 13 British volunteers in Finland although many more had volunteered. This included 214 men who reached Finland and Lapua one week after the war had ended. There were further 750 volunteers waiting to be shipped to Finland, but with the armistice in March 13th, they never came to Finland. The Britons were also stationed in Lapua and formed the British company of Detachment Sisu. Among the Britons there were other nationalities, too: e.g. Irish, Portuguese and at least one man of Estonian birth. According to the initial British plan all the British volunteers were to fight in a single unit. Command of the unit was to be given to Colonel Kermit Roosevelt, son of Theodore Roosevelt.-----Some of the British volunteers travelled home throught Sweden immediately after the war, but the majority were stationed for some time in Savonlinna. Some of the men were forced to return home via difficult routes, e.g.Palestine or Vladivostok in the Soviet far east. There were still some British volunteers in Finland in 1941 when Finland was again in war with the Soviet Union. This time there were German troops stationed in the northern part of Finland and some of the former British volunteers were employed by their embassy to monitor German troop movements.

    Estonians:

    Apart from Hungarians and British, the largest group by nationality in Detachment Sisu were the Estonians, officially 56 men. These men had volunteered in spite of the official friendly line of their government towards the Soviet Union. There were probably some more Estonians fighting in purely Finnish units at the front.-----After the war about a dozen of Estonians deserted from Lapua for Norway and fought there against the invading Germans. Some Estonians stayed in Finland and later, in 1941 volunteered again for the Finnish army. Some of these men were sent to Estonia in the summer of 1941 to the rear of the Soviet forces there.

    Danes:

    About 1000 Danish volunteers came and were sent to training in Oulu. These men also, were not ready for front-line duties when the war ended. The Danes were commanded by Colonel V. Tretow-Loof.

    Americans:

    About 350 Americans, mainly of Finnish birth, were also sent for training in Oulu. They were formed into a Finnish American Legion (Amerikansuomalainen legioona, ASL) with two companies. The 1st Company reached the front in March 12th and were ordered to take charge of the trenches in 13th, but the order was reversed when the war ended on the very same day. A group of about 30 Americans managed to get posted at the front in December. This group fought as a unit of its own and suffered some casualties.

    Karelians, Ingrians and other Finnic groups:

    In Kemi was formed the Detachment H, which consisted of men from Finnic ethnic groups living in the Soviet Union. After the training period these men were formed into Sissipataljoona 5 (basically a light infantry battalion). This unit saw action beginning from mid-February on the Kuhmo front. Some Estonians probably also served in this unit.

    Pilots:

    About 60 foreign volunteer pilots volunteered and were sent to Lentorykmentti 19 (Flight Regiment 19) in Parola (see above under the Swedish volunteers). Many of these pilots needed further training. Some pilots also flew with Finnish units. Foreign pilot casualties were three Swedes, four Danes, one Italian and one Hungarian.

    Apart from the above-mentioned groups, there were volunteers from several other countries and nationalities. Also, there were e.g. a British fire brigade unit in Helsinki and a Swedish veterinary ambulance.

    According to official Finnish figures there were following numbers of volunteers by nationality on March 13th.

    Estonia 56
    Belgium 51
    Germany 18
    Netherlands 17
    England 13
    Italy 7
    Poland 6
    Switzerland 6
    Latvia 4
    Luxembourg 3
    Lithuania 2
    Austria 2
    France 2
    Yugoslavia 1
    France 1
    Czechoslovakia 1
    Portugal 1
    Without nationality 15

    ;)
     
  2. Jet

    Jet Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2003
    Messages:
    385
    Likes Received:
    0
    I only just saw this post and its great. Thanx for sharing that with us Kai ;)
     
  3. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2000
    Messages:
    25,883
    Likes Received:
    855
    Just noticed it as well. I always kinda wondered if there were many who volunteered to fight on Finlands side against the Russians. Thanks Kai. [​IMG]
     
  4. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    21,941
    Likes Received:
    992
    Location:
    Kotka,Finland
  5. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2003
    Messages:
    1,184
    Likes Received:
    4
    The Portuguese guy must have been a real idealist. The cold climate must be horror for people from southern Europe.

    Do you know any volunteer biographys?
     
  6. Milly

    Milly recruit

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2010
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Am researching a man called Robert (Bobby) Galbraith LAW who was an army dentist and was in the Winter War in Finland. He lost touch with his son who wonders if his father died in Finland.
     
  7. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Messages:
    3,620
    Likes Received:
    220
  8. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    21,941
    Likes Received:
    992
    Location:
    Kotka,Finland
    The volunteers: The full story of the British volunteers in Finland 1939-41
    Justin Brooke

    This book mentions all the losses the British volunteers had, unfortunately I cannot tell where exactly my version is at the moment... If needed I can start looking for it for the names.
     
  9. uxter99

    uxter99 recruit

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    I have just come across your blog with interest as my father was in Finland in 1940. He was formerly with the RAF and he and 5/6 others were taken out of uniform and 'lent' to the manufacturer of either Hurricanes or Spitfires who sent them to Finland to assist with the servicing and maintenance of those aircraft which were presumably in use by the Finnish Air Force. This small group arrived in Turku on February 26 1940 having come from Stockholm.

    They only stayed until the German invasion of Norway on April 9th and on that same day they were sent back to Sweden, but couldn't get back to England until September at which time they 'rejoined' the RAF. In reality they probably never left.

    Just for interest's sake I would like to know if you know where in Finland they were likely to have been based.
     
  10. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    21,941
    Likes Received:
    992
    Location:
    Kotka,Finland
  11. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    21,941
    Likes Received:
    992
    Location:
    Kotka,Finland
    One of the planes is still "alive":

    virtualpilots.fi: helsinginpuolustus2004

    Kari Stenman Publishing

    RAF serial N2394. 21 February 1940 handed over to the Finnish pick-up detachment serialled as HU452. 7 March 1940 arrived to Finland to Os. Räty / LLv 22. 27 May 1940 delivered to LLv 28 as HC452.

    The place mentioned above in the map was where the planes landed. It seems the base would have been Kymi or Vesivehmaa if the battle would have continued in 1940. They are in the south east of Finland in the map , check the site below:

    virtualpilots.fi: wartime_airfields
     
  12. joss

    joss recruit

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hello - I’m new around here but hope you can help me. I have found references elsewhere on the internet to a “Barrington” who may, or may not have been involved in the Winter War as a volunteer. These references are attributed to two books, the one by Justin Brook mentioned here and Brian Bridgeman’s The Flyers. Barrington’s name appears alongside that of Peter M. Farragut.
    I have not as yet seen for myself either of these volumes, but in a photograph album belonging to my deceased uncle there appears a photograph and newspaper cutting (unattributed) dated 15/2/1940 and captioned Captain “Patric Richard Martyn-Barrington who joined the Finnish Air Force in Los Angeles, snapped in London today with Mr Peter Farragut as they passed through London on their way to fight for the Finns against the Russians”.
    Barrington and indeed Martyn-Barrington, which he used interchangeably, were not my uncle’s real names. He was born as Terence O’Kelly in India in 1917, died there whilst giving an aeronautic display 1946, and in between led a remarkable and somewhat enigmatic life in numerous countries. Family nicknames for him include the International Man of Mystery and the Man Who Wasn’t There as he is almost totally absent from official sources.
    My question here is whether it is possible to find out, in either the books I have mentioned or other sources known to you, he actually went to Finland or whether he was the Man Who Wasn’t There Either!
     
  13. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    21,941
    Likes Received:
    992
    Location:
    Kotka,Finland
    Hello Joss. Sorry for the late reply. I was checking the sites for the info,and it seems Farragut was in the "Detachment Sisu" but Barrington is not mentioned as one of them in the Brook´s book. Personally I don´t think it means he was not in Finland, but as the Winter War ended March 13th I don´t think they had much chance to take part in the war if they left to Finland ca. mid-February.

    There is a mention here: "One company of the Americans reached the front in March 12th and were supposed to take charge of the trenches in 13th, but the order was reversed when the war ended on the very same day."
    These were not pilots though.

    Axis History Factbook: Foreign volunteers in the Winter War
     
  14. joss

    joss recruit

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you so much for replying. I have now read Brooke: The Volunteers, and very interesting it was too. My uncle does not indeed appear under any of his names in the "Enlisted in.." lists at the back of the book, though "Enlisted in America" is not one of the lists. However there is one reference on p 72. The paragraph begins "The main body of 34 Air Force volunteers left Lapua on 1st April (1940)" and ends with "Here it is relevant to mention a British volunteer named Winton.... and another named Barrington, who was in Air Regiment 2 in February, neither of whom were recruited in London". Which seems to indicate that he was there, although he appears from family evidence to be in the UK by April, which in itself is surprising as most of the men were stranded in Finland, or later Sweden, for a year or more. The quest continues! If you can think of any more possible avenues of research, I'd be grateful. Cheers, Joss
     
  15. joss

    joss recruit

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi, me again

    At a recent visit to the British Library I had a look at Brian Bridgeman - The Flyers 1989 (Self published). The only relevant reference is as follows:
    p216: “Two more Britons were in Finland at this time, one named Windton, in LeR3 (Flight Regiment 3), who ferried aircraft from Sweden to Finland, and another named Barrington, who was in LeR2 (the fighter regiment) in February 1940”.
    As Brooke's book was published in 1990, he either used Bridgeman as a source, or both of them used something else, which may well have been written in Finnish. Hmmm!
     
  16. Karjala

    Karjala Don Quijote

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2012
    Messages:
    1,224
    Likes Received:
    115
    Location:
    Pohojanmaa, Finland
  17. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2002
    Messages:
    9,683
    Likes Received:
    953
    There is a Britain at war magazine which has one edition detailing the unit from Britain that went. Good pics too I seem to remember...I will try best to fish it out in next week and put article up here.
     

Share This Page